Dining abroad can be a fun but scary experience.
Enjoying international fare in exotic lands feels fun. But running the risk of falling ill scares potential diners toward Westernized haunts in most cases.
Why would you travel abroad if you wind up only eating food from your homeland?
Why not try delightful local eats by following a few simple steps?
Eating abroad introduces you to delicious, cheap fare. Some of the best food I ever enjoyed cost less than $3 USD in places like Thailand, Turkey and India.
I paid a $1.27 USD for the above bowl of delicious, tasty, wholesome, hearty vegetarian mushroom soup in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Said soup prepped in a hygienic environment.
Friendly people work at the Jai vegetarian restaurant on Suthep Road. But even more frenzied employees working a frenetic environment serve up delicious food in far off lands.
Kelli and I learned a thing or 2 about dining abroad after being full time digital nomads for the past 11 years.
I know certain dining factors may sway you like:
- quality of food
Keeping a few ideas in mind allows you to knife through fears regarding dining abroad. If you follow a few simple steps you can enjoy delicious, healthy, cheap food in hygienic environments.
Let’s dive in.
1: High Turnover, Clean Environment and Off the Beaten Path Spots Mean Safe Food
Or, mostly, if places are busy, look clean and reside well outside of tourist areas you won’t get sick eating food there, and the food will be phenomenal.
My friend and digital nomad expat Rob Cubbon chatted about this with us during one of our trips to Chiang Mai. Restaurants in tourist areas may get dicey because owners tend to focus on short term, quick profits over building long term bonds with return customers.
Example; knowing most customers will be here today and gone tomorrow, restaurant owners and staff may re-serve old, bacteria-ridden food versus tossing it out at day’s end, to save money, in some tourist area eateries.
Our beloved Thai vegetarian Jai restaurant (Nuson Vegetarian):
- sits in a quiet Thai village in Chiang Mai
- has high turnover, meaning fresh food is prepared frequently, on a daily basis
- sells out of virtually all food at day’s end; remnants tossed in rubbish
- presents a clean, hygienic environment
After eating there many times Kelli and I have never fallen ill.
The proof’s in the lack of puking.
2: Pay a Slight Premium for Better Quality Food and Peace of Mind
I recall a colorful Russian restaurant owner in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
He noted his Russian friends bragging about eating $1-$2 seafood platters served from street stalls.
Our buddy warned them repeatedly not to eat at such places.
Sure enough, his Russian buddies would be hugging a toilet for hours, vomiting the dirt cheap but bacteria-ridden seafood for hours, being bed-ridden for days.
Pay slightly more money – or much more, in some cases – to enjoy good food that stays down.
Here in Thailand, cheap ass backpackers may pay 10 Baht for dirt cheap meat on a stick sitting outside for hours only to suffer from diarrhea for the next day.
Kelli and I still pay dirt cheap 40 Baht ($1.29) for a delicious, phenomenal, hygienic vegetarian meal, enjoy the eats and stay healthy.
Or in Yangon, Myanmar, after we both fell terribly ill from not being able to avoid eating in cheap restaurants in Bagan, we paid like $7 per meal for good at a “high class”, Western style restaurant with Western cleanliness standards.
It’s freaking $7 USD guys. Pay the damn money, enjoy the food and have peace of mind knowing that you won’t be shitting or puking your guts out for the next day.
3: Get Off Da Grid
Virtually every phenomenal restaurant lies off the tourist grid because:
- restaurant owners and staff at these establishments do things with love and passion, food-wise, and aren’t jaded by the greed often associated with tourist eateries that leads to inflated prices and poorer health standards
- the locals know the best places to eat, and off the grid spots brim with locals and see few tourists and ex-pats
Like Anthony Bourdain always said; the best eats are off the beaten path.
Damn quality food.
Get off your duff. Get lost. Find the best eateries.
Kelli and I found what some folks consider to be the best vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai by getting lost.
All the beat eats lie well off of the beaten path.
No need to fear dining abroad.
Follow these tips to enjoy fare in international locations.