If you are backpacking, stuck for food and low on money, then seeking out of good food is absolutely essential if you want to get to your destination in one piece. For many travelers backpacking through different countries, then you may often find yourself in places with very little available information to go on and no knowledge of the local language to boot. Restaurants that attract and serve tourists are often catering for family holidays and honeymoons, which means little amounts of food and high prices. Here at home, we rely on technology, advertising, recommendations from friends to find affordable meals, but with so many restaurants around and none of the usual creature comforts to narrow your search how are you supposed to find something that is affordable and good for you?
Look for small signs
Every town and city will have a cheap place to eat where locals– as opposed to tourists – go and often they will advertise in random places such as on lampposts, with arrows that say “Cheesy Jacks Turn Left!” The reason these are good places for backpackers is that they do not have the extortionate prices designed to profit from foreign tourist traffic and meals are often simpler, more homely and well balanced then any fancy or fast food that you might bump into. The food is often tastier too – designed for local taste-buds and not blanded down for international palettes.
This is especially true if you are backpacking through a hot country! Just as our markets are full of fresh fruit and foodstuffs brought in just that day, so too does every other town and country in the world. Markets have a delectable feast of cheap and affordable, nutritious delights being served that are perfect for a meal on the go. If you’re in another country, then learning the words for “where is the market” will stand you in much better stead for finding good affordable food than “where is the nearest restaurant” – as asking for a restaurant will most likely have you end up in a sit down, four-course kind of establishment that some locals assume you must want as a tourist, whereas a market will have freshly cooked, stand food, not to mention fruits, vegetables and possible canned goods to stock up on whilst you are there.
There are a range of apps and websites that are specifically designed to help you find where to eat when out and about. Depending on where you are travelling depends on which service you use, and since it is often difficult in the UK and Europe, I launched my site to find restaurants near me and fix that conundrum. If you are somewhere slightly more exotic than do some research before you leave to discover the local service, or check the app store because there are some great niche apps in every region!
Note: We at Oh Hey World love this food resource page with links to regional history, popular apps, and books to get you started on a global food journey.
Follow your nose
If you can smell food, then the chances are that it’s nearby. What is quite true of large, chain restaurants is that the smell from the outside is relatively low, whereas it’s highly likely that food being cooked in the open air (with the exception of hot dog and burger stands) is affordable, tasty and offers good seating as well. If you are in a place where there are hardly any directions to follow and you have plain straight lost your map, then following people until you pick up a scent is a good way to find a town centre and a food source (a bit primitive yes, but hey, its backpacking: what did you expect?).
With an adventurous spirit and these handful of tips you should be able to find good food most anywhere your travels take you!