Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Budget Travel Pt 2 - Food

Second part of our Budget Travel Series focuses on another major expense on your journey - food! It is necessary, you will not avoid it and after accommodation it will be your number 2 expenditure. So eating on your travels can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. Some people, including me, hate counting pennies on holiday. I want to try a quesadilla from a street vendor or stop for few cocktails in this little beach bar... Holiday on a budget is a challenge, but there's way. A good thing to have is a daily budget you're allowed to spend on the whole trip. So before setting off, know exactly how much money you take with you. Divide this amount by the number of days of your trip. Also include the attractions you want to see. That way you will know how much money you can spend daily. We will devote a separate blog post on a travel budget later on. If you stop by few cocktails, maybe skip dinner that night? Or cook your own lunch the next day? Below we prepared few tips on saving money on food when travelling:
  1. Cook meals yourself. Yes, if you have an access to the kitchen in your hostel or rented home, this is one good way to save money. Go to the local supermarket (where the locals go) and buy what you fancy. Try their local specialities, don't be afraid to experiment and you might be pleasantly surprised. If you don't want to risk buying what you don't know, pick the items you're familiar with: pasta, rice, veggies, fruits, bread, milk and cheese.

  2. Eat from a set menu - when going to the restaurants, ask if they offer set menu (El Menu del Dia) - it will be generally cheaper then their main menu. Remember that they rarely make profit on the set menu, so they will be offering you extra drinks. Order them if you fancy, but you're not obliged. 
  3. Pay for the meals a month in advance. If you're in one place for longer, think of booking a lunch in local eatery - 3, 5, or even 7 times per week. That way you know you'll get a cooked meal at a set price. Ask for a discount if you pay for a month in advance. This option could work if you know you are stationery in town - you work from home etc. But if you know you will be travelling to local areas, you might not want to commit yourself to coming back at a certain time everyday for food - so worth considering that. 
  4. Eat where the locals eat. Yes, that's no secret that tourist restaurants can be 10 times dearer then local eateries. How to tell the difference between the two? See if the menu is billingual. If it is, it's a tourist spot. I usually try to avoid these places, the food is not the best, and the prices are over the top. The chefs know that tourists won't come back, they're here for the night and be somewhere else tomorrow anyway, so no point making an effort. Local people know the best eateries at the best value. In these places you will be served quality, delicious authentic food. When we went to Sri Lanka to one of the local bars, we were even allowed to come to the kitchen and pick what we wanted, because there was no menu in this particular place (it was more of a family affair for very local people) and nobody spoke English. But we got 7-8 different curries and rice, and it was a fantastic experience. 
  5. Try street food. Don't shy away from it, it is not always unsanitary and full of germs just waiting to get you! The street vendors offer little snacks that are typical to the area, so if you want to try authentic cuisine, it doesn't get better than that! One tip - go to the vendors in the busy spots, by the main roads - the food is guaranteed to be fresher there because it is being made and sold almost right away, so you know it hasn't been lying there for hours. 
  6. Challenge all you can eat buffets. These are excellent value places, and you can try as many dishes as you want. Only go there if you're ready for a challenge of polishing a big plate!
  7. Make your own distilled water - fresh water is a must-have in a tropical country. You will be probably going through few bottleseach day. Even if it's cheap in the shops, buying 3-4 everyday will affect your budget. Our tip - boil a full kettle night before - if you have a private kitchen - and let it cool overnight. Fill up few small bottles the next morning, and voila - you're set for the day and saved yourself few £ :)
  8. Prepare your own packed lunch. If you want to have a rest from restaurant food, make your own sandwiches or salads for the day. Go to the local market in the morning and buy few simple products, like cheese, butter, bread rolls, fruits and snacks. Get them ready in the kitchen before setting off for the day. Great option if you go hiking in some remote area and want to take some provisions with you. 
  9. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - it's all part of the experience. I still remember my first visit to the grocery shop in Rio de Janeiro, I bought intriguing looking packet that turned out to be dried rice noodles, inedible blobs that looked like granary rolls and box of corn granules. Basically this food could have only been cooked, yet I did not have access to the kitchen - mistake I learnt from! Needless to say I stayed hungry that night, but was happy that I was brave enough to try something new and didn't go the easy 'restaurant' route :)

See also: 
Budget travel pt 1 - Accommodation
Budget travel pt 3 - Getting around

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