If you were planning to travel to Turkey on your honeymoon, you might have to start making other plans. On Monday morning, the governments of the United States and Turkey mutually suspended all U.S. and Turkish visa services, effectively ending (or putting the pause on) tourism between the two countries.
The official announcement came via a statement made on Twitter by the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital of Ankara saying that recent events have forced it to "reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel." Those recent events include the arrest of a U.S. Consulate employee for his alleged links to a group that the Turkish government claims is responsible for last summer's failed coup. The arrest of the U.S. official on Sunday prompted the suspension of all non-immigrant visa services for Turkish citizens by the United States.
Today, Turkey responded in kind by discontinuing visa services for all U.S. citizens, including visas issued at embassies and consulates, e-Visas, and border visas. Visas were previously required for any trip up to 90 days within a 180 day period; travelers could obtain a visa from a Turkish consulate or via an e-visa application system prior to arrival.
What does this mean for couples who were planning to honeymoon in Turkey? Whether you pre-purchased your visa online or were planning to do so prior to your departure, the long and short of it is: Start making new plans. Tensions between the United States and Turkey have reached new heights under the Trump administration and today's suspension of all visa services is, by and large, the result of that political pressure. (And there's no telling how long the suspensions will last.)
Here's what to do if you were planning a honeymoon in Turkey:
If you have already booked your hotel... Check if your reservation is refundable. While prepaid hotel rates ("best available rates," as they're often called) tend to be cheapest, they are often nonrefundable. Read the fine print on your reservation booking and call the hotel to ask about their cancellation policy. Chances are, in light of current events—policy decisions that out of the control of ordinary citizens—the hotel will be lenient in offering refunds for nonrefundable bookings. If your booking was refundable, request reimbursement and consider rebooking a hotel by the same brand in a different country (e.g. moving from the Istanbul Marriott Hotel Sisli on Istanbul's Bosphorus to the JW Marriott Bangkok if you wanted a honeymoon that blends city and culture).
If you have already booked your flight... First confirm whether or not your ticket can be changed or refunded for free. This is often the case with higher refundable fares (notice the trend here?), so if you sprung for a flexible booking option, chances are you're in luck. However, if you booked a nonrefundable low-cost fare, contact the airline (or have the third-party booking service, like Amex Travel, do it on your behalf) to request an exception. The sudden visa policy change will likely prompt airlines to waive cancellation or change fees, since, again, it's out of your control.
If you booked an itinerary on Turkish Airlines (either a fully refundable fare or a nonrefundable one), you're in luck. The airline is currently offering free reservation and route changes as well as refunds—including partial refunds for partially used tickets— through October 31.
An important thing to consider is your budget. It might take time for refunds to make their way back into your bank account, so if you're strapped for cash, it could be better to delay rebooking your honeymoon in a different location until you have the funds to do it right. In that case, consider a mini-moon or book at least one night at a hotel in the city you're being married in to celebrate just the two of you.
Before you rebook a new trip, remember these golden rules when it comes to international travel:
If you're headed somewhere that requires a visa, do it immediately after booking a flight. That way you're able to prove intent to travel if something happens that's out of your control and you go to request airline and hotel reimbursements.
Aim to book refundable hotel and airline reservations, as well as on-the-ground tours and transportation. If you must choose a nonrefundable option to save money, again, do it after the visa is issued.
When booking long-haul itineraries (say, if you're traveling to Asia or the South Pacific), avoid long layovers in countries with a history of changing immigration policies without notice.
Always, always book travel insurance for your honeymoon.