Our timing’s impeccable. Not. In early September, we’re due to fly out to Israel, where we will spend 11 nights, after which we’ll head over to Turkey for 18 nights.
“Of all the places in the world, why would you travel there right now,” we’ve been asked by every man and his dog.
Because they’ve been on our bucket list forever.
Because they’re two cultures that have always fascinated us.
Because we planned it last year, before the conflict in the Gaza strip erupted and rapidly went south. Turkey has a high threat from terrorism too due to active groups throughout the country that are involved in the conflict in Syria.
Peter and I reminded each other that we found ourselves in a similar situation when we travelled to Mexico in 2012, when the drug wars were raging. After checking in with friends and various contacts in both Israel and Turkey, we decided to proceed with our current travel plans and just remain cautious. The only change to our itinerary - and it is an unfortunate one - was the cancelation of our visit to Petra, in Jordan. A shame, I know. With checkpoints at border crossings being renown “hotspots,” violence can erupt anytime. Besides that, Israel’s Aqaba border crossing into Jordan is too close for comfort to the Gaza Strip.
Considering the volatility in the Middle East and parts of Turkey, I've taken the extra precaution of registering our trip with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is the first time I've had to do this. The advantage of this is that the DFAT can send us regular updates on the situation in both countries via email while we travel. Should the situation hit crisis point - and I'm not expecting it to, but you never know - the Australian embassy in both countries will have our contact details and will be in a better position to help us out.
In the meantime, I’ve taken note of the following travel tips on Cautious Travel:
Terrorist attacks can occur at anytime and anywhere. Prepare for heightened scrutiny of individuals and their belongings by authorities.
Become familiar with emergency procedures and how to respond to air raid sirens, including knowing the location of the nearest emergency shelters.
Check with airlines and tour operators for the latest information on any flight disruptions as air corridors have been adjusted to mitigate against the risk of rocket fire.
Monitor local media and official announcements as the security situation may change unexpectedly. If there is a heightened security alert, security forces may respond by establishing additional roadblocks and by increasing the presence of security forces on the streets.
Be prepared for any vehicle inspections.
Due to safety and security concerns, avoid the use of public transport, except taxis.
Consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided e.g. large international hotels, crowded iconic sites, large public areas like town squares.
Avoid all protests, demonstrations and political rallies as they may turn violent.
If you're from Australia, register your trip with http://www.smartraveller.gov.au, the Australian Government's travel advisory and consular assistance service.