• 15 Tips on Eating Street Food in India & Not Getting Sick

15 Tips on Eating Street Food in India & Not Getting Sick

Being the type of person that eats week old chicken from the fridge, I’m probably the last person that should give advice about this but I’m going to give it my best shot. There are some things on the street here even I won’t eat. I want to share some tips on eating street food in India but really a lot of these can go for just eating in India and not getting sick. I asked in my Facebook group, and it seems like this is one of your biggest fears!

15 tips for eating street food in India

one day in hampi 1. Don’t be afraid of the street food. It’s just like any other hot country with street food. In northern India, the street momo’s are the best I’ve had in any restaurant in the world. Don’t miss out on this!

2. This is one that always works- go where the locals are. If there’s a long ass line with local’s chowing down on samosas then obviously they are good AND they are making them fresh.

fort kochi cochin kerala locals

3. I usually stay veg only when I eat street food. You just don’t know how long the meat has been sitting out before it was stuffed inside whatever they’re frying in it. Exception: the beef cutlet guy at the Arpora/ Anjuna roundabout in Goa… give me those beef burgers all day! Obviously shwarma and other stands that are known for meat are okay. I’m talking more like small stands that have one meat option.. it’s probably been sitting there all day.

4. Judge on cleanliness. Are they using a dirty old knife and a cutting board covered in mold? Probably skip eating at that place. It’s really just using your judgment here and deciding if they place looks clean enough to eat at.

indian food thali5. Beware of the street drinks which are not hot. Because the water didn’t come to a boil it could be bad, and most likely the ice was NOT made from clean water like you’d automatically assume in an Indian restaurant. Just because the locals are drinking it doesn’t make it okay as they can handle the water better than a foreigners body.

6. Beware of the Sauce.If you get a samosa and sauce is offered, just know the sauce and chutneys are made with tap water most times and could have been sitting out in the sun a while. I always eat it anyways, but I’m a streetfood risk-taker. They also water it down to make it last longer.

food mumbai

7. Any grilled or deep fried veg, fruit, and nuts should be snatched up and eaten! It is so good. The corn on the cob grilled with lime and salt is the best I’ve ever had. The fresh potato chips are almost as good as the pan roasted nuts. Maybe the veg and fruit wasn’t washed, but it’s been cooked and should be fine. Don’t be alarmed if they re-fry something. It’s kind of like re-heating it and it might not have been cooked fully at first. It’s to speed things up when you order. Definitely try a potato patty (aloo tikki) and dosas in the south.

tips on eating street food in india photo of snacks flickr / oranges from flickr

8. This is a no brainer, but if you buy fresh fruit and veg from a stall, you need to wash with clean water before eating.

9. Puffs and samosas are common but if you don’t know the Hindi words for specific veg, don’t except much explanation. They will just say it’s a “veg puff”. You can guess which one! In Goa it’s usually aloo (potato), while in Kerala you get a scrumptious egg puff or a mutta(r) puff (peas)

indian food galore

10. Avoid ice basically all the time on the street.

11. Chai is totally fine to drink even when the place looks a bit dirty and grimy. Sometimes you can stop in Bombay at 4 am and buy chai from a guy who’s also selling cigarettes to drunk people. The people who walk up and down trains also sell a mean chai!

backpacking India 2 months

12. The GOOD street meat you should eat every chance you get is a shwarma! Usually it’s goat or chicken, or some kind of mix. Doesn’t matter; it tastes like a little lamb. They layer lots of mayo on local bread and some fresh veg (which may or may not be clean, but like I said… I’m not really the best person to be telling you what to eat since I eat everything). Usually shwarmas are so popular that you don’t need to worry about freshness and the whole slab of meat will be gone in two hours, but if you see them re-light the meat and heat it back up that’s a sign it’s old and might get you sick.

