Travel Cheap By Eating Like a Local
Today, we’re going to delve into two of my most beloved topics: food and travel! As I’ve shared, Mr. Frugalwoods and I are afflicted with ardent wanderlust and feel extraordinarily fortunate that we’ve traveled so much. But, we never spend a fortune doing it. Just as we frugalize our meals at home (remember, breakfast is the hidden budget destroyer!), travel eats-on-the-cheap are a key element of a Frugalwoods-style journey.
The Easy Way Out (aka Amsterdam Brunch, Baby!)
If you can finagle a free breakfast out of your lodging arrangement, excellent! Eat hearty and scavenge scraps for lunch. Two meals done!
Let me tell you about our most epic free breakfast occasion ever. We use Starwood hotel points for free hotel stays worldwide and the hotel we stayed at in Amsterdam (Hotel Pulitzer) included a free buffet breakfast. I’m going to go ahead and say that this hotel would’ve saved money if they’d just given us $50 for breakfast every day instead of allowing Mr. FW and I free reign of the breakfast buffet. This was no Old Country Buffet, Golden Corral, Perkins, Bob Evans-type of buffet. This was a Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, Four Seasons-type of buffet.
We walked in the first morning expecting some modest cold cereals, bagels, and hard boiled eggs, which we would’ve been perfectly happy with. What we found instead was a quaint dining room awash in sunlight replete with white linen table cloths, a personal waiter for every 2 tables (at a BUFFET, mind you), smoked salmon, champagne, cooked-to-order eggs and omelets, waffles, pancakes, a barista making coffees, a plethora of pastries, a ton of fresh cut fruit, oatmeal, cereal, bacon, sausage, cold cuts, finger sandwiches, petite fours. Basically every Western European food that could ever, or has ever, been considered a brunch item.
I’m sure you know what happened next. We shamelessly gorged ourselves every day. Mr. Frugalwoods is so shameless that he ate the entire platter of smoked salmon one morning and HAD THE GALL to ask for more (which of course they brought out)… I scampered away to the make-your-own mimosa bar and pretended not to know him. Needless to say, we didn’t ever eat “lunch” in Amsterdam. We leisurely lingered at the brunch buffet for as long as humanly possible, took a few croissants in my purse, and didn’t eat again until nightfall.
The Next Best Option
Now this Amsterdam brunch is atypical and when there are no free food options, we explore the local grocery store. As at home, it’s always cheaper than restaurants. Our fave items are the exact opposite of what we buy at home to stay healthy and frugal. When traveling, we go for packaged, processed goodies. