How to Find the Best Places to Eat While Traveling
One of the most important concerns of a traveler for his/her trip is how to find the best places to eat when traveling. This concern demands a lot of planning beforehand and searching when arriving at the destination. Yet many travelers do not pay the needed attention and they end up choosing the most available and easiest option for food which is usually a disappointing one, for their sense of taste and their wallets as well. Many believe that planning and organizing your options of food for a trip can be so difficult, almost as difficult as planning the trip itself, that is easier to just spend your money on the suggested restaurants that make their profit mostly by hungry tourists. But that is just a misconception. As it is suggested below, there are many ways to find out the best places to eat when you travel or deal with possible problems, learn about alternative options and advices on how to plan your own meal.
When your hotel room has its own kitchen or even a kitchenette and sufficient kitchen tools (i.e. utensils, mixing bowls, plates, pans, boiler, choppers etc.) you can save money by preparing your own meal. If you don’t find the existing restaurants good enough, if you are on a special diet and you prefer to be sure of what you will eat or if you just travel with kids or a big company is not always convenient to eat outside. Before your arrival, you can ask the hotel manager to give you details about the type of the kitchen, its equipment and pantry, so you know if it is poorly equipped or not and decide beforehand what you will be able of cooking with what you will have and if you will have to bring anything from home. You can bring your knives or some seasonings for your convenience. Most of the times, you should use up everything you have available before you leave. Quality ingredients like table salt, olive oil or butter and spices taste good with any kind of food and are not hard to find and could make your any of your meals delicious.
You could then just visit the local, small grocery stores or farmers’ market and shop for your main meal instead of spending this money for often much less food; you are going to save a lot of money, too, for the rest of your trip or for the next one. You can also pick exactly what you want to eat without having to compromise with any pre-fixed menu choices. A good idea is also to first make a list of what you wish to eat so you don’t get too enthusiastic with the local market and exceed your budget. You will also have the chance to meet amazing local people that will be very helpful in letting you know secrets of their cuisine or how to find really, good, authentic, local places to eat that are not affected by tourism. Shopping your meal means you will also have the opportunity to stay healthy during your trip and not gain any extra, unwanted weight if the options of restaurants that are offered don’t seem too appealing. What could be better than fresh vegetables, fruits or low-fat products that you can find at a local market?
On the other hand, there many reasons to have your dinner at a restaurant as well; the most important is that you will have the opportunity to find out about the local cuisine. Dining out is also convenient when you don’t have much time to prepare a meal yourself, when you are very tired from traveling or when you don’t have the facilities to do so at the place you are staying. Choosing though the right place to eat outside needs some search.
A little investigation goes a long way...
First of all, it is quite important that before you hit the road you should have done some research and prepared a plan of your food choices so as not to end up with the most available choice. Nowadays, internet offers a good amount of information, so you don’t have any excuse for starting your trip without knowing what you will be eating. You can check about the restaurants at the places you will be visiting by looking on their websites and the reviews by previous customers; there you can find out about the prices, the service, and the quality of food, comparisons with other similar places or even better options suggested. However, keep in mind that not all these reviews may be entirely trustworthy so be a little cautious. But you can certainly get an overall idea of what is going on and helpful information for the particular place.
Once you are there, the simplest thing you can do before choosing where to eat is to go for a walk and check the restaurants through your own eyes. Usually when there are a lot of people waiting to eat and a full parking lot, the restaurant is worthy of its positive reviews and reputation and you can be almost sure that you will have a good experience. Even if it is not one of the restaurants that was in your research but instead a local one, if you see people lining to eat don’t be afraid to choose it. On the other hand, if you observe the customers and you see them disappointed or if you notice that it is not preferred by locals as much or that it does not look well-maintained, you should probably avoid choosing this place to eat. Generally, have more trust in what you can see yourself rather than in what you hear or read.
You can also look for and buy city guides in which you can read more balanced opinions about places you can visit to eat. City guides may be offered online as well, on the city’s or the country’s official website. There you can usually discover many ideas and suggestions for food that are not so popular and therefore not so busy when serving you. You may also discover local food blogs, or you can search them on your own, local newspapers or magazines with revealing reviews and articles on restaurants and places to visit and eat. Local specialists on food can also be helpful since they usually suggest already planned culinary routes and options to follow in order to make your time in the city easier by not having to think about food planning.
In addition, during your research keep your eyes open for any restaurant bargains, discounts or coupons. In order to appeal more tourists, since tourists and travelers are on a specific budget, many restaurants offer discounts such as especially fixed menus for tourists with or without kids. Search for these restaurants and compare their special offers with each other so you can choose the best one for you. Most restaurants inform their customers for their offers either on their menus or on their websites.
