Unfortunately, not every country has the same standards when it comes to what is suitable to eat and drink. The last thing you want to do is get sick during your trip, so here is some advice on what to avoid…

Water
In developing countries avoid drinking or even brushing your teeth with tap water. Drink bottled water and check that the cap is securely sealed when you buy it. Turning it upside down and watching for drips is one method of checking. If you can’t buy it, sterilize it by boiling or dropping in purification tablets or iodine.

One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is when it comes to ice. They are diligent about avoiding the water, yet they ask for ice in their soda. Unless it’s clearly frozen mineral water, if you get ice, you might as well drink straight from the tap. Tea, coffee, soft drinks and booze are fine from a bacterial point of view, though not so fine from a dehydration standpoint. Don’t share water bottles with other travellers unless you want to share their bugs too. Water filters are ok in theory but can break easily and usually don’t filter some serious viruses, such as Hepatitis A and E.

Food
Avoid ice cream from dodgy sources, raw fish, food kept warm, salads and uncooked food – unless you can peel it or shell it yourself. Most cases of rampant diarrhea come from unhygienic food, not unclean water. In some countries, beware of food like salad and fresh fruit that has been rinsed or washed in tap water.Eating in local restaurants in developing countries:

  1. Start acclimatizing your intestines slowly. e.g. First day, don’t eat street. Second day, try a small well cooked snack. etc etc.
  2. Eat where it’s busy. This means that turnover is fast so fresh food has less chance to go off in a hot climate [with little or no refrigeration]. It also means that the food is good or cheap or both!

Suffering Ramases Revenge? The Inca Two-step? Delhi Belly? aka diarrhea…If there is time, do the natural cure: Drink a lot of water. For maximum absorption of water generally, add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 3 teaspoons of sugar to a litre [2 quarts] of water, and in the case of Ramases Revenge, double the salt and sugar levels. [Don’t take salt tablets, they can cause stomach irritation and vomiting]. Don’t eat for half a day at least, and then restart solids slowly, with plain, easily digested foods such as boiled, watery rice or plain bread. This will encourage your body to develop a stronger health defense system and Ramases will have more difficulty next time.

If you’re in a hurry Lomotil or similar works well – but doesn’t kill the bug; it just stops your insides turning to water every thirty minutes.

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