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20 Tips to Navigating Food and Water Safety in Mexico

To not get sick while traveling in Mexico, you should avoid eating street food, avoid unfamiliar meats, not drink tap water, and squeeze your own fruit juice. Travelers and foreigners who are living in or visiting Mexico should follow our following 20 food and water safety tips to stay healthy.

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Are you traveling to Mexico soon and want to learn how to keep yourself safe from bacteria and parasites that might contaminate the foods and drinks in Mexico?

In this article, we will include 20 tips about how to eat and how to drink safely while in Mexico. These guidelines can help you protect yourself from contaminants that can give you food poisoning, travelers’ diarrhea, parasites, or other of the most common illnesses travelers get abroad.

As a second protection for your health, we encourage you to learn about traveler’s health insurance that you can get short-term or long-term for the duration of your trip to Mexico.

10 Tips to Stay Safe While Eating in Mexico

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Travelers in Mexico will want to stay safe while eating in Mexico by regularly washing their hands, avoiding lukewarm food, not eating from a package that has been opened, and avoiding raw fruits and vegetables. These tips and more can protect you from bacteria and germs that can contaminate food.

Many of these eating and drinking tips come directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Tip #1: Regularly Wash Your Hands With Soap and Water

Regularly wash your hands with soap and water while traveling in Mexico, and always wash your hands before eating and drinking and after going to the restroom. It may seem obvious, but travelers in Mexico may touch a lot of surfaces throughout the day that can expose them to germs.

To stay safe, wash your hands before putting anything in your mouth and before touching your nose or eyes. Be sure to dry your hands thoroughly afterward so you don’t keep any tap water on them.

Tip #2: Use Hand Sanitizer Often

Use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol when you aren’t able to wash your hands with soap and water. It can be helpful to carry a small container of hand sanitizer in your satchel or backpack everywhere you travel in Mexico so you’re always prepared to clean the germs off your hands. 

Tip #3: Don’t Eat Lukewarm Food

Food that is served in the lukewarm temperature range of 40℉ – 140℉ is at the greatest risk of being contaminated with germs. To avoid food poisoning from unhealthy foods, travelers in Mexico should only eat hot food when it is served steaming hot and cold foods when they are served chilled.

Tip #4: Don’t Eat Packaged Food that Has Been Opened

Foods that are packaged in a sealed container or bag are safe to eat in Mexico, so long as the packaging has not been damaged. Do not eat food from a bag or container if its seal has been opened prior to your receiving it because if the bag has become damp, mold and germs may be growing inside.

Tip #5: Avoid Eating Raw Fruits and Vegetables in Mexico

The best practice for travelers in Mexico is to avoid eating raw foods. This includes cut-up fruits and vegetables, fresh salads that have been finely cut or shredded, fresh salsas, condiments, or other sauces, or raw meats or seafood. Only eat foods you can peel or wash yourself.

If you buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the market, wash them with water and an iodine rinse like Microdyn before eating.

These fresh foods may have been contaminated by human or animal waste during preparation, or they may have been exposed to other germs. If these types of contaminants enter your body, they can give you travelers’ diarrhea, make you vomit, or infect you with other infectious diseases.

Tip #6: Don’t Eat Street Foods…

Eating street foods in Mexico can expose you to food or drinks that have been contaminated by human or animal waste during preparation. Street foods may also not be chilled or heated properly as they sit on the street all day.

Tip #7: … But If You Do, Pick the Longest Lines

If you choose to eat street foods, only eat from the vendors with the longest lines. Not only can that demonstrate that this particular vendor has a strong reputation, but it can help you eat recently prepared food that hasn’t been sitting around past its expiration date.

You should also make sure to only eat foods that are steaming hot or efficiently chilled.

Tip #8: Don’t Eat Unfamiliar Meats

It isn’t wise to eat unfamiliar meats, also known as bushmeat, in Mexico. Travelers who eat wild game that is not typically eaten in the United States may become infected by wild diseases present in unsafe animals, such as Ebola. Some bushmeat examples are bats, monkeys, and rodents.

Tip #9: Check Online Reviews for Restaurants in Mexico

Another tip for staying safe while eating in Mexico is to read online restaurant reviews from other travelers who have eaten there. This can give you an idea of whether or not other foreigners have been able to stomach the food, and whether or not they got a parasite from its food.

Tip #10: Don’t Be Afraid to Leave a Restaurant

If you suspect for any reason that your food was prepared in an unsanitary manner, don’t feel guilty about leaving the restaurant or not finishing your food. It’s more important to keep your body safe and healthy than trying not to offend someone who you suspect doesn’t follow sanitation guidelines.

