Street food in Mexico is a way of life, and eating on the street is the cheapest and most convenient way to eat in Mexico.
Whether you’re in the south or in Mexico City, street food vendors in Mexico are practically everywhere, selling meat, tamales, tacos, bread, sweets, fresh water of various flavors and other delicious snacks.
So how can you tell where is safe to eat and which stalls to avoid? Here are some tips on how to eat street food in Mexico, safely.
PS — these tips were written for street food in Mexico specifically, but can be applied when it comes to eating street food anywhere in the world.
Look for popular stalls
If the stall is full of hungry locals, it’s probably safe to eat. This may seem like common sense, but at some point, you’ll be tempted to skip the line and eat at the barren stall next door to save time. Don’t do it! Locals know best. The busier a stall is, the less chance the food has just been sitting out, and the higher your odds it’s going to be fresh. Anything worth having is worth the wait, right?
Look for families
If there are women and children eating at a food stall, it’s probably safe. No one is going to (knowingly) feed their child something that is harmful to digest. If a family is eating out, the food is probably delicious and well prepared.
Watch how they handle money
You want to eat somewhere that is clean, and that includes the handling of money. Coins and bills carry a lot of germs. The person handling the money should be different from the person preparing the food. If there is only one person at the stall, they should put a plastic bag over their hand before accepting payment. Watch for a money exchange before ordering, and you’ll know how seriously they take the risk of contamination via money.
Order local favorites
Try and stick to local dishes when it comes to ordering: mole and tlayudas in Oaxaca; fish, shrimp and ceviche along the coast; pre-hispanic cuisine in the Yucatan. Local favorites are not necessarily cheaper, but definitely more readily available and much more satisfying than say, a hotdog. Food is a vehicle for traveling! When it comes to eating street food in Mexico, don’t reinvent the wheel.
Ask for recommendations
Don’t know what to order or what stall is the best to eat at? Ask for recommendations! Locals have never steered us wrong. Don’t be shy – go ahead and ask “donde debo comer?” (Where should I eat?) Like we said, locals know best.
Be careful with beer
Glass beer bottles are recycled in Mexico, and are not thoroughly sanitized before they’re refilled. Before taking a long sip from your Pacifico, Indio, Modelo or Dos Equis (just to name a few), wipe off the mouth-piece with a napkin and then run a lime along the rim. The citrus will help to kill the germs.
Be cautious, not paranoid
You might take all of these suggestions, and still get sick. Hey, you’re traveling! Try your best to be careful, but don’t sacrifice your trip trying to control every little aspect (like the ice in your cocktails) — if you’re going to get sick, you’re going to get sick. Wouldn’t it be better to have had fun beforehand?
If you do find yourself sick with food poisoning, here are some tips on how to heal quickly (click the link).