Chow Down & Keep It Down

I was talking to a friend the other day about why we travel. We were in perfect agreement: Beautiful natural sights, artistry and, of course, interesting foods and cultures. That's what drives us out of our routines and onto the road.

You have to be careful though. The very thing that beckons you across the world can also be that which destroys your stomach… and potentially your trip. From the streets of rural Honduras to the fish markets of Japan to the alleyway noodle and smoothie stands of Northern Thailand, these tips have kept us coming back for more crazy eats without the consequences.

Here’s the basics:

1.     Be on alert for and avoid freshly rinsed veggies if the water is suspect

2.     Don’t get ice in your beverage unless you know it’s clean

3.    Only eat food you see being made to order.

4.     Load up on Pepto (seriously. Read on for more info.)



Dragonfruit are a perfect example of a thick-skinned fruit you can buy and peel yourself.

Dragonfruit are a perfect example of a thick-skinned fruit you can buy and peel yourself.

Every traveler is wary of the grilled snake, the pickled squid, and the questionable liquer with mystery additives (“Is that… an eyeball?!”), but those aren't the #1 culprit of food poisoning. what crushes more intestinal tracts than anything else? If you’re outside your own country, the fruits and veggies can take you down.

After fruits and vegetables are harvested and before they’re sold the veggies get washed. See the problem? Travelers accidentally ingest contaminated water. Try to lean more heavily towards fruits and veggies with thick skins, rinds, or peels and peel them yourself. I know those sliced mangoes are tempting, but don’t risk it.

Cold As Ice

This may be a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning that if you’re in a country where the tap water is questionable, think twice about whether or not the ice you want in your beverage is from the tap or purified.

In many countries the ice is perfectly fine because it’s ordered from an outside company, not made on site.

Made to order

This tip saves you from food poisoning, but also helps you get the best grub on the streets and in the markets. If there’s not a fire on the cart and there is no sign of any active cooking going on – don’t eat any meat they are selling. A good hot fire covers a multitude of food-handling sins.

Is that a rat turning on a spit in front of your eyes? I’d say "go for it," but I wouldn’t even touch an order of something tame if there wasn’t proof it was freshly cooked. I typically make an exception to this rule if I’m dealing with foodstuff that seems to be well-preserved by curing, drying, pickling, fermenting, etc. However, be aware that fermentation methods can get weird and can be hard on sensitive stomachs.


#1 TIP: Pre-Gaming with Pepto

I’m neither a biologist nor a chemist and certainly not a doctor so this info may be skewed, but I once read that the active ingredients in Pepto Bismol can act as a preventative against more than stomach upset. Supposedly Pepto can help save you from food poisoning.

Even if I feel fine, I take Pepto a few times a day while I’m traveling somewhere where my diet might get…. Sketchy.

There you have it! I hope that these tips help safeguard your future culinary exploits. Want to add your best advice to the list? shoot us an email to fill me in on your techniques or drop me a question.

Brooks AllenComment