Are you a foodie? Do history, culture and traditions fascinate you? Do you prefer walking at your own pace and taking your time getting to know a place? If it’s a resounding YES to all three questions we may have a unique experience for you. Or better bitemojo may. This Israeli company has taken an innovative approach to an increasingly important challenge: How to offer personalized experiences that showcase local history and culture, and support the communities in which they take place, while still being affordable?
We learned about bitemojo’s self-guided culinary tours through fellow travel bloggers To Travel Too and were delighted to experience one of their tours first-hand during a recent visit to Berlin. Today’s post is our honest review of that experience. If Berlin is not one of your destinations anytime soon, don’t worry: bitemojo currently offers food tours in 9 cities around the world.
Why choose a self-guided food tour?
Like guided culinary tours, self-guided food tours introduce you to a destination by taking you to different food establishments and telling you more about the history of the area, the establishment and the food you can sample.
Unlike guided tours, though you are not part of a group, and your tour doesn’t start and finish at a preset time. Given you guide yourself, these tours are also significantly cheaper than guided food tours, making culinary experiences accessible to even the budget-conscious traveller.
What is bitemojo and how does it support sustainable travel?
bitemojo was founded in 2016 by Yael and Michael, two Israeli food-loving travellers. It’s a smartphone application that offers self-guided culinary experiences in specific cities around the world: You select a city and the tour you wish to do (in Berlin, for example, there are three tours in two different neighbourhoods) and pay for it through the app.
Your purchase includes not just the tour details but the food and drink selection that has been curated by the makers of the app to give you a unique local experience. When it comes to the actual tour, your smartphone is your guide.
Food tourism is the act of traveling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place – Erik Wolf, Executive Director of the World Food Travel Association
The company works with over 500 communities and family-owned businesses. Their stories are part of a city’s cultural, social and human fabric. The food tours help visitors to connect with a place through food, experience a city’s local culture and discover hidden gems.
And it’s not only about food: The itineraries take you to fascinating locations and are full of valuable information. Visitors get a chance to explore neighbourhoods they may not otherwise see, and visit local businesses and sample foods they may otherwise miss.
On the flip side, it’s a great way for food entrepreneurs to share their passion with people who are genuinely interested in learning more about their businesses and the delicious food they create.
What else should you know about bitemojo tours?
Where can I do bitemojo food tours?
bitemojo tours are currently available in 8 countries (and 9 cities) around the world: Germany (Berlin), Hungary (Budapest), Israel (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv), Italy (Rome), Portugal (Lisbon), Slovenia (Ljubljana), Spain (Barcelona) and the USA (New York).
What languages are supported?
The website, app and Youtube tutorials are available in English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish.
Can I do the tours on any given day?
Some tours only happen on certain days, others 7 days a week. It always depends on when the businesses included on the tour are open.
How long are the tours and how far do I have to walk?
Every tour is different. So download the app and check out the details for the tours available in the city you want to explore.
Our New to Berlin tour was just over 3 kilometres and took us about 3 1/2 hours. The bitemojo app stated 2 1/2 hours. It’s ultimately YOU who decides how long you stay in one place and how much time you take to read the information the app provides. Our tour took us through Berlin Mitte, an area we didn’t know that well yet, so we took our time to get to know the neighbourhood. And it was a beautiful autumn day, so why rush?
What if I can’t finish the tour?
One benefit of the bitemojo app is that you can start and stop the tour whenever you like. You can go back and recommence the tour another day or have the unclaimed bites later at another participating business (by turning the unclaimed bites into bite credits). BTW, you can also earn bite credits by rating the bites you had and reviewing your tour.
How much food is being served? Will I still be hungry at the end?
Imagine the tours to be like a pub crawl, just for food (and with a lot of historic and cultural insights added to the mix). You sample little bits in one place, then you move on to the next place and sample something else, then on to the next for something different yet again, etc. We certainly weren’t left starving, quite the opposite.
What should I bring to the tour?
First of all: bring a sense of adventure and an open mind.
While food is provided (and plenty of it – after all, it’s a food tour), bring a bottle of water, especially on a hot day. Don’t worry: you won’t die of thirst if you don’t – the tour includes drinks too (and you can always buy drinks at the establishments if they’re not enough).
What else? Oh yes, very importantly: bring your smartphone and make sure it’s charged.
You will also need internet access. We used our pocket Wi-Fi on our tour, but there may be free Wi-Fi available at your destination or the establishments you visit (as you will need internet to access your bite vouchers).
We also suggest to bring your camera. Our bites in Berlin were always nicely presented and absolutely worth taking a photo of. Plus you’ll want to share the experience with others (and maybe make them a little envious too).
How do I use the service?
The steps are very simple:
- Download the app.
- Choose the city and tour you want to do.
- Purchase the tour on the app.
- Start and follow the tour.
- Stop at points of interest and read the information provided by the app.
- Claim your bites and enjoy the food.
- Review and share the experience.
How was bitemojo’s New to Berlin food tour?
Aptly named, the New to Berlin tour took us through Berlin Mitte, starting at the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station. Part of former East Berlin, the neighbourhood is just south of the former Berlin Wall and the Bernauer Strasse Checkpoint. In fact, the Wall Memorial is only a 5-10 minutes walk north. While not part of the tour, it’s worth checking out while you’re in the area.
Another interesting stop on the tour were the Hackesche Höfe, a complex of interconnected Art Nouveau buildings with eight beautiful, green courtyards in between them. Beautifully restored after the fall of the wall, they are now home to a mix of cafes, restaurants, offices, apartments and shops – including the original Ampelmann shop.
Towards the end of our tour, we passed an old building with two grand ballrooms and a beer garden outside. Witnessing the roaring 1920s, the ballroom was again used to host dance events since the early 2000s. What a beautiful reminder of days gone by.
