Every Dominican knows the story of Caonabo, the brave Taino, husband of Anacaona, queen of Jaragua. Upon the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors Anacaona was tricked into extending her hospitality to the newcomers, a decision that she came to regret when she was strangled and her entire village massacred. Caonabo revolted in revenge, but was captured during a parley to negotiate. He was shipped to Spain as a prisoner but died en route. Caonabo’s revenge is one of the few things visitors to the DR have to fear.
A tourist’s worst nightmare is to have his/her hard-earned holiday in the sun ruined by a debilitating stomach upset. For some it is inevitable, not because of infected water, poor hygiene or unusual foods, but simply because some people’s stomachs are more sensitive to the unaccustomed organisms found in the water and food in the tropics.
There are some ways to ensure that this does not happen to you:
- Take it easy the first few days. If you can self-cater, do so and take all the necessary precautions. Eat and drink only things you are sure of. Give your body a chance to adapt. Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of bottled water.
- Try and keep to establishments that appear to keep a good standard of hygiene. This does not mean restricting yourself to high class hotels and smart restaurants, many modest, local family run places can be clean too. A good test is to inspect the toilets!
- Take the obvious precautions with water, ice, fruit and raw vegetables.
- Avoid most foods from street vendors until you feel you have acclimatized.
- Don’t eat buffet food!
The last tip may come as a surprise. Many people think that by staying in all-inclusive resorts they are protecting themselves from food poisoning. Sometimes, the opposite is the case. Buffet food can carry a high risk of this happening. Food left out in the open for a long time, in warm temperatures, allows bacteria to multiply. Dishes that contain uncooked egg (e.g. mayonnaise) are the most vulnerable. Chicken can also be quite risky.
There are precautions that can be taken – sneeze protection screens, correct refrigeration – that can prevent this from happening, but not all buffets employ them. Combined with the fact that tourists are more often than not taking too much sun than is good for them and drinking sickly cocktails from the unlimited bars, the AI lifestyle can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to keeping healthy in a tropical climate!
Once you have acclimatized there is no reason why you should not eat, drink and enjoy Dominican food of all types, to the full.