Unfortunately, all too often people stick to what they know when it comes to eating while away on their travels. In some cases it’s for fear of putting something unfamiliar in their gob or getting ill.
In others it’s simply because they don’t know which spots to hit for the best nosh and so get stuck eating average food in tourist traps that no local would be seen dead in.
But food is a fantastic tool to help you discover a new place and can provide a fascinating insight into a destination’s culture, traditions and history. So stay away from the Maccy Ds, broaden your horizons and sample something new instead. Here’s how to eat like a local when you travel.
Value substance over style
Pretty, Instagrammable surroundings frequently make for bland, below average meals. And the fancy places aren’t where you’ll normally find local residents hanging out on a daily basis. So forget about your feed for a while and focus on solely on your food.
Don’t dismiss places based solely on the fact that they’re a little tatty or unfashionable. Seek out great flavours instead of well decorated spaces and your taste buds will undoubtedly thank you for it.
Do your research
By research, we’re not talking about trip adviser which is full of questionable reviews by other tourists. What we’re on about is finding out what and how local people eat.
Read up on what the most commonly eaten local dishes are and discover which areas normal people that live in your destination actually go to get their grub. Great places to start for this info are local food blogs written by people who haven’t just passed through a place for a couple of days.
Sample the street food
In many countries around the world the most popular way of filling your belly isn’t to sit down in a stuffy restaurant. Often the best quality, most authentic and mouth watering chow is cooked up on ramshackle stalls right on the street.
Lots of travellers are put off by street food, scared it’s gonna make them sick and ruin their vaycay. Avoid any adverse effects by sticking to popular stalls and taking a few minutes to watch the chefs before ordering. You’ll soon see if they’re doing anything sketchy health and safety-wise, a clear sign to move on.
Follow the crowds
We’ve found some of the best restaurants on our travels by simply stopping when we see a raft of packed tables or queue out the door. While it’s not a failproof method, generally busy food places are popular for a reason.
Be sure to take a peek at the clientele through the window first as well - if it’s a sea of touristy looking faces then it may not be what you’re looking for. If, on the other hand, it looks like a local crowd, head on in and take a seat. Spy on what other people are eating and take a lead from them, and you can always point if you don’t speak the lingo.
Time it right
Mealtimes vary from country to country, and getting the schedule wrong can have big repercussions on your dining experience. For example, turn up to a restaurant in Buenos Aires any earlier than around 8:30pm and you’re likely to find it totally deserted with the doors closed. Come back a couple of hours later and you’ll discover packed tables and the night in full swing.
But more than that, in some locations you’re gonna not get a great meal if you eat at the wrong times. The last thing you want is to get the dregs of the lunch service or food that’s not had time to properly take on the flavours.
Take a food tour
Food tours are usually run by local guides who are passionate about the cuisine on offer and desperate to show it off. Because they care so much about what they put in their traps, the tours revolve around quality establishments only. To give you a real taste of what’s on offer, the standard format involves visiting a selection of markets, street stalls, restaurants and bars. And not the kind of places you’d necessarily visit of your own accord.
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