Turkey

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 10 April 2014.   It contains revised information in the Summary and under Entry and exit (visa on arrival is no longer available; you should apply online for an e-visa) and Local travel (Australians travelling to Gallipoli for Anzac Day commemorations should see our travel bulletin). We continue to advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Turkey because of the high threat of terrorist attack and to avoid all protests and demonstrations.

Turkey overall

Parts of southeast Turkey bordering Iraq and Iran

Border areas with Syria

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Turkey because of the high threat of terrorist attack.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Australians visiting Turkey for tourism or business purposes should apply online for an e-visa. Visa on arrival is no longer available. See under Entry and exit for details.
  • Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in Turkey. In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in tourist areas and locations frequented by foreigners. See the Safety and security: Terrorism section for further information.
  • Information for Australians travelling to Gallipoli for Anzac Day commemorations can be found in our travel bulletin.
  • Since May 2013, protests have occurred sporadically in major cities in Turkey and have been occurring more frequently in 2014, an election year. There remains a possibility of further disturbances prompted by a range of political issues. These may form at short notice without warning and quickly intensify into violent clashes between protestors and police. Tourists in the vicinity of protests may be affected by these clashes. See Safety and security: Civil unrest/political tension for more information.
  • Australians should avoid all protests and demonstrations throughout Turkey as they may become violent.
  • The unauthorised sale and exportation of antiquities is prohibited and carries long jail sentences. You need a receipt and an official certificate to export these items legally.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to any area within ten kilometres of Turkey’s border with Syria due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the potential for the spill-over of violence associated with the ongoing conflict in Syria. You should be aware that the immediate border area features a heightened presence of Turkish security forces. For more information on travel in this area refer to the Safety and Security: Terrorism section.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to parts of southeast Turkey bordering Iraq and Iran due to the unpredictable security situation. This includes all areas in the provinces of Hakkari, Sirnak and Siirt. The security situation is more dangerous at night and in rural areas. Clashes between militants and Turkish security forces occured frequently in these areas prior to a ceasefire in 2013, but political tensions remain and clashes could still occur. If you do decide to travel to these areas, you should exercise extreme caution.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) are the prerogative of the Turkish Government. These conditions change regularly and sometimes without prior notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Turkey for the most up-to-date information.

Australian passport holders require a visa to enter Turkey.

Australians visiting Turkey for tourism or business purposes, including for Anzac Day, should apply online for an e-visa. Visa on arrival is not available after 10 April 2014.

Diplomatic and official passport holders must obtain a visa from a Turkish diplomatic or consular office abroad before arriving in Turkey. Failure to do so is likely to result in refusal of entry.

If you are planning to stay for more than 90 days within a 180 day period, you must arrange a long-stay visa through your nearest Turkish embassy or consulate before you travel or get a Turkish residence permit. To arrange a residence permit you should contact the Foreigners Branch (Emniyet Müdürlüğü/Yabancılar Şubesi) of your local Police Department in Turkey.

Australians who enter or depart Turkey by land or sea borders, including those who make short trips to the Greek islands and then return to Turkey, should ensure that they are correctly processed by Turkish immigration and that their passports are stamped for all exits and arrivals. Failure to do so may result in difficulties when departing Turkey, including the prospect of fines, detention and/or deportation.

Failure to comply with Turkish visa regulations may result in the fines, detention, deportation and a ban on future travel to Turkey for a period of time.

If travelling with children aged under 18 years, you may be asked to provide documentation proving you are the legal parent or guardian of the children.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Turkey because of the high threat of terrorist attack. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

There have been media reports in early 2014 of an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Turkey stemming from the Syrian conflict, including possible planning for attacks in Ankara, Istanbul and Antakya (Hatay).

On 1 February 2013, a suicide attack by the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) at the US Embassy in Ankara killed two people. The Turkish Government has warned that the DHKP/C is planning further terrorist attacks.

In recent years, international and domestic terrorist groups have carried out attacks in Turkey. Terrorist attacks have occurred in tourist areas and locations frequented by foreigners. Foreigners have been killed and injured.

Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in Turkey. Significant dates and anniversaries are symbolic and terrorists have in the past used such occasions to mount attacks. You should exercise particular care in the period surrounding significant dates and anniversaries including: 15 February (anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan's capture), 21 March (Nevruz, Persian New Year celebrations), 30 March (founding of DHKP/C), 4 April (Abdullah Öcalan's birthday), 1 May (May Day), and 15 August (anniversary of Kurdistan Workers' Party's first attack). Possible locations include major cities, such as Ankara and Istanbul, regional centres and tourist destinations, including those in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. In the past few years, attacks have occurred in Istanbul, Izmir, Marmaris, Antalya, Mersin, Kuşadası, Çeşme, Muğla, Manavgat, Gaziantep and Adana.

Turkish authorities regularly arrest individuals suspected of planning terrorist activities. A person suspected of planning a suicide bombing was arrested in Istanbul on 5 April 2014. This demonstrates an ongoing threat of attack in Turkey.

Recent attacks in Turkey, including Istanbul and Ankara include:

  • On 20 March 2014, three foreigners connected to the conflict in Syria killed three security officers and injured five others in Nigde (a province in central Anatolia bordering Adana).
  • On 20 September 2013, two rockets struck a police compound in Ankara.
  • On 20 March 2013, a bomb exploded outside a government office in the suburb of Maltepe, Istanbul, causing no injuries.
  • On 19 March 2013, attacks were launched against the Justice Ministry and the headquarters of a political party in Ankara causing no injuries.
  • On 1 February 2013, a suicide bomber detonated a device outside the US Embassy in Ankara killing himself and a security guard and injuring several others.
  • On 11 September 2012, a bomb attack targeting a police station in a suburb of Istanbul killed one person and injured several others.
  • On 20 August 2012, a bomb exploded outside a police station in the city of Gaziantep, south-east Turkey, killing nine people and injuring 69.
  • On 2 April 2012, an explosive device detonated at the Gaziosmanpaşa District Governor’s office in Istanbul, injuring two people.
  • On 5 March 2012, one person was injured in an explosion in a government building car park in central Ankara.
  • On 1 March 2012, 15 police officers were injured in an explosion in Istanbul. On the same day, an explosion in a supermarket in Istanbul injured three people.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include commercial and public areas frequented by foreigners such as public transport facilities, including buses, mini-buses, trains and railway lines, hotels, bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, internet cafes, shopping malls and markets, places of worship and other sites associated with religion, embassies, international schools, banks, public gatherings, outdoor recreation events, resorts, tourist areas and their surrounds, including beaches, national parks and forests, and ports, including those used by international cruise liners.

With the spill-over of violence from the ongoing conflict in Syria, other potential targets include offices, hotels and other facilities used by Syrian organisations, including in Istanbul and Gaziantep.

Attacks have been conducted against western government, economic, commercial and political interests, including diplomatic premises such as embassies and consulates. Symbols, buildings and sites associated with Turkish security forces, such as military barracks and police vehicles, government, judiciary and political parties, businesses, places of worship, banks, financial institutions and automatic teller machines have been more recent targets.

Border areas with Syria: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to any area within ten kilometres of Turkey’s border with Syria due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the potential for the spill-over of violence associated with the ongoing conflict in Syria. You should be aware that the immediate border area features a heightened presence of Turkish security forces. In October 2013, a mortar shell fired across the border from Syria killed a person in Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa province. In May 2013, car bombings in Reyhanli killed at least 50 people and injured more than 100 others. These incidents underscore the ongoing high risk of travel in areas along Turkey’s border with Syria. Spill-over from the Syrian conflict could also lead to attacks against targets in other parts of Turkey.

In February 2014, a car bomb attack near the Oncupinar border crossing in Killis province killed more than 20 people and injured a number of others on the Syrian side of the border. In January 2014, a car bomb attack close to the Turkish border in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province killed at least 15 people on the Syrian side of the border.

See under Civil unrest/political tension for information on ongoing political tensions in southeast Turkey.

Kidnapping: There have been cases of kidnapping in Turkey. The Australian Government’s longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

Elections are likely to lead to an increase in political tensions in 2014. Since May 2013, demonstrations have occurred sporadically in major cities in Turkey. Protests have occurred more regularly in 2014 and have generally formed in the late afternoon/evening and over weekends. Further disturbances are likely.

Protests may form at short notice without warning and quickly intensify into violent clashes between protestors and police. Tourists in the vicinity of protests may be affected by violent clashes. Several people have died during recent demonstrations.

Police have regularly used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets to disperse gathered crowds. The effects of tear-gas may be felt in surrounding areas. Australians should avoid all protests and demonstrations throughout Turkey as they may become violent.

