And welcome to our Ultimate guide to food and drink when you travel, This will give you everything you will ever need to know about about food and drink when you travel.
Food and drink when you travel is something we can all get excited about. It is an adventure. Eating a dish that you were unaware of in a land you have never set foot in before. The possibility of finding a new dish that could become one of your favorites. Explore the history, traditions, and cultures and most importantly connect with others.
What we have covered
- Starting your “musts” list
- Food safety and hygiene
- Eat what the locals eat
- Eat where the locals eat
- Avoid the “tourist trap”
- Staying flexible
- Food tours/cooking classes
- Map it
- Dietary requirements
- House rules
- Alcohol etiquette
- National drinks
- Whiskey, wine, and beer tours
- Serendipitous tip
So here we go, let us help you by giving you everything you could ever need to know about food and drink when you travel. With tons of money and time-saving tips and tricks as well as making sure you get the best food and drink experience possible on your next trip!
Starting your musts list
We have made a must’s list printable for you to use. It helps you keep track when planning all the food and drink you want to try and everywhere you want to visit. Check it out here.
Food safety and hygiene
A little safety first when it comes to food and drink when you travel. As economies around the world are growing hygiene has improved. But, the dreaded traveler’s diarrhea (TD) is still common. Each year 3 to 7 out of every 10 people get TD from consuming contaminated food and drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As well as with the recent COVID19 outbreak know we know it’s more important than ever to wash our hands as much as possible.
Contaminated food and drink
Although the largest contributor to TD is poor hygiene in local restaurants, even 5-star establishments run a risk. It is not just about the vendor but the country’s general food and hygiene. See destination advice from the Travel Health Pro. In these cases, tap water, ice and ice cream is a no go, even for teeth brushing. Certain foods including uncooked items washed in tap water such as salad, fruits, and vegetables should also be avoided. See the NHS guide for further information.
To see the hygiene of a specific restaurant or vendor you can use sites like Trip Advisor. They have customer reviews that will usually show any issues people have had with the food and drink.
Food and drink is a big part of travel for all of us. This is why hand hygiene is critical. As TD can also be due to poor hand hygiene. Washing your hands is the quickest way to keep you, your family, and others from getting sick. So, stay safe and wash those hands. See the NHS handwashing guide.
For more information on staying safe please see our guide: our Ultimate guide to the travel essentials.
Eat what the locals eat
One rule we always try to stick by when it comes to food and drink when we travel is to eat what the locals eat. To an extent, we have passed on some of the more adventurous and questionable delicacies. A way of truly embracing the culture of your destination is through their food and drink. And for us, it is one of the most exciting parts of our trip. If it’s Pad Thai in Thailand, Chili Crab in Singapore, Gyros in Greece, or a Tagine in Morocco. You can and will have some of the best food experiences of your life, with a little planning.
We are so lucky that at the click of a button we can find the most popular and iconic dishes before we leave. By doing your research you will know what to look out for on the menu. Time to get that musts list started.
Eat where the locals eat
Now you know what you want to eat, it is time to find where the best place is to eat it. We live by the mantra “eat where the locals eat” as this has landed us in some of the most unique places. Trip Advisor is great for reviews, you will find some awesome restaurants this way. But usually, they are from tourists, not locals, some of the best may not even be listed on Trip Advisor. The best way to find a gem is to wander down a local street or food market. The clue is in the queue.
These places might not be fancy 5-star restaurants but a street cart serving people on plastic chairs. Not only is the food amazing, but also super cheap. A plate of Pad Thai from a street vendor in Thailand can be as little as 50 baht (£1.23). Remember the safety and hygiene tips if eating from street vendors, eat food that has been prepared recently, and is served hot on clean crockery.
Not only will your destination have iconic dishes to try, but you may find that different regions, cities, or even restaurants have their specialties. In the USA, cities have dishes unique to them from sourdough bread in San Francisco to New York-style cheesecake in, of course, New York City. Regions may be famous for different dishes too. In the north of Thailand, they specialize in Khao Soi whereas in the south it is satay.
You will get such dishes throughout the country and they may be awesome. But it can taste so much better when you eat it in the area or restaurant that it originates.
By searching for such specialities, you may have some extra dishes to add to your musts list.
Avoid the “tourist trap”
It might be tempting when your belly is rumbling to settle in at the first restaurant you see, full of hungry tourists with an over-enthusiastic host or hostess urging you to “eat here”. Yes, location is key, but just because you are a 5-minute walk from a major tourist attraction, does not mean that they are the best places to dine. Often it means quite the opposite. The food might be okay, but it will not be the best and chances are it will be much more expensive.
Some of the best eats can be found down a side street and tucked away from the main tourist areas. These places tend to be more casual and relaxed. The diners are likely to be locals, not tourists. And it might be a long walk or short taxi or tuk-tuk ride away, but it will be worth the wait, guaranteed.
Eating off the beaten track offers a truly authentic experience. You will get to be fully immersed in the atmosphere of that culture. From the food trucks, street carts, and small cafes. It is in these hidden gems where the magic happens. Where the people have been cooking their specialized dish for generations. There is a story to tell behind every dish.
Along with our list of must try’s we have our list of must visits. We will find some restaurants from Trip Advisor, others we will find on blogs and in guide books.
