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Is it safe to travel to Turkey? Latest FCDO travel advice explained as earthquake death toll rises

The death toll from a devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has now passed 35,000, making it one of the world’s worst natural disasters in the past decade.

In the early hours of Monday 6 February, a powerful 7.8 magnitude quake hit Gaziantep in the south-east of Turkey.

This was followed by another 7.5 magnitude tremor in the neighbouring province of Kahramanmaras later that day.

Thousands of rescue teams searched for survivors among the rubble of decimated towns and cities in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria, with the UN warning that the death toll is likely to climb far higher.

The Turkish government has declared a national emergency in 10 provinces affected by the earthquake:

  • Gaziantep
  • Hatay
  • Osmaniye
  • Adıyaman
  • Diyarbakır
  • Sanliurfa
  • Kahramanmaras
  • Kilis
  • Adana
  • Malatya

Here’s everything you need to know if you were planning to travel to Turkey from the UK.

People walk among rubble, in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, in Elbistan town, Kahramanmaras, Turkey February 12, 2023. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah
People walk among rubble, in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, in Elbistan town, Kahramanmaras (Photo: Reuters)

Is it safe to travel to Turkey?

Following the earthquakes, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated its guidance for people visiting Turkey from the UK.

It advises: “The Turkish government has stated that only vehicles which carry aid teams and aid materials will be allowed to enter cities deemed to be inside the area of the disaster.

“If you are in the affected area, you should exercise caution and follow the advice of the local authorities.”

For people who require consular assistance, the FCDO has a 24-hour helpline you can contact at +90 312 455 3344, selecting the option of “consular services for British nationals”. It also has a web contact form, which you can access here.

More on Turkey-Syria earthquake

The FCDO also directs UK travellers to AFAD, the Turkish disaster management service, which operates a series of regional hubs.

There is a list of the specific local contact numbers on the FCDO website, whichturkey“> you can find here, while calls to Turkish emergency services on 112 will also redirect to AFAD.

As part of its more general guidance the FCDO advises against all travel to areas within 10km of the border with Syria, which has been ravaged by civil war for much of the past decade.

The body also advises against all but essential travel to Sirnak and the province of Hakkari, which is near the Iraq border.

It adds that “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Turkey” with a risk of “indiscriminate” strikes.

However, the FCDO also states: “Most visits are trouble free. Be alert to your surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places popular with foreign nationals, including during festival periods.”

ADIYAMAN, TURKIYE - FEBRUARY 13: An aerial view of collapsed buildings after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkiye including Adiyaman on February 13, 2023. On Monday, Feb.6 a strong 7.7 earthquake, centered in the Pazarcik district, jolted Kahramanmaras and strongly shook several provinces, including Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis. On the same day at 13.24 p.m. (1024GMT), a 7.6 magnitude quake centered in Kahramanmaras' Elbistan district struck the region. (Photo by Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Rescue teams have spent days searching decimated towns and cities for survivors (Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Have flights or holidays been cancelled?

Despite the devastation, the earthquakes and their aftershocks did not affect the main tourist areas that are popular among British holidaymakers.

As a result, no flights or package trips from the UK to Turkey were cancelled in the aftermath of the quakes, with Jet2, Hays Travel and Thomas Cook confirming to i that there have not been cancellations.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest network of independent travel agents, said: “The UK Foreign Office advice to British travellers in Turkey is to avoid the affected areas and to listen to the advice of local authorities.

“At this time, no flights have been cancelled from UK airlines. Anyone wanting to discuss travel to Turkey can call their local agent for further advice.”

Airports in the south-east of Turkey closed after the disaster, including Adana Sakirpasa Airport in the southern province of Adana, Hatay Airport in Hatay Province, and Gaziantep Oğuzeli Airport in Gaziantep.

Ashley Quint, director of the TimeTravel World travel agency, said it was not a particularly busy time of year for UK tourism to Turkey.

He recommended holidaymakers who are concerned about trips to Turkey to speak to their travel agent, tour operator or airline, especially if travelling imminently.

“Unless travelling to Gaziantep or Adana, it’s unlikely either will offer additional flexibility, unless there is specific threat of aftershocks elsewhere and/or the FCDO advice changes,” he added.

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