13. When you get fresh juice, have them juice it in front of you, don’t take a cup of pre-made juice. It could be very old or watered down with bad water.

backpacking India 2 months14. If you are buying food from a vendor during a bus stop and can’t tell if the food is fresh, ask in Hindi: yay taja hay? They will be too impressed/confused with your Hindi to lie to you.

15. Lastly, don’t blame your illness on the street vendor if you do get sick. Who knows, maybe you hadn’t washed your hands! It’s a common mistake while backpacking but in India you really need to at least rinse them with bottled water if you don’t have sanitizer or hand wipes.

Are you ready for your big trip to India?

Check out my other article on eating here: how to make sure you don’t get Delhi Belly. You can also check out my tips on vaccinations and what to pack in your medical kit. Want more tips for traveling India or better yet to have me plan your trip? Buy my India Guide ebook and even if you ONLY read that, you’ll be 1000% prepared for your trip. It’s 6 years of India travel experience all wrapped up in an organized easy to read manner.

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15 Tips on Eating Street Food in India & Not Getting Sick

2018-05-12T20:57:14+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.

58 Comments

  1. Andrea Anastasiou January 21, 2015 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Great tips, Rachel. I agree that people shouldn’t miss out on street food, especially in India! It would be a crime not to try it at least once…

  2. Christine | The Traveloguer January 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Great tips here Rachel. I am all about taking risks with street food, it’s too good to miss out on! You have me absolutely craving a lime corn on the cob, they’re so amazing! I try to re-create them at home, but it’s just not the same :(

  3. Christine | The Traveloguer January 21, 2015 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Great tips here Rachel. I am all about taking risks with street food, it’s too good to miss out on. You have me absolutely craving a lime corn on the cob, they’re so amazing! I try to re-create them at home, but it’s just not the same :(

  4. Michelle January 21, 2015 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you for these tips! I hate when people advise you to just stay away from street food– you’re missing out on so much! I can’t wait to try all these foods in 3 short weeks :D

  5. Scott January 21, 2015 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Going to be in India very shortly so I have to know, what does “yay taja hay” mean?

  6. Ashley January 21, 2015 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the tips! I really want to try lassi- are they usually made with ice or tap water?

    • Rachel Jones January 22, 2015 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      hmm not sure! I don’t like yogurt or lassis so don’t really drink them

    • Anurag January 25, 2015 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Lassis should be avoided as water is mixed in them. Yoghurt technically should not have water unless it’s watered down

  7. Gurdish January 22, 2015 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Those thails look just amazing and delicious :)

  8. Kate M January 22, 2015 at 1:06 am - Reply

    This post just made me seriously hungry. Aloo puffs! Hot, spicy chai! Be still my grumbling stomach.
    I always tell people the same thing about street foods where I have traveled as well. I ate street foods all the time in the Philippines, Congo, Uganda, etc. and never got sick. In fact, sometimes street food is the best bet because it is so frequently made on demand. Fresh off the grill veg and meat items are a good bet, as is rice in general; go where you see a lot of locals eating, because they definitely know what they are doing; and loosen up and enjoy!

    • Rachel Jones January 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      Aloo puffs!! lol. You’re right it’s fresh and can be better than a restaurant, def better than a buffet.

  9. Colleen Brynn January 22, 2015 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Mmmm I miss my 8 rupee street samosas. Had one almost every day. It also came with a spicy salt to be dipped in which was nom.
    And yes to the chai, esp from the dirty cups, haha!!
    One other thing is the sugar cane juice. You told me you get sick every time you have it. When I went traveling, I still wanted to try it so I told my guide, and he was like “ok, I know the best place to have it” and then I waited and waited and felt bad he seemed to have forgotten so I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to pester him. Then I finally brought myself to ask him and he said that it’s really not good to drink; people almost always get sick from it… so he was just saving me the upset stomach!

