How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

Food poisoning.

First, the stomach cramps hit. Then you’re tightly clenching your butt cheeks while searching for the closest restroom. And hoping and praying that you make it in time.

It sucks, right?

And that’s a less severe case!

My worst case of food poisoning included three days of sitting on the toilet while simultaneously puking into a trashcan. Now, even the smell of anything resembling tacos with bbq sauce sends my stomach into dry heaves.

And while I hate food poisoning at any time, when you’re traveling it’s even worse. Not only can it ruin your trip but you’re stuck in a strange place, not feeling well.

So when David and I landed in Morocco and saw the sanitary conditions, we were worried about food poisoning. Cleanliness and food handling are very different in Morocco than they are in the Western world.

We often saw the waitstaff or a cook grab plates from the tables, scrape them off and replate immediately for the next customer. Or go from cutting raw meat to handling cooked food. OR scratching his balls multiple times, then continuing food preparation.

Even buying food was an adventure. Meat hangs out front the shop all day in the full sun. Then there are the meat vendors! They take orders, cut up meat, wrap it, take your money and give you change, without pausing to wipe their hands much less wash them.

It was a real eye-opening experience. We soon realized you really can do with less sanitation than we’re used to, without getting sick or dying. We’re still trying to decide if that’s good knowledge or bad. It is realistic.

What we do know is that we only ended up with a very mild case of food poisoning from one restaurant in Morocco. AND that all our severe cases of food poisoning happened right here at home in the good ole’ USA.

The reality is, if you’re gonna eat, food poisoning is a risk anywhere. And we’re gonna eat! So the only thing to do is use a little common sense to help avoid food poisoning whether you’re traveling or at home.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is when you ingest food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals or any type of toxin that is harmful to your body.

How do you know you’re infected with food poisoning?

It’s usually not too hard to tell if you have food poisoning. Most food poisoning symptoms start presenting within an hour of eating contaminated food. But some may take days to show up.

First, you may feel stomach cramps and/or nausea followed by diarrhea and/or vomiting. Or you just lose your appetite or develop a slight fever. The severity depends on how much you ate, the toxicity level of the toxin, and how it reacts with your body.

Other symptoms can present as well, depending on what type of toxin.

Should you take food poisoning seriously?

YES.

While food poisoning won’t kill most people, you can still become severely dehydrated, which leads to other issues.

And there’s no fast food poisoning cure. It has to run its course.

BUT you can drink plenty of liquids and help your system flush faster. Which of course, will also help keep your threat of dehydration down as well.

And if you have severe symptoms or your symptoms last for days get to your doctor IMMEDIATELY.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

How to Avoid Food Poisoning

While there’s no way to completely avoid food poisoning, there are ways to help reduce your risk. ALWAYS use your common sense. If something looks completely unfit to eat, don’t do it. I don’t care who double dogged dared you! Now, here are the rest of our tips for helping to avoid food poisoning.

#1. Wash your hands!

#2. If a restaurant looks overly unclean, don’t eat there.

#3. Avoid undercooked meat. Have it cooked to done and then a little bit more.

Many people also say to avoid eating salad. Salads are one of the most common sources of food poisoning in any restaurant, anywhere in the world. Personally, I like my veggies and take the risk anyway. I just make a decision based on the individual restaurant and what I see before ordering a salad.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

Eat Where the Locals Eat

Avoid the tourist areas like the plague.

For some reason, we’ve had more issues with food poisoning eating in tourist restaurants than eating where the locals eat.

Pick crowded restaurants. Eat at local meal times. This ensures you get freshly made food that’s not sitting around growing bacteria.

Look around and order what everyone else is ordering. Again, the food will be fresher.

Another bonus to eating where the locals eat is the food tastes better, is more authentic and cheaper. Don’t worry if you don’t know the language. Pointing works well or use Google translate to help you order. There’s no shame in either.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

Cook Your Food

Preparing your own food is an excellent option for avoiding food poisoning.

Why?

Because you get to decide where to buy your food. And you can use sanitary kitchen practices when you handle it and cook it.

If you can, buy directly from the farmers. It means the food is dealt with less, thus equaling less exposure to bacteria.

Some suggest using a particular fruit and veggie wash.

Fruit and Veggie Wash Recipe: 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. Let fruits and veggies soak for one hour.

I don’t. I use tap water and a rough kitchen scrub pad.

