I hate to state the obvious but you can’t travel without eating. It’s half the fun! When on vacation overseas, many of the things we take for granted when sating our appetites are challenged – like where and what to sit down to. You may also find that the cost of eating, especially when your family is in tow, can become scarily high.
Whether you yearn to sample the culinary delights of a new culture, or simply want to find a reasonable dining option, there are ways to keep the cost of dining down. It usually means keeping your eyes open and being a little adventurous.
In this chapter, I point you towards the two most practical ways to avoid the sometimes exorbitant restaurant bills that can cause considerable indigestion. From breaking away from your hotel or resort diners, and heading into the locality, to shopping at the local convenience store to prepare a meal for yourself. Check out the list of major world supermarket chains to find which to look out for in the country you’re visiting.
Many of the popular travel websites have a lot to say about this topic, with IndependentTraveler.com in particular covering the subject in some depth. I recommend you read its “Six Tips for Dining Abroad”, which should start you off on the right foot. To find out the best and affordable places to eat in the city you are visiting, Tripadvisor.com offers a “Cheap Eats” series written by travelers themselves. If you use the Google Maps app, you can also browse nearby restaurants and sort by price.
If you have more tips on how to save money on eating and drinking, which you’d like me to share with readers of this book, feel free to email me at info@FreeTravelIdeas.com
Eat Like a Local
The joy of eating is the conjoined twin of the joy of traveling – or so someone once said! But it is true. Tasting the local cuisine is as much about culture as it is about adventure. What’s more, you will eat better, and spend much less if you eat at local restaurants over the tourist traps.
From $1 bowls of noodles in Vietnam to backstreet French bistros, most countries don’t need a local food movement, because they’re already using the freshest, tastiest ingredients from their own local farms. And if you are willing to break out from the normal tourist routes, you can enjoy excellent dining experiences for a fraction of the price you’d expect.
Follow the flow of locals, and you´ll find the culinary gems. I recommend asking around for restaurant recommendations at convenience stores, grocers, and local shops. Let them know you’re from out of town and are looking for where the locals eat. Even traveling within the US, you can save on the high cost of hotel restaurants by stepping out to local eateries. A great local restaurant-finding resource wherever you are in the world is Yelp, or search on the web for food bloggers in your destination city. Another comprehensive resource that’s full of local restaurants across the country, check out Local Eats.
Visit the Local Grocery Store
Another tip is to hit the local grocery store, especially on your first day at your destination. You don’t want to rely on room service at all, so having even just a few items can eliminate the temptation to splash out immediately.
It is also a wise option when touring, with some snacks, fruit and drinks fighting off the hunger until you dine properly in the evening. Portable favorites can vary depending on the country you are in, but they are never hard to find with convenience stores located throughout the city.
Admittedly, it’s a little like living like a student, but then they know best how to save on costs. AbroadGuide.com provides some keen tips on “Saving Money On Food While Traveling” including shopping in a supermarket or convenience store.
“Convenience stores in other parts of the world aren’t like CVS or 7-11. They often have fresh food along with its canned and frozen selection… If you find a good supermarket, pick up anything you could possibly need – cold cuts for sandwiches, pretzels and other snacks… even fresh, pre-prepared meals like pastas and pre-bagged veggie stir fry mixes.”
If your accommodation has a fridge or microwave, even better. You can prepare simple meals like breakfast and lunch. I also recommend having desserts on hand too from the local bakery and sweet shops.
Eating out at a nice restaurant is fine, but it’s always wise to do so only sparingly. BusinessInsider.com points out that “Restaurants Start Charging More for Peak Dinner Times”, with dinners costing more on weekends than on weekdays. Avoid this price spike by eating out for lunch and preparing a simple dinner for yourself with items picked up at the local grocer.
Other Websites & Apps
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but with certain websites and apps you can find deals that are almost as good. Affordable eating in cites around the world are only a click away these days. I’ve already highlighted some of them I the tips above, but below you’ll find list of other websites and apps that are worth making use of.
- Yelp : a hugely popular restaurant-finding resource for travelers everywhere. Global coverage with reviews, recommendations and map locations.
- Local Eats: another global site providing restaurant searches in cities throughout the world, complete with map locations and reviews. Search by budget for best deals.
- Urban Spoon: local bar and restaurant guide featuring reviews from professional food critics and bloggers. Covers USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia and NZ.
- Black Board Eats : read restaurant reviews and get discounts straight to your smartphone. Only covers eateries in LA, NY, SF and Chicago.
- Book A Table : find and make a booking at restaurants across the UK, Ireland, Europe and US. Offers good discounts and deals too.
- The Fork : choose from 13,000 restaurants in France, Spain and Switzerland. Book your table. Redeem discounts of up to 50% from participating eateries.
- Yelp (Android, iOS) : leading name in global restaurant finder and reviewer. Global coverage.
- Black Board Eats (Android, iOS) : read restaurant reviews and get discounts straight to your smartphone. Only covers eateries in LA, NY, SF and Chicago. ·
- Bite Hunter (iOS) : location-based searches for great dining deals. Redeem discount via easy one-click option. US only.
- Foodspotting (Android, iOS) : great for travelers looking to try local dishes or regional treats. Search for specific dishes and see locations on local maps display. Global coverage.
- Urbanspoon (Android, iOS) : USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland Australia and NZ. · Find. Eat.Drink (iOS) – restaurant, bar and shopping recommendations from professionals and experts. Covers 150 cities US, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean, with steady global expansion.
- BookATable (Android, iOS) : find restaurants across Europe and US. Find deals. Book tables instantly.