Youtube is full of videos guiding you around cities and countries through food and is a great way to start your travel planning. As soon as we have an idea of our next trip, we will make a playlist or use the ready-made ones by channels such as Migrationology with Mark Wiens. But remember to stay flexible and allow for spontaneity.
Food tours/cooking classes
Food tours can be great way to be introduced to places and dishes you may not have tried otherwise. And you will be told the history and culture behind them by knowledgeable guides.
Make it yourself
Many places offer cooking classes. We have done a few and cannot recommend them highly enough, they are so fun. For starters, you will get expertise and tips from a local. You will learn everything from how the ingredients are sourced, to the history of the dishes and how to make them. You will then get to cook them and the best part, eat them. And to top it all off you will usually get a recipe book so you can make it all again at home.
A quick google search or look on Trip Advisor will help you find the best food tours and cooking classes at your destination.
When you have your must-visits list make a note of the locations and how to get there. That way when you arrive you can find them easily. To find out the best way to do this see our guide: 11 Things you need to know before you next travel.
Allergy UK offers a helpful guide to food allergies and travel, full of useful tips and advice. One of their top tips includes carrying translation cards. Coeliac UK offers gluten-free travel advice and guides. And if you are vegan or vegetarian check out Happy Cow.
When visiting another country, you quickly learn how wonderfully different it is from home. None more so than with table manners. Being Brits, we were taught not to slurp or burp, forks on the left, and knives on the right. Don’t eat with your fingers and absolutely no dessert until you have eaten all your dinner. The one we heard the most from our parents was “don’t talk with your mouth full”.
But rejoice, in Japan a good old slurp, or China a good old burp, is not rude but seen as a complement to the chef, showing how much you enjoyed your meal. In India, so long as it is your right hand there is no need for utensils. And in Egypt you will get your dessert but only if you have left food on your plate, as it is rude to eat everything. As for talking with your mouth full, it does not look like you will get away with this anywhere.
There are lots of “house rules” to consider when eating out. Knowing these can be a great way to show respect and good manners to your hosts.
Dinner is served
You might be used to ordering your starter, main and dessert, and them arriving this way. But in some countries, it can work very differently. Take Thailand for example. Here you should expect your food to come all at once instead of in courses, the traditional way Thai food is served.
Knives, forks & chopsticks
Knives and forks, forks and spoons, chopsticks, both hands, right hand, and even bread. There are so many ways people eat around the world. If you are not familiar with using some, such as chopsticks, and want to embrace the culture, you can get some training chopsticks and practice with them before you leave. But do not worry if not, as most places will still have the utensils you normally use.
Pass the salt or pass on the salt? Seasoning your food in some countries like Portugal and Egypt is considered rude. As it is seen an offense to the chefs cooking or seasoning skills.
In some countries, tipping is not just a common feature of dining out but customary. Whereas in other places it is considered rude. For example, in America serving staff rely heavily on tips as they are paid just $2.13 per hour in direct wages. Although such wages are low in other countries too, such as Japan, tipping here is not customary and can be viewed as insulting.
Equipment such as highchairs, changing facilities, and microwaves may not be available in some places. Extra research will be needed to check the facilities when traveling with children. If you know exactly where you would like to eat you can usually contact the restaurant directly to check these.
Just as with eating, drinking comes with its own set of etiquette across the world and is something to think about. In the UK when celebrating with family and friends we will raise a toast and cheers. But, Hungary, this is considered rude. As with eating, a little bit of research before you leave will make you a more respectful traveler.
For some of us, it is not much of a trip without the odd sangria, or two. Most places have a national drink that travelers will be excited to try. Unfortunately, there are a few that may end up having one too many. Some countries have strict laws on alcohol consumption with several having complete bans. Knowing about these before you leave can help you be responsible while enjoying a drink, or two.
Remember your safety too. Some country’s rules on alcohol production may not be as strict as at home. Therefore, it might be safer to stick with brand names. And, if you do enjoy the odd tipple make sure you stay hydrated, drink in moderation, and always watch your drink.
Check to see if your destination is famous for any specific drink, tea, coffees, wine, beers, or spirits. There may be some to add to your musts list. You may discover a new type of drink that you love.
Whisky, wine, or beer tours
A great way to combine drinking with something to do, is to go on a tour. Find a local and reputable winery or brewery where you can do this. You can learn about the history, how and where it is grown, and best of all be able to try it. Check Trip Advisor to see if there are any at your destination.
If you have found somewhere you want to visit, either a restaurant or tour that requires pre-booking or reservations, do this before you leave. You can then make a note of these by using our tools Travel Pro Planner and itinerary. This will also help you with more accurate budgeting. See our guides for more information and useful tips, The ultimate guide to booking travel: how to book travels like a pro and how to create the ultimate budget and savings plan for your travel.
Food and drink when you travel can be serendipitous if you can be a little adventurous. If you are a picky eater, we challenge you to try at least one new dish. Some of the best food we have ever eaten, have been on our travels. Dishes that were completely unfamiliar to us before, we now actively look out for and try to make at home. Some have even made it onto our ultimate favorite’s list. This extends to where you eat. Do not judge a book by its cover and remember the clue is in the queue.
Now you know what to look for when finding your must-eats. Before you make those reservations, see our guide for some more useful tips: the ultimate guide to the travel essentials.
Thank you for reading
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#Travel with Serendipity.