Photo by Daniil Vnoutchkov on Unsplash

With the outbreak of coronavirus world-wide and its newly declared status as a pandemic, there are a lot of questions and misinformation being passed around social media with regards to travelling to different destinations. Below we list down everything that you need to know before travelling to Turkey.


Quick Summary

Update 17th March: Travel of passengers from Turkey to India is prohibited with effect from 18th March 2020. No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on 18th March 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure.

  1. Outbreak level: Turkey is at Level 1 status (less than India) and cases have only started in the last week. However, there are concerns that not enough people are being tested and there could be more unknown cases out there.
  2. Disruption to Tourism: Bars, clubs and discotheques have been closed effective 16th March 2020, so there is no nightlife. All tours and attractions are functioning as normal.
  3. Travel restriction for Indians: There are no visa restrictions for Indian travellers but the Indian government has prohibited the entry of passengers from Turkey till March 31st

Current Status

First of all, it’s important to understand the extent of the outbreak in any country and how quickly it is spreading. The below numbers will give you a basic understanding of whether the disease is under control or not.

Indian Govt Advisory on Travel

  1. The Government advises avoiding non-essential travel from India to all Covid-19 affected countries. Now that Turkey has cases, it falls under this advisory.
  2. All Indian nationals entering India from any port will have to fill a self- declaration form to declare their travel history, phone number and address in India to health officials and immigration officials.

Last updated on 16th March’20

Turkish Government’s policies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

Measures Taken at the port of entry:

  1. Thermal scanning for all incoming passengers and further health check and treatment for those who display symptoms of coronavirus.
  2. Turkey announced its decision to stop all flights to and from Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands until 17th April 2020.
  3. Passengers who have transited through or have been in Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Korea Republic, Netherlands, Norway, Spain or Sweden in the past 14 days are not allowed to transit or enter Turkey.

Health infrastructure to contain the spread of the Virus

  1. Turkey says it has developed its own testing kit, which it is exporting to other countries, to get faster results (90 min instead of 24 hours waiting period). Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said Turkey used a combination of its own kit and the global PRC method for testing.
  2. The Government has said that all 81 of Turkey’s provinces are geared up to handle a potential outbreak and that it has set up seven test centres across the country.
  3. Anadolu, a leading news agency in Turkey, has reported that a 24-hour coordination and support centre has been set up under the Turkish Foreign Ministry to tackle concerns about coronavirus. However, no contact details have been disclosed yet.

What Can You Do If You Experience Symptoms while in Turkey?

The first thing you should do if you feel unwell and suspect you may have COVID-19 is pick up the phone and call the local emergency helplines. Public transport should be avoided at all costs to avoid spreading the virus further.

  • General Emergency Helpline: 112
  • Ambulance: 144

Turkey has set up test centres and quarantine facilities across the country, which the emergency helplines will be able to guide you towards.

Last updated on 16th March’20

Airport Experience at Destination

Arrival

All international passengers are being screened with a thermal camera. Those displaying signs of a temperature will then be referred to a medical adviser.

Departure

You will not be allowed to board a flight to India by the airline. You will have to fly to some other country and then make your way to India. Even then you may be put under compulsory quarantine at a government facility.

Last updated on 17th March’20

On The Ground Status

General Initiatives

  1. Turkey has closed down schools, universities, public libraries, bars and nightclubs across all provinces.
  2. Sporting events will be conducted without spectators until the end of April.
  3. Over 10,000 Turkish residents who returned from their Umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia have been quarantined as a safety measure.
  4. Turkish cities carried out massive disinfection work in public places and mass transit vehicles. In Istanbul, the municipality decided to install hand sanitizers at all Metrobus stations.

Tourism-specific Initiatives

  1. Thermal scanners have been set up at airports and people with higher temperatures are provided with further medical advisory.
  2. Tourism has not been otherwise impacted, except for lesser crowds everywhere.

Last updated on 16th March’20

Ithaka’s Take

We strongly recommend all Indian travellers to not make any travel plans until at least the end of April. Being home and avoiding social contact completely is the only way to curb the spread of the virus.

Additionally, the Indian government has prohibited travellers to enter from Turkey including Indian citizens. If you go there you will have to find an alternate route of entry via some other country.

Safety-wise, Turkey is a relatively safe destination and the outbreak isn’t bad there. Turkish officials are being proactive in containing the spread of the virus and have taken a tough stand on restricting access from heavily affected countries and quarantining thousands of suspected cases.

If you have already booked your trip, we would advise you to look at rescheduling because of difficulties in entering back to India

We would suggest that travellers exercise common-sense precautions while travelling and keep an eye on the news and Ithaka’s blog – we will be posting regular updates and travel advisory as the situation evolves.

If you’re thinking of travelling from India to Turkey, but want some flexibility, check out our recommended airlines.

Recommended Airlines to travel from India to Turkey

  1. Oman Air: Zero change fee for up to two date change on each flight reservation in the same booking class. This applies to new bookings on any Oman Air routes made from 6th March 2020 till 31st May 2020 (travel period valid from 6th March 2020 till 31st October 2020). Fees for additional services may apply.
  2. Indigo: There will be no cancellation fee waiver. For any new bookings being done before 31st March they are giving unlimited changes (irrespective of travel dates). For already existing bookings, ONLY if travel date is on or before 31st March they are allowing only one change without fee.
  3. Turkish Airlines: Cancellation fee is applicable. However, change fee is waived for tickets purchased on or before the 5th of March and changed before the 16th of March. For tickets booked between March 6th and March 24th, changes can be made upto 5 days prior to flight. In both cases, flight can be rescheduled for any travel date upto the end of 2020. Fare differences apply.
  4. Kuwait Airways: Passengers having booked travel upto 30th April 2020 are eligible for re-booking their tickets without date change penalty, for alternative dates or destinations on Kuwait Airways Operated Flights only without the normal date change penalty.

For further information and details, kindly reach out to Ithaka. We’re happy to help 😊

Last updated on 16th March’20

Sources

  1. Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  2. Reuters AP
  3. Anadolu Agency