Monday, March 29, 2010

Should You Always Trust Locals' Recommendations?

I have lost count how many times I've heard that the best way to experience a place--especially a city--is to ask for the recommendations of the people who live there. And to an extent, I agree--but sometimes you simply have to take people's suggestions with a grain of salt and understand that they may or may not know what they are talking about.

Of course, the same goes for published guidebooks--probably even more so--but that's another story for another time, I suppose.

Some things to keep in mind when you are getting recommendations from locals:

-What is this person's budget when they go out to eat? A restaurant that costs $30 per person may be average to some, but expensive to you!

-Is this person someone who will try anything once, or an extremely picky eater? When you know someone at either end of the spectrum, you could end up in a very eclectic restaurant that doesn't serve anything you would eat, or a restaurant with five fried items on the menu that doesn't offer the choice that you may prefer.

-How often does this person go out to eat, and how many times do they end up at the same restaurant? Because if they go out to eat once a month and always eat at the same place, is their recommendation really going to be a solid one?

-Is this restaurant a chain (even a small chain) that you could visit somewhere else? If so, are you sure you want to eat at any sort of chain restaurant, even if it does come recommended? For instance, if I were traveling to Orlando with a friend from Connecticut, I would certainly suggest Bahama Breeze, knowing that the food and drinks are awesome and that there is no Bahama Breeze anywhere near Connecticut. I would not suggest Bahama Breeze to a friend from the Atlanta area, because there are numerous Bahama Breezes there. Likewise, if the same friend from Connecticut were to visit me here in Greenville, I would certainly try to take them to The Melting Pot--assuming this friend is from my hometown area--because the closest Melting Pot to Ellington is nearly two hours away. Unless this person is someone who travels to Myrtle Beach every year. There is a Melting Pot there, but not, for instance, a Blue Ridge Brewing Company. Unfortunately, many people who are giving "local" recommendations don't think about things like this!

Of course there are other things to keep in mind, namely your own preferences. Remember that when you are traveling, this is your vacation. Never feel bad about not taking someone's suggestion! Just remember that you may want to let them down easily when you admit that you didn't visit their favorite restaurant ;)


  1. SO true. When we were in Belize we asked every local we could about recommendations. We had some amazing experiences eating at some holes-in-the-wall that we probably never would have found or tried otherwise (one was little more than a mess tent with a kitchen and a few picnic tables, another was an awesome and cheap cafe that only served breakfast), but we also found a few places that either weren't really in our budget or didn't serve what we were looking for (like the restaurant that served almost exclusively fish and oysters that I don't eat, and ended up being about $30/pp).

    We loved getting local recommendations from our taxi drivers and tour operators, but next time, we'll probably be a little more careful and discriminating, especially when it comes to dinnertime (which tends to be the "big/expensive" meal of the day for us).

  2. Yeah, my issue tends to revolve around the expensive places. Personally, I'd rather try a restaurant with more local fare than spend $30 per person at a steakhouse, but for some reason even the people who live where I am visiting insist upon these establishments.

    Of course, in New Orleans we got a recommendation for a lower-priced restaurant that ended up just not being very good, for many reasons, but that's another story for another time, I suppose ;)