Is it safe to travel to Turkey? The latest Foreign Office advice during Israel-Hamas war

Turkey, a popular holiday destination among Britons, is around 800 miles from Israel. Even so, travellers may have worries about visiting the country. Violent protests have taken place in Turkey over the Israel-Hamas war. The borders Turkey shares with Syria and Iran may also cause concerns among some travellers.

With parts of Turkey remaining warm into November, thousands of UK travellers will have planned to visit its beaches and tourist sites in the coming months. Most areas are considered to be safe for tourism.

Most of Turkey is safe to visit, according to UK Government advice. However, there are UK Foreign Office advisories against travel to some parts of the country.

Here is what you need to know if you are planning a trip in the coming weeks and months.

What is the Foreign Office advice?

The Foreign Office warnings against travel to Turkey only apply to small sections of the country. It warns against all travel to within 10km (six miles) of the border with Syria. It also advises against all but essential travel to the city of Sirnak, which is the capital of the Sirnak province, and to the Hakkari province.

On its travel advice page for Turkey, the Foreign Office also warns that terrorists are likely to carry out attacks in Turkey. Most terrorist attacks have happened in south-east Turkey, Ankara and Istanbul.

Demonstrations are also held in cities and may turn violent. The fighting between Israel and Hamas has led to heightened tensions in the region and protests are being carried out in locations across Turkey.

In Turkey’s major cities, large demonstrations have been reported outside diplomatic missions connected to the conflict, particularly Israeli ones in Ankara and Istanbul.

The Foreign Office advice is to avoid all demonstrations and to leave the area if one develops. Local transport routes could be disrupted as well.

Is Turkey involved in the Israel-Hamas war?

No, as it stands it is not directly involved in, or directly affected by, the conflict.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled a planned to visit to Israel. Reuters reports that Mr Erdogan told his ruling AK party on Wednesday: “Hamas is not a terrorist organisation, it is a liberation group, ‘mujahideen’ waging a battle to protect its lands and people.”

Mujahideen is an Arabic word signifying those who fight for their faith. Mr Erdogan has also said to his AK Party that “we call for restraint from all parties”.

Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation and backs a two-state solution to the long-running conflict.

ISTANBUL, TURKIYE - OCTOBER 21: People carrying Palestinian flags and banners take part in march through the city streets to show solidarity with Palestinians, in Istanbul, Turkiye on October 21, 2023. (Photo by Bunyamin Celik/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Demonstrators carrying Turkish and various other flags and banners while marching through Istanbul’s streets to show solidarity with Palestinians (Photo: Getty)

Can I cancel my holiday to Turkey?

If you decide to cancel, you risk losing money on your holiday. Should you wish to change your plans, contact your travel provider and they may allow you to move your trip to a later date.

Those travelling on a package holiday are entitled to a refund if there is a change in their destination or in its immediate vicinity after booking an before travel.

However, as the Foreign Office is not warning against travel to most of Turkey, including its tourist areas, you would not be entitled to a refund. You would also not be able to claim money on your travel insurance should you decide to cancel a trip.