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How to eat on the road for cheap, while backpacking, traveling

Posted by Christopher Wink on Nov 19, 2008 in Travel Tips |

Stuffing my face with a delicious Belgian waffle in Brussels.

Stuffing my face with a delicious Belgian waffle in Brussels.

So you’re backpacking to train-traveling for a couple weeks, a month or lots longer.

You end up with the same problem. Trying to eat healthy while keeping costs down.

I spent almost half a grand on eating during a month of backpacking - less than my train-travel and housing costs - which I think is pretty darn good, considering I had to eat every local delicacy we could find.

Let me throw some suggestions at you.

Every city you visit, country you lounge in or region you travel through, I say you gotta accept it. Give yourself at least one dinner out. Now, if you’re really worried about costs, don’t make it an expensive one, but figure out some food locals take pride in and get it. Like dagens r├Ątt in Stockholm or all the dumplings of Prague.

But then, get on the streets. Every self-respecting city ought to have street food of its own. Something you can get from a stall or a stand or a cart or a window or some dude. Like a delicious Belgian waffle or the Parisian crepes that made a brief debut in our final episode or those juicy sausages in Zurich.

Those are two necessities. If the food that you desire is cheap enough, double dip. Food is the best part of travel, I’m here to say.

Otherwise focus on getting those nutrients. You don’t want to get sick traveling, so pay more attention to your health than normally. Yeah, wash your hands. That’s why should walk. Drink lots of water. And, think of your diet.

When you do go out, think vegetables and fruits. You likely won’t be able to get these traveling cheaply and actively. Apples and broccoli doesn’t travel well. So, when you’re ordering that meal, if it comes with any fruits or veggies eat them, eat them, eat them - if there’s a choice, go with them. This is more important than your potato or carbohydrate fetishes. So, in Vienna, I devoured my picked veggies along with my wienerschnitzel.

To close Episode 5, during which we talked shop on Eurorail, Sean and I showed you our habit of killing foreign currency we didn’t need anymore. Taking a tour of a grocery to pick up some foods that could cover us during train travel or help us skip more expensive restaurant meals.

Here’s another opportunity to get those fruits, vegetables and otherwise cover your bases without getting sick.

Start with Nutella or a similar spread. While Nutella is a chocolate spread, it’s a great base for a cheap, solid breakfast or dessert. Take a hit and buy bannanas or strawberries with the last of your currency. Plop them on your spread on bread or rolls - which can be purchased fairly cheaply in any European city - and you have a declicious, fairly cheap breakfast with some fruits. These spreads also, of course, keep. So bulk up if you end up with too much leftover currency. (Peanut butter isn’t so common abroad, but some Western European cities have faced the American influence).

Buy some fruit juices. I have never found an orange juice that did it for me abroad, but apple and pineapple seem to work just fine on all four continents I’ve had them. Spend a little extra for 100 percent juice, which is almost always easy to understand, no matter the language. Great for the morning and often fairly cheap. Often a liter was cheaper than soda, and you need those natural sugars.

Beans! Great protein, and in a flip-top can, they can be carried around in your bag. Grab some flat tortillas. If you could get your hands on a little cheese you have a delicious, fairly nutritious, energy-providing snack - snag some produce from a market and go nuts.

If you have a weak stomach and are worried about getting sick during an extended stay in a new place, I have heard eating local yogurts help your body adjust to local bacterias in water.

Finally when it comes to costs, my father has told me it since I was 10. Drinks and desserts. That’s where the money is made, particularly in restaurants. Bring a water bottle for travel and just get water if you sit down for a meal - or nothing and have some of your fruit juice later. Or figure out how to ask for tap water - I got some in London and Paris but it’s a no-go in some Eastern European countries, as I was told in Prague. Water’s free, and you should be focusing on it, anyway - unlike fueling a Coke habit.

Anyone else have tips for healthy and cheap eating on the road?

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