For years there has existed a common idea that people generally travel to see the sights in exotic locations. Most people, however, when they think about it, understand that the majority of travelers go abroad to taste different cultures.
And when we say ‘taste,’ we mean it.
Sampling foods of different countries is one of the best way to get to know the country, build great memories with friends new and old, and really feel like you are delving into the culture. So the question arises: When traveling abroad, how can you find restaurants? Not McDonalds or KFC; real restaurants with authentic local food.
There is no doubt that each country will be different, but you can rest assured that most cities in different nations have districts in which restaurants are more concentrated. It falls to you to use your imagination and wisdom to find those great sources of tasty culture. That being said, there are a few things that you can try to get a jump start on your search for groovy grub.
1. Ask Locals
You can start asking locals as soon as you get into the country. Ask your taxi or bus driver to recommend a place. Be sure to get the address and find out if you can hoof it or if you will need to get a lift from public transportation. Asking your drivers about finding a restaurant while traveling is often your best bet because they tend to have at least a little understanding of English and other languages.
In addition to asking your drivers for recommendations, you can find someone who looks reputable and ask them for recommendations. Try people who work at stores or other businesses that line the streets. If you have learned some of their language, that will go a long way in getting them to help.
2. Watch Patterns
As you meander between Notre Dame and the Seine, or around Trafalgar Square, you can often find out where restaurants are by keeping an eye on the locals, particularly around meal times. So watch the businessmen as they hurry through the streets of Tokyo, or Madrid, around lunch time.
Then follow them. You might want to wait until they’ve cleared out and gone back to work before you try to squeeze in.
3. Consult the Internet
If you hadn’t thought to check the Internet, repent; it’s the second decade of the 2000s. If you’re in a major city anywhere in the world, you will find plenty of listings for restaurants and that are full of advice and pro tips. For example, if you Google “restaurants in Salvador Bahia,” you get a densely populated map of the city and a bunch of great restaurants at the top of your organic results, including Mama Bahia.
4. Plan Ahead
If you are a planner, you can plan your itinerary down to the restaurants you will visit. You can get information, of course, on the Internet for starters, but with some effort, you can find some locals with blogs. Contact them and get their thoughts!
Planning ahead also helps because you can get directions and thus lose less time as you search for food.
5. Use Guidebooks
Definitely avail yourself of the great guidebooks that are easily acquired online or at book stores. Lonely Planet is a great place to start. If the guidebook is worth its ink and paper, you should be able to get a solid idea of good restaurants in the city of your destination.
Don’t forget that when you arrive in your city, you can usually find good, locally produced guidebooks at airport and station newsstands. You can even try to find what you need in local newspapers.
6. Explore (Follow Your Nose)
Use your brain and travel savvy if you decide to simply explore. Keep your head up and make sure you don’t present an easy target for predators, and be sure to get out of an area if you have a bad feeling about it.
But all that aside, you can often find great gems if you go forth with no fear. For example, if you’re wandering through a town in the north of Japan, having visited one of the ancient temples in the area and hunger strikes, step into that noodle shop and just point at whatever you want on the menu. Then dig in!
Remember though, in Japan you don’t want to leave your chopsticks sticking straight up out of your bowl; that’s seriously rude!
The rule is that if it smells good, it probably is. So trust your nose, trust the locals and have fun finding tasty cultural experiences.