    • Rachel Jones January 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      Hahaha! Yeah, I don’t like it very much anyways :)

  10. Soniya January 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    You have become so much Indian :)) I delurk a lot at your blog …always refreshing …and the good part is that now u post almost daily …double treat :))

    • Rachel Jones January 22, 2015 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      haha yes, I’ve been told I”m getting more and more Indian esp. how I text with an Indian “accent”

  11. Justine January 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Street food is one of my favorite things about traveling to pretty much any foreign country. I imagine it would be a travesty to skip out on India’s street food! Can I just say I’m insanely jealous that you get to eat fresh samosas whenever you want? I love Indian food and samosas. You are a lucky girl!!

    • Rachel Jones January 22, 2015 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Hahha, well I probably don’t eat them as much as I should. Goa has so much good international food it’s hard to REMEMBER to eat street food.

  12. Renuka January 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    These are really great tips not just for foreigners but for Indians as well. Although I follow all of them, there are many I have seen who are careless. Indian street food is obviously delicious, but it can harm your body if precautions are not taken. Like you said, instead of blaming the street vendor, one should make sure to wash hands before eating.

  13. Danny January 22, 2015 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips, I can use them good.
    The 27 February, I’m going from Delhi to Agra and Jaipur.
    So I can try it out on the streets.

    Thanks Rachel

  14. Christine | The Traveloguer January 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel, my comments don’t seem to be working on your site anymore, I commented here twice yesterday, so just testing with this one?

  15. s a joshi January 22, 2015 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    true …..
    stay away from sauce…prefer chutney..the sauce is actually made by paste of left over vegetables…one news channel covered story about a year ago…I couldn’t tell one vegetable from another because of all that fungus.

  16. Rebekah January 22, 2015 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    these are good tips. this is where I’m totally going to jinx myself but I’ve never gotten sick from any street food in China and I’ll basically eat anything- but I’ve learned to see where the crowd is eating and to avoid places that seem too quiet. Chai sounds SO good

  17. Anna January 23, 2015 at 6:36 am - Reply

    One of my girlfriends visited India a few months ago with a school group, and they were all advised to avoid any/all fresh fruit and vegetables. Your thoughts?

    • Anurag January 25, 2015 at 9:32 am - Reply

      As this blog so nicely explained, the main issue is water. So fresh vegetables that are washed with water are best to avoid. With fresh fruit, it depends. If it’s a fruit that did not need washing, should be ok to eat (mango, banana etc)

    • Rachel Jones January 28, 2015 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      It’s too extreme. The fresh fruit is delicious and the veg on sandwiches etc makes all the difference.

  18. Amanda January 23, 2015 at 8:27 am - Reply

    If I ever make it to India (which I hope I do) I will probably end up getting so sick because, like you, I will eat week old chicken without a second thought and have recently convinced myself that food borne illness isn’t actually a thing. Which is obviously wrong lol.

    I’ll have to attempt to follow your tips :)

    • Rachel Jones January 28, 2015 at 5:51 pm - Reply

      hahaha yeah I like to think it’s not real as well.

  19. Hades January 27, 2015 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Be extremely wary of the tea. Even if it’s popular, take a tiny sip first.
    Chaiwallas are infamous for using chemicals instead of milk and you will get that hint of flavour. It won’t kill you but at least you’ll know before you chug it

  20. Megan January 29, 2015 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    awesome tips! im heading there (well, more north) in 3 weeks and am most nervous about getting ill as my stomach has been shot lately! will definitely keep all of these in mind <3

  21. sahil@Indianstreetfood November 26, 2015 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    The Street food culture of India is as assorted as the culture of the country. Every state and region of India has a special street food signature, which you must not miss during your visit to this wonderful land.

