As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is certainly the case for travel in Guatemala, as there are certain measures you can take to avoid succumbing to many of the most common ailments.
Washing hands frequently and drinking only bottled water will help keep you free of stomach ailments as will consuming only cooked foods or peeled fruits such as bananas and oranges. Lettuce and strawberries are two common culprits, often leading to severe gastrointestinal distress.
Likewise, stay away from ice cubes unless you have complete assurance that they come from purified water. By law, all ice cubes served in Guatemalan restaurants must come from purified water, a good idea in theory but certainly not always the case. I’ve often had my doubts even about supposedly purified ice cubes in restaurants after falling ill. When in doubt, leave the ice out.
Be careful not only with what you eat, but where you eat. Stay away from street stalls selling cheap food, referred to jokingly by locals as shucos (literally, “dirties”). While Guatemalan stomachs have developed immunity through the years to nasty food-borne bugs, the average gringo traveler’s has not.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com