I am a traveller by nature. I crave the thrill of the unknown and am planning to take a 5 month sabbatical to wander through South America to discover things that I haven’t even thought of yet. Travelling, however, is not a cheap hobby. In fact, it is most likely my most expensive indulgence. Most people travel and don’t pay attention to the cheap options that are in front of them when they are abroad, and end up spending twice as much as they really need to .
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for experiencing and indulging when I travel (hello, macaroons, and gelato!), but I also think that having a food budget allows you to take in more activities. For example, I rather spend my mom on a football match than an overpriced lunch.
How to Save Money on Food While Travelling
Back in 2010 I wandered around Europe and Asia for a few months while being on a limited budget, I quickly learned that living large wasn’t an option if I wanted to see all the places on my list. Two of the best tips that I learned after arriving in each city was to orient myself and locate a grocery store/supermarket and find out where the central train station was. While it’s not really that expensive to eat out every day in most parts of Asia, the rates are pretty high in most European countries. Heading to the grocery store lets you see the standard pricing for food. You’d be amazed at what the mark-up on “tourist” foods are!
The grocery store cut my food budget in 1/4. There were many benefits to this. Since most hotels/hostels provide fridges I would shop for however many days I was staying in the city. For example eating out for dinner in Greece would be $20 at least. For that same $20 I could get healthy options for breakfast, snacks and sometimes lunch for a 2-3 days.
Things to buy from the grocery store:
- Alfredo sauce (very very cheap in Italy)
- Salad greens
I would do my best to experience the city and try to eat where the locals did. This was great for 2 reasons:
1) The food was a lot cheaper at those restaurants compared to the places catering to tourists only.
2)I got to experience a more intimate side of each cultural. A side that can only be shared with the locals by adjusting to their standards of living.
I can’t begin to describe the rewards of learning how to save money on food when travelling. Not only did this save me money but it also gave me a chance to acquaint myself with the locals, ask them questions, and learn about hidden gems in their cities. For example, a restaurant owner is Florence showed me where to find the best view in the city. A view that only locals knew about. This was only possible because I sat down in his restaurant and talked to him for a while over lunch. The people that I meant on a recent trip to Jamaica allowed me to see a different side of the island, and eat at some of the restaurants around.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but the reason why I travel is to get to know the world around me; to experience the cultures and immerse myself in the traditions. Why people go to Egypt and look for McDonalds is way beyond me. If fast food is your cup of tea, perhaps look for whatever the equivalent is in the local culture.
Knowing how to save money on food when travelling isn’t hard. It just takes a shift in priorities.