How to Save Money on Food When You Travel

By pauline September 17, 2018 Travel Tips

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This post is also available in: German

1. Eat local food on the street or market

In most places around the world the streets are lined with small food stalls where local food is served. Here you can eat for a few dollars and at the same time try traditional dishes.

Many people are worried about the safety and prefer eating in a restaurant.

Personally, I have never had any problems with the food and would always prefer eating on the street, not only for financial reasons but also because it is in my opinion the best way to experience the culture of a new country and to get in contact with locals.

Thailand for example would not be the same without its street food.


2. Avoid restaurants and ask the locals

Restaurants at touristy places and are mostly totally overpriced.

Therefore ask locals where they like to eat.

A few walking minutes away from the tourist hotspots small restaurants are often offering the same food for a fraction of the price, are more authentic and again, it is an opportunity to get in touch with locals ;)

3. Buy food on local markets or grocery stores and have a picnic

When I am travelling I love visiting local markets.

I often purchase local food at different stands and have a picnic on the beach or on the peak of a mountain with a nice view.

I mainly purchase local food because it is usually the cheapest as it does not need to be imported.


4. Look for accommodations with kitchen

Eating out every day is expensive and sometimes you prefer cooking your own food.

Whenever possible I try to book an accommodation with kitchen to prepare simple, cheap meals. Moreover, the kitchen is a good place to meet other people that are staying at your hostel.

Cooking together is not only cheaper but also makes more fun.

5. Catch Happy Hours

When you arrive at a new place check out bars and restaurants that offer Happy Hours.

When you are fine with eating early you can save money by ordering your food at Happy Hours prices.

6. Pack your own meals

The food at places like leisure parks, airports or bus stops are often overpriced.

An easy way to avoid paying to much for food is to carry your own small meals and snacks.

Examples of easy to pack meals are protein bars, pre-made pizza, fruits or sandwiches.

7. Order Take-Away

Ordering Take-Away can be cheaper because you do not order all the extras like desert and after-dinner coffee.

Moreover, instead of the expensive drinks in the restaurant you can buy cheap drinks at a local store or drink tab water and you do not need to pay the tip for the waiter.

How to Save Money on Food When You Travel22

8. No Soda or Snacks

A coke during lunch, a 7 up at dinner and a drink in between.

During a long-term trip buying sodas can really add up.

Money that you could better use to do a fun day trip or to extend your travels. The same goes for snacks.

9. Take a reusable water bottle

Water might not be as expensive as Sodas but at high temperatures you need several bottles a day.

Assuming a bottle costs $1 and you buy three per day over the course of a month you well spend $90.

You see, it is a lot of money and in some countries a bottle even costs more.

Additionally, it is more sustainable to use reusable water bottles.

Read: How to drink water from any water source in the world.

10. Tourism Cards and Coupons 

Tourism cards are not only a good way to save money on transportation17 and attractions but also offer discounts at many restaurants.

Moreover, you can find good restaurant deals on websites like Groupon and many cities have booklets with discount cards for certain restaurants.

11. Shop early or late on markets

Many vendors offer special deals for the first customers of the day or sell the last goods at the end of the day at a fraction of the original price.

Comment below: Do you have any tips on how to save money on food when you travel?

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how to save money on food

This post is also available in: German


  1. martin rossow May 6, 2019 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Very informative tips thanks for sharing.

  2. Ella Mac March 5, 2019 at 1:10 am - Reply

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  3. Jude Beta August 4, 2015 at 1:37 am - Reply

    Fab post. Mexico was amazing for street food but being a veggie I find other countries harder to find decent street food.

  4. William Bowie August 3, 2015 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Such great an often overelooked advice…gotta be sensible if you want your cash to last!

  5. Meanne Anneklien Casica August 2, 2015 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    Great tips … I love trying street foods

  6. Melody Pittman August 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Good ideas. I like having a kitchen when we travel for a good amount of time. And you are right, things like sodas and snacks add up quickly. My new years resolution was to not spend more than $5 in drinks per week when dining out. Sometimes I blow it but it makes me aware of how much I have already spent and in the states, a soda is $2.50 at most meals. That is unreal.

  7. Nic Hilditch-Short August 2, 2015 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Great post, I know food is a big part of travel but it is also a massive expense. We have a big budget breakfast and usually no lunch. Buy from the supermarket and cook in the hostel or eat cheap street food. Food really adds up!!

  8. Connie Siokos Reed August 1, 2015 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Great suggestions. Eating local foods is part of the whole travel experience, but that includes foods from local markets. And how much more authentic can you get than street food?

  9. Milosz Zak July 31, 2015 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Good advice, I never snack on the road, its expensive, and frankly plays into the idea that you have to plateau your glycemic index, which in the end causes you to eat more. I always ask locals for advice when it comes to food.

  10. Travel Gretl July 31, 2015 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Good list :) We pack a lot of things in the car when we go on short travels. Feels so Dutch, haha ;)

  11. Lindsay Nieminen July 31, 2015 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    I Hope to take advatage of all of these when we begin our long-term travel in January! the "snacks" are the killer for our family!!! and the Water Bottle is a great tip! thanks!

  12. Michele Mangus Thomareas July 31, 2015 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Great tips! My favorites are Street Food, and Ask the Locals. We have been steered to some really great restaurants through stopping people on the street and asking, "What's your favorite place to eat here?" Another great thing to do if you hunt down a great restaurant and it's all booked up, is to ask where they recommend for similar food! We found a great restaurant in Bruges that way! The prices were a little less expensive too!

  13. The Aussie Flashpacker July 31, 2015 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Great ideas! We like staying in apartments & eat in markets & use supermarkets where possible :)

  14. Christine Messina July 30, 2015 at 3:19 am - Reply

    I will defintiely be following these tips when I travel on my long term trip this fall. Gotta make my money last!

  15. Tag Along Travel July 28, 2015 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Great advice. I would add that if you do have access to a kitchen, use your opportunity to “collect” condiments at restaurants (e.g. mayo, salt, pepper, ketchup) to use in your recipes. You’d be surprised what kind of marinades and sauces you can concoct with these items and buying full-sized versions in stores is costly.

  16. Jenni July 28, 2015 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Personally street food has always been a good choice for me. In fact, when it comes to health, it feels like restaurants are often more iffy, because their kitchen turnover isn’t as fast!

  17. differentdoors July 28, 2015 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Since I love discovering the local food (and it’s pretty high on my list of of things to do when I travel), street food and markets are something I usually cover as well as asking the locals!

  18. Michelle Duco Menzies July 28, 2015 at 3:09 am - Reply

    Great tips! Love #9 – Use less plastic water bottles!!!

  19. The Brave Dame September 10, 2014 at 4:56 am - Reply

    Great tips! Going to markets is my favorite thing to do and save money at the same time.

    • universaltraveller September 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      Thank you! I totally agree with you. I also love it, it’s the best way to get to know local food and you meet so many wonderful and interesting people. :)

  20. Universal Traveller July 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you! :)

  21. Joan Ganda July 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Great advice,, thanks,,

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