With international trips dissipated to pretty much non-existence, for the past few years we’ve had to turn to different forms of entertainment to try and satiate our desires to travel.
Unsurprisingly, consuming online content was one way that many people realized was going to be as close as they could get to experiencing the other side of the world.
Watching as real people explored foreign cities, ate peculiar foods, and interacted with strangers somewhat filled that void that we all wished we could go out and fill ourselves with.
Netflix saw the opportunity and absolutely leaped into the task of spoiling us with huge additions of travel shows and documentaries that were made to engage us in ways that makes us feel like we’re actually there in that moment.
Their best content has helped us keep the travel bug at bay and fed into our wanderlust desires in the best ways possible.
Watching these shows, whether it be about countries we’ve already visited or ones that we’re eager to visit once we’re allowed to, inspires us and gives us insight on how we can better plan the trip when the time comes around (and it will come, hopefully sooner rather than later!).
And to be honest, they’re just super fun and easy to watch!
There is currently a plethora of shows about food, travel, and/or culture – but the best ones are the ones that combine all three.
Let’s look into the 10 best Netflix travel shows and documentaries out right now!
1. Street Food Series – Asia (2019)
The Street Food series is a much-loved global series that’s the perfect viewing experience for foodies around the world. Every episode follows the story of a local chef and shares how their famous street food stall came to be.
If you’re a fan of journeys, this series will take you on some wild rides. You’ll be pretty much learning the origin stories of some of the chefs, some who literally started from the bottom, some of who took over flailing family businesses to completely turn them around.
2. Twogether (2020)
Veteran South Korean entertainer Lee Seung Gi and popular Taiwanese actor Liu Yi-Hao (stage name Jasper) are thrown in the deep end in this fun travel and exploration documentary series.
Basically, before starting filming in Indonesia, they met briefly for the first time when they were told that they would be filming this show. Fast-forward to months later and they’re both stepping off the airplane in Yogyakarta, a foreign Indonesian city neither have ever visited before.
From there, both parties must navigate through ‘missions’ (tasks) as submitted by their various fans across multiple cities around Asia, all whilst trying to overcome their language barrier and adapt to their environment.
From the get-go, you get the strong feeling that this is not scripted, as both parties are as awkward as it gets. Communicating in Taiwanese, Korean, and a sprinkle of English, you can feel them warming up to each other as the show goes on, and eventually they form a wonderful brotherhood you just can’t make up.
Both Seung Gi and Jasper are adventurous, comical and overall, wonderfully likable in this amazing series.
3. Somebody Feed Phil (2020)
In this fun and light-hearted travel, food and culture documentary, Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the classic sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” travels the world to indulge in delicious local cuisine and explore more about the culture of the destinations.
Unsurprisingly, his genuine interest in local customs, openness to trying even the strangest of foods, and amusing dry humour have hooked hundreds of thousands of people around the world. There are currently 4 seasons available to watch on Netflix.
4. J-Style Trip (2020)
Chinese artist Jay Chou is synonymous with legendary music. Many argue that it was he who put C-pop on the global map; if not, then it was he who expanded it beyond its horizons.
On the surface level, this documentary showcases Jay and his crew traveling around different destinations around the world. They perform crazy magic tricks, participate in fun and adventurous activities, and generally have good banter.
However, if you’re a long-time C-pop music lover, you’ll find that this series is much more than what it appears to be.
Whilst there is the glitz and glamor of visiting Paris and globetrotting through Singapore, there are moments of nostalgia as Jay Chou talks about his childhood dreams and inspiration. Certain conversations delve you deeper into the thoughts of the musician and remind you that he is a human before he is an artist.
Regardless of whether you’re a Jay Chou fan or not, this is a great series to binge.
5. The Hungry & The Hairy (2022)
Globally renowned k-popstar Rain and veteran South Korean comedian Ro Hong-chul are a pair of two unlikely friends in their late 30s who get together to traverse the country for light adventure and great food.
The synopsis of the series is basic enough: from Jeju Island to all the way back to Seoul, the two friends dip into various locations with their motorbikes to savour the scenery and sample the local food offerings.
This is a super laid-back, easy-going travelogue show that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
From the ridiculous outfits to the never-ending banter, you’ll find yourself immersed in the chemistry of the two as well as the gorgeous shots of the areas they go exploring.
One highlight of this show includes the endless drone shots of the long stretches of highways with mountains and beaches flanking the sides, reminding you that there is a whole world out there to explore soon.
