Want to know how to avoid getting Delhi Belly in India and all the other digestive system ailments that afflict adventurous foodies on their travels? As someone who’s traveled to Asia for extended periods of time I have only got Delhi Belly in India once and believe me… once was enough!
I will eat anything (except bugs) and I used to have a stomach of steel although not anymore sadly. While in India I’d been eating street food everyday and loved it. It was so cheap and tasty I couldn’t get enough. On the beaches I’d eat whatever was in the fruit sellers basket and damn it was delicious. I never had a Delhi Belly problem.
The highlight of long train journeys would be the train pulling into a station at one of the stops along the way and a snack tray getting pushed up to my window. I’d lean out and buy whatever oily treat was being offered and then wash it down with a chai so sweet I’m amazed I still have teeth to tell the tale. I couldn’t care less who made it, when or how… I just ate it all up! While in India my cake hole became a chapati hole and I just remember it being a very happy time for me.
Then a few months in I began craving normal food. I just wanted something plain and simple, nothing spicy, oily, deep fried or sweet. So I couldn’t resist ordering a potato salad in a touristy cafe in Hampi. Big mistake! I think they must have washed the salad in tap water anyway it made me SO SICK. After puking my guts up and not wanting to get out of bed my Delhi Belly did pass eventually but it could have been so easily avoided if Little Miss Piggy had just stuck to a few simple rules.
So how do you enjoy all the delicious food available and at the same time avoid getting Delhi Belly in India? Here’s a few tips to help you avoid getting sick on your travels;
How to avoid getting Delhi Belly before you arrive;
I hate vaccines I really do but when traveling in India getting certain vaccinations will help your peace of mind. So when you’re living it up in India vomiting violently you’ll know its down to a dirty dosa and not Rabies, Malaria, Typhoid, Cholera or Diphtheria. See a doctor about 5-6 months before you leave because some vaccinations are taken as a course over a few months.
I try to avoid taking medication at all costs and rely on fruit and water to fix most tummy related ailments. However packing rehydration salts, electrolytes and probiotics could really come in handy. I take probiotics quite often to help with digestion even when I’m home. It makes sense that you might need them in a different country especially if you’re eating foods that your body is not used to digesting. Basically the good bacteria in probiotics helps your stomach to fight the bad bacteria.
Pack wipes and dry hand soap (a liquid soap that kills bacteria and doesn’t need to be rinsed off with water). This is so handy because you can whip it out anywhere without needing a sink nearby to rinse. This sort of thing is easier to bring with you than try to find when you’re in India plus you will have better things to be doing once you arrive.
Getting Delhi Belhi isn’t going to cost you much more than a few lost days so taking out comprehensive insurance just in case you get sick isn’t that necessary in my opinion. If you’ve been vaccinated you should already be protected from the serious stuff. Getting over Delhi Belly requires lots of clean water, a bed to sleep in, a toilet to… and some re-hydration salts.
How to avoid getting Delhi Belly in India once you’ve landed!
It’s ALL about the water! Drinking dirty water is the main cause of Delhi Belly for most travelers.
- Don’t drink tap water.
- Drink with a straw because the top of a bottle or can could be filthy. Think stacked up in an alleyway outside the shop for a week and getting peed on daily by rodents.
- Don’t eat anything that could have been rinsed in tap water so no salad and no fruit that can’t be peeled.
- Check seals are sealed before you buy bottled water.
- Don’t have ice in your drinks (this could be ok in some places but be wary).
- If you must use water from taps make sure you boil it first.
If in doubt eat with your hands
Yes you read that right! How do you know the plate your food is served on was washed properly and not just rinsed under some cold tap water? How do you know the same didn’t happen with your knife and fork? Whip out those antibacterial wipes I told you to bring and clean your hands so you can use them instead of cutlery like the Indians do. Pretty handy.. hands! 🙂
Make sure your food has been cooked thoroughly
Stay away from ice-cream unless it’s in a wrapper, raw seafood and anything else that’s uncooked. Fruit and veg that you can peel yourself are the exception. Also make sure what you eat is hot when it arrives because if it’s been left standing around all day in the kitchen with flies landing on it chances are there’s some bacteria lurking about.
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Eat where the locals eat
If a restaurant is busy it’s for a good reason. Choose the restaurants, cafes and even street stalls where you see locals eating. This way you know the food is good quality and less likely to make you sick. I say less likely because the locals will be used to eating this food so their immune and digestive system will be prepared to handle any hygiene mis-haps better than yours.
Hope for the best
Avoiding getting Delhi Belly in India is a little bit down to plain old luck. You can do everything you can to avoid bacteria and take every precaution not to get sick… and still get sick. The worst thing you could do in India or anywhere in Asia is not eat the street food for fear of getting ill while traveling. That would be far more tragic than a bout of Delhi Belly. I may have got sick by eating a potato salad in a cheap Hampi cafe in India but I also got horrendous food poisoning from eating a potato salad in a 5 star restaurant in Greece (ok there were shellfish on this one but you get my point).
Have you ever had Delhi Belly in India? How did you deal with it? Share the gory details in the comments section… I love getting grossed out so don’t hold back! Weird… me? Very. 🙂
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