It’s safe to say Anthony Bourdain has travel tips and knows a thing or two about experiencing life.
The world-famous chef, author, TV personality, and all-around travel expert has been almost everywhere, hosted numerous shows, and brought insights on food and travel to millions of fans.
When it comes to eating abroad, and traveling in general, Anthony Bourdain is a guy you can trust.
He is perhaps best known for uncovering the unexplored, misunderstood and unappreciated areas of the world.
And what better way to uncover those places than by packing your bags and eating some local fare?
While some may view his travel style as unconventional and a bit extreme for the average traveler, there’s a lot you can learn from him.
So if you’re setting off to explore a new and exciting destination, check out our 10 Anthony Bourdain travel tips and tricks to keep in mind.
1. Eat Authentic Cuisine
Food is a big indicator of a location’s values and culture.
In many places, beloved dishes go back hundreds – or even thousands – of years, and can impart a local flavor that is impossible to match with the Westernized versions you might be familiar with.
It’s hard, in fact, even to match it by visiting the bigger restaurants and hotels that cater to travelers.
Instead, if you really want to travel like Bourdain, you’ve got to head to where the real food is. Think hole-in-the-wall restaurants, food carts, street-side shacks and even the little operations running out of people’s homes.
Much of the food Bourdain raves about is from humble establishments, like street vendors in Vietnam.
The good thing is that this kind of food is something locals take pride in and are usually happy to show off. They’ll always appreciate you showing an interest in traditional cuisine.
Note that in his shows, Bourdain is always asking how something is made, explaining its history and really digging down to the roots of each dish.
Do the same, and you might be surprised how much information you can get … all for free!
2. Learn from the Locals
Locals will often reward you for making an effort to learn more about a location’s culture and traditions.
You could pay for a tour guide to take you around and point out important landmarks or destinations. However, you can usually get the same information for free from a cabbie, tuk-tuk driver or rickshaw puller.
As long as you’re respectful, they’re usually happy to chat about the local culture and the important sights to see.
If you want to have your own Bourdain-style travel guide, try asking the locals where you should go and what you should do. Check out what he learned from a cab driver during his trip to Istanbul.
You can also frequent popular spots where locals hang out. Waking up early and hitting up local markets, like the souk in Tangier, Morocco is a great way to experience local culture and cuisine.
You may not have the advantages Bourdain has thanks to his show and celebrity status, but it’s worth a shot to try and see what you can uncover about different places.
3.Travel Without Fear or Prejudice
Fear and prejudice can ruin a place more quickly than anything else. That’s why it’s important you avoid judging a place too strictly before you’ve seen it for yourself.
If you’re judging a location solely on it’s depiction in the news and media, then you’re not truly giving the area a chance.
Bourdain’s trip to Israel was ripe with contention and controversy, but he encouraged viewers to learn about a location’s culture and people for themselves.
Naturally, if areas are marked as clearly unsafe for tourists, you should avoid going there … or perhaps going to those countries altogether.
But you shouldn’t dodge areas simply because they’re off the beaten path.
In fact, this is one of the best ways to experience the best a place has to offer.
You’ll often discover the most abundant markets, the most delicious food and the friendliest locals if you leave the highly trafficked tourist areas and head into the unknown.
4. Drink and Be Merry – in Moderation
Alcohol is admittedly a great way to make friends, but once you drink to excess, it’s a good way to lose those friends again.
If you want to really dig into a culture, getting to know its native drinks is a plus: sake, tequila, wine … these can all tell you a lot about a country and its people.
When he was in Georgia, Bourdain was lucky enough to experience a traditional feast with a toast ritual.
But be sure to play it safe and drink in moderation while you travel. You should still go out and have a good time but rememeber that you’re in an unfamiliar area and you want to try and stay alert.
I believe — to the best of my recollection, anyway — that I soon made the classic error of moving from margaritas to actual shots of straight tequila. It does make it easier to meet new people.
— from Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (New Mexico)
If you’d like to travel like Bourdain, take a page from his book: don’t be afraid to drink but be sure not to take it too far.
5. Be a Good Guest
Being a good guest, either to a whole country or in a local’s home, is an art form. Always make sure to be courteous to locals and respectful of an area’s culture, people and beliefs.
Otherwise you may not only prove irritating to the people around you, you may find you’ve unwittingly been sacrilegious or downright offensive.
