Insider Travel: Find out Where the Locals Eat

When travelling, whether for business or pleasure, it’s all too easy to settle on safe-bet chains and tourist favorites. But the whole point of travel is to awaken your five senses, and the flavor of the place, including the local cuisine. Here’s how you can get the very best dining experiences out of your next journey, and come home with some tasty memories:

Toss the Travel Guide: 

While travel guides can be a good way to get to an overview of a destination initially, chances are good that all of the tips have been retreaded again and again. Many guides don’t have the budgets to send their writers to the destinations, so they are relying on basically hearsay and online research. If you want to get the latest info, you need to leave your guide behind and strike out.

Get off the Beaten Path: 

It may seem obvious, but it’s all too easy to become sheep-like in your tourism and just do what everyone else does. If there’s a walking district, head there and ditch the rental car. Be ready to explore narrow streets and different neighborhoods. Set out with a map, a decent amount of daylight, and some good walking shoes. Even the most placid cities have eateries tucked away that are uniquely theirs, and have been that way for generations.

Think like a Local: 

Rather than checking into a hotel and checking out by ordering room service, try renting a home from a local homeowner. Vacations rentals by homeowners have exploded in recent years, and you can take advantage of your host’s experience with the city. They know the great hidden gems, because they live there year-round. Ask your host for any recommendations. Hint: If you say that you are on a tight budget, they will send you to the real local haunts. All too often, locals want to steer you to the best expensive restaurant in their ‘hood, but that isn’t always the best place to eat like the locals.

Get the Big Picture: 

As you fly into a city, take a window seat and get the lay of the land. Notice geographic aspects such as rivers and lakes, hills and mountains, canals and other waterways. If you are flying over the city, observe where the clusters of development are. You can often understand the history and growth of a city by looking at it from the sky. Chances are pretty good that the unique topography has spawned some local delicacies. Fresh and saltwater fish and shellfish are among some of the best finds an area can offer, along with local produce.

Learn the History of a Place: 

When you read the history of a place, you can learn how the food evolved by understanding the different ethnic populations who have settled there. Discover the neighborhoods where different immigrants have settled, and you can pretty well be certain that you will find a good meal.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: 

Some of the best spots for down-home cooking could be right under your nose. Don’t hesitate to ask everyone you run into: the gas station attendant, the man or woman on the street, the newspaper stand vendor. Love of good food is a common bond between all humans, and everyone loves to share their favorite place to eat. Hot Tip: Try querying flight attendants. They often travel into the same city over and over, and are savvy about where the best food and entertainment is to be found.

Try Something You Think You Won’t Like: 

Just because a local dish isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying. By expanding the adventure of your taste buds and taking a forkful of something you would not normally try, you may be pleasantly surprised and actually like it. Local cuisine develops organically out of the people who come to a place and bring their history with them. By opening your mind and practicing local immersion, you may find a flavor that wins your heart.