“People who love to eat are always the best.
Julia Child

Budget Food Tips for Extended Travelers Over 50

In addition, not everyone (including myself at times) has enough money to eat at fancy restaurants. Even if Fifty Plus Nomads have enough money to eat at more expensive, fancier restaurants, I recommend you occasionally try some budget food options. Sometimes it is the best way to experience the local culture and interact with natives.

So here are some budget travel food tips to help you.

  • Happy hours and bars are a blessing for travelers who need to save money. While I was in Bologna, Italy, I noticed that students from the university would walk around the town searching for the bar with the best happy hour (apertivo) spread, so I followed them. I ate some delicious risottos, cold cuts, and pasta dishes for the cost of a single drink (usually about $5). No one seemed to care how much I ate. In Mexico, many cantinas (bars) offer tasty snacks free and alcoholic drinks. Most are pretty friendly, and you can easily make a meal from the snacks. 
  • Check out supermarkets (often at the bottom of department stores) and large, membership, big box stores (like Price Club and Costco) for cheap, quick (and tasty) eats. In North and Central America, you can get a hot dog, and soft drink at Costco (if you are a member) for less than most fast-food restaurants charge for a beverage. Many extreme budget travelers even prowl these stores for free samples. I have met some people who make whole meals out of these samples. I read about a man who traveled around Japan for a month and ate dinners and lunches from samples! 
  • Avoid eating in places where you are a captive consumer. You will always pay a premium to eat at a game, festival, or other special events, and you will usually pay more to eat on a train. I even spent $10 for a simple sandwich on a train in Italy. That said, this practice is rare in Third World Countries. I have had some tasty sandwiches, fruit, and snack on board buses (and at roadside stops) and at special events in Latin America for reasonable prices. 
  • Fast food is also an excellent tool in the budget traveler’s arsenal. Most Americans think of fast food like McDonald’s and other chain restaurants. There are dozens of places; some are chains, but most are local. Often this fast food can be pretty delicious. In Italy, for example, most pizza parlors have excellent fare prepared with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Northern Europe has many Turkish fast-food joints serving decent quality doner-kebab (pressed lamb with vegetable and yogurt sauce placed in pita bread) and falafel (a chickpea patty) sandwiches. In Poland, look for milk bars (small cafeterias) that serve good, inexpensive cabbage rolls and other local specialties. The US has many great fast-food places. The best part about eating in Chicago and Los Angeles is these cities’ fantastic selections of fast-food dives. 
  • Watch where locals eat within a restaurant. In some countries, like Italy, you will notice that many people eat standing up at a bar. Why do they do that? Quite simply, you pay half standing up for food and drink at many establishments there than if you sit down. You may also pay more to sit outside in a plaza with a view than inside the same restaurant. Sometimes (like in India), people even pay more to eat in restaurant sections with air-conditioning. 
  • You can often save money and experience more diverse dishes by going for lunch instead of dinner and ordering appetizers instead of main courses. 
  • Wine in countries where it is not a standard part of the local’s diet- like Mexico, Russia, and most of Asia- is expensive. (Wine is cheap and common in areas where there are many wineries like Western Europe, the US, Australia, and South Africa). Instead, order beer or local liquors (like Tequila in Mexico or Vodka in Russia) to save money. 

Want More Budget Travel Food Tips? 

Check out these tips from Money Crashers and Discovery Magazine.

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

Write A Comment