Category: Security

Is It Safe To Travel To Turkey? [Updated: Jan. 2017]

turkish airlines airplane wing

Around a year ago I originally wrote whether it was still safe to travel to Turkey, a question I get regularly in my inbox. A lot has changed over the past year – and not for the better – with more attacks, a coup attempt; many people have stopped bothering to ask altogether. It’s a dramatic shift in a country that was the 6th most visited in the world, back in 2015.

There are so many reasons to visit Turkey, from balloon rides over ancient volcanic rock formations, the impressive 1,480 year old Hagia Sophia, beautiful beaches, and of course all the food. Still, Turkey’s perception as a travel destination has changed, so has the reality.

Focused Fear

Most countries have rough parts, cities, and often those locations are far removed from the tourist experience. In other words, you have to look for trouble. In Turkey, a lot of the violence it faces from Kurdish terrorist groups, not to mention ISIS, was previously limited to the distant southeast. Recently, it has moved to Turkey’s travel capital, Istanbul.

istanbul from above

A goal of terrorism toward tourists is to invoke a disproportionate amount of fear from attacks designed to make you feel like, “I could have been there,” so that you decide not to go to the country at all. It is easy to dismiss one, even two attacks, but terrorism in places tourists are likely to frequent is no longer an anomaly. There are other unsettling events as well, coup attempts, assassinations, and arrests. Although the chance of something happening to any given person in a terror-related event are low, in Turkey, those events are becoming more common. Disruptions directly related to such events, Internet blackouts, flight delays or cancellations, or curfews, could potentially occur during your trip.

Istanbul, for now, might be a better plan for those who have a little bit of travel experience.

Experiencing The Numbers

A lot of experienced travelers will proclaim, “of course it’s safe, go!” Much like the crime in your own city never seems so bad, because you live the statistics. As you travel you begin to become familiar with what is normal in various regions around the world. You see the nuance. Turkey is a very large country. Multiple terror events, government upheavals, you realize, are very unlikely to affect you specifically. But it takes time for your experience to support what your logical mind can decipher based on numbers alone.

The Real Question

Yes, Turkey is safe. But you have to be prepared when you travel to Turkey, that something bad might happen during your stay there. Not to you specifically, but in a country where there were 16 attacks in 2016 – and maybe to a place you could have been. Internet access might be cut for a time, making it difficult when you need it most, to inform your loved ones you’re safe.

Millions of tourists a month are still visiting Turkey, having wonderful trips, and seeing a truly remarkable travel destination. The question isn’t whether Turkey is safe, but whether or not traveling there makes you comfortable. Everyone has a different level of risk acceptance, and in Istanbul particularly, the risks, although rare, might for the time being exceed your personal limit.

WiFox, The Map Of Current Airport Wireless Passwords Worldwide, Is Now Available On Android

wifox app

WiFox is a map of airport wifi and lounge passwords from around the world that’s updated in real-time with information verified from other travelers, pilots, and reliable sources. Last month I released WiFox for iOS, starting today it’s available for Android devices on Google Play.

wifox google play

How WiFox Works

WiFox is based on my popular map of wireless passwords from around the world, letting users around the world add password information from airports as they travel. Passwords are then verified and added to the map, which is updated in real-time when you have an Internet connection. All of the hotspots are shown on a Google map, which you can download for offline use, as well as in a searchable list view.

wifox android app

  • Hotspot Information Includes – Airport, location in the airport or lounge, network name, password, plus any other details that might help you get online (e.g. “sit next to gate 47 for the strongest signal”).

All of the information is verified before being approved to the map – plus you can submit password changes as you discover them. WiFox also has a simple feedback system that let’s you vouch for working passwords or let me know one might need updating.

Unlock Airport Time Restrictions

WiFox currently has the access information for over 80 airports worldwide. Additionally, WiFox shows you airports with free wireless so you can better plan a trip. Many free wifi connections in airport often have time limits, so not only does WiFox tell you what they are but it also has information showing you how to turn limited into unlimited Internet.

Available On Google Play Now

WiFox is available for Android on Google Play as well as Amazon for $1.99. There are no in-app purchases or ads and airport wireless updates are free, for life. As I have for the iOS version, I’ll keep adding new features to WiFox, hotspots, plus other updates regularly based on your reviews. My goal is to help you travel smarter and get online in airports you might not otherwise be able to (or in airports that want to email you a password – before they let you online, ugh).