Use Social Media and Apps
Social media, apart from posting your amazing photos from the trip, can also be very helpful when you are looking for suggestions (read: How Has Social Media Changed Traveling). Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. and just by posting, asking and researching for recommendations for places to eat while traveling you can get many answers about must-visit places or not and gain a general idea of what to expect. People can be very helpful in such cases and want to help others avoid an unpleasant and unfortunate experience they may have had that could be devastating for the trip. Another way to find best places to eat is by downloading useful apps that are essential for a quick search before deciding where to eat. These apps can be very helpful and offer you the opportunity to compare and contrast restaurants and places for food, see what the choices in your destination are and look for suggestions, find their locations, learn about prices, make reservations and other details by the reviews and the comments of the other users and even ask them directly what their experience at a particular place was. In many cases you can even see the exact menus of the places you are researching so you don’t have any questions and doubts on what your choice will be. This can be very enlightening for the upcoming traveler and can reduce significantly the amount of searching before the trip. It is also much easier because you save everything in your smart phone and keep it safe for your trip later.
Problems You May Face When Eating Outside
When choosing to have your lunch outside, at a restaurant you may be confronted with various unpleasant incidents. For example, the waiter could bring you the wrong order or forget to bring you something, you could find a strand of hair in your food or the restaurant could charge you with something you did not order in the first place. But you can always find a solution.
First of all, choose the restaurant you think fits your taste best and only after you have done some research on it. Then you should always be clear to the waiter when they take your order so there won’t be any misunderstandings or confusions. But even if there is a misunderstanding or if something from your order is missing or is something wrong in general there is always one thing you can do and claim your right; speak up but be polite. No one can blame you for being polite and expressing your complaint in the most gentle, civil and amiable way. Being rude can never lead to a solution, even if you are the one who is right. If things escalate to a greater point you can always talk to a manager and agree to a compromise; for example, a replaced plate of food. Always go for what is best for you; in this case not to leave the restaurant and be still hungry.
Of course, experiences such these can be helpful for the future visitors. You can inform them by posting photos justifying your complaint or leave a review on the restaurant’s website page concerning the problem you faced (poor service, the indifferent manager, the rude waiters etc.). Leaving a tip or not is another way to express your discomfort and whether you were pleased with the way the restaurant staff treated you or not. You can always leave the restaurant if you are quite displeased, but it is not suggested without paying first. If you do leave the restaurant without paying, even if you are the one who is right, it is most likely that you will have trouble with law.
What About Snacks?
Usually planning your own meal or packing it with you is not an option that most travelers go for. But it can prove to be much more convenient and less expensive. The easiest way is to bring little snacks; they don’t demand lots of space in your suitcase nor lots of money. You can benefit from them when you are on the road and the options for food are limited. Most of them don’t need to be refrigerated which makes it even easier. This way you will avoid the extreme hunger that most travelers experience when traveling and the result of it being some of the worst choices for food made after a long journey. Snacks can also be lifesaving when traveling with children since they always want something to eat and at unexpected usually moments. Ideas for snacks can be tahini cookies or any kind of cookies, popcorn, nuts, tuna cans, energy bars, dried fruit and many more you can think of and like. Store them in light, useful plastic storage containers or zip top bags and have them with you wherever you go.
Picnic is Always a Good Idea
If you have packed your lunch and snacks with you from home or bought food from the local market of the place you are visiting, one of the most amusing places to eat is in nature. What could be more beautiful than a lavish picnic outside on a sunny day? Choose a beautiful scenery, a beach, a mountain top, a park, or a place that locals may suggest to you, and enjoy your meal. There are though some things you should take into consideration before going on a picnic. Take something to sit on, such as a blanket, as there may not be any benches. Bring also some plates, glasses and utensils; they could be disposable ones, so you just throw them away afterwards and don’t have to bring them with you. A can opener could also be helpful if you bring cans with you, as well as wet napkins or anything else you think is important and essential for your convenience and the success of your picnic. Choose the location carefully according to your needs as well; if you have a dog, it should be pet-friendly. Do you need restrooms? Is there any protection in case of raining? All these considerations and more of them should not discourage you from choosing the idea of a picnic to have your meal. They are just details for the perfectly planned picnic but even with just the essentials you can always find a place to lay your blanket and enjoy your food. If you want to always be prepared for a picnic you can search online for picnic equipment such as special picnic backpacks and baskets that can help you have all the essentials at once and always on hold.
Nowadays, street food or road food is getting constantly more and more famous amongst travelers since it is said to have many advantages. Why eat something common when you have the chance to taste something different? And by “different” we mean diverse and ingenious, since it can be stationary stands or push-carts, vans, trucks and canteens at the side of the road. It can contain any kind of taste and shape you can imagine, from sandwiches to bagels to waffles, burritos, calzone etc. depending on the region and country that you are visiting. It varies from finger food to fast food and huge portions of meal.
