Food and drink have the potential to wreck 4 to 7 days of your trip in India while you recover in bed (or on the throne). Stomach infections, aka Delhi Belly, are the primary ailment travellers face on their trip.
I’ve had several cases of different stomach infections from food and water over the years. If you’re in India for long periods you’ll fall sick at some point. Invariably, someone in your travel group usually suffers from stomach issues while in India.
But, there are a lot of precautions you can take to limit it as much as possible.
Indians have a strong stomach that has a natural resistance to all sorts of parasites. My wife and I can eat the same thing, but only I get sick from it. So just because a restaurant is frequented by locals does not mean it’s suitable for foreign stomachs.
I was caught out by this at a very busy and famous milkshake store in Connaught Place. An Indian friend and I shared the same drink, guess who was sick for five days?
Rules to avoid stomach problems in India
- Sealed bottled water. Check the seal when buying. Good brands include:
- Filtered water from RO (reverse osmosis) filter systems.
- Hot boiled beverages.
- Pasteurized milk.
- You never know what water it’s made from.
- Sometimes waiters will lie when they don’t know if it’s made from clean water or not.
- Tap water.
- Drinks you suspect are made with tap water. Ask if the restaurant uses filtered water.
- Unpasteurized milk (boil it before drinking to pasteurize it).
- Water from water coolers with a large unbranded bottle on top.
- Food served piping hot.
- Well-cooked meats.
- Raw fruits and vegetables you have washed and peeled yourself.
- Food from clean restaurants with clean utensils.
- Be careful of bones in the meat! Especially the thin sharp ones in fish.
- Packaged food that has expired. Always check the best before date.
- Food from street stalls. You can try all these delicacies at clean restaurants like Haldiram’s or Bikanervala.
- Unclean raw fruits and vegetables.
- Undercooked meats.
- Unpasteurized dairy products.
Have a question about food in India? Leave it in the comments.
India Survival Guide Table of contents
- Travel Essentials: Before You Travel to India
- Arriving in India: Getting to Your Hotel & Airport Amenities
- Tourist Scams to Avoid in India
- Avoiding Fake Money & Ripped Notes in India
- Avoiding Bad Accommodation
- How to Bargain, Get Refunds, and How Much Rickshaws Cost
- Avoiding Counterfeit Souvenirs in India
- How to Be Street Smart in India
- Buses and Trains in India Explained
- Food and Drink Safety for Travellers
- What to Do If You Get Sick in India
- How to Deal with Air Pollution in India
4 replies on “India: Food and Drink Safety for Travellers”
Karl, this website is epic. Thank you! If you only had 2 days in Delhi, passing through, where would you head for a really great (and safe!) food experience? 🙂 (Staying in South Delhi, near Lotus Temple)
Thanks Josh! Head to your nearest Haldirams or Bikanerwala restaurant. Both are safe and clean and serve the same Indian street food.
Hello Karl, how does one know that the glass has been washex in clean (purified for our Australian stomachs)? If one wants to floss the teeth, do you have to wash them in purified water? How do you recognize those reversed osmosis filters in restaurants and elsewhere? Thank you for your help, regards Danny
Hey Danny. It’s impossible to know, really. Stick to bottled water or fill your water bottle up from a filter yourself. Use bottled water to brush your teeth too. You can buy 5L bottles of water here and leave it in your hotel room and just keep refilling your drink bottle from it. As for cultery, I usually just clean them with a tissue paper before using it to eat – it’s all you can do really. Eat at better quality restaurants to avoid any issues. Best not to take any risks because a stomach infection can wreck your holiday. Have a good trip!