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Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about WiFox in the comments below and if you’re happy with the app, I would appreciate your a 5-star reviews on Google Play!

How To Plan A Safe And Entertaining Trip To Tunisia

tunis port de france

Travelers thinking about Tunisia are often wondering if it’s safe to visit while others might not even know why they would want to visit in the first place. In between those two questions is Tunisia, the north African nation where the Arab Spring began, Luke Skywalker was born, and the Romans built one of the largest bath complexes in the ancient world.

Safety First

Although you might be enticed to travel to Tunisia, finding out if it’s safe to go at all probably comes first to mind. There have been a few high-profile terror attacks targeting tourists but consider nearly four times have been killed in Belgium, for example, over the past 18 months. In other words, attacks are about as rare as plane crashes.

tunis bardo musuem

Tunisia is an Arab Spring success story, the only one really, with strong institutions unifying the nation as it continues to develop.

Where To Stay, Starting In Tunis

Direct flights from a number of European cities, including Istanbul, to the Tunisian capital Tunis are plentiful. I suggest staying in the Medina, or Old City, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

tunis tunisia door

  • Dar Ya Hotel – Located in the white-walled medina, the Moorish architecture, excellent service, plus very reasonable rates make you feel you’re not quite paying enough for this accommodation.

It’s easiest to arrange a ride from Tunis–Carthage Airport with your hotel prior to your arrival, if possible. Taxis leaving the airport will tell you they have a fixed rate (that varies depending on your bargaining ability) although they should be using a meter. Before leaving the airport however, head to the bright red Ooredoo kiosk just beyond customs. You’ll be able to get a prepaid SIM card with plenty of talk time and Internet for around $15.

Tunis Sights To Seek Out

Start by wandering around the medina – if you do end up staying at Dar Ya Hotel, as you head toward the heart of market in the tiny square about a 2 minute walk from the hotel, look to the right for a white sign on the path. Between the hours of roughly 10am and 4pm, there’s a very small kitchen in the basement floor, where a single cook prepares Tunisian stuffed flat dough. (I’m unable to find the name from my rough Arabic translation.) The greasy snack is closest to a mix between Turkish borek and gozleme.

tunisian food

  • Best Places To Spend Time In The MedinaEl Abed for excellent grilled lamb, and Mhirsi Cafe Alta, a local coffee spot with plenty of shisha plus people watching. It’s also worth noting that shop owners in the medina are very laid back (compared to those in Marrakesh, for example) so you can stroll with hardly any hassle.

A lot of Tunis’ major touristic attractions are within walking or metro distance, in fact, you’ll probably not need a taxi at all in town. Architecture enthusiasts don’t miss Zitouna Mosque (hidden in the medina) and Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Paul.

zitouna mosque tunis

Day Trip To Carthage

Home to one of the biggest Roman bath sites ever built (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) Carthage is a 45 minute train ride from Tunis. You’ll take the first station of the Metro Leger de Tunis (TGM), a 15 minute walk from the medina. Head toward the Clock Tower and keep going until you hit water. Trains are frequent – usually once or twice an hour – and tickets are less than a few dollars for first class; an upgrade worth paying for. The stop most convenient for travelers is Carthage-Hannibal.

tunis clock tower

Carthage is a walking city, there are Phoenician and Roman ruins spread everywhere. From the train station, walk up the conspicuous hill away from the water and follow the signs to see the Roman Amphitheater. There are some other Roman sites from there (i.e. the villas) most will probably find dull. Instead, trace your steps back to the train station, then follow the signs to the Roman baths. Exploration of lovely coastal views, optional, free, and irresistible.

roman baths tunisia carthage

Food is rather scarce in Carthage around these sites so pack some snacks or see if you can find Pizza Phone. Forgive them for a poor choice in name that does not at all describe they quality or variety of their menu.

