This fascinating city is the largest in Turkey, it straddles two continents and has a wealth of history. However, despite its size, the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) has declared it to be generally safe for tourists.
British are advised against all international travel at the moment, and there have been cases of coronavirus in Istanbul. Normally, British tourists do not need a visa for Turkey. Tourists who are already in Istanbul and stay longer than the 90 day visa-free period due to COVID-19 will not have to pay any fines or penalties.
If you stick to the holiday resorts and tourist destinations, you are very unlikely to encounter any major crime or violence. However, pickpockets are active in Istanbul as in other major cities around the world so its best not to give the appearance of being wealthy and keep expensive cameras etc. hidden. Pickpockets usually work in groups and may become violent if confronted. It is a good idea to take out travel insurance that covers this kind of theft, just in case.
According to the FCO, although most of the terrorist attacks have been in Istanbul or the capital, Ankara, they don’t usually target tourists. Even so, they advise people to stay away from demonstrations and to be alert, as there is a chance of terrorist attacks against westerners. Following the US attack on Baghdad and subsequent death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January, there have been warnings that it may become more dangerous for westerners. It is recommended to follow the news and sign up for e-mails with the latest advice for British travellers to Turkey: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey/email-signup Throughout Turkey it is normal for handbags etc. to go through an x-ray machine at the entrances to airports, shopping centres and other places where there may be large numbers of people. Security staff are vigilant but always polite and welcoming to tourists.
Istanbul is not affected by the war with Syria as it is a long, long way from Turkey’s border with Syria.
There is a risk of earthquakes in Istanbul, as with other parts of Turkey, so you should get to know the safety procedures in order to be prepared for this eventuality.
It is advisable to always carry your passport with you as proof of identification in case the police ask to see it. This is routine for tourists, residents and Turkish citizens alike, and police are always courteous during these ordinary procedures.
You can access the latest information for British travellers to Turkey here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey
Last year, nearly 15 million tourists visited Istanbul, making around one third of the total tourists visiting Turkey. The vast majority had a pleasant holiday with no problems.