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Traveling abroad requires defensive eating habits. While contaminated food and water is more prevalent in the developing world, you can suffer from stomach and intestinal problems even in European countries. Approximately 40 percent of all international travelers are afflicted with diarrhea.
Some basic food and water precautions, especially when visiting the developing world:
- Do not drink tap water and stay away from ice cubes (almost always made from tap water). Don't even brush your teeth with tap water. Fortunately bottled water is for sale in most parts of the world.
- Bottled or canned beverages - soft drinks, fruit juices, beer, and wine - are usually okay to drink. Boiled beverages, such as coffee and tea, are also generally safe.
- If you are traveling to remote locations, pack water-purification tablets, iodine, chorine, or water filtration devices to make the water safe. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
- Stay away from raw or undercooked meat and shellfish, unpeelable fruit (such as grapes and berries), raw vegetables and salad greens, which are usually rinsed in local tap water.
- Beware of foods sold by street vendors, especially in underdeveloped countries.
- Don't eat sauces, salsas or anything else that has been sitting on the table for a long time.
- Avoid food on which flies have settled.
Good common sense should allow you to enjoy all the culinary delights of your trip.
Just remember: if you're not absolutely sure the drinking water is safe, consider it contaminated and act accordingly. As for food: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
Tips for eating—and drinking—well
- Know what you're eating: Read about what's available in advance, ask what's a must-try while you're there
- If you have special needs, do your research to find out how they can be met
- Learn new ways to cook and to be healthy
- Commit to trying new foods, and make sure you try them in safe environments
- Be just as adventurous—and just as smart—when choosing beverages
If you have special eating habits, are committed to a particular way of eating (vegetarian, vegan, kosher, macrobiotic, etc.), or have health issues or food allergies that result in a special diet, you will need to research your study abroad destination carefully before assuming that the food you need will be available.
Keep in mind that in many areas of the world, certain special diets are not common. In some cases, not eating food that has been prepared for you, even if for dietary reasons, is considered rude. Be prepared to be flexible.