Traveling to somewhere you've never been is a hard enough challenge to overcome. Chances are you're coming in to contact with new languages, new cultures, new people, and new foods. Most of these things you can deal with and return unscathed. But if you aren't careful, eating out while on vacation isn't one of them. If you don't know the language, customs, or food of the place you've chosen to take a trip, eating out could end in disaster.
One of the most important thing you need to look out for while eating out on vacation is whether or not you're in a location where drinking the local water is safe. Of all places to travel, Mexico is the most well known for having unsafe drinking water. Most developed countries are safe, but it's best to check the Center for Disease Control's website to see which areas are truly okay and which are not. Even if you are somewhere that the water is fine to drink, but you don't want to take any chances, you can drink bottled water and cold, bottled soft drinks and other drinks. If you're worried about contamination, make sure you don't drink fountain drinks or ask for ice. These are both ways for water to enter into your drinks without you completely realizing it.
Something else to look out for when dining out are local customs. This rule can also apply if you're dining in a local restaurant with foreign cuisine. If you walk into the restaurant and are unsure what behaviors are acceptable or not, take a moment to look around and observe. Step back and watch the other diners for a minute or two and see how they act. Are they quiet and reserved? Maybe they're boisterous and loud. Be sure you know what is acceptable where you are dining. You could even stop in a day before you plan on eating in the restaurant to check out these things. Stopping in would also give you a chance to find out what style of dress is appropriate for that restaurant.
Chances are wherever you're vacationing, the primary language won't be English. Most of the menus will probably be in their native language also. Unless there are pictures in the menus, more than likely, you won't know what you're ordering. If you have a smartphone or the restaurant has wireless internet, you can translate your menu on the spot. However, a lot of times, that isn't the case. You might want to carry along a mini-translation book. This way, at least you'll be able to identify the main ingredients in the dishes. Another way you can find out what to order is by asking your waiter what he or she recommends. You could also learn a few basic words before going on vacation. If you like chicken, perhaps learn the word for chicken in whatever languages are spoken in the country you're visiting.
No matter where you're vacationing, there are certain things you need to watch out for when eating out. Know where it's okay to drink the water. Make sure you know how to act in different types of restaurants. But most important of all, have fun.