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Many of you have been watching my videos on eating street food and you’re wondering how I eat street food without getting sick. First of all, I have gotten sick (twice!), but let me get to that later in the video, because I have more to share on that. I wanted to share street food myth busters and safety tips for how to eat street food without getting sick.
Below, I’m going to summarize the main points of the video. Watch the video for more detail.
Table of Contents: 14 Street Food Safety Tips to Avoid Getting Sick Whilst Traveling
How to Eat Street Food without getting sick
There are many countries in which the drinking water is unsafe or unclean. Sometimes, the food practices aren’t so hygienic.
Street Food Safety Tips:
I’ll share food safety tips for not getting sick while traveling. There are Dos and Don’ts and practical advice to share to help your gastronomic journey flow smoothly. Let’s start with the things to avoid in your street food choices.
2. Avoid foods that are washed in tap water (aka no raw salads). If you want veggies in your diet, look for veggies which have been cooked or boiled.
3. Avoid the ice. Restaurants can be safe, but it’s just safer to avoid it as you don’t know if they used filtered water to make their ice or not. Also, there might be a good ice and a bad ice. Ask locals for advice on this. In Bangkok, locals know that the ice which comes in the shape of tubular holes, is made with filtered water. So yes, in Thailand, you can drink that Thai iced coffee to cool you down.
4. Avoid foods that have been out for hours or are attracting a lot of flies.
5. Avoid meat that’s been sitting out for a while. Some countries have butchers with shops outdoors and exposed to the streets. Refrigeration can be minimal to none in these cases. Locally, you don’t know which cafes or restaurants source from them, so if you can, I’d avoid meat altogether. But I’m mostly vegetarian so I have backup plans (put into travel, being a vegetarian is actually harder than being a meat eater)
5. Don’t let your guard down. Travelers who are confident or experienced with a place tend to relax on their “food safety”. It happens. You slip (I’ve done it and voila… ) Don’t do that!
6. Do take fruits and vegetables you can peel and don’t require preparation washing. Head to that fresh market or grocery store and pick up your favorite fruits. Countries like India, I get to missing my leafy green salads a lot, so I often resort to fruits like tangerines, pineapple (yes, I find a knife somewhere to cut it, as pineapples are cheap), bananas. They make great snacks on a bus or train ride.
7. Do look for meals that are prepared on the spot and served hot. I do a pinky finger test and slyly dip my pinky into the food, especially soups.
8. Do the food tours. Food tours and street food tours help with your gastronomic confidence and understanding of the culture, it’s kitchens and restaurant menus. Also food tour guides direct you to safe foods. See my food tours list for recommendations.
9. Eat the homemade yogurts. Yogurt is a good source of probiotics (aka good stomach bacteria). It will help you develop a strong gut. If you ever get sick and need to take meds which strip your stomach of all that good bacteria, yogurt will help put it back! Or take a bottle of probiotics with you. They aren’t cheap, even in Southeast Asia.
The great thing about street food is that you can see it being prepared in front of your eyes. In some regard, eating street food can be as 50-50 safe as eating in a cafe… except a lot of local vendors don’t always practice good hygiene. But my point being, with street food, you can watch how they prepare your food.
10. Watch how vendors prepare their food and their hygiene habits.
11. Do visit food stalls/hawkers that’s frequented by locals and have a high turnover in food. That means the food is so popular, the food is prepared regularly and not sitting out and attracting flies and dust.
12. Restaurants don’t mean better. You can very easily get sick from restaurant food and many tourists have (my second time I got sick in Thailand it was off a restaurant buffet i was taken to while on a tour)! Usually they call it food poisoning, but you can’t see into the kitchen so you can’t tell if it was food left out too long or bad hygiene practices.
Sometimes, getting sick is inevitable when you travel a lot. Hey, all travelers are human. We’re not perfect and it’s not easy to travel with “street food safety tips” 24 hours/7 days a week. So you know what– don’t sweat it. If it happens, it happens. Consider yourself wiser in the future.
13. Do get sick. You’ll learn resourcefulness and confidence. The first time I got sick in India, it took the edge off of my travel virginity. I found I was able to cope with getting sick while traveling solo, wasn’t so bad. I took myself to the hospital in a taxi, took the meds, did a followup check up in Bangkok later. When the second time came around, I was like– I got this down! In fact, if you get sick, read these tips on how to deal with it.
If all else fails and you still feel worried after all the tips I’ve shared with you…
14. Travel Insurance: I used to think travel insurance was just another expense to avoid and I could get by with practicing medical tourism. The more I travel for blogging, the more I see travelers next to me getting into accidents and I realize travel insurance is necessary for numerous reasons. I travel with it regularly. I use World Nomads . Here’s a bit about travel insurance.
What do you think of my street food safety tips on how to eat street food without getting sick? Let me know in comments below!
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