Although, Istanbul, Turkey has remained a popular vacation destination for U.S. citizens and is on friendly terms with the U.S. governmentally speaking, it is a center for terrorism and crime. The United States-Turkey friendship dates to late 18th century and was officially acknowledged by a treaty in 1830.
More recently, as part of the 1947 Truman Doctrine, the United States has loaned and granted Turkey more than $12.5 billion in aid and another $14 billion in military assistance. Only three months in office, President Obama paid a historic visit to Turkey to solidify continuing interests and mutual respect. However friendly, all the politics in the world can’t keep you safe from individuals or groups with criminal agendas.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “In Istanbul, small-scale bombings and violent demonstrations, and more recently vehicle arsons, have occurred regularly since 2006. Most of these incidents have happened in neighborhoods not generally frequented by tourists, including a July 2008 bombing in the Güngören neighborhood that killed 17 Turkish citizens. PKK supporters on a number of occasions have set public buses on fire after ordering passengers to disembark. In April 2006, an attack of this type resulted in three deaths and at least one severe wounding. Thus far, no attacks on buses have taken place in tourist areas of the city. In Istanbul, until 2009, May Day (May 1) celebrations had resulted in violent clashes between police and workers who have been prohibited from commemorating this day in Taksim Square.” Many additional terrorists’ attacks and religious attacks have occurred in Istanbul from 2003 to the present.”
The State Department also suggests all visitors to Istanbul be responsible for their own safety as international and domestic political issues can at times trigger demonstrations in most major cities, including Istanbul.
The rate of street crime remains relatively low in most of Turkey; however, in Istanbul it has increased. Petty crimes are the most popular in tourist areas like Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, and in the areas around the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. Types of street crime includes: pick pocketing, purse snatching, and mugging. The same precautions you use at home in the U.S. should be implemented while in Istanbul. It is strongly suggested that you leave your U.S. passport in your hotel safe and carry only what you need when you go out.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
If you are a victim of crime you should contact the local authorities, or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The emergency number equivalent for 911 in Turkey is 155.
Despite the safety issues, if you do decide to travel to Istanbul, be sure you purchase travel insurance, travel medical insurance or a travel insurance package. At least, this will give you peace of mind in case you should be injured during your stay.