Is Istanbul Safe?

Old Oct 31st, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Is Istanbul Safe?

We are pondering a trip for next June that would start in Athens and take a Windstar cruise to Istanbul. Spend a couple of days in Istanbul and then on to Cairo for a week. With Turkey in the news so much right now (and obviously things can change between now and June), does anyone have any thoughts or recent experience in Istanbul? It seems like the problems are all fairly far away from that part of Turkey. We traveled to Zimbabwe in June 2005 when things were pretty ugly and had a fabulous time in Victoria Falls. Again it was a fair distance from the worst trouble.
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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 09:17 AM
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Dear Jcsale: I recently returned from a trip to Istanbul last June. With normal precautions you should be fine. The usual tourist attractions are quite close together and generally have lots of people around - even into the early to middle evening.

You should be careful about a few scams however. I got tricked when paying a cab at night (around 10 pm) when I paid him with paper money. He then passed to back to me claiming that it was the old currency. I believe that he palmed my legitimate currency & I ending up paying twice.

Even though this minor incident occured I'd highly recommend going to Istanbul which is a great city.
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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 11:08 AM
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Thanks for the heads up and the vote of confidence. I have heard so much about it and always wanted to go. We are deciding that if we wait until Turkey and Egypt are "safe" then we'll never go. And as a dear friend says: "If not now, when?"
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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 11:43 AM
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It sounds as if your question is more about terrorism than about general traveling safety, is that correct? I went to Istanbul 2 years ago, and totally loved it, but it does seem as if the frequency of violence is increasing in Turkey.

Istanbul is truly a wonderful city. I think that it is appropriate to ask yourself about the safety, but only you can answer the question of how much risk is acceptable to you.

I haven't been following the news in detail, but be aware that there are several different categories of unrest that are possible (Kurds vs Turks; Moslem vs Christian; Turks vs Americans). It might be wise to avoid government buildings, and areas known as American hangouts.

On my trip, I was worried about whether I would encounter bad feelings due to the Iraq war. I can honestly say that almost every single person I met treated me with unfailing courtesy and remarkable friendliness. (The single exception was a driver who was cursing me out for walking on the sidewalk he wanted to drive on, but that had nothing to do with being in Turkey, and could have happened the same way in NY).

From a general safety point of view, be careful about being on highways after dark. There is a peculiar (to me) Turkish custom of not turning on the headlights.

From a statistical point of view, the danger of an automobile accident is probably higher than the danger of a bomb or something of that sort, but that sort of logic becomes irrelevant if you are the person impacted by a particular incident.

The people, the food, the history, and the architecture are all wonderful reasons to visit Turkey.

I'm sure you are planning this already, but be sure to see the Aya Sofia. In these days of computer assisted architecture, it astounds me that we can design and build public buildings that fall down (like the Airport terminal incident), while the Aya Sofia remains standing. It was truly cutting edge architecture for the time, and has stood through many earthquakes, for many centuries. Incredible.

Will you have time for a trip to Ephesus? It's really really worth the trip, but you would probably want to fly. From an archeological point of view, there is an unusual amount of ruins (some restored already, and some still being excavated). This is due to the fact that the coastline moved several kilometers as the river carried silt down towards the ocean, and the modern town moved along with the coastline, so the ancient city is not trapped under modern buildings.

While in Turkey, do a comparative taste-test of various flavors of baklava (hint -- I prefer the gaziantep flavor, with pistachios instead of walnuts).

Try some eggplant shishkebab (skewered rounds of baby eggplant interspersed with seasoned lamb meatballs).

For a uniquely Turkish condiment, try the poppyseed paste on your toast.

It's making me hungry just thinking about it!





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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 12:00 PM
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I was there last Thanksgiving. It was about a week before the pope's visit so tensions were high and there were police massed around tourist spots (particularly in front of the Hagia Sophia), and we did witness a demonstration/protest at the university that was quelled (without violence) by police in riot gear. Despite those things, we felt perfectly safe (I was traveling with a friend, so we were 2 women, late-20s/early-30s) and the friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people was amazing. Istanbul is wonderful and is now one of my favorite cities, and Turkey has definitely earned a spot on my "must return" list.

So my advice would be to go! Standing in Sultanahmet Square as the sun goes down and the evening call to prayer comes over the loudspeakers is magical.
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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 12:19 PM
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Also, I should add - we were not on a group tour, and walked pretty much everywhere, including wandering in areas off the beaten tourist path.
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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 01:46 PM
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Though a different kind of trip than those I take to Africa, Turkey was probably my "bestest" visit anywhere.

