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Eating on a budget while traveling

Eating on a budget while traveling

Today’s topic? Eating on a budget while traveling.

Most people seem to think that traveling or long-term traveling for that matter has to be expensive. If you look at the glamorous vacation-ads on TV or at travel agencies, it really seems to support that thought. We however, would like to point out, that eating on a budget while traveling is absolutely possible and enjoyable.

eating budget traveling

Finding the bare necessities

Unless you just won the lottery or inherited money from your long lost rich relative, you probably have to deal with a limited amount of money. Budgets will differ, depending on what kind of trip you are taking. Your traveling mode, lifestyle, comfort zone, and party habits are just a few things that may influence what kind of budget you want to plan on. We also know, that there are plenty of travelers out there, that are willing to go to even more extremes to cut budgets and do not mind to go dumpster or table diving. We try to have a good time while still making our travel money last as long as possible. With this in mind, we will post a series of 3 short blogs, that will give you tips on how to travel on a budget.

5 tips to help save on your food bill!

Of course, one of the reasons to go traveling is to experience the culture and food of the region. However, going out to eat every day, especially in big touristy areas, can kill a budget very quickly. Here are 5 things you can do to save on your food bill:

1. Cook your own meals!   

Most hostels, many campgrounds and some guest houses have a commons kitchens available for travelers to cook in. Many of those kitchens are equipped with everything you need so it makes it easy for guest to cook their own meals. Another option is to simply bring a camping stove/cooker or even just a small alcohol burner to prepare your own meals. This does not mean that you would have to go without tasting the local food. By going to the neighborhood grocery store, you get exactly what the locals eat and you see first hand what kind of fruits and vegetables people pick up. You experience the fresh baked goods and what kinds of meat or fish are being sold. Furthermore, you even learn what spices people use to get the local flavor. As an added bonus you can buy the same bottle of local wine for a fraction of the price than at the restaurant. Then you can sit at the beach,on top of a mountain, at the river, or where ever you wish while enjoying your meal.

eating budget traveling

Hamburger with local cheese and local wine in Portugal, seasoned with left over Moroccan spices

2. Buy from street vendors

Try food stalls for fresh bread, pastries, and the “fast-food-of the-area”. There are many local traditional snacks, such as: cheese, meat or vegetable filled pastries, rolls with cheese and lunch meats, sausages, chicken on a stick, Döner, gyros, buttered pretzels … or what have you that local working people pick up quickly on their lunch breaks at these places. Usually the food is good, it is local, and it generally comes with a great price. Some of our favorite “travel-fast-foods” were: Burek in the Balkans (a meat, cheese, or vegetable filled pastry, Döner in many European countries, Cornish Pasties in England, and we pretty much liked anything from any vendor in Southeast Asia ranging from fried bananas, pork strips on a stick to pho, fresh fruit and chicken and sticky rice.

eating budget traveling

Hmm so delicious! We love the fried bananas in Southeast Asia!!

3. Go to the local market

Most towns in Europe, Southeast Asia, and many other places, will have a small market where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold. The produce is usually from local farmers. Many times you can find other traditional specialties, such as meat, cheeses, candy, and small hot meals. In Southeast Asia, we found that just about every town has a market and sometimes even night-markets. The markets attract all kinds of food vendors as they come out to sell their goods at very reasonable prices. When going to the market, take a moment and look where the lines are long with locals. Here you more than likely find the best prices and food.

eating budget traveling

Budget food with entertainment! A local fruit vendor at the Nha Trang beach, Vietnam.

4. Avoid buying bottled water

It is amazing how much water we drink while we cycle our bikes. Buying one bottle of water might not seem like a budget breaker. However, having to buy several bottles of water a day will add up quickly. Instead carry a reusable water bottle! We found that the tap water in all of Europe and North America is safe to drink; if it is not, it will be posted. Also, most south European countries, like Spain, Portugal, France etc., have public water fountains with safe drinking water within their city centers. The only areas where we bought bottled water were in Morocco and Southeast Asia. So where can you find tap water? Try the sinks in public restrooms, city halls, libraries, gas stations and convenience stores. You can also find drinking water at many local parks, fire departments and even graveyards will usually have a water spout. We have also experienced that most people are nice and would let us refill our bottles at an outside water faucet at their homes. Some people even invited us into their homes to refill our bottles. 

eating budget traveling

Getting water from the public water fountain in a small Portuguese village

5. Eat at the Non-Touristy-Family Restaurant

Of course there are times, when we have the urge to go and try the regional specialties in a proper restaurant; and we definitely encourage you to do so as well. However, to keep the cost down, try to do this in small towns and away from the tourist attractions. Many times you will pay double the price, simply due to the fact where the restaurant is located. The closer to the main touristy areas it is,  the more expensive your meal will be. Unfortunately, this price will not always match the quality or taste of your food. Whenever possible, try to eat out in small towns, or at least a couple of streets removed from the local tourist attraction. The best approach is often to simply ask someone from the area, where they would go out to eat and what they would eat. With this approach we usually felt, we got the real deal and we went to restaurants with traditional food and local prices. However, in the very small towns, where tourists are rare and English is not very common, you might have to be prepared to do some of your best charades and barn animal noises to order your food. 

eating budget traveling

Enjoying a Tagine and great company at a small restaurant off the beaten path in Marocco



  • Mirka
    Posted at 06:18h, 06 December Reply

    Hi! Thank you for writing this. I am new to cycle touring and plan to cycle around Europe soon. Your tips are great. Are there lots of camping places with kitchens do you know?


    • Petra
      Posted at 19:16h, 06 December Reply

      Hello Mirka
      Thank you for following us and “Welcome” to bike touring! We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. There are not as many campgrounds with kitchens as there are hostels with full kitchen set-ups. However, we have encountered several camp kitchens in France, where many campsites are catered toward bicycle tourists, also Finland, Norway, Greece, and Portugal had several campground kitchens. We have also found that some big cities had campgrounds with kitchens, like in Athens and Helsinki. However, it can be a little bit of a hit-and-miss. We usually carry cooking gear, so having a kitchen at one of the sites was just an added bonus for us. It was nice not having to use our cooking gas and to be able to cook something more fancy. We hope this helps.

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