You’re on vacation. You planned to enjoy your time off in a different country. You didn’t expect you would be hanging out in the bathroom or in excruciating pain, did you? Well, that’s what happens when you get sick and get travelers diarrhea. Not ideal, right?
A lot of people get sick and a lot of people don’t get sick. It’s honestly just whether or not you get lucky… or unlucky I should say. Some people are overly cautious in countries and some people are not. I’ve been to Bali two times and wasn’t overly cautious with their water. My friend, however, was overly cautious and said the water was horrible and I should brush my teeth with bottled water! I ended up getting travelers diarrhea on the last day so maybe I should have listened to her…
Here are some tips to avoid getting sick. It is definitely dependent on what country you’re in, how bad the water is, how sanitary the country is, etc. but these are a good rule of thumb to follow when traveling.
1. Drink filtered water.
Recently I have been big on my use of plastic, but it’s so important to drink filtered or bottled water when you’re traveling to places with unsanitary water. A lot of hostels and hotels will have water jugs that you can refill your water bottle. I always do that when I can. If I’m staying in a place for a long time, I’ll buy a big jug to refill my own water bottle. If I can’t do either, I just buy bottled water. Make sure when buying bottled water that it is SEALED! A lot of places will refill a water bottle with their own water and pretend to seal it.
2. Avoid ice in your drinks.
Ice cubes are generally made using their own water. Therefore, you should ask for your drinks without ice. A lot of people forget about ice, and drink their soda or whatever drink they got with ice cubes and end up getting sick.
If you’re at a nice restaurant or in a touristy area, their menu will generally state that they use purified water to make the ice. Double check with them!!
3. Say no to fresh raw vegetables and fruits.
This was the hardest for me. Especially when you’re in a cheap, hot and humid country, fresh fruit and salads are so nice to have! A good rule of thumb is only eat fruit if you peel it. For example, you can eat oranges and bananas because you can peel it yourself. If someone else peels it, washes it, and cuts it, you might get sick. If they use their own knife to cut it and the knife was washed in their water, you can get sick.
Again, if you’re at a nice restaurant or in a touristy area, the will generally specify that they wash the vegetables in purified/filtered water. If that’s the case, then go for it!! I went wild whenever I ate a restaurant that did that.
Also, of course you can eat fruit and fresh food if you wash it yourself in filtered water.
4. Brush your teeth with bottled water.
I usually don’t do this… I only started doing it when I went to India and Nepal since the water was so bad there. I’ve generally been fine… but if the water is super bad, I recommend brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth with bottled water. Better safe than sorry!
5. Avoid sketchy street food/meat.
If you can, try to avoid eating meat. A lot of people get sick from eating meat that are not fully and properly cooked. If you avoid eating meat during your trip, you will lessen your chance at getting food poisoning.
Some of the greatest foods come from street vendors. Make sure wherever you’re ordering street food from is a popular, clean place.
6. Avoid blended drinks.
Since blended drinks (smoothies, coffee, cocktails, etc) use ice in their drinks, it is generally not a good idea to get a blended drink. Unless they specify they use store bought ice or filtered ice cubes, you should opt out of the blended drinks while on vacation.
7. Only order cooked food.
This goes with #3 – since you should not eat fresh vegetables and food, you should only eat cooked food. High heat kills the germs that cause travelers diarrhea so it’s always wise to eat cooked food.
8. Pay attention to the ingredients.
As I prepared for my India trip, my friend who is from India told me to pay close attention to what ingredients are in my food. For example, if I order chutney, I need to make sure to ask without mint or any fresh toppings they put on it. Even if the dish is cooked, but they top it with some fresh mint leaves, that can still get you sick! They most likely washed the mint leaves with their own water which is what can get you sick. That is what happened to my Indian friend. So make sure you pay close attention to the ingredients and ask for the dish without it!
Enjoy the food!!
One of the best parts of traveling is trying the local cuisine and eating all the delicious food. Make sure to be cautious, but make sure to also enjoy your time!! Don’t waste it by being super paranoid and avoid great things. If you do get sick, there’s always medicine you can take. But remember – it’s better out than in! And whatever is in your body is toxic and your body is trying to get rid of it… so let it do what it’s supposed to do!
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