Simon Calder: Turkey and Central Europe travel Q&A amid protests and flooding

Our Travel Editor at Large addresses holiday-makers' concerns over planned trips to these two destinations

The civil strife in Turkey has raised concerns among many holidaymakers planning summer trips to Turkey, especially to the largest city, Istanbul. In addition, the severe flooding in Central Europe is disrupting travel to and within key tourist destinations – particularly Prague. How concerned should you be – and what are your rights and options should you decide not to travel?

Q: What is the latest Foreign Office advice to prospective travellers to Turkey?

A: Basically the same as it has been for months: there are a few areas in the east and south east of Turkey that travellers are urged to avoid, particularly on the Syrian border, but those are not places that tourists would find themselves.

A news broadcast by the BBC at the weekend saying that the Foreign Office warns against “all but essential travel to Turkey” was wrong; see for the latest advice.

In the cities, the Foreign Office says “You should avoid all demonstrations and leave the area if one develops,” and advises that you “allow extra time for local travel, particularly airport transfers”.


Q: How does the situation compare with other countries such as Egypt which have seen similar unrest?

A: The pictures of Taksim Square in Istanbul have similarities with those of Tahrir Square in Cairo, but the conflicts are very different. This isn’t about overthrowing a dictatorship – the Justice and Development Party of the current prime minister, Mr Erdogan, received almost 50 per cent of votes at the most recent election, performing far better than any other party.

Even if the level of civil disruption were to get as intense as it did in Egypt, it is unlikely that the Foreign Office would do any more than it did in Egypt – which boiled down to: “If you’re in the big cities, get out – but if you’re in a coastal resort, stay put”. That proved to be shrewd advice in Egypt.

Were violence to flare in Turkish cities – particularly Istanbul, the capital Ankara, and the third city, Izmir – the FCO might well take a similar view.


Q: Suppose the Foreign Office were to warn against “All but essential travel” to Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul - what would the legal implications be?

A: This is all strictly hypothetical. But were you to go to the city, your travel insurance will be invalidated. UK tour operators would be obliged to stop sending people there, and to bring back clients already in the area. The scheduled airlines, though, will keep flying – and there is no obligation for them to allow passengers cancellations. British Airways, however, has told The Independent that it will allow passengers booked to Istanbul to defer travel to the city until later this month.


Q: And if you’re simply unhappy about going to Turkey?

A: Around 2.5m British travellers are booked to go to Turkey this summer - some of whom will be thinking “I wasn’t expecting sun, sea and tear gas”. Bluntly, no holiday company will let you cancel without penalty. If the situation deteriorates, it’s possible that they may let you switch to a different holiday with the same company, but that’s a benefit that is entirely at the firm’s discretion.


Q: Switching to central Europe – with severe flooding in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, what’s the latest advice for travellers?

A: The Czech capital appears to be worst hit. The latest Foreign Office advice (at says: “The Mayor of Prague advises against unnecessary travel to Prague until the State of Emergency is lifted. Disruption to water, gas and electricity services may occur in affected areas. Some tourist sights are not accessible, eg Charles Bridge. Vulnerable areas close to the river and hilly areas where there is a danger of landslip have been closed to the public.”

That does not seem appealing. If you are booked on a package holiday and your hotel is closed or inaccessible, then you should be able to cancel. But most people who go to the Czech capital book flights and hotels separately. The airport is on a hill, so flights will continue – but if you’ve decided against going on the reasonable grounds that you won’t enjoy the trip, you won’t get compensation.

However, The Independent has learned that British Airways is allowing passengers booked in the next few days to Prague, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna to defer travel free of charge to later in the month.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific