Classy On a Coin


eating like a local

Hi there, savvy travelers! It’s Rose here, your go-to budget travel expert. Today, I want to whisk you away on a culinary journey – exploring not only destinations, but also dishes. Yes, we’re talking about Dining Like a Local Travel! And don’t worry, we’ll do it with style, without draining your bank account.

During my travel adventures, one thing that has made my experiences incredibly rich and rewarding is trying out local cuisines. You see, food isn’t just about fueling our bodies; it’s about culture, connection, and community. There’s a saying that goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and trust me, there’s no better way to embody this than indulging in the local gastronomy.

Now, let’s get straight into the tips and tricks that will make your foodie adventures just as exciting as your sightseeing ones!

1. Tap into the Power of Pre-Trip Research

Let’s start at the beginning, even before you pack your bags. Doing a little bit of online sleuthing can go a long way when it comes to finding those hidden local dining gems. Websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, along with Google Maps, are your best friends for this. Not only can you find reviews and ratings, but also get a feel for the price range (most meals range from $10 to $30, but remember, it varies greatly from country to country).

But don’t just stop at restaurant reviews. Look for articles or blogs that talk about the regional cuisine, must-try dishes, and local eating etiquette. This pre-trip research can add a whole new dimension to your culinary travel experience.

2. Harness the Wisdom of Locals

Once you’ve landed, who better to guide you to the best food than the locals themselves? They’ve lived there their whole lives, after all. They know where to get the tastiest tacos in Mexico City ($1-3 per taco) or the most delicious pho in Hanoi (around 30,000 – 50,000 VND, which is about $1.30 – $2.20).

One of my most memorable experiences was in Seville, Spain, when I struck up a conversation with a local at a café. They recommended a family-run tapas bar hidden away in an alley, unknown to most tourists. The food was to die for, and the entire meal, with drinks included, cost me just 15 Euros ($18)! So, don’t hesitate to ask locals for their favorite places to eat. They’re generally proud of their cuisine and more than willing to share their knowledge.

3. Street Food – A Road to Authenticity and Affordability

Don’t underestimate the world of street food. It’s a gateway to authentic, local, and budget-friendly deliciousness! However, do keep an eye on hygiene. Opt for stalls that look clean, and where the food is prepared fresh in front of you.

4. Stir up Some Fun with a Cooking Class

One of my absolute favorite ways to explore local cuisine is by getting my hands dirty in a cooking class. You learn so much about the culture, ingredients, and traditions that way. Plus, you return home with new skills to impress your friends!

For example, a traditional Thai cooking class in Bangkok would cost you around 1,000 Thai Baht (approximately $30) and not only would you get a meal out of it, but also an unforgettable experience. Websites like Cookly and Airbnb Experiences are great places to find these classes.

5. Shop, Cook, and Savor at Local Markets

No food adventure is complete without a trip to the local market. From the vibrant Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona (remember to try the freshly squeezed juices for about €1 ($1.20) each) to the bustling Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, these markets are foodie heaven!

You can buy fresh, local ingredients and turn them into a delicious meal yourself, or often, there are stalls and small eateries where you can taste local dishes without burning a hole in your pocket.

6. Hop onto a Food Tour – Savor a City, One Bite at a Time

Food tours are an efficient way to dive into a city’s culinary scene. Typically, these tours range from $50 to $100 but provide a wide array of tasting experiences, guided by a local. Check out GetYourGuide or Airbnb Experiences for highly-rated food tours. They may seem pricey upfront, but when you consider the number of tastings and the wealth of information you’ll receive, they’re well worth it!

7. Dine Smart, Not Hard – Try Off-Peak Hours

Did you know that you could save money by dining at off-peak hours? Many restaurants in cities like Paris and Rome offer discounted pre-theatre or late-night menus, which are much cheaper than their regular dinner menus. Plus, dining at off-peak hours allows for a more relaxed and intimate dining experience.

8. App-etizing Adventures: Local Food Apps

In this digital age, your smartphone can be the best tour guide, especially when it comes to local food. There are many local food apps that can help you discover dining spots that are off the beaten path.

