Getting sick in Istanbul

I understand from the Rick Steves Istanbul book that you should drink only bottled water, even when brushing your teeth. I of course will buy bottled water. However, should I get sick, what should I bring with me that will help me, if I get sick. For anyone who went to Istanbul and got sick from the water, what did you do? Thanks for your responses.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

We were in Istanbul for five days and drank the water in the hotel and wherever we found it. There were no ill effects, but then I was raised on a farm and was in contact with animals and their leavings which is supposed to give one good intestinal flora. Always, always take Imodium. We also take a prescription antidiarheal too, just in case.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
371 posts

Pepto Bismol caplets are very helpful for minor stomach upsets (which can occur anywhere). If in doubt and in the hinterlands of Turkey, you can always find good yogurt which in and of itself is something safe to eat. If you are very worried, don't eat fruit that can't be peeled. Most cooked food has been heated enough to be safe.
Enjoy Turkey--it is wonderful and don't be too apprehensive.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21964 posts

Ann, You might want to talk to your Physician or a travel medicine specialist about packing some Cipro along. If you do get sick as a result of the local food or water, that should solve the problem. However, there are some significant side effects and contraindications to be aware of, which is why it's important to discuss that with your Doctor. It probably wouldn't hurt to pack along some Immodium or other OTC med's as well. Happy travels!

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2146 posts

I spent almost 3 weeks in Turkey 2 years ago including 9 days in Istanbul and made it a practice to only drink bottled water which was readily available and cheap. I go to Europe every summer and always carry Imodium and PeptoBismol tablets and perhaps due to advancing age, have never yet got a case of Montazuma's Revenge.

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
715 posts

There are close to 15 million people in greater Istanbul and I doubt any brush their teeth with bottled water. We drank tap water everywhere, ate in the back alleys of the old town alongside locals, and didn't worry about a thing. The eateries are far more fastidious than most in this country, impressively so. You do know that a lot of bottled water is just tap water run through another filter and if that water is bad, being bottled won't change that. I think you are anxious about something unlikely to occur. Take some immodium, pepto, or cipro along to give you some peace of mind. In our many travels overseas, we have never taken ill, unlike horrific bouts of food poisoning at Underground Atlanta, a fancy seafood restaurant in Portland Maine, and even at a posh restaurant in San Francisco. Bon appetit.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7472 posts

There are close to 15 million people in greater Istanbul and I doubt any brush their teeth with bottled water. The locals would have an immunity to the microscopic thingies swimming around in their water.

Posted by Lesley
Sidney, BC, Canada
436 posts

I take an oral vaccine called Dukoral which helps protect against traveler's tummy. You take it about 3 weeks before you go and it is effective up to three months. I have used this for trips to Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Cambodia with excellent results (i.e. I didn't get sick!). You have to get it through your doctor or travel clinic. Of course I am also careful about drinking bottled water, not eating suspect food etc. avoiding iced drinks. Water is not the only culprit for tummy problems. One suggestion from my own doctor was to drink beer! As he pointed out it is pasteurized, contains alcohol which kills bugs, and it has to remained capped. Fes is a nice light Turkish beer and very refreshing in hot weather. Another hint he had was to drink sparkling mineral water, it is not unknown for mineral water bottles to be filled with tap water and passed off as mineral water. Sparkling water is usually delivered to the table capped. Turks use a lot of olive oil in their cooking and for someone who is not used to it it can cause some tummy problems. So maybe go easy on the marinaded vegetables for a bit. For first aid - take immodium, it doesn't cure the problem but it does help you keep on going with your trip. Pepto Bismol is good for general tummy upsets. And do ask your doctor about taking an antibiotic along for a tummy problem that does not clear up in a couple of days. Cipro is one but there are others

Posted by Lesley
Sidney, BC, Canada
436 posts

Correction to my previous post - a typo - the name of the beer is Efes.

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
280 posts

Just carry some Imodium with you. Take the usual precautions and you won't
Get sick.

Posted by pam
bath, maine, usa
71 posts

Getting sick in Istanbul. Replying to Ann from Staten Island. Ann. I ALWAYS carry Immodium or a generic brand with me. Do not think you can only get sick from the water. When in Turkey during the warm months, DO Not eat Donnor, a specialty which is this huge hunk of meat on a vertical spit. Sometimes there are vegetables combined with the meat. I keep my "tool kit" on the bus. This July I had breakfast in Bodrum, lunch in Izmir and dinner in Foci. The next day I had problems, took two Immodium and went along my merry way.
Haven't seen you since Dublin! I thought alot about you last fall, hope you are well.

