No vaccinations are required for a visit to Turkey, although a typhoid vaccine is recommended for longer stays. There is a minimal risk of malaria in the south eastern region of Turkey.
Tap water, though chlorinated in larger centres such as Istanbul, is not recommended for drinking. However, bottled water is cheap and readily available.
Private health insurance is recommended for travel to Turkey.
Pharmacies in Turkey can easily be recognized by the neon red ‘E’ (for the Turkish word ‘eczane’ ) sign outside shops. Istanbul has a plethora of pharmacies stocking a wide range of medicines, equipment and aids as well as toiletry items such as dental floss, band aids and bandages.
Most medicines in Turkey do not require a prescription. Prices are controlled by the government and are generally low.
Note that basic medicines such as paracaetamol (‘Panadol’) and ibuprofen (‘Nurofen’) are not sold at supermarkets, but only at pharmacies.
Pharmacies in Istanbul are usually open until around 7pm and there are duty stores available on Sundays and public holidays.
Dentists are usually of a high standard in Istanbul, and the city has become a popular ‘medical tourism’ destination due to the relatively low costs of elective procedures.
Despite this, make sure to agree to the fee you’ll pay in advance for dental work in Turkey as there are no fixed fees.
Public/state hospitals are generally of a lower sanitary condition and care than in private hospitals, with patients often suffering long queues and lack of attending staff.
It’s recommended that you take out private health insurance prior to a visit to Istanbul as the private hospitals in Istanbul are generally of a higher standard and staff can usually speak English or other foreign languages.
Safety Issues in Istanbul
Most travellers comment on the exceptional friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people. Turkey is not only welcoming, it's also as safe as Europe and North America and in particular violent crime against foreigners is rare.
Even though Turkey is relatively safe there are a few things to watch out for:
Like in any crowded place, beware of pickpockets who may attempt to take your belongings when you are distracted.
* Keep a close eye on your bag or wallet, and try to keep it in front of you, especially in crowded places such as busy streets, metro or buses as bag snatching and bag slashing does occur.
* Muggings, though not common, are on the rise in Istanbul, so be aware of where you are, at what time of day, and what you’re carrying on you.
Scams in Istanbul
Although not frequent, there are a few scams in Istanbul aimed at westerners, as outlined below:
* There is a common scam in Istanbul aimed at single young foreign men. While walking on the street, a man is approached by other young, seemingly friendly locals, who offer to show him some ‘real’ Istanbul nightlife. When he arrives at the bar, young, attractive ladies are there and order drinks, which happen to total hundreds of dollars. The poor young man is landed with a whopping bill at the end of the night and forced to pay it. The moral of the story: ask for prices before you order, wherever you are.
* Another scam is carried out by shoe shiners. As you walk past, they ‘accidently’ drop their brush in front of you. As you bend down to pick it up, they look very grateful and start to polish your shoes in gratitude. When you go to leave, however, they start demanding that you pay for the shine. Moral of the story: don’t pick up the brush!
Many travellers are surprised at the large number of policemen in Istanbul, especially in the Taksim/Beyoglu area. There are also CCTV cameras in many places in the city.
Should you experience trouble while in Istanbul, don’t hesitate to contact the Tourist Police or regular police force- though the latter’s English skills tend to be limited.
Istanbul’s Tourism Police Department has an office in Sultanahmet across from the Basilica Cistern entrance, where travellers can go to report a stolen/lost passport or any other crime. They claim to be able to speak French, German and Arabic as well as English.
Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi)
Address: Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet
Tel: +90 212 527 45 03
Fax: +90 212 512 76 76
Topkapi Palace © Aydin Sertbas
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