Eating local food and drink when you travel is one of the best ways to understand more about the culture and the people of the place you are visiting. How could you not try fish and chips in England or tacos in Mexico? However, how you find the best local food isn’t always easy – especially in popular tourist destinations. Try some of these fabulous foodie experiences to help you taste the very best of a region. If you are on a budget then local food is often the cheapest, but if you can stretch your budget a little, good food & drink is always worth paying for -especially when made from quality ingredients by a local chef!
I love taking food tours, where local people or foodie experts who have lived in the city for years take you to their favourite spots. You get local knowledge from your guide and can stuff yourself silly with delicious food along the way. What’s not to love?
If you enjoy cooking, or even if you don’t, cooking classes can be a wonderful way to learn about local specialities, and learn to cook them so you can continue enjoying them when you get home.
Street food is one of the cheapest and most satisfying local meals you can have. Sometimes (well, most of the time), food hygiene might not be what you’d hope for, but there is no more authentic way to eat with locals than chowing down on whatever the street food stalls are selling. For backpackers, this is the best way to make sure your budget stretches as far as possible, eating street food is often cheaper than cooking yourself!
I don’t think there is anything that shows you more about local culture than the marketplace. Local people come to buy their fresh food for the week, stalls sell cooked snacks, the hustle and bustle of everyone going about their business as the smell of freshly cooked bread or grilled meats fills the air. Markets are often my first port of call in a new town, there is no pretence here. Markets are another cheap and tasty place to eat, as you know the ingredients are at their freshest, and locals eat there too. Remember, if you do take photographs of stalls, try to buy something from the stall as a thank you in return. Markets are people’s livelihoods, not a tourist attraction.
Eating in Local People’s Homes
There are a growing number of websites where local people offer to cook meals in their homes, inviting visitors to try local specialities, and connect with people while they are there. I have been to several events arranged on the Eatwith website, although they are now moving towards more upmarket events, with food prepared by professional or semi-professional chefs. Other sites like Resirest and country-specific sites like Cesarine in Italy and Portuguese Table in Portugal seem to be more like food that locals would eat on a regular basis. I haven’t tried any of these sites myself, but I hopefully will do soon!
I adore wine tasting, wine is my usual drink of choice, so sampling several different types of wine, with nibbles, is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon! Distilleries and vineyards often offer tours or visits so you can learn about the process of making the drinks as well as tasting it. If the place you’re going to is famous for a particular drink, why not seek it out? Most countries tend to have a speciality, think Mezcal in Mexico, Pisco in Peru, Whisky in Scotland, Bourbon in the USA… you get the picture. You can also find things you might not expect, like a gin making class in Barcelona!
In this case, I mean any unique restaurant or one worthy of a special occasion, like a Michelin Starred restaurant or one with an incredible view, like the TV Tower in Berlin. When you travel, sampling something truly unique is sometimes worth paying a little extra for!
Special Dietary Needs
If you have special dietary requirements then eating when you travel is much more challenging. Trying to avoid meat, dairy products, gluten, peanuts, and any kind of food that you don’t eat is made even harder when you travel off the beaten path, or if the country you are visiting simply doesn’t understand what it means to be vegetarian in Mexico City or allergic to gluten in India. Learn the phrase in the local language which tells people what you can’t eat, or better yet write it down, and explain how serious it is. If you have food allergies, make sure you have antihistamines and suitable treatment with you in case you accidentally eat something you shouldn’t have. Also, make sure you tell the people you’re travelling with about your allergy so they know what to do if something goes wrong!
Planning a Foodie Holiday
Food is very important to me (if you haven’t figured that out already), so I have planned certain trips around the local food. Recently, my Yorkshire Foodie Adventure took me across the county of Yorkshire in the UK to seek out the best local produce, speciality food and drink. It was scrumptious! I suspect I would plan a similar trip around Italy, France, or anywhere famous for its food. And of course, you can still visit attractions and destinations along the way!
How to Find Foodie Experiences
Google is your friend. Search for the experience you want to do, plus the destination where you’re going, for example “cooking class Mexico City”, and see what you can find. Read reviews of experiences before you book, and take a look at several options before you choose your favourites. Most companies will have their own websites, but you can also find experiences on Airbnb, and the dining with locals websites mentionned above.
Guidebooks can sometimes offer good recommendations for where to eat in a new place, but you can also find several other tourists there clutching the very same book. Review sites like Tripadvisor can be handy but don’t rely on them too much either as the majority are written by visitors who haven’t tried other alternatives. Google Map reviews are often written by local people, Yelp is another option to check too. Then there are blogs (thank you for reading!!) and apps like Zipkick which has recommendations from local chefs, sommeliers and foodies who suggest their favourite spots. These are some of the blog posts I’ve written with recommendations for various destinations, I hope you find them useful!
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