One of the best things about exploring the world is discovering new foods, new cuisines, and new ingredients to take home with you for your own home cooking experiments. The world is full of remarkable and diverse cooking techniques, traditions, and flavors, and travel gives you an all-access pass to all of this, and more!
However, it is always worth being careful with food when traveling to exotic locations. On a very basic level, unfamiliar food can be heavy on the stomach, while plenty of cuisines are fattier, spicier, or just plain weirder than you are used to, which can cause problems. Added to which, some countries do not have water that is safe to drink, and many eateries (street food in particular) might not live up to hygiene standards that you are used to.
So whether you are planning a cruise to Croatia, a two-week beach holiday in Thailand, or a road trip around South America, here are a few tips on what food to avoid when you are traveling to exotic locations.
Food to avoid
Raw meat, fish, and shellfish
Raw meat and seafood is always a bit of a risk, wherever you are. Undercooked or uncooked food won’t have been through a sufficient process to kill any and all germs lurking, and significantly increases the risk of you getting seriously ill. Raw meat and seafood, even if it is germ-free, can also be hard on your gut if you are not used to it. It is always better to be safe than sorry when traveling, so give the ceviches, sushi, and carpaccio a miss on your vacations!
Bushmeat is the generic term for local wild game meat in exotic locations; things like monkey, bat, or various rodents. These animals are incredibly dangerous to eat, and can carry diseases like SARS or even ebola! Avoid bushmeat at all costs, and always double-check when you buy unfamiliar meat in local markets or in restaurants abroad, to ensure you know what you are getting!
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries; delicious, and surely innocuous when it comes to hygiene issues, right? WRONG! Berries can be incredibly tricky customers abroad, and are worth avoiding, regardless of how tasty they are. For starters, any fruit or vegetable without a protective skin or outer layer comes with a risk, as washing fruit in non-drinkable water can cause trouble for your stomach. And berries can be particularly dangerous, as they have so many little nooks and crevices where fertilizer and insecticides can lurk as well.
Although food when properly frozen is not a problem, frozen food can become an issue when stored for a long time, particularly in hot countries. As freezer doors are opened and closed, and food is partially defrosted then refrozen, bacteria and germs can grow and spread. This often leads to serious illness. As a result, if you are buying frozen food in a supermarket abroad, it might be worth thinking again. This advice is particularly relevant when it comes to meat, fish, and seafood.
Street food stalls. All-day buffets. Empty restaurants. These should all ring alarm bells when it comes to your dining choices abroad, and be considered huge red flags. Street food stalls will be highly unlikely to adhere to proper hygiene standards, and can often serve unfamiliar, overly fatty, or extremely spicy meals. Buffets have usually been sitting around under heat lamps for a long time, and will not have improved with the experience. And empty restaurants are empty for a reason!
Eating abroad is a joy, but paying attention to the food you choose is important. A stomach bug can turn a holiday sour extremely quickly, so it is always worth taking care with food when traveling to an exotic location!