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Find here some useful tips and advice about food when travelling around the world to help you eat the cheap and authentic way.
Travel Food page content:
- Cooking Or Not Cooking
- Street Food / Local Restaurants
- Western Food Restaurants
- Healthy Cheap Local Snacks
- Like A Local
- World Regions Tips
In developed countries, cooking would definitely make you save money, admitting you have access to all the cooking gears you need (own gears, hostel kitchen, etc.). Supermarkets are big and food is cheap, at least cheaper than in restaurants/food places.
In developing countries, all around the world, it could often be more expensive to buy ingredients and cook rather than eating the same dish in a local food place. These local vendors are unbeatable, they buy cheap ingredients, they do big volume so it costs them close to nothing (plus you don’t have to cook).
Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking but I go for the best value for money, here eating out, and you get the local experience on top of that 😉
This is the way to go, eat out but in local places: restaurants that sell food to locals.
I’m not talking posh restaurants here but more the basic equivalents. It could be a take away food stalls with plastic chairs and tables in the street, a place to seat and eat in markets or a basic restaurant.
Don’t be afraid not to understand the menu, etc. Some places won’t have a lot of choice they focus more on a single dish deal so here you go. Otherwise, look at plates around you, go to the kitchen to see the options available (they won’t mind). The rest is surprised, and that is part of the journey too!
As a starting rule, go slowly with food at first. Give few weeks to your western hygiene standards belly before going crazy on local street food. Bit by bit, more and more and local belly you will get. J
If the health standards of some places worry you too much, go rather for veggie options in which the vegetables/eggs are well cooked, and your belly should be fine.
Nb: try higher standards at least once per country
I mainly ate cheap local food all the way and sometimes realised (too late) that I didn’t try the more sophisticated options the country offers. It is important once in a while to get an appreciation of the cuisine of the country. Go to a more sophisticated restaurant (often more touristy orientated) known for its local food and treat yourself!
I am French and like many Europeans, food is big and part of a culture. I was on the road for a long time and had some western food cravings sometimes. It didn’t happen too often because I know is only for a period of time and I knew I would get back to the food I miss at some point, so I didn’t really mind keeping eating local food. All that to say that cravings do happen and it is good to get some comfort food from time to time.
Plenty of options here in touristy zone. Sometimes some very good places at a price still way cheaper than what you pay in Europe. Get some good tips from travellers (many travellers only eat in these places so no probs to get advice don’t worry) and go!
The only thing I would say here is, keep it occasional. Places serving Western style food are very common and it is easy to get yourself tempted. You see it as cheap because it is cheaper than back home but they are still all way more expensive than the local food options.
It won’t be as good at back home and the ingredients (if imported) won’t be as fresh as the local food options.
If you do it the cheap way, you will end up eating more or less the same food until the next country (and you will find countries that eat the same food too 😉). It could be hard sometimes to keep a balanced healthy diet.
These exotic countries have a lot of fried junk food on the offer but pay attention to the good stuff they have. Rather it is nuts, good cheap exotic fruits or local dairy products, enjoy them! Healthy, cheap, nutritive, balance your diet that way!
There are not many places in developed countries where you can have mangoes and nuts for a dollar or so, go big while you can!
Even better, quite a few of them are in the Super Food category (non-exhaustive list):
- Coconut (of course, drink it, eat it, oil it, etc.)
- Avocado, Mango, Papaya, Watermelon (in many places)
- Acai Berries and Cupuacu (Brazil)
- Maca powder, Quinoa and Camu Camu (Peru and Bolivia),
- Spirulina (China, India, Thailand, the Andes)
- Black beans (Mexico, South America)
- Chickpeas (Middle Eastern cuisine)
- Turmeric (Indian food)
- Chia seeds (Guatemala, Mexico)
- Ginseng, Goji berries (China)
- Soybeans (Japan)
- Shiitake mushroom (Japan, China and Korea)
- Moringa (Africa/Asia)
- Baobab fruit (Africa)
- Maqui berry (Chile)
As mentioned above, the cooked food offer is so cheap that it is quite common for local people to eat out too. They like a good hearty meal first thing on the morning, so it is convenient for them not to have to wake up early to cook it.
- Check the busy places where local people eat. Look for small places that look basic and where no effort has been made on decoration J. Local markets are good places as some would sell cooked food there (often in Asia) or they would have local places not far from it.
- Adapt yourself to their food habits in terms of time to eat. It sometimes means early morning until lunch, less in the evening (it is quite common for locals to start their day with a full savoury dish). Go when it is at its freshest!
- Don’t think too much about health and safety 😉
Markets, places on the street, sitting on plastic chairs on the pavement.
- South / Central America:
Local indoor places.
Basic food place serving the popular staple food (corn flower with water), deep fried food on the street (mainly chips and meat)