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.