Traveling is one of the all-time favorite human pastimes. For some reason, we find the notion of leaving our comfort zones and feeling adventurous fascinating. It doesn’t matter if we’re traveling on holiday or a business trip—we love experiencing a brand-new culture and interacting with new people.
And what better way is there to interact with a new place than to try its food? The cuisine we enjoy is an equally vital part of the human experience—which is why all of us like trying local authentic food when we’re traveling somewhere. What’s a trip to Mexico without authentic tamales or mole poblano?
However, finding high-quality authentic food is sometimes more complex than we think—especially if you want to avoid the classic overpriced and generic tourist traps every large city has.
With this in mind, we’ll check out a few ways to ensure your gastronomical trip is as exciting as possible!
Do Research Before You Leave
Nowadays, it’s easy to research just about anything—we can thank the Internet for that. You have all the sources you need to create an informed opinion on the dishes you want to try and the places at which you want to try them.
Naturally, it’s hard to try everything even if you’re staying somewhere for days—so you’ll need a shortlist of the must-have meals. To make it, read up on the local food and the culture of the place you’re about to travel to. This info will let you know what to expect from the local food and help you find it in better places.
Also, check when the local cafes, restaurants, and eateries open and close; their schedules may not overlap precisely with those in your home country. While you’re at it, check the local food prices in stores, restaurants, and markets—that way, you’ll have a more precise budget.
The Internet is a treasure trove of information for budding travelers. Still, no matter where you’re going—there’s nothing quite like a recommendation from the locals. It’s one of the best ways to ensure an authentic food experience, so ask local people who live there where they eat.
If you’re anxious about asking random people on the street, you can always strike up a casual conversation with a taxi driver as you’re making your way to the hotel—or ask the hotel receptionist; they’re bound to have some valuable recommendations.
Of course, depending on the hotel, they might give you recommendations for the fanciest versions of meals—which isn’t necessarily the most traditional way to go. Make sure to ask for simple places where locals eat daily.
And, naturally, you can also ask any friendly local about their favorite eateries. Or, if you’re prepared to spend money on this, you can inquire about local culinary tours. Some tour guides specialize in providing tourists with the best and most authentic food experiences.
Embrace Another Language
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to visit the nearest tourist place for food. However, that sometimes also means dealing with menus only presented in the local language—forget about that dual-language English menu you’re so used to!
Luckily, most restaurants in larger cities have at least one staff member who speaks English. Or, if you’re lucky, another English-speaking patron can help you overcome the language barrier.
Don’t worry—this is something your trusty smartphone will be able to help with. All you need is the Google Translate app, and you’ll be able to deduce the meals you’re browsing in pretty much any language. And if the name of the meal is obscure enough to escape Google Translate (which is unlikely), you’ll still probably be able to translate the individual ingredients and make an educated guess from there.
If you’re visiting a place with flaky wi-fi, make sure to download the language pack appropriate for the country you’re visiting—that way, you’ll be able to use Google Translate offline.
Also, if you don’t want to rely on the menu and wish to ask the restaurant staff for recommendations, Google Translate can help you with that too. You can type in sentences like “What’s the most popular dish?” The app will automatically translate the text into the local language.
At the end of the day, you can also defer to the tried-and-true method before the days of Google—looking around, seeing what other people are eating, and just pointing to a delicious-looking dish!
Visit The Local Market
Are you a hardcore foodie? If so, visiting the local restaurants is only the first step of your culinary journey—the real thing only comes when you go to the local market! There’s no other place to find local food that’s as authentic and genuine.
Plus, you get the chance to interact with folks who live nearby and learn about the ingredients they use in their everyday cooking. And let’s face it—if you want to do some cooking of your own while you’re there, you’ll find better and more organic seasonal products here than in supermarkets.