The majority of us love to try the local food while traveling. Even the pickiest eaters usually will nibble on a few exotic dishes while abroad. It can be fun to dip a bit into the local culture. However, when we are abroad, it is quite typical for us to get caught in those expensive tourist trap restaurants with that not so delicious “traditional” food. Here are a few of my tips on how to steer clear of these places and get some good local food.
Ask the Locals Where THEY Eat
The best way to figure out which restaurants in town are the most delicious is to ask a native which restaurants are their favorites. When I am traveling, I will ask anybody this question, no matter if it is the receptionist at the hotel or a random person I see on the street. Just be careful that they do not tell you the restaurant that they think you will like. Sometimes the locals think that you wouldn’t like their food, and will just try and point you in the direction of the nearest McDonald’s. So you may have to clarify that you want to eat at their favorite restaurants.
Research the Local Foods Before You Go
A little bit of preparation beforehand goes a long way. Each country has a number of unique dishes that aren’t available anywhere else. So it is best to research and find out about the local foods before you reach your travel destination or you are almost guaranteed to miss something when you are there.
Go Outside of the Touristy Areas to Eat
By heading slightly outside of the city, you can dodge those touristic restaurants. While off-the-beaten-path, you will not only find more authentic local food, you will also pay less for your meal, which means you will be able to buy more souvenirs for your friends and relatives back home.
Search Out Those Hole-In-The-Wall Restaurants
If you think about your hometown, most people know a good restaurant that has been around forever, tastes great, but does not exactly look like a Michelin Star restaurant from the outside. Well, it is the same everywhere else in the world. I have eaten some fantastic food at restaurants with dirt floors, plastic chairs, and actual holes in the wall. Sometimes, the food is even better at these places than it would be at a five star restaurant. But, a word of caution.. always ask the locals about the quality of the food at these restaurants. You don’t want to go somewhere and end up sick the rest of your vacation.
Don't Forget the Markets and Grocery Stores
One of the best ways to learn about a country’s food culture is to visit the local grocery store or market. You will find so many brands, sweets, and perhaps fruits and vegetables that you have never seen before. It is always interesting to pick out a few random items and try them. Some will taste great, while the others may be… disgusting
Get Invited To A Locals House To Eat
I love having dinner at people’s houses, especially in foreign countries. Not only do you try that delicious home-cooked local food, you also get to experience some interesting culture as well. In some countries you may eat with your hands, sit on the ground, or share plates with everyone at the table. The food culture is really more than just food, and there is no better way to experience it than at the dinner table in a local’s house.
In regards to getting that “invite” to someone’s house, it will depend on a variety of factors. One of the biggest influencers is how “warm” people are in that country. It may be more difficult to get a dinner invitation in the “colder” Finland as it would to receive one in the “warmer” Turkey. Additionally, you always want to factor in safety. Do you know these people so well? Do you feel comfortable going to their house? Couchsurfing is a website that can help you connect with locals safely all around the world. My sister actual met a few Portuguese people through the website and they ended up inviting my sister and her friend to an Easter breakfast with their entire family. You can just imagine how excited my sister was and how much she learned about the Portuguese people that day.