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I'm in Turkey right now -- 5 things to know about entering as a US resident

Sept. 08, 2021
8 min read
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Editor's Note

An earlier version of this article stated that a visa on arrival is not available to U.S. passport holders. 

Before the pandemic, Turkey saw a record number of visitors in 2019. As a traveler here now in a reopened Istanbul, I can see why.

The incredible culture and cuisine are set among a historical and religious backdrop that spans centuries. It's an impressive city -- and not just because its 20 million residents stretch across two separate continents.

But if the pace of big city life isn't for you, the varying regions throughout Turkey offer something for everyone.

If you're a U.S. resident considering a trip -- or have one already planned -- here are five things that you should know about entering Turkey, as someone who has done it twice this summer.

 

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Proof of vaccination gets you in

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

There are several ways to enter Turkey as a U.S. resident, depending on your vaccination status.

If you're fully vaccinated, as I am, you simply need to present proof at the airport during check-in. You must have been vaccinated at least 14 days before entering Turkey or have had COVID-19 in the last six months.

If you're not fully vaccinated, there is a COVID-19 testing option. You can either show a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of entry or a negative rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours of entry.

Related: Why I packed 8 COVID-19 tests to fly to Portugal — and what it’s like to enter now

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A mandatory health tool acts as a COVID-19 tracker

Before departing from the U.S., you'll have to fill out this health form within 72 hours of travel. Your contact and travel information is the basis for a contact-tracing tool that the Turkish government uses for COVID-19.

(Screenshot courtesy of Turkey Ministry of Health)

A QR code (called a HES code) is generated, which is used nationwide by both tourists and residents alike.

The code isn't just checked upon departure from the U.S. In fact, you're also required to show it at many establishments -- indoor malls, some restaurants, all public transportation, at hotel check-in, and both international and domestic flights.

I had my HES code checked on my phone at each hotel that I arrived at, along with domestic flights and even while shopping at some malls in Istanbul.

You must show your HES code at all entrances to indoor malls. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

In addition, as of Sept. 6, 2021, proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within the past 48 hours is now required to enter some businesses, such as theaters or cinemas, that are hosting crowded events.

Don't forget your visa

(Screenshot courtesy of Republic of Turkey)

Turkey requires a visa for U.S. passport holders. You have two options: an e-visa or visa on arrival. In my experience doing the e-visa process, it's fairly seamless and you should receive it within an hour of submitting payment. The website is a bit clunky but works in practice.

Two things that you should be aware of:

  • Don't fall for scam visa websites offering assistance (there is only one official site).
  • Have a screenshot or printed copy of your e-visa handy if you're going that route. I had to show this not only at check-in but also upon arriving in Turkey.

In addition to the COVID-19 requirements and the HES code, an agent at check-in will also check for your visa.

It'll take time to get through Istanbul Airport

Istanbul Airport (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

If you're coming from the U.S., chances are high that you'll be flying into the new Istanbul Airport (IST). It's a gorgeous megastructure, but it will require some serious walking from deboarding through to finally exiting the airport. Expect signage that isn't the clearest, either.

Also, know that PCR and rapid antigen testing is available at Istanbul Airport should you need to get it upon departure. Impressively, the testing center is open 24 hours a day. It's in front of Entrance 14 in the arrivals hall. The test fee is 250 TL or about $35.

Related: Deal alert: There’s a new option to fly lie-flat business class to Europe for 34,000 miles

Almost everything is open to capacity

A view of Istanbul (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

From bars to restaurants to entertainment, nearly everything is open to capacity in Turkey. The only services that remain suspended  indefinitely are hookah bars and lounges.

While masks are technically required at all times, I didn't see anyone enforce this. For instance, while most hotel staff are masked up, several taxi drivers I encountered were not.

Bottom line

From Istanbul to Bodrum and beyond, Turkey has been a hot spot for travelers -- and will continue to be, despite the pandemic.

If visiting has been on your list, know that it is very feasible at present. Of course, rules are constantly changing, so keep abreast of the latest both here at TPG as well as the official information at the U.S. Embassy for Turkey website.

Note that Turkey is currently on the State Department's Do Not Travel list.

Featured image by Getty Images/EyeEm
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023