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Health Issues in Greece

Hi,
My wife and I will be traveling to Greece to visit Athens, Delphi, Hydra, and Nafplio late in May. I have some concerns over food safety or food poisoning over there.
Could you give me some tips to avoid food poisoning? One of my friends who went to Greece before told me that she got sick twice by eating salad at a restaurant. So I do not think we will eat salads at restaurants.
Can we drink tap water over there? Is it safe to drink tap water in Hydra?
We’d like to eat some fruits such as grapes, strawberries, black berries, blue berries, apples, pears, oranges, bananas, kiwis, pineapples from local grocery stores if they are available. Are they safe to eat for foreigners?

Thanks in advance

Posted by
439 posts

We ate fruits and salads in Greece and did not have a problem. I would guess it was not the water that was a problem but someone not cleaning their hands correctly and than handling the food or maybe your friend was just sick.

As a safety precaution I will normally drink bottled water but don't panic if I drink the tap water. Hydra flooded when we were there so I don't feel I can say it is fine to drink. We didn't have water to bath let alone drink.

Mary

Posted by
6511 posts

Never had any problem with eating in restaurants all over Greece - salads, seafood, drinking tap water, etc. There certainly could be some rural places or islands where I might be a little wary of the tap water and drink bottled water, but that's true anywhere. Food poisoning can happen anywhere when eating almost anything, it happens more in restaurants in the US than probably anywhere else, but if it's not a wide spread episode you never hear about it. I certainly wouldn't avoid eating salads because one person got sick eating them. Chances of it happening on a regular basis are quite slim. There are much worse things to worry about.

Posted by
21307 posts

I am not a medical person, but I remember reading some time ago that some people who do not regularly use olive oil have digestive issues when they travel to a country that uses a great deal of it, and Greece certainly qualifies on that score. With hindsight, I think that might have affected me a bit on my first trip to Europe in 1972, which did not include Greece but did include Spain and Italy. These days, an American is more likely to encounter olive oil in the normal course of things, but I don't think it would hurt to switch to olive oil for general cooking purposes in the period leading up to your trip. Who knows? It might help.

I've been to Greece three times, but never to Hydra. The only water caution I've encountered in guidebooks involved the island of Skiathos, whose tap water is brackish and (at least in the past) considered safe but unpalatable. Everyone was drinking bottled water there during my visit 20+ years ago. I, myself, have never had a disgestive problem in Greece, and I've probably spent 7 or 8 weeks in the country.

There is one other, non-gastro, thing: A doctor on Santorini told my mother that some visitors to that island have respiratory issues due to the volcanic dust. I would speculate that it probably happens only to people who have underlying pulmonary problems. I've never read anything about this is a guide book, but I figure the doctor was in a position to know, because he'd see some of the sick visitors.

Posted by
1811 posts

We spent 2 weeks in Greece, including Hydra, and no one in the group of 24 got sick. We ate everywhere from sit-down restaurants to Athen's version of take-out and never had any issues. However, I don't remember ever eating salads that had lettuce. We ate the ubiquitous Greek salad that is cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and feta cheese.

Posted by
1878 posts

I recommend Googling "CDC Greece". I do this for every country that I travel to when I am unsure whether there are any issues. It says "Food and water standards in Greece are similar to those in the United States. Most travelers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home." Your local medical group may also have a travel house office or "clinic" which makes it sounds like a government program for those less fortunate, but it's just a term they use. Our local travel health clinic is not as strict as the CDC. For example, CDC says don't drink tap water in Hungary but the travel health clinic said not to worry about it. Bear in mind when they say don't drink the tap water that means don't brush your teeth with it either. Personally brushing my teeth with bottled water is a hassle, but traveling in certain countries you have to do it. A Hepatitis A vaccine is not a bad idea for some countries, it's a very serious illness that you can get from contaminated food and water. But the CDC is very conservative and they say Greece is up to U.S. standards. They do say consult with your doctor about a Hep A shot though.

Posted by
672 posts

We've been on three tours to Greece, including Hydra, plus we've spent time there on our own. Neither of us got food poisoning there, nor was I aware of any tour members being sick. We ate many, many Greek salads.

Posted by
2051 posts

Ditto most of the posters above. Ate everything and drank the water. No problems. I would be sad if I thought I couldn't eat the Greek salads, they are so good! I think you would be fine but you should do what you are most comfortable doing as regards your own health.

Posted by
9921 posts

"I am not a medical person, but I remember reading some time ago that some people who do not regularly use olive oil have digestive issues when they travel to a country that uses a great deal of it, and Greece certainly qualifies on that score."

Acraven, that is very interesting! Yes, perhaps that was what caused me problems in my first visit to Spain in yep, 1973!

I had not gotten sick traveling in years until last year in Paris. I only had a couple of Immodium, used them and had to ask a friend I was meeting up with to bring me some from the US. I do recommend traveling with Immodium and PeptoBismol, just in case. Still not sure if it was food or if it was just because it was beastly hot.

