One of the highlights of travelling abroad for most people is experiencing the local cuisine. It’s a joy no one should deny themselves, but like most things, it’s something that requires vigilance.
According to a National Travel Survey by PR Newswire, 63% of travelers reported that they or a holiday companion had got sick while on vacation, and 12% of those were due to food poisoning. This is a startling figure.
It’s best to be a wise and wary food consumer rather than being one that will eat anything no matter how sketchy.
Below are some key factors that will keep you safe and healthy when eating food abroad:
1) Be careful of local water
Unlike many developed countries, you have to be careful not to drink straight from the tap when you’re travelling in less affluent countries. Always opt for purified bottled water over tap water.
2) Be wary of raw meat
No matter how careful and hygienic you are when handling food yourself, you can’t count on street food vendors and restaurant staff in developing countries to maintain the same standards. There are usually no by-laws to ensure high standards and so anything goes. Especially when you’re dining in a small hole-in-the-wall with questionable cleanliness, it’s a huge risk not knowing how your food is being handled. Choose cooked food over raw food as frying, boiling, or baking at high temperatures kills germs.
3) Eat fruits and vegetables you can peel
Eating tropical fruits and vegetables, especially ones that not readily available or are expensive at home, is a real treat when you are travelling. However it is advisable to purchase those that have skin that you can peel, such as bananas, papayas, and oranges. Vegetables and other fruits with skin you can eat, such as apples, should be cleansed thoroughly first with purified water.
4) Check out where you’re buying food from before buying
In exploring where to eat, check out places first before ordering. It’s essential that the restaurant, food stall, or food cart looks clean and well-kept as it proves they are using proper sanitation procedures when preparing and cooking your food. One quick look at the server’s attire or underneath your table can tell you how clean (or dirty) the restaurant/fast-food shop you’re in. A dirty rag used to clean down a food preparation area is not a good sign.
It is somewhat reassuring if you can see that an eatery is popular with the local people.
5) Know what’s in your food before ordering it
Knowledge is power. Understanding the ingredients that go in your food is always important, but it is critically important if you have specific food allergies. Consult with the waiter or the cook, lest you’ll end up with a life-threatening attack. If you don’t speak the local language then carry a phrase-book to help you communicate effectively your allergies to the locals or, better yet, a card with your translated allergies/intolerances (and the serious consequences if you ingested them) written clearly on it. Also purchase and carry some antihistamine tablets (for allergies) with you on your travels overseas. This way, you’ll be able to mitigate a reaction if you unfortunately ate a food you’re allergic to.
Don’t let yourself to be harmed by one of the best and simplest pleasures in life. Keep these tips in mind and you are much more likely to have a healthy, happy holiday.