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The Solo Traveler’s Guide to Eating on a Budget

The Solo Travelers Guide to Eating on a Budget featured

Traveling solo can be a truly rewarding and exhilarating experience, especially if you’re on a budget. And while exploring a new place, one of the biggest expenses can be food. However, there’s no need to worry, as there are plenty of ways to eat cheaply and deliciously while experiencing the local cuisine. Below are some tips on how to make the most of your culinary adventure without breaking the bank.

Eat Like the Locals Do

local cuisine

Eating like the locals is one of the best ways to experience local cuisine while staying on a budget. Locals know where to find the tastiest and most affordable food options. Also, local restaurants are often cheaper than touristy ones, and the food is usually more authentic. Not to mention, you’ll be able to get a taste of the local culture and lifestyle.

If you’re unsure where to find local restaurants, ask the locals themselves. You can also do some research online, check out travel guides, or even ask for advice at your hostel or Airbnb. Also, don’t be afraid to venture out of the city center or tourist areas, as those spots typically have inflated prices.

Take Advantage of Street Food

street food

Street food is a delicious and inexpensive option for solo travelers. You can find it practically anywhere, from food trucks to small stalls on the side of the road. One of the biggest perks of street food is that it’s often made with fresh ingredients and cooked right in front of you. Just make sure you’re buying from a reliable vendor, and avoid anything that looks risky or unclean.

Some of the most popular and tasty street food dishes include tacos, kebabs, dumplings, falafel, and banh mi sandwiches. So next time you’re out and about exploring, don’t hesitate to try some street food – you won’t be disappointed.

Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

meal planning

One of the biggest mistakes travelers make when it comes to food is not planning ahead. Being spontaneous can be fun, but when you’re hungry and desperate, you’re likely to overspend on food. Therefore, it’s a good idea to plan your meals in advance.

Start by researching the local food scene and making a list of restaurants and street food vendors you want to try. You should also think about your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on food. This will help you make more informed decisions and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Another useful tip is to always carry some snacks with you, such as fruit, nuts, or energy bars. This can help you avoid hunger pangs and resist the temptation to buy expensive snacks at tourist attractions or convenience stores.

Look for Deals and Promotions

restaurant deals

Just like back home, many restaurants and cafes in other countries offer deals and promotions to attract customers. This can include happy hour specials, discounted meals during certain days of the week, or free drinks with your meal.

Make sure to check local guides and ask your server if they have any current deals. You can also look for coupons or vouchers online. Just be aware that sometimes these deals come with certain conditions, such as minimum spending or designated meal times. Therefore, it’s important to read the fine print before taking advantage of any offer.

Avoid Touristy Areas

tourist area

Restaurants near popular tourist attractions tend to be overpriced and often don’t represent the local cuisine accurately. When you dine in these areas, you’re paying for the convenience and the view, rather than the quality of the food.

Instead, try to venture out into more residential areas or neighborhoods popular with locals. Here, you’ll find cheaper and more authentic local restaurants, as well as food markets and street vendors. You’ll also get a chance to soak up the local culture and meet new people.

Shop at Local Markets

local market

If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb that has a kitchen, one of the easiest ways to save money on food is to cook your own meals. The best place to buy ingredients is the local market. Here, you can find fresh produce, meat, dairy, and bread, often at a lower cost than at a grocery store or supermarket.

Shopping at the market also allows you to interact with locals and learn about the ingredients used in their cuisine. Plus, cooking your own meals can be a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to experiment with new flavors and ingredients.

Try to Cook Your Own Meals


If you have access to a kitchen, cooking your own meals can be a great way to save money and enjoy local cuisine. You’ll have full control over what goes into your dishes, and you can experiment with local recipes and ingredients that you wouldn’t be able to find in restaurants or street food vendors.

Furthermore, cooking your own meals can be a fun social activity, especially if you’re staying in a hostel or shared apartment. You can organize a potluck or cooking party with other travelers, which is a great way to meet new people and share food culture.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Recommendations

local recommendations

If you’re unsure where to eat or what to order, don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. Most locals are more than happy to share their favorite restaurants and dishes with you, as it’s a way to showcase their culture and hospitality.

Also, you can ask your hostel or Airbnb host for suggestions. They often have insider information about the local food scene and can help you find affordable and authentic restaurants.

Drink Water Instead of Soda or Alcohol

non-alcoholic drinks

Soda and alcohol can quickly add up to your bill, especially if you’re eating out frequently. Instead, opt for water or other non-alcoholic beverages. Not only is it better for your health, but it’s also cheaper and more hydrating.

Of course, if you want to indulge in a local beer or wine, go for it. Just be aware of the price and how much you’re spending. Some bars and restaurants offer happy hour deals or discounted drinks during certain times of the day or week. Look for these deals and take advantage of them if you can.

Don’t Expect a Full Meal at Every Meal

small plates

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to eat a full meal at every mealtime. Sometimes, a small snack or a few appetizers can be filling enough. If you’re not that hungry, consider ordering a small plate or a sharing plate with a friend.

This way, you can save money on food and still enjoy a variety of flavors and textures. Also, this allows you to try more dishes and find new favorites, without spending a lot of money.

Author: Caroline Hunter

Author: Caroline Hunter

Caroline Hunter is the ultimate travel chameleon - she can switch from a rugged backpacker to a glamorous hotel-goer in the blink of an eye. With a decade of solo traveling experience, she's collected tips and tricks from every corner of the globe. And now, she's generously sharing her secrets with us mere mortals who still struggle to pack a suitcase without forgetting something crucial. So, whether you're a fan of roughing it or prefer to indulge in luxury, Caroline's got you covered.

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