5 Travel Smart Tips For Eating Street Food Abroad

salmon, tomato, guacamole tostada street food in Mexico

Sometimes the dopest food you’ll find is on the side of the road. I’m a lover of dining out in restaurants and cooking meals at home but I also love trying street food when I travel to another country.

Some of my favourite street food memories are eating sambal stingray in Singapore, Nigerian Shawarma & ram suya (if you know, you know), Nasi kerabu kelantan (blue rice) in Malaysia, Kürtöskalács (Chimney Cake) in Budapest, lemon chicken in Tanzania and this beef & chicken gringa I had in Mexico (pictured).

When it comes to eating street food you may still have to tread with caution as you don’t want to end up spending your day in the toilet.

Belgium waffles
Belgium waffles

What Is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is a collective term for a variety of different conditions caused by contaminated food, such as food that was undercooked, unsanitary cooking conditions or stored at the wrong temperature. Gastroenteritis is the most common type of food poisoning, and it can be bacterial, parasitic, or viral.  

Common food poisoning bacteria, parasites, and viruses include:

  • Campylobacter
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • E. coli
  • Shigella
  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • Norovirus
  • Giardia
  • Cryptosporidium

My Food Poisoning Experience

One of my memorable holidays was solo travelling to the Philippines in December 2019 to celebrate my birthday. I had the most amazing time and lived my best life! This trip was so meaningful to me because I experienced so many new things and connected with incredible people. In Badian, Cebu I ziplined the second-longest dual cable zip line in Asia. Explored Cebu city with locals and ate delicious Filipino food. 

I challenged my comfort zone, ventured on a canyoneering adventure, and saw the stunning Kawasan waterfall. On Siargao island, I swam in Magpupungko rock pools, which formed naturally at low tide during the low tide period. While island-hopping around Coron Islands, I saw the most remarkable views, turquoise waters, and breathtaking sunsets. I hiked Mt. Tapyas and soaked my feet in Maquinit hot Springs. I swam in Lake Kayangan and snorkelled near a WWII Japanese shipwreck. 

 

Solo travelling gave me the freedom to be flexible with my plans, embrace new experiences, enjoy and soak in the surroundings around me! The Philippines left me with the best memories and lessons that have kept me wanderlusting for more adventure. 

Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan Philippines

On one occasion, I got really sick after arriving in the Philippines. As a result, I didn’t know if I would be able to return to the UK. I was in so much pain at the airport that I asked for a wheelchair and I was constantly throwing up. My first step out of London Heathrow airport was to take a black cab (which charges insane prices compared to Uber) to the nearest A&E. I was so weak, I was put on a drip and found out I had E. coli and urine tract infection most likely caused by food poisoning. I would not wish this experience even on my worst enemy.  

Avoid Getting Sick Whilst Travelling With These 5 Tips For Eating Street Food Abroad:

1. Look For The Busy Queues 

You know the food is good when there’s a busy line of locals queuing up. If the locals like it, I’m sure it will be a hit for you. 

2. Be Open To Trying Something New!

If you’re not sure what ingredients are in it (especially if you have an allergy), don’t be afraid to ask questions.

a Malaysian street food which has fried chicken, blue rice, crackers and more served on top of a banana leaf. This meal is tyicalling eaten during Ramadan months.
Nasi kerabu kelantan

3. Look Out For General Hygiene Of Surrounding Areas When Selecting Street Food

Observe the general hygiene of the cooking area and what the chef is doing with their hands. You can look out for things like if the chef is wearing gloves, how often the surface area of the food is cleaned and what is used to clean the surround prep and cooking area.

4. Avoid Eating Salad Or Any Drink With Ice Cubes

If you can’t drink the tap water in the area, then you can’t eat the salad as it’s likely the food vendor has used tap water to wash fruits and vegetables. Same goes with ice cubes for drinks. You can always ask the vendor if they used a water filtration system to make the ice cubes.

full filled liquid drinking glass
A glass of drink filled with ice cubes

 5. Ensure The Street Food Is Freshly Cooked!

If you’re eating hot street food, it’s always the safest option to eat food you can see being cooked to order in front of you. It’s also a good idea to find what’s commonly eaten in the area you’re travelling to get an idea of what the food should look like. So make sure you do some googling beforehand!

A chef about to crack an egg to make Zanzibar pizza in Stone Town
Chef making Zanzibar pizza in Stone Town

What To Do If You Get Food Poisoning Abroad?

Unfortunately getting food poisoning abroad is still more common than you think. Common symptoms of food poisoning are being sick (vomiting), stomach cramps, diarrhoea, feeling sick (nausea), a high temperature of 38C or above, and feeling generally unwell – such as feeling tired or having body aches and chills. If you think you have food poisoning while on holiday, the most important thing is to stay hydrated and have lots of fluids, such as water to avoid dehydration. To ease diarrhoea symptoms, use Imodium and stay hydrated. Food poisoning symptoms usually last up to a week or so but if symptoms get worst, seek medical help.

#Travelsmart tip: Make sure you carry Imodium, and electrolytes in a mini first kit when travelling abroad. I also recommend getting travel insurance which covers medical expenses.

What are your tips for eating street food? What’s your favourite street food memory?

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