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The Istanbul Pact: a delicious travel tip for couples

A meal of Turkish kebabs

It started with a meal; not just any meal, mind, but a really really terrible one. My fiancé and I were in Istanbul, it was dinner time and we were feeling hungry.

Having spent the day taking in the Turkish city’s sights and smells, wandering past ancient mosques and temples, through bustling marketplaces, spice markets and rug shops, we were positively ravenous by the time we stumbled across the traveller-friendly Sultanahmet district.

After strolling down the street, looking for a nice restaurant at which to stop and fuel up, we settled on one with comfortable outdoor seating and a desperate-looking waiter standing out front.

We must have been hungry because we seldom ever settle on a restaurant so quickly – but if you’ve ever been to Turkey then you’ll know that restaurants there rarely ever disappoint. It’s rather difficult to stuff-up doner or shish kebabs.

It’s difficult but not impossible.

I dine on kebabs and beer in Istanbul, Turkey

That’s right, we picked a dud. Not only was the food terrible but we both ordered the exact same thing.

Normally one of the best things about travelling as a couple is ordering two different meals and then sharing them. You can mix and match flavours, try more and, more often than not, finish off your partner’s meal.

Alas it was not to be on that fateful night in Istanbul. Our soggy kebabs had been drowned in sauce, the salad was sparse and the meat was, shall we say, “gross”.

But just as every superhero has a turning point, a defining moment that makes them stand up and choose a life of truth and justice, that meal represented ours. No, we did not become crime fighters (how awesome would that be?!); instead, we vowed to never order the same exact meal again.

And we dubbed it “The Istanbul Pact”.

And so it came to pass that my fiancé and I would never order the same meal as each other in a restaurant again – no matter how much we might like to.

And it’s helped us out countless times. Every now and again when one of us orders something, shall we say, “gross”, we simply share the other meal – or swap them if the other person (usually me) likes the so-called “gross” one.

Of course, there have been times when we’ve been tempted to order the same thing – at Japanese restaurants, for example, where we’d both want to order our favourite katsu curry dish (yum!) – but we always settle such arguments the old-fashioned way: whoever says it first gets to have it.

Backpacking through Asia, too, living up to the Istanbul Pact would often prove challenging – but we’d always be happy we stuck to it.

Sometimes it meant we couldn’t both order something “safe” and “familiar”, other times it would mean we’d have to try something new – pho in Vietnam, for example, or khao soi in northern Thailand – but we’d always stick to this choice couple’s travel tip.

A delicious bowl of Thai-style noodle soup in Chiang RaiSo what do you think – handy travel advice or a crack-pot travel tip? An inspired strategy for travelling couples or just another reason why solo travel works for you?

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14 comments

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  1. eemusings

    This is our MO too, one of the perms of being a couple is trying twice as many dishes!

  2. Agness (@Agnesstramp)

    Nice dishes. I loved the Pho in Vietnam, so I guess I would love the Istanbul soup as well. :) I’m single, so I’ll take a stranger for a dinner once I visit Turkey :)))

    1. Haha, or just eat order enough for two and eat it all yourself ;-) Actually that might not be such a good idea…

  3. Evan McDonald

    This is a great tip. We have often followed this advice, but more because I have a weird thing about ordering the same meal. It has allowed the avoid some bad meals (as you said), but it has also allowed us to try more different meals around the world. We believe in this tip!

    1. I don’t like ordering the same meal much either – and this way we always try something different.

  4. Jenn D

    Great tip! Will follow your advice :)

    1. It works well for us! Definitely give it a try and see how it goes

  5. Zara @ Backpack ME

    Sharing food is one more awesome thing about traveling as a couple. There is so many appealing things to try out and so little time… The Istambul Pact is definetly the way to go, ALWAYS! :)

  6. Lauren, Ephemerratic

    Even at home in San Francisco we never order the same thing. We often “go halfsies” as well, splitting whatever we order. Our other rule is, if the food’s that bad, we will actually walk away from the meal (paying of course), and go eat somewhere else. Better to move on than eat something gross.

    1. We often go halfsies – I like variety (plus I usually eat a bit more than Nic) so it always works particularly well for me!

  7. Raghav

    I have a better thing that I do. I order non-veg and my wife veg. She can’t eat my food but I can eat hers. So if my stuff is good, no need to share. It’s a win-win situation ;-)

    1. Raghav, you sly old dog – that’s a genius idea! Haha

  8. Emily McGee

    Great tip!

    My husband and I do this as well, although I think even if I wanted to order the same food as him he would change his order. He’s always worried that he’s going to miss out on something!

    Now, what’s your take on ordering the same dish over and over at a restaurant? If you know it’s good, do you stick with the same thing, or do you try something new?

    1. Good question, Emily – I think I’m okay with ordering the same thing but I also love trying new things. Terrible answer, I know. Haha.

      I’m more likely to keep ordering the same thing at a chain restaurant, where I’ve been able to try a few things over multiple visits. My fiance, on the other hand, likes to stick with what she knows is good! So I don’t get a look in if I ever want to order a plate of whatever she’s having…

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