The first time I heard about the Hayat Eve Sığar (HES) Code was when entering Istanbul Modern. As I started to pass through museum security, a guard stopped me and asked, “Do you have an HES code?” My somewhat cheeky reply was, “What’s that?” This seemed to startle the security guard a bit, but he didn’t send me away. He said to wait and returned within a few minutes to motion me through. Clearly, someone gave the OK.
Honestly, I forgot about that until yesterday, when purchasing an IstanbulKart to use on trams and ferries. I purchased the card (looks like a credit card) and loaded some Turkish lira. When I tried to use the card at Taksim-Tünel, it didn’t work! After going around in circles a few times (really), a nice café employee who spoke great English patiently explained how to get an HES code number, but not what it was and why it was required.
I went online and entered the info requested (passport number, surname, birthdate, etc.). Then, someone sent a text with an HES code number to my iPhone! Thankfully, this was possible, since I got a local SIM card and had a Turkish cell number. After that, I returned to where I purchased the IstanbulKart, provided the card with my new HES code, and voila, the two were linked and the card was activated, so all is well!
Covid Normalization Process
There was plenty to do to pass through Turkish immigration, so I’m surprised that no one explained the HES code as part of Turkey’s requirements. It was implemented in January 2021, and is important, if you plan to use or access public services and facilities. I learned that the code is part of “Istanbul’s coronavirus outbreak normalization process” – that’s a mouthful.
“The Turkish Ministry of Health created the Hayat Eve Sığar (HES) App to maintain measures to combat the coronavirus epidemic and minimize risks encountered in daily life, within the framework of controlled social life”.
An HES code “is mandatory and required for domestic travel by train, bus, boat, plane, or private vehicle”. It helps the government track the use of transportation and visits to high traffic areas. Well, that’s creepy – but what can you do?
Through this application, people exposed to Covid-19 can be prevented from using Istanbul public transportation. The Turkish government plans to expand the app’s coverage to include all public institutions, clinics, and workplaces. Information collected allows authorities to “follow-up on positive cases and determine whether citizens are at risk of contracting coronavirus in public spaces, while traveling, and during institutional visits”.
Positive Covid-19 Test Results
An HES code is used for the duration of your trip to Istanbul – roundtrip travel dates and any time in between. If you’re with a travel company, you must share your code with them. Travel is blocked, if a coronavirus situation occurs. Travel companies can restrict your journey, “if you’re in quarantine, don’t have an HES code, are Covid-19 positive, or submit an incorrect number”.
The beauty of long-term travel is you have time to get “sorted” and recover from stressful situations. With major language differences, acclimating in a foreign country may take longer than you like – a deep breath always helps. Surprises are part of the experience, but hopefully I’m done and can relax and enjoy exotic, captivating Istanbul!