1. If it looks like an Oreo, but is not an Oreo, don’t eat it.
It could be labeled something like Orea or Ordeo and be in identical packaging so you have to look carefully. Don’t eat it. Not that it’s the worst thing you’ll eat in China, not by a long shot, but if you bite in expecting an Oreo, your mouth will be angry with you.
2. Don’t ask.
If you’re not kosher or have dietary restrictions, don’t ask what meat you’re eating. If it tastes good, you’re ahead of the game. And, really, if you’ve ever eaten a hot dog, you’re not going to eat much worse in China. Ignorance is bliss. The only thing knowing what you’re eating will do is make you lose your appetite. If it’s really good and you want to order it again one day, take a picture of it with your phone to show future servers.
3. Street food: Fear not
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t know anyone who’s gotten sick from street food. I’ve gotten sick from hostel food, from overpriced restaurants inside major tourist attractions, from lobby water coolers that were last cleaned during the Boxer Rebellion, but never from street food. Indulge. They cook it on a barbecue right in front of you. It won’t fill you up but it’s cheap and good. Use common sense though. Delicious as it is, don’t eat a pineapple on a stick that’s been stewing in a bucket of its own juices all day.
4. Go Muslim.
Even if you’re not Muslim, your stomach may be by the end of your trip. Muslim restaurants are in every city and have some of the best beef in town. No bacon though. ):
5. Get a prescription for Cipro before you leave home. Bring that and Imodium.
Amazingly you’ll be fine the first month. You will be tempted to leave your portable pharmacy at your friend Alison’s apartment in Shanghai as you go galavanting around the country. But eventually your luck will run out.
Some will tell you that downing Cipro at the first sign of sickness is medicinal tomfoolery. But unless unless you want to spend a week of your trip glued to the toilet, keep it handy. Because if you’ve seen a Chinese toilet, well…let’s just say you’ll have extremely well-toned thighs by the end of the week.
But the Chinese toilet is a subject for another day, and one definitely worthy of its own post. Or blog.