  • Roman Coins Trick – You’ll have people coming up to you offering to sell Roman coins. They may be real but the prices aren’t realistic; avoid them and instead purchase from one of the authorized gift shops if you really want a Roman coin.

tunisia mediterranian coast

Oasis In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Even if the some of the Star Wars movie set locations weren’t near Tozeur, it would still be worth visiting the city built on the edge of a desert oasis. You can rent a bike or ATV (nearly all hotels in the small town offer this) and ride around in the vast palm trees for hours. Try to get to the outer edge on the fast side to see right where the oasis hits the desert for interesting photo opportunities.

tozeur oasis

sunset mos espa tunisia

Tozeur is a small town so you end up relying on your hotel to make arrangements more than you would a sizeable city. The Residence Tozeur Almadina‘s owner Tayeb is a big help, not to mention the hotel is a nice place to stay too. He’ll also be able to make recommendations for other parts of Tunisia plus put you in touch with local establishments that might be on your travel path.

tozeur tunisia

  • Best Ways To Get To Tozeur – Budget travelers who like the long road, there’s train from Tunis to Tozeur. It takes roughly 8 hours and you’ll probably be sharing your seat with a few cockroaches. The views are impressive though; however if insects aren’t your thing, budget Tunisian airlines fly from Tunis to Tozeur, a 40 minute flight.

Still Asking About Safety?

I’ve not mentioned it much because in terms of personal safety, Tunisia is very accessible to foreign travelers. Tourists who blend in reasonably and practice good travel security common sense should be able to avoid the most routine threat: pick-pocketing. Many though won’t be convinced, keeping prices low for travelers who do decide to visit Tunisia in the near future.

This Bridge In Sarajevo Is Where World War I Started And Nearly Didn’t

latin bridge sarajevo

History flows like a river but most of the time we concede we’re only privy to a small section viewed from the shore. But along the small Latin Bridge in Sarajevo over the shallow waters of the Miljacka River, history happened all at once and almost not at all.

It Begins With An Act Of Indecision

The 28th of June, 1914 began with Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife Sophie, visiting the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo; then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ferdinand had went to Bosnia a few days prior to observe military operations, sent by his uncle Emperor Franz Josef. Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed from the Ottomans in 1908 by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ferdinand was there to wave the flag (in the face of Serbian nationalists who made claim to the territory.

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the WorldThe Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World

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Ferdinand was to inaugurate the new state museum in Sarajevo, accompanied by his wife Sophie who worried for his safety. On the morning of June 28th, Ferdinand was touring the city in his motorcade. He passed Muhamed Mehmedbasic, one of several Serbian nationalist conspirators who had planned to assassinate Ferdinand. Fearful, Mehmedbasic never used the grenade in his possession. The motorcade passes unmolested until coming across Nedjelko Cabrinovic, who did toss a grenade at the Archduke’s car. Bouncing off the vehicle it exploded behind Ferdinand’s car (since the driver sped up upon seeing it) injuring several members of Ferdinand’s entourage seriously.

latin bridge sarajevo bosnia and herzegovina

One Failed Murder, One Botched Suicide

Cabrinovic tried to kill himself by jumping into the Miljacka River which is often shallow. Only centimeters deep that particular day, Cabrinovic probably thought the expired cyanide pill he swallowed would finish him. As it were, the pill only made him ill and he was arrested.

latin bridge sarajevo

So, Ferdinand is still alive, having cheated death twice and a number of Serbian nationalist assassins have time to contemplate how it all went wrong. And wrong again. Plus some. One of Cabrinovic’s co-conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, frustrated with the morning of failed killing, went to a cafe on nearby Franz Josef Street, sulking at having missed all assassination opportunity.

latin bridge sarajevo

Elsewhere in Sarajevo, after some time passes, Ferdinand decides he wants to visit Sarajevo Hospital where the injured have been taken. Military officer General Oskar Potiorek, traveling with Ferdinand, advises the caravan avoid the city center. For unclear reasons, Potiorek never told the driver that. So, Ferdinand’s convoy continues across the Latin Bridge, makes a right turn… right on to Franz Josef Street.

Serendipity In Reverse

To Princip’s surprise Ferdinand’s car rolls towards him. The driver by now has been made aware of his mistake, tries to reverse, stalling the car’s engine in the process. Car stuck and seizing the opportunity, Princip opens the door shooting Ferdinand and Sophie. Both die within an hour; mobs attack Princip, disarming him. He’s later arrested. Austria-Hungary blames Serbia for the plot, declaring war one month later. Allied nations jump in to support both sides and World War I officially begins.

ferdinand assasination spot

Today, you can walk across the Latin Bridge, built in the 1550s by the Ottoman Empire, and see the plaque noting where Ferdinand and Sophie were killed on the corner of Franz Josef Street. Their assassination story is one of my favorites from history for the sheer amount of circumstance and implication of fate. Visiting these sites during a HYH City Tour (whom I highly recommend) was one of many highlights from my visit to the city you voted best to visit in 2012.