First of all, eating street food is less expensive than eating at a sit-down restaurant; you don’t have to leave a tip to the waiter because, simply, there is no waiter. It is almost always very tasty and healthy, made of fresh ingredients and much love. It is fast, right when you want it, next to you at the side of the street, on a crowded square, outside a museum. It is thought to be value for money because you pay for delicious, authentic food in generous portions instead of gourmet plates with the minimum amount of food. Not many are the ones who still feel hungry after having eaten street food. And when talking about authentic food, street food is definitely authentic. You can taste the local cuisine just in one sandwich. You can taste the whole culture of the country in a single bite. In countries where culture is so vivid and strong, street food can offer the opportunity to taste this culture just at a corner of a road. Street food stands are usually ran by local people so it is also a great opportunity to interact with locals and meet interesting people and learn more about them and their culture, ask them for opinions for more food and places to see that only the locals know of their beauty. You also support these local, small businesses instead of the big, corporate businesses and promote the growth of the local community and entrepreneurship.
But you also have to be very careful when choosing to eat street food since there are some risks, like food poisoning, which is very common for travelers and can destroy the whole trip right away. In order to have a positive and safe experience with street food you can take into consideration the following tips:
First of all, have some days for yourself to help your organism adjust to the local cuisine before trying street food.
Avoid fresh dairy products because it is difficult to be maintained on the streets.
Drink filtrated water and be sure that the ice they use in the stands comes from filtrated water otherwise don’t prefer it. Be careful with fresh salads as well since they can also be watered with tap water to be cleaned.
Vegetarian choices are safer since they do not include meat; you can never be sure for the origin of the meat in a foreign country.
Follow the crowd and search for a place with many people waiting to eat from a street food stand because, as we have mentioned above, this proves that what you will taste will be both good and tasty but also that the food stock they use is consumed in one day, so it is not left much time uncooked and therefore hiding health risks.
Also check the street food vendor for some time before choosing to eat from him since you can observe if he is clean enough and notice if he uses his hands or cleans his kitchen tools and surfaces or even if the color of the oil he uses is being re-used.
Of course, you should always wash your own hands or clean them with hand sanitizers before eating because traveling means a lot of exploring with hands and therefore a lot of chances to get sick from germs.
There is no better idea to find out about local places to eat than to ask locals. Even if you have conducted the most thorough research, there always going to be some restaurants that didn’t reach your expectations. So, during your walk through the city, visit a small local shop or address a taxi driver or any other local man and ask him/her kindly to suggest to you some interesting places to eat where you can experience the local cuisine or what is their favorite place to eat. Locals are usually very keen and happy to help travelers and share their honest opinions. They are the ones that usually have great ideas on the street food of the city since they have been around a lot more than the travelers. They may even invite you in their homes and give you the opportunity to taste homemade food. This way you can also meet new people and start friendships, experience a much funnier and interesting side of a trip, all through food. If you stay at a hotel, do not fully trust the hotel staff and their opinions. Avoid asking for their suggestions on where to eat because most probably they will recommend a place they have been told to recommend, which usually benefits the hotel as well as it is probably making a profit, too, from forwarding tourists to it.
Pick the Right Hour to Eat
When traveling, most of travelers get really hungry late in the afternoon after they have spent a whole day visiting places and sites and usually by avoiding eating during the day. They tend to have a big, expensive dinner after a long, tiring day of wandering. But menus are usually most expensive during dinner times. Travelers can save a good amount of money just by choosing to eat a good, big, healthy, nutritious breakfast or a late morning meal instead of breakfast and lunch which is called “brunch”. Brunch is becoming famous just like street food. It is common for travelers because it combines elements of a breakfast and a lunch and is in between breakfast and lunch time, so it is perfect for your wallet, too. But a healthy breakfast is just as good. In fact, it is better to start off your day with a good breakfast, especially when you travel and you need energy. Breakfasts are usually offered in the hotels and can be very satisfying, safe and included in your room bill so you don’t have to spend any extra money. If you are planning to stay at a hotel, make sure to ask for breakfast to be part of your deal. It is not wasted money and hotel breakfast are known for their variety. Fruits, honey, oats, vegetables, juices, milk, toasts, yogurts, eggs and a lot more are perfect for a fresh and full of energy start of a day. On the contrary, the local markets usually drop their prices during afternoon hours so it is a good time to visit them and shop your own food for the next day and be content that you will eat whatever you want.
Unfortunately, for air travelers to find the best place to eat is an issue. Unlike road travelers who can do a research prior to their trip, ask for help from locals, the internet, city and food guides, air travelers are constricted in the airport. Inside the airport, the options of food are very limited and due to the lack of antagonism the prices are extremely higher than usual. There are mostly big corporate food businesses, inside the airport and the airplanes that offer either high-fat fast food like burgers or very poor quality of food, filled with sodium and other unhealthy ingredients. In addition, the safety restrictions don’t allow the travelers to have their own food in the form of liquids, like soups. But instead of spending lots of money to this unhealthy food, you can pack a sandwich or a bar of chocolate with you and other snacks that you have chosen to eat while waiting in the airport. You can also opt to buy small snacks from the airport’s shops like yogurt, milk, fruits, a cold salad, nuts etc. to keep your hunger away for a little more until you can have a proper meal outside the airport.
Edited by Sophia Gkoutziomitrou
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