Turkey adds new testing requirements for entry: Everything you need to know about visiting
Editor's note: This post has been updated with new information.
Turkey reopened to tourists back in June after months of closed borders. But now, there is a new testing requirement for anyone boarding a flight to Turkey. Here's everything you should know about safely getting there and back.
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Related: Europe is out, but these countries are welcoming US travelers
New testing requirements
Beginning Dec. 30, 2020, all international travelers will need a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure in order to board a flight. This requirement includes any passenger over six years old — including transfer and transit passengers.
Additionally, anyone who's been to the UK, Denmark or South Africa in the last 10 days will also be required to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival. At the end of 7 days, you'll be required to take a second PCR test. If the test result is negative, the isolation period will end.
There is no system in place to be tested upon arrival, so you'll need to make sure that you have your test results in hand before you head to the airport. The order isn't airline-specific. You'll need a negative test to board any flight bound for Turkey.
Right now, the testing requirement is set to remain effective through March 1, 2021, but that may change as the date moves closer if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
What to expect
Cautions and precautions
As of June 11, Turkey's international borders are open for travelers from a number of countries, including the U.S. However, travelers should note a couple of precautions:
- The U.S. State Department's travel advisory guide lists Turkey at Level 3: Exercise Increased Caution, due to concerns over terrorism and arbitrary detention. The CDC also issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Turkey due to COVID-19 concerns.
- U.S. travelers will still need to apply for a visa before entering Turkey. You can do so via e-visa application, which takes about three minutes.
Related: These are the US State Department travel advisories for December 2020
- Additional cautions for Turkey travelers include:
- Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
- Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
- Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures.
- Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information.
The official crime and safety report for Turkey can be found here, and the State Department's travelers' checklist here.
We should also note that Turkey has reported more than 2 million coronavirus cases with Istanbul especially hard-hit.
All travelers must wear masks in the airport and onboard flights inbound for Turkey, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Travelers who show signs of COVID-19 including but not limited to fever, runny nose, cough or respiratory distress will not be allowed to board flights or enter the country. Upon arrival, travelers will be asked to fill out a passenger information form and undergo medical screenings for infection, and anyone showing symptoms upon arrival will be tested for coronavirus. Anyone who tests positive will be referred to a Turkish hospital for quarantine and treatment.
However, the Turkish embassy's website states that tourist travelers do not need to provide specific health documentation to enter or exit Turkey unless they are arriving for medical treatment.
Turkish citizens and residents are subject to a four-day curfew from 9 pm on Dec. 31, 2020, through 5 am on Jan. 4, 2021. This is in addition to the weekend curfew beginning at 9 pm on Friday and lasting through 5 am on Monday. However, this curfew does not apply to tourists, and there are exceptions for certain individuals.
Keep in mind that restaurants and cafes are not currently open for in-person dining. Additionally, essential businesses such as supermarkets have restricted hours of operation, and nonessential businesses such as movie theatres, amusement parks, Turkish baths and more are closed.
Masks are mandatory in all public areas in a number of provinces and required in crowded public areas such as shopping malls or supermarkets everywhere else. To be safe, bring at least one per traveler, and be prepared to wear it at all times.
Travelers over the age of 65 must carry a permit from the Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, all passengers must wear masks in any public or private vehicle with two or more people present.
How to get there and Where to stay
Turkish Airlines, the flagship carrier of Turkey, suspended all international flights in April. However, the airline is back up and running, albeit on a far more limited schedule than before, as reported by Charlie at Running with Miles.
TPG dubbed the carrier's Miles & Smiles program the "hottest frequent flyer program of 2020" for its many sweet-spot redemptions within the U.S. and abroad. You can easily purchase cash flights to and from Turkey, then use the miles you earn from that travel toward domestic flights.
Turkish Airlines operates direct flights out of Newark (EWR) and New York (JFK) to Istanbul (IST) for around $950 round trip for March, Google Flights showed. For the purposes of this post, TPG chose to highlight travel dates between March 2 to March 9 for a hypothetical trip.
Turkey has a wealth of gorgeous hotels scattered throughout the country, including a generous number of points properties. Here are a few highlights:
One of TPG's favorite hotels in Istanbul is the Çiragan Palace Kempinski. The hotel on the edge of the Bosporous was a former palace. We found cash rates of 411 Euros a night which is a pretty good deal. You could also use points from the Kempinski Discovery loyalty program.
The Bodrum EDITION is a favorite with TPG reviews editor Nick Ellis, and has rooms available from $432 or 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points per night in May 2021.
Hilton has a whopping 70 hotels across the country. Rooms at the Ankara Hilton begin at just $85/night for Hilton Honors members or 20,000 points per night. Since Hilton Honors points are just worth 0.6 cents apiece by TPG valuations, we'd go with the cash rate on this booking.
Related: What are points and miles worth?
Istanbul, Ankara and Antalya boast a number of Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas. But the only InterContinental in Turkey is in Istanbul, where rooms begin at just $99 (or a confusing 19,000 IHG points + $100) per night.
There are seven Hyatt properties in Istanbul alone, and all of them can be booked at great cash rates.
The Grand Hyatt Istanbul is available at a steal of just $132, or 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night. Add $9 per night and include free breakfast, to boot.
Related: Your ultimate guide to World of Hyatt
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.