Getting sick isn’t fun. Getting sick when you’re far from home is even worse. And the chances of sickness may feel higher in a foreign country where the foods are different, there’s a language barrier (maybe you didn’t quite understand what you were ordering), and your stomach may not be used to the local cuisine. And let’s not forget you may encounter hygiene standards that are different from what you’re used to in your home country, particularly if you’re eating street food. All of this means…
I don’t think this should stop you from traveling but, do take a few precautions.
I rarely get sick traveling internationally. So, I’m sharing five things that have helped me. Hopefully, they help you, too.
Is the water in the area you are traveling to known to have a high chance of contamination? If so, consider doing the following:
*Avoiding ice (for example, in restaurants, ask for no ice in drinks)
*Drinking only sealed, bottled/filtered water
*Boiling bottled/filtered water when cooking/making tea or coffee
*Brushing teeth with bottled/filtered water
Before you roll your eyes at this one, hear me out. If your stomach is particularly sensitive, you can also skip eating out a lot and cook your food at home (if you’re renting an apartment/Airbnb).
You don’t have to go to restaurants to experience local cuisine. You can still shop in local markets and find recipes (or even cooking classes) for that area and try your hand at cooking food at yourself. When you prepare your meals/snacks, you obviously have more control over hygiene and preparedness. An added bonus is you save a ton of money.
What are the eating habits that support your best digestion at home?
Keep these habits in mind when abroad. We often get carried away when traveling and drop certain habits we know support us. I can’t say what your habits are. Each person is different.
For example, maybe you need to avoid fried foods or drink a certain amount of water or take probiotics daily, etc. You know yourself (hopefully).
As much as you can, try to stick to what already works best for your body.
Wash and Wash Again (Fruit & Veg)
Thoroughly wash all fruits and veggies even if they have peel/skin on them.
Sometimes you have to take a few extra steps when you’re unsure about possible contamination. I rather take a few cautionary steps than spend an evening (or many days) hot-stepping in and out of the toilet. No, thank you!
Be Ready…Just in Case
For your own peace of mind, travel with an anti-diarrheal medication and/or something that soothes your stomach just in case you need it.
Unfortunately, no matter how cautious you are, you may still get sick. It helps if you know you have something on hand that may settle your stomach. If you’ve ever been stuck on a long bus or train ride with an upset stomach, you know the nightmare of that experience. And having something that could calm your angry stomach, gives some peace of mind.
Some people travel with antibiotics and/or over-the-counter diarrhea meds. Others bring along natural remedies. You know yourself and your preferences.
Explore your options and consider what you can travel with. I choose to travel with anti-diarrheal meds.
This also goes for motion-sickness medication. Do long, winding road trips upset your stomach? Maybe boat/ferry rides do a number on you? Know yourself and prepare.
If any of these bother you, it doesn’t hurt to travel with something that helps you in these situations. You may not need it, but it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it (I feel like my mother typing this).
Enjoy your trip, but just like being safe, you need to travel conscientiously and be observant of where you’re purchasing food.
We often have a sense about establishments and food. Pay attention to those senses. If something just doesn’t feel– or smell–right, follow your gut (no pun intended).
When all else fails: If it looks or smells ‘off’, don’t eat it.