Eating BugsWhether it be short or long term travel, going around the world comes with a ton of risks, especially when traveling on a budget.

Hong Kong for example can be an expensive city to visit, since it is a major business center.  Although you can find cheap hotels in Hong Kong, they will not be as cheap as they would in other Asian cities.

In order to save money, you can avoid the fancy restaurant and enjoy the food carts, which in my opinion is the best way to experience the real flavors of a location.  Whether your food is safe or not to eat, of course, is a major consideration to take at hand.

With both short and long term travel, going around the world comes with a ton of risks.  Whether your food is safe or not to eat is, of course, a major consideration to take at hand.

But luckily it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re at, it could be chilling at a beautiful property like Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico or eating odd food at a Pagan Festival in Florida, there are always a set of rules that can ensure you have the best odds possible of not getting sick while on the road.

So what are a few things you should be looking out for?  How do you know whether or not your food is safe all the while getting the best experience possible out of your foodie portion of the trip?  Here are a few golden rules I always go by to ensure that I spend more time on the streets exploring and less time on the royal throne.

Eating safely from street vendors

1.) Go to a busy cart.

My number one decision make while looking for food anywhere in the world is whether or not its busy.  This will cover your ass in a number of ways.  For one, if it’s super busy then odds are it’s busy for a reason; the food is good.  Locals are not going to line up for bad food.  Always go where the locals go and you’re guaranteed to get a good meal.

Second, a busy food stand is a good sign that the food is not going to make you sick.  Being that there are a lot of people eating there, locals & travelers alike, they’ll know whether or not the food is going to give you a case of the mud butt. 😉

Seafood Noodle Bowl

2.) Cleanliness & Tidiness is the key.

As always, cleanliness and tidiness to a food stand is the key to a healthy(er) meal.  Are there flies landing all over the food?  Are the plates dirty?  Does the food seem to still be moving?  Then odds are it is not very clean and you may want to stay away.

From my experience, I’ve learned that in general if a place seems clean and tidy then most likely it’s safe to eat from.  But as always, just use your better judgment.  Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone that if the warning alarm in the back of your head is going off then listen to it!

Tidy Food Display

3.) Fresh food cooked to order in front of you.

Another very important thing I look for is whether the food is cooked in front of you or not.  If it’s been sitting out, then it has a chance to collect germs/bugs/debris and all sorts of other unwanted things.  If it’s freshly cooked in front of you, chances are anything that may have been in it before is now dead from the heat.  My go to meals are those that are either grilled or fried.  That direct heat will kill almost anything!

Fresh Cooked Food

4.) Bonus Tip: My Golden Rule of 3.

Just because a place looks fancy and is 3 times the cost of another, doesn’t mean that it’s 3 times the quality.  Some of the best and most authentic food I’ve ever gotten happened to be from a street vendor, not some 5-star restaurant.  Look at it this way, don’t you think in a 3rd world country one would focus on spending their money on the quality of food instead of making their restaurant look super fancy? 😉

Choosing who and/or where to eat from boils down to just using your better judgment.  If you’re looking at a food stall that seems like its main entree has been sitting out all day, again, listen to the warning going off in the back of your head to not eat there.

Of course, once you finally do decide where you’re going to sit down for your next meal, always keep in mind that you want to go somewhere that both smell and look good.  Any place that has a combination of these things is usually a winner in my book!

How do you choose which street vendors are safe to eat from?