Eating for cheap while on vacation

Following these rules can help you find cheap restaurants that offer both good food and low prices, no matter what part of the world you're in

When you’re visiting a strange country or city, how do you find cheap restaurants? Travel can get expensive, and whether you’re on a big budget or a tight one, you might not want to be eating at expensive restaurants every night.

We’re not necessarily talking “greasy spoons” here. Low budget food doesn’t have to be low on flavor. What you want to try to do is go where the locals go. This is often more fun too; you may even end up being the only tourists in the place. If you are, you’ll have way more local flavor than you might in a restaurant that has the menu in four or five languages.

You can try asking the concierge at your hotel, but they might be more inclined to send you to a higher priced restaurant. A better choice might be the bellman: they probably will give you a better budget option. Ask where they eat, where their friends would go.

Heading for a centrally located “restaurant row” full of tourists is the worst possible way to find the magical combination of good food and low prices. That restaurant row may be a little more comfortable, it might be a little easier to read the menu there, but remember what we said about local colour and the prices!

Knowing some economic rules can help you find cheap restaurants that offer both good food and low prices, no matter what part of the world you find yourself in.

First of all, remember that restaurant row is probably in the high rent district and rent is one of a restaurant’s biggest costs. For menu prices to be low, that restaurant needs to be in a location where the rent is a little cheaper. That takes you right back to the advice to head for establishments on down side streets or in hard-to-find spots that are patronized mainly by locals.

In the U.S., one place to check is in those ugly “strip malls” along roads leading in and out of towns. In other countries, stay away from areas where the big attractions are. Instead, look for neighborhoods where the people live.

Second, remember that restaurants and populations really are going global. Wherever there are significant immigrant populations, there’s usually inexpensive, tasty food. Ethnic restaurants serve customers who know what the food should taste like and who are price-sensitive.

Sure, in France you want to eat great French food at chic little bistros, but what’s wrong with Vietnamese “pho” for an inexpensive meal. London is a pricey city, but if you look for noodle joints you can get a great meal for cheap.

One high-tech way to find cheap restaurants is to check on Twitter. Restaurants are using Twitter: they might post daily specials. Or search Twitter for cheap eats where you are and see what restaurants Tweeters are talking about.

Want to save even more? You could always go for a big lunch then a small dinner. Lunch prices are almost always less.

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