How to Save Money on Food While Traveling Abroad

by Oscar Collins
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save money on food while traveling

Mark Twain once wrote that travel is fatal to prejudice. But for all its benefits, it does drain your wallet. One of the priciest expenses you face on the road is going out to eat. You want to enjoy all the rich cuisines the world has to offer, but not every meal has to require reservations at a five-star restaurant. Here’s how to save money on food while traveling abroad in eight different ways.

1. Evaluate Available Resources

When you first arrive at your destination, take some time to scope the local scene. Where are the nearest groceries or open-air marketplaces? If you’re staying at an Airbnb, what’s in the kitchen, and is it available for your use? If you’re the rugged outdoor adventuring type, you could even book a foraging class to learn what free foods grow wild in the region.

Think outside the restaurant box. Is there any reason why you can’t barbecue at a local park just because the grill isn’t located in the U.S.? This cuisine style spans the globe, with places like China adoring their shaokao and Japan with their yakitori.

save money on food while traveling

Ordering tao teung in Thailand (Photo Nancy Zaffaro)

2. Eating Locally

Eating locally saves money and the planet, regardless of whether you are at home or staying abroad. Your wallet thanks you because you don’t have to help cover the additional shipping costs it takes to transport all those goods, and earth can do without the extra semi-truck emissions.

Put social media to work for you before you travel. If you make online friends in the region you intend to visit, ask them for their recommendations for the best locally sourced restaurants. They’ll only suggest their favorites, upping your chances of a tasty and sustainable meal.

3. Try a New Cuisine

Are your taste buds bored? Why not liven things up and save cash by trying a new cuisine?

Half the fun of travel, after all, entails embracing new experiences. If you aren’t squeamish, you’ll discover that many cultures use insects for food — you can get tasty, inexpensive protein.

DO try local cuisine when you travel (Photo Nancy Zaffaro)

4. Eat What You Catch

Are you planning on going deep-sea fishing as part of your excursion? If so, you have a ready-made meal if you can get one on the hook.

However, you don’t have to say “bon voyage” to eat what you catch. If you go on an international off-grid adventure, stalking and cooking your prey might be part of the fun. Even a playful afternoon of catching crayfish in a nearby stream can provide a memorable dinner.

A picnic of foraged and store-bought foods could be the best meal of your trip (Photo by Nancy Zaffaro)

5. Go More Plant-Based

The next time you go out to eat, take a look at the menu prices. You’ll find that plant-based dishes cost considerably less than their beefier alternatives.

That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a steak dinner one evening if “have a filet in France” graces your bucket list. However, you’ll save considerable cash if you stick to plant-based alternatives for most meals.

One exception — when traveling to coastal regions, check out the seafood prices. Some destinations offer surprising bargains on lobster and crab because they don’t need to worry about preserving them for long-distance transport.

6. Get Cozy With Street Food

Who says you have to go the gourmet route? Why not enjoy a taste of genuine local flavor by sampling the vast array of street food available in many international cities?

No trip to Peru is complete without sampling anticucho, a beef heart kebab marinated in vinegar and spices. If you’re a vegetarian and traveling to Asia, make sure to check out the mango sticky rice in Thailand and India’s authentic naan bread.

7. Make Some New Friends

If you want to immerse yourself fully in the cultural experience, why not make a few new friends on your trip? This tip is yet another reason to use social media to explore your destination before your departure. Meeting up for dinner is a time-honored ritual that spans every continent and can land you a free meal.

If you are fortunate enough to go this route, make sure you brush up on your local etiquette rules before you go. When in Mexico, you should never eat your tacos with a fork and knife, even if they crumble — opt for soft shells for a less messy treat.

Many parts of the Middle East, India, and Africa consider it rude to eat with your left hand, so practice before departure if you’re a southpaw. Don’t sip your wine in Greece, either — wait for the toast, then guzzle it down in one gulp.

8. Pack a Snack

Anyone who has ever flown knows that airlines jack up food and beverage prices to an outrageous degree. Stock up on snacks before you head to the airport to avoid gift-shop prices.

Stick to nourishing, high-protein foods that travel well, like nuts. Even though many airlines stopped serving those tiny sacks of peanuts due to passenger allergies, no rule states that you can’t take a pack in your carry-on.

Save Money on Food While Traveling Abroad With These 8 Tips

The cost of dining can quickly add up when you voyage overseas. Save money on food while traveling abroad with the eight tips above.

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