One of the quickest ways to ruin a vacation is to get sick. At the same time, shying away from local foods, markets, and people in fear of picking up a bug will keep you from enjoying your trip to the fullest. Although it’s impossible to ensure that you will always stay healthy, there are some simple practices to reduce the chances of getting ill while still enjoying your travels to the fullest.
Here are five top tips for staying healthy (based on many years of world travel):
1. Wash your hands often. Our hands pick up all sorts of germs – from holding railings on public transportation to shaking hands at the local market – when we travel. So get into the habit of washing your hands before a meal, after a meal, and any time you have the chance. Don’t skimp on the soap. And if the towel looks suspect, dry your hands with a paper napkin. Carry a tube of anti-bacterial gel for those rare moments when no soap or sink is available.
2. Get sleep. It’s common to want to do everything when on vacation and running our bodies ragged. But when we’re tired, our bodies are more susceptible to germs and falling sick. Not to mention those travel days are much more enjoyable when we’re well-rested. Invest in a pair of good earplugs to keep out the noises from the street or neighbors and an eye mask to keep out light. Get to bed at a decent hour and sleep in occasionally. Your body and mind will be thankful for it.
3. Cooked is more reliable than fresh. If you have any doubts about the hygiene of what and where you’re eating, make sure everything is well cooked. Doesn’t matter whether it’s fried, boiled, or baked. High temperatures kill germs. If the dish is served with fresh herbs on top or salad on the side, be careful as the vegetables might not be washed in clean water. The same goes for unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Better to avoid altogether if you have questions.
4. Clean water and ice. If you are buying bottled water, be sure that the seal is not unbroken. In some countries, people refill bottles and serve them at restaurants. If there are any doubts, ask for a new bottle. Even better, purify your own water with a Steripen or similar device. When ordering drinks at restaurants, ask whether the ice is made from purified water. If there are any doubts, avoid ice.
5. Look for high turnover. Eating street food is one of the great joys of travel in many parts of the world and we highly recommend that you not skip this for fear of getting sick. Choose street food stands with high turnover and a line of locals waiting to be served. This will ensure that food is fresh and not sitting out for long periods of time collecting flies and bacteria. Also, when you follow the lead of locals, the food is usually better…and cheaper.
Audrey Scott has been traveling around the world for seven years with her husband and fellow storyteller, Daniel Noll. You can follow along in her adventures, from Antarctica to