Past protests in Istanbul have centred around Taksim Square and Istiklal Street (including streets surrounding Istikal as far as the Galata Tower and down to Kameralti Street, Karakoy) and in Besiktas and in the Kizilay and Tunali areas of Ankara. Protests may also occur in other districts of Istanbul as well as Ankara and other cities (including but not limited to Adana, Antalya, Hatay and Izmir). These protests may also form at short notice and quickly intensify throughout the evening.

Domestic and international events and political developments, particularly developments in Syria, may prompt demonstrations.

In the past, violence has occurred during May Day rallies on 1 May in Istanbul's Taksim Square. The Persian New Year (20-21 March), celebrated by Turkey's Kurdish communities as "Nevruz", has also been accompanied by unrest.

The Turkish military has conducted operations, including air strikes, in south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq since 2007. Terrorist groups have retaliated with violence and attacks resulting in multiple deaths are common, though since March 2013 a peace process between Kurdish separatists and the Government has reduced such violence, though political tensions remain and clashes could still occur.

Military strikes may also trigger violent demonstrations, particularly in south-eastern Turkey. In the past, such demonstrations have resulted in deaths, injuries and widespread property destruction. In recent years, roadside explosions have been relatively frequent.

Turkish nationals have been injured and killed in Akçakale, Sanliurfa, and other areas near the Syrian border. Cross-border attacks against Syria could occur at any time and without warning.

Parts of southeast Turkey bordering Iraq and Iran: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to parts of southeast Turkey bordering Iraq and Iran due to the unpredictable security situation. This includes all areas in the provinces of Hakkari, Sirnak and Siirt. The security situation is more dangerous at night and in rural areas. Clashes between militant groups and Turkish security forces occured frequently in these areas prior to a ceasefire in early 2013, but political tensions remain and clashes could still occur.

Identification is required at checkpoints in this region and restrictions on travel in areas bordering Iraq are enforced. The security situation is more dangerous at night.

Crime

Muggings, assaults, pickpocketing and bag snatching occur in Turkey, especially in Istanbul in areas where tourists congregate including Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.

Foreigners, including Australians, have been drugged and had their passports and other personal effects stolen after being befriended by English-speaking strangers. Drugs may be administered through drinks, food, chewing gum or confectionery. The victim becomes disorientated and compliant and may even become unconscious.

Tourists may be befriended by English-speaking locals, taken to a bar for food or drinks and then expected to pay an inflated bill, often thousands of dollars for a few drinks. Violence is threatened with the demand for payment. These scams are common, particularly in Istanbul.

There has been an increase in the number of violent sexual assaults against female tourists travelling alone or in small groups in popular tourist areas of Turkey, including in Istanbul. Female travellers are advised to avoid isolated locations and travelling alone after dark.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money in Turkey, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Turkey.

Turkey has introduced new banknotes and coins. The new currency is equal in value to the notes and coins being replaced. Banknotes in the E-7 and E-8 series can be exchanged until the end of 2015 and 2019, respectively, at branches of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and TC Ziraat Bankasi.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Anzac Day commemorative services at Gallipoli

Information for Australians travelling to Gallipoli for Anzac Day commemorations can be found in our travel bulletin.

When travelling to the Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park, be prepared for the variable climatic conditions (i.e. summer, winter and wet weather protective clothing, even in winter a hat/cap and sunscreen are essential to ensure your wellbeing and comfort); strictly obey safety signage and directions; and do not wander off marked roads and tracks within the Park. If travelling as part of a tour group do not separate from the group and wander the park alone.

Visitors should also be aware that winter storms and the heavy volume of traffic seriously affect many coastal roads around Gallipoli, including those in the park. Traffic restrictions may apply to the Anzac Cove road. However, pedestrians will still be able to access places of interest in the park.

Other local travel information

Turkey has one of the highest road accident rates in the world and fatalities occur frequently. With the exception of major freeways and arterial roads, the standard of road construction in Turkey is generally poor. Travel at night on most country roads is very dangerous due to inadequate lighting and local driving practices. For further advice, see our road travel page.

In recent years, train accidents and derailments have resulted in deaths and injuries.

It is illegal not to carry photographic identification with you in Turkey. You should carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

Airline safety

Hijackings have occurred on commercial aircraft in Turkey in recent years.

For further information, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Turkey, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. The Turkish government prohibits Australian consular officials providing assistance to Australian/Turkish dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Foreign nationals involved in any judicial process which results in their arrest or detention may be deported from Turkey after finalisation of court hearings or completion of their sentence.