  22. Scott Malsick July 19, 2016 at 5:49 am - Reply

    Hello Rachel, great website! My 17 year old daughter is doing volunteer work in Goa now, she has Celiac disease and is having a hard time finding Gluten Free products. Do you know of any store or marketplace that has any items? I’ve shared your website with her, hopefully she takes your tips, she’s not eating much, scared of getting sick! Have a great night, thanks for sharing your tips!
    Scott Malsick

    • Rachel Jones July 20, 2016 at 1:54 am - Reply

      I bet that would be hard. My brother is gluten free and I often think about how little he could eat in Goa! There is a health food shop (Natti’s Naturals) but she doesn’t stay open all monsoon, not sure if she is open now. Best thing would be Facebook message the shop or write on the shop wall on Facebook and see what’s she’s got in stock! Can’t think of a restaurant which offers this off hand unfortunately.

  23. Allison October 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Hey Rachel!
    Thanks for the advice! I consider myself an adventerous eater so your tips are very helpful!! My friend Tempesst (nolatoeverywhere) and I will be backpacking in India in November!

    • Rachel Jones October 6, 2016 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      Oh awesome, she’s so cool! I bet you guys are going to have such a blast. Are you coming to Goa? Let me know if you do!

  24. Allison Yuen October 8, 2016 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Yes we are! We’ll be coming to Goa December 10th! Let’s meet up if you’ll be around :]

  25. Liza October 17, 2016 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel, thanks for posting this. I am a nurse too from the States that has quit my pulmo tele RN job to go travelling. My boyfriend and I just left Central Asia after about four months, where for the first time I felt so homesick after I had the worst GI problems of my life in Tajikistan. Now though I can relate more to my patients that I gave loads of Flagyl too. Anyway, your post left me and my belly a bit braver and how would we even know if food at a restaurant is safer than food on the street. My best Thali so far was a roadside one. We are travelling by train from Agra to Hampi with a stop in Mumbai and Goa. We love world heritage sites and if you have any recommendations – I would be so happy to hear them!

  26. Katie October 28, 2016 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel-
    Real quick your blog has helped me plan my India trip with so much confidence. I’m so thankful for your help.

    I have a question regarding eating customs. I heard you should eat with your right hand avoiding touching food with your left. Is this true. What about tearing naan?

    • Rachel Jones October 28, 2016 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Katie, yes that is true even with naan. When you tear the nann you use your edge of you palm to hold it flat and pull. You’ll have to try a few times to get it right! But most Indians know that foreigners might use their left so it’s not too bad. Also, when passing money you should use your right.

  27. Hani March 12, 2017 at 7:36 am - Reply

    I have never been to India… but my son had… but he avoided eating street food while he was there… i have fwded this article to him… hopefully he will take the risk next time… Thanks , Rachel

  28. dave August 25, 2017 at 3:22 am - Reply

    I’m more concerned with the vendor’s hand washing abilities (Especially the left hand) Good article though.

  29. Kritika September 27, 2017 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    My husband and I are going to Vrindavan, India next week and I am DYING to eat the fresh fruits there – since there’s such few tropical foods available here. But everyone we talk to says it’s a risk and we will get sick. If we wash the fruits with bottled water, will it be safe? Or should we really stay away. We’ve been to Costa Rica and Fiji and have been fine in the past.

    • Rachel Jones September 28, 2017 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Hey – I eat fruit here all the time and never had in issue in 5 years! I sometimes get it from shacks that probably don’t even bother washing (not recommended but true)

      • Kritika September 28, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

        We will be going to vrindavan. Any particular tips regarding food there? We’ll carry bottled water around and wash fruits ourselves. Thank you for your tips!!

        • Rachel Jones October 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm - Reply

          Hey, these tips should work for pretty much every area of India :)

  30. Rhiannon Day February 8, 2018 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Love this Rachel! One thing I do worry about when I travel is getting sick – but one thing I also LOVE is food, especially sampling local tastes. Imagine my dilemma! I’m glad I stumbled across this article. It has such great, common sense tips that are easy to remember and practical – not just for India but really anywhere. Thank you so much for sharing.

  31. […] Don’t fear Indian food. However, before your travel, educate yourself on the basic rules to follow. Once in India, use your common sense to judge whether you can eat or drink something. You’ll find a plethora of websites debating on this topic but I like the tips given on this blog. […]

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