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Tips to Save Money on Food While you Travel

If you’re on a long backpacking trip then naturally eating 3 times a day will take its toll on your bank balance. My initial solution to this was simply not to eat 3 times a day. However soon excessive weight loss and pain-inducing hunger let me know that’s not always a sustainable solution. So I learned some pretty obvious ways to save money on food. Just keep them in mind.

save money on food
save money on food

Ignore the Lonely Planet, Youtube and Instagram

I would go as far as to say that the day a restaurant gets featured in the LP is the day that it stops being a local eatery. t is now going to frequented by hordes of backpackers. Expect price hikes, portion shrinkage and a general reduction in quality and price. So as a rule, don’t eat where the LP suggests.

Leave your western cravings for the west!

Of course, there are days when you can’t stomach that curry for breakfast. And now and again we all need to indulge in a footlong from Subway (meatless marinara please). As long as you remember that these are special occasions and not a daily occurrence you’ll be fine.

When I meet people who are spending upwards of $50 per day on their trip they are invariably eating cheeseburgers and pizzas frequently. Keep it local and it will keep it cheap. And besides, you can eat cheeseburgers to your heart’s content when you get home. How many other opportunities are you going to get to eat deep-fried scorpion?!

Also, try to spend time in the cheapest countries to visit too!

Hit up the local markets

These places are guaranteed to be stocking endless amounts of delicious local food. And they very very rarely charge you a foreigner price. Most likely you’ll have to point, smile, play charades and still have no idea what you’re ordering. But that’s a fun experience in itself. And yes, you may have to sit on a splintered wooden bench and eat with your hands but that’s all part of the fun. And for a fraction of the price too.


If you’re travelling in North America, Europe, Australia, Japan etc then supermarkets are a gift from God. It’s expensive to eat out every day in these countries so get yourself down to the local supermarket (preferably at the end of the day when stuff is getting reduced). Stock up for breakfast/lunch the next day. You can pick up bread rolls, cheese, drinks for a fraction of the price of a local restaurant. Even cheaper if you go in a group, bulk buy and cook for each other.

Don’t be averse to becoming a veggie

Red meat is delicious, but awful ethically and for your health. End of story. True, but you’ll see as you travel around the world meat is also expensive. And generally pretty poor quality. So if you have the mental strength to turn your back on the meat world every now and again then you’re food will be cheaper, better quality and less likely to have you hugging the toilet bowl for a couple of days (especially true in India). And leave you grateful for having that digital nomad health insurance! Click here to make sure you have the best insurance ($10 a week!).

I hope these tips to save money on food helps keep some of those precious notes intact in your wallet. Travelling is one constant expense (mind you, it’s worth every penny) so it’s important to cut corners when we can. Hopefully, this will cut a few for you!

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Five Tips To Save Money When Travel...
Five Tips To Save Money When Travelling

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16 thoughts on “Tips to Save Money on Food While you Travel

  1. This is awesome!!! I haven’t seen most of these blogs before so I’m so glad this list exists! Thanks for sharing such amazing tips…

  2. Hey 🙂
    Your blog has really helped us as we’re planning on travelling for quite a long time and need to save as much money as possible.
    Keep the posts coming,
    Jade x

  3. I agree with much of what you say (although we are not backpackers), but number one is not always true. We are culinary travelers so we travel with the intention of eating everything (from food stalls to 3 star Michelin restaurants). We are also lucky enough to live in one of the culinary capitals of Asia. Many of the restaurants/food stalls we have here in Taipei are featured in Lonely Planet and guidebooks around the world, but they are also the places the locals visit. In some parts of Asia, the longer the line, the better guarantee of great food (and that goes for the night markets here as well). While no means is every restaurant in guide books the best, but skipping over a place just because it is mentioned could mean you are missing out on some of the best local gems!

    1. hey Erin, i agree entirely – however, my tip is there to save money on food first and foremost (not actually about the quality of food, although that would be a bonus!) and in that respect the LP isn’t generally going to show you the cheapest place, in fact generally quite the opposite often.

      Culinary travelers – wow, thats a great lifestyle u guys are living! Are you teaching in taipei?

      1. Thanks Johnny! I probably didn’t expound on my thought there enough, but the places here that are written up all over the world are some of the cheapest (and best) eats.

        We just recently ate at the “world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant” in HK two weeks ago that is written up everywhere and it was the best Cantonese dim sum we’ve had and the total price – less than $20 US for about 9 different dishes!

        And yeah, we have a great lifestyle (although my waistline would tend to disagree!). My husband is actually the financial controller for a factory here (semi-conductor industry) and I work full-time as a food & travel writer. It’s quite a dream come true actually, although most of our trips are only long weekend getaways due to a lack of vacation time on his part (oh how I wish he was still working in the Netherlands with the liberal European vacation schedules lol).

        Thanks for the reply and I probably should’ve mentioned the first time…..#2 is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Please don’t come to Asia and eat McDonalds and Chili’s the whole time! Uuuugh.

        1. wow wow wow! feel free to post that link for the dim sum place in HK here Erin (thats not spamming, i wanna visit it!) thats sounds brilliant

          So you guys are based in Taiwan semi-permanently then? I should be coming there in a few months so expect an email requesting a detailed breakdown of where i should eat every meal for the entire duration of my stay 😛

          1. Here’s the link: (definitely not even close to our $400 dinner ha ha) If you love dim sum, I highly recommend getting your daily allotment of the crispy pork buns – there are no words to adequately describe these heavenly creations!

            We’re here in TW for 3 years total (as far as we know) and then it’s probably off to the Netherlands for a bit. We’ve been here for 1 1/2 years so far – time flies!

            Let us know when you’re coming! We’re headed off traveling some in Jan/Feb, but if we’re here when you arrive, we can meet up for a night market tour! As it gets closer, give me a “list” of some of your favorite types of food and I can suggest a few places as well (we are terribly behind on updating our blog! tsk tsk).

  4. I have another tip which I got from some crazy Irish bloke in Thailand: drink the cheapest whiskey available, no matter what it tastes like! In the end you’ll be stone drunk anyway (I did disagree but also spent all my money). 🙂 lol

    1. Mate, first of all it wasn’t whisky, it was a ‘blended spirit’. Secondly, it was delicious. For anyone whisky connoisseurs out there, its called Varinthip and is sold in Northern Thailand in every respectable 7/11. It costs about $4 a bottle and will be the best $4 you have ever spent in your life

  5. Yes, eating on the cheap is great, but free is better. My tip for Japan – visit an undeground food hall under any department store and you are guaranteed to get full on delicious free samples. Moreover, just before the department stores close, all the gourmet food goes on crazy sale. Mmm, can’t wait till we are back there!
    Also, while travelling through a capital city in a western country, if one picked up an art galery openings guide, they could probably drink and eat for free every night.

    1. great advice wordofprey!

      I’ll make sure to avail of these at the next opportunity i promise, although i hear the art galleries in Sudan aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, so i’ll have to wait until i get to my next country!

      Any advice to eat cheap in Japan is warmly welcome. i distinctly remember the last time i was there eating noodles from the corner shop all too regularly to avoid the expensive restaurants lol. Great country tho, AND they sell beer cans from vending machines. Genuis.

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