10 Ways to Avoid Food Poisoning When Travelling

Food poisoning is something every traveller eventually gets. Despite this, it is avoidable for the most part! Sometimes you just get unlucky, but we have worked out some ways to keep yourself safe.

1. Be Careful of the Water

In countries where you can’t drink the water we like to avoid fresh fruit and veggies, especially salad. If you can’t brush your teeth with the water than you need to be careful with what you order.

Most of the time the fruit and vegetables are washed in tap water and that can be bad news if you are not local. Salads are your highest risk food, as lettuce is hard to wash. As travellers we simply do not have the right bacteria in our stomachs to drink bad tap water.

If you want to eat fruits and veg make sure they are peelable, like bananas. For fruits, we buy the whole fruit and wash it ourselves and cut it up at the hotel.

Smoothies and fruit juices are some of the best parts of Asia and you don’t have to miss out. We always ask if they use filtered water before ordering. Spending the 5 seconds to make sure it’s purified or bottled water is always worth it. We have never got sick from smoothies in our entire year abroad. If you are somewhere where the tap water is drinkable alot of these issues disappear. Also, if the veggies have been cooked and are still hot, we don’t worry about them.

2. Beware of the Ice

We usually ask for no ice in drinks, and if we get it we make sure it’s filtered ice before drinking. Ice gets a lot of people sick cause some assume the water freezing makes it safe for consumption. Most of the time we bring our own refillable water bottles around and if we order drinks we drink them in the can or bottle it comes in.

3. Eat Somewhere that is Busy

When you do not know where to eat we try to go somewhere that looks busy. Places that are popular with locals and have high turnover rates are more likely to have fresher food.

Empty restaurants usually have food that sits out longer, so there is a higher chance they are not following food safe recommendations. When restaurants are selling alot of food and it is busy, there is less chance of getting sick due to the higher turnover of food.

4. Avoid Buffets

For obvious reasons, the food has usually been sitting out for quite sometime. When it’s the only option, I always touch the display case and make sure it’s either cold or hot as it should be.

5. Be Smart about Street Food

We love street food and it can be absolutely fine! However, we really want to emphasize the hot, fresh and busy model. If it’s something cooked over charcoal or a grill we usually don’t worry about it. We look for places with lines or somewhere that is really moving the product.

I usually like to watch for a quick second and make sure their cooking makes sense, and that they aren’t using there raw meat handling tongs or hands to mix salads or touch foods. Looking at you here Turkey kebab men! We have seen countless kebab’s being made around the world where they touch the meat and then use their unwashed hands to roll the wrap! Eww.

Also, take a look at how things are stored. If premade sushi is sitting out, it probably is not safe.

6. Tips Around Eating Meat

We are not vegetarians, but are conscious about meat. Some countries we just choose not to eat meat if the risk of food poisoning is high like Morocco and Nepal. Meat needs to be stored and cooked a particular way, so be careful.

Order the meat in the area that is locally sourced and the people are familiar cooking.

However, we do eat quite a bit of meat while travelling, we are just smart about it. For instance, in Islamic areas we do not eat pork because they do not eat pork. We also don’t order beef in India. These people do not normally cook this kind of meat because they do not eat it so they may not be able to cook it properly. Also, don’t order the salmon in the mountains, that kind of stuff. Who knows how long it took the fish to get there and how they stored it.

We eat cuts of meat and we avoid anything that has been minced or mashed up. A kebap made of chunks of beef is way safer than ground beef clumped onto a kebab. When animal products are minced all of the potential bacteria on the surface gets mixed throughout and the whole item has to be cooked to a safe temp. If you have a meat that is kept whole the bacteria stays trapped on the surface and it’s more likely to be cooked away making it safe for you.

7. Eat where locals do

Poisoning your neighbor is not a good business model, if lots of locals frequent a place it’s more likely to be okay for you.

Bus stop stands and tourist trap restaurants where locals never eat can be a bit riskier as they do not have repeat customers.

8. Cleanliness

When picking restaurants try and find one with a clean dining room. This is also important for the washroom, look for soap in the washroom!

If a restaurant can’t even keep the dining room clean, imagine what the kitchen looks like. We have left many places after using the washroom or sitting down and not finding it clean. Keep in mind there is a big difference between clean and nice. Poorer countries aren’t going to be spic and span, so adjust expectations accordingly.

9. Check the Google Reviews

Checking reviews has been super helpful for us. If you download the offline maps for an area you can still see the review score of restaurants. We don’t always have data so it is great to be able to still look things up. At the very least it will save you from an awful meal. We find 4star or higher, seems to be reliably good. When it’s below that there is usually a reason. I do not always follow this, but if a restaurant is 3star ish many people have been sick there.

10. Coke and Pepto Bismol

If you eat something questionable or if your options are bad, I always drink a coke (usually coke zero) with the meal. In lab settings cola can kill ecoli so hopeful it can do the same in your tummy.

If I feel wierd after a meal, I will take Pepto Bismol. If taken preemptively it can kill ecoli and some other minor pathogens.

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