Many of us can agree that food is one of the best parts of traveling. Personally, after visiting all the popular landmarks on a trip, I tend to find myself thinking about the next food place to try. The full travel experience is incomplete without experiencing the authentic cuisines each culture and country has to offer. However, as the traveling and tourism industry continues to grow, more and more restaurants are luring tourists into eating overpriced and unauthentic foods.

This past week, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of what my dream job could look like while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico—traveling abroad, eating delectable meals, and blogging about them. The most unexpected aspect of it all was discovering the overwhelming amount of restaurant tourist traps that exist throughout the city.

So, after my experience in deciphering through fake ethnic restaurants, I decided to create a list of five useful ways to ensure that your next vacation abroad consists of pure, authentic food.

1. Do Your Homework 

tea, pizza, coffee, beer
Saaima Bholat

The number one thing I would recommend prior to your trip is to simply do your research. Before you catch the next flight out, take some time to browse online websites such as Trip Advisor, Yelp, or blogs (I hear Spoon University is quite the site), to narrow down your findings on authentic food in the city.

You can even head to your local bookstore or library and read up on restaurants recommended by local writers themselves. Not only will you be well prepared to enjoy a delicious meal, but it will also save you precious vacation time you would rather spend relaxing.

#SpoonTip: Traveling abroad puts you at risk of a wi-fi free zone, so be sure to bookmark or jot down the restaurants you want to hit beforehand!

2. Word of Mouth 

fish, sauce, vegetable, meat
Saaima Bholat

One of the fastest methods in which news travels is by word of mouth. Remember when nobody knew you had tickets to the Lakers game, and after one call to Grandma, suddenly Aunt Becky and Uncle Joe and Suzy’s neighbor’s little brother are all tagging along for the trip? Exactly. However, in this situation it might be helpful.

Ask your friends, colleagues, or even your parents (like I did) about where to eat before hitting your next vacation spot. Personal recommendations are a reliable way to learn about what places to hit and which ones to avoid. Chances are that someone you know has traveled to your destination as well, so shoot them a text or have a conversation over coffee and you just might realize how lucky you are. 

3. Watch Travel TV

candy, coffee, cream, sweet, chocolate, cake
Ashley Hamati

For all my binge-watchers out there, apply your talents to the Food Network or Travel Channel to watch famous chefs around the world experiencing their favorite authentic restaurants. Bizzare Foods, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, or Street Food Around the World are just a few great shows you can watch to familiarize yourself with genuine, authentic cuisines around the globe.

It is almost guaranteed you will find an episode on the country you are traveling to. So before your next expedition, be sure to watch a few episodes from some of the best renowned chefs for a couple great tips.

4. Scope Out the Menu

beer, tea, wine
Saaima Bholat

Personally, I think one of the easiest ways to determine the authenticity of a restaurant is by simply reading through the menu prior to your meal. Is the menu in a different language? Are the numerical values in the correct currency? Are they serving Americanized food options like burgers or hot dogs at a Middle Eastern restaurant? Subtle hints and clues like this can immediately exploit a restaurant claiming to serve authentic meals while really being a tourist trap.

Cabo is notorious for their tourists, so many menus I encountered during my trip were offered in English and some like the one above has both Spanish and English. My best advice to you is to assess the menu before deciding if it is authentic or not. If the menu is placed outside, in English, serving an array of cuisines — your best bet is to move along and find a more cultured spot to dine. 

5. Ask the Locals

shrimp, lettuce, lime, ceviche, vegetable, tacos, fish
Saaima Bholat

When I tell people that one of the most authentic and delicious shrimp tacos I ever had in Cabo was inside a Wal-Mart food court, I almost always receive a look of disbelief. The truth is, when a Cabo resident recommended it to me, I had the very same reaction. Naturally, I had to go check out these amazing tacos inside the Wal-Mart for myself, and boy, was I glad I did.

Fresh and warm off the stove, the shrimp tacos were heavenly. My point here is that the locals know best, so don't be afraid to talk to some in the country you're visiting. Their recommendation will probably be the most genuine one. 

There are so many cuisines in the world, and each and every one of them deserves to be eaten in the most authentic way possible. To all the foodies and travelers out there, use these tips the next time you’re abroad to experience the full ethnic dining experience. 

Buen provecho!