Turkey is open for tourists: Everything you need to know
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
After a few months of closed borders, tourism in Turkey is open again for business. Here’s everything you should know about safely getting there and back.
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 unrelated to COVID-19:
- The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory guide lists Turkey at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, due to concerns over terrorism and arbitrary detention. Travelers are strongly advised to avoid the areas bordering Iraq and Syria due to terrorist activity. (The official U.S. stance on worldwide travel is still Level 4: Do Not Travel — the highest tier of caution — 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.
- 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.
We should also note that Turkey has reported more than 200,000 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.
Anyone over the age of 65 must observe curfew from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. every night.
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.
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 $900 round trip in September, Google Flights showed. For the purposes of this post, TPG chose to highlight travel dates between September 11 to September 17 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 TPGs favorite hotels in Istanbul is the Çiragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul. The hotel on the edge of the Bosporous was a former palace. We founds cash rates of 411 Euros a night which is a pretty good deal. You could also use points from the Kempinski Discovery loyalty program.
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 over September 11-17.
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.
Featured photo by DOZIER Marc/Getty Images.
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