10 Tips to Stay Safe While Drinking in Mexico

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Tips for staying safe while drinking fluids in Mexico include never drinking tap water, only eating purified ice cubes, drinking purified water bottles, avoiding fountain drinks, and trying a reusable water bottle that has a filter. The full list of our 10 tips is included below.

Tip #1: Never Drink Mexican Tap Water

It is not safe to drink tap water in Mexico. It can contain parasites that can cause severe harm to your body. Foreigners in Mexico need to make sure to only drink purified water, and that includes when brushing their teeth, making coffee in the morning, showering, or making ice cubes.

Most restaurants and hotels will serve purified water, but be sure to double-check.

Tip #2: Don’t Eat or Drink Unpurified Ice in Mexico

Be careful not to eat ice that has been prepared from unclean or tap water. Make sure only purified water has been used to create the ice, otherwise, you may be exposed to parasites in the water. Either make your own ice or ask for no ice.

Another tip about whether the ice is safe or not depends on its shape. If the ice has a hole in it (like a donut shape) it is from filtered water and it is safe for drinking.

Tip #3: Drink Purified Water from Bottles or Cans

The safest way to drink water in Mexico is to drink purified water from sealed bottles or cans. If the seal has been tampered with, such as opened or replaced with glue, don’t drink the water as local vendors may have refilled the bottle with tap water.

If you aren’t sure if the water is clean, you can always ask.

Tip #4: It is Safe to Drink Hot Drinks in Mexico

Travelers in Mexico can drink hot drinks, such as coffee or tea if served steaming hot because being cooked at a high temperature can kill any bacteria that may have been exposed to the drink. It is completely okay to let your drink cool before drinking it after it’s been boiled.

Make sure not to add other contaminants to your drink, such as cream and lemon, because those ingredients may not have been prepared, chilled, or washed properly. Sugar is okay because it is a dry food.

Tip #5: Pasteurized Milk in a Sealed Bottle is Safe

It’s okay for foreigners in Mexico to drink pasteurized milk if it’s served in a sealed bottle that has not been opened. Steer clear of any sort of milk, cream, cheese, or yogurt that is unpasteurized or has been served in an open container as it may have been at room temperature instead of chilled.

Tip #6: Avoid Fountain Drinks in Restaurants

Most sodas in Mexico are served from a fountain, which means the water is most likely tap water that has been mixed with carbonating and flavored syrup. It is not safe to drink fountain drinks in Mexico for this reason. You can purchase a sealed bottle of soda, however.

You can make sure the bottle has not been tampered with because the bubbles from the carbonation that arise when you open it indicate that its seal was not opened after it left the factory.

Tip #7: Prepare Freshly Squeezed Fruit Juice Yourself

It’s not safe for foreigners traveling in Mexico to drink fruit juice prepared by someone else because it could have been made with tap water and the fruits may not have been washed or prepared properly. You can create your own juice by using purified water and washing and squeezing the fruit.

Tip #8: Drink Electrolit in Mexico for Hydration

Travelers in Mexico should consider drinking Electrolit to remedy sickness while traveling and to fight off dehydration. It’s similar to Pedialyte or Gatorade and can help you after a tequila hangover, early in the morning to wake up and stay hydrated while spending a day in the sun.

Tip #9: Try a Reusable Water Bottle & Filter in Mexico

If you don’t want to buy a ton of bottles of water throughout your trip to Mexico, you can purchase a water bottle that comes with a filter. This can help you clean your own water. One such example would be the Grayl UltraPress Water Purifier and Filter Bottle, though there are many more.

Tip #10: Drinking Alcohol is Safe in Mexico

Drinking alcohol is not common in Mexico, and it’s not appropriate to drink in public places. If you choose to drink alcohol while traveling in Mexico, it should be safe because most liquors kill germs if the alcohol has not previously been opened.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to drink tap water in Mexico?

It is generally not recommended to drink tap water in Mexico. The water supply in many areas may contain contaminants or microorganisms that can cause illness. To stay safe, travelers should drink bottled water, use bottled water for brushing their teeth, and only use ice made from purified water.

What food safety precautions should I take when eating in Mexico?

When travelers eat in Mexico they should take several precautions to avoid foodborne illnesses. These include: eating at reputable establishments, being cautious with street food, avoiding raw foods, washing hands frequently, being cautious with dairy, and peeling fruits and vegetables yourself.

Conclusion

If you use these 20 tips about navigating food and water safety in Mexico, you should significantly decrease your chances of getting sick while traveling abroad.

If this article was helpful, you should also read our posts Staying Healthy While Traveling in Mexico: Essential Tips and Telemedicine in Mexico for Foreigners.

You can also learn about the top international health insurance companies in Mexico for expats in this article.

If you have any questions, reach out to our insurance experts! Happy travels!

Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung