Eating is one of the best parts of traveling. Trying new foods and flavors is something that I look forward to whenever I visit and explore a new place. Unfortunately, it’s also an easy way to throw your digestive system into a panic, especially if you’re not careful. In this video/post, we review our top foods to avoid when traveling.

What foods to avoid

The general rule is “boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!”, but obviously, that means you’ll be missing a lot of what makes exploring a new place so special. Below are the top foods that I generally try to avoid eating when away from home.

1. Raw fruits and vegetables:

While I love raw fruits and vegetables, I typically avoid them when traveling in places where tap water may not be safe. You want to avoid items that have any chance of being washed in contaminated water or handled with unclean utensils. Also, it’s not just salads – I once ordered a fish sandwich is a remote part of Panama and it had a bunch of raw vegetables in it. I ate it and didn’t get sick, but it was definitely a dilemma. Since it was the last day of my trip, I decided to take the risk. However, I probably would have avoided it otherwise.

2. Buffets:

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a buffet. Food can often be sitting out for a long time. There’s also the risk of contamination from flies. It’s not to say that I never eat at a buffet. Though I would avoid anything that looks like it’s been sitting out for too long or in a place with questionable sanitation.

3. Shellfish:

This is where I’ve gotten sick in the past. While clams, mussels, and oysters can be delicious, they are notorious for having a very short shelf life. While a lot of travelers will advise you to avoid seafood in general, I still eat fish, especially when traveling to coastal areas. But I avoid the shellfish. It’s just not worth it for me!

4. Ice:

This is an easy one to overlook. When ordering a drink, whether it be a soft drink or with alcohol, it may be wise to specifically ask for “no ice.” Also, you may want to avoid blended drinks when possible. Like with salads, you want to avoid exposure to unsafe water. There is a trick that a lot of travelers use though. If the ice has a hole in it, then it’s typically safe to drink since it’s from an ice factory that likely used filtered water.

5. Street vendors:

This one really depends on where you are visiting. In places like Thailand, the street food is often rated as being extremely safe and clean to eat. In other places, like India or Central America, it might not be as safe. If you decide to try street food, I would advise one where others (including locals) are eating. Make sure the food is cooked on the spot and the menu is small and simple. You basically want to make sure that you’re getting fresh ingredients and that the food hasn’t been sitting out for a long time.

Final thoughts

If you look online, there are a ton of articles on things you should avoid. While you can be hardcore and avoid everything, it’s really about measuring the risk while still being able to explore and embrace the experience.

If you do happen to get sick from eating or drinking while traveling, I would recommend carrying two over-the-counter medications with you:

  • Pepto Bismol (or any generic version of it): Pepto Bismol is my first line of defense if I experience any traveler’s diarrhea, and usually is able to stabilize my stomach and gut.
  • Immodium: I’m not a doctor, but my experience is that Immodium stops diarrhea, which is what I need if I know I’ll be sitting on a plane or have limited access to a restroom.

In the US, you can also get a prescription for an antibiotic like Cipro before traveling. It handy to have in case you need to treat a bacterial infection. While you should avoid taking antibiotics whenever possible, it’s nice to have in the event that you get extremely sick.

What foods and drinks do you avoid when traveling? You probably don’t want to remember those experiences, but please share them below so you can help fellow travelers.


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