Is it safe to go to Turkey or France on holiday? Everything you need to know

Our veteran travel correspondent Simon Calder offers his assessment in response to readers’ questions

The world seems to have become a more dangerous place, with turmoil in Turkey following swiftly after the carnage in Nice. How big are the risks for travellers, and what are the implications for your holiday plans?

How do the events of the past few days increase the dangers for travellers?

The massacre in Nice was deeply shocking, and the latest violence in Turkey reveals yet more instability in a country that has seen repeated terrorist outrages in the past year.

Get the latest updates via our Turkey coup liveblog

Two nations that are extremely popular with holidaymakers appear to be under attack. Yet the traveller’s risk of coming to harm – in France, Turkey or elsewhere – remains extremely low.

While it may not seem like it, the death rate for tourists has been declining steadily for several decades, largely as a result of road safety improvements and a range of other risk-reduction successes, from disease to air safety.

Turkey attempted coup

But surely the atrocity in Nice is part of a pattern?

With the carnage in Nice added to the Paris attacks in November 2015, more than 200 people have died in acts of mass murder in France in seven months at the hands of jihadists.

The Paris assault was highly organised by Islamist extremists. But the truck that ploughed through crowds on the Promenade des Anglais appears to have been driven by an unbalanced individual with jihadist leanings. That has resonances with the perpetrator of last month’s attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando – the worst mass shooting in US history.

It may be that so-called Islamic State is desperately urging its disciples to commit indiscriminate mass murder wherever they can and by whatever means. Or it may be that disturbed individuals are claiming their vicious assaults to be acts of jihad in a warped attempt to seek some legitimacy. Either way, it is a deeply alarming phenomenon, and further appalling attacks of mass murder appears highly likely.

The chances are, though, that you will not be anywhere near the scene of the next such crime.

I’m rattled, and I want to cancel my summer holiday to France. What are my rights – can I now get my money back?

At the time you booked your trip, the Foreign Office warned of a high threat of terrorism, and emphasised the likelihood of further attacks. So, harsh as it may sound, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

Crucially the FCO stopped well short of advising against travel to France, which is the most popular holiday destination in the world (and the second-most popular, after Spain, for UK holidaymakers).

In the very short term, some airlines have been offering a measure of flexibility to travellers booked to Nice; easyJet, which operates more than 500 flights a week between the UK and the Cote d’Azur city, offered postponements or free transfers to other destinations for passengers with tickets to Nice. But for all other travellers, normal terms and conditions apply, with the result that you are likely to lose some or all of the money you have paid.

Two possibilities may help. First, some operators which offer multiple destinations could offer the option to transfer a booking to a different location, possibly on payment of a fee. Second, if you have booked a proper package holiday (travel and accommodation at the same time as a single transaction through the same provider), you can sell or give the holiday to someone else on payment of a nominal fee, typically £50 per person.

What happened in Nice: 84 killed as lorry drives through crowd

I booked my holiday in August to Turkey almost a year ago and since then much has changed. Surely I can change or cancel?

In the past year Turkey has seen a significant number of terrorist atrocities committed on its soil, in which around 250 people have died. The majority of attacks have been against local people. But in two attacks this year in Istanbul, overseas visitors have been specifically targeted. A suicide bombing in Sultanahmet Square in the heart of Istanbul in January killed 10 members of a German tour group, while around 40 people died in an attack on the “landside” areas of the city’s Ataturk airport last month.

The attempted coup has added another layer of alarm and confusion on what looks an increasingly chaotic nation. Yet once this weekend’s turmoil calms in Turkey, the answer is likely to be the same as for France. At the time you booked, the Foreign Office warned there was a high threat from terrorism, with Kurdish groups, so-called Islamic State and far left organisations planning and carrying out attacks: “Further attacks are likely. Terrorist groups have publicly threatened to attack tourist sites in Turkey.”

It is likely that some holiday operators will decide that there is sufficient concern among customers to switch some or all of their Turkish capacity to an alternative destination – though because of concern about Turkey and Egypt, there has already been a massive move to countries from Greece to Portugal, and accommodation is in short supply.

If your holiday is cancelled by the operator, then you can get a full refund; note that they may incentivise you you to take an alternative holiday instead. But if it is going ahead, and you want to cancel your trip, the position is very different. Some operators which offer multiple destinations may offer the option to transfer a booking to a different location, po ssibly on payment of a fee. But assuming that there is no general, long-term Foreign Office warning against travel to tourist areas in Turkey, if you decide not to go then you are likely to lose some or all of the money you have paid.

You will not be able to claim on insurance for what is known as “disinclination to travel”.

As with France, if you have booked a proper package holiday – for example through Thomson or Thomas Cook – you can sell or give the holiday to someone else on payment of a nominal fee, typically £50 per person.

I have a connecting flight booked on Turkish Airlines and no longer wish to travel. Can I cancel?

Turkish Airlines offers connections across Africa and Asia through its hub at Istanbul Ataturk – one of the five busiest airports in Europe. After the 28 June attack at the airport, it allowed passengers booked to travel in the week ahead to cancel or postpone their trips. It may make a similar short-term offer. But otherwise normal terms will apply.

Erdogan: Turkey coup bid 'an act of treason'

What can I do to reduce the risks of travelling – apart from staying at home?

You could start by avoiding places where tourists have been specifically targeted, rather than being caught up in generalised assaults. Recent cases have happened in Tunisia (which is still off-limits to British travellers, according to the Foreign Office), Egypt and Morocco. Or if you prefer to travel you could follow my three-point plan for staying safe:

1 Keep the amount you travel by road to a minimum, and in the developing world always choose a professional driver (either a taxi or bus driver) rather than driving yourself.

2 On beach holidays, be aware of the dangers of rip tides, and understand how to deal with them. You can find an excellent guide online at bit.ly/RipSafe.

3 When you’re out and about while abroad, leave your phone behind. You’ll be more tuned in to possible dangers, to the amazing sights and sounds of life in a different country, and you won’t step out into the road while texting and be mown down.

Follow those three rules and your risk profile – the chances of coming to harm abroad – will be much reduced.

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