"Backpacking Health" was last updated on April 25, 2012
The variety of food in Asia is so vast, delicious and new! You often don't know where to begin.
But when it comes to travel health, I'm afraid you have to be extra careful when picking food. The way they prepare food in Asia is not always good for your stomach.
On top of that, some restaurants use tap water to wash ingredients.
Like in India: the water is mostly contaminated with sewage, and the country has gone through a water crisis (although it has improved).
So, by watching what you eat and drink you can prevent yourself from catching cholera, typhoid, hepatitis etc. You usually get these diseases by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Have in mind that this article is strictly based on my experiences, and what I've read and heard. It won't guarantee that you won't catch food poisoning etc.
It is said that travelers should be careful eating meat and vegetables in Asia, because the meat is not always prepared the right way, or the vegetables might be washed in tap water.
Even if this is true, not all restaurants in Asia are unsafe. The important thing is that you're aware and practice your hygiene routines and don't forget them just because you're not at home.
If you get sick is difficult to answer because of your genes, immune system, what and where you eat.
If you have the tendency to get diarrhoea in your home country, this might be an indication that your stomach in general is sensitive and that you should be more careful with what you eat in Asia.
An empty restaurant in Thailand
(this pic is only an example of an empty restaurant, and doesn't
reflect that the restaurant serves bad food)
Food stall in Bangkok
Just because a couple of travelers have broadcasted that you shouldn't eat meat or whatever, it doesn't mean that the meat in Asia is totally unsafe.
Getting too paranoid can disturb your food experience and you'll miss out on great food!
Personally, I've eaten mutton, chicken and fish in India and didn't get sick. In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia I've eaten chicken and pork without getting sick.
I got sick once when I arrived in Thailand after India, but don't know what the source was. It's all about where you decide to eat. Check the place out first and you can read reviews of restaurants on Tripadvisor.
Before purchasing one, check if it has been tampered with. The seal should be intact.
I can tell you that poor locals collect empty bottles in the streets. According to what I've heard, they refill the bottle with tap water and sell it.
But don't worry, you can easily see if these bottles have been tampered with. That's why checking the seal is important.
Carry your own antiseptic wipes all the time! You'll need it because the lack of soap occurs a lot in Asia.
It can feel awkward to spread and balance your legs, and drop in a stinky hole. But in reality, this is cleaner than wiping your ass with toilet paper. There's usually a bucket with water next to you, so you can wash yourself.
If there aren't any buckets or toilet paper around, you should use your own toilet paper by carrying one the whole time.
Every backpacker I met carried a toilet paper or tissues in their handbag because they knew there weren't always toilet paper around.
Have you experienced that when you've returned home from a backpacking trip, you experience diarrhea as well?
I have talked to other veteran travelers and they seem to have experienced this. It seems strange to me because we should be used to the food bacteria in our own home country, a place where we were born and raised!
We think it has a connection with the type of bacteria your stomach is used to, at that time.
So, I don't think you're doomed to have diarrhea the rest of your trip, as long you use common sense. But hey.. I'm not a doctor, so this is only based on my personal experience.
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Backpacking health: Charcoal tablets
Charchoal absorb toxins in your stomach and are good for food poisoning.
Let me tell you about what happened to my friend in Goa. She's a person who is cautious and washes her hands all the time! Well, she got food poisoning when we were in Palolem (India).
According to what she told me, she ate at a local restaurant that looked great (many people etc.) and had chicken for lunch. I don't know exactly where this restaurant was, but all I know is that she drove outside Palolem and stopped by a local restaurant. She puked 4 days in a row and had to stay in because of diarrhea as well.
So, even the cautious ones get 'punished' I'm afraid.
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This article is a taste of what you can expect in my eBook "Ticket to Safe Backpacking." In this eBook, you'll find common safety and health issues, how to avoid scams while backpacking and much more.
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