We often see amazing photos of unusual foods from other countries and read other travellers’ and volunteers’ stories regaling us with tales of the delicacies they tried. However, we also have heard of some really awful nights spent in the hostel bathroom after an unfortunate turn at the table. No one wants to miss out on an incredible experience, but where do we draw the line? And how to we avoid being out of commission due to food poisoning or other unfortunate related illnesses?
Check out the top travel tips for staying healthy abroad:
- Ask your host family, hostel, or other travellers about the water. In some countries such as Switzerland, you can drink straight out of the public fountains! But other countries’ water supplies may generally upset sensitive stomachs, even for brushing one’s teeth. Instead of purchasing inordinate quantities of bottled water, however, try for a straw or water bottle filter. You can find these online for under 20 USD$. You’ll save money, keep the tummy happy, and be environmentally conscious at the same time!
- Talk to your doctor or local pharmacist for some really helpful medications for typical upset stomach and digestion issues. Also, a daily probiotic and multivitamin will go a long way. It’s worth the space in your bag to bring these along.
- Meat and dairy are some of the biggest culprits for food poisoning. Yogurt or ice cream in one place will not be the same as in another. They are different in every country and can really upset your stomach, even if you’re used to eating the product at home. I would make a big exception in Italy, ALWAYS have gelato in Italy. Fresh fruits and veggie salads get a bad reputation as well, so remember that foods with “skin” on them such as oranges, bananas, and melons are much safer since the skin protects from any water. Cooked veggies are always safer than their raw counterpart.
- Make friends! The people that you meet may have some great food recommendations. And invite them to eat with you because you never know when you’ll meet a lifelong friend and make some amazing memories across the table.
- Know your limits, because the foods and drinks that are fine for locals may not sit as well with you. If you’re unused to type of beverages and other foods, just try a little at a time and see what happens. If whatever you’re trying is really, really good, come back the next day for the full experience!
But keep an open mind and take some risks! Don’t let worrying about what’s on your plate take away from your volunteer or travel experience. Getting sick can happen and that’s okay. Sometimes those times may actually make for some of the best stories!