Eating street food can be a great way to experience local cuisine and culture while on the road. In some places, it can also save you a bundle on food. In Thailand, for instance, vendors serve up street food for less than a dollar a meal, while shopping around for Western-style dishes can mean you’ll pay between five and ten dollars to eat. Partaking in street food does mean you run the risk of picking up a stomach bug, but there are ways to minimize your chances of getting sick. Keep the following tips in mind to eat street food safely.
– Ease into it. Try to give yourself a few days to get used to the local food, especially in places like India, where the cuisine can be much spicier than traditional American fare. Even if you don’t catch a bug, unfamiliar foods can still upset your stomach.
– Look for lines, especially lines with families. If many people are eating the food from a street vendor, it’s probably safe. And if parents are giving the food to their children, your odds of getting sick from it are even lower.
– Avoid anything made with unpurified water. Grabbing a fruit shake or a juice drink may be tempting on a hot day, but unless you can be certain it’s made with purified water, avoid it. The tap water in some countries can contain bacteria that American travelers aren’t used to.
– Stick to thoroughly cooked foods, as high temperatures kill germs, and be careful of garnishes. Herbs on top of a dish might carry unsavory microbes, and you should always assume that whatever you’re eating hasn’t been refrigerated.
– When it comes to fruits and vegetables, opt for those that are peeled, such as bananas, avocados, oranges, cucumbers, and the like. Avoid produce with a skin you eat, unless you wash it in purified water.
– Wash your hands frequently. This is especially important if you are trying street food, as it’s made to be eaten without utensils. Carrying around a little bottle of antibacterial hand gel is also a good idea.