…and Would I Take My Family?
I’ve recently returned from a trip to Bodrum, but before deciding to go, I put a lot of thought into whether it would be safe to go, so I thought it might be helpful to share my findings with others experiencing the same doubts. If you’re contemplating a holiday to Turkey, but are having doubts about whether to go, I’ll take you through the research I did before travelling, the level of security I experienced at both outgoing and incoming airports, how safe I felt where I was staying in Bodrum and the conclusions I came to following my trip.
IS TURKEY SAFE TO TRAVEL TO?
A month ago, I was seriously pondering the question, “Is Turkey safe to travel to?”. I’d been invited on a press trip to Bodrum, a popular tourist destination in South West Turkey. I’ve only been a travel blogger for a couple of years, so I’m still flattered to be invited on trips alongside hugely established travel writers, video producers and national print press journalists. This invite had come from the Turkish tourist board, no less. So far so good.
On the downside, I was at my parents’ house, sitting next to my Mother when confirmation of my invitation arrived and, in line with pretty much every other Mum on Earth, her priority is keeping me safe. We talked about the potential dangers and within five minutes I began to doubt whether I should go.
I checked the Government website and their advice didn’t look good..
“The threat from terrorism remains high . . . . . You should take extra care in public places – particularly those visited by foreigners . . . . . Attacks are likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations. Nevertheless, it’s increasingly likely that some attacks will also target western interests and tourists from western countries, particularly in the major cities”
Source GOV.UK, June 2016
That was that then. I decided it would be totally irresponsible of me to leave my family behind and go. Then the husband, who had seen how amazing the trip itinerary was, suggested I shouldn’t be quite so hasty, so I carried on researching.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?
I didn’t know anybody else who was going on the trip, so I approached my network of international travel writers on social media for their thoughts. I asked:-
“Have been invited on a press trip to Bodrum, Turkey and am really in two minds about whether to go or not. Would you go and think there are risks everywhere or would you think it would be crazy to consider it?”
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO!
Within minutes, answers started to pour in. This is just a selection of the many responses, but they were all along these lines:-
“Go for it! Last year we spent over 3 months in Turkey and never felt unsafe.
Bodrum is lovely!”
“I will travel in two weeks to Turkey for a press trip. I don’t feel unsafe. I don’t know. I think right now there are lots of places that are considered unsafe at the moment.”
“I’ve just been to Bodrum one week ago. I felt totally safe”
“it would be crazy to worry about it”
“Having just spent 2 months recently in Turkey (including at the times of the bombings in Istanbul), I still feel 100% safe there and would go back in a heartbeat.”
“As someone who has just been through Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, and was right next to one of the bombs that went off in Istanbul – my advice is to go …. any place in the world can be a dangerous place and to boycott a destination out of fear is the wrong decision to make. In my opinion, the ONLY place where us bloggers can really make a difference is to help shed light on some of the world’s more misunderstood regions. Turkey is beautiful, you will love it.”
A couple of people suggested that the main danger might be some questionable Turkish drivers! After further consideration, I decided to go for it.
AIRPORT SECURITY ON THE OUTBOUND JOURNEY
I flew from Stansted as there were no flights from our local Bristol Airport on the day in question. The coach from Bristol arrived punctually at 10.30am, with three hours to spare before my flight, so I had plenty of time to explore the unexpectedly huge Airport.
I’d already checked in online and was only carrying hand luggage, so my little bags and I headed towards departures.
While I was filling clear plastic bags with my small bottles of suntan lotion and insect repellant, I witnessed two armed police officers approach a lone man. They politely told him that they felt he was acting suspiciously as he’d been “circling” the departures area and explained they’d like to do some security checks on him. He obliged happily and off they went.
Once I’d gone through the barrier and into the departures hall, the massive slow-moving queues marked out by barricades gave me that feeling of being in a cattle market (Does everyone feel like that?). The longer I stood there, the more sweaty my hands felt, for fear of accidentally trying to smuggle something prohibited through. What if I’d packed a 125 ml bottle of conditioner by mistake? I’d gone out especially to buy toiletries and had checked the sizes several times, but I could have got it wrong couldn’t I?
METAL DETECTOR SAYS NO!
Finally, I reached the desk and my bags went through in a second, but when I walked through the metal detector and set the alarm off, the friendly lady who searched me explained I was just their random selection. I had to put my Crocs wedges on the belt next to the shoes of the lady in front of me and the lady in a wheelchair behind me, so they could go through the X-ray machine. Then I was searched and my hands scanned and inspected. I wondered momentarily if she was looking to see if my hands were sweaty but checked myself as I realised she was searching for something more sinister, i.e. traces of explosives.
