How to Avoid Food Poisoning in Thailand

First, let me say, in the decade I’ve lived in Thailand, I’ve had food poisoning once. Compare this to the three times a year I used to get food poisoning in the US, and I know which country I prefer eating in. However, just like anywhere, food poisoning in Thailand can happen and, if you get it, it can spoil your vacation. Avoiding food poisoning in Thailand is easy. Just follow these tips when you eat or drink anything in the Land of Smiles, and you’ll cut your food poisoning risks to a minimum.

Don’t Eat Cold Food – A lot of food in Thailand is served lukewarm. Particularly if you eat at some food stalls, the food will have been cooked in the owner’s home that morning, but then spends hours sitting outside in the sun with no heating in sight. If you eat at any food stall, street stall, restaurant or cafe, only eat cooked food that’s been cooked fresh and arrives piping hot. You really will cut your chances of getting food poisoning down to almost nothing.

Only Eat Unpeeled Fruit – There are tens of thousands of stalls selling cut fruit in plastic bags in Thailand. The only time I had food poisoning was from eating a bag of water melon at one of these stalls. Now, as I have eaten at least one bag of fruit every day from a fruit stall for almost seven years, I would say your chances of getting food poisoning from one of them are slim. But, they’re still there. So, if you want to avoid getting food poisoning in Thailand, only eat fruit that still has it’s peel on and hasn’t been cut. And, make sure you wash it with clean water before you eat it. There are hundreds of thousands of shops in Thailand selling whole fruit for cheap prices, so it won’t be difficult to find.

Avoid Ice on the Street – Now, again, I drink iced drinks from the street stalls in Thailand every day and have never gotten sick, and it’s unlikely you ever would, as ice in Thailand is just as safe as in the west. But, if you really are afraid of getting food poisoning, when you order drinks on the street tell the vendor “No ice” or, in Thai, “Mai ow naam keng”. Your drink will be lukewarm, but at least you won’t worry about getting sick after you drink it.

Drink Bottled Water – Bangkok actually has some of the safest drinking water coming straight from the tap in the world. I never buy bottled water and am never sick but, again, on your vacation, if you are worried, you should drink bottled water. Bottled water is as cheap as 6 baht per bottle (15 cents) and it’s everywhere, which means you’ll only end up spending $10, if you drink several bottles of it every day of your trip.

Only Buy Ice Cream in Shops and Cafes – You’ll see many street vendors selling ice cream in Thailand, but some of them don’t always keep it correctly refrigerated and it can make you sick. It’s highly unlikely it will (in over 1,000 times of eating the stuff I’ve never become ill) but to completely avoid any ill effects, stick to buying ice cream in ice cream cafes, where it’s kept correctly refrigerated or from shops and supermarkets from their freezer section.

Eat Fish and Seafood You Choose While Alive – If you want to prevent food poisoning from seafood or fish, only eat at restaurants where you can choose the fish, lobster etc from the tank while it’s still alive. That way you know it was cooked completely fresh. Now, me, I can’t eat anything I just saw swimming but, you might feel differently.

Preventing food poisoning in Thailand is relatively easy. Use some common sense about where you buy food, don’t drink drinks with ice outside and, if it smells even remotely strange, discard it without eating it and buy something else. A couple of days of bad food poisoning and you may end up wising you’d never come to Thailand and those of us who love the country would hate that.