We were everywhere from Ankara and Cappadocia in the east to the west coast on the Aegean and Med. ABR, "another bloody ruin" wherever you step. Most fascinating the history of this country even if much is slowly being lost under the water as dams are built.

IST was fascinating and as Ann and others, walked about on our own when we weren't visiting sights we had scheduled with a guide. While we didn't have drivers yelling at us for walking on a sidewalk he wanted to drive on (Ann, that's too funny!), we did have interesting adventures crossing the roads. Something I'd never do in NYC, but at times in order to get across a wide road, I simply stepped off the curb, put up my hand (a la traffic officer), stopped traffic to make our way to the opposite side. Dangerous? Yup, but what's a gal to do. And, those cars stopped on a dime... amazing. In NYC, I'd be dead.

Aya Sofia, amazing, from the 5thC, built by Constantine, the highest domed building, on which St. Peter's was designed. And, still standing in this earthquake prone area. There's so much to see here. People are warm and wonderful, food is great.

Be aware though, that IST is on the same latitude as NYC, so expect the city to be hot in June, with terrible air, lots of traffic... but hey "you're on holiday."

If the Windstar stops at Kusadasi, this is where you can arrange a visit to Ephesus. It'll probably be one of the busiest places, but worth it.

As with travel anywhere, stay away from crowds, public demonstrations and always be aware of your surroundings. While you can visit most sights on your own, with a guide, you often get priority for entering and they know where and how to avoid any possible safety issues.

Do it!
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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 06:26 AM
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One more thing...in some sites you are actually REQUIRED to have a guide. I'm thinking of Ephesus in particular.

And Sandi is right of course -- depending on where your cruise stops, you may have a better option for reaching Ephesus than flying from Istanbul.
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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 07:34 AM
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I don't believe Ephesus requires a guide. My DH, sons, and I did it last March without one. I had been there before and had my guidebooks with me - and we did fine.
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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 08:14 PM
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bump
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Old Nov 2nd, 2007, 07:50 AM
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Grcxx3 -- maybe the rules changed since I was there 2 yars ago. At that point we were told that you must have a guide, but it sounds as if your experience is more recent, so you are probably right.

On the other hand, it is wonderful to have a good guide in Ephesus, because there is an incredible amount they can tell you.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2007, 11:28 AM
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This trip to Ephesus was a little different...my younger son and I had been thru the whole thing with a guide but this time we were here with older son and DH. We had talked about the site before going and then used the various written guides to fill in details. No one mentioned any requirement to have a guide. We had our own car, so drove ourselves, but a taxi from Kusadasi would have been easy.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2007, 05:30 PM
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Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world. It truly is magical. There really is nothing like hearing the call to prayer in Istanbul.

I've been there twice for a week each time. It gets better each time. In 2006, I was there during Ramadan and felt very safe.

Try to stay in the Sultanahmet district (aka Old Stamboul).

If you use normal precautions that you would use in any big city, you will be fine.

Have a GREAT time.

Deb
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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 02:47 PM
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Istanbul is very great city with a lot of history and modern places to see; wonderful city, Constantinople. And don't forget to put the accent on the "a" once you are there : ) and also check these places where you can visit and more: http://foxtrip.net/istanbul/fun-see.php
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Old Dec 9th, 2007, 08:04 PM
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I loved Istanbul!!! We were on a NCL cruise that ending with two days in Istanbul at the start of Raamadan. We then stayed another day (at the Seymour Hotel- excellent choice) and wished we had stayed a week. There is so much to see and do. The people are amazing. Such variety and everyone appears to get along. We never felt uncomfortable except in taxis. They are a big rip off. The tram is cheap and easy to use. Bring a good map - you will use it. Go. Go. Go. Karen
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Old Jan 11th, 2008, 12:12 PM
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jcasale,
I am really interested in your trip. We are trying to do this in reverse - starting in Cairo and then on to Istanbul and can't seem to find reasonable airfare. I know it's there somewhere. Have you found anything? We are going in May and decided that we know to go WHILE we can - as time is marching on and we're not any younger.

Good luck.
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Old Jan 11th, 2008, 12:32 PM
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Be careful of scams, however. A classic one that a friend of mine suffered was on the purchase of a carpet but this could apply to any sale. They bought it with a credit card and thought they were protected from fraud. The purchase *however* was processed as a cash advance and not a product sale so there was nothing they could do when they found out the carpet was not as advertised. Pretty sneeky, huh?
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