How to eat like a local

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If you really want to experience a destination’s culinary scene, you’ll need to eat like a local.

One of the best ways to really get to know a culture is through its cuisine, but you could be selling yourself short if you stick to overly hyped restaurants and heavily altered versions of local food. If you really want to experience the local culinary scene, you’ll need to eat like a local. Here are four tips to get you started.

Look for crowds and lines

A long line for food (Image: ravenscroft)
A long line for food (Image: ravenscroft)

When it comes to finding the best places to eat in a new locale, it pays to follow the crowds. After all, if the locals are willing the line up and wait for something, it must be worth a taste. Try to look for places that are crowded with locals rather than tourists, and remember that this may be easier if you’re willing to stray off the beaten tourist path. 

Ask around

Everyone has a favorite local haunt, and you’ll be surprised how willing the hotel staff or cab driver is to share favorite must-try restaurants. Don’t hesitate to ask the locals where to eat during your stay. Make it a habit to ask — you’ll be surprised where the best recommendations come from. From market vendors to bus drivers to tour guides, you’ll find most locals are happy to share their insider tips. 

Don’t skip the streets

Street food (Image: palindrome6996)
Street food (Image: palindrome6996)

From New York City to Bangkok, locals do their most authentic dining in the streets – and you should, too. From steamed silkworm larvae in South Korea to freshly stir-fried Pad Thai in Bangkok to street crepes in Paris, sidewalk food stalls offer quick and convenient snacks locals live for. Take note of the first two tips and ask for a recommendation or look for crowds when it comes to picking the perfect street food stall.

Do your research

Guidebooks (Image: LollyKnit)
Guidebooks (Image: LollyKnit)

Before you head out on your trip, do your research to find out what the local must-trys are and where you can find them. Blogs, Internet forums and travel guides make it relatively easy to find out about the cuisine in any given area, but use your best judgment to sift out the touristy spots from the authentic ones. Try to look for blogs that focus solely on the food of a particular destination so you can find the most up-to-date insider info.

(Main image: Tomás Fano used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

How to eat like a local was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.