Posted by
2898 posts

I have made 12 extensive trips to greece, 20-30 days each since 1999 ... I am a budget traveler, and eat in the modest restaurants (tavernas) on the islands and mainland ... and have eaten heartily and healthily, salads every night, and have had not a single days' tummy upset. I buy fruit at the markets and farmstands and eat them standing right there. I've had nice old ladies in black dresses, picking apricots off a tree, press 4-5 into my hand and urge me to taste. As for water, the price of bottled water is regulated so it's much more reasonable than in the US, and the 2-liter size is really cheap. But in Delphi it would be a CRIME to drink bottled water. At our first meal there, at an outdoor terrace, the waitress came with a large pitcher of water. It was NECTAR of the Gods!! I have never in my life tasted such great water I asked where it came from. She pointed up to Mount Parnassus, towering above us. From the snow melt she said, we just pipe it down to the village. We filled our daybag bottles.

BTW you won't get kiwis and pineapples in the markets. in May, probably Amazing strawberries, cherries, apricots peaches.

Sometimes I think the worst travel tips of all start with "One of my friends told me".

Posted by
21857 posts

In nearly a year travel out of the past 20+ years through out Europe include Greece a couple of times, the only food poisoning we had was a couple years ago in Munich, Germany at Christmas time. Obviously anything you peel is safer than anything you wash. We are not fans of bottled water so we drink any local water available including the fountains in Rome. And we have eaten a lot of salad.

Posted by
503 posts

I was in Greece this past October. I ate salads, drank tap water and had no problem whatsoever and none of the others in the group did either. If you don't eat Greek salads, you are missing one of the most wonderful eating experiences, they are awesome!

Posted by
21307 posts

There's a tendency for people to assume that gastrointestinal distress is caused by food poisoning. It usually isn't. It's much more likely to be something like norovirus or (as was my experience in Berlin back in 1972) lactose intolerance, which I self-diagnosed years later when newspapers started mentioning the condition. And then there was the giardiasis I got from drinking the tap water in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), Russia. Also not food poisoning, and also self-diagnosed years later based on newspaper articles.

Don't worry about Greece unless a reliable source highlights a localized problem. But definitely don't drink the water in St. Petersburg!

Posted by
25 posts

Hi all,

I thank all of you for giving me valuable advice. Now I am very relieved to know that I do not have to worry much about food and water safety in Greece. I am looking forward to eating Greek salads.

Posted by
975 posts

I'll just add my late comment by saying that I have had many meals all over Greece and never had any health issues with the food. In fact, every meal was good, some better than others, but all so very good.

On the other hand my wife and I stayed in Sorrento, Italy and went to a lovely taverna one night and had a great meal. A couple nights later we ate there again with my wife having just a Salad. She woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating abdominal pain, naseau, headache and spent 24 hours in the room suffering. Bad Salad!

One would think Italy would be more "healtheir" than Greece, but I guess not.

I'm not saying Greek Food is perfectly safe but in the dozens of meals we've had in Greece over the years we have never had a bad experience with the food.

Not to mention much lower prices, better quality and more quantity than we had in Italy.

Posted by
28121 posts

it isn't the country or city - it is the kitchen and their hygiene. can happen anywhere

Posted by
21307 posts

Or you picked up a norovirus off a handrail somewhere. A doctor told me once that painful intestinal cramps are usually the mark of a virus.

Posted by
15051 posts

I'm in Greece now, just left Athens today after 5 days there. Fresh strawberries are everywhere and very good, from 1-2 euros/kg. There are also beautiful-looking bananas and kiwis, some oranges and apples. I haven't seen fresh pineapple. Bottled water is cheap, 50 cents for a cold 1/2 liter bottle, 1 euro for a big bottle, at most kiosks. A 1/2 liter bottle at a minimarket is about 18 cents.

Posted by
2929 posts

I found all the produce to be lovely, and I did not get any obvious food borne illnesses. However, our guide told us to drink bottled water on Hydra, not because the tap water is bad, but because we're just not used to it. I accidentally drank water at breakfast, forgetting, and thought it did not taste very good...after a full glass worth. Shortly afterwards, a mild Montezuma's revenge occurred, so I would suspect it's best not to drink their water. One pepto tablet resolved that matter. Better to be safe than sorry.

Posted by
11450 posts

The sickest I have ever been from "tummy issues " was in Rome , had to get a doctor to my room , spent the night on bathroom floor .
I've been to Mexico 6 times now and never been ill .

Ate a Greek salad toooed with a slab of creamy feta cheese almost everyday in Greece last year !! I would never skip salads there !

I honestly think when I got sick in Rome it was due to servers dirty thumb that he had thrust into my salad as he set it , down it grossed me out , but I decided not to make a fuss and that I was being silly . Should have not been so nervous and rejected it ! He likely had just gone to bathroom and not washed his hands !

Posted by
2898 posts

Pat of Canada, most likely, from your symptoms, your ailment was Norovirus far more common than food poisoning. Coulda been the thumb coulda been the germ from most anywhere.

Posted by
11450 posts

Janet, no doctor and I did not conclude it to be Norivirus , that doesn't go away in 48 hours .

Posted by
7991 posts

Ken, please do not skip those amazing Greek salads. They are such a treat.
Two trips to Greece independently, one for a month, the other a bit shorter and never have been sick there.