Nobody likes getting ill, especially on holiday. You want to use what precious time you have away from the drudgery of your work and home life to explore new cultures, try new activities or just enjoy a well earned break.
Unfortunately food poisoning accounts for 15% of all travel-related health issues for Brits abroad. While not always avoidable, there are measures you can take to protect yourself from this dreaded holiday illness.
1) Wash Your Hands
The number one rule for avoiding food poisoning abroad is to wash your hands! Germs and bacteria can find their way on to every imaginable surface so it’s vital that you regularly clean your hands, especially after going to the toilet and before eating.
It’s also worth investing in an antibacterial hand gel that can be used on the go, without the need for water. Readily available from pharmacies at home and abroad, these gels are alcohol based sanitizers that are absorbed into the skin and can protect you from 99% of bacteria.
2) Avoid Seafood
This rule isn’t hard and fast – if you’re visiting a coastal village renowned for its fresh red snapper then dig on in, but if you’re in a landlocked country then passing on the shellfish makes a whole lot of sense.
Opting to eat at venues where you can see fresh food being prepared and cooked in front of you is a good start, but be sure to pay attention to the colour, smell and texture of your food when it’s placed in front of you. If you’re unsure, it’s better to be safe than sorry and order something else instead. The cost of an extra meal on the bill is better than a 24 hour vomiting bug, after all!
3) Eat Like a Local
If you’re not sure where to eat, observe the locals. The cafe, restaurant or street vendor that is always overflowing with customers is likely to be a good quality venue serving tasty, affordable food.
Locals wouldn’t bother with a place that had given them or their friends food poisoning, and by choosing your eateries this way, you’ll experience a lot more culture than you would by eating at a chain restaurant.
4) Hit the Bottle
Your body is no doubt used to drinking clean, filtered water straight from the tap, but many countries don’t have the same strict regulations as we have in the UK, so play it safe and buy bottled water instead.
Yes, it’s more expensive, but untreated water can do serious damage to your insides, and is a common way of developing a sickness bug while abroad. As well as sticking to the bottle, avoid ordering ice in your drink, unless you know it’s also been produced using bottled water, as it’s often made with tap water and can pollute your cocktail or glass of cola.
5) Be a Careful Cook
Self catering holidays are a great option for keeping the coasts down, particularly if you want to stay in one destination for a week or more, but be careful about what you choose to cook. Just because you’re on holiday, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be just as cautious as you are back home when it comes to shopping for produce.
Shop at local delis so you can get advice from staff, and do a little research on how to prepare and cook any new or exotic foods that you’re unfamiliar with. Stick to fresh produce and cooking for yourself on holiday can be a truly rewarding experience.
Follow these tips and you’ll put yourself in the best possible position the next time you go on holiday. What are your tips on avoiding food poisoning abroad?
Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with a passion for travel. He writes for Hotelopia and his top tip for avoiding food poisoning is to carry antibacterial hand gel.