How to Eat Like a Gourmand Without Blowing Out Your Travel Budget

Nothing gets your stomach growling quite like an exhilarating day of exploring one of the world’s great tourist destinations. However, the price you pay for visiting a touristy area, particularly on holiday in Western Europe, can often be an exorbitant one when it comes to food. Check out these top tips to help you eat well on the cheap without laying waste to your travel budget.

Opt out of touristy areas

Denmark_0068 - Hyhavn District by Dennis Jarvis (CC)
Denmark_0068 – Hyhavn District by: Dennis Jarvis (CC)

Oftentimes, all it really takes to cut down on your expenditures and maximize your travel budget is going the extra distance to get away from heavily visited parts of town. Whether in the center of Paris, the financial district of London, or the main squares of Venice, it doesn’t take much to avoid tourist traps and their inflated prices. Walking a few extra blocks to the “outskirts” of a particular area will generally yield more affordable options among local joints with neighborhood clientele. Likewise, be wary of English- and foreign-language advertising or aggressive street staff when choosing a place to eat, as these tourist-oriented establishments tend to charge premium prices. Finally, consider filling up midday: the savior of many a travel budget is the lunch menu. Particularly popular in Europe, these often multi-course (and delicious) meals during the middle of the weekday come at a fraction of what you’d pay in the evening. This way, you’ll get the best of both worlds in terms of indigenous grub and budget-friendly bills.

Dive into local street food alternatives

Fish sandwiches by George Tziralis (CC)
Fish sandwiches by: George Tziralis (CC)

Street food is one of travel’s greatest pleasures, and discovering local on-the-go cuisine makes for a real adventure. Seek out the little nooks and crannies of your destination, and follow the locals to find some killer deals. On a trip to Istanbul, for example, you can sidestep the overabundance of pricey, tourist-oriented restaurants all over Sultanahmet and the historical center of town. Instead, head for a quicker, cheaper, and equally fantastic meal in the areas surrounding Galata Bridge. On the southern side of the Golden Horn, in Eminonu near the New Mosque and Spice Market, ferry commuters crowd around several booths and stands serving up grilled fish sandwiches, a local specialty. Similar stands and pop-up restaurants also exist on the northern end of the bridge, in and around the Karakoy fish market. Not only is the food unbelievably fresh and tasty, but you’re indulging in a real Istanbul experience. Such a strategy is particularly useful in more expensive tourist hubs in Western Europe. For a break from sightseeing in Amsterdam, pick up treats at Albert Cuyp Market or a hole-in-the-wall snack bar as opposed to a sit-down restaurant. Fresh-fried Dutch treats make for a solid alternative that gives you more time (and dough) to explore the city.

Save up for a bigger meal at the end of the day

nordsee pickled fish sandwich by Krista (CC)
nordsee pickled fish sandwich by: Krista (CC)

Don’t shy away from treating yourself to a nice meal while on your travels—the only key is knowing the right time. Just as at home, preparing your own food is a big-time money-saver, and lends itself well to getting the most out of your trip. Swing by a local grocery store chain, supermarket, or bakery and pick up some snacks, or grab sandwich fixings to have an easy lunch ready to go for the following day. Then, indulge in a dinner at an establishment of your choosing to end the day on a great note without shelling out excessively.

Seek out national restaurant chains

Alternatively, look for chains that offer standardized fare. No, this doesn’t mean McDonald’s or Burger King, but rather local establishments where the food is often just as tasty as in an independent restaurant. One example is the German chain “Nordsee”; this fast-food style sandwich shop has branches in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and several other European nations and sells delicious seafood at significantly lower cost than similar meals in a restaurant.

Fill up at your hotel if meals are included

If your hotel, guesthouse, or hostel provides breakfast, be sure to take full advantage of it. Plenty of accommodation options in Europe boast decent lineups of hard-boiled eggs, cheeses, and meats, making their breakfasts both hardy and tasty. A fuller stomach means a lighter lunch, which in turn means more cash left over to splash out on dinner.

Follow students’ stomachs

You can also search around for student hangouts, either in guidebooks or by asking locals. Though not universally the case, cafeteria-style restaurants and bars frequented by university kids generally feature below-average prices.

Budget bites

Paris_Our picnic lunch place by Kathleen Tyler Conklin (CC)
Paris_Our picnic lunch place by: Kathleen Tyler Conklin (CC)

No matter where you go, you can eat like a local epicurean without spending like a local baron. No traveler wants to feel stressed about the costs of dining, and with a little extra effort, you can stretch your travel budget to the max while chowing down on some of the most scrumptious food the world has to offer. Let Inspirock’s itinerary planner help you see and do more while on your adventure, and then find out where to fuel your sightseeing without breaking the bank.

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