One of the highest costs when traveling, other than hotels and transportation, is food. How to eat on a budget on your trip? Here are 10+ tips for eating cheap and save money on food while traveling.
Do some research
Before traveling, do some quick research to find food choices and restaurants that you prefer.
Do some research online and spend about 30 minutes writing a list of cheap restaurants or grocery stores near where you’re going to visit.
This way, you’ll have a glimpse of affordable and tasty places to eat while not wasting too much time figuring out on your trip.
In addition to restaurant reviews, I also check their menu and prices. If it’s too expensive, I will choose a cheaper alternative.
Eat with the locals
If you’re looking for money-saving tips and a recommendation for delicious food, ask the locals where they eat.
Every area has its unique cuisine, and most places have great family restaurants, catering to locals who enjoy a good meal at a reasonable price.
To meet the locals, you can go to events hosted by Couchsurfing or Meetup.
Also, you can ask the staff of the hotel. They usually know a lot of great bars, pubs, and cafes, so you should ask them and find out where they usually go after work.
Eat before you’re too hungry
Find a place to eat before you get too hungry.
If you wait until you’re hungry, you’re more likely to stop by the first place you see—perhaps it’s too expensive or the quality is pretty bad.
Also, you may feel irritable when being hungry, and it’ll affect your travel experience.
Have lunch instead of dinner
No matter how economical you are, you shouldn’t just eat instant noodles or fast food all day.
A great way to save money while still enjoy a budget meal in your favorite restaurant is to eat out during lunch.
Quite a few restaurants have menus with different prices for the evening – usually a few percent to several tens of percent higher. These lunch deals are cheaper, and the quality is not much different. Great way to save money, isn’t it?
Bring your water bottle
Filtered water is not expensive, but buying three or four water bottles a day will add up.
For example, if each bottle costs 75 cents and every day you buy 3 bottles, in a month, you will spend 67.50 USD for water only.
In addition to costing money, plastic water bottles contribute to increasing waste in the environment.
So, bring your own bottle, fill them up before you head out on a day trip. You can also get water at public drinking fountains on the street.
Visit student areas
Students usually know the best budget places to eat and drink. So you can ask them and find out these gems.
Also, visit areas near schools and universities for cheap eats. I’m sure you will find affordable meals and great nightlife.
Start your trip with a full tummy
Try to eat something before heading to an airport or train station. Having something in your stomach, even though it’s just a glass of milk, will help you avoid spending too much money on mediocre food at the airport.
Also, if you’re on a road trip, pack some food, snacks, and drinks so you won’t need to spend much on a roadside restaurant.
This also helps saving time for sightseeing, as you don’t need to look for a place to eat before you even get settled.
Stay at places with free breakfast
Some places offer complimentary breakfast in their deals, and I usually find it handy and cost-effective.
Having breakfast will be a great start for your travel day, and you won’t waste money and time stopping to eat right in the middle of your fun.
For example, some hostels I stayed in offered basic breakfast, like bread, jam, fruits, or instant noodles. They are basic but fulfilling and saved me lots of money on breakfast too.
Book lodgings with kitchen
If the trip lasts more than two weeks and you eat out most of the time, it will cost lots of money.
Most hostels and guesthouses have a kitchen in their establishment, so make use of it and cook your own meal while traveling. Or, if you travel in a group, book an apartment that has a kitchen.
Another bonus when having a kitchen is you can save any leftovers from meals you had at restaurants.
Also, I find it fascinating to visit the local markets. You’ll be able to discover the life of the locals in the most authentic way and buy fresh and cheap food.
Look for Coupons
Don’t forget to check out coupon books for the area you are visiting.
There’re sites such as Restaurant.com offering coupons and discounts that you can print off and use on vacation. Also, ask locals which site offering coupons and discounts.
Use tourist cards
Using tourist cards is a great way to save money on public transportation, attractions, and food.
Many travel cards offer discounts at restaurants. Usually, it’s 10 – 20%, but you may be lucky and find ones with 50% off.
Attend food events and festivals
Many big cities have food event weeks or food competitions like cook-offs and awards. Here, with an entrance fee, you can try delicious meals at a small cost.
Festivals are also an excellent way to eat cheap while traveling. You’ll be able to enjoy the best of the local cuisine at a reasonable price while enjoying the festive atmosphere.
So, search your destination for special festivals and events for good deals. You can check the tourism website for festivals or local Facebook groups.
A buffet is one of the best options to eat cheap while traveling.
Although they do not serve the best food, buffets are a budget-friendly option because you can eat as much as you want. No exaggeration, you can eat everything for a whole day.
A full buffet usually costs about $10 – $15, with more expensive ones at $20.
Try street food
Street food is cheap and delicious! In many countries, especially in Asia, you can find street food vendors everywhere.
These food carts sell items for just a dollar or two but are an excellent way for you to discover and experience all the local food and culture.
So, to save money on food when traveling, don’t ignore these trolley eateries. Grab a plate, sit down on a small plastic chair and enjoy a tasty meal.
Eat fast food
I know it’s not the best thing, but fast food is an excellent option for a cheap meal in most of the expensive tourist cities in the world (except in Asia).
For as little as $5, you can have a full meal (and lots of calories too).
Just one more ice cream or one more candy bar will end up cost you a lot.
Although the price for each item is very small, if you buy them every day, it’ll add up and cost you money.
If you travel in a group, try to share the dishes so you can both divide the cost and try more food.
If you’re traveling alone, ask someone in a hostel or a meet-up app like Couchsurfing to join you for a meal. Not everyone is willing to eat with strangers, though. But I made many friends this way and had a great time.
Don’t be too picky
In brief, remember that the main purpose of travel is to discover new lands. Although that includes culinary exploration, you shouldn’t be too picky.
Eating basic dishes like sandwiches is not very appealing but reasonably priced and is a great way to save money.
If you are a foodie, love to explore famous restaurants, you should carefully consider your budget and how much you can spend on eating.