Food is always one of the bet parts of world travel, there can be no doubt about that. Finding new and exotic dishes, tasting exciting new cuisines, what can be better? But where are all the best places to eat? How do you find the best restaurants and street food when you travel? It’s easier than you think!
There are a whole range of places you can eat out when you travel, from fancy restaurants in unique settings, to cozy family run eateries and even cheap street food stalls with some of the tastiest food you will find anywhere! You will not be starved of choice, that is pretty much a guarantee! Finding the best places to eat however is a little more of a challenge. Here is how I look for the best places to eat in whatever destination I am in.
Ask a local.
This is one of the most simple and easiest ways to find where the best local spots are. Just ask the person on the reception desk of your hostel, or your tuk tuk or uber driver where they would recommend. Everyone always has a favourite place, and since they eat there all the time they will know the places to go!
Look for the locals.
If you are too shy to ask someone or the language barrier is too great then simply have a peek inside somewhere and check out the people who are sitting down to eat. If they all look like they have just swarmed off a tour bus or cruise ship, move on. If they look like locals going about their daily business then go and sit down. The local preferences for good food and good prices really can’t be relied on enough!
Look for the lines.
This is a similar variation on the above theme but if you find yourself at a food court or somewhere where there are lots of street food stalls or a lot of choice, then look for the ones that are the most busy. This was one of the easiest ways I always found the best stalls in food courts all over south east Asia.
Go to the local market.
Markets are amazing places on two levels. First, they are obviously the ideal places to pick up fresh local produce, not to mention great ways just to insert yourself into local life and take in all those sights, sounds and smells. Secondly many markets around the world are also ideal place to find local street food stalls! Just wander round aimlessly and try whatever takes your fancy!
Step away from the tourist attractions.
Don’t get me wrong go and visit those must see sites everyone is there to see but I wouldn’t recommend eating at any cafe or restaurant that is in sight of them. Prices will be higher, they will be full of tourists and the quality will be fine, but hardly great. Avoid the places with signs in English and workers with menus trying to pull you in like the plague. The same can be said (most of the time at least) for those chain brands you see everywhere. Walk away from the touristy spots, sometimes even just a street or two is all it takes.
Don’t be afraid to step inside.
The best local eateries are often that, very local places away from the touristy crowds. They can often be simple, no English language signs or menus and can be a little intimidating, but don’t be afraid to step inside and ask a question or point to something that takes your fancy. I have lost count of the amount of times I have ended up with the strangest collection of dishes on my table, but I have always enjoyed trying them out!
Join a food tour or cooking class.
Many hostels, guesthouses and tour operators will have a variety of food tours that you can go on. The problem with these is that they are often rushed and you only get a sample of the places you are eating at, but they are really good for just getting a taster to find out what you do or don’t like. You can always go back to your favourite spots another time. Another advantage to these is that you can make friends quite easily with others on the same tour.
Cooking classes are similar to this in that even though you will be spending most of your time in the kitchen learning about the local foods and honing your cooking skills, they often take you around local markets to get the produce first, which is a great way to suss out where to get the best food at the right price!
Don’t assume cheap is bad, or expensive is good!
Let’s just be honest here, many assume fancy restaurants with high price tags have the best food in the world and cheap food is cheap for a reason, but that is far from the case. There are absolutely some fancy restaurants that are worth splurging out for, often for the experience as much as the food, but there are plenty of bad ones too. The same is true at the other end of the scale, there is a lot of bad food at the lower price range, fast food is often one of the main culprits here, but you will also find the cheap street stalls and food courts can have some of the best food you have ever tasted!My point being don’t dismiss something out of hand due to preconceptions.
Use social media.
This one is a little bit tricky and generally I only recommend it after you have tried everything above. If you go on certain platforms such as Twitter and just type in ‘best place to eat in …’ you will get some great recommendations from people actually talking about the places they are eating at. You do however have to use a little bit of critical thinking on your part as you have to quickly determine what is a genuine conversation or post, and what is not. And no, the answer is not as simple as just ‘paid ad’ vs not. I would also recommend avoiding places where literally everyone on Instagram has a must see photo of it. You’ll never get to sit down or eat because of everyone posing for their shot or taking three hours to rearrange their dinner for the perfect ‘gram.
Avoid social media.
On the other side of the coin to this it is very easy to become a slave to your smartphone when you travel, and in much the same way as twenty years ago you would always see crowds of people in the same restaurant clutching their lonely planet books, now everyone follows Google recommendations and social media a bit to slavishly too. Use it in a pinch, but don’t forget to use your own initiative, your own instincts and just get out there and explore!
I hope this helps you make a decision on where you can eat when you are on your travels. It really isn’t as hard as you think to find the best places to eat. Enjoy your travels, and bon appetite!
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