The dangers of traveling in southeastern Turkey have declined dramatically in the last few years. Once dangerous cities like Van and Diyarbakır have become prime destinations for independent travelers, and a tourist infrastructure has begun to emerge in the larger cities. Nevertheless, travelers must use caution, as the PKK retains a presence in certain parts of southeastern Turkey. June 2002, the provinces of Hakkari, Şırnak, Tunceli, and Diyarbakır were still designated as “states of emergency,” while the provinces of Van, Siirt, Muş, Mardin, Batman, Bingöl, and Bitlis were considered “sensitive areas,” one level below state of emergency. In parts of these regions, you can run the remote risk of being kidnapped or even caught in the cross-fire.
Although certain towns in these regions are included in this book (including Muradiye, Van, Diyabakır, Doğubeyazıt, and Mardin), travelers should exercise caution. Be aware of recent developments both before you leave and while on the road. Locals may be inclined to under-emphasize safety precautions and present a more rosy picture of a given town or area than that which actually exists. In most militarized cities, roads close in the afternoon; plan ahead before you travel by bus or car. Do not travel at night. Do not venture away from towns into the hills and mountains or into restricted areas. In order to travel within 5-10km of the borders of Iran, Armenia, and Georgia, you must have a special permit.
Expect to be questioned by authorities as to your traveling intentions, and always have your passport on you to present in such situations. Routine police checks become common around some cities: on buses, all men disembark from the bus and stand in a single-file line while officers ask questions and sometimes frisk. Women stay in the bus. Do not adopt a hostile attitude with tire authorities they will do everything in their power to protect you. Do not take photographs of military installations, bridges, power stations, or any other structure which might have military significance. While you should not engage locals in any political discussions, do not be afraid of speaking and interacting with Kurdish civilians.
Travel in eastern Turkey can pose risk, difficulty, and hassle for women traveling alone. Let’s Go does not recommend that women travel alone in this region. In Northern Cyprus, do not use blocked-off roads or cross the Green Line between North and South Cyprus unless you’re looking to be deported or imprisoned.
Road travel in Turkey Is dangerous by European and American standards. Whether taking a bus or driving, travelers in Turkey should educate themselves about road conditions. Only travel on reputable bus companies such as Ulusoy and Varan. Avoid road travel at night and in inclement weather.