Turkey Adds Travel Coronavirus Testing Requirement

Filed Under: Turkish

For the first time since opening to tourists over the summer, Turkey is now requiring all visitors to get a coronavirus test. I first wrote about this several days ago, but Turkey has now changed the exact rules for the third time, so I wanted to update this post to reflect that.

The latest update will make life easier for transit passengers, as they aren’t required to get tested. Rather these new rules only apply to travelers trying to enter Turkey.

Turkey has been wide open since the summer

Turkey has been one of the most open countries in the world since reopening to tourists over the summer. The country has had no restrictions on where visitors can come from, and also hasn’t had any sort of testing requirement. So in many ways the country has been open to all.

I had the chance to visit Turkey over the summer, and was impressed overall by the precautions being taken, even if there were no restrictions for travelers on entry. Mask compliance was excellent at the hotels I visited in Bodrum, and I felt good about the fact that virtually everything was outdoors.

Turkey opened its borders to all over the summer

Turkey requiring COVID-19 testing for travelers

Turkey has put into place new coronavirus restrictions for travelers. For travel between December 30, 2020, and March 1, 2021 (though I imagine the end date could be extended):

  • Travelers to Turkey will have to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, or they won’t be able to board their flight; this applies to travel on all airlines
  • This only applies to those with Turkey as their destination, and doesn’t apply to transit passengers merely connecting in Turkey
  • Children five years of age and younger are exempt from this requirement
  • Those who have visited Denmark, South Africa, and/or the United Kingdom in the past 10 days will have to stay in isolation in Turkey for seven days upon arrival, in addition to the PCR test requirement
  • There’s no option to get tested upon arrival if you intend to enter Turkey, even though Istanbul Airport has a good testing facility

Transit passengers not entering Turkey won’t need to get tested

Why Turkey has seen a COVID-19 spike

Why the sudden new travel requirements? Turkey has seen a massive spike in reported coronavirus cases in the past several weeks, and has stepped up precautions:

  • Over the summer the country saw an average of somewhere around 1,000 reported cases per day
  • Starting in mid-November, the country saw a massive spike in reported cases, with some days seeing over 30,000 new cases

Why the spike? Initially Turkey only reported symptomatic coronavirus cases, and not asymptomatic cases. However, that policy has changed in recent weeks, as it’s believed that this doesn’t do justice to how bad the outbreak is in Turkey.

So now a lot more cases are being reported, and along the same lines, restrictions have been stepped up as well.

Bottom line

Since December 30, 2020, Turkey is requiring all travelers over the age of five who are entering the country to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure to the country. This only applies to those entering Turkey, and not to those merely transiting airside in the country.

This new restriction comes as the country has seen a spike in reported coronavirus cases in recent weeks, which can partly be attributed to asymptomatic cases now counting towards the total.

What do you make of Turkey’s new coronavirus testing requirement?

  1. @ Ben — It’s about time. Anyone with half a brain could have predicted a bad ending to their reckless policies.

  2. Turkey’s numbers are somewhat unreliable in that they don’t count asymptomatic cases in their total numbers. This was confirmed by a minister in the summer which caused them to be put on the UK’s quarantine list, not that that list was effective at all but it shows a reason why the numbers are so low.

  3. Dec 25th 11pm Turkey time they introduce this huge policy change without warning. I had a flight Dec 28 from Budapest to Istanbul. How can they expect anyone to get a PCR test with 2 days warning, especially when everything is closed for the holidays? After 2 hours on hold with TK, moved flight early, but still…

  4. Hi Lucky,
    Turkish govt used to not publish the total cases but only the symptomatic cases.
    The day of the sudden spike the policy changed to all cases; that is the explanation for the radical change, but it was still during something of an upspike.
    The government used wording and definitions to justify this practice of two different numbers.
    FYI & kind regards

  5. The Turkish government has been sketchy with the real covid numbers all along. These cases didn’t suddenly materialize. The government is ridiculous. In Istanbul they have curfews where people can’t go out on the streets at night, except tourists are exempt from the curfews. Get that? Its too dangerous for locals to go out at night but perfectly fine for tourists to wander the city. Testing isn’t effective without quarantine. You can test negative and still have the virus incubating inside you. They are certainly missing covid cases and then allowing those people to wander the streets of their country infecting more people.

  6. Lucky, I remember you replying in the comments something to the effects of “I have no reason to not trust Turkey’s Covid numbers.” It was well known then that asymptomatic people can spread Covid, but Turkey decided to suppress their numbers. You are lucky (no pun intended) that you and spouse didn’t catch Covid.

  7. Where did you see it has to do with asymptomatic cases? What I’ve read in the news is they previously were only releasing hospital numbers. You can be symptomatic with positive test and not require hospitalization. Plus I don’t see how they could reliably differentiate asymptomatic vs symptomatic. Some “asymptomatic” cases caught by routine testing may just be those in incubation period and later develop symptoms.

    “ Turkey has recorded nearly 1.75 million cases since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said on Thursday, after releasing a significantly lower toll including only patients requiring medical care.”

  8. @Matthew:
    ….. good point!

    @ Gene:
    … Turkey has still done so much better and there people AND most visitors did follow the rules and guidance of the government.
    I’ve been there twice this fall and all was nearly perfect organized and handled, while other countries (incl. UK and US) could be considered 3rd World compared with Turkey and how they handled it all, even with NO entry restrictions to ANYBODY!

