Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Viahero. All opinions are my own.
If there’s one thing I love as much as traveling, it’s food. All you have to do is take a quick peek at the Enticing Eats section to know that I’m a firm believer that food is a crucial aspect of cultural exploration – and the best way to discover a new city.
Yet finding good eats while traveling is arguably one of the most challenging and potentially rewarding aspects of travel. You’d think it would be straightforward, but if you don’t do your research, you may find yourself eating at the country’s equivalent of McDonald’s (or worse, an actual McDonald’s) or eating sub par and overpriced food catered towards tourists.
Time and time again I’ll say that I don’t mind spending a little extra on food…as long as it’s good. Nothing makes me angrier on my travels than being forced into a terrible tourist restaurant with bad food. If you’re on an organized tour, sometimes you have no choice. But if you’re traveling independently, then don’t fall prey to the tourist restaurants…sometimes these experiences can make or break your trip. I’m only being slightly dramatic here.
To ensure you’re experiencing the most amazing eats your destination has to offer, check out the tips below on how to find the best food while traveling!
Before you leave:
While most people’s first instinct is to head to Tripadvisor, I’m actually quite skeptical of the reviews, because what do your fellow tourists really know about authentic local cuisine? I use the below methods instead.
There are tons of Facebook groups dedicated entirely to travel. Simply post asking about the best places to eat in a certain city, and you’ll likely get tons of responses. I like Girls Love Travel, but Nomads, Travel Addiction, and Travel Destinations are also great resources.
Searching on Pinterest is a great way to find articles, blog posts, and even entire boards dedicated to a city or country of interest. I use it for both travel planning and restaurant hunting. Since it’s so visually focused, you can see what sort of meals you’ll be encountering as well!
Honestly, Twitter is great if you’re connected to a lot of people in the travel sphere. I just got a few great recommendations for an upcoming trip and was referred to a country-specific blogger via Twitter. However, success is pretty hit and miss, depending on how often you use Twitter for travel-related items. Facebook and Pinterest are much better resources.
Food Tour Sites
Most cities offer amazing and comprehensive food tours complete with enough food to put you into a food coma. Oftentimes, these sites have accompanying blogs with recommendations for good eats in the city….who better to trust for recommendations than a food tour guide? One great example of this is Devour Spain’s blog.
Local / Off the Beaten Path Sites
I recently discovered this awesome new site called Viahero. For those of you that love to travel but hate the planning part, Viahero is for you. They contract locals that will plan your trip based on your travel preferences. They have a very comprehensive quiz about your travel style in a bunch of categories like accommodation, interests, budget, and most importantly, food. They even have “major foodie” as a preference. Now we’re talking! The best part is that you’re able to “pick your hero” so you know there’s a real person behind your trip guide. Although they’ve just launched with Cuba at the moment, they’ll be expanding to a bunch of cool places like Costa Rica, New Zealand, Japan and more. I’m hoping to get to Cuba next year, and with all the comprehensive information on their site, Viahero will be my one and only stop for all things Cuba. Check them out!
Eat Your World is a great global food resource site. The team contributes food photos, blog posts, and general information for local eats worldwide. What’s more, users can also create a profile and submit their own content. It’s a visually delicious way to discover enticing meals and restaurants.
You thought couchsurfing was just for a free place to stay? Think again! Use the country forums to ask for “local advice” and get recommendations straight from the locals!
Duh! The trick is finding travel bloggers that are based in the country you’re traveling to (or have spent a significant amount of time there). So if I were going to Thailand or example, I’d head to Migrationology. London? Eat Like a Girl.
At your destination:
I’ve definitely been guilty of waiting to find good food until I arrive at a new city and am sufficiently hungry hangry. This procrastination actually led me to eat some subpar meals on a recent trip so I’m definitely doing a little more planning for my next adventure. That being said, if you’re on the go, these are some other great resources!
Yelp is both an app and a website, so you can use it while you’re out and about. Unlike Tripadvisor, it usually has comprehensive reviews written by locals. I’m biased since I’m Yelp Elite, but I do find that most reviews are high-quality and accurate. Yelp is currently in around 30 countries. While some places don’t have enough reviews to help you form a solid opinion, it is generally a great resource to find options quickly. Tip: Google “Yelp Elite + city name” to find the city influencers. They likely have the best foodie recommendations.
The grocery stores
This is actually a favorite of mine (and is also a great way to save money!). I love going to local grocery stores and wandering aisle by aisle, picking up snacks and other things that catch my eye. It’s an interesting way to see what sort of spices and foods locals love, and who doesn’t love trying new snacks? I’m pretty sure this habit is the reason my cupboards at home are filled with chocolate digestives (UK), stroop wafels (Netherlands), sambal (Indonesia) and more. Sometimes I wonder how I ever lived without these items.
Asking the locals in and of itself is an art because you have to ask the right locals. Your best resource is the people at your accommodation: meaning your Airbnb host or the people working at the hotel. If you’re staying at a hotel, don’t ask the front desk. They almost always recommend restaurants that are popular with tourists. Instead, ask the doormen, cleaning staff or even the room service people. Pretty much anyone that isn’t the front desk will give you good recommendations. I’ve never had much luck with suggestions from the front desk, but it’s always worth a shot if you’re desperate.
Most taxi drivers know the city like the back of their hands and can give you great insight on local hole-in-the-wall places. Just make sure you emphasize that you want them to take you to their favorites spots, not the spots they think you’ll like. I’ve had great success with this in both Indonesia and Egypt and ate at spots I would have never found otherwise.
And when none of the above options work, just go find a place that looks crowded or has a long line. Chances are high that it’s popular for a reason. Nobody stands in line for bad food.
Tell me! How do you find the best eats while you travel? Share in the comments below.