Fish Allergy in Costa Rica

DWQA QuestionsCategory: General Travel QuestionsFish Allergy in Costa Rica
PurpleVermont asked 5 years ago

Hi, I’ll be traveling to Costa Rica in July with a life threatening fish (not shellfish) allergy. Since I speak very little Spanish, I will travel with a card that explains my allergy and the need to avoid cross contamination, written in Spanish.
My questions are: 1) when ordering at informal “sodas” will they be willing to take the cross-contamination issue seriously and clean utensils and surfaces that might have been used for fish before making my food?
2) are there any “hidden” fish ingredients that I should watch out for (such as fish sauce, anchovy paste, etc. that might be used in otherwise non-fish dishes? Here in the US it’s Caesar salad dressing and worcestershire sauce that need to be watched for — are there things like that in CR?)  I’ve checked Salsa Lizano and it’s safe.

1 Answers
Jenn and Matt Staff answered 5 years ago

Hi PurpleVermont, 
That’s a very good idea to carry a card with details in Spanish about your allergy. You might want to also make one that you can show to a doctor/nurse in case of a reaction. To answer your questions, it’s really hard to generalize and say that an informal soda will take the fish allergy seriously (or a regular tourist type restaurant for that matter). Sodas are basically mom-and-pop-type restaurants and each of them is different and has different owners/staff. That being said, we find a lot of these restaurants to be really clean and for the staff to take a lot of pride in what they do. As for fish ingredients, we don’t know of any hidden ones that would occur in sauces, flavorings, etc. It was a good idea to check the Salsa Lizano, since that is a lot like worcestershire sauce. There could be some, we don’t know all the ingredients that are used to cook all the different traditional foods. Fish is pretty common in restaurants so do be careful. A lot of places serve either fish filet as part of a casado (typical lunch dish) or have some kind of fish ceviche on the menu. Even if the server seems to speak good English, it might be worth showing them the card, just so there aren’t any miscommunication issues going back to the kitchen. Sometimes the attitude can be a little overly laid back. Hope this helps and you have a great visit.  

PurpleVermont replied 5 years ago

Thanks. I will definitely show the card everywhere, and ask that they show the cook or kitchen staff. It is the “generally laid back” attitude that has me worried. I think I will have to make a “gut check” at each place and see if I think they understand and will take it seriously, and carry Kind bars and fruits as backup in case I can’t get something safe (and epipens as a back up against mistakes!). We’ll be there for 2 weeks so hopefully I’ll find some safe places to sample the local cuisine safely!

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