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How to find the best street food (and other travel tips), according to YouTube megastar, The Food Ranger

The dos and don'ts of everything from street food to digital safety when traveling.

The Food Ranger eating noodles
Trevor James, The Food Ranger, eating a bowl of noodles in Chongqing, China. thefoodranger / Instagram

With over one million followers on Instagram and almost six million subscribers on YouTube, Trevor James (better known by his social media handle, The Food Ranger) has made a career of traveling for food. Over the years, James has traveled to over 40 countries, creating food and travel content on countries ranging from luxurious omakase sushi in Tokyo to drinking camel milk straight from the udder in Pakistan.

So who better to offer The Manual expertise on traveling? James is here with some of his best travel tips, from his favorite airlines to avoiding food poisoning to staying safe online.

People waiting in line at the airport
Phil Mosley / Unsplash

Airline and airport tips

With so many airlines, travelers can easily get overwhelmed by the options. Having flown on countless airlines, James has a clear favorite — Emirates. “I like Emirates a lot ’cause I live in Dubai, and they serve the whole world,” explained James. “You can fly anywhere direct from Dubai.”

Once on the plane, the debate over window or aisle seats is simple for James — he’s all about team aisle seats. “For comfort, I like aisle seats the best because you can get up to go to the bathroom,” explained James.

Finally, if you spend some time in an airport, food isn’t always a bland endeavor. While many Americans have a somewhat negative opinion of airport food, many airports worldwide have excellent food. For James, one of his favorite airports for food is Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, which is filled with eateries serving tasty local cuisine.

Packing a suitcase.
Surface / Unsplash

What to pack

Two essential things James always carries with him while traveling are a power strip with USB ports and a portable blender. The power strip because, as a content creator, James needs options to charge various equipment. The portable blender is strictly used to make a healthy and convenient breakfast. Instead of eating the hotel breakfast or eating out, James likes to make a nutritious smoothie full of protein powder and fruit in the morning.

Trevor James holding food bowl.
Trevor James enjoying Egyptian cuisine in Cairo. thefoodranger / Instagram

How to find the best street food when traveling

A quick glance at The Food Ranger YouTube channel and a viewer can easily see that food is the primary motivation for James’s traveling adventures. And while James has been all over the world, some of his favorite places to eat are Sichuan province in China, Malaysia, and Mexico.

The delicious and abundant street food is a common denominator for all three places. But how does one find a great street food spot, especially if language is an issue or you’ve never been to that country before? “A busy spot is always probably the best sign. If there’s a line up out the door, or if you can smell it,” said James. “If the food is in the front of the shop where you can see it and it’s visual, I’ll probably really wanna try it because it’ll look good on camera.”

Of course, a common concern for travelers is to avoid food poisoning. For James, the best advice is to avoid the local water. “Just to really be careful about water or dishes with water or any drinks that have water or ice,” said James. “Local, unfiltered tap water — that’s the most I’ve ever gotten sick.”

A man's shoulder and hands as he types on a laptop with a Google browser open / Unsplash

Digital security while traveling

Besides securing top-quality luggage that can protect your belongings, James wants travelers to consider another avenue of safety: internet safety. Specifically, James is referring to VPN services (his favorite is ExpressVPN). “I’m always connected to a VPN when I travel,” said James. “Basically, it’s kind of like another step for safety because you’re not sending your data through your ISP — you’re sending it through the VPN instead.”

This is especially important when visiting countries with more restrictive governments, such as China, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. “I’m not doing anything illegal there,” explains James. “But as a content creator, maybe sometimes I’m not sure whether they’re monitoring what travelers are doing. So I’m just always trying to stay as secure as possible.”

All of this relates to James’s new endeavor, TravelSecurely. A one-stop-shop on digital safety, James launched the website as a resource on topics like the best VPN services, secure email providers, and other cybersecurity issues.

A mission of positivity

From rural China to Saudi Arabia, The Food Ranger has experienced it all when it comes to travel. Flying can be stressful, along with packing, and travelers can often fret about both food and safety. But while traveling can be unpredictable, James remains passionate about keeping a positive outlook, even when traveling to places like Iran or Pakistan, some of the most hospitable places James has ever been. As James explains, “I want to show people that the world is a friendly place.”

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Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
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