Foods to stay away from to avoid travel sickness

Consuming hamburgers, roadside pies and other pre-prepared foods can be a health hazard when travelling. Picture: Pixels/Polina Tankilevitch.

Consuming hamburgers, roadside pies and other pre-prepared foods can be a health hazard when travelling. Picture: Pixels/Polina Tankilevitch.

Published Feb 27, 2024


Food is an important part of travelling but eating the wrong thing could turn your dream journey into a nightmare.

Food poisoning is one of the most common forms of travel sicknesses. Not only is it an inconvenience but it can also pose a significant danger to those around you.

Travel doctor Pete Vincent of Netcare Medicross Tokai offers travellers valuable advice on what they should not consume to avoid “traveller’s diarrhoea”.

“Food poisoning can spread rapidly through contaminated food or water, and from one infected person to others through invisible traces of the germs carried from hand to mouth,” said the doctor.

Symptoms may start a few hours after ingesting the bacteria and last up to four days later.

Whether you are planning a local road trip or flying to an international destination for work or a holiday, think twice before eating the following:

  • Hamburgers
  • Shellfish and prawns.
  • Undercooked meat or seafood.
  • Pre-prepared raw fruit or salads. Only eat fruits you can peel yourself, such as bananas and citrus.
  • Dairy products, unless made with boiled or pasteurised milk.
  • Dishes that require a lot of handling to prepare.
  • Any food that is not served steaming hot.

Dr Vincent advises that safer choices include dry crackers, fresh bread or toast, jam and syrup that do not generally support rapid microbial growth.

He advised that if there is any doubt about the quality of the tap water, visitors should stick to sparkling bottled water or boil the water before drinking it or using it to brush your teeth.

“Avoid taking ice that could potentially be contaminated or made with unsafe water. Give some thought to where you choose to eat, and rather opt for popular freshly prepared dishes that are well supported.”

He said one tip is to look out for where the local office workers buy their lunch and you will generally be assured of fresh, safe food where there is a regular high turnover.

To be prepared while travelling, Dr Vincent recommends including anti-nausea remedies and rehydration sachets in your first aid kit for use in conjunction with prescribed antibiotics.

“Vaccinations play a big part in preventing food poisoning. If travelling to the South Pacific for any length of time, a typhoid vaccination is always recommended.

“Be sure you know your hepatitis A status, and if you are not immune, then you need to have a series of three vaccines before being safe to travel because hepatitis A is a highly infectious viral infection which causes jaundice and is usually passed on in food handling,” said Dr Vincent.

“Awareness can go a long way towards preventing food poisoning and making your travel experience memorable for the right reasons.”