Is It Safe To Visit Istanbul, Turkey?

February 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Security

ortakoy istanbul

It’s disheartening to have to answer this question, especially now about Istanbul, one that legitimately needs to be asked of most major cities around the world these days. This isn’t a matter of crime as it is in Quito, Ecuador, but rather personal security, given two recent terrorist attacks in Ankara and Istanbul.

Turkey, in particular Istanbul, which saw 10.4 million tourists a in 2013, had overcome its perception problem of being a predominantly Muslim nation bridging an unfamiliar orient with the West.

Then, the Gezi Park protests happened, which lead to more of this.

Buffered Border Broken

Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq were always the concern on the horizon but over 1,400 kilometers from Istanbul was far enough for conscious travelers. (The distance from Istanbul to the Syrian border is about the same distance as New York City to Savannah, Georgia.) Until foreigners, specifically tourists, were targeted in an attack by ISIS that killed 11 people in Istanbul’s most famous tourist area.

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Tourism to Turkey overall fell sharply in 2015, now many of you might be considering a change of travel plans since it’s very reasonable to be concerned about your safety.

Security Experience

For better or worse, Turkey has a lot of experience with terrorism, primarily in its southeast along the border with Syria and Iraq. Combined with a strong intelligence service, many potential attacks are stopped in planning stages. After the Istanbul attack in January this year, more than 50 people were detained or arrested in connection. In 2015, there were twice as many terror incidents in the United Kingdom, for example, according to the Institute of Economics and Peace. In that same year, 142 people were killed in terror attacks in Paris, compared to 6 in Istanbul – 17 if you include 2016’s January attacks.

istanbul turkey skyline

These numbers aren’t to say that one city is more dangerous than the other. Rather that in these large cities (Paris 2.2 million, Istanbul 14ish million) representing the 3rd and 5th most visited globally, both highly targeted by terrorists for those very reasons, the numbers are exceptionally low.

Realistic Reactions

Of course, every terror attack, anywhere, is concerning. Each life lost a crime against humanity. However terrorism is a tactic whose success depends on the reaction of the onlooker, notes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. A day after the Istanbul attacks, local tourism companies held an anti-terror vigil where the suicide bombing took place.

According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Istanbul is one of the safest large cities in the world. Statistically you’re no more likely to be a victim of terrorism in Istanbul than London. Our Paleolithic brains evolved to be cautious – so although you should always trust your traveler instinct – realize that not visiting Istanbul to stay safe from terrorism would be equivalent to not flying because you’re worried about crashing.

How To Get Travel Insurance Coverage For Adventure Sports

October 27, 2015 by  
Filed under Advice, Health and Fitness, Money, Security

formula one blogger

While it’s not surprising that run-of-the-mill travel insurance won’t cover a holiday in Syria (here’s how to get travel insurance coverage when traveling to risky locations) you might not be aware that common activities like skiing, generally aren’t covered either. That’s because snowboarding, hiking, and weight training are generally considered adventure sports, requiring specialized coverage.

For those of you who like to stay in shape when traveling, it’s important to get the proper travel insurance coverage; since it is you who is most likely to need it in the first place.

Where Your Limitations Are

Some providers, like World Nomads, cover many sports to varying degrees. They assign a long list of activities here a rating of Level Standard or Explorer, the latter indicating additional coverage needs to be purchased. IMG also has a specialized adventure sports coverage, better for travelers who aren’t participating in organized activities.

Keep in mind that contact sports aren’t covered by World Nomads or IMG so for kickboxing in Thailand or jiu-jitsu in Brazil, your best bet is to extend your current health insurance worldwide. Doing so will probably be more expensive than other sport activities that are covered but gives you protection against some potentially big medical bills.

Some Big Ifs

It’s important to note where you’ll be, say, hiking, can determine if your travel insurance covers you – even if you’ve purchased adventure sports coverage. Climbing any old hillside is one thing but making a trek up Everest puts you out of coverage for most providers. For specific endeavors you need to look for specific coverage, for example, mountaineering insurance.

snowy mountain bulgaria

Start by calling your current medical insurance provider, then your regular travel insurance company. Give them the complete details of your trip (e.g. duration, location) and what you’ll be doing (“motorbiking across the world“) to confirm any existing coverage as well as partner providers who can fill in the gaps for your trip. Getting information from insurance companies over the phone, much like airlines, is usually faster than trying to investigate online.

How Much Does It Cost?

Most insurance providers will tell you coverage costs vary widely depending on your age and activity but in a few tests I ran, monthly coverage for adventure sports comes out to around $75-100 USD. Although a little pricier than electronics coverage – adventure sports travel insurance is a lot less expensive than paying for an twisted ankle mountain biking or fractured wrist during an afternoon of canoeing.

Have you used specialized travel insurance to cover sports activities? If so, who are your favorite providers?

Soldiers Standing Guard Outside The Carthage National Museum In Tunisia

In many ways this photograph sums up the state of Tunisia as I found it weeks after the Bardo Museum attacks: on edge and deserted of tourists. There were more soldiers than visitors are almost every famous tourist spot; which may have you wondering is traveling to Tunisia safe?

This Simple Tip Gets You Through Istanbul Airport Departures In Half The Time

October 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Advice, Air, Security

istanbul airport passport control

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is one of the world’s busiest (13th internationally) with over 56 million passengers traveling through in 2014. With so many people, long lines aren’t uncommon but this little tip can get you around big delays and on to your gate much faster than everyone else.

When you arrive in the departures area, immediately to the left of the large flight status display hanging on the wall is passport control, then airport security. Almost everyone goes through here and lines are 10-20 minutes or longer at peak hours.

Instead, skip this passport control and keep walking left, passin Nero Cafe on your right, following the restroom sign. You’ll notice not too much further down is another, nearly deserted, passport control and security check.

This alternate entrance is there to accommodate nearby check-in counters for Al Algerie and other lesser traveled African airlines. What this means is there’s is almost never a line at this passport control and you’ll get through it plus security on average in 3-5 minutes.

Afterwards you can use this password hack to enjoy free wireless near the Turkish Airlines lounge and look out for these famous landmarks on takeoff.

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