How to Eat Cheap Around the World

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When exploring new destinations around the world, the allure of local cuisine is irresistible. Dining on a budget can prove difficult while travelling. It might seem impossible to dine well and eat cheap on vacation, but it can be done. The secret is to act less like a tourist and more like a local.

Navigating the world of budget-friendly dining abroad requires strategy and a willingness to step off the beaten path. Local food markets, street vendors, and neighbourhood eateries are some of the best-kept culinary secrets of your destination. Timing and understanding when and where to find lunch specials, happy hour deals, or local food festivals can significantly stretch your dining budget.

In this guide, we’ll delve into how to eat cheap around the world without sacrificing taste or experience.


How to Eat Cheap Around the World

Europe’s culinary diversity caters to every budget and palate. Start your day with a budget-friendly breakfast from local bakeries offering fresh pastries and coffee. Explore markets like Spain’s Mercado de San Miguel or France’s Marché Bastille for affordable bites and local specialties.

Take advantage of the European tradition of tapas in Spain, offering small plates perfect for sharing without breaking the bank. In Italy, indulge in aperitivo hour, where purchasing a drink often comes with complimentary snacks. Look for “prix fixe” menus during lunch hours in France, providing a complete meal at a fixed price. For dinner, venture into university districts or less touristy neighborhoods where you’ll find restaurants offering delicious meals at reasonable prices.


How to Eat Cheap Around the World

Asia offers a variety of budget-friendly culinary experiences. Dive into the vibrant street food scene in cities like Bangkok or Taipei, where you can feast on noodles, dumplings, and skewers for a fraction of restaurant prices. Explore local markets in India or Vietnam for freshly prepared dishes bursting with regional flavors at affordable prices.

Vegetarian options like falafel in the Middle East or tofu dishes in Japan are not only affordable but also showcase local specialties. Take advantage of set lunch menus offered by many restaurants in cities such as Singapore or Seoul, providing a satisfying meal at a reasonable cost.

For a more immersive and affordable dining experience, venture into smaller towns and rural areas, where you’ll find authentic eateries serving up traditional cuisine without the tourist markup.


How to Eat Cheap Around the World

In North America, food trucks are a staple in cities like New York and Los Angeles, offering gourmet meals at street food prices. Ethnic neighbourhoods such as Chinatown in San Francisco or Little Italy in New York City provide authentic and affordable international cuisine. Take advantage of happy hour deals at bars and restaurants across the continent for discounted drinks and appetizers.

Casual chain restaurants are known for their budget-friendly menus and generous portions. In South America, traditional markets offer cheap yet hearty meals with local flavours. Embrace the street food culture with options like empanadas in Argentina or arepas in Colombia, perfect for a quick and affordable bite. Look for specials at local restaurants offering complete meals at discounted prices during lunch hours.

Along coastal areas, beachside kiosks and food stalls serve fresh seafood and regional specialties at reasonable prices compared to sit-down restaurants. Both regions offer various dining options that cater to affordable budgets.


How to Eat Cheap Around the World

African marketplaces are a good place to start if you are looking to eat cheap. Vendors offer everything from grilled meats and samosas to stews and fresh fruit at prices far below those of restaurants. For a taste of local culture and cuisine, seek out small, family-run eateries which serve up authentic meals at reasonable prices.

These establishments not only provide a chance to savor traditional dishes but also offer a glimpse into daily life. Enjoy the vibrant street food scene that dots many cities and towns across the continent.

From roadside vendors selling savory snacks to food markets offering a variety of affordable choices, there’s no shortage of delicious and budget-friendly options to explore. Cafés and bakeries are also popular spots for enjoying budget-friendly breakfasts and snacks, often accompanied by locally brewed coffee or tea.

Tips on how to eat chip while travelling

How to Eat Cheap Around the World

  1. Rethink Fine Dining: You can enjoy memorable meals without the hefty price tag by seeking out local eateries favored by residents. This is an opportunity to sample authentic dishes that reflect the region’s culinary heritage, often at a fraction of the cost of upscale restaurants.
  2. Opt for Lunch at Splurge Restaurants: Many upscale restaurants offer lunch menus with similar quality dishes at reduced prices compared to their dinner offerings. This allows you to indulge in a fine dining experience without stretching your budget.
  3. Choose Cafes Over Formal Restaurants: Cafes often provide a cozy atmosphere and affordable menu options, making them ideal for breakfast, lunch, or a casual dinner. Enjoy local specialties and freshly brewed coffee while mingling with locals in a relaxed setting.
  4. Visit Local Markets: Exploring supermarkets and farmers’ markets not only offers a budget-friendly way to shop for meals but also a chance to discover regional produce and artisanal products. Create your own picnic or prepare simple meals in your accommodation’s kitchen.
  5. Share and Eat Light: Opting for appetizers or sharing meals allows you to taste a variety of dishes without overspending. It’s a practical way to enjoy dining out while keeping costs in check, especially when traveling with friends or family.
  6. Peer-to-Peer Dining: Joining peer-to-peer dining platforms or accepting invitations from locals can lead to authentic dining experiences without added service charges. Enjoy home-cooked meals and cultural exchange while supporting local hosts.
  7. Try Street Food Safely: Sampling street food is a fun and economical way to savor local flavors. Choose stalls with high turnover and observe food handling practices to ensure a safe and enjoyable culinary adventure.
  8. Cook Your Own Meals: Booking accommodations with kitchen facilities, such as vacation rentals or hostels, allows you to prepare meals using local ingredients. This not only saves money but also provides a chance to experiment with regional recipes and flavors.

Culinary delight on a budget

It’s not always easy to eat cheap on vacation, but if you dine and shop like a local, you can find some great bargains—and some of the best bites around.

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