Should You Be Worried about Political Protests in Turkey as a Tourist?

Prior to visiting Turkey, I was nervous about the civil unrest that I had read about. Stories about police storming Taksim Square, several people dying, and tear gas in the streets stoked my fears.

But having just spent 4 days in Istanbul, I don’t think there’s much for tourists to be afraid of, particularly if you plan on spending most of your time near the tourist attractions (i.e. in Sultanahmet) as there was little-to-no police presence in the old city. In fact, if your hotel is in Sultanahmet, I doubt you’ll even notice that there are political protests going on.

We ended up staying near Taksim Square, so we saw a lot of police milling about within walking distance of our apartment¬†every single day we were there. We also encountered demonstrations along Istikal, and on one night, we inhaled a little tear gas while walking along Istikal late at night. But I don’t think it’s particularly common or there’s a particular need for tourists to be hanging around Taksim Square or walking along Istikal late at night, so I doubt you’d be tear gassed as we were.

Anyway, most tourist itineraries will naturally keep you away from protests and police; otherwise, it only takes a little bit of awareness to make sure that you avoid potentially dangerous situations. And even then, probably the worst that’ll happen to you is that you’ll get a little bit of tear gas. Not a huge deal, and it was a fascinating time to see the city and talk to locals about their thoughts on the protests.

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