Traveling gives you the opportunity to experience new cultures and landscapes — and, most importantly, new foods. Dining with locals gives you a unique glimpse into the culture that’s hard to find at major tourist attractions. Before you start hitting every street food stall and restaurant, however, it’s a good idea to do a little preparation. That way, you can make eating abroad safe and enjoyable.
Ask for recommendations
Chances are, you have a limited amount of time in each new place. To make the most of each meal, do a little research. Ask your hotel or hostel clerk about popular regional dishes and where to find them. If you start chatting with someone in the street, ask for their favorite restaurants. Don’t speak the same language? A quick Google search can help you find the best local foods.
Choose street food wisely
Street food is one of the best ways to experience local foods. The portions are usually small, and the prices are often lower than you’ll find in restaurants. The key? Choose the right stands. If the food has been sitting out for a long time, it can gather bacteria that upset your stomach. To stay safe, look for stalls with long lines. If locals feel safe eating from a stall, it’s a vote of confidence — it also means that the dish is popular. It’s also a good idea to choose street food that’s cooked in front of you; the heat usually kills bacteria. The FDA also advises you to avoid raw fruits or vegetables unless you’ve washed them in safe water and peeled them yourself.
Keep an eye on the spice levels
Some countries, including Thailand and India, are known for their spicy foods. If you’re not prepared, you might find yourself with a dish that’s hotter than you can handle! Not sure if you’re ready for the local spices? Ask for a mild version of the dish. Then, experiment by gradually adding red pepper flakes or hot sauces — many foreign restaurants place them on the table or near the kitchen. This way, you can enjoy your meal with just the right level of spice.
If you’re a foodie, you probably arrive in a new country ready to start eating everything in sight. For the first few days, however, it’s a good idea to pace yourself. New countries use different ingredients, and you never know which ones are going to agree with your stomach. By taking it easy while you get accustomed to the local flavors, you can stay healthy for the entire trip while eating abroad.
Get away from tourist areas
Around popular tourist attractions, you’ll often find a variety of restaurants that cater to foreigners. They have menus in multiple languages and a food selection that’s packed with burgers and pizzas — not to mention higher prices. To get the true local experience, get off the beaten path by visiting non-touristy neighborhoods. There, you’ll find authentic foods, better prices and a true insight into local life. Not sure what to choose? Look for places that are packed with locals.
Eating abroad is one of the most exciting parts of travel. By doing your research and picking the right restaurants and street food stalls, you can taste local foods and keep your stomach healthy and happy.