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5 Ways To Eat Cheap While Traveling

We LOVE food! For us, travel is about tasting the culture...literally. But the cost can mean a compromise of other luxuries: hot showers, air conditioned rooms, and bus/taxi service. We use 5 tricks to maintain comfortable travel and still splurge on the best cultural food experience

What is the point of traveling half the way around the world to eat the same thing you eat everyday back home? It is happening at a scary pace: KFC, McDonald’s, Starbuck’s, Dairy Queen are popping up in the remotest locations. And the list is growing! I assumed that to travel on a budget we’d have to forgo enjoying the best local cuisine and partake in franchise establishments. Food is expensive, and the high-end restaurants (even the local spots) will cost you. Good news, I was wrong.

Use these 5 Tricks to trim the cost and still splurge on a prime time meal everyday- and even a king’s feast once a week at the best restaurant in town (including drinks and dessert!)

  1. Pick one splurge meal per day AND don’t make it breakfast!

    Most hotels/hostels serve up some version of breakfast included in your room fee. Rolls, Coffee, Fruit, Yogurt all work for a quick healthy start. Most travelers are ready to get started on exciting adventures in the morning- so wasting time on a leisurely expensive morning meal is a waste on both fronts. Save your time and your money! We have found that often if breakfast isn’t included, guest have access to a fridge, ask! Many times this isn’t offered outright but is available if requested. This makes it easy, stop at a 7-11 (they are everywhere) get a yogurt, some fruit, ready-made sandwich and you are all set for breakfast and lunch at less than half what you would spend in a restaurant. My vote for the daily splurge meal will always be dinner. At the end of the day we are relaxed, ready for a cocktail, and we’ve had time to explore the area and get advice from locals on the best places.

  2. mini kitchen breakfast
    coffee pot and mug
  3. Coffee is coffee is coffee!

    If I'd only bought stock in Starbuck’s. Geez people! It is coffee, get over it! Okay, I LOVE my coffee, and yes I am a sucker for the fancy foo foo options too. But in the end, it is just coffee and not worth $5.00 a cup (which is the actual cost in Thailand at the Starbucks in Bangkok) more than I pay at home in America!

    If you are staying longer than a week, buy a cheap electric kettle and make it in your room! There are little shops all over selling fans, buckets, other household items and we happened to step into one for no particular reason (did I mention it was 112 degrees outside and they had the AC on). Ah- hum, anyway, they had electric kettles (and they cost...$7.00!). With some instant from 7-11 and a mug we were good to go. (the mug was negotiated off a street vendor selling drinks, we bought both). Where there is a will there is a way- don’t give up!

  4. Never pay the tourist price

    Hey, you are there and you are supporting the economy, don’t feel guilty for seeking out the local places and paying what they pay. This way, you can stay longer, do more, and maybe return on a second trip. If you walk off the plane and out to the first vendor selling water, you will pay a premium. Simply walking down the block and turning a corner off the main street, I reduced the cost of a single bottle of water from 30 B (1.00) to 5 B. That is a reduction of 1/6 the cost! The thing is that at first glance, it is a dollar… you think, gee, it is just a dollar! I can afford that and these people need it. But, dollars add up! Look around, if you see only foreigners keep walking.

  5. Don't be afraid of street food

    Yes it smells kinda funny (due to the raw sewage nearby), and there are stray animals running around (okay and a few rats) and there are flies about and maybe they are laying a few eggs…but somehow the food turns out great. It’s tasty and it’s cheap. Makes for a great bit of protein at lunch time and staves off the hunger. My tactic is to pick a very busy vendor, wait in his line (the food is fresh and the locals have already given their blessing). Surprisingly, you get a great taste of culture, some wonderful surprises (like you expected meat, but got dessert instead) and the money you save adds up!

  6. street food street vendors palm hearts
  7. Find out the tipping culture

    In America tipping 15% is common. That is crazy in Thailand. It just isn't done, and it isn't expected. A tip of 10 B (.30) is standard and you will never need to tip more than 50 B ($1.50). We spent a lot of extra money our first week. David is a generous tipper as it is, so we really impressed people for a while. Actually they are so honest in Thailand they argued to return it. It was during one of these exchanges that a local who witnessed what was happening explained to us in English that this was not necessary or customary. Once we realized this, we still left a nice tip by cultural standards, but saved quite a bit. Make sure you do your research and comply with local practice. You don’t look like a Hollywood show off this way either and it is nice to just fit in.

Best local spot in town

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