We also don’t follow the rule of only eating what you can peel or crack out of a shell. If we did, we would never experience spinach, lettuce, apples, tomatoes, or strawberries.

So far, we’ve never experienced food poisoning buying locally raised foods directly from the farmers, even in Morocco.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

Use a Local Cook

We LOVE using local cooks.

Not only do we get home-cooked meals that are entirely authentic, but we get to help the local economy.

And we enjoy food made by someone happy to show off their cooking skills.

Plus, the meals are cheaper than in a restaurant.

To find a local cook, ask your Airbnb host, or the front desk clerk or the maid at your hotel. Chances are they know someone who would be happy to cook for you.

We usually ask the cook to prepare whatever he or she is making the family that night. That way it doesn’t add a considerable task to their workload.

Do negotiate your price ahead of time.

And don’t forget to compliment the cook on how good the food is. It’s always amazing to see their smiles and watch their faces light up when you appreciate their cooking.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

Water

It’s not always the food that gets you.

The water can as well.

If you’re in a country with treated water, you’re probably okay. And we do try to drink more tap water than bottled because plastic bottles are so horrible for the environment.

Unfortunately, the treated water rule doesn’t apply everywhere. You have to do your homework. Morocco has treated water but we were strongly advised, by the locals, to drink bottled water. In this case, we purchased large containers and refilled our reusable bottles.

But if you’re in a place with untreated water or have a sensitive tummy, drink bottled water to help avoid having tummy issues.

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

Eat Yogurt

I cannot express the healthy benefits of eating yogurt while traveling enough.

Or even in your regular home life.

Yogurt introduces live bacteria to your system that help with digestion and keeping you healthy.

Regularly eating yogurt really helps our tummies. We’ve noticed when we skip it, our tummy issues go up, especially when traveling.

Just try to avoid the ones loaded with sugar. While still good for you and better than not eating any yogurt, the extra sugar isn’t healthy for the body.

We’ve only had a couple of mild cases of food poisoning in last three years. We attribute it all to following these simple tips. I wish we could say all but if you’re going to eat, a little food poisoning is part of life. But you can reduce your risks by being smart.

Happy travels and Bon Appetit!

FlyAwayU | How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

29 thoughts on “How to Avoid Food Poisoning While Traveling

  • 18/01/2018 at 21:33
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    Totally agree that you should try to eat when locals do although sometimes that really isn’t possible.

    My worst food poisoning was in the then podcast hotel in SSA, a very nice hotel in Ethiopia. I was there with my partner and parents. All of us succumbed . So you never can tell!

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    • 18/01/2018 at 22:52
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      Ouch, that sounds horrible Cassie. And yes, it’s so true you never know where you’ll come in contact with food poisoning. It’s always going to be a guessing game that you just have to do the best you can with. Good luck out there in the world of eating šŸ™‚

      Reply
  • 19/01/2018 at 05:28
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    I learnt a lesson last year in Bangkok – don’t order room service in an iffy hotel …. I can’t face a Massoman curry ever again! Some good tips here – we often forget about things like ice cubes and salad but as you say the water can get you too. Luckily I am married to a nurse but it ruined our first few days in Thailand.

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    • 19/01/2018 at 15:38
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      Well that sucks you’re ruined for Massoman curry. I completely understand. And yes, people always forget about the ice cubes šŸ™‚

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  • 19/01/2018 at 11:35
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    These are some excellent tips, especially the one about the yogurt, I never knew that! I was in Morocco last October, and totally agree with you. I too prefer to eat where the locals go, within reason however! And I always drink bottled water unless locals tell me it’s safe and clean of course!

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    • 19/01/2018 at 15:39
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      Lisa,
      Yogurt is not a cure-all but we did find that our tummies were much happier and had fewer issues when we ate it regularly šŸ™‚

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  • 19/01/2018 at 15:23
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    Food Poisoning is also one of my fears when I travel (as well as the water issue). I am a hiker so the water thing doesn’t bother me anymore, you can buy a filter and SteriPen (I carry both with me when I hike and travel) and drink out of just about any water source you can think of! LOL.

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    • 19/01/2018 at 15:40
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      Excellent tip on the filter and SteriPen. I never really thought about using it for anything other than hiking!

