Is it safe to visit Turkey? Latest travel advice

Protesters in Istanbul demonstrating against the Israel-Hamas war
Protesters in Istanbul demonstrating against the Israel-Hamas war - Khalil Hamra/AP

Turkey is one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations, attracting more than 3.8 million British tourists in 2023.

However, following the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza and the heightened tensions between Iran and Israel, some people may be concerned about the safety of travelling to Turkey or other areas in the Middle East right now.

Here’s everything you need to know about travel to Turkey, whether it is safe to visit, and your rights if you do decide to cancel your upcoming holiday.

What does the FCDO say about travel to Turkey?

There is no blanket advisory against travel to Turkey. However, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) does advise against all travel within 10km of the border with Syria. It also warns against all non-essential travel to the city of Sirnak, close to the Syria and Iraq borders, and to the Hakkari province which has a border with both Iraq and Iran.

You can see the full Turkey FCDO advice here.

Has Turkey been affected by the conflicts in the Middle East?

To date, Turkey has not been directly affected by the conflicts in the Middle East, although there have been large protests. The FCDO advises: “Events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories have led to heightened tensions in the region and demonstrations are ongoing in locations across Turkey. Large demonstrations have been reported outside diplomatic missions connected to the conflict in major cities, particularly Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul.”

Are flights still operating as usual to Turkey?

Yes, although some airlines have adjusted their flight routes to avoid flying over Iran and Israel as a result of recent tensions. This means that some flights – particularly those arriving into Turkey from the UAE or South Asia – may take longer than usual.

Is there a risk of terrorist attacks in Turkey?

The Foreign Office says: “There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.”

The FCDO lists south-east Turkey, Ankara and Istanbul as the locations most at risk, and says that terrorists could target places visited by foreigners, including public buildings, places of worship, major events and large public gatherings.

“Extremist groups based in Syria, including Daesh and Al-Qaeda linked groups, have the capacity to carry out attacks in neighbouring countries, including Turkey. Daesh has previously targeted border crossings and nearby locations on the Syrian side of the border,” the FCDO adds.

What if I want to cancel my holiday?

If you have booked a package holiday to Turkey and want to cancel your trip for any reason, contact your tour operator and they might offer flexibility with alternative dates.

But bear in mind that, because the Foreign Office has not issued any formal advice against travel to Turkey,  there is no guarantee you will receive a refund, nor will you be able to claim money back with your travel insurance company.

If you have booked flights and accommodation independently, and wish to cancel your holiday, contact your travel providers as soon as possible to see if you can rearrange your plans. Note, however, that given the circumstances, it is unlikely you will receive a full refund.

This story was first published in October 2023 and has been revised and updated.