I’ll never forget the time I got holiday sickness in Portugal after eating a dodgy tuna steak. I was constantly throwing up, my stomach was in agony and I was exhausted. It rendered me unable to leave the hotel room for around three days, wiping out most of my holiday. Since then, I’ve been more wary when it comes to the food and drink I consume while travelling.
So, as someone who makes a full-time income from writing about food and travel, how do I manage to explore everything that a cuisine has to offer, while also taking care to ensure I don’t upset my tummy? Here are the golden rules I follow to avoid holiday sickness when it comes to eating out when travelling:
1. Be extra careful about eating street food
Exploring the street food scene is one of the best ways to experience the authentic cuisine of any destination, enabling you to eat like a local and taste foods that may not be available in restaurants.
However, it’s important to exercise caution when it comes to eating street food while travelling. Although lots of street food is safe to eat and freshly cooked, perhaps even while you watch, the conditions that street food is often prepared in can pave the way for holiday sickness or food poisoning.
I also take note of whether street food is being freshly prepared, or whether it was prepared earlier on in the day. If it has previously been cooked and it’s going to be reheated for you to eat, make sure it’s heated to a core temperature of at least 60ºC to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present – ideally, the vendor should be using a probe to check the temperature.
To find out what else to look out for when eating street food while abroad, check out my post on how to eat street food with dietary concerns. Dependent on where you are going for your holiday, you might wish to apply the same standards to dining out at restaurants too – just because a venue is high-end, doesn’t mean you can trust the food it dishes up.
2. Consider ditching tap water for bottled water
Many people prefer to drink bottled water as opposed to tap water while on holiday. In some developing countries, the tap water supply contains microorganisms which could cause an upset tummy for those who aren’t used to drinking it.
In general, it’s advised that you avoid drinking tap water when visiting developing countries such as India, Africa, South America, Mexico and parts of Asia.
As well as ensuring you only drink water from sealed water bottles, you’ll need to avoid asking for ice cubes in your drinks. I made the mistake of forgetting this rule one night at a wedding in Delhi, and within ten minutes, I was heading back to the hotel in a taxi, with a stomach full of razor blades. Luckily, the pain passed by the morning but I’ve been more mindful of refusing ice cubes in my drinks when travelling to certain countries ever since.
3. Seek medical advice
Don’t take this blog post as gospel when it comes to deciding what you should or shouldn’t eat while travelling. I’m no doctor; I’m simply letting you in on the general rules I follow myself when it comes to eating out around the world.
When you visit your GP doctor to enquire about vaccinations before you travel, they should be able to offer you reliable medical advice on which foods to avoid when travelling to a particular destination in order to reduce the risk of holiday sickness, as well as letting you know whether the tap water supply is safe to drink.
If you do happen to feel unwell when travelling, whether this is due to something you’ve eaten, drank or another matter altogether, consult with a local doctor as soon as possible. Many hotels and resorts have an on-site doctor or nurse who you can speak to in these circumstances, and they can refer you on to another medical professional if necessary. In my experience, medical advice and/or treatment abroad is often just as good than it is back home, but if you have any doubts about the quality of care you’ve received, you may wish to seek legal advice regarding medical negligence.
4. Ask locals where they like to eat
Chatting to the locals to find out where they prefer to eat is one of the best tips I can give you if you want to make the most of your travel experience. Not only will this ensure that you get to taste the highest quality, most authentic food a destination has to offer, but it will also help you to reduce the risk of getting holiday sickness while abroad.
After all, the locals will know all the best places to eat, and they wouldn’t send you somewhere that has a bad reputation for food hygiene or cleanliness.
The easiest way to strike up a conversation with the locals about where to eat out is to get chatting with resort or hotel staff, shop-keepers, bar staff, bus drivers or, if you’re feeling particularly confident, any passers-by who look like they know the area well.
If you really want to avoid getting holiday sickness while you’re away, there are a few foods to consider avoiding altogether, as they are often linked to cases of holiday sickness.
As a general rule, avoid raw foods. Salads, raw meat and uncooked seafood, in particular, are more likely to contain nasty bacteria that could make you ill. Always peel or cut up fresh fruit and veg, unless you can be confident they have been washed in safe water, and prepared by someone wearing gloves or with clean hands.
In addition, you might want to give buffet food a miss; you don’t know how long the food has been sitting in the containers, not to mention whose hands have touched it.
What tips can you offer other readers on how to reduce the risk of holiday sickness? Please share your ideas in the comment box below.