I am a self proclaimed foodie. Part of the excitement of travel for me is trying a wide selection of local foods. When we take a trip to a new area, there are a few methods we use to decide where we are going to eat. Maybe they will help you on your next trip.
Research Before You Go
Not to sound like a broken record, since I encourage you to do a little research quite often, but a little research does go a long way when traveling. To save some time, I like to look at my itinerary and see which days I might find myself looking for dining options. When I start doing my research, I focus on those days and the area we will be in. I find watching travel destination shows and YouTube vlogs before we go to be very helpful. They give me a good feel for what’s available, what to expect and what type of local foods we should try.
Before our trip to Oahu, I watched several video travel guides by Chris Raney of Yellow Productions. They were informative and entertaining. I learned a lot about the types of foods we would encounter and generally what to expect. We also discovered Vloggers Adam and Kathryn from the Adventures of A plus K. They have created some great travel guides. We find their real (unscripted) and relaxed travel style to be so refreshing. We made note of several places they recommended and actually tried several of them. Happily we were not disappointed because they were all winners!
For our upcoming trip to Portugal, we have watched a few short YouTube videos on tips for successful travel and things to know before you go. We have learned some very good tips that will be helpful on our trip there. I have also been following a blog written by a lady who is traveling through Portugal on a tight budget. Her posts have great suggestions for dining and getting around affordably in places we will be visiting.
It’s also good to know the local dining customs. For instance, in Italy if they bring you chips, olives or nuts with your afternoon beverage, they are included. In Portugal they may bring an array of meats, bread and cheeses to your table, and if you eat one piece of bread, you are charged for the whole basket on your bill. Some countries it is customary to tip, while others it is not. Knowing these types of customs can help you avoid misunderstandings.
Ask A Local
Asking a local is another great way to find a good place to eat. A friendly cab driver, hotel concierge or shop keeper may be able to offer you some good options for places that they would eat at themselves or places to avoid.
On our first night arriving in Oahu, we needed a late night snack after a long day of travel. We asked the Desk Agent who was checking us into our hotel if she had any suggestions. She happily pulled out a local map and gave us several options to choose from as well as places we could go for breakfast the next day. We were very happy with the locations we tried based on her suggestions. The breakfast place was just around the corner and absolutely amazing. We never would have found it though without her help.
Listen to Experts or Fellow Travelers
When we have been on group tours before, I have tried to listen to the bits of advice mentioned by the Tour Director. Before arriving at a new destination, they may suggest a certain type of food to try in an area, where they think the best version of a local dish can be found or what place offers a great price.
They may even give you a few pointers on how best to order without becoming overwhelmed (some places it is a bit complicated) or typical local dining customs. For instance, in Italy if they bring you chips, olives or nuts with your afternoon beverage, they are included. In Portugal they may bring an array of meats, bread and cheeses to your table, but if you eat one piece of bread, your bill will be charged for the whole basket. Yikes! Some countries it is customary to tip, while others it is not. Knowing these types of customs can help you avoid misunderstandings. We had some great dining experiences while traveling by paying attention to these types of suggestion.
When in Lake Como a few years back, we had 2 nights to find our own dinners. On the first night we roamed through an area filled with restaurants before settling on one that looked good. We based our decision on the menu boards they had displayed outside. For the second night we took the advice of some fellow travelers that had visited a place with amazing gnocchi just a little further down the road. It ended up being the best gnocchi I have ever had.
Sometimes you just have to figure it out on the spot. This is when you have to rely on your observations. Do you see a place where there are a lot of locals dining? That’s probably a good sign. If someone is out front calling you in, that is usually NOT a good sign (plus it makes me uncomfortable). You can usually find cheaper prices and places the locals eat if you walk a few blocks away from the main tourist areas.
Be adventurous, If a place looks interesting, try it! We have also just wandered into cafes and restaurants that happened to be in the right place at the right time. When using this method, look over the menu right away to make sure that the options and prices will work for you. If not, move on!
In France the rear entrance of our hotel, and several other nearby buildings, opened up to a circular courtyard. That courtyard contained 4 or 5 cafes with outdoor seating. When we chose not to go with our group one evening, we just picked one of the nearby cafes and ended up having a wonderful meal. Blind luck!
Finding a good place to eat can seem a little bit intimidating. Using some of these methods can help take the stress out of it for you. Pay attention to the locals, tour guides and fellow travelers for clues. Do a little research before you go to give you a better idea of what to expect.
Be adventurous! The most important thing to remember, is DO try the local foods. Don’t stick to dishes you know because to truly experience a new place, you have to explore it’s foods. You might be surprised what becomes your new favorite dish.
Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure!