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What Travelers Need to Know About the Military Coup in Turkey

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Update: The following airlines have now issued travel waivers:

Turkey is a fantastic country to visit. TPG loved his time there, despite encountering some security challenges upon his return to the US, there have been fantastic airfares and we recently shared several reasons to consider planning a trip of your own. Unfortunately, following the recent terror attack at Ataturk Airport (IST) and now tonight’s military coup, it may be wise to consider other destinations, instead.

First, to recap Turkey’s current situation, it appears that the military is attempting a coup in order to take power from President Erdogan. Wikipedia has the most comprehensive coverage of the event, but note that sources may be unverified. According to reports, the military coup began around 11pm local time on July 15. It appears that the military has taken control of some of the country’s infrastructure, including the state television network. Additionally, all flights to and from IST airport have been canceled.

If You’re in Turkey Now

The first thing you need to do if you’re in the country now is to let your friends and family know that you’re safe, so they don’t use limited resources in an attempt to contact you. If you can’t call or text, post an update on social media if you have access to VPN (as social media is otherwise blocked), or contact one family member and ask them to update others on your behalf. Despite the President’s suggestion to take to the streets, you should stay indoors, and don’t head to the airport, bus or train stations until you can confirm that it’s safe to travel (and that travel options are available).

As we’ve recommended in our post Tips for Staying Safe While Traveling Abroad, you should also register for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), so US government officials in Turkey can contact you for evacuation if necessary. If you’re staying at a hotel, contact the staff for updates as necessary, and consider monitoring local news reports and the US State Department’s Twitter account.

Here’s the latest update from the US Embassy in Ankara:

U.S. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that shots have been heard in Ankara and both bridges in Istanbul, Bosphorous and Fatih Sultan Mehmet, are now closed. The Turkish Government states that elements of the Turkish army are attempting an uprising, security forces are taking action to contain it, and some buildings are under blockade. We urge U.S. citizens to contact family and friends to let them know you are safe. We have seen reports that social media is blocked, but you can contact friends and family by email, telephone, or SMS. We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time. Monitor local press for updates, avoid areas of conflict, and exercise caution if you are in the vicinity of any military or security forces.

If You’re Planning a Trip Soon

As the airport is currently not accepting flights, it’s very likely that your travel plans will be impacted if you’re planning to fly to or through IST within the next few days. While most airlines have yet to issue travel waivers, if your flight is already canceled you may request a change or refund now. If your flight is still scheduled, contact the airline and request to change or cancel your flight for a refund, unless you still want to travel to Turkey and your flight is operating as scheduled.

You’ll want to avoid transiting Istanbul for the time being.

As Turkish Airlines is a major Star Alliance carrier and partner of Air Canada, United and many international airlines, it’s possible that you may be booked on a flight issued by another airline but operated by Turkish, so be sure to check your itinerary. As these flights will most likely require a connection in Istanbul, contact the airline that issued your ticket and request to be re-routed through another airport on a flight not operated by Turkish.

If You’re Visiting in the Future

Your decision of whether or not to travel to Turkey soon will likely depend on the outcome of today’s military action. If you decide not to travel as planned and your bookings are non-refundable, your travel agency, airline or hotel may be willing to make an exception given the circumstances. While airline travel waivers are only valid on certain dates, once they’re issued (likely tomorrow morning), the airline may allow you to cancel your travel even for dates far into the future, or an agent may opt to allow you to apply the value of your ticket to another booking without paying a change fee. If all else fails, call your credit card issuer to see if you’re eligible for a credit or refund of some of the charges related to an unused trip.

Are you currently visiting Turkey? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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