“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.
Hippocrates

Travel Food Safety Tips

After spending almost twelve years on the road, my stomach seems to have absorbed so many different microbes that I rarely get diarrhea or other food-borne illnesses. I used to have numerous bouts of traveler’s diarrhea (Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge).  

There is nothing more frustrating on the road. (I once threw up and had nasty diarrhea simultaneously in the back seat of a cab in Mumbai). Therefore, I highly recommend that Fifty Plus Nomads do their best to follow these simple travel food safety tips:  

Hopefully, like me, most other Fifty Plus Nomads will experience fewer food safety problems the longer they travel. 

Nonetheless, here are some of my best (and other travel experts) tips for avoiding food safety issues that you should always consider, even if you have an iron stomach: 

  • Eat in a busy place while locals eat. Otherwise, you may be eating food that is not fresh. 
  • Exercise caution when eating at buffets, even at higher-end restaurants. The food at buffets is often left out for hours, attracting all kinds of unpleasant microbes. 
  • Do not be afraid to send back food if it is only lukewarm. Heat kills the most dangerous microbes. 
  • Street food can be safe if there is a line of people. The line means that food moves fast and that many others have not had problems with the food in the past. It is an excellent sign if many families or seniors are in line. If the food is safe for children and seniors, it is safe for everyone. 
  • Avoid ice and water in cheaper, local-oriented restaurants unless it is typically safe in your destination. (In Mexico this is, for example, ice is seldom a problem anymore because most people buy gallons of water and use this water to make ice cubes). To find out if the water is safe in your destination, ask around, check internet advice, or consult the World Trips website
  • At a restaurant or food kiosk, check to ensure that: 1) food is handled separately from money and ingredients are separate from each other (i.e., raw meat next to tortillas), 2) the tables, silverware, and plates. 3)The food workers are clean, and 4) if you can see the kitchen prep area, check if they use gloves/tongs and the food looks fresh. 
  • In Third World Countries, check for packaged food alterations. Occasionally vendors add water to drinks. Altered bottles open too quickly or are loose. (Much less common than 20 years ago). Also, check to see if the food is expired. Watch out; the date on the package may reflect the packing date rather than the “best by” date. 
  • Wash fruit in bottled water when the water from the faucet is not potable. Please note that many places like Mexico use bottled water to clean fruit. Eat fruit in season. It is fresher, safer, and better tasting. 
  • If you get diarrhea, eat bread, and use oral rehydration salts. Drink lots of bottled water, sports drinks, and decaffeinated tea. 
  • If you are dehydrated, place water with ice (as cold as possible) in a pitcher and pour it over yourself. (Note: Alcohol is dehydrating. In a tropical climate, drink water whenever you drink alcoholic drinks). 
  • Be careful if you are at a high altitude. Altitude sickness can be brutal. Take it easy, eat easy-to-digest foods, and, if necessary, ask for some oxygen.  
  • Be even more vigilant about making sure that your hands are clean. Use hand sanitizers frequently, especially after handling money. 

Fifty Plus Nomad offers personalized workshops and courses in Spanish, English, Living and Traveling in Mexico, and Long-Term Travel Book a Two-hour Free Sample Introductory Session

Want More Travel Food Safety Tips? 

Check out this post from Eat Right

Additional Long-Term Travel Posts From Fifty Plus Nomad

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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