There are many reasons why we leave our comfort zones to travel – it could be for business, holiday, or the desire to experience another way of life. No matter what your travel reasons are, food plays an essential part in your experience – even if you are just eating to stay alive. But why limit food to ‘refuelling’ purposes only when it can be much more than that? Finding good food when traveling can be quite tricky at times, especially when you are ill-prepared. You could even end up throwing stuff into your stomach that could leave you with nightmares about your travel experience. So, in this article, we are going to touch on some very important tips to help you turn your time overseas into a good food experience.
1. Do some research before leaving
Whether new food offers a unique culinary experience for you or you are only interested in something to fuel your system, you need to do your research before you set off. The kinds of food humans enjoy and even eating practices may be common practice almost anywhere you go. However, food, in itself, can be very different from culture to culture and country to country. So, before you set off, take time to do some reading about the culture and food in the country (or countries) you are about to visit. The information does not only help inform you about what to expect in terms of culture and food, but it also helps you to travel smart. You can visit SMARTY way traveling for some simple tips on how to prepare ahead of your travels so that your time away is not only safe but also comfortable.
Doing your research will help you find out where and when to eat, as well as what time eateries, restaurants, and cafes open or close. Your research might also provide some recommendations as to what meals to try, where, and even at what cost. While doing your research, you should also pay attention to things like the food etiquette of the area you are visiting.
2. Ask for recommendations from locals
Your research will help you get more than a fair idea of where to go and what to expect in terms of food in your target destination. However, one of the best ways to get the best eating experience and the best food is by asking for recommendations from the people who live there. You don’t need to walk around asking people for suggestions, although there is nothing wrong with that, really. But you can make your inquiries in a less stressful manner. For example, you can ask your taxi driver on the way to your hotel. You can also speak with the hotel receptionist for some recommendations.
If you’re looking for something more local and not necessarily fancy, be sure to make that point when asking for advice. Otherwise, you will probably be given directions to fancy restaurants only instead of the simple places where they get their food. But then again, there is nothing wrong with asking the locals on the street when you are out, stretching your legs or sightseeing. Alternatively, and if you can afford it, you can seek the services of a local culinary tour guide. These are professionals with experience in not only finding the best food joints but also the affordable ones.
3. Don’t let the menu in a different language scare you
There will be times when you will have to walk into a restaurant and sort things out for yourself. And if you are in a country with a different language to what you are used to, then one of the things you will have to sort out is the menu in a different language. But this should not be much of a problem as most restaurants have English menus available for English speakers. All you need to do is to ask for one or ask for a staff member to translate for you. Alternatively, before you set off from home, you can download the Google Translate app onto your phone, then select the language pack of the country you are about to visit. Once done, download the language and make sure it is available to use offline.
Anytime you are in a restaurant that does not offer the menu in English, you can simply type the sentence you want to be translated. For example, you can type in something like, “can I please order the most popular dish available?” or “What dish would you recommend I order?” Another option is to use the camera feature of the app and hover it over the menu. The feature will make the translation available on your screen. You can also try the good old method – point to what someone else’s dish if it looks good, to order the same.
4. Try the local market
If you are a real foodie, then you can take the extra step of visiting the local market. Compared to other places where you can find local food, there is hardly any other place like the local market. The local market offers foreigners the opportunity to better interact with the locals, find out what they eat and what exactly goes into their cooking. You will be able to find out some of the best and fresh seasonal farm products to enjoy. Plus, you are more likely to get organic food products from the local farm than from top supermarkets.
Aside from finding fresh farm products, one other benefit of trying the local market is the fact that you are sure to find a number of local food vendors either in the market or close to it. These are the best joints if you are looking for the ultimate local food experience. Pro tip: While scouting the local market and checking out the local food joints, pick out the places or food joints with the longest queues. In other words, if you find the locals queuing up for a particular food, join them – you will not regret it. Busy food joints are active for a reason – either the food is good, cheap, or both. But the chances are that it is both affordable and absolutely delicious.
5. Look up online food bloggers for their recommendations
One of the best sources of information when it comes to finding the ultimate culinary experience is from online food bloggers and reviews. The content of such blogs can be very important, especially when you are looking for specific food options. For example, if you are a vegetarian looking for the best restaurants or food joints that serve the kind of food you want, you can research food bloggers in your location.
You will be surprised by how much information you will be able to get on the internet. The internet has become the go-to place for almost any kind of information in this modern world. And when it comes to food, you can also use it to get the right tips with very little effort. Almost every destination on earth has at least one food blogger sharing the culinary life of that area.
6. Avoid tourist traps:make use of google maps
One of the best orientations you can have when in a foreign location is from Google Maps. This service will make available all the areas you need to know when it comes to food joints (or any other place for that matter). And the best thing is that you can save the locations for future reference without needing to open the app anytime you need it. Note; you need to have a Google account to be able to use the Google Maps app. Google Maps will help you to mark food places close to the sites you are visiting so you can avoid tourists traps. You can look for the nearest supermarket and add locations to have lunch or enjoy a coffee.
The advantage here is that using Google Maps will prevent you from possibly walking into any strategically positioned restaurant meant to attract tourists and charge them high prices for average meals. You will also be able to find local restaurants or food joints full of locals enjoying their meals instead of always being caught up among dozens of other fellow tourists. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with congregating among other tourists to eat. But there is everything wrong in getting average food at high prices while there are much better options available at your fingertip.
Whether you eat to live or live to eat, you cannot deny the role food plays in any form of travel experience. One of the best memories that people have of places they have been to has to do with the kind of cuisine they had the pleasure of tasting. So, turn all your travel experiences (whether business or pleasure) into something more enjoyable with the type of food experience you give yourself. Follow the tips in this article and store up memorable experiences that will linger on.