4 Tips for Avoiding Food Poisoning in Southeast Asia
October 9, 2018
By Erica Hayton

As I was gearing up for my first trip to Southeast Asia, I knew I was in for some new experiences. I’d be spending one month in Indonesia, and I was ready to encounter new cultures, meet new people, and most of all, try new foods.

But I knew there was one experience I wanted to avoid—Bali Belly.

Bali Belly, a mild form of food poisoning, is extremely common for Western visitors in Indonesia. In fact, almost 50 percent of Bali travelers said they experienced some kind of upset stomach while on the island.

However, the risk of food poisoning isn’t confined just to Bali. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries all pose the same problems—lower hygiene standards, new bacteria and unfiltered water.

Luckily, there are a few precautions travelers can take to ensure they’re not spending half their trip in bed. Here are my best tips for avoiding food poisoning when traveling in Southeast Asia.

1. Stay Away From the Water

The tap water throughout Southeast Asia typically comes from local water sources, meaning it might contain bacteria that your stomach isn’t used to. While locals may be able to take a gulp from their faucet, you’d be smart not to do the same.

Always stick to bottled water. When booking accommodations, double-check that they provide water jugs for guests to use and avoid ice as much as possible when dining in restaurants. If you have a particularly sensitive stomach, brush your teeth using bottled water.

2. Eat Like a Local

While locals might not be as prone to food poisoning as travelers are, they’ll still know the best places to dine. By taking recommendations from the people who know best, you’ll not only get to try some of the best food the area has to offer, but you have a better chance of avoiding food poisoning.

If possible, opt to dine in restaurants or from food stands where you can observe the cooking process. This allows you to guarantee food is made fresh, as well as monitor any potential risky kitchen habits that could contribute to food poisoning.

3. Avoid Raw Fruits and Vegetables

While I’m not suggesting you eat junk food for your entire trip, consuming raw vegetables has been known to contribute to food poisoning because they often come in contact with tap water. If the bacteria isn’t effectively cooked away, you could get sick.

Make sure leafy greens are washed thoroughly with purified water before eating them and opt for steamed, grilled or boiled vegetables whenever possible. While you might think an apple is a healthy snack, it could be your downfall.

4. Keep Activated Charcoal Handy

Activated charcoal is just one of the recommended supplements that can help you stop food poisoning before it ruins your trip. A few activated charcoal tablets can bind to the toxins within your body, removing them before it’s too late.

However, you want to be careful with activated charcoal. It removes more than just the bad toxins, meaning it can also strip away nutrients your body needs. Don’t try to take activated charcoal as a preventative measure. Instead, save it for the first signs that you might be getting sick.

Don’t Let Food Poisoning Stop You

Food poisoning can definitely put a damper on your trip, but don’t let it prevent you from enjoying the great food Southeast Asia has to offer. As long as you’re smart about the water you drink, the foods you consume and how you take care of your body, you’ll have a great trip.