In the US, OpenTable is fantastic for scoring last-minute reservations at popular restaurants. When in India, don’t miss out on using Zomato – you’ll find ratings, reviews, and even menus of a wide range of restaurants. In Japan, Tabelog is the go-to source for dining ideas, reviews, and ratings by locals. And the best part? You can often find menus with prices, so you know what to expect before you go.

9. Homely Delights with Homestays and Local Hosts

One of the most authentic and unique ways to experience local food is by opting for homestays or places where the hosts are willing to share their meals. Websites like Airbnb or Homestay can help you find such places.

This gives you a chance to not just taste homemade food, but also to observe and learn how it’s prepared. For example, a homestay in Bali might cost around 250,000 IDR ($17) a night, with meals at an additional cost of around 30,000 IDR ($2) per meal.

10. Have an Open Palate and an Adventurous Heart

Finally, one of the most important tips I can share is to keep an open mind. Don’t shy away from trying new foods. You never know what amazing flavors you might discover. Be adventurous – that’s what travel is all about!

Extra Tip: Embark on a Local Wine and Beer Journey

If you’re a fan of alcoholic beverages, exploring local wines and beers can add a delightful new dimension to your dining experience. It’s also a great way to learn about the region’s agriculture and history.

Take the wineries in Mendoza, Argentina, for example. You can take a bike tour to different vineyards, sample their offerings, and learn about the winemaking process. It’s a great day out and an enriching experience! These tours start at around 1,500 Argentine Pesos (roughly $15) per person.

In Portland, Oregon, a craft beer tour is a must-do. With over 70 breweries in the city, you’re sure to find something you love. Beer tours start at around $89, and you’ll visit several breweries and try a variety of beers.

Extra Tip: Look for Meal Deals and Special Offers

Always keep an eye out for meal deals and special offers. Websites like Groupon and Living Social can offer significant discounts on restaurants, cafes, and even food tours in the city you’re visiting.

For example, in New York City, you can often find offers for prix fixe menus at upscale restaurants that would otherwise be out of a budget traveler’s reach. Imagine having a 3-course meal at a classy Manhattan restaurant for just $42!

FAQs about Dining Like a Local While Traveling

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you navigate your culinary journey:

How can I ensure the street food I eat is safe?

When it comes to street food, opt for stalls that are busy with locals and where the food is cooked fresh in front of you. It’s a good sign if they are maintaining good hygiene practices.

Are cooking classes worth the money?

Absolutely! Not only do you get to eat delicious food, but you also learn about local ingredients and cooking techniques, which you can then use when you return home.

How do I find the best local restaurants?

Doing pre-trip research, asking locals for recommendations, using food apps, and embarking on food tours are all great ways to discover amazing local dining spots.

What should I do if I have dietary restrictions or allergies?

Most restaurants are very accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions or allergies. Make sure to communicate your needs clearly, and consider using a translation app if language is a barrier.

Can I find cheap meals in expensive cities like Paris or Tokyo?

Absolutely! Every city has its affordable dining options. In Paris, you could have a delicious croissant and coffee for breakfast for under €5 ($6), and in Tokyo, you can find amazing ramen or conveyor belt sushi places where a meal would cost you around ¥1000 ($9).

Are food tours worth the cost?

Food tours might seem costly upfront, but they provide a comprehensive experience, which includes food, a guide, and a deep dive into the local culinary culture. So yes, they are usually worth the cost!

I’m a vegetarian/vegan. Will I find local food to suit my dietary needs?

Today, more and more restaurants cater to vegetarians and vegans. Apps like 5. Can I find cheap meals in expensive cities like Paris or Tokyo?

Absolutely! Every city has its affordable dining options. In Paris, you could have a delicious croissant and coffee for breakfast for under €5 ($6), and in Tokyo, you can find amazing ramen or conveyor belt sushi places where a meal would cost you around ¥1000 ($9).

Wrapping Up Our Extended Food Journey

There you have it, fellow food adventurers! From local wine and beer journeys, through meal deals, desserts, and food festivals, to respecting local eating schedules, there’s so much you can do to enrich your travel experience while sticking to your budget.

Always remember that part of the thrill of travel is to experience something new and to immerse yourself in a different culture, and there’s no better way to do it than through its food.

Once again, don’t forget to sign up for the Classy On a Coin newsletter for more budget-friendly travel tips. Bon appetit, and as always…

Happy Travels!

– Rose

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