Things To Know in Istanbul

Health & Security in Istanbul

A city trip to Istanbul doesn’t require any special vaccinations or health preparations as long as you observe a few basic guidelines. The same applies to personal safety. Istanbul is as safe as any other major city in the world, if not safer. Visitors rarely become victim of violence or theft, certainly when they are careful and stay away from the suburbs, in particular those along the old city walls.

Emergency phone numbers in turkey:

Police: 155

Ambulance: 112

Tourist Police: Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet. Phone: +90 (212) 527 45 03

Main tourist information offices


Phone: +90 (212) 233 05 92

Address: Hilton Oteli Girişi, Elmadağ Taksim İstanbul


Phone: +90 (212) 233 05 92

Address: Hilton Oteli Girişi, Elmadağ Taksim İstanbul


Phone: +90 (212) 511 58 88

Address: Sirkeci Garı, Sirkeci İstanbul


Phone: +90 (212) 249 57 76

Address: Karaköy Limani Yolcu Salonu içi, Karaköy


Although a city-trip to Istanbul doesn’t require any special vaccinations, most governments and travel agents will recommend you to be immune to Hepatitis A & B, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio and Typhus. It is probably even common sense to be protected against most of these diseases in your own country, so why not use this city-trip as an excuse to get it over with?

Baccinationsasic precautions

The main inconvenience tourists may experience while visiting Istanbul is diarrhea. According to my pharmacist here, this is usually caused by sudden exposure to hot weather and the consumption of more oily (and spicy) food than back home. If you have a weak stomach, you can take some pills of Ercefuryl a few days before departure to get your intestines into optimal shape. While exploring the city avoid half-baked meat, pre-prepared food (especially seafood sold on street-corners) and dairy products (with the exception of yoghurt, of course).

If you do get diarrhea, get hold of the medicine Ercefuryl (to restore the intestine flora) and Immodium (to stop excessive visits to the bathroom). Do read their instructions carefully before usage. In the meanwhile, drink a lot of water (room temperature) or flat coke (without gas). During a bout of Turkey Tummy, stay away from exotic or oily food and eat bread and yoghurt.

It is not recommended to use water from the tap for drinking purposes. Although the water is clean, as a result of the filter process, it has a strange taste and smell to it. Bottles of mineral water are very cheap and on sale everywhere. There is no need to brush your teeth with mineral water though. It is also safe to consume ice-cubes in drinks since they are produced with mineral water.

Istanbul’s municipality is making a big effort to reduce the amount of mosquitoes in the city, and is very successful at it. You may even from time to time, especially in the evening, see small municipality trucks drive through the streets, spraying mosquito repellents into the air. Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to bring repellent products (spray, lotion or gel) with you. Mosquito bites are annoying but not dangerous.

Stray cats and dogs are common in the streets of Istanbul. Most of these animals will avoid contact with humans and are merely looking for food. Although they are rarely aggressive, you better not try to pet them. Trust me, I found out the hard way. In case you do get scratched by a cat, just clean out the wound with water and soap. On the other hand, if an animal bites you, it’s wise to have a doctor examine it for rabies. A yellow tag on a dog’s ear means he has vaccinated.

Pickpocketing and earthquakes

Turks are very honest people and will make a concerted effort to return lost items to its owner. Therefore, if you lose something, go back to where you last had the object or visit the Tourist Police office. Of course, the crowded streets of Istanbul remain a small paradise for pickpockets. Do as the Turks do, and carry your wallet in the front pockets of your pants, wear your handbags within eyesight and carry backpacks the other way round.

In recent years, Istanbul has sporadically been the scene of terrorist attacks. Although small in size and number, be extra alert when visiting public markets and while passing trash-containers, as they have been targeted in the past.

Finally, as you may know, Istanbul is located in an earthquake-sensitive zone. In 1999 a quake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, hit it hard. But don’t let this scare you. As a tourist, you’ll be travelling in areas surrounded by monuments that have withstood multiple earthquakes over the centuries. The subsoil of these areas is solid rock and therefore pretty earthquake resistant. As for hotels, the modern ones generally have been designed to withstand the force of most earthquakes.

Health In Istanbul

In my previous post, I described some basic guidelines to stay healthy while enjoying the city.

Today, we’ll be focusing on how to survive in Istanbul’s traffic, what to do if you experience small or more serious discomforts and how to locate the Tourist Police.

Medical Attention – Small Discomforts

If you experience small discomforts (diarrhea, sour throat, cold) or are in need of medicine, you may want to drop by a pharmacy (eczane). Pharmacies are ubiquitous in Istanbul and very recognizable. Pharmacists in tourist areas often have a good knowledge of English, are well educated and very eager to help you.

Medical Attention – More Serious Discomforts

If your condition cannot be treated by a pharmacist or needs the attention of a doctor, you have a few options. First of all there are the so-called poliklinik’s. These are public hospitals. Expect long queues and basic facilities as they provide treatment virtually for free. Another option is a visit to one of the private hospitals (see indent for three of them). These hospitals are very well equipped, their entrances can compete with those of 5-star hotels, their staff is fluent in one or more foreign languages, but unfortunately, they charge fees accordingly.

God forbid that you or one of your travel partners gets involved in an emergency situation, but if such an unfortunate event should happen, the ambulance will most likely take the victim to the Taksim İlk Yardım Hastanesi (Taksim First Aid Hospital), located across from the German Hospital.

Private Hospitals

Alman Hastanesi (German Hospital)

Sıraselviler Caddesi No:119


Tel: (0212) 293 21 50

Amerikan Hastanesi (American Hospital)

Güzelbahçe Sokak No:20


Tel: (0212) 444 37 77

Florence Nightingale Hastanesi (Florence Nightingale Hospital)

Abide-i Hürriyet Caddesi No:290


Tel: (0212) 224 49 50

Taksim İlk Yardım Hastanesi (Taksim First Aid Hospital)

Sıraselviler Caddesi No:1


Tel: (0212) 252 43 00

Traffic Rules in Istanbul

Streets are clogged all day, all year round and the cacophony of horns soon recedes from an unbearable din to background noise as you acclimatize. Turkey has a high rate of traffic accidents and a fair proportion of them involve pedestrians. The bad news is that the majority of accidents are blamed on these hapless pedestrians and unless you are knocked down while on a pedestrian crossing or pavement, you have no rights in the eyes of the law. Be careful when crossing the street. Even when the pedestrian traffic light turns green, never blindly start crossing the street immediately. Always wait a second or two longer, just in case. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Travel Insurance

Before travelling to Istanbul, check with your local health services whether they refund medical treatment received in Turkey. If this is not the case, I strongly recommend that you to take out additional insurance for medical treatment and repatriation for the duration of your stay.

Tourist Police

The police are omnipresent in the streets of Istanbul. Unfortunately, most of them don’t speak English (or any other foreign language for that matter). To serve the thousands of tourists that visit the metropolis every year, Tourist Police was created. These officers speak one or two European languages. Their yellow police station is located in Sultanahmet, across from the entrance of the Basilica Cistern.