Food, Alcohol, Drugs
Alcohol & DrugsSome countries do not have a legal drinking age, although frequently one must be 18 to purchase liquor, and it is not uncommon for young adults to have beer or wine with a meal. There are some countries that have strict laws about drinking in public. For example, alcohol is strictly prohibited in most Muslim-majority countries and in some parts of India. U.S. citizens have been detained for possessing alcohol in their luggage upon arrival in some countries. Many countries laws are more severe than in the U.S. so be sure to research the local drinking culture.
Existing legislation in most foreign countries regarding the use or possession of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs imposes very severe penalties including include jail terms, hard labor, and even the death penalty. There is common prescription medication in the U.S. that may also be considered a controlled substance in some countries abroad. Association with illegal drug users or possessors is considered the same as personal use or possession by authorities in some countries.
Review the Participant Conduct Expectations in regards to alcohol and drug use abroad.
Food & DrinkContaminated food or drinks can cause travelers diarrhea and other diseases. Travelers to developing countries are especially at risk. Reduce your risk by sticking to safe eating and drinking habits. General food/drink tips:
- Avoid “street food” for at least the first 72 hours you are in a developing country. Depending on their food tolerance, some travelers may not be able to adjust well to street food at all.
- If you are wary of the quality of the food and drink, make sure everything you eat is thoroughly cooked, peeled, or boiled to kill any bacteria.
- Depending on the region/location, you may not be able to drink tap water at all. In others, you may need water purification tablets. Ice may not be safe for consumption if made with tap water. Ask how the ice is made or avoid it.
- If you drink alcohol, consume in moderation. Intoxication can lead to unsafe and potentially deadly situations. Over 90% of the safety and security incidents on study abroad programs deal with are directly related to alcohol.
- Usually Safe
- Bottled or canned drinks: Drinks from factory-sealed bottles or cans are safe; however, dishonest vendors in some countries may sell tap water in bottles that are “sealed” with a drop of glue to mimic the factory seal. Carbonated drinks, such as sodas or sparkling water, are safest since the bubbles indicate that the bottle was sealed at the factory. If drinking directly from a can, wipe off the lip of the can before your mouth comes into contact with it.
- Hot drinks: Hot coffee or tea should be safe if it is served steaming hot. It’s okay to let it cool before you drink it, but be wary of coffee or tea that is served only warm or at room temperature. Be careful about adding things that may be contaminated (cream, lemon) to your hot drinks (sugar should be fine; see “Dry food” above).
- Milk: Pasteurized milk from a sealed bottle should be okay, but watch out for milk in open containers (such as pitchers) that may have been sitting at room temperature. This includes the cream you put in your coffee or tea. People who are pregnant or have weakened immune systems should stay away from unpasteurized milk or other dairy products (cheese, yogurt).
- Alcohol: The alcohol content of most liquors is sufficient to kill germs. The alcohol content of beer and wine is probably not high enough to kill germs, but if it came from a sealed bottle or can, it should be okay.
- Can Be Risky:
- Tap water: In most developing countries, tap water should probably not be drunk, even in cities. This includes swallowing water when showering or brushing your teeth. In some areas, it may be advisable to brush your teeth with bottled water. Tap water can be disinfected by boiling, filtering, or chemically treating it, for example with chlorine.
- Fountain drinks: Sodas from a fountain are made by carbonating water and mixing it with flavored syrup. Since the water most likely came from the tap, these sodas are best avoided. Similarly, juice from a fountain is most likely juice concentrate mixed with tap water and should be avoided.
- Ice: Ice is generally made with tap water so make sure that you only have