When you’re on foreign land, one of the most exciting experiences is mindlessly sampling all the new food available. But, while your palate may enjoy this, your stomach might not. This could translate to frequent trips to the loo, which doesn’t make for such a fun vacation. One way to prevent a nasty sickness when you are traveling abroad is to indulge in these eight safe drinking and eating habits:
1. Wash Your Hands Often
Wherever you are traveling abroad, washing your hands properly with soap and warm water is the key to prevent food-borne as well as respiratory illnesses. If this isn’t easily accessible where you are, make sure you carry an antibacterial hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes at all times.
Maintaining personal hygiene is of utmost importance, especially when you’re in developing or underdeveloped countries. Wash thoroughly for at least twenty seconds before and after cooking, eating as well as using the loo.
2. Prefer Packaged Foods
Here’s some good news – you can purchase and consume packaged and canned food items in foreign lands with peace of mind. This is because they are untouched by hands and come sealed from the factory in air-tight containers. This includes snacks like packaged crackers, canned tuna, and potato chips as long as you check that the packaging isn’t damaged before opening it. You can also pack a quantity of your favorite packaged food from home, as these tend to have a long shelf life. If you’re still thinking about how everything will fit in your vehicle, consider installing a discovery 3 roof rack on your car.
Dry foods like cookies, cakes, and bread are usually okay to eat, too. Only use condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise when they come in sealed bottles or sachets. Hard cheeses and pasteurized milk are considered safe but stay away from unpasteurized products like yogurt.
3. Avoid Drinking Tap Water
All it takes is a minimal amount of contaminated tap water to get you sick. This means you shouldn’t drink or use tap water or water fountains, even for brushing. Since ice is also usually made from tap water, it is best to forego it when you’re to a new place. Instead, go for sealed-bottled water or water from a purifier. Seltzer or carbonated water is also an acceptable alternative. The presence of bubbles is an indication that the bottle is intact and tightly sealed.
4. Prefer Steaming Hot Food Over Street Food
The microbes responsible for diarrhea die when food is cooked at high heat, so anything that is properly heated and served piping-hot is usually safe. This is also applicable to beverages, like coffee or tea. However, stay away from buffet-style services. As the food is kept outside for a long time after it’s cooked and can contaminate again.
Eating street food is a great way to save money and try something new, but it’s best to avoid it entirely when you’re abroad. If you really must, make sure you only eat from vendors who cook your food in front of you and are hygienic enough. Busier kiosks or carts are usually a safer option.
5. Avoid Raw Food
Raw vegetables and fruits look safe, but they might have been washed with contaminated water. So as a general rule, avoid eating raw veggies and fruits outside. By extension, this means you should also prevent salads, sandwiches, and burgers from vendors. If you want to have them, buy oranges, melons, bananas or any other fruit that has skins for you to peel. Or, buy from a vendor who washes the fruit and wears gloves while cutting the fruits.
It’s also essential to avoid undercooked or uncooked eggs, meat, shellfish (oysters, mussels, clams), and all other seafood. If you’re eating a steak at a restaurant, order it “medium rare”.
6. Don’t Try Exotic Dishes
Exotic meat might look very tempting, and the curious foodie in you might push you to give it a taste, but it’s best when avoided. Local wild game, which is also called bushmeat, is the meat of undomesticated animals and usually packed with viruses, including those that cause SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola. These meats can also be extracted from threatened or endangered species of animals. This is why you should avoid exotic delicacies that use rodents, bats, monkeys, or anything else you don’t get back at home.
7. Do Your Research
Before you leave, make sure you do in-depth research into the places you will be visiting. This is to prepare yourself to anticipate issues you might have to deal with, like poor water quality. This step becomes more important if you’re going to be in impoverished countries. You can check out the websites of the WHO and the CDC to get accurate information.
You can also talk to friends who have already traveled to these destinations. And, your travel agent can also gather more information on what to pack and how to stay safe.
8. Visit Your Health Care Provider Before You Leave
Your doctor knows best and can provide you with expert advice before you travel. Make sure to ask about essential medications you can carry. If you use any prescription medicine, make sure you get enough of them to last throughout the entire trip.
Proper vaccination can prevent food-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis A. Talk to your health care professional to arrange these for you at least 4 to 6 weeks before you get on the road.
To have an indulgent and safe culinary adventure when traveling abroad, exercise common sense, caution, and good hygiene with everything you eat. You can avoid food poisoning and most food-borne illnesses in the ways discussed above.