Please sign in to post.

Uncooked food in Istanbul

I am preparing for the Best of Istanbul trip and have a quick question regarding uncooked food. I am plant-based so primarily eat whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits (no meat, dairy or eggs). I'm aware to drink bottled water and to stick to fruits that you can peel, however the Kaiser advice nurse told me that I should not eat ANY uncooked food in Istanbul - no salads or hummus with vegetables. That caught me off guard so I thought I would pose the question here - has anyone experienced getting ill from eating salads or uncooked vegetables in Istanbul? Thanks in advance for your reply!

Posted by
2489 posts

I am at the far end of careful when I travel so that is my rule in countries where I can’t drink the water: no uncooked produce at all. I just skip the salads and fruit. I notice most people are less strict about it than me. In Turkey, many of the people on my tour ate the salads in the hotels - heck, my mom ate everything served at the hotels and she never got sick.

Posted by
468 posts

How good is your immune system? I vividly remember eating not just my salad but my partner's as well in Egypt. And drinking the water provided in an open jug on the table of unknown province. One of us spent 3 days in bed - it wasn't me!

I do sometimes get sick - and frankly I am far more suspicious of the utensils and plates . If I'm being careful I use my own (hands) or provide my own chopsticks/forks or use disposable cutlery.

I love street food and would never give it up - or salads because I "might" get sick. I do carry immodium and a few other things if the worst happens - but it rarely takes me out for more than 1/2 day anyways

Posted by
2186 posts

We ate the salads and fresh fruit. We did not get sick. I think the water is more of an issue. Do not even rinse your toothbrush with the tap water or get it in your mouth when showering. We place a towel over the tap at night as it is so easy to forget and automatically put your toothbrush under the tap in the morning. We also always travel with Cipro which comes in handy when you get turista. It always seems to be my husband aka the delicate flower who gets sick. Ask your doctor for a prescription. And only use it if you need it not as a preventative. This has been our go to for years. Forget all the over the counter stuff. Some times you need the “big guns”.

Posted by
1904 posts

I ate everything in Istanbul...everything...and I was fine. Oddly, I got food poisoning in Prague. You just never know sometimes.

Posted by
3793 posts

You can look up some literature but we were told by our organizer several years ago when we traveled to Istanbul and the Middle East that a daily low (2) or high dose (4) of pepto bismol tablets helps reduce the chance of travelers diarrhea. Of course we also took the ordinary precautions of no tap water and tap water washed fruit and vegetables. FYI you can’t buy the product overseas so take some with you if your doctor recommends this regime based on your other health conditions.

Edit: we also traveled with a prescription of Cipro when on these lengthy trips.

Posted by
1503 posts

We are going on Best of Turkey in September and plan on a course of Dukoral before we go. We took it before going to China years ago and were the only people on the tour who didn't get ill.

Posted by
1882 posts

I ate some fresh veggies there but I brushed my teeth and drank only bottled water.

Oddly the only place I ever got sick was Barcelona after eating paella-I suspect the seafood was bad.

Posted by
1926 posts

I wouldn’t eat anything uncooked or raw. I’d assume they would wash their veggies and fruits in their tap water like we do here. No matter what people say here about not getting sick, it is advised to not drink the water.
The cooked veggies are really done well and very tasty. You won’t go hungry.

Posted by
5256 posts

I think you (and the nurse) should read up on the tap water in Istanbul. Essentially, the tap water is perfectly fine but the locals don't like the taste,.

Please do yourself a favor and enjoy the fruits, vegetables, salads, fresh pomegranate juice, etc. I'm sure you'll be fine.

Istanbul is not a developing country. Where have I gotten ill - as in the worst food poisoning of my life (and I lived in Ghana for 7 years)? Belgium.

Posted by
613 posts

I have never restricted my eating in Istanbul. Hummus, babaganoush, figs, salads, tomatoes, and cucumbers ... I eat it all. The food is marvelous there.

Posted by
24865 posts

The CDC's guidance on travel Turkey comes down on the side of the more cautious posters here.

That said, I didn't drink bottled water in Istanbul on a 1970s visit. My significant gastro problems in Europe (surely from food mishandled by careless restaurant staff rather than from tap water) occurred in Bristol, England, and in Ljubljana (or perhaps the night before in Munich).

Posted by
46 posts

I'm a vegetarian and am just finishing up the Best of Turkey 13 day tour. I ate raw lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and other produce, and some fruits and nuts every day at our hotels and local restaurants, along with most of our 16 American tour members. None of us got sick. I encourage you to enjoy the local raw produce, it will probably be easier on your system then changing over to a diet entirely of cooked food.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone for your advice! It was great to hear from folks who've been to Istanbul before and I understand both perspectives. I will just have to use common sense and base my decisions on the tour guide's advice as well as the source of the food. Safe travels everyone!

Posted by
15448 posts

I was told that hotels and reputable restaurants use filtered water to clean fruits and vegetables, so it's okay to eat them. Be more careful with street food.

Posted by
8077 posts

Foodborne illness is just as often caused by unsanitary conditions in the preparation and serving, even if the food itself was clean to begin with. Its cooks and workers not washing hands, not cleaning equipment, not storing at the right temperature, flies, etc. So even if restaurants and street food stands are using "filtered water" its worth some caution. That's true here in the US as well.