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  • 19/01/2018 at 18:38
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    Wow, I didn’t know yogurt was a good way to help with the food poisoning issue! I am from Mexico, so food poisoning is not usually an issue because I think I have developed a good resistance with the food in my country (foreigners are the ones that get sick when they travel to Mexico), but it is always good to know! I loved the idea of hiring a local cook! I think it would create a completely different culinary experience!

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    • 19/01/2018 at 20:21
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      Yep, you’re immune to the local bacteria. You could still get food poisoning from an outbreak but it’s not as likely as a tourist visiting. We think it’s the bacteria from the yogurt that helps the tummy šŸ™‚

      Reply
  • 19/01/2018 at 21:35
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    These are great tips! I have never had food poisoning while on vacation, but then I probably don’t travel enough either. These tips are good to remember!

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    • 19/01/2018 at 23:15
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      Willow, I rarely have it either while traveling but these tips also work for when you’re home as well šŸ™‚

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  • 20/01/2018 at 12:14
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    Wow! Those are some great tips! Mostly I end up getting food from Subway or McD which works out more economical and food keeps moving so much there and its not old! Next time I’d try some local food too!

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    • 20/01/2018 at 17:43
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      OMG, I just can’t recommend that type of eating or travel. One of the joys of traveling is learning the new place and eating is one of the ways you do that. Not to mention it’s not that economical either. We’ve always found local food to be cheaper. AND all my worst food poisoning came from fast food places. One was Taco Bell, the other Burger King

      Reply
  • 20/01/2018 at 12:44
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    OMG, I had once a very bad food poisoning in Egypt. I thought I’ll never make it. Since then I’m very cautious.

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  • 20/01/2018 at 12:49
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    OMG, I had once a very bad food poisoning in Egypt. I thought I’ll never make it. Since then I’m very cautious.

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    • 20/01/2018 at 17:39
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      Yes, when you’ve had it that bad, it does make you cautious. I am as well now cause it’s horrible!

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  • 22/01/2018 at 08:49
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    LOL love how you are writing! Omg if you only knew how sensitive stomach my husband has! I can’t tell you how many times he has been vomiting in buses, boats, trains, street etc. The worse ever was lasting for three month while traveling in India! Lucky he still love to travel! He try follow the same advises on your list, but never the Yogurt one. We know there is a special yogurt one can eat a month in advance but never thought of eating ordinary yogurt everyday during the travel. Must try it on my husband next time we are abroad!

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    • 22/01/2018 at 19:33
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      Your poor husband. At least he’s an adventurer and goes for it anyway, vomit and all šŸ˜‰ Hopefully the yogurt thing will help you guys. It really did us šŸ™‚

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  • 29/01/2018 at 14:30
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    Ugh, all the yes! I once heard the term “Delhi-belly” and it’s no joke. I was traveling with a friend abroad and we were perusing some food stalls in the street. I didn’t have a good vibe from one of them, but of course that was the one that my friend wanted to try. No matter how many times I urged her to choose another one, she found an excuse to ignore me. Let’s just say she listens to me now…and always travels with yogurt and water!

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  • 02/02/2018 at 13:59
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    Never had food poisoning while travelling even in Nepal and India. India is super common to have food poisoning too, so very blessed it didn’t happen! Like you said, food poisoning should always be taken seriously, otherwise you also ruin your trip and that’s no good šŸ™

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    • 02/02/2018 at 14:47
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      If you have never had food poisoning even a mild case you’ve been very lucky. And most people only get mild cases, so it doesn’t upset things too much šŸ™‚

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  • 03/02/2018 at 18:36
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    Oh yeah some really helpful tips here. I am lucky I only suffered food poisining twice in 6 years of continuous traveling around the world and the last time was 3 years ago. I hope I d never have to go through that again. Those times are the only time I get homesick! šŸ¤žšŸ»

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    • 04/02/2018 at 16:53
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      That’s not too bad of a track record for that much traveling Tom. So far, we’ve been very lucky with travel sickness while traveling with only a very mild case. Can’t say the same for being here in the US.

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  • 09/02/2018 at 16:58
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    Great tips! Luckily I haven’t had any food poisoning while travelling but I am always try to be very careful what I ate. I do love food and sometimes its hard to walk away from that nice smell of street food but when I get closer and see half pink very far chicken I am thankful I haven’t decide to try it. And water is also very dangerous when its dirty as some people seems to forgot about it! ~Sorry to hear about your adventure but I am sure you got your lesson for future šŸ™‚

    Reply

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