How to Eat Like a Local, Anywhere

How to Eat Like a Local, Anywhere

May 18, 2020 | By Leah Freeman-Haskin

Sometimes we need a break from the overcrowded tourist scene. If you are looking for an authentic dining experience while traveling, here are a few questions to ask yourself to ensure you are eating like a local.

How did you hear about the place?

Travel apps, tour guide books, and online reviews are great, but to find the most authentic experiences, you want to ask the locals. Chances are if it’s been published in a magazine or online post, you aren’t the only one who has heard of it. Step outside of your comfort zone and ask a local for their recommendation when it comes to the best places to eat in a city. Let them know you are looking for an authentic experience, and they will be happy to share a few gems.

Where is it located?

“Tourist trap” is a term used for areas geared toward tourists that often offer inflated prices and subpar products and services. If you are looking to have an authentic dining experience, steer clear of these areas that are usually located near major tourist attractions. It may mean traveling off the beaten path a bit, but often the places that are the hardest to get to, offer the most authentic and beautiful experiences. Hop on the local bus, hike the dirt road, chat with the locals along the way and embrace the journey. In my travel experiences, some of the best restaurants have been located at the end of a bumpy, dirt road.

Are there more tourists than locals?

It’s easy to spot a restaurant that is geared toward tourists simply based on who is dining. If you see more tourists than locals, there is a good chance the restaurant is geared toward out-of-towners. Locals tend to steer clear of hectic tourist destinations, and they know the best spots to avoid the crowds.  

Is the menu in English?

Take a glance at the menu and see if it’s in English or the local language. Local is better if you are looking for an authentic experience. It may make things a bit more challenging, but stepping outside of your comfort zone is part of the excitement of travel. A good translation app or dictionary is a handy tool if allergies or food preferences give you a reason to know exactly what you are ordering. Even if your pronunciation is not spot on, the locals will always appreciate the effort you make to speak in their native language.

Are the prices inflated?

Most restaurants geared toward tourists are more expensive than local spots. They know tourists will pay for convenience and familiarity. But eating like a local, means you are seeking a different kind of experience. If the prices are severely inflated, you may want to consider another option. Whether you are dining at a neighborhood favorite or grabbing the freshest produce from the local farmer’s market, generally, your money will go further when you eat like a local.

When making your order, ask the waiter what’s the most popular dish or take a look around to see what the locals are eating.  The steak on the menu may sound delicious to you, but if everyone is eating the seafood, go with that. Chances are, you won’t be disappointed. If you need an easy way to connect with locals and engage in authentic experiences while traveling, check out Eatwith, TastemakersAfrica, or Airbnb experiences to get started.  

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