The Food Establishments and Bites
We missed the first stop on our tour, as we were still getting used to the app (and finding our bearings). So, our first stop was a Polish eatery where we sampled four traditional Polish dumplings (pierogi) – poultry/dried tomato/feta, beetroot/goat cheese/capers/horseradish, pickled cabbage/dried mushrooms and spinach/buckwheat – super yummy and a feast for the eye just as much.
Our next stop was a Vietnamese restaurant, pretty packed with the local lunchtime crowd. We managed to find a table in the back, where we were served delicious chicken rice paper rolls, and warming lemongrass and honey tea.
Our third stop was at a cute little café, clearly popular with locals too. The super-friendly young owner first served us two different quiches – we chose bacon and leek as well as blue cheese and pear – followed by two slices of Kalter Hund, a traditional German dessert – we chose the traditional one, and one with poppy seeds and marzipan. The Café also served delicious hot chocolate, so we decided to try that too.
By the time we left the café, we were truly full already. Yet, there was one more food course to come: frozen yogurt with toppings we could choose ourselves.
We added the first stop we missed at the end, and therefore, our last bites, were two craft beer samples. Doing it this way around turned out to be even better, as it was a nice ending to our tour (rather than start). But hey, everyone is different. In case you wonder: we chose the Vagabund (a session IPA) and the Soltaire (a chocolate stout).
Review of Bitemojo's New to Berlin Culinary Tour
Value for Money
When you open the app, you are presented with a scroll option (left to right, right to left) to look at the tour options, price/number of credits required and star rating. Selecting a tour allows you to scroll down and look at details such as:
- Walking distance
- How long it should take
- Opening hours
- Map of the tour
- Information about the bites
If you like what you see, you can buy the tour on the app (by credit card or Paypal).
There is also a tutorial, which helped us understand how it all works.
Each tour is described in quite a bit of detail, which we liked. When you are on your self-guided tour, you can track where you are via GPS, stop at designated spots and read about the culture, history, people and food of the area. It’s just like having a tour guide with you. There are also photos of each of the food establishments, so you know what to look out for.
Wow. The food establishments in the New to Berlin Tour and the selection of tasting samples were incredible. Our tour included five different establishments, with food samples in four and drinks in two of them.
Our only interaction with bitemojo was via email, and the responses were slow. When we finally received a response, it was appropriate though. Emails are sent via an automated system (MailChimp). The slow response and use of an email template without tailoring it to the specific need sadly reduced our confidence in the entire experience. But it is something that bitemojo can fix very easily.
On the smartphone app, you can buy the tours with a debit card, credit card or your Paypal account. While we didn’t test the functionality all the way, it didn’t show any security standard to prove that it was secure.
You can also buy tours and gift vouchers through the bitemojo website which does use an SSL certificate. So, if in doubt don’t purchase via the app but through the website.
If you purchase a gift voucher, they send out a confirmation email with the gift code to use. Note that the code is only valid for six months!
Value for Money
We received our bitemojo food tour as a gift. We chose the New to Berlin tour, which at USD50 for two people for a 3.5 hour tour including food and drinks was surprisingly good value.
A lot of effort has gone into creating the tours: The food experiences are well curated. And a lot of information is provided to help us visitors gain an understanding of the community we’re walking through. While we were not new to Berlin, the New to Berlin tour introduced us to a part of the German capital we didn’t know that well. It ended up being the perfect introduction to Berlin Mitte, its history, people and food.
What could be improved
As a small business that is growing after their initial seed funding efforts in 2016, more destinations on the app would help spread the word. Ultimately, bitemojo could even include cities off the beaten tourist path and thereby support sustainable tourism efforts around the world even more.
Apart from the issues already mentioned around communication and payment security, the app was at times a little slow in responding. It didn’t impact our experience, but it was noticeable. Paul used his iPhone SE, so maybe it was the phone. We can’t tell for sure.
What are the alternatives to bitemojo?
Self-guided culinary tours
If you’re looking for another app like bitemojo, there isn’t any, really. At least, we’ve not come across one. The closest contenders so far have been
- Self-Guided Food Tours – These tours are also app-based, and even include information about the neighbourhood. Food establishments and dishes are suggestions only though. Instead of the actual bite, you may receive a discount. The tours are currently only available in Vancouver.
- Le Food Trip – These tours are paper-based. You can choose between 6 and 12 tastings and establishments in 5 different neighbourhoods in Paris.
Then there are self-guided food tours where locals share their favourite places to eat and dishes to try (but without the in-depth insights into the history of the neighbourhood), for example Aborigens in Barcelona.
And there are blog posts that take you on a culinary journey around a destination, for example this Self-Guided Food Tour in Barcelona, this Self-Guided Food Tour of Charleston or our very own culinary travel posts.
Other culinary experiences
To have a local foodie experience, you could also book a private walking tour with an emphasis on history, culture and local foods and drinks, a hands-on cooking class or a dinner experience in a local household.
If those are too expensive there are other alternatives too. If you are interested in learning about local food, do your research first. Determine what foods, ingredients or cooking styles your destination is known for.
Ask your host where and what locals eat. Walk around the neighbourhood at lunchtime, watch where the locals hang out and what they order. Or make a list of ingredients, head to the local market and try your hands at preparing a local dish.
If and when you eat out choose a unique establishment: At Lake Geneva, for example, we had lunch at the International Hotel School where student chefs and waiters practiced their skills.
Visit a local vineyard or craft brewery, a bakery or gelateria. Find an establishment that has just recently opened. You never know, it may be too famous one day, so now is your chance. Just go and explore… you never know what gem you may find.
Feature photo courtesy of bitemojo