Part of the fun of travelling is being able to experience new cultures – the way they behave, dress and the foods they eat. Often you’ll come into contact with ingredients you’ve never heard of before, which get put into mouth-watering meals. The locals and tour guides will often recommend this “hole in the wall which makes the best [insert local dis here] that you absolutely have to try!” While this sense of adventure means you’ll want to try everything in sight – perhaps you want to be able to brag about your new foodie status when you get back home – you must err on the side of caution when it comes to foods and drinks abroad. The food safety regulations in some countries are much more lax than those of the west, with restaurants not undergoing the same scrutiny. Plus those hole in the wall restaurants with the delicious food, the secret to their delicious food may be that the chef perhaps isn’t as clean as you’d hope. Below are some simple things to keep in mind when chowing down abroad.
- Don’t eat undercooked, uncooked food or unpasteurised dairy products
- Be wary of salads and fruits without a peel as they may carry diseases you’re unaware of – where possible stick to fruit with a feel and thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them
- Be careful eating at the ‘local hole in the wall restaurants with the great food’ – you don’t know if they’re following proper food preparation procedures
- Mad Cow disease and other food borne diseases may still be a prominent issue in some countries – be sure to check if this is relevant to your destination to better inform your food decisions when travelling
- Always carry a travel size hand sanitizer – using it before eating will help to eliminate the number of germs on your hands
- If you’re going to a country which has a reputation for making travellers sick (think Bali or Delhi Belly) make sure you bring the relevant medication to treat this – better safe than sorry
- Tap water isn’t safe to drink everywhere in the world, this is something you should research about your destination prior to departing. Drinking the water can make you quite sick, to avoid this you should only drink bottled water (or in some cases boiling the water should sufficiently eliminate the bacteria) – this goes for when you’re brushing your teeth too
- Often if you’ve gotten a drink with ice cubes these would have been made using tap water, if you can’t drink the tap water in your destination ask for a drink without ice. Freezing contaminated water helps to preserve the bacteria, not eliminate it!
- Check the seals on all your drinks – if the seal has been tampered with you should drink it
- Beware of alcohol that isn’t served to you in some sort of brand packaging; in some countries locals produce their own alcohol out of unknown ingredients. These lethal cocktails have left numerous travellers sick, with some even experiencing permanent brain damage
If at some point in your trip you do begin to feel sick, seek medical assistance. While it may turn out to be nothing, it’s better to be safe with some food and water borne diseases able to cause serious damage if left untreated. Ensure you have travel insurance before you leave, this will assist you should you require medical assistance whilst overseas.