Finding the Best Food While Traveling
Trying new foods is my favorite part of traveling, especially street food. But as an outsider it's hard know where to even start. Whether I'm devouring birria tacos in Tijuana or tom yum soup in Thailand you can bet that the plug came from someone or something else. So if you find yourself not knowing what to eat, where to eat, how to order, or how much to pay then this traveler's guide to eating in foreign places is for you.
Ask A local
Locals are the best resources you could ever have while traveling. They know the best things to eat and where to find it. But I don’t mean the bell hop or the front desk at your hotel because they often direct travelers to touristy places. Instead ask a local shop employee, taxi driver, etc to get a better idea of what real locals love. You can even ask what a dish should cost so you’ll be prepared with enough money and avoid the "tourist price.
But it doesn’t just stop at food. Locals should be your go to sources for EVERYTHING. If you want to know what to do on a Sunday morning or the best bars to go o that night? Locals are the experts, utilize them! Language barrier? Learn key phrases before going and use google translate. Don't forget gestures and pointing.
Eat street food
Street food is often the apex of a city’s culinary scene. For many countries snacking or dining outside on a sidewalk, or the side of the road, is the norm. And the cooks who prepare these meals are amazing! For me few things compare to street food. To find the best street vendors you should of course ask a local. But if you’re already in an area with street vendors around:
- Go where the line is- Locals know what’s good so if they have a favorite you should follow their lead.
- Watch what they order - While in line pay close attention to the customers in front of you. Note what they order, how they order, and how much they pay. This is key to eating like a local. When it's your turn you’ll know what to say or at least be able to gesture and point to what you want.
- Watch what they pay- Sometimes prices aren't listed or are in characters. A lot of currency is colorful so take note to which bills are used and what the change looks like. That way you can have a general idea of how much a dish is and about what you should expect to pay.
Sit at the counter or bar
If you're traveling alone or in small number sit at the counter or bar a few times. You’ll get the opportunity to talk to the server or bartender more. You can practice your language skills, get a view of the kitchen, and have more access to a local to seek recommendations on anything from food, museums, to going out.
Last resort: Yelp or Google
Finally, you can always ask the internet. While it is certainly no substitute for a local’s knowledge it is still a good source for recommendations in many parts of the world. Keep in mind that Yelp reviews especially are often left by tourists versus locals so you may be self selecting restaurants that are more touristy.