Bourdain is certainly careful to always show respect for local cultures. Not only does he ask lots of questions, he never dismisses an idea or a food on principle.
In fact, he is famous for always being down to try anything, from iguana to fermented shark meat to the less savory parts of an animal.
What does this mean for you when you’re a guest? At least try it.
When you’re staying in someone’s home or in a bed and breakfast, graciously accept the meals you are served, and eat out if you want something different. Respect home rules and always strive to help where possible.
6. Make Friends and Good Conversation
Conversation lies at the root of Bourdain’s success. Sure, he’s a world-renowned chef, and that certainly helps him uncover foreign foodie gems. But more than anything else, he’s simply curious.
You can replicate this on your own trip, and it will make the experience so much richer. Make an effort to talk to locals, inquiring about their methods of food preparation, their favorite treats and how they live.
Sure, it can be intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know. Bourdain makes it look so easy.
But if you give this an honest effort, you’ll find people are usually willing to share, especially when it comes to talking about their own experiences.
You’ll almost always find the endeavor worthwhile.
Truly, an effort to make conversation with locals is one of our essential Bourdain travel trips. You can learn so much simply by talking to people, some of whom may become genuine friends. So what is there to lose?
7. Put Yourself Out There
One of the best tips regarding how to travel like Bourdain is to put it all out there.
Shy or closed-off travelers won’t get much from the locals, whereas if you’re welcoming and approachable, you’ll find the whole town is your oyster…no food pun intended.
Put in the effort to approach locals and ask them about their lives and their culture, and be open to what they tell you in response.
This might be your vacation, but it’s their lives you’re experiencing, and if you do not treat this fact with respect, you won’t get much out of the experience.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to dive into the culture with a no-holds-barred enthusiasm, you’ll get a better experience than you could have imagined. Just like Bourdain did in Senegal, when he was treated to a national dish made by locals.
Talk to anyone and everyone: the hotel workers, the drivers, the street-side sellers, the stall owners at the market, the servers at restaurants and more.
Everyone has a story to tell, and you’ll gain valuable information just by listening.
8. Keep an Open Mind
If you hold strong to predetermined opinions about a destination without giving it a chance, you’re not traveling right.
If you’re interested in learning how to travel like Bourdain, it’s important that you not close yourself off to anything.
You never can tell when an amazing opportunity is going to come along, and could prove to be the experience of a lifetime.
One such experience for Bourdain was his trip to Iran. Of all the places he’s traveled, he’s said that this location was completely different from what he had expected.
If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch. Move. –Anthony Bourdain
This just proves that for a man who travels extensively, there is still room for surprises. Which means there are many surprises and things to learn in store for you as well.
All you have to do if give yourself the opportunity to experience and embrace them.
9. Avoid the Conventional Travel Experience
Traveling inside the tourist bubble won’t reveal the true character of a place.
If you’re wondering how to travel like a pro, it’s worth it to pay attention to Bourdain. He’s always heading to little-seen markets, hidden food joints, rundown ruins and more.
While he’s undoubtedly already seen the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, he shows viewers what they don’t already know about a destination.
For example, during his trip to New Orleans, he made sure to avoid going directly to the French Quarter and instead went hunting for alligator. Now that’s what we call unconventional.
Thing is, you can take this approach all on your own. But don’t misunderstand, we’re not saying you have to go hunt alligator.
Instead, we recommend you avoid conventional guided tours. Try and plan a day to just walk around a city, taking your own twists and turns.
We’re not saying you should avoid the big landmarks – those are important too – but the real flavor of a place lies outside the tourist bubble.
If you’re looking for a truly unique and rewarding experience, you’re going to need to go beyond your comfort zone.
We’re not saying you should endanger yourself; there are better ways to get a thrill.
But definitely don’t play it safe.
A bit of cliff jumping? Do it. Cooked bugs? Try ‘em. A boat ride into uncharted territories? Well, make sure you have a life jacket … but say yes if you can.
Most people – likely yourself included – can attest to the fact that the best experiences come from taking risks.
Don’t hold back, and you might find life is even more adventurous and awe-inspiring than you thought.
So there you have it: some of the very best Anthony Bourdain travel tips.
Next time you’re getting ready to head out into the big wide word, keep these mindsets … well … in mind.
You’ll get so much more out of your travels if you can approach it with the sincere openness of this traveling chef, so give it a try!
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