The Security Situation in Turkey: Comments from Cruisers in Turkey
This report was originally posted in May 2016. See more recent comments from cruisers still in Turkey at bottom of the report.
Published 7 years ago, updated 4 years ago
Recent terrorist attacks from international and indigenous groups have targeted popular tourist sites in Turkey. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines state that “further attacks are likely”. The US Department of State has issued a warning[BROKENLINK], which for the first time includes the provinces of Izmir and Mugla (popular with cruising boats).
If you are considering visiting Turkey this summer but concerned over the recent terrorist attacks, these comments from yacht owners who are currently cruising in Turkey may help:
Cruise ships that used to visit every three to four days are now spaced out weekly plus.
Downtown, we used to see buses lined up at Kemeralti to view the old clock tower, the very old mosque and walk around a very active bazar. We still see a bus or two, but not more.
Nice hotels in town are running adverts in the local newspapers offering DEEP discounts if you come and stay with them and “rediscover” Izmir.
The two foreign boats in my marina are gone, both to Greece.
We are staying safe, avoiding towns with large crowds, etc… But it is NOT like it used to be, even just a year ago…… ☹
Friends report no new foreign arrivals and nearly all of the foreign boats (true foreign boats, not Turks with US flags) have already departed, nearly all saying they might visit some Turkish places on their way west to Greece.
Many hotels along the tourist beaches are not opening since reservations made have been canceled. Hotels near the marina are having the usual amount of bookings since they’re mainly used by returning yachtsmen/women who have spent the winter in their home countries. No one in Marmaris marinas (or seemingly in nearby marinas and town quays) is bothered by the situation along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.
Having said that, boats are leaving Turkey for Greece, Malta, Croatia, Crete; some who are cruisers and are moving on, and some who do not agree with the rising prices of resident permits and visas plus marina mooring fees/lift and launch fees. More boats are being listed for sale as well. But no prospective buyers are appearing to view boats for sale.
I’m not worried and neither are some 35+ boats which are long-term (since 1989 or more recent) liveaboards. They are staying without concern in both Marmaris marinas. It’s true though that many boats are leaving spaces open and unoccupied in both marinas.
The Turkish authorities are highly adept at security. Marinas have increased their security and in Marmaris, there are several “agencies” (police, military, coast guard) that we see on discrete duty.
1) Marmaris has one road in and out before reaching the main highway to the rest of Turkey. This road has a series of checkpoints where everyone coming in by car or bus must stop and be checked.
2) Marmaris has a large coast guard presence whose patrol boats access the only Aegean gap into Marmaris, so this section of the Aegean Sea, cruising grounds, and the Marmaris bay itself are covered with security.
3) NATO is just down the road from Marmaris town… a huge security presence.
Most visiting tourists know not to visit the center of Istanbul or Ankara, stay away from crowds, bus stations, shopping malls, and areas with crowds. Tours to the N, NW of Turkey (Capadoccia, Amasya, inland Black Sea, etc) are likely still running. However, tours to the SE, SW of Turkey (Van, Kara, Mersin, Gazientep, etc.) have been canceled indefinitely, and will probably take about 3 years, depending on the situation with ISIS and the Kurds, to resume tourist travel there.
Posted on behalf of MV LeeZe – currently in Turgutreis, Turkey:
In response to U.S. Embassy Ankara Updated Turkey Travel Warning – October 29, 2016
Probably by now you have heard about this. It is a shame it has come to this. The war out east is getting a lot of attention, along with the repercussions from the July “coup” attempt.
We do live in interesting times. We currently (and absolutely) feel that we are safe and secure. We are aware of our surroundings, and we do keep both eyes wide open. We are not closing our eyes to what could happen, but we are fully aware of what is happening. We tend to avoid large crowds, and we are keeping our ears to the ground.
What is not really being reported is the economic downturn the country is experiencing. The TV news recently reported that that over 600 stores have closed in the famed Covered Bazar in Old Istanbul, which is just a symptom of how the economy is spluttering throughout the country. Just in the last few days I have had to travel, and storefronts and buildings are empty, many for rent or for sale, some brand spanking new. We went to a small village’s farmer’s market and watched people in the village trade possessions for food. We did our fair share of buying, but we know we did not make a dent in their predicament.
It is NOT all gloom and doom. It just seems that way.
People are out and about, having coffee, tea and sandwiches along the waterfront. The only clue that something is not quite 100% right are the pen and ink changes to the menu prices, with all them being revised downwards, the number of empty storefronts, the state of repair of some of the waterside restaurants, and of course, the faces of the locals struggling harder to make ends meet.
The conversion rate is getting worse, but prices for the most part are remaining steady. I hear that wages are not going up, cannot go up, so any increase in the cost of living will adversely affect those living on the edge, which in Turkey is a very large #. Food prices have changed remarkably little over the last 4 months, with the exception of alcohol, gasoline, and diesel fuel, which have all gone up due to the extra taxes the government has added. Beef is still very expensive for many Turks given current minimum wages, with 20% fat ground Beef running about $5.11 per pound or $11.25/kg, and filet mignon /bon fillet running about $13.88/ pound or $30.65/kg. (For the record, we found bon fillet in Greece between $16.5 to $27.5/kg.)
For what it is worth, foreign boaters are not coming this far east much any more, and those that were here to experience the cruising grounds have decided to leave. We do keep plenty of fuel on board LeeZe, just in case, but as usual, the news reports are making it sound much much worse than what we are experiencing locally. We personally know of 5 foreign boats that have gone westward, and I think just one boat that came to Turkey this winter to cruise the southern coast next summer. We are in a huge, 500+ boat marina, and so far, have yet to meet a foreigner wintering over.
Our boat. Cayenne (US flagged), has been on the hard at Yacht Marine for a year now due to a medical problem. We came back (mid Sept. thru Oct. 2016) to work on the boat in preparation for Spring 2017 launch. In the last 3 weeks of our stay we took our rented Peugot 301 (about $750 USD for 43 days) on a road trip (2500km) down the coast from Marmaris to Antalya, then up to Konya and Cappadocia and across to Pammukale, Izmir, and Bodrum before returning to Marmaris. The “situation” appears quite relaxed with minimal police/army presence or activity.
Tourism and Marina activity appears down about 40-50% as are car rental and hotel prices. Our 7 weeks in Turkey have been relaxed and delightful, no lines, no crowds, gracious and welcoming Turks and lovely weather. Admittedly October is a shoulder season, but crisis tourism has its benefits. We hope to assess the cruising situation next year. The marinas we visited along the coast Fethiye, Kas, Finike etc. appeared about 80% full, but marina staff seem to feel they’re operating at about 50% capacity.