Turkey travel updates and testing for COVID-19

Turkey is the number one holiday destination for British travelers who want to go on holiday or visit their holiday homes in the country. Since England adopted the traffic light system for international travel in early May, Turkey has remained on the country’s ‘red list’, leaving many Britons disappointed this year.

Turkey is certainly not alone, however, as the UK’s ‘red list’ includes 62 countries, with Montenegro and Thailand being the most recent additions. All British citizens arriving from the ‘red list’ must undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at a cost of around 2,000 pounds ($2,756) per adult. Additionally, there are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing requirements prior to departure and mandatory testing on the second and eighth days of the quarantine period.

While the pandemic crowds that have settled in Bodrum have more than maxed out the region’s capacity, other parts of Turkey, such as Dalyan, which relies on British tourists, have definitely felt their absence. It’s hard to understand why Turkey remains on the UK’s ‘red list’ as coronavirus figures are lower in Turkey than in the UK and the seven-day incidence rate is close to half. Nevertheless, it is hoped that Turkey will be reconsidered at the next assessment scheduled for September 16.

View of the Dalyan Canal. (Photo Shutterstock)

What are the current travel conditions in Turkey?

Turkey has also suspended flights with a number of countries; namely Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Nepal, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Any passenger who has spent time in these countries, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the 15 days prior to arrival in Turkey will be required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken no later than 72 hours prior to departure. Meanwhile, the same requirement applies to all passengers arriving from Egypt, Iran, Singapore or the UK. Passengers arriving from other destinations must either have a negative PCR or antigen test (carried out 48 hours before) or have a COVID-19 certificate proving that they were vaccinated at least 14 days earlier.

Since March, all entrants to Turkey must submit a mandatory health declaration called the “Entry to Turkey Form”, which is an online form that generates a QR code and HES code. HES, stands for “Hayat Eve Sığar” in Turkish, which translates to “Life fits into the house” and is Turkey’s COVID-19 tracking app. The code is useful as it is required for public transport and entry to many shopping malls and official buildings. The form, available on the website https://register.health.gov.tr/ requests information such as contact details and travel details and must be completed prior to boarding. The form is not required for transit passengers or children under the age of six.

For flights to countries such as Germany, Russia and the United States, arrivals from Turkey must have either a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of departure, a COVID vaccination certificate -19 or proof of recovery from coronavirus. For arrivals in the United States, those who have not been vaccinated must quarantine for seven days if they agree to be tested again and 10 days if they refrain from taking another test.

To be considered fully vaccinated in the United States, a passenger must have received two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson vaccine. Passengers who have received Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccines are not considered fully vaccinated under US travel criteria.

New requirements for domestic flights

As of September 6, 2021, for domestic flights within Turkey, passengers will now be required to present one of three documents, which are: a negative result of a PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to boarding, a vaccination certificate proving all the necessary documents the vaccinations were carried out at least 14 days before the flight, or a document proving that you have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 180 days.

How to get tested for COVID-19 in Turkey

It is extremely easy to get a COVID-19 PCR test in Turkey. All public hospitals provide the test for free to certain groups of people like students or teachers, while private hospitals charge around 250 TL (around $30). All airports in Turkey also have test centers and the cost is around 170 TL. In Istanbul for example, Istanbul Airport has a 24-hour PCR test center located on the arrivals level (exit gate number 14) which efficiently offers tests and results. PCR test results are made available within 1.5 hours and the center also offers the antibody blood test, which determines if someone has ever been infected with COVID-19 and the antigen test, which establishes whether the individual is still ill. The antibody test takes 45 minutes to see results, while antigen test results are released in just 20 minutes.

COVID-19 nasal swab lab test.  (Photo Shutterstock)

COVID-19 nasal swab lab test. (Photo Shutterstock)

To get tested, you simply get a queue number by clicking the “I want to get tested” button at the kiosk, which accepts cash or credit cards. Keep in mind that to get your results you also need to get a queue number by pressing the ‘I want to get my test results’ option at the ticket machine, after which you can get the document certifying the results at the information desk in the testing area.

Resources on Turkey, COVID-19 and Travel for Expats, Visitors

Throughout the pandemic, the “Coronavirus Turkey – UK Information” Facebook group, run by a number of Turkish expats and translators, has provided invaluable knowledge and assistance to expats connected to Turkey. Additionally, the group publishes daily statistics and incident maps from the HES app on demand so that everyone can easily see what the infection rate is in their area of ​​interest in Turkey.

“Travel Bug” is another Facebook group that was started in 2019 by John McLaughlin, who was driving from the UK to Didim in Turkey with his son. The photos they took and the adventures they shared from their trip spawned a popular Facebook travel group among expats driving between the two countries or connected in some way to travel and to Turkey. This group inspired Lucie Fontana, whose husband was in Turkey when the UK cracked down, to create the Facebook group “Come fly with me!” which focuses on air travel between countries. This hugely helpful and active group has exploded to nearly 9,000 members all discussing topics related to coronavirus, Turkey and travel.

“Doc Martins Surgery for Expats” in Turkey has always served as the official guide to all things Turkey and has a blog site, where the answers to most questions you may have are explained in detail. In addition to practical information on residency in Turkey, the group also answers questions such as how to obtain a European QR code attached to a Turkish vaccination certificate. Meanwhile, “Bodrum Echo Community”, “Fethiye Times” and “The Ege Eye” have always been great resources for any information regarding Turkey and all have active Facebook pages.

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