When I was going to visit Thailand, I searched Google for “how to avoid food poisoning when traveling”. I’ve read few articles and thought they were right. Now when my journey in Southeast Asia is over, I can tell that most of what I’ve read is inaccurate and sometimes totally opposite to what I think is the best for you to avoid diarrhea and stomach problems while traveling.
Friend David and his shrimp cocktail
I’ve never had a severe food poisoning like my friend Pavel had. He worked as a steward for one big airline. It is normal that the crew of the plane including stewards and stewardesses gets accommodated in luxury hotels. With four stars usually.
In the evening, Pavel had a shrimp cocktail in the hotel. A cocktail he would never forget. Next morning he had a horrible stomach ache and diarrhea. That was a day he needed to work so he took an anal suppository which should have to stop the problems for 6 hours. Unfortunately, the flight was 10 hours. Last 4 hours were hell, he said. He doesn’t remember how he finished his work. He collapsed to a bed in the hotel and stay there 24 hours only with some water. He never had shrimp cocktail again.
1) Eat where locals eat
This brings me to the first BS tip which some sites say – Eat in good hotels. If I want to avoid the risk of food poisoning as much as possible, I eat where locals eat. Especially places which are teaming with people. These restaurants can’t afford to poison people because locals would abandon the place quickly.
On the other hand, visitors in hotels are changing all the time and if some food poisoning occurs, the hotel usually avoids facing any bigger consequences.
If you want to eat some street food. Pick a stall where many locals are eating and to be super safe you should order some deep fried meal.
2) Drink what locals drink
I had my only stomach problems in a 3rd world country and that was actually by bottled water. It didn’t have the plastic cap on it, so what I think happened was, that someone used the bottle and filled it with tap water. It was in Cambodia and I bought the water in a small tourist grocery. Most of the time it is hard to link the problems to the cause and they know it when they sell poisonous water. It is really shameful what some people there do.
On the other hand, I had many glasses of water with ice in local restaurants in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and nothing happened. Was I lucky or is the water which locals drink okay?
3) Use probiotics
There are different germs in food in Asia and you need your gut to prepare for it. The best way to do it is to take probiotics for first few days in 3rd world country. You start about a week before your trip and continue on it. If you want to feel safe, you can take then during the whole trip. It actually strengthens your immune system too. Also avoiding spicy food like Thai people like is a good idea, because you can easily have diarrhea from it.
4) Use hand sanitizer
This one is optional, but it will make you feel safer when eating with hands and there is no water to wash them. Better is hand sanitizer gel than those paper towels with alcohol. A small bottle of hand sanitizer is smaller and lasts longer. When traveling to poor countries, it is good to have the vaccination against Hepatitis A+B called TWINRIX®.
5) Closely observe your food
Once I was in Cambodia, I bought a cake which had a mold on it. I was shocked how somebody can sell this. When I had a bite it tasted awful so I spitted it out. After I observed it closely, I found a green mold. I returned the cake to the seller, but from that time I always observe bought or served food closely. I look if it looks alright and I smell it. Smelling it feels little weird but once I saw a monkey in Gibraltar how it deeply smelled a bagel which it stole from a tourist. The monkey put its nose on the bagel and sucked the air. Then it started to eat it. I think using your senses before eating is a good thing. Mother nature knows it.
If you get sick
Always remember to stay hydrated. Diluted black tea is the best so you can take few tea bags with you on your trip. Buy bottled water which has a plastic transparent wrapper around the cap.