Backpacking isn’t just about carrying around a backpack and staying in hostels. It’s a lifestyle and a way to travel – on the cheap.
Most backpackers aren’t traveling on 2 weeks vacations but for several weeks, months or even years at a time. If you’re traveling that much you need to be able to cut costs. When it comes to budget traveling, food is one of the biggest things that will put a dent in your budget.
Never fear, though, here are some money saving tips for how to eat cheap while traveling.
Cheap places to eat
Street food In most places around the world the streets are lined with little food stalls. This is your best chance to try authentic local cuisine at a cheap price. So, go ahead – order, sit down on the little plastic chair and eat like a local.
Buffets You get great value for your money with buffets and you also have the opportunity to try a variety of local food for cheap. If it’s an “all you can eat” buffet you can fill up on one meal for the entire day.
Fast food No matter where you go in the world there’s a McDonalds or any number of other fast food restaurants. Now, obviously if you opt for fast food you’re not really going to be experiencing local cuisine and it’s also not really the healthiest option out there. Having said that, sometimes you just feel like a greasy burger and fast food is a great way to fill up with calories for cheap.
Eat local food If you needed even more reason to not eat hamburgers or pizza while traveling, keep in mind that non local food is always cheaper than the something offered locally. Stick to the $1 bowl of pho and skip the $3 burger.
One of the biggest ways you can eat cheap while traveling is by staying at a hostel that includes a free breakfast with the price of the room. The meal can be anything from just toast and jam to an omelette made to order and everything in between.
As for your other meals, you can easily find everything you need to make a nice picnic lunch at the local market down the street. Prepare some sandwiches or, better yet, buy some cheap local delicacies and try them.
As for dinner, why not take full advantage of the hostel kitchen? Check for a shelf that has free non-perishable food items left behind by other guests and make a meal around it. Even better, why not make a meal together with other guests? Pool your resources together and buy in bulk – not only is it cheaper but preparing and eating a meal together is a great way to make new friends.
More tips to eat cheap
Lunch specials Try to make your big meal of the day lunch instead of dinner. Alot of restaurants, especially in Europe, offer lunch specials in the afternoon. By having a nice meal earlier you’ll pay only a fraction of the cost you would have to pay for the same meal at dinner time.
Drink water One of the biggest expenses for some backpackers is alcohol. If you go out for a meal and you’re spending more on alcohol than you are on the entree then this is an obvious way to make eating out cheaper.
As for non alcoholic drinks, try sticking with water instead of soda. At a couple bucks a pop these add up quickly.
Keep away from snacks When you’re traveling it’s way too easy to be enticed by snacks. They’re everywhere you look and they’re so cheap. Gelato, pasty, a slice of pizza, ice cream – it adds up and it adds up quickly. A few snacks a day could easily add up to a $100 a month or more.
Come at closing time If you go to markets and food courts near closing time you may be able to get cheap discounted food. The food they’ve already made is just going to be thrown out so they might happily sell it to you at a discount.
Self serve Eating at places that are self serve is also a good way to save a little money. Places like food courts, cafeterias and fast food joints, while not classy, will spare you from having to tip for service.
Tourism cards Often overlooked, these cards aren’t just for saving money on transportation and attractions. Many cards also offer discounts at several restaurants. Discounts are usually around 20% but sometimes lunch specials can save you up to 50%.