Another highlight is the food they devour. When Rain is not showing off his culinary skills and cooking up a storm, they’re stopping into some restaurants that are local favourites to eat until they pass out (literally).
6. Midnight Asia – Eat Dance Dream (2022)
This eclectic show is unique in that rather than show celebrities, it follows the lives of individuals living life in some of the craziest night scenes across Asia.
Brightly lit neon sign boards, big personalities, and stunning drone shots characterize this show. This travel documentary series specifically shoots late at night to really showcase the party vibes of the city it’s highlighting.
The first episode focuses on Tokyo. In Shinjuku, we’re introduced to Sumiko Iwamuro, an 85-year-old DJ.
We get to know Rogerio Ignacio Vaz, a Brazilian born to Japanese parents, who’s a mixologist.
We follow Shotaro Komijo, as he drags his bar cart, Twillo, to a random location and then sends an update to his followers via his social media.
These are only a few of the personalities you’ll get to meet.
From Tokyo to Mumbai, Seoul to Taipei, East Asia has its moment in this series.
7. Ugly Delicious (2020)
Part cooking show, part documentary, Ugly Delicious the gold standard for those interested in how food and culture intertwine.
David Chang is a renowned chef who is the owner of the globally popular Momofuku restaurant group. From noodles to fried chicken sandwiches to pastries, his culinary ventures have left little for the imagination.
He starred in both seasons of Ugly Delicious, traveling the world, sampling and breaking down dishes and providing commentary and insight on its concept and history.
Viewers will like how grounded this show is. It isn’t merely just about the food itself; David features guests who sit down over a meal, conversing easily and candidly. There are nostalgic memories brought up, discussions about comfort foods being commercialized, and immigrants opening up shop to provide a taste of home.
David Chang ultimately drives home the message that food is a universal language, and it brings people together.
8. Zulu Man in Japan (2019)
In this short documentary, South African rapper Nasty C takes to the streets of Japan, immersing himself into the local culture, collaborating with local artists, and exposing himself to the vibrant creative arts and music scene.
With only a 48-minute running time, this is a quick and easy watch. You follow Nasty C as he freely and liberally explores the country’s night scene, gets into the thick of the local fashion and arts, attends concerts and more.
For those who have travelled to Japan before, you would know that the vibes in this country are unmatched.
So, to witness an up-and-coming rapper who’s never visited the country before take in the electric scenery, energy, and people the same way you did – in awe and wonderment – it will make you feel things.
9. Flavorful Origins
In this colourful documentary series, Flavorful Origins masterfully takes us through the various traditional cooking techniques of the Chaoshan Cuisine.
The history and culture intertwined with the real individuals in this series provides us with an insight into this relatively unknown branch of Chinese cuisine.
Each episode focuses on a different dish, some we may have come across before, and others we’ve likely never ever heard about.
The in-depth look at how the chefs, some of whom have had techniques passed down to them from generations before, prepare and cook the food will amaze you.
Frying, grilling, steaming – no cooking method is left off the table.
Whilst there are a whopping 20-episodes, which might seem a tad long for some people, the standardized approach yet fresh content of each episode will have you eating away at the show quicker than you realise.
10. Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (2019)
The Midnight Diner Tokyo Series is a little bit different from the rest of shows mentioned above. Rather than filming real people traveling the world and exploring food, this show is a work of fiction.
However, it’s not fiction as you know it. Rather, with nuanced characters and clever script-writing, it can be described as a travelogue, a food review show, or even a commentary show on the Japanese lifestyle.
The show itself follows the story of ‘Master’, the owner/chef of a small diner in Tokyo who serves a variety of Japanese dishes to his customers. The diner is open from midnight to 7am, and you quickly find that customers are generally regulars who come for Master’s listening ear and comfort food.
If you’re missing hearing the Japanese language, are looking for something to watch that won’t challenge your thinking too hard, and just want to have a feel-good show on, Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories will introduce you to some unique characters.
I hope you enjoyed our selection of the best Netflix travel shows and documentaries. If you’re looking for some shows to get you out of that (lack of) travel funk, we’re sure that any pick off this list will do the job.
Travel shows and documentaries work wonders in making us feel inspired about the future of travel.
Whether you’re determined to visit your favourite country next year and just want something to tide you over for now, or looking to get some ideas about where you can go next once restrictions fully lift – we hope you find it watching one of these remarkable shows.