Now that global travel has generally returned to normal, plenty of people are looking for international vacation destinations. Turkey has always been a popular option thanks to its warm weather and interesting culture.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news in recent months, you might find yourself asking, is it safe to travel to Turkey?
That’s what we’ll explore in this article along with some general tips for keeping yourself safe if you decide to visit the country.
Generally, it is safe to travel to Turkey. However, as with anywhere in the world, you should research where you plan to go and always travel under the assumption that nowhere is 100% safe.
In Turkey, for example, there are some areas best avoided. These include the southeast border with Syria (for obvious reasons), and some guides also advise staying away from the border with Iraq.
It’d be best to stick to tourist-friendly areas, such as Istanbul, Antalya, Ankara and so on. Of course, this includes a different kind of risk, but it’s only pickpockets rather than the threat of war.
Pretty much all countries have some kind of travel advisory section on their government’s website. For example, the USA currently advises Increased Caution, and so does Canada. Be sure to check your country’s travel guide before planning your vacation to Turkey.
When it comes to any form of global travel, it’s always worth considering some tips for staying as safe as possible in your chosen country. Here’s some advice for safe travels in Turkey.
138 countries have embassies in Ankara, while others have consulates in Istanbul. Check the linked list to see if your country is included and to find out where your embassy is. Ideally, you won’t need to use it, but it’s best to know its location just in case something happens. For example, an embassy should be your first stop if you lose your passport.
If your country isn’t represented in Turkey, go to the most logical one you can think of. This might be a country nearby to yours or one that has a trade agreement. Generally, a linked country can provide you with help if you really need it.
This is a tip for anywhere you might travel but is particularly important when you’re on vacation. Avoid using an unsecured WiFi connection at all if possible, but especially for accessing your banking information.
Of course, this might mean relying on your data roaming, but we cover this in more detail below.
Try to learn a bit of Turkish before you travel, as it’ll go a long way. Larger and more tourist-focused cities should have plenty of people who speak English, but knowing “please” and “thank you” will definitely help.
Failing that, make use of something like Google Translate, especially if you have a live translation function.
Depending on your country of origin and your intended length of stay, you might need a visa to travel to Turkey. Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for specific details regarding your country and purpose for travel.
Some nationals (mostly Europeans) are can travel visa-free for up to 90 days. There are numerous exceptions to this rule, though, so check carefully first.
As of 2015, Turkey increased its international roaming limit for travelers. It changed the rule so you can use your phone for 120 days instead of 30 before you need to register it. This is quite different from other countries, where your roaming limit is typically decided by your domestic carrier or a data allowance.
In short, Turkey’s rule means that you can use your domestic phone for data roaming in Turkey for the first 4 months. After that, you must register it with the Mobile Devices Registration System. Failing to do so will blacklist your device from Turkey’s 3 mobile carriers.
Previously, you could only register 1 device per passport. However, this was increased to 3 devices as of January 2021, presumably because more people now carry phones, smartwatches, etc.
The role applies to all mobile devices that travelers might import into Turkey, such as:
The important distinction is whether your device has a cellular connection via a SIM card. If your laptop or tablet doesn’t take a SIM (or you don’t have one fitted), you don’t need to register it.
You can only register your 3 devices every 3 years. While this should be fine for most people traveling in Turkey, it’s worth bearing in mind if you plan to get a new phone or other mobile devices. Buying a new SIM-enabled device means you need to complete the registration process again and pay the fee.
The Mobile Devices Registration System uses your device’s IMEI for its logs, so you’ll need to know what that is and where to find it.
Your phone’s IMEI is its International Mobile Equipment Identity. As the name implies, it’s a unique, 15-digit identification number assigned to your device. Any device that’s SIM-enabled will have an IMEI.
In the old days, your phone’s IMEI was written on the SIM card slot under the battery. Now, though, your only option for finding it is to type *#06# into your device’s keypad. It’ll come up on screen, so either write it down or screenshot it.
It serves a couple of purposes:
· You can use the device’s IMEI to blacklist it from carriers if your device is lost or stolen. This prevents people from using it, even if they replace the SIM card.
· It can be registered with a program like Turkey’s mobile device registration. Because the IMEI is unique, it’s ideal for this purpose.
Turkey’s Mobile Devices Registration System basically works in the same way as any IMEI registration system. After your initial 120-day stay in the country, you provide your IMEI. The system then allows it to connect to Turkey’s data carriers so you can continue your mobile roaming.
So, how do you actually use the Mobile Devices Registration System? It’s fairly straightforward. To get started, you’ll need:
· Your mobile device’s IMEI
· Your passport, including your date of entry stamp
· Your residence permit or similar visa that confirms you’re allowed to stay in the country longer than 120 days
· A registration fee of 6091.30 Turkish lira – around $320 US
The first step is to visit a Turkish government tax office, which you can find in any municipality. Take all the documents listed above and tell them you have a foreign mobile device you need to register. You’ll pay them the fee and be given a receipt. Note, this fee is applicable to each device you register.
Next, take the same documents and your receipt to a mobile carrier’s store. These are Turk Telecom, Vodafone, and Turkcell. You’ll then need to buy a domestic SIM card, which the assistant will register to your international device using your receipt. It’ll then be linked to your device’s IMEI.
Alternatively, if you’ve already bought a SIM card in Turkey, go to the carrier’s store and they’ll register it for you.
The Turkish government claims you need to register your foreign mobile device to ensure you don’t become the victim of fraud, and also to make sure you’re not using it for illegal activity or tax evasion.
Regardless of the reason, you’ll need to register your device after 120 days if you want to continue using it. Foreign SIM cards will stop working on your device after this time, and Turkish SIM cards won’t work either. So, the bottom line is that you’ll need to register your device if you actually want to continue using it.
However, it’s worth noting that you’ll still be able to make emergency calls if your phone is blocked. You’ll also be able to connect to the internet via WiFI, allowing you to use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other online-based communication.
If you’re planning to travel to Turkey, you’ll need to rely on data roaming for the first 120 days of your trip. A more cost-effective option than using your domestic carrier is to switch to Textr’s eSIM Turkey.
Covered under our Europe and Middle East plan, the eSIM Turkey has plans starting from as little as $9 US, making it the best eSIM plan on the market. Of course, the more data you buy, the more cost-effective it is as a roaming plan.
Check out Textr’s Europe and Middle East package for more details on pricing and data allowances.
To use Textr’s eSIM plan, you’ll first need to install the Textr app. It’s available on iOS and Android and comes with a host of other benefits. Download it today to find out how it can make your international travels cheaper and more convenient.