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Eating Safely in Oaxaca, Mexico—How to Minimize Your Risk of Getting Sick

a plate of food on a table

on May 4, 2021

There is no way to guarantee that you won’t get sick from the foods you eat and drink during your trip to Oaxaca, but there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk. Here are some quick tips for eating safely while in Oaxaca and greater Mexico.

Oaxaca Food Safety Tip #1: Wash Your Hands Often


a hand holding a spoon in it

One of the easiest ways to eat safely when traveling is to wash your hands often – preferably with soap and water, but an alcohol-based sanitizer will do in a pinch. Fortunately, hand sanitizer, as well as soap and water stations, are everywhere in Oaxaca these days, so keeping your hands clean is easier than ever before. And don’t forget to wash your hands after handling those Mexican pesos! To be extra safe, wash or grab a squirt of hand sanitizer before and after meals too.

Oaxaca Food Safety Tip #2: Never Drink the Tap Water


Eating Safely in Oaxaca Tap Water

The majority of hotels, restaurants and even food stands in Oaxaca only cook and serve purified water, but it is important to double check. Simply ask, “agua pura?” or when ordering water in restaurants you can request “una botella de agua pura, por favor” (a bottle of water, please). Drinking purified water sounds easy, right? Usually. Where most people get tripped up is when they make the habitual mistake of brushing their teeth, or making coffee or ice cubes, with tap water.

Oaxaca Food Safety Tip #3: Wash Your Fruit and Veggies First


a store filled with lots of food

If your accommodations in Oaxaca have a kitchen, you may plan on cooking or at least keeping some snacks in the room. When it comes to your fruit and veggies, buy pre-washed greens from the markets or supermarkets when possible or, if you purchase fruit and veggies from the local mercado and fruit stands, be sure to wash them with an iodine rinse such as Microdyn before taking that first bite. A final note: as delicious as the chopped fruit staring back at you from the fruit stand may look, it’s much safer to indulge after you’ve first watched to see their sanitation process. For example, are they washing the knife between chopping different types of fruit? As a rule, some tourists avoid fruit stands that sell chopped fruit altogether, but that’s playing it especially food safe.

Oaxaca Food Safety Tip #4: Check the Online Reviews for Restaurants


a woman holding a cell phone

Photo Credit: Dean Moriarty via Pixabay

Before your trip to Oaxaca, head online to check Google and Facebook reviews of restaurants written by other travelers. Pay the closest attention to tourist reviews as locals have likely built up immunity to many of the bacteria that would make travelers sick. But don’t worry, this won’t limit you to just the touristy areas as lots of travelers do go off-the-beaten-path in Oaxaca. However, this is not a foolproof method to eating safely in Oaxaca, as not all negative effects are immediate. For example, it can take weeks before you experience the symptoms of an intestinal parasite.

Oaxaca Food Safety Tip #5: Pick the Right Street Food Vendors


a close up of food

One of the best ways to enjoy authentic regional cuisine in Oaxaca is to dine at the local markets and street food stands. No matter where you are in the world, hygiene and sanitation is of greater concern when dining at these types of locations. As mentioned before, locals have better immunity to the very same parasites that would put your Oaxaca trip on pause for a few days. To reduce your risk of getting sick after digging into a delicious memela at the market or elote at the street cart, go to the vendors with the longest lines. It’s not a no-fail solution, but the longer the line, the better the vendor’s reputation usually. It’s also a good sign that the food hasn’t been sitting around past its expiration.

Oaxaca Food Safety Tip #6: Take A Food Tour


a group of people sitting at a table

There are so many reasons to take a food tour when you travel (especially a food tour in Oaxaca!), one reason being to identify multiple restaurants that have a high standard for food safety. We recommend booking your food tour for the first day or two of your trip so that you can return to the restaurants you enjoyed the most. And be sure to ask your food tour guide for additional restaurant recommendations. If you will be traveling to Oaxaca, Oaxaca Eats Food Tours can help steer you in the right direction! Check our Facebook and Instagram for other local restaurant recommendations.

Here is to enjoying all the delicious food and drinks Oaxaca (and Mexico) has to offer, and safely too!