    Soon, the entire world might ask for such a NEG test of travelers, so it’s just clever to start that in Turkey now too.
    I wonder, why the US would require that from anybody coming over from the Mexican border, as you probably would leave the USA getting it while there, just on how people there handle it and take cautions.

    …. i guess i did mention 3rd World countries already, right? (Those who still send checks by mail in 2021 ha ha ha) . . . a wannabe industrial Country!

  9. I’m all for it. Planning our first trip to Turkey this fall and fully expect them to either require a vaccination or a negative PCR test.

    PS – your article about Bodrum got us quite interested, and now we’re spending a week in Istanbul, then 5 nights in Bodrum, and then we’re going to Cappadocia for a few nights. All on points and in the pointy part of the planes. 🙂

  10. Could not disagree more. Turkey has been put through horrors in the past month. The timing is precipitous.
    Firstly I see zero efficacy in counting asymptomatic and false positive testing results except for the dual purposes of keeping up hysteria as well as the proliferatiom of the endless testing industry. It also serves to justify draconian lockdowns of which this year caused some of the worst human rights violations in modern history have been experienced.
    Simply put the results of the US election
    Eviscerated a perception of protection for the Turkish President against the EU and other “international” organizations. On the second week of November the TL reached 8.66 and the Turkish President made the regrettable move of approaching the IMF. He was then forced to implement the standard WHO destructive guidelines turning Turkey into a sea of misery with draconian lockdowns among other measures. Ever since the first coup attempt in 2016 the Turkish President has become consistently erratic and there has been rumors of a possible second attempt at unrest.
    So Turkey crashes its tourist industry, makes its once wonderful airline even more unpleasant then it probably is and crashes its industries.
    Had this happened prior to 2016 the results and answers would have been far different. A real shame. My view

  11. Generally the figures shown in graphs tend to drop off during the Christmas New Year period in many countries. That doesn’t mean that infection rates are going down though.
    It appears that the inbound traditional international holiday markets of tourists to Turkey are in various states of lockdown.
    This latest move of requiring negative tests from international tourists may not solve their domestic virus problems.
    Dealing with a virus pandemic would need a more broad based cooperative approach, or, failing that, national isolation.

  12. @Ben – We love Bodrum turkey it is so easy to reach from Mexico City, our home-base. I assume the photo of the Beach front restaurant is in Bodrum? Please let me know the name of this restaurant…. and Mucho Gracias for the heads up on the coronavirus testing!

  13. Today, Turkey published a bulletin that indicates that transit and connection passengers are no longer exempt and are also required to have a PCR test. Can anyone help to confirm this? Also, the date has changed to December 30th.

  14. Currently in Turkey, just note that everything is shut down on the weekends because of the weekend curfew (supposed to be short term but I imagine it could easily be extended). In Istanbul, some of the touristy places are open under limited hours as tourists aren’t subject to the curfew rules but once you get out of Istanbul, places are completely dead and eerie. You won’t be able to experience the full Turkey if you plan on visiting for sightseeing purposes.

  15. @Stefano, given that asymptomatic people are infectious and you know, have the disease, I think that in itself is enough to mean they should be counted in the “Total” numbers… that’s just basic maths whether or not you agree with lockdowns.

    @Matthew, the Health Minister, Fahrettin Koca, said as much at the beginning of October, if you google it, there are a lot of news articles from various media sources all over the world quoting him.

  16. Yes, transfer passengers are no longer exempt from the requirement



    29 DEC 21:00 2020 UNTIL 28 FEB 21:00 2021 ESTIMATED. CREATED: 26 DEC 11:01 2020

  17. Thanks to ALL YOU people who cannot simply sittimg on your arses for a while why this would be over! Thanks to bloggets who need travel in middle of pandemic!! So do not complain now!

  18. Re – Pete , ( don’t travel to countries run by thuggish, authoritarian dictators at all ) Ah! You are saying do not visit the UK then ?

  19. Well, I agree it’s unfortunate that yet another country is beliving in PCR tests … they are very unreliable and in any case the status at T-72 doesn’t tell a lot.

    The Turkish infection curve has more to do with politics than with reality. The surge happened exactly when they changed the testing/reporting regime … And when cold weather struck. Specialists are adamant that weather has no effect, but it clearly does, looking at most countries.

  20. @EJC
    asymptomatic Numbers have not been shared only between June and October. The minister of health ONLY confirmed that.
    “Getürkt” is used in Germany only among people who have prejudice and racist feelings against Turks. Logical and anti-faschist People never use this kind of racist word.

  21. @Lucky, does this rule apply to people leaving Turkey to states on Turkish airlines?
    I am currently in Turkey plan to back states to New York later this week on direct flight on TK 1.

  22. Can someone please clear up the confusion?
    The Turkish Airlines site says transit passengers are NOT required to take a PCR test and I just got an email from Turkish Airlines that says the same.
    This site, the US embassy in Turkey, the IATA site all say the PCR test is required for transit passengers
    So is the PCR test required or NOT required?

  23. As this is the last OMAAT article I’ll have read this year, I want to thank you, Ben, for faithfully publishing every day of the year. I look forward to receiving OMAAT at 2pm (Pacific Time).
    Keep up the good work throughout 2021 and beyond.
    Happy New Year.

  24. @Edward: In this case I would trust TK, because they would have gotten themselves in massive trouble over the last two days, if their information had been wrong. I’m. ot saying everything on the TK website is true, but if it affects their operation directly, it generally is.

  25. why can’t the americans and other us-ians simply stay put until the virus/Tom Hanks disease dissipates?

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