Saturday 10 December 2016

Turkey: Is it safe to travel?

Travel Updates

Published 21/03/2016 | 11:00

Istanbul
Istanbul

Several bomb attacks have thrown the spotlight on security in Turkey. Here are the latest updates.

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What's the story?

A suicide bomber killed four people in Istanbul when he set off a bomb on Istiklal Street, one of the city's main shopping drags, on March 19. A number of Irish people were among the 36 injured.

The attack, which has since been blamed on the so-called Islamic State, follows a suicide bomb attack at Sultanahmet this January, which killed 10 tourists.

Further attacks have taken place in the Turkish capital of Ankara in February, March and last October 10, when a bomb near the main train station killed 100.

"It's increasingly likely that the attacks will also target western interests and tourism," according to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Is it safe to travel?

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is advising Irish citizens to "exercise caution" in Turkey. "The threat from terrorism remains high," it says, advising visitors to avoid large public gatherings and follow the advice of local authorities.

Beyond Istanbul, most Irish holidaymakers travel to the Aegean coast resorts of Izmir, Bodrum and Kusadasi, which are at least 500km south of the city.

To put the warnings in perspective, the advice to "exercise caution" is the second of five possible alert levels open to the DFA.

Terror will be defeated, and each new atrocity will strengthen, not weaken,that resolve. AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
Terror will be defeated, and each new atrocity will strengthen, not weaken,that resolve. AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

It currently places Turkey on the same level as Belgium and one below Euro 2016 host country France, where citizens are advised to "exercise extreme caution."

Anyone concerned about Irish citizens should call the DFA at 01 408-2000, or contact the Embassy of Ireland in Ankara at +91 312 459-1000.

Wasn't there an attack in Kusadasi before?

Yes. In 2005, 17-year-old Tara Whelan from Co. Waterford was among five tourists killed when a minibus exploded in the popular tourist resort.

Have any cruise ships pulled out of Istanbul?

Yes. MSC has suspended its calls for MSC Magnifica in Turkey. Crystal, Norwegian, Disney and Celebrity have also announced revisions to their itineraries.

What about other parts of Turkey?

The DFA strongly advises against travel to the border areas between Turkey and Syria in light of the current instability in the region, in particular the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Mardin.

In addition, it recommends against all travel to the border provinces of Hakkari and Sirnak (bordering Iraq) and the Siirt, Tunceli and Diyarbakir provinces.

Which companies travel to Turkey?

Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) flies twice daily from Dublin to Istanbul. Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies to Izmir, the country's third most-populous city.

Sunway (sunway.ie) is operating charter flights from Dublin and Cork to Izmir and from Cork to Bodrum for summer 2016.

What now for Turkish tourism?

Demand has fallen in Germany after 10 Germans were killed in January, Russian visitors have been told to stay away by Moscow following recent tensions between the two countries, and security threats range from the so-called Islamic State to internal conflicts with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The vast majority of visits to Turkey remain safe, however. The country has unveiled a plan to support its tourism sector, and package prices are relatively low, starting from as little as €274pp for seven nights in May as we publish.

Read the DFA's full travel advice on Turkey here.

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