Getting sick while traveling is the worst. With thousands of tourist visiting Peru each year and being subjected to ailments such as stomach bugs, altitude sickness, and serious diseases, sanitation is not one of the country’s strengths. If you are planning on taking a trip to Peru, take precaution and follow these simple guidelines:
STAY AWAY FROM: Tap Water, Ice, Salad, and Pre-Peeled Fruits & Veggies
It would seem like common sense to avoid drinking from the tap water right? Wrong. I have witnessed many travelers unknowingly drinking from the tap water and becoming seriously ill thereafter. Always, always, double-check if the water you are drinking is from a ‘botella’ (bottle). If you have doubts don’t drink it. Also, avoid ice in Peru as it is almost always obtained directly from the tap.
As for food such as vegetables and fruits, avoid eating anything that has been pre-peeled. Open-air markets as well as high-end restaurants wash their vegetables and fruit supply in tap water. If you eat pre-peeled veggies you are putting yourself at risk for acquiring parasites, amoebas, among other serious diseases such as Hep A, a food born strain of Hepatitis. It is best to avoid salads, and eat fruits and vegetables that can be peeled and washed by you.
TAKE PRECAUTION: Street Food
Just thinking about the street food in Peru food makes my mouth-water and then immediately makes my stomach gurgle. I understand that street food is ‘muy rico’ (so goood!), and although it might feel good going down, it does not feel quite as good coming out, (sorry to be blunt). Peru food-carts do not take into account the same type of safety precautions as those in first world countries. Undercooked meat can infect a person with salmonella, a bacterial disease that infects the digestive tract. I have experienced this once, and I am now ten times more discerning when it comes to street food. If you want to indulge in street food, ask the locals, or fellow travelers which carts are most reputable as they generally tend to be safer and tastier!
TAKE CARE : Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness can be mild or serious can occur with a rapid incline from lower elevations from sea level to elevations over 8,000 feet. If you are planning on traveling to high elevations in Peru such as Cusco and Machu Picchu make sure you load up on water, high-carbohydrate meals, and if you feel so inclined there are a few over-the-counter medications that can help lessen the effects. The best way to prepare for a trip to high-elevations is to climb in elevation gradually. For instance, if you are planning a trip to Cusco (around 11,200 feet) and you are coming from a low elevation, re-route your trip to a median elevation and spend a few days there. When I knew I was flying into La Paz, Bolivia (12,000 feet) I spent a few days in Denver, Colorado (roughly, 5,500 feet) to help acclimate myself. By gradually climbing in elevation, your body will be less likely to succumb to common altitude sickness such as nausea, dehydration, and debilitating headaches.
How do you avoid getting sick while traveling?