Sometimes it isn’t enough to just look and listen when we travel, sometimes we need to taste the flavors of a country’s cuisine. And while it may feel like we have many of the world's cuisines all around us at home, there's no comparison to going and seeing it for yourself. Cooking classes, trips to markets, food tours, wine tastings in vineyards, and meals in the homes of new friends are all increasingly popular activities for travelers, and culinary tours seek to combine them all into one adventure.

Eating your way around the world offers many highlights, be it a traditional Sunday roast in an English pub, a peeled, cored, and salted apple bought from a street stall in Istanbul, fresh Bluff oysters in New Zealand, or cooked-while-you-wait pad Thai from a street stall in a Bangkok night market. Above all, culinary travel presents a new perspective and set of traditions through which to view a new destination, one that can't quite be captured through anything else.

The cuisines and cooking approaches of different countries around the world are diverse, each rewarding and belly-filling in their own way.

If You Love Rice and Noodle Dishes….

Look no further than a culinary tour through Southeast Asia. Many tours take foodies through the highlights of the region, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, and Thailand. Compare and contrast the warm soups, spicy rice dishes and rice noodles of this geographically close yet culturally diverse region. The best time to visit is January through March or June through September, when humidity is down and rainfall is less frequent.

If Your Motto Is ‘The Wilder, The Better’….

You’ve got loads of possibilities in all corners of the world -- and guides who can’t wait to watch you squirm while you eat! Maybe you think kangaroos are cute but better for eating? Hop on a plane and descend onto the Australia outback. While you’re there, don’t forget to taste other ‘bush foods’ like moths, grub, ants, and beetles. Still not finished with the insects? Head north to Southeast Asia for cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets and even dragonflies. Still not satisfied? Eat some eyeballs in Japan, rotting shark in Greenland, or maybe some frog legs in France. There’s no wrong time to ingest the unusual -- in other words, these creepy crawlies and game animals are hunted 365 days a year -- so these tours work great all year round.

If You Love Spicy Food….

Mexico, Bhutan, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, and Korea will put challenge you and possibly even leave you crying out “You’re right! I can’t take the heat!” Culinary tours through these (literally) hotspots will guide you through the process of what it takes to produce the world’s most notoriously spicy foods. Because many of these countries are tropical, be sure to check when monsoon or rainy season is and plan your trip in a drier time. You’ll have already have enough water from your tears.

If You "Doing It For the 'Gram”….

Choose a culinary tour that highlights beautifully crafted, gourmet treasures. These minimalist plates and revolutionary concoctions are found in every country in the world. Catalonia is a favorite for innovative chefs who play with mushrooms, seafood, and lesser-known ingredients, all fused in unique shapes and patterns. Throughout Australia, find modern chefs whose dishes hark back to the indigenous wisdom of land and its flora and fauna. On these culinary tours, you’ll learn the latest from the luxury culinary industry while immersing yourself in the history and culture of the destination. There’s no right or wrong time to take these tours, as appreciating a chef’s creation happens rain or shine.

Some people travel the world looking for cultural relics, others are searching for the perfect wave. And others yet have chosen to experience the world through its foods, learning about its cultures and peoples through their approach to their plates. It’s a delicious way to go.

What to Look For in a Culinary Tour

Some people travel the world looking for cultural relics, others are searching for the perfect wave. And others yet have chosen to experience the world through its foods, learning about its cultures and peoples through their approach to their plates. It’s a delicious way to go.

What to Look For in a Culinary Tour

When booking a culinary tour, it is important that your guide knows their city. Choose a culinary tour whose guides are locals or expats that have lived in the city or country long term. The price may only include the fee for the guide, meaning any food purchased during stops on the tour will be an additional expense. Check with the guide when booking.

Another great aspect of a culinary tour is its ability to also teach about culture and society of the destination. Check with the culinary tour company to inquire about ‘curriculum’ and how much education besides culinary is involved, if this interests you.

Many culinary tours provide cooking classes offered by both professional chefs and home enthusiasts, but one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Online reviews and recommendations will help you decide if value for money is being offered, and which experience best suits your cooking style and needs.

Average Culinary Tour Cost & Length

The average length of a trip is highly variable, but the average length is around one week. The cost ranges from $700 for a week to up to $3,000 depending on the location, amenities provided and accommodation included.

Packing Tips & Gear Rental

Most culinary tours will provide all necessary cooking gear, should the tour include a cooking lesson component. But the best part of joining a culinary tour is that you only need your curiosity and appetite to fully enjoy it!

As for clothing, be sure to pack a variety of outfits for a range of activities. For tasting tapas in Basque Country, you’ll want to look more refined than when trudging around cow dung in a French countryside. Read the culinary trip itinerary well before departure so you’ll have everything you need.

Other Tips

One of the best parts about learning is sharing your newly found knowledge with others! Don’t forget a journal or notebook to record the sounds and sights of the bustling kitchens and markets around the world. Be sure to record the amazing recipes and tips and trick you learn from chefs.

And of course, bring your best camera or iPhone -- friends and family back home will be jealous of those to-die-for meals in your Instagram shots!

Qualifications & Training

There are no qualifications or requirements for participating in most culinary tours unless the tour is specifically geared towards hospitality and tourism professionals. If cooking classes are a large portion of the experience, most hands-on training will be provided. There’s no need to be a top chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant to love exploring foods and culture!

Activity Risks

Some people report having watched their friend eat a tarantula and go into anaphylactic shock. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re allergic to until you try it.

The water is not safe to drink in some countries, meaning that any vegetables washed in that water and served raw, or any ice cubes made from it, will not be safe to consume, either. Be aware of these risks in the region to choose to travel in.

Safety Tips

Pack oral rehydration salts and anti-diarrhea tablets. If you do get sick, the first will help replace electrolytes and keep you hydrated, while the second will be a lifesaver on days when you have to travel.

Know your allergies and carry, for example, an EpiPen, in case of an allergic reaction.

Know the translations of any foods that you are allergic to, or that you don’t want to eat. Know how to say “I’m a vegetarian”, or “I can’t eat gluten”, etc., in the language of the country you are traveling in. Cards with these phrases in multiple languages can be found, and even custom ordered, online.

Follow proper hygiene. Always wash your hands before eating or handling food.

A common rule of thumb is to look for the restaurant or street food stand with plenty of locals dining there. If they think it’s good, chances are you can trust it, too. More customers also means a higher turnover of food, meaning they’re more likely to be using fresh ingredients.

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