‘Delhi belly’ is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot by Westerners scared of stomach-upset in India. Travelers undoubtedly need to be careful but you don’t want to get stuck on a diet of water and crisps for your whole stay. India is home to one of the world’s tastiest cuisines and to neglect it on a visit would be a tragedy. Here are The Dragon Trip’s top tips to avoid food-poisoning when backpacking in India.
Go with recommendations
The best way to play it safe when it comes to food is asking people who know. On The Dragon Trip that person is your guide who will either take the whole group to restaurants or can offer you advice when you’re feeling peckish. Nearly all hostels will have a nearby restaurant they recommend and that’s a pretty reliable way to pick somewhere to dine. They’re likely to have some form of business deal with the restaurant and it’s pretty embarrassing for the hostel if they’re dishing out the wrong information.
Embrace the vegetables
Scared of meat food-poisoning? The number one solution is to go veggie during your time in the country. A large part of Indian cuisine is based around vegetable dishes, often taking up most of the menu at restaurants. There are still plenty of meat dishes available but be careful, stick to buying it from recommended sources and, in general, avoid buying it from street food stalls.
Watch the water
A lot of the time it’s not raw meat that’s going to give you food poisoning, it’s how the food is cooked. In India the tap water isn’t safe to drink so that means sticking to bottled water. Likewise, you need to think about where the water is being used. If you’re at a food vender just serving fruit or vegetables dishes bear in mind that they may still be risky due to using contaminated water at the wrong point in cooking.
Do dairy right
Chai tea (containing milk) is served all over India and is a must-try when travelling there. Stick to stalls where you can watch it being boiled in front of you so you can be sure it’s safe to drink. Another Indian classic is lassi, a yoghurt-based drink which is incredibly tasty and refreshing. Keep in mind that the yoghurt might have been sat out in the heat, especially later in the day at street vendors. We always recommend you ask your guide to recommend stalls to purchase lassi.
Keep it fresh
If you are at a street food stall then getting the food prepared in front of you helps you know where your food is coming from. Likewise, eating a banana you peel yourself or drinking out of a coconut opened in front of you is pretty fail-safe. Avoid getting carried away with the ‘fresh philosophy’ though. If you buy pre-peeled fruit then it could have been contaminated and fresh juice stalls can often have the drinks mixed with tap water.