Penalties for drug offences in Turkey are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences.

Drink driving carries a minimum penalty of an on-the-spot fine and confiscation of your driver's licence.

It is illegal to photograph military installations in Turkey.

Mount Ararat, in the east of Turkey, is a special military zone. You need permission from the Turkish government to visit.

The unauthorised sale and exportation of antiquities is prohibited and carries long jail sentences. You need a receipt and an official certificate to export these items legally. Failure to do so could result in your arrest, detention or deportation.

The use of metal detectors to search for historical artefacts is illegal.

Homosexuality is not illegal, however it is not widely accepted. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Public displays of affection could result in prosecution for public order offences.

It is illegal to insult the Turkish nation, the national flag and the name and image of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

It is illegal to deface or destroy currency.

It is illegal not to carry photographic identification with you in Turkey. You should carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Turkey. Some regions are more conservative than others. You should respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Visitors should dress modestly, particularly at mosques and religious shrines.

Information for dual nationals

Australian males who hold Turkish citizenship may be required to undertake military service upon their return to Turkey. Prior to travel, Turkish/Australian dual nationals should seek advice from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Turkey.

While Turkey recognises dual nationality, it prohibits Australian consular officials providing assistance to Australian/Turkish dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

If you are travelling or relocating to Turkey please assess your welfare requirements as the services you receive in Australia may not be available in Turkey.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities throughout Turkey varies. While private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities, services can be limited elsewhere. Private hospitals generally require confirmation of insurance or a guarantee of payment before admitting a patient. Costs can be high. Generally, serious illnesses and accidents can be treated at private or teaching hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul. However, medical evacuation, at considerable cost, may be necessary in some serious cases.

Australians who reside in Turkey for more than 12 months may have access to Turkey’s Universal Health Insurance (UHI). Information on this can be found on the website for the Australian Embassy in Ankara.

Decompression chambers are located near popular dive sites throughout Turkey in Çubuklu, Izmir, Bodrum, Oludeniz, and Eceabat.

Malaria is a risk from May to October mainly in the south-eastern part of the country, and in Amikova and Çukurova Plain. There is no malaria risk in the main tourist areas in the west and south-west of the country. Other insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, CCHF) also occur. CCHF is prevalent in central Anatolia to the north and east of Ankara. Recent seasonal outbreaks (from early summer) of CCHF have been fatal. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria, and to take measures to avoid insect bites including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis, measles and rabies) occur with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food, and avoid unpasteurised dairy products.

Avian influenza: The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Turkey. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

In Turkey, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Ankara

88 Uğur Mumcu Caddesi
Gaziosmanpaşa Ankara TURKEY
Telephone: (90 312) 459 9500
Facsimile: (90 312) 446 4827
Website: http://www.turkey.embassy.gov.au/

or

Australian Consulate-General, Istanbul

16th Floor, Süzer Plaza (Ritz Carlton Hotel),
Askerocaĝı Caddesi No. 15, Elmadağ
Istanbul TURKEY
Telephone: (90 212) 393 8542
Facsimile: (90 212) 243 1332

or

Australian Consulate, Çanakkale

Kolin Hotel
Kepez 17100
Çanakkale TURKEY
Telephone: (90 286) 218 1721
Facsimile: (90 286) 218 1724

The nationwide police 24-hour hotline number is 155. In rural areas, the Jandarma can be contacted on 156. Foreigners can also contact the Istanbul Tourist Police on +90 212 527 4503.

If you are travelling to Turkey, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the missions, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Severe drought conditions can affect water supply to a number of cities in Turkey. Running water may not be available in many places, including in hotels and other forms of accommodation. You should take additional care to guard against water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (see health for more information).

Bush and forest fires often occur during the summer months (usually June to September), particularly in heavily forested areas and during periods of high temperatures and low rainfall. In the past, fires have burned close to holiday areas on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts and in the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Turkey is in an active earthquake zone. Our Earthquakes bulletin provides further information on travel in earthquake prone areas.

On 28 December 2013, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake occurred in Antalya in southern Turkey. On 30 July 2013, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake occurred in Canakkale (Galipoli). On 23 October 2011, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred near the city of Van in eastern Turkey, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Many buildings collapsed and infrastructure was damaged.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If you are in an area affected by a natural disaster, you should monitor the media and follow the advice of authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.