Food is such an important factor of travel because when you eat like a local, you are getting to grips with one of the most important cultural aspects of a location – city, region or country. When you eat like a local you can generally find a much wider range of dishes and more authentic recipes than hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists, where attempts are made to make dishes more palatable to foreign tastes. When you eat like a local, you are enriching your travel experience.
1. Do Your Research
If you’re anything like me, before I take a trip, I like to learn something about my destination. This helps me decide what my priorities are and what things I really want to see and do. As I like to make an effort to eat like a local, food is one of the things I research. There are so many ways to find info on the food of anywhere really, so you can use the Internet to learn some of the foods you want to try and some places to try them.
2. Question the Locals
Once you’re at your destination you can make use of local knowledge. Among the best people to ask are taxi drivers. They know their districts like the back of their hand and they're only too happy to suggest traditional restaurants or bars. These tend to be hidden in the tiny backstreets and away from the main tourist route ,where you can really experience what the local cuisine has to offer. Your hotel concierge would also be able to recommend places to eat, or maybe simply ask them where their favorite place is to eat because they will surely eat authentic local cuisine themselves.
Many locals will shop at produce and seafood markets. Here the best of seasonal produce will be on offer and can be picked up at far less cost than in supermarkets. Check out what the locals are buying and where, and make a note of it. Market days will be noisy and jam-packed with locals, and you’ll soon be caught up in this teeming and exciting melee. As well as being able to get the food you need to truly eat like the locals, markets are always a really colorful experience.
4. Street Food
There can be no better experience to sample local cuisine than by trying street food. Some of the local delicacies on offer may make you think twice at first, especially some of the Asian delicacies that are unusual to Western palates, but it’s where real local food is eaten and enjoyed.
5. Follow Your Nose
Whether you are in France, Vietnam or Cuba, one of the best ways to find a restaurant and eat like a local is to follow your nose. Follow the enticing aromas of garlic and herbs wafting around outside and see where it takes you. But don’t just head on in. Stand a while and watch who the customers are. Your observations and instincts will soon tell you if this is a place enjoyed by locals or tourists.
There are few opportunities to eat like the locals better than festivals and fairs. Community events are when the best of everything is available and there’s usually so much food and drink on offer it can be somewhat bewildering. Religious and historic festivals also tend to engender a propensity for the attendees to be generous and expansive in their offerings. Food is such a factor in these festivals all around the world and they add an extra dimension to your travel experience.
7. Foodie Tours
One of the great ways to try authentic local cuisine is to join a food tour. These have become so popular they are springing up all over. Knowledgeable and entertaining guides regale you with the history of local dishes and eating habits, and you get to visit sample restaurants and food markets.
There’s really no excuse to not eat like a local when you’re on a trip – even if you’re in your own country – and even if you have special dietary needs, you will find people can cater to them and still provide you with authentic dishes. So, next time you’re on a trip are you going to seek out a burger and fries or eat like a local?