Travelling to Turkey/International Environmental Olympiad

My aunt emailed me today that my cousin got asked to go to a science-fair-type thing in Turkey in June. The project is the International Environmental Project Olympiad.

The cost isn’t that bad…$500. He’d be one of two students from his charter school to go. The trip is 15 days long.

Two questions:

  1. Is it safe to travel to Turkey these days? I have a friend who’s family is from Egypt, and he was thinking about taking his honeymoon in Turkey in May but decided against it because of the “current issues” happening right now. What do you guys know?

  2. Has anyone ever heard of this event? Ever sent a kid to it? That’d be cool if there was someone here who had.

It’d be a great opportunity for him, especially as a poor inner-city kid who’s never been out of Cleveland. But I don’t want to advise my aunt to send him in to a war zone or go to an event that is bunk.

I am tremendously envious.

He’s very lucky to be able to go. Turkey is a beautiful country. I see the event is in Istanbul, which is a very cosmopolitan city. It will be the experience of a lifetime, I promise!!!

Here is the travel information for Turkey from the US Department of State website and the equivalent from the Canadian government is here.

Edited to add the UK government’s information is here.

Wow, now I’m excited for him!

Dewey, thanks so much for those links. I sent them right on to my aunt. Looks like safety is not too bad at all.


I went to Istanbul in November-07. It is very comsmopolitan, people are tourist friendly…

Haga sofia is awesome . so is the blue mosque .

I did see plenty of tourists form Asia ,US and Europe there.

Taksim square is another attraction ( sort of business centre, but crowded) and plenty of good hotels are available .
It is definitely worth a visit !!

Not too sure about the current situation in Turkey but I visited in December '05 and it was gorgeous. I love love love Istanbul. I’d jump at the chance to go back again. I walked through Istanbul alone in the day and it was not particularly dangerous I think, only the usual precautions need to be taken.

This is the advice my sister gave to indian when her asked about going to Istanbul. She lived there several years.

My sister says any taxi driver should easily get you there and back. The Turks pronounce it Aya Sofia. Or ask to be taken to Sultan Ahmet, which is the area where all the main tourist attrraction are, within easy walking distance. There’s the Blue Mosque, and the Aya Sofia is across the park from the mosque. Behind Aya Sofia is Topkapi palace and the archeological museum and a pathetic zoo you shouldn’t waste your time at. You should easily do these in an afternoon and are the must-see tourist attractions. At this point you’re also within walking distance of the Grand Bazaar. In Turkish that’s called Kapali Carsi. That will have all kinds of tchotkis. To say “I don’t want it” say “istemem”. Or click your tongue at them. That’ll get rid of annoying people selling crap. The bazaar has carpet merchants, brass, gold, etc. If you need a break, there’s Istanbul University that has a nice book market with a quiet tea garden. That’s right off the Grand Bazaar. All around Sultan Ahmet are small hole-in-the-wall restaurants with good food, and a good restaurant in Topkapi Palace.

If the weather is good you can take a ferry up and down the Bosphorus. You take a short trip for an hour or two. Don’t be intimidated by all the soldiers with guns. The have a conscripted army and have to do something with all those guys.


We were there in November 2007 and we felt perfectly safe the whole time. One thing that I noticed was that the city is pretty clean. I didn’t see rubbish on the streets and we wound up spending a day wandering the Western District which isn’t very affluent. The city felt very safe and by day there are tons of people walking the streets. We spent about ten days there and we still could have spent another ten just seeing the sights.

Depending where you are there is a tram system that can get you to SultanAhmet. A lot of the tourist facilities are there and distance wise isn’t all that far. It took us maybe a half hour to walk up from the Aya Sofya to the area where the Grand Bazaar is. The Trams aren’t very expensive and the ferries are a bargain.

I would avoid eating at the restaurants on the Divan Yolu since they are tourist traps. We found better and cheaper prices a block or two off that were much cheaper and much tastier.

In honor of this journey I have now officially changed my ringtone to Istanbul by They Might Be Giants.

I just wanted to add to this that (a) a trip to Istanbul wouldn’t make anyone think twice around here, (b) $500 for that?!, and © I’m jealous.

I was in Turkey over my Christmas holiday (end of December/beginning of January 2007/2008) and it’s wonderful. There are some dangerous places in the Kurdish areas, but they’re all in the east, and Istanbul is very far away, in Europe. (Well, of course there’s an Asian side, but it’s just residential - all the interesting historical stuff, and most of the people, are in Europe.) I walked around a lot and never felt like I was in any danger at all. There is a concept of Turkish hospitality that is unbelievably generous. My guide book said that someone would offer me a cup of apple tea within my first five minutes in Turkey, and I was like, “Yeah, right”, but…someone did, seriously. (Okay, he also tried to sell me a carpet, but even after I made it clear that I was NOT going to buy a carpet, he gave me another cup of tea and told me all about carpet making and the history of Turkish carpets. Really interesting.)

Depending on how old your nephew is/time and inclination, see if you can arrange a trip to other parts of Turkey - it’s a really beautiful country with lots of fascinating historical places. Some pictures:

Cappadocia. This was a Hittite area, and later inhabited by the early Christians. A lot of these caves have ancient churches inside. And of course, the landscape is totally unique. There are whole underground cities dug into the ground, and you can climb around in them. One more picture. It’s about an eleven hour journey by bus from Istanbul. Only about six hours from Istanbul is Ephesus, the best preserved ancient Greek city. It’s pretty fucking amazing.

Those places look really awesome. I wish we’d had more time, and could have visited those places. We used Istanbul as an unrushed destination and just wandered around. How were the accomodations?

The one thing that we really noticed because my wife is asthmatic is the smoking. Everyone smokes and they smoke a lot and they smoke everywhere. It takes some getting used to if you are American.

People were pretty friendly and happy to give directions to two lost tourists.

Leather jackets are a bargain in Istanbul. My wife and I bought some warm winter coats there and I bought a light leather jacket for Spring.

Accomodations were so-so. I live in Bulgaria so I am used to shitholes and it wasn’t as big a deal to me, but some Western Europeans and Americans I met were horrified by some of the bathrooms in Turkey. I’m sure better stuff is available for more money, but I’m a budget traveller all the way. Also, this was the dead of winter, and hot water was something of an issue. For instance, the hostel I stayed in in Cappadocia had its pipes freeze, so when I wanted to take a shower, the hostel owner had to heat up water on the wood-burning stove and then throw it at the pipes until they melted. I didn’t care that much because back in Bulgaria, my pipes had been frozen for a week before I left and stayed that way for another three weeks after I got back. So ANY shower was okay with me.

When I look back at the pictures, though, I just think of what a good time I had and how cool it was…the annoyances were minor compared to the interesting and beautiful places I saw.

Turkey is wonderful and as safe or safer than most anywhere in Europe. I have been all over the country on numerous visits from the Iranian and Georgian borders to the Syrian and Bulgarian ones. It is one of the best countries in the world to travel in. Safe, clean, inexpensive, good food, friendly and good infrastructure… with absolutely TONS to see.

Wow… what a lucky guy.