One of the essential parts of traveling is the food. Each country has different food, and when you travel, the first thing that comes to mind is to gobble up as many local dishes as possible.
However, eating outside, especially at a place you’ve never been to before, can be risky. That’s why here are a few tips for eating out without getting sick.
Check out the crowd
Eat at the stalls with the longest line of locals. You might have heard this advice a million times, and it still works. Even better, look for stalls with lines of men, women, and children.
A more diverse customer base means that the stall provides food that is delicious and safe for everyone. You might be tempted to cut the waiting time and go to a stall with no customers. But just think, why aren’t there any customers there in the first place?
Go back to school or college
Ahh, those golden school and college days, when all it took was a dollar to fill your tummy with yummy food. You can still do it, can’t you?
Go to a local university and find a place nearby to each. Most restaurants and street food stalls near colleges are inexpensive. Moreover, students are one of the hungriest bunch of people, so these spots always have traffic.
It might not be the best dining experience, but it’ll be safe, cheap, quick, and delicious. But yeah, these places are not recommended for a date.
Look for stalls where you can see how food and money are handled. If the same person is serving the food, touching raw material, then collecting money, and then again touching food, you shouldn’t eat there. Even if the person is wearing plastic gloves but doing the same, look for other stalls. Ideally, you should look for spots where there are at least two parties, one person in charge of the cash, and the other for cooking.
Have allergy translation cards with you if you have food restrictions
Food allergies are common. For example, if you have celiac disease, pre-made soy sauces can make you sick. You can modify your meal as it is cooked on street food stalls, but in restaurants, you’ll need to rely on pre-made stuff.
Here’s where allergy translation cards can come in handy. These cards can either be in the form of a hard copy or a soft copy on your mobile phone. For instance, you can have a translation card if you have peanut allergies that should list the ingredients that you need to avoid.
These cards can go a long way in letting the other person know your problem instead of trying to convey it with gestures.
Cutlery can be the culprit
Cutlery can be the source of germs and bacteria, even if the food is fresh and safe. Instead of arguing with the stall owner to wipe the utensils again, carry baby wipes. You can give a quick wipe to wooden chopsticks or utensils that don’t seem to be well-washed.
You might attract a few stares and weird looks from the locals, but it’s way better than getting stares from other patients in the general ward of a hospital. Alternatively, carrying portable chopsticks will also do the trick if you don’t want to carry wipes.
Morning markets and fresh-cooked food
If you’re not sure where to start with street food, head to a busy produce market. It can be a bustling market in the center of the city or a small arrangement of shops that sell fresh produce in a village. Produce markets are known to have some freshly cooked food as most hungry shoppers stop by them throughout the day. Since these shops always have traffic, the quality of the food is excellent.
Most people, when they travel, opt for hotels with breakfasts included. While that might be a fine option, the hotel you’re staying in might not provide the authentic cuisine. And would it make sense to go to a place and not try its food? Local markets are usually the best to try local food. Whether it’s time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, local markets will always have something to offer.
Eat when the locals eat
Another pro tip for tourists is to mimic the local food times for their meals. For instance, you might be used to 9 am breakfasts, and 10 pm dinners, whereas in some countries, people have 11 am lunches and 6 pm dinners. Eating when the locals eat would always be beneficial as you can expect to get the best quality food. Besides, eating early is good for your gut, too.
This is exclusively important if you’re eating in a place where food is cooked in served in buffet style. You’d want to eat the food early when it’s fresh. Eating late means bacteria will join you, and you’ll soon get sick.
Always eat fully-cooked food
Yes, there are some places where people eat partially cooked or even raw food. Don’t be one of those people, and always opt for food that’s fully cooked. For example, you’ll find shrimp dishes and raw herbs in Thailand. While it’s fine to be a bit adventurous when you travel, don’t take risks that your stomach can’t handle.
Say no to ice or fruit shake stalls
When you visit a place with a hot climate, like Africa or South Asia, you might be tempted to get a glass of fruit shake or juice. While these drinks can be potentially healthy, make sure to check the water used in making them. But in most cases, you won’t be able to know the quality of water or ice. So, it’s better to avoid drinks with water or ice.
Only eat peelable fruits
That goes without saying; you should only eat peelable fruits – bananas, papaya, mango, etc. Don’t eat lettuce or fruits with skin, such as apples. Fruits like strawberries and cherries might look tempting, but it’s better to avoid them.
Sauces can be risky
Some street food dishes might taste delicious with a table condiment, but sauces are known to cause travelers some distress. In many destinations, sauces are kept at room temperature, and thus, they can breed bacteria over time. If you’re not sure whether you should use sauce or not, see what other diners are doing. If they’re liberally using it, you might go for it, too.
Pack some digestion boosters
No matter how many precautions you take, you might get unlucky and sick. Using activated charcoal can help if you’re feeling a bit queasy. This can occur if you’ve got a hangover or you at excess gluten.
Second, always carry digestive enzymes, especially if you have digestive issues. But even if you don’t have any problems, it’s always wise to carry them. You can also carry some ginger root tea bags with you and use them if your stomach feels a bit off.
Food junkies always get high on food and want to jump on a food stall as soon as they see one. While trying street food is worth it, there are some precautions to follow. Make sure to abide by the above tips to enjoy street food while without getting sick.