We leave the comfort of our home to travel for different reasons. Some of us want a break from work to relax, others are keen to learn and experience different cultures. Food is an essential part of any trip or journey. Regardless of the purpose of your travels or your budget, finding good food in foreign countries can sometimes be challenging. See our tips for how to find the best food when travelling.
Our eating habits and types of food we enjoy are common practices to us, however, they can be very different from other countries. Before you go, make sure to read about the food and cultures in the country you’re visiting.
You might find that the type of dishes served in the country and when and where to eat might not be what you are used to at home.
For example in Australia, lunch is often eaten in a café and many cafes close at 4 pm, so it’s often hard to find the kitchen still serving food or coffee after 4 pm.
In Spain, you won’t eat dinner before 8 pm as most places don’t open until late. When dining in the USA, remember that a 15-25% tip is expected on top of the total bill.
In Thailand, the whole country eats on its streets because it’s very affordable and the food is fantastic. For this reason, cooking in the home in this country is uncommon. Don’t miss our other 26 handy tips for travel in Thailand.
It’s worth noting that if visiting the Middle East during Ramadan, be aware that most food places will be closed during daylight hours.
Thai street food – Cost $1.20, tastes amazing!
2) Ask a local for a recommendation
One of the best ways to find great local food in any destination is to ask someone who lives there. Simply ask a taxi driver or your receptionist for a recommendation. If you’re after a local flavour, ask them to suggest where they would eat as sometimes a receptionist might point you to a fancy restaurant instead of the simple canteen where they get their lunch.
Eating some affordable, amazing pizza (Joe’s Pizza place in Greenwich Village, NYC).How to find the best food when travelling? Join a food tour!
3) Don’t be afraid of the menu in a different language
Don’t speak the language? No problem. Many restaurants might have an English menu or the wait staff can translate for you. If this isn’t the case, Google Translate can help. Download the App to your phone at home and then choose the language pack of the country you are going to visit (ie. Italian) and download it for offline use.
When in a restaurant you can simply type a sentence to translate: “ Can I please order the most popular dish?” or “What would you recommend?”
You can also hover over the menu with the camera feature and it will translate the menu on your screen, it’s amazing.
Now you’re multilingual! If you don’t have a smartphone, simply point at another diner’s dish to order the same. Some of the best dishes I’ve eaten in Vietnam and China were ordered this way.
4) Go to the local market – you will find fresh produce and usually find cheap and tasty meals nearby
There is nothing quite like going to the local market. Not only is it a great way to interact with locals, but you will get to see the fresh seasonal produce that you should be eating. Fresh tomatoes and porcini mushrooms in Italy, tropical fruits in Thailand, best tuna in the world in Japan or fresh fish in Greece, among other amazing Greek foods.
You can usually find some local food vendors near markets… hello, deep-fried langos in Hungary or chicken kebab in Turkey.
Food at the markets – Uzbekistan
5) If there is a queue for food – join it!
If you see locals lining up for food somewhere – join them, it’s always good. Food places that are always busy are for a reason. So if it’s popular with locals it will be good, trust me.
6) Research food bloggers online to see their recommendations.
Turn to the experts when learning how to find the best food when travelling. Bloggers and foodie influencers write about where to find the best coffee, sandwich or cocktails in many destinations. It’s a good source of information.
In the new area of the Internet, getting some hot tips online is a great strategy. You will find websites dedicated to food everywhere. Every destination will have some food bloggers whose passion is eating and sharing their experiences.
Most blogs are written in English, but if you are not fluent, simply translate them with google translate and note down the name and addresses. We always use this trick when researching how to find the best food when travelling. More often than not, it always works really well.
7) Use google maps to mark food places near sites you are visiting so you can avoid tourist traps
I like to use my google maps for orientation when in a foreign city. You can also save places on your map (you need to have a Gmail account to log in) which is very helpful.
Let’s say you are visiting Bratislava for the first time, I’d research the places and dishes online as mentioned above and then search for them on my google maps. You can then click on the name of the bistro or restaurant and hit the save button – you can add it to your favourites or places you go.
I usually add some places for lunch, dinner or coffee and might even look for a supermarket. This means that if I then visit the old town I won’t just walk into the first restaurant on the main square to have an overpriced, average meal.
I’ll follow directions to the place I’ve already saved on my map to find great food in a local place that is likely to be full of locals eating great food. Win! Google maps is an amazing tool for showing you how to find the best food when travelling the world.
If you’ve done a little research and you’re prepared, you can always eat great food at low costs
Try new flavours and combinations! They might sound strange but they usually work. As eating rice, chicken and cherry compote might sound strange to someone who is not from Slovakia, some dishes you come across might not sound appealing to you either.
Our bonus tip for how to find the best food when travelling is to consider joining a food tour in great foodie cities. We do this all the time and it’s awesome! We like to search Viator for the best range of food tours.
Either way, I recommend that you try them and you may be pleasantly surprised. Here are some strange combos from around the world that seem to work:
A coffee lover, history junkie, former tour guide, and endless optimist. The mastermind of logistics and chief navigator for Very Hungry Nomads, two women on an adventure to visit EVERY country in the world. Marty is a social butterfly who describes her life as “just livin’ the dream".