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Turkey is generally considered a safe destination, and many expats relocate there without problems. Nevertheless, a risk of terrorism has raised concerns of safety in Turkey, with several attacks having targeted popular tourist areas in the past, including Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. Road safety is also a concern, and expats should take to the roads with caution.
Crime in Turkey
Crime rates in Turkey are generally low, but pickpocketing and muggings do occur in the popular tourist areas of Turkey. Expats should follow the normal precautions to lower the risk of being a victim of such crimes.
Expats should note that it’s illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity, the government or the founder of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Penalties for contravening this carry fines and possible imprisonment of up to three years.
Although there are no dress restrictions in Turkey, female expats should rather avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing as this may attract unwanted attention.
Terrorism in Turkey
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Turkey due to the presence of both local and regional terrorist groups; these largely include Leftists, Kurdish separatists and Islamic extremists.
The most prominent terrorist organisation in Turkey is the Kurdistan People's Congress, also known as Kongra-Gel (KGK) or PKK. The group is composed of ethnic Kurds with a separatist agenda who operate mostly in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. The regional terrorist group, ISIS, has also carried out attacks in Turkey, as well as the leftist group known as the DHKP/C.
Although there have been terrorist attacks in Turkey in recent years, the government's implementation of anti-terror operations has led to a major decline in attacks. Due to the terrorist threat in the country, however, many governments warn their citizens to be vigilant and advise against travel to higher-risk regions. While the two major cities, Istanbul and Ankara, have been targeted in the past, the eastern and southeastern provinces, including Diyarbakır, Batman, Hakkâri, Şırnak, Siirt and Tunceli, have suffered the majority of the terrorist attacks in Turkey. Attacks are generally more frequent before major political events and anniversaries.
The ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria has had an effect on some Turkish towns, which have been struck by stray bullets and artillery rounds. Several governments carry advisories against travel to the border areas with Syria. Expats should follow the instructions of their local embassy with regard to travel to the Syrian border or any other high-risk areas in Turkey.
Protests in Turkey
Protests and demonstrations occur quite frequently in the country, and are generally directed against the government and its policies. Taksim Square and İstiklâl Caddesi in Istanbul, the downtown Kızılay area, and across the street from the American Embassy in Ankara are popular protest areas. Expats should monitor local developments and avoid all large political gatherings.
Road safety in Turkey
Road safety is a concern and expats may find driving in Turkey a challenge. Drivers are generally aggressive and often ignore the basic rules of the road. It should be noted that pedestrians don’t have the right of way, so expats should be extra cautious when crossing the road.
►For an overview of the Turkish healthcare system, see Healthcare in Turkey.
"Since we moved here, there have been some times of unrest including the war on the border with Syria and the 2016 coup attempt. We’re happy to say that things have quieted down in that regard and we personally feel safe living where we do. We would encourage anyone considering moving here to check with their local embassy for advice on places to avoid or ways to be more prepared for emergencies.
In terms of natural disaster, various parts of Turkey rest on prime earthquake zones. Smart practices to mitigate risk would include not renting an old apartment or one that has not been built to earthquake code. Also keeping an emergency bag with water and battery packs is a good idea no matter where you live." Read about American expats Emily and Jesse and their move to Turkey in their interview.
"There’s not a lot of random violence here. One of the biggest risks expats face in Adana is pickpocketing, which only occurs if you're not staying aware of your surroundings. Honestly, the biggest risk we face daily is in crossing the street. Traffic here can get pretty out of hand." Find our more about Ginny Lou's move to Adana and her experience of life there in her interview.
Are you an expat living in Turkey?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Turkey. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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