Summer to us means lots of traveling. And whether we’re doing a cross-country road trip traveling outside of the US, one thing’s for sure; food is going to be a very important part of our trip. One of the best ways to get to know the local traditions, history and culture of a city is through food. Lucky for us, it’s also means that we get to try new and exciting foods that we may not have had the chance to try back home. Travel eating can be frustrating sometimes (i.e. overpriced tourist traps) but if you spend a little time mapping out the local cuisine, your trip is sure to be memorable. Sampling the local fare is one of the best ways to explore a new city, and we’ve created some useful tips to help you have a more authentic (and delicious) travel experience.
1. Do Your Research.
When planning a trip, the amount of research can be overwhelming, But mapping out your travel cuisine experience should be the fun part. While travel websites like Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet offer plenty of suggestions and reviews of restaurants in top destinations, there are a few other less-obvious ways to find out the best places to eat in each city you visit. Before you depart on your trip, check out the food and drink sections of the local newspapers to see which restaurants are being featured. Cross reference these papers with local food blogs to find out what the locals are crushing on right now. Travel sites like Nectar & Pulse offer handpicked travel tips from ‘local soulmates’ around the world, including their 24 hour travel guides featuring real experiences from travelers. Another source for mapping out your travel cuisine experience is your Facebook friends. You’d be surprised how many people in your network have traveled to the same destination or who may have personal connections in that city. Your social media networks are especially helpful if you don’t have that much time to plan in advance. Put a call out on Facebook or Twitter for the best places to eat in your city of choice that avoid the tourist traps and long lines and let your friends do the rest!
2. Hit The Streets.
One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to walk the neighborhood. Don’t worry about getting lost or having a set route, just wander around and see where your feet take you. Maybe even let your nose do the leading, just as long as you’re following the delicious scents of the local cuisine and keeping your eye out for bad neighborhoods. Most likely you will be lead to the local street vendors lining the sidewalks serving up local favorites. Street food is one of the most authentic representations of a city’s local cuisine but can be a little tricky when choosing which food to sample. While navigating the street food scene in any city you visit, look for vendors that have lines filled with the local crowd, not tourists. If the locals are eating it, it must be good. Also look out for food that’s cooked right in front of you and looks like it hasn’t been sitting out for a while. This will be a good indicator that the food is fresh and won’t leave you feeling sick during the rest of your trip.
3. Ask A Local.
This is one of those time-tested tips that never seems to fail. Most locals are surprisingly eager to divulge their favorite restaurants in town, hoping to give you the best dining experience their hometown has to offer. Traveling is not the time to be shy. Strike up a conversation with the local barista or bartender and soon you will have a long list of suggestions of where to get the best meal in town. Hotel concierges or Airbnb hosts are also great sources of knowledge for authentic local food that might even be walking distance from where you’re staying. We like to ask any local where they would go for a meal with their friends and often their recommendations offer some of the best meals of the entire trip!
4. Take A Food Tour.
The world is an amazing place and now offers entire tours devoted to some of our favorite food and drinks. Think tours that lead you to some of the best cheese shops in Paris or a beer tour in Berlin. These tours offer a unique way to explore a city through the eyes of its food and drink and can often lead you to unexpected places. Team up with a local guide for a quick and easy way to check out where the locals shop and eat or check out Road Food for self-guided itineraries to legendary food destinations in the US.
5. Time Your Visit.
Festivals and celebrations are such a fun and meaningful way to check out the local history and food culture of a city. Plan your trip around some of these exciting events and experience all that the city has to offer. Holidays are often steeped in cities’ history and the celebrations can transform the whole town into something magical. There are also plenty of food festivals to schedule your trip around. Oktoberfest in Munich is quite the event and is celebrated by young and old alike, decked out in lederhosen and other costumes. Beer flows freely and traditional German food fare is served, offering you an authentic experience that is one in a million.