Posted by mimi
Vancouver, BC, Canada
175 posts

On our tour the guide told us not to drink any tap water - he was from Istanbul and he said he wouldn't drink the water on a bet! I took Imodium 'in case' and I was handing them out to fellow tour members
like candy! Happily, DH and I only had a half day of nastiness.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10638 posts

"you might want to talk to your Physician or a travel medicine specialist about packing some Cipro along." I have to disagree with you there, Ken. There are only a few types of GI infections where antibiotics are warranted, and she is unlikely to encounter them in Istanbul. Antibiotics can actually make things worse in many cases. Others have mentioned loperamide (Immodium), which is usually fine for mild to moderate diahrrea. Just note, however, that it may make you feel even worse if you also have nausea and vomiting, although it probably won't affect your rate of recovery. I don't know the specifics of the water quality in Istanbul, but generally all but the filthiest tap water is usually fine for bathing and brushing your teeth. Just don't swallow.

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

On our RS tour of Istanbul in 2011, our guide was emphatic that we drink only bottled water. It's available everywhere and is very cheap.
He said the locals are fine with tap water because they are used to it. Some of our group did get sick but they attributed it to eating mussels.I didn't have any and stayed well.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
905 posts

See a physician and learn what might be best for you as to travel medicines. Me? I have packed Pepto Bismol tablets (now a generic version in caplet form) for mild digestive track problems and Azithromycin, which I've used once as the problem just wasn't easing a bit after several days. The drug knocked it out quickly. No illness in Turkey, but I drank bottled beverages and tea.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10638 posts

"and Azithromycin," I have to interject again. Antibiotics are rarely indicated for gastroenteritis and can often make the illness worse. If you need antibiotics, you need to see a doctor.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21964 posts

@Tom, Thanks for the clarification on that. I suggested Cipro as that's what I was provided with by the local Travel Medicine Doctor prior to travel in Greece (along with Dukoral taken prior to the trip). I didn't have any occasion to use the Cipro, and after reading the potential side effects that's probably a good thing. On my recent tour of Spain, one individual suffered a few stomach problems. One of the other members of the group was an Orthopaedic Surgeon and he also mentioned using Cipro. I guess that's why it was "stuck" in my mind. In any case, I'd still recommend visiting a travel medicine clinic prior to travel to obtain the appropriate med's for each situation. If or when I travel to Turkey, I'll certainly be doing that. Cheers!

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
905 posts

@Tom I agree that, " Antibiotics are rarely indicated for gastroenteritis"... and in my case once the mild gastro illness did not abate after several days per usual, I took the drug and the cure followed rapidly.

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
280 posts

Cipro is a strong drug. I wouldn't use it without seeing a doctor for
a specific illness. After all, it is used to treat Anthrax!

Posted by Sean
New York
148 posts

Wow Rick Steves makes Istanbul sound like Calcutta.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
876 posts

"There were many terrible things in my life and most of them never happened."
- Michel de Montaigne

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Sean, what happened to you in Calcutta, exactly?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12279 posts

Sean, can you tell us about your trip to India? By the way it isn't Calcutta any more. No more than where you are from is called New Amsterdam. It is Kolkata now.

Posted by ann
staten island, new york, usa
375 posts

Thank you all for your responses to bring Imodium. I am back from Istanbul and did not get sick. But one tour member did and I gave her my Imodium and it helped her alot. She really needed it and said she will start bringing it with her in future travels. Again, thanks for the advice. Istanbul was an amazing city and we had a great RS tour and a great group of people. I hope to return to Istanbul and see more of Turkey.

Posted by Peg
7 posts

Ann, Just returned from Istanbul with my husband on a Rick Steves one week tour. Our guide said the problem is not the water, it is the pipes that the water runs through. Neither of us got the revenge. We did use bottled water for brushing our teeth, yet we both took showers every day. We stayed away from fresh green salads. Their food is great. We ate their yogurt numerous times also. No problem. I have heard it said though, should you get the "revenge" you want it to work out your system and not stop the natural rememdy by taking any drugs.
Enjoy your trip - it is a wonderful part of our world ....