Eating and drinking can be the greatest pleasure of a journey, as well as the greatest risk. While some travellers want to stick to familiar food, for comfort, health and ethics, others are more adventurous.
- One should eat to live, not live to eat. — International proverb
Buying food in supermarkets is usually the cheapest way to get fed. Without cooking opportunities, choices are however limited to ready-made food. Increasingly supermarkets are getting a more varied section of ready made food. Some even provide a microwave oven or other means to heat food. In some countries or types of stores there is at least one on-site restaurant, often a rather informal one with affordable prices. Of course no US-style shopping mall would be complete without a fast food "food court".
Other retailers, such as farmers' markets, can also be interesting; see agritourism.
Travellers might want to carry food with them, for outdoor life, or a casual stroll to the park. For long expeditions, travellers need to minimize weight, choosing high-energy foodstuffs with long shelf life. In general, travellers have most use for food which is ready to eat, without cutlery. Many of these foodstuffs are considered liquid, and might be confiscated at airport security.
Outdoor cooking requires more equipment to carry, but can provide a great experience.
- Fruit contains sugar and fibre. Fresh fruit also provides water, but is bulky and perishable. Dried fruit is preferred on long journeys.
- Biscuits and cookies are nutritious. Shelf life can vary from a few days to near-infinite.
- Coffee and tea provide heat in cold weather.
- Non-perishable food that does not need refrigerating is a good idea on trips to next to impossible destinations. Sauerkraut for instance is one of the few major sources of vitamin C that could be stored on long ship voyages prior to the advent of refrigeration.
Eating on vehicles
Long vehicle routes can make riders hungry. While eating can be prohibited on buses, an ocean liner can provide luxury dining difficult to find on land. Trains often have dining cars serving food that runs the gamut in both price and quality.
See On the plane#Meals onboard for airline meals.
Restaurants around the world have very different customs for ordering, eating and paying. Especially tipping varies a lot between countries.
Food poisoning and diarrhea are major concerns. Food should also be kept safe from pests. Also, in the long term, what and how much you eat are major determining factors for your risk of getting a variety of non transmittable disease such as cancer or diabetes.
See also Common scams#Food and beverage scams.
Most cultures have food-related taboos, often connected to religion and spirituality. They are often deeply held and may vary drastically from country to country, region to region or even person to person. Horse meat for one is a prized delicacy in parts of France and (traditionally) in the Rhineland, whereas many people in an area as close as Southern Germany are disgusted at the thought. With very few exceptions these taboos relate to meat and animal products, so tread with caution.
Though taboos are very differently motivated, there are two main categories: while some foodstuffs are considered to be unclean, other organisms are perceived to be inviolable, since they possess a soul or a personality. Unclean food can be associated with disease and disgust, such as meat from scavenging animals (pigs in Islam and Judaism, rats in the Western world, etc). Among inviolable animals are cattle in Hinduism, cats and dogs in many Western countries, and horses in many communities with traditions of horse riding. Even some vegetables are believed to possess a soul; Jainists reject onions for this reason.
Rendered taboo ingredients are a grey zone. While Muslims might reject pork-based gelatin, many people who would never eat a serving of insects, indulge in sweets with shellac or carmine, which are derived from lice.
Combinations of foodstuffs can be taboo; for example, kashrut does not allow kosher-observant Jews to mix or even use the same set of dishes, pots or utensils for foods classified as "dairy" and "meat", so observant Jews typically have double sets of dishes.
Table etiquette differs a lot between countries. In parts of Africa and Asia, people designate one hand (usually the right) for eating, while the other hand is used at the toilet. Behaviour such as burping or slurping might be common at a fine diner in one country, but very impolite in another.
Many Europeans regard eating with a fork and knife to be a cornerstone of good table manners. However, cutlery were not commonly used in any country until the 19th century, and have only been recently adopted on other continents. The American custom to cut all food on the plate, and eat with the fork in the right hand, is commonly accepted today, and can even be seen at occasions such as the Nobel Prize dinner.
A number of travel topics are available related to food.
- Alcoholic beverages
- Bread and confectionery
- Fruits and vegetables
- Soft drinks
- Fast food in North America
- Food Tours
- Mexican food
- North African cuisine
- Street food
- Travel as a vegetarian