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Food and water safety when travelling

Why is it important to take precautions with food and water when travelling?

When travelling abroad, you may be exposed to a number of different things that can cause illness. Unpleasant and potentially dangerous infections can be caught by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. Because of this, you should take precautions with food and water in places where it is hard to maintain a good level of hygiene and sanitation.

Food water safety

What precautions should I take with my food and drink?

There are some general rules that you should follow whenever possible while travelling. These include:

  • Make sure that any food you eat is cooked all the way through
  • Wash your hands before eating and handling food
  • Always wash your hands after using the toilet
  • Carry hand sanitiser or wipes in case you cannot find anywhere to wash your hands, or these places are unclean
  • Make sure that any dishes, cups and equipment you use are clean

You should avoid eating street food, unless you can be sure that it has been cooked thoroughly and it is served hot, on clean plates.

What foods should I be careful with?

Some foods are more likely than others to carry bacteria, viruses or parasites that can make you ill. Foods to be careful with include:

  • Ice cubes
  • Salads
  • Food that has been left in the open or potentially exposed to flies, such as buffets
  • Unpasteurised dairy products such as cheese and ice cream
  • Raw or undercooked meat, fish or shellfish
  • Uncooked fruits or vegetables - either peel it, cook it, or forget it

Whenever possible, you should buy products from well-established shops where the food is more likely to be of good quality.

How can I try to be safe with the water I drink?

When you are travelling, you should only drink water if you are sure it is clean. Boiled water, sealed bottled water, hot tea and coffee. Beer and wine are normally safe to drink, in moderation. 

You should never drink unsafe water without boiling it or using a reliable filter to clean it first. This is also the case for using water to brush your teeth and make ice cubes. You should also boil milk before you drink it, unless you can be sure that the milk is safe to drink and anything that can cause infection has been removed or killed.

Food water safety

Where can I get further information?

Make sure you contact your GP or travel health practitioner in plenty of time before you travel to discuss the ways you can help to keep yourself healthy whilst away. You should try and contact them at least 4–6 weeks before your trip.

After your trip, you should contact your GP if you develop a fever or diarrhoea or notice any other unusual symptoms.


Date of preparation: January 2019




1. Fit For Travel. Food and Water Precautions. Accessed November 2018.