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Safety in Istanbul

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I think I am probably beating a dead horse but here it goes.

I am moving to Istanbul in a little over two weeks. I have registered in the American Embassies STEP so that they can send me alerts via e-mail. I just received an alert about a demonstration in Istanbul at the American Embassy this week. Because I am not familiar with Istanbul yet I have no idea if this is anywhere near where I will be working or living.

I stay abreast of world news and events but I also know from experience and talking with others that the news may not be completely accurate.

My question is this - What is your thoughts/views of the actions taking place in Syria, Iran, and Iraq and has it had any impact on how you conduct your daily activities in Turkey. Just trying to get an idea of what to expect and how to acclimate.


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The "news" is selcom accurate, especially if  it comes from FAUX (not) news, but it is wise to keep your eyes open to events. 

The US consulate (the embassy is in Ankara) is on the European side way north of the Beyoğlu/Taksim/Sultanahmet area. It is literally a citadel on a hill, anyone attempting to storm that castle had better be prepared for a lengthy siege. There was an attack in 2008 by "The Three Stooges," total idiots who had no idea what they were up against. The "news" initially wrote: "...a car was used in the attack and have determined the registration plate number. Witnesses said that three assailants got out of the vehicle, while another remained inside. He could be injured as well." The car was a private taxi and the driver was not injured and contacted the police later to tell them the three assailants were paying passengers. So, three guys paid a taxi to take them to a well-guarded fortress with well-trained and armed guards and just walked up and started shooting. They will not make that mistake again, three defenders also died. (Photos of the incident here

Get out Google maps and explore the city, they are quite good.

How to acclimate?

It used to be a good idea to keep one eye on the ground a few feet ahead of you and another on the mass of pedestrians coming at you. The ground ahead used to be uneven cobbled streets and sidewalks (when there was a sidewalk) and also there were often found large and deep holes dug into the surface. Occasional dog doo but surprisingly not as much as I expected. I have almost been hit on several occasions by speeding motorcycle couriers zooming past from behind me at nearly the speed of sound and of course the sound did not hit me until they almost did.  The most dangerous situations used to be crossing streets and roads. NEVER assume the pedestrian has the right-of-way.  There is no safety in signaled, crowd crossings either, I have seen people bumped by an overanxious driver who decided the huge crowd of cross-walkers were not moving fast enough. If someone stopped for me to cross the street I would first go into shock but after a brief recovery I  would assume that they were either a foreigner unaccustomed to Stamboul traffic and soon to be murdered by a taxi driver, or a murderous Turk waiting until I got into his sights. Always assume traffic is coming at you from ANY direction no matter whether a one-way street or not. I started to step off a bus at a proper bus stop and was almost hit by a motorcycle which decided to pass the bus on the right side between the curb and the bus. :shock:

If you walk around a corner in Istanbul and you see the street filled with black-clad "Robocops" you may find that to be a photo opportunity or you may find it an opportunity to exit the area depending upon how much you really want to get involved. :wacko:  Helicopters buzzing and circling overhead would be a clue to be cautious. In seven years in Istanbul, I saw many demonstrations, none as fierce as Gezi Park, but the police tended to block off areas where they suspected large crowds and big trouble.

Actions taking place in Syria, Iran, and Iraq?

We live on the coast near Kaş and close to Fethiye. We have never smelled the tear gas from demonstrations nor heard the explosions of war from where we live. :kicking:

Of course we are over 1000 km from the eastern borders and almost 1000 km from Istanbul. Van is on the eastern edge of Turkey and it is over 1700 km from Ataturk Airport to Van.

Turkey is larger than Ukraine (second largest on European continent) which has an area of: 233,090 sq mi (603,628 km2 ). 

Turkey is roughly twice the size of Germany http://www.nationmaster.com/compare/Germany/Turkey/Geography

Turkey is 1.2 times the size of France http://www.nationmaster.com/compare/France/Turkey/Geography.

Turkey compared to *California*
Area  163,696 sq mi (423,970 km2)
Width  250 miles (400 km) and Length  770 miles (1,240 km)

Turkey compared to *Texas*
Area  268,581 sq mi (696,241 km2)
Width   773 miles (1,244 km) and Length   790 miles (1,270 km)

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Thanks! HobbitTR

I really appreciate the information on getting around in Istanbul because it is so practical. I will file it away in the hopper. I had read about traffic and driving in Istanbul but not from the point of view of the pedestrian. I will remember to be aware of surroundings. 

I am not deterred from my decision to move to Turkey but I wanted to ask more experienced ex-pats their view of the current situation and advice.

I have explored Goggle maps but will check it out in greater detail. Thanks for the heads-up about "Robocops" in regards to demonstrations and large gatherings.

Also, kudos to you! I have read your posts on other subjects and appreciate the thoroughness of information you provide.

I do love this site!!

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