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Turkey Travel Guide

Should You Still Travel to Turkey Right Now?

Plus how to help those affected.

On the early morning of February 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey’s Gaziantep province, close to the Syrian border. It was the strongest earthquake in Turkey since a quake in 1939, which killed 30,000 people. The aftershocks—close to 100—were felt in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake was recorded nine hours later.

The devastation in both Turkey and Syria is astounding. Rescue and recovery operations are still ongoing, but the current death toll has crossed 11,000; at least 8,500 lives are lost in Turkey and the estimate is 2,800 in Syria, which is already a war-torn area struggling with displacement and humanitarian crises. It is expected that the casualties will continue to surge as rescuers dig through the rubble. The hostile weather conditions are hampering those efforts. 

Turkey has received reports of more than 11,000 collapsed buildings. Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria and Turkey have also been damaged, including the ancient city of Aleppo (already in peril due to the civil war), the Gaziantep Castle, and the Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape.

Traveling to Turkey

The U.K. Foreign Office updated its travel advisory and warned against traveling to the affected areas. These include 10 provinces, namely, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Malatya, Diyarbakır, Kilis, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman, Hatay, Osmaniye, and Adana. Turkish authorities have closed these for tourists and only rescue teams and aid materials are allowed to enter. Three airports are also closed: Hatay Airport and Adana Sakirpasa Airport suffered runway damage, while Gaziantep Oğuzeli International Airport isn’t running commercial flights.

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However, Turkey’s main hub Istanbul Airport is operating normally. The popular city is on the west side of the country, hundreds of miles away from the southern part. February is not the peak time for travel, but if you are going to Istanbul or Antalya for a holiday or have a connecting flight from the airport, it shouldn’t pose a problem. However, travelers should know that Turkey is prone to earthquakes as it sits on the Anatolian tectonic plate.

For years, Syria has been off the tourist radar due to the ongoing civil war and it’s still not recommended to visit. 

Related: The World’s 5 Most Earthquake-Prone Countries

How to Help

Many countries have offered aid and pledged resources to Turkey and Syria. It’s more complicated to send help to Syria since different areas are controlled by the government and the rebels, and the head of state Bashar al-Assad is a pariah in global politics with few allies. The country has been in turmoil since 2011—6.8 million have fled the country; 6.9 million are internally displaced; 3.6 million have taken refuge in Turkey, unfortunately in areas that were worst affected by the earthquake.

You can contribute by donating to the following organizations. Be careful with fraudulent fundraising campaigns and research their action plan before you pay.


UNICEF is working to help children and families in both countries by providing hygiene kits and reuniting families. It’s also assisting with evacuations. You can donate here.

Global Giving

The global charity is raising money to provide clean water, food, shelter, and medicines to those affected by the earthquake. Donate to the Turkey and Syria Earthquake Relief Fund here and help them meet the $5 million target. 

Syrian American Medical Society

This US-based non-profit provides medical relief to people in Syria and neighboring countrines with its field hospitals, clinics, and camps. You can donate here to help them bring medical care to the victims of the earthquake.

Project HOPE

Project HOPE is aiding rescue operations on ground and providing medical kits and essential supplies to help the victims of the earthquake. You can donate here.

Save the Children

Donate to the emergency fund by Save The Children here. It will help kids get food, clothing, and shelter.