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Eating while traveling offers a great opportunity to try foods and flavors you've never tried before. Sampling local cuisine is one of the best ways to meet locals and gain insight into an area's culture and customs. However, even travelers with an adventurous spirit and daring palette can run into trouble if they throw caution to the wind when eating on the road.
Assess the situation before you take a bite. It isn't always possible to be picky when eating on the road. Often you need to eat whatever is available, especially when travelling in less populated or underdeveloped areas. With this in mind, it is still important to be aware of a vendor's cleanliness before you buy. Take a look around the food stand. Are the vendor's hands clean? Does the rag he uses to wipe his cooking surface seem sanitary? This kind of observation will help you make an informed decision about buying and eating his food.
First things come first. Always make sure to wash your own hands before eating. You touch countless surfaces every hour, and if you are travelling abroad, you can pick up germs and viruses that are foreign to your body. Carry hand sanitizer in case clean water is unavailable and use it each time before eating.
Eat it Hot
Raw or lightly cooked foods can contain bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. Coli, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Make sure that when you eat meats, seafood and vegetables that they are fully cooked to ensure that all bacteria have been killed.
If you eat foods that are raw, such as fruit, consume only fruits that can be peeled. Bananas, oranges or an apple you peel yourself are all options. Fresh salsa may look tempting, but could be contaminated by bacteria that can cause diarrhea, stomachache and a low fever. Do not buy and eat fruit or vegetables that have been rinsed in local water as the water may contain bacteria.
Don't Drink the Water
If you are traveling in a developing country, particularly in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, you should avoid drinking local water, according to the CDC. Local water may not be chemically treated to kill bacteria and can be contaminated with small amounts of fecal matter, leading to a variety of illnesses. The CDC recommends that travelers drink bottled water or soft drinks over local fresh squeezed juices. Unpasteurized dairy products and ice in drinks should also be avoided.
The aroma of local fare can fill the air and draw you in as you wander down a cobblestone village path. Fresh pies and homemade jams, sizzling barbecue and steaming peanuts can all be found from street vendors and roadside stands around the world. Applying a little common sense and caution before you eat can mean the difference between successfully experiencing an exciting new taste and a wasted vacation due to intestinal distress.