Traveling on a budget can be frustrating when what you really want is to eat everything in sight. Countries like France, Japan and Argentina offer some of the best food in the world, but eating out every night will cost you dearly.
Fortunately, there are some tried and true strategies for eating well, and trying local specialties no matter where you are. Whether you're traveling in Vietnam or Germany, follow these tips to get a good meal without breaking the bank:
Ignore Your Guidebook
Your guidebook is surely full of tasty restaurants worth a try, however none of them are going to be a great bang for your buck. A funny thing happens when restaurants are listed in places like Lonely Planet: the prices go up up up and the quality remains the same. Once local businesses realize they can cater to tourists instead of locals the chance of eating on the cheap is out the window.
So how do you find a promising restaurant? Ask around: online, at your hotel or hostel, friends who have been there. Even better, ask any locals you run into where they like to eat, it's bound to be a better value.
It's not in every city, but where you can find it, street food is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to eat cheap. Contrary to popular belief most street food will not make you ill, particularly if you follow common sense guidelines. Look for street food late at night, near university areas and near markets. This is your chance to try a variety of new foods, but the stalls with the longest lines are a good bet.
One of the best ways to eat local, fresh and inexpensively is to take advantage of city markets. From Tsujiki Fish Market in Tokyo to La Boqueria in Barcelona to Pike's Place Market in Seattle, nearly every city has at least one market showcasing their culinary gems. You'll find fresh produce and flowers, but you'll also come across fully cooked meals and local snacks. This is a great way to try many different local foods in one go.
Go Big for Lunch
If you have your heart set on a sit down meal, plan on eating it for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch menus are typically less expensive than dinner ones and many nice restaurants often offer lunch specials, even in big cities like New York. In many place in South America it is typical to get a three course set lunch menu for under $5.
Let us know your tips for eating well on a budget below.