Traveling the world is certainly a wonderful experience – but it has its ups and downs. The thing is, even in the age of the massive online review portals and myriads of travelers sharing their experience, there can be times when you stumble upon places that are not worth your effort and your money, to say the least. These places are called “tourist traps” for a reason: they are often horribly overpriced and offering a precarious service. To avoid eating in such a place, follow these easy and practical steps.
Recommended by a stranger
When in a foreign city, always ask the locals where to eat – and try to avoid the places that are recommended to you without you asking. You see, the restaurants that rely exclusively on tourists don’t really care about offering their patrons a quality experience – or quality food, for that matter. Their goal is to tear as deep into your pocket as possible, knowing that you’ll probably never eat there again.
If you see a guy rounding up tourists and insisting that they eat at a certain place, he probably gets a cut from the revenues – and you’ll probably get bad and overpriced food. Avoid them at all costs.
The languages on the menu
One of the telltale signs that there is something wrong with the place you plan to eat at is the menu: the more languages it has, the more likely it is that the owners are trying to please everyone (sort of) and failing. The translations on these menus are often awful unless, of course, the professional chef’s secret ingredients is “stir-fried Wikipedia”.
If the owners can’t be bothered to pay a professional translator to create a foreign-language version of the menu, they will probably cut the cost in other areas as well – the ingredients, the personnel, and perhaps even cleaning.
If you want to play it safe, you should choose restaurants that are promoted in the country’s language, aimed especially at locals. For one, they are much more likely to serve you authentic local food, and they will also probably rely on the locals’ return to stay alive.
Location, location, location
One of the rules in business is that you have to be where your customers are. Translated into travel, this means that the restaurants, coffee shops, and souvenir stalls that are most likely to be insanely overpriced will probably be in the places with the highest concentration of tourists. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit the best-known landmarks of a city – it only means that, if you can help it, you probably shouldn’t eat there. After all, exploring the city off the beaten path and discovering a restaurant that has real local food can be an adventure in itself – and probably much cheaper.
While a single meal at a “tourist trap” will probably not ruin your entire trip (unless you end up somewhere really unsanitary) it can be truly disappointing to pay a horrible price for horrible food. Keep an eye out for the red flags above and don’t be shy to ask the hotel receptionist or a cab driver of their favorite place to eat.