For many AU students, April means wrapping up the final semester and perhaps deciding to reward oneself with a long-awaited vacation. Travelling as a student means the freedom to explore new corners of the globe, soak in rich cultural experiences, and, of course, no trip is ever complete without trying the best foods each region has to offer. For many travellers, sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor may seem like the best advice from one foodie to another, however there are plenty of excellent tools that can make your travel dining experiences so much more fruitful! For myself, I’ve been travelling regularly throughout the year and I am certainly a foodie, so I wanted to share some expert tips on how to make the most out of your vacation through food.
- Go authentic or go home: when you’re travelling, you’re not about to walk into any international restaurant chain and start ordering the same cuisine you did in your home country. It’s all about being adventurous and trying local cuisines. One tip is to find out what the particular region you’re visiting is known for. What is the food culture that have existed here for centuries if not millennia? While some of the most traditional eats might not be your cup of tea, the key part is about being adventurous. For me, I tried the notorious stinky tofu on my last trip to Taiwan. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised and would have regretted not pushing past my comfort zones.
- You don’t have to break your wallet: For students, it’s understandable that travelling comes with its own set of financial restrictions. For example, staying in hostels rather than a five star hotel or carefully budgeting daily dining expenses. However, from my own globe-trotting experiences, I can confidently say that some of the cheap eats I’ve had were also the best meals I’ve had abroad. Spending wisely can go a long way and you don’t need to be at the Michelin star restaurant to sample the best the region has to offer (although that would be nice).
- Visit the local McDonalds: Although I typically discourage against going to international restaurant chains, this is the one exception I make. The reason I make this claim is that McDonalds in every country has a few menu items that are mysterious but fascinating. These speciality items reflect local flavors. For example, in Saudi Arabia, local McDonalds feature falafel burgers whereas in Paris, macaroon and crepes replace apple pies for dessert. I am not affiliated or endorse McDonalds by any means, however has become my personal foodie habit.
- Ask locals: They say to get the best experience while travelling, do not fall for common tourist traps. But how do you know you’re falling into a trap when you don’t know what the traps look like? Hence, consulting local residents is the best way to find local cuisines. Sometimes this means staying at an airBNB or mingling with the locals at a pub.
- Prepare for the worst: Coming from a healthcare background, I have witnessed many vacations fall apart due to health reasons. Taking care of yourself abroad may be the single most important thing to enjoying your vacation. Make sure you bring adequate amounts of diarrhea, heartburn, nausea and allergy medications. Talk to a health care professional for a pre-travel consult and prepare for the worst. Do plenty of research about the location you’re travelling to and take the travel advisories with a grain of salt.