page last updated: July 2013
Finding Budget Places to eat and drink
Do it like a Local…
The best way to save on eating and drinking costs while experiencing more of the country you are visiting is to go local. In countries in Asia, Africa and South and Central America wages are often miniscule, yet the people still find a way to eat, drink and feed their families.
The trick is simply to do as the locals do, which means eating local dishes in local restaurants. Drink the national beers, wines and spirits as opposed to imported ones which will be of similar price to back home. When shopping at the supermarket, the same principle applies to all kinds of products. If you’re shopping for snacks for example, each country or region will have their own crisps and biscuits which are often almost identical to yet three or four times cheaper than the more familiar brands from abroad.
Avoid the tourist traps & expensive districts
A good idea is to get away from the main tourist areas where costs are inevitably higher. Heading into the suburbs of any town you will see prices drop often dramatically so. There is a chance you may get charged more than the locals, it certainly helps if you speak some of the local lingo or go with a local.
Many street markets are often fantastic value for fresh fruits and meat. Countries like Mexico, China and Thailand have delicious and cheap street food and BBQ’s which are perfect for a quick meal. In countries where it is safe to drink tap water, then drink lots of it and fill up large bottles before going trekking or doing activities that involve spending the whole day in hot conditions. Not only will you save money by following some of these suggestions, you’ll also experience much more of the country and it’s people.
Self-Catering saves $£$£’s
Travelling in wealthier countries such as Australia or the USA things are a little different. Suburbs are still generally cheaper and local products are slightly cheaper but the difference is nowhere near as dramatic as in devoloping nations. Restaurants are often very expensive and a cheap place can be hard to find unless you really know what you’re looking for.
So a good idea is to cook and eat in you’re hostel where possible. There’s no shortage of supermarkets in Western Europe or North America, and it’s relatively easy to prepare a simple meal. Therefore it’s often well worth choosing a hostel with a kitchen and cooking facilities.
Getting Drunk on a Budget
If you are serious drinkers, it’s still possible to drink very cheaply even in the west if you buy alcohol at supermarkets and drink in your hostel before going out. If you’re not a student it’s time to start acting like one. 500ml of local beer in a supermarket is as little as $0.50 even in wealthy cities such as Barcelona. Do a bit of research before heading into bars and clubs in cities such as Paris and London where a single beer or cocktail can be as much as $20, not to mention cover charges that would blow any travel budget.
In many parts of the world however, you can get well and trully out of your tree for the price of a single beer in a half-decent bar back home. Some backpackers main reason for travel seems to be to get wasted and hit on ‘exotic’ foreigners. This is a minority rather than the majority but it’s fair to say that alcohol plays a large role in backpacking culture and is a sizeable part of many travel budgets. It’s useful to know how to party on the cheap and travellers often underestimate how much money goes on this popular passtime.
It’s also worth considering that many of the chain hostels e.g. Loki in South America are good places to party but charge a lot more for drinks than some of the other independent ones and certainly more than local bars. If you get stuck at one of those places for a while your money will slowly disappear no matter where you are. Traveller bar crawls are popular and can be a good deal but often you get ripped off and the 5 free drinks turn out to be little more than watered down urine.