Travel in general is the best way to get to know new cultures and experience the local culinary specialties. However, food might not always be handled correctly, which might upset your stomach for a short time or, worse, get you really sick.
Foods and Drinks to Avoid During Travels
There are a few foods and drinks to avoid when travelling. Here is an overview of those to skip.
- Raw Food:
It is wise to be careful with any “raw” food such as seafood, meat, and salads, as they most likely cause food poisoning. If wrongly stored, they can hold bacteria from E. coli to salmonella and make you very sick. Once they are properly cooked, they are safe to eat.
- Water and Ice Cubes:
In some parts of the world, tap water can contain bacteria, and other countries have drinking water that has been chlorinated. The latter one should not be interpreted as water that is contaminant-free. Even if locals are using the water, travellers can become ill simply because their immune system is not used to the particular water pathogens in the country they travel to. The best way to stay safe is to avoid drinking it.
Most hotels offer buffet-style breakfast, lunch, and dinners. It is easy for the organization and many people can be served at once. If you have a weak stomach, it is better to avoid eating from it unless you are there at the time when the set-up is just finished. If food stays a long time on a buffet, it becomes a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, especially if food preparation is done in a less sanitary space, or if food has been kept too long at the wrong temperature.
- Street Food:
Street food is usually the most authentic food to find when travelling and we love it. Unfortunately, it is often prepared without following hygiene rules or without taking care of food safety measurements. It is best to avoid raw or semi-cooked food and always check that cooked food is properly roasted or cooked through. Uncovered food can also be dangerous as it is exposed to rodents, flies and other dirt.
- Local Specialties:
It is an honor for the locals if you try their local culinary dishes. Some dishes might be totally different, bizarre, or unique and really inviting. We encourage you to try them, but always check if the place is clean and if the preparation is done properly and in “acceptable hygienic” ways. Your body is used to your particular lifestyle and might be upset when changing these habits, even in the best possible conditions. Think of spices and other ingredients you are not used to eating. We always check if the place has many locals. If so, it means that the food is good and also that there is enough rotation of the stock.
- Alcoholic Beverages:
This is a killer for many travellers. In some countries, it is a custom to offer local alcohol to visitors. Be aware that these local brews are often much stronger than the alcohol we are used to at home. Therefore, it is best to stick to the well-known labels and always keep moderation in mind. Besides, it dehydrates your body, and this happens even faster if you have to fly the next day.
Foods and Drinks That Are Safe
Now that we summed up a list of foods and drinks to choose with care, there are plenty of eatables to enjoy!
- Pre-packaged Foods:
Pre-packaged foods are easy to carry when travelling, but they usually also have a long shelf life, so they don’t need to be kept in the fridge or at specific temperatures. Nuts, canned food, pasta, and dried fruits are only a few examples.
- Cooked Foods:
It is not easy to carry your own homemade food when travelling for a long time, but if you’re only “on the road” for a few days, it is something you might think of. Some people prefer it, especially if they are following a specific diet. Some hotel rooms have kitchenettes where you have the necessary equipment to finish the meal you brought, and otherwise you can always ask the hotel staff to quickly warm your food in the microwave. If you are travelling for an extended period of time, you can always visit a local store to find foods that you enjoy.
Travel is wonderful, especially if you can enjoy the full experience, including the culinary adventures. You know your body and also how it will react to certain foods and drinks. The above-mentioned warnings are for those with a very weak immune system, and we encourage you to enjoy the most of each trip you make, whether it be for leisure or business-related.
This is a feature article by Yannick and Ilse, long-term expat cooks who launched Culinary Ambition to share their passion for food and travel. They are members of our community and contribute a monthly column called “Healthy Treats” on how entrepreneurs can live a healthy lifestyle.