Take A Look At This Photo From Kawkaban, Yemen, Because It Doesn’t Exist Any More

yemen shibam walled city

The Old Walled City of Shibam in western Yemen was a place that made me feel what a shame Yemen’s terrible security reputation was reputation back in 2013, keeping most travelers from visiting. Back then there were parts of Yemen that were safe to visit (mostly) including Shibam, one of Yemen’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But as unknown to most as the 2800 meter high Shibam was, so has been the destruction of its most popular attraction, the Kawkaban Fortress. Hardly any coverage in Western media was made of the airstrike that demolished the 12 centuries-old Kawkaban in February 2016. The only news in English I could find was this Facebook post by Eternal Yemen, the company that arranged my trip there.

I left Yemen with a sense that the best of a bad situation was likely to end soon and four months later a civil and larger proxy war began – making the country inaccessible. In addition to the 6,500 lives lost since then, historic sites like Kawkaban have been lost to humanity forever. So now once the site of one of humanity’s achievements, is ruble, marking the failing of our species; a lesson still not learned since the first stone of Kawkaban was laid 1,200 years ago.

Is It Still Safe To Travel To Turkey?

anitkabir ankara

You may be wondering after 5 major terrorist attacks over the past 6 months, two in Istanbul and three in Ankara, whether or not you’ll be safe if you go to Turkey. Many Turks and residents are now questioning their own safety as well and an empty Antalya booth at the 2016 ITB Berlin tourism fair is one of the few demonstrations of Turkey’s deteriorating security situation that hasn’t been pepper sprayed.

A number of people have already written me they’re canceling their travel plans, the ways things are going, you’re right to reconsider your next trip too.

Lots Of Problems, Few Solutions

Since 1984 the terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been at war with the Turkish government, resulting in over 37,000 deaths and little else. Most of this violence was in Turkey’s southeast, more than 1,000 kilometers (~650 miles) from major cities like Istanbul. A 2013 ceasefire effectively ended on July 20, 2015 after a terrorist attack by ISIS – to further complicate matters – in the southeastern city of Suruc, killing over 30 Kurdish activists.

Since then a suspected ISIS bombing murdered 103 people in Ankara at a peace rally, later 12 German tourists near Istanbul’s Hippodrome, and now a splinter group of the PKK, the TAK, has begun attacking targets in both cities as well.

Big Country Getting Smaller

ISIS attacks are a relatively new threat, suicide bombings a new tactic, and Turkey’s western cities a new target. All of this, especially the last point should be concerning for travelers since attacks are becoming more frequent in places you’re more likely to visit. Turkey is a large country roughly 10% larger than Texas but the violence is undoubtedly expanding. None of this is very surprising when you consider the neighborhood, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, isn’t getting any better either.

These trends are all troubling in Turkey, especially its west, where such attacks were as rare a phenomena as they are in London or Rome. Would you be hesitant to book a vacation to Spain if there had been three suicide bombs in Madrid’s shopping and transportation centers, plus two, one along Barcelona’s La Rambla, the other at El Prat Airport – all within 6 months? Because that’s the equivalent of what’s happened in Turkey recently.

Target Is The Headlines

Turkey’s military and intelligence agencies are some of the best in the world but no security is absolute – despite government attempts to censor their own failures.

The outlook doesn’t look good because both the terrorists and the politicians are aiming at the headlines. Terror groups looking to make the news often target high-profile soft targets while members of government try to manipulate the press afterward. Terrorists are often cautious as every step leading up to an attack potentially exposes them to getting caught. Two huge bombing attacks in Ankara within a month means they’re feeling confident, assuring more, similar attacks are highly likely.

None of this is to say Turkey’s a war zone or you’ll be dodging missiles on your balloon ride over Cappadocia. Turkey is relatively safe. The ingredients for calm are in the kitchen but the chef doesn’t know how to cook up the right dish. So until the customers get what they’re craving, there’s going to be a lot of geopolitical diarrhea all over the restaurant.

Statistically, as a tourist, you’ll be very safe across the majority of Turkey, even if the numbers aren’t comforting, the reality hopefully will be. Istanbul is one of the safest cities in the world and a sunburn (or in my case alcohol poisoning) is your biggest threat in beautiful Fethiye. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before canceling your travel plans but instead you might want to renegotiate them. A 14.3% decrease in tourism revenue along Turkey’s Mediterranean “Riviera Coast”, one of the safest regions anywhere, means you might be able to visit at one of the best bargains in years.


About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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