Although the Dominican Republic, and especially Cabarete, is usually quite safe in terms of food safety, people who visit the country for the first time often ask what they should look out for.
How to avoid getting traveler’s diarrhea. And what they should do if they do get affected by the most common of traveler woes. So, we’ve put together a number of tips to avoid getting the runs while having the time of your life on this beautiful Caribbean island.
Don’t drink the water from the tap
As in many other countries, the tap water in the Dominican Republic is not fit for human consumption, especially if you are used to high quality standards. Drink bottled water instead. All hotels and apartments in the Dominican Republic usually give bottled water to guests, but if not, there are many colmados (small corner stores) that sell bottled water for next to nothing. Using tap water to brush your teeth or to wash your hands is not a problem, as long as you don’t swallow the water.
Wash the fruit you buy in purified water
This really depends on depends on whether you easily get affected by tummy bugs or not, but to be on the safe side just wash your fruit in purified water rather than tap water. It would be a shame not to eat those gorgeous exotic fruits that taste so good, just because you are afraid to eat them.
Don’t worry about ice cubes
No matter where you go in the Dominican Republic, the ice that they’ll put in you glass will have been bought from one of the many professional ice factories, who always make their ice from purified water. So enjoy the ice that keeps your drink ice cold, just the way it should be.
Don’t eat re-heated food, unless it’s steaming hot
Re-heated food can cause problems, especially when it’s served tepid. If you’re reheating your own leftovers from the night before, make sure it’s piping hot, and if you get served tepid re-heated food in a restaurant just walk away without paying. Nobody has ever reported this situation in Cabarete, but it still remains a good piece of advice no matter where you are.
Don’t worry about milk products if they are pasteurized
All the milk you can buy in shops in the Dominican Republic has been pasteurized. Some local yoghurt brands can be sketchy so when in doubt, buy a brand that you know. Always check the best by dates.
Make sure the chicken has been cooked all the way through
Chicken is pretty much the staple dish here in the Dominican Republic and people love eating it in all kinds of varieties. One of the most tasty ways is on the parilla – the barbeque. Just make sure before eating that it has been fully cooked. The best way to check is by cutting away the meat close to a bone (a chicken drum for example) and check that the meat is nice and white and that there is no blood. Good parilla restaurants here in Cabarete serve chicken that has been perfectly cooked, well done but still succulent.
The same obviously also goes for fish and, to a lesser degree, meats. In good restaurants you can safely order a big juicy bloody steak.
Eat street food with caution
Getting food from a street vendor always entails some risk, with food products not really being kept cold and the possibility of flies infecting food. Before ordering check out the stall and the guy who’ll make your food. Does it look good? Then go for it. Some of the best burgers are to be had at food stalls on the side of the street. Also freshly made empanadas cooked for a few minutes in boiling oil are a great snack to tide you over.
Eat salad with caution
Most people will tell you to avoid uncooked foods like fresh salad when traveling to hot countries like the Dominican Republic. In Cabarete many restaurant have invested in water purifying systems for their kitchen faucets so that all fresh produce is rinsed in purified water, making it both safe and tasty. Ask before you order.
Wash your hands before eating
The World Health Organization, your mum and your common sense all say that you need to wash your hands before eating. So do it. If, for some reason you can’t get to a faucet, use anti-bacterial gel.
What to do if you do get sick?
Sometimes all the precautions you take are in vain and you’ll still get traveler’s diarrhea. Statistically speaking it’s quite likely, with the World Health Organization estimating that 20 to 50% of all travelers will get affected by it during their travels.
Often the affliction doesn’t last much longer than a couple of days and will mean more frequent trips to the bathroom as well as abdominal cramps. If it lasts longer than a few days the cause is most likely bacterial or viral. In this case go to the pharmacy and explain your symptoms. Depending on the severity of your symptoms they’ll prescribe probiotics, some rehydration salts as well as some medication to calm your stomach, or, when you’re feeling really bad, they’ll refer you on to a doctor for testing.
Importance of staying hydrated
Elena Braun from the WeCare Pharmacy in Cabarete highlights that independent of symptoms being slight or severe, the most important thing to keep in mind is to stay hydrated. “Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water or isotonic drinks like Gatorade, is fundamental in making sure that diarrhea does not cause any further complications.” Check out this article to make sure you’re hydrated. It includes a beautiful recipe for making your own isotonic drink if you don’t like the amount of sugar in mass produced isotonic drinks.
Traveling long distances
Having diarrhea when you need to travel long distances is very uncomfortable. Elena in this case recommends taking a drug that contains Loperamide like Imodium, to reduce the frequency of stools.
Home remedies recommended from the land of Delhi Belly
India is notorious among travelers as the place where traveler’s diarrhea is unavoidable. Travelers navigating that part of the world recommend that once it hits you, you should eat bland, easy to digest foods like plain rice or white bread. Some travelers even recommend mixing plain white rice with yoghurt so sufferers get an easy to digest food in their belly together with the settling probiotic properties from the yoghurt.