Istanbul is Turkey’s most popular as well as most populous city with an estimated population between 12 and 19 million people. It is one of the largest cities in the entire world as well as Europe, and it’s a cultural, architectural, social and financial center of Turkey.
A geographically peculiar and unique trait of Istanbul is that it spreads along both sides of the Bosphorus, between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea.
If you go to Istanbul, you won’t easily forget its skylines, filled with domes and minarets of various sizes and heights and its vibrant streets filled with vendors, Turkish markets, restaurants and unique eastern culture.
What tourists often emphasize as their favorite part of Istanbul experience is the unique Middle Eastern cuisine, with baklavas as their number one dessert specialty.
Warnings & Dangers in Istanbul
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Istanbul is safe to visit, if you avoid some parts of it that are considered somewhat dangerous. You should be aware that tourist hotspots, restaurants, shops and public transportation are places where most thefts and pickpocketing occur, and that violent crime exists here, too.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Generally, transport in Istanbul is rather safe and reliable, if you succeed to avoid pickpockets from public transport. If you're driving you should keep in mind that local drivers in the city are reckless and tend to ignore traffic rules and signs.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
As for pickpocketing, it is a huge concern on the streets of Istanbul, which is a popular tourist destination, so be careful and hold your bags tightly by your side. Places where you should watch out for pickpockets are Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
As for natural disasters, earthquakes have been known to hit Turkey, as well as severe droughts causing the lack of tap water in some parts of this country.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The majority of violent crime happens sometimes in Istanbul, and there have been reports of tourists being mugged, drugged and stolen from. Passports have known to be stolen from tourists, so be careful and leave them in your accommodation.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Terrorism is the greatest worry for tourists, as it's been active in Turkey in the recent years. The last terrorist attack happened in January 2017. Most of these attacks are linked to Kurdish separatist terrorist activities in south-east Turkey.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
The common scam in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey is locals befriending tourists, taking them out for a drink, or a dinner and then expecting the tourist to pay for it. Taxi drivers might try to trick you into paying more, giving you wrongful information about the price of the ride
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
If you're a woman traveling solo you should avoid walking alone after dark in this city. There have been reports of sexual assaults and verbal insults. These can happen even if your accompanied by a group. Avoid isolated or poorly lit areas.
So... How Safe Is Istanbul Really?
Istanbul is mostly safe when it comes to crime and its biggest risks stem from the political situation in Turkey as well as terrorist threats.
However, that isn’t to say that violent as well as petty crimes don’t exist in Istanbul: snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime.
However, lately, with the newly developed camera network that supervises the streets of Istanbul 24/7, the mugging and purse snatching declined.
It is useful to know that once you leave the big city of Istanbul, you’re in a mostly safe zone where tourists have had nothing but positive experiences.
Another advice that might come in handy in Istanbul is that you should take every precaution while driving, as drivers in this city are mostly reckless and completely ignoring traffic signs, commonly causing traffic accidents.
Apart from this, transport is mostly safe in Turkey and works quite well.
The real danger in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey and the reason many tourists are skeptic when it comes to safety in this city, are the continuous and frequent terrorist attacks all around Turkey that have to do with the political situation in the state and most of them are linked to Kurdish separatist terrorist activities in south-east Turkey.
However, recently the situation has settled and the last attack happened in January 2017.
- Visas - Some nationals do need a visa in order to enter Turkey, but they can be purchased online at http://www.evisa.gov.tr/ before traveling to Turkey. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months past the date of your arrival to Turkey. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Turkish lira is the official currency in Istanbul. ATMs are widespread throughout the city and credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments.
- Weather - No worries when it comes to climate - Istanbul has a temperate oceanic climate, influenced by a continental climate. This means the city boasts hot and humid summers, though it does have cold, wet and occasionally snowy winters.
- Airports - Istanbul Atatürk Airport is the main and busiest international airport serving Istanbul, and the biggest airport in Turkey. It is located on the European side of the city, about 24 km west of the city centre.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we advise getting travel insurance when traveling to Istanbul, because it would cover not only medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.