We all have to eat, right? Unless you’re travelling on a shoestring budget, it’s safe to say that dining out is more common when you’re on the road than back at home. It’s so temptingly easy to step into the first restaurant or bar you see, and let’s be honest – we have all done so when hunger was threatening to kill us. However, there is a great chance that you’ll run into one of the places that I have learnt to avoid during my travels. You can learn to avoid them too if you’re aware of these signs, or at least have a laugh.
Flyer girls or boys
While I have nothing against proactive sales efforts, it’s likely that handing out flyers in front of a restaurant is the last resort for a business trying to attract customers. It’s a common method used by restaurants and bars that consider tourists their main target. “Hello, where are you from? Come try our restaurant!” As nice as the person chatting you up may be, think about it – do you know of any quality eateries that hand out brochures to strangers on the street to attract customers? Nope, because they have a regular customer base.
Dominating English signs
Photo by Aleksey Kliger
Even though English is the third most widely spoken language in the world, the problem starts when it’s NOT the native language of your destination. So if you see deals on drinks advertised mainly in English, run as fast as you can. Better yet, venture down a small side street to find the real local places. Luckily the word “bar” is quite internationally used, so you won’t get into too much trouble. And don’t forget that in cities where boozing tourists are a source of income for the locals, the prices differ greatly between the main party streets and the cosy neighbourhood bars.
Traditional dishes for tourists
The eating habits of locals have evolved over time to become something they take for granted, so they certainly don’t need signs announcing “traditional food” or “national cuisine” (See the previous point). Those are for you, silly foreigner. Any roadside joint in Poland is more authentic than the overpriced “local” restaurants on Warsaw’s main street. And trust me, if the waitress recommends the dish “most tourists order” you are indeed in a wrong place. Also, more often than not, traditional costumes are a sign of a tourist trap unless, you know, everyone is wearing them on the street too…
International staples on the menu
I mean fish ‘n’ chips IS a local dish in the UK, but if it’s on the menu anywhere else you can be almost certain that it’s a sign of a high number of Ryanair flights coming in, or that the city is a popular stag destination. For example Riga probably has more steakhouses than Latvian restaurants, but depending on the neighbouring peoples and their food preferences this might also be pippuripihvi in Tallinn or schnitzel in certain Polish resort towns. For a more authentic experience steer clear of places that feel obliged to have a burger on the menu ‘just in case’ the flood of foreigners might not enter their establishment.
Photos of Food
Photo by Alpha
Even though it seems to be the case in most Asian restaurants around the world no matter how good or bad they are, photos of dishes are not usually a sign of quality. Even though it makes sense at fast food joints, anywhere else they’re more likely to be provided for clueless tourists to help them understand that it IS indeed food that they’re ordering. There’s just something so comforting in knowing what colour the sauce on that completely unknown dish will be…
I’m sure there are exceptions to these rules, but it’s just the reality of life that to find gems you have to dig deeper. What are the signs you have learnt to avoid when eating or drinking out during your travels?