Common Sense Eating and Drinking

Eating exotic and interesting food is often one of the most exciting aspects of any trip. It is for us, we love trying new food and eating as much as we can like the locals. You must, however remember that you aren’t local and your stomach will most likely not be accustomed to the local hygiene standards.

Piranha (c) O.BoundyThere are hundreds of articles on the web regarding safe eating practices abroad and we’re not purporting to know any different. What we would say is that we didn’t get ill in most of South America until we were in Peru. From here on in we had three weeks of it. This was definitely through eating piranha we caught from the Amazon. A pretty silly move in hindsight.

Here are some basic points to follow, though remember if you’re terrified of getting ill you’ll end up eating burgers and pizza (and you can find them) in every country and not tasting any real local food.

Common sense Water

Put simply, don’t drink tap water anywhere unless you know it’s safe. In some countries the tap water is safe to drink but the mineral levels are high and could make you feel unwell. Buy sealed, bottled water, It’s available everywhere and it’s cheap. Sealed waterThe locals drink it and so should you. If you aren’t sure about the ice any establishment is offering, don’t have it. Beer in South East Asia is often served with ice, especially in less touristy places. It is unlikely to have been made from purified water so just say no thank you.

Common sense Food

That seafood buffet might look inviting but ask yourself, do I trust that this place is clean? If you are in any doubt steer clear. Mussels and oysters present risks even when prepared in safe environments so be sensible about eating them abroad.

Guides often recommend steering clear of yoghurt. We have eaten yoghurt all year and haven’t had any problems, just make sure they are in date, if you suspect they haven’t been kept properly, don’t eat them.

Milk can be a major risk, even in top hotels. Chloe got very ill from contaminated milk in a hotel in India. Use your nose, smell it and if you are in the slightest bit unsure don’t touch it. Toast might not be as exciting as those cheerios but the after effects will be much more pleasant.

Common sense eat local

Beef noodle soup might sound like an odd option for breakfast but it will be a whole lot better than a re-imagining of an American breakfast.

If you are in a country where the locals don’t eat what you are ordering don’t presume it will be prepared as you would expect.
Ordering steak tartare in Cambodia is a recipe for trouble. Use your head.
Rats (c) O.Boundy
(The herbs didn’t make this taste any better)
If you want to be super cautious then only eat fruit you can peel or have seen peeled and only eat food that has been freshly cooked. This should see you pretty well through your trip.

Common sense street food

Street food in South East Asia is famous and rightly so. You just need to be a little careful when choosing who to buy from. People in most of South East Asia eat all the time and cheap, convenient street food is everywhere to cater for this.
The best thing we found was to eat when the locals eat and eat where they eat. Look for where is busy and clean. Vendors with a high turnover won’t have food lying around all day. They will often, however pack up earlier than other sellers as they don’t need to hawk their goods into the night to tourists who have had a few too many beerlaos.
If you can ask that any meat be well cooked or at least medium to well. Also it sounds obvious but keep your hands clean, after all this is the easiest route for bacteria into your body.
Silk Worms (c) O.Boundy
That all said we have been travelling for a while now and haven’t been too beset by illness. In fact only marginally more than we would have at home and we have eaten in street kitchens and have tried everything from random shopfronts selling things we have never seen before to silkworms on the street.