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. I’m all about finding the best food while traveling – all you have to do is take a quick peek at the foodie travel section of this blog 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.
And yet finding good eats is arguably one of the most challenging aspects of travel, though it can be incredibly rewarding. 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, 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!
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Before you leave:
While most people’s first instinct is to head to Tripadvisor, I’m actually quite skeptical of using their reviews to find the best food while traveling, 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 vs Globe, but Nomads, and Food Worth Traveling For 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! Let me just quickly self-promote and tell you to follow me while you’re at it!
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 stuff. 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?
Better yet, go on a food tour yourself! I’ve been fortunate to have done food tours and cooking experiences in a ton of cities and have always loved the places I’ve eaten at. Check out a few here: Amsterdam, Athens, Cairo, Madrid (twice), Petra, Singapore, and Valencia (also twice).
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, asking you questions 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 initially launched in Cuba, they’re now in 21+ destinations worldwide. 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. I’m sure they’ll make it super easy for me to find the best food while traveling. Check them out!
Eat Your World is a great global food resource site. The team contributes food photos, blog posts, and general information on 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 on finding the best food while traveling 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 like me in Valencia, Egypt, and Turkey). So if I were going to Thailand, for example, I’d head to Migrationology. London? Eat Like a Girl. Nowadays, you can also fine highly specialized posts that cater to dietary restrictions, like halal restaurants in Bucharest, for example.
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 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 will be most likely have the best foodie recommendations.
The grocery stores
This is actually one of my favorite ways to find the best food while traveling (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), stroopwafels (Netherlands), sambal (Indonesia) and more. Sometimes I wonder how I ever lived without these items.
Asking the locals is an art in and of itself, 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 or hostel. 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 at 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, and you’re still looking desperately for the best food while traveling somewhere, just go find a place that looks crowded or has a long line. Chances are 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.