Eating Abroad - Tips For Sickness-Free Travels


Thrill and adventure are abundant when traveling abroad; experiencing the breathtaking geological scenery, traveling back in time at history and art museums, or enjoying the glamourous, lively nightlife are sometimes once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But most of all, the love of cuisine is a universal bonding experience amongst travelers worldwide. While indulging in the mouthwatering, decadent flavors of exotic foods, it's common to put foodborne health concerns on the back burner. Nothing will ruin a once-in-a-lifetime meal like severe, unexpected allergic reactions or the gut-wrenching pain of food poisoning. Thankfully, being mindful of how, where, and what you eat overseas comes easy with basic traveling common sense.

Be wary of where you buy local food.

Certain countries, such as Thailand and China, are highly admired amongst travelers for their exotic cuisine. However, daring culinary thrills are also the leading cause of illness while traveling, as there is a higher risk of ingesting dangerous viruses, bacteria, or parasites with specific options. These include:

  • Street vendors: Popular in busy tourist cities, street vendors are well-regarded for quick and affordable eats. However, depending on the country, they may not adhere to food safety and preparation precautions legally mandated for sit-down eateries such as restaurants and fast food chains. If you decide to eat street food overseas, keep an eye out for the cleanliness of cooking equipment and dishware, the visual freshness of the ingredients being used, and whether the food is cooked made to order or left to set for hours.
  • Bushmeat: Generally a blanket term, bushmeat refers to the meat of various wildlife species for human consumption, often about the native forest and savanna animals in Africa. Bushmeat includes rats, bats, snakes, and monkeys. Consumption of bushmeat, unfortunately, poses a high risk of contracting animal-borne diseases, such as the Ebola virus.
  • Uncooked food, particularly raw produce: Initially, it would make sense that consuming fruits and vegetables abroad is a health-conscious choice, but they may be coated in infected with harmful pathogens. Be weary while eating produce-based foods overseas, such as sandwiches, salads, smoothies, etc. Dishes prepared with uncooked meat can also be hazardous and cause foodborne illness. For example, a delicacy similar to sushi originated in Japan is 'sashimi,' thinly sliced raw meat or seafood.

Opt to cook for yourself instead of eating out.

To stay safe while eating abroad, you can instead buy meal ingredients at reputable grocery stores/markets that follow local safety and health regulations. Prepackaged, preserved, and dried food options are safer and pose less risk of germ contamination. For example, rice, pasta, legumes, and frozen produce are excellent base options for a home-cooked meal. In addition, as long as the safety seal has not been tampered with, bags and boxes of factory-sealed food products are safe for consumption.