THUMBS UP FOR AIRPORT SECURITY
Security throughout the airport felt thorough, yet all the staff I encountered maintained a friendly attitude, without exception. I witnessed a woman with limited English being difficult and disruptive but the staff just dealt with her calmly and efficiently, explaining to her male companion that she needed to calm down if she wanted to be allowed to fly.
The presence of the armed officers felt reassuring and I felt as confident as I could that nothing suspect would be allowed to board our plane with us.
Before travelling, I’d considered that a group of journalists who’d had been invited by the Turkish Tourist Board to promote tourism, could easily have been an attractive target, but once in Bodrum, I had no anxieties about safety whatsoever, neither out and about nor inside the hotel complex.
We stayed at the all-inclusive La Blanche Resort Hotel in Turgutreis, near Bodrum. (See my video guide and read about the hotel here.) This was our base for visiting all sorts of tourist attractions, sites of historic interest and restaurants as part of the press trip, led by our Turkish guides. We enjoyed an off-road jeep safari, a Turkish bath, a visit to a small village mosque, a luxury boat trip on a beautiful wooden gulet and we met the major of Bodrum. We were generally accompanied by the local press and I’ve lost track of how many Turkish newspapers have featured photos and stories about the visiting British journalists.
I felt that by exploring Turkey, I was being slightly more adventurous than if I’d gone to France or Spain and yet it’s quite easy to get to by plane. It’s perfect for my family, as we can fly directly to Bodrum from Bristol at this time of year in around four hours. The beautiful places I visited, the glorious weather, the amazing experiences I enjoyed, and the people I met, all combined to offer an insight into a culture which in many ways is very different to ours. I love trying to pick up foreign languages but barely got past Teşekkür, (thank you) as the language sounds so different to those I’m familiar with.
Despite the fact that this was a ‘job’ (nice work if you can get it, right?) and that I’d known nobody else beforehand, I felt relaxed and in holiday mode while I was there and came back with new Turkish, Dutch and English friends!
Enjoying late night drinks with new friends at the lively Cafe Kortan bar in Bodrum which spills out into the market. Love how it’s warm enough to have no walls, how the shops are open after midnight and beautiful colours scream for attention from every angle. Love how different it is to home! #timeforbodrum #market #bar #shops #bodrum #turkey @oceanpreneur @sakbar5 @alovelyplanet @devrimkarabulutt #travelblogger #efes #travel #practicallyperfectmums #taking5 #familytravel #travelgram #igtravel #natgeotravel #instatravel @gototurkey
AIRPORT SECURITY ON THE RETURN JOURNEY
Security at Bodrum Airport was quite different to Stansted and seemed very thorough.
As soon as I entered the airport, I joined a queue to go through a security scanner. This seems like a good idea to me, as normally anyone can wander into an airport. Once through that, I queued to check in my bags and then went through security for a second time at departures. Our flight was delayed, so I spent quite a while at the airport and when I was finally called to the boarding gate, I queued once again to show my boarding pass. At this point, I was randomly selected (again) for an “additional security check” and was pleased to see first hand how scrupulous this was. In addition to a manual bag check, my hands and body were swabbed for traces of explosives, I had to turn my MacBook on to demonstrate that it really was a computer, my phone was momentarily taken away and checked. I heard one young girl have a bit of a grumble about being subjected to yet another check, but the majority of us, who incidentally all looked like rather ordinary British tourists, were happy about the additional level of security.
WOULD I GO BACK TO TURKEY – AND WOULD I TAKE MY FAMLY?
I’m glad that I now have some Turkish friends who I’ll keep in touch with. It’s no secret that Turkish tourism has taken a downturn and when I heard of the latest attacks, I felt heightened empathy for my new friends.
It’s beyond sad to think that Bodrum is an area where regular people are trying to earn a living through tourism and it’s probably worth bearing in mind that Istanbul is 700 kms away (about the distance from London to Saarbrücken in Germany) and Midyat is 1600 kms away.
“The threat to the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) from international terrorism is severe.”
So those are my experiences of travelling to and visiting Bodrum.
Like several of the journalists on the trip, I’d already started making plans for a return visit before leaving Turkey and would like to return next time to go on a proper holiday, with my family. Yes, I know there are risks but there are risks everywhere and none of us can know where in the world will be 100% safe at any given time. The decision on where, when and if you should travel has to be your own, but I hope this post has given you some helpful insight into how positive my own recent experience in Bodrum was.
Wherever you’re thinking of going, you can look up government travel advice and current threat levels on the Gov.uk website here.
Many thanks to the Turkish Tourist Board for your superb hospitality throughout this trip.
Thanks also to Suzanne van der Veeken, the @oceanpreneur for your beautiful Go Pro photo of the wooden gulet.
And thanks to Ahmet Aydin Akansu for the photo of Bodrum above and for the jeep safari shot of the journalists, which was used widely by the Turkish press.