Everybody eats. Almost everybody loves doing so. For many people, food is a true passion. Wherever you fall on the scale, food is clearly a hugely important topic. Of course, here at Global Nomadic, we’re passionate about travel. We’re always looking for new ways to help you travel and fulfil your potential with internship placements and volunteer experiences. But we also love food!
There’s no denying that food & travel go together perfectly. Food is certainly one of the biggest attractions when travelling. New places present diverse flavours, interesting cooking methods and totally different dining cultures. The opportunity to try something different is always there. Equally, your established favourites often taste better with a change of venue (or even country). It can be a lot of fun to keep one favourite dish in mind and try it wherever the opportunity arises. Seeking out perfection could take a colossal amount of time, but somebody has to do it.
Given how big a topic travel food has become, there is a huge variety of information available out there. Some of it is great. Much of it is not. Many blog posts aim to educate you about saving money. Others deal with getting the best food and drink experience. Then there are the omnipresent posts on healthy eating. Of course, all of these categories are important, but the secrets they talk about are often obvious.
What is obvious is that you deserve better. So we’ll take a look at 4 common “secrets” and dig a little deeper to get to the good stuff…
1) Do As The Locals Do
This is perhaps the most obvious tip ever written about. In Venice, the most expensive place to eat is St. Mark’s Square. You know this. Wherever you go, the places with the highest concentrations of tourists typically play host to bars and restaurants that charge over the odds, or offer sub-standard food and drink. In the worst cases, they do both.
So the standard tip is to watch the locals. Look for crowds of them queuing and you can be sure of a quality meal at a decent price. Venture further afield and seek out the less touristy places. Then observe what locals eat and copy that.
Really though, the thing to do is talk to the locals. Learning even the tiniest amount of their language and adopting a friendly and open attitude will often get you everywhere. Make friends. Not only will you learn about the classic dishes of the region, but you may even get an invite to their home for a true taste of the local cuisine. These friendships will prove invaluable in loads of other areas too.
2) Stay Somewhere With Cooking Facilities
A relatively modern tip that only tells you half the story. You don’t eat out every day at home (or maybe you do, in which case I’m jealous). So make sure you have access to a kitchen whilst travelling. That way you can hit the supermarket and save money.
Having access to a kitchen is, of course, worthwhile. But a supermarket? In almost every top tourist destination on the planet, there are local markets. These vary in quality from 100% genuine, local produce used by little old ladies to feed their grandkids, to tourism-based, tat-filled emporiums design to rip you off.
Finding the right market can sometimes be as easy as a quick online search. Other times it might talk some investigation. Either way, once you’ve found it, you’ll be enjoying the finest food and for little money.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll encounter a friendly local who makes a special “secret ingredient” for use at home. Then you can really get cooking…
3) Street Food
Another classic and deservedly so. Street food is fantastic. Most tips tend to focus on South East Asia and value for money. This make a lot of sense, given SE Asia is renowned as a cheap destination for backpackers and budget travellers. However, it’s hardly a secret and certainly not the full story.
Street food can be anything from one man and his wok, to a gourmet food truck. However, it’s not just about value. Quality is important too. In many cheaper destinations, you’ll often find that good street food will taste better (and be healthier) than what’s on offer in lower-end hotels and restaurants. Many countries display some of their most famous, signature dishes on the street. In Denmark, pølser (hot dogs) are everywhere. Colombia fills the streets of its cities with the smell of empanadas.
Wherever you’re heading, the trick is to do plenty of research before you go. That way, you’ll know what to look for. Then when you get there, the real secret is just to follow your nose…
4) Avoid Alcohol
This one is widely talked about for two reasons. The first is cost. The second is health. Apparently, avoiding alcohol will make your travels cheaper and healthier. And that’s a top travel secret? Really?
Aside from being blinding obvious, that statement also does a disservice to specialist drinks producers all over the world. Archaeologists have found evidence of alcoholic drinks from as far back as Neolithic times. So with at least 10,000 years of practice, the human race has become adept at producing a wonderful variety of alcoholic drinks.
As part of the social fabric of society in many cultures, a drink or two can not only allow you to join in with the locals, but add something extra to your culinary experience. Wine, beer and spirits all have their place at dining tables worldwide.
The key to enjoying your culinary travels? Experience and intuition
When you travel abroad, the key thing to remember about food is don’t be swayed by what other people say. Use your intuition and seek out both the things you know you enjoy and the ones you want to try.
The more experience you gain, the more you’ll know what to look for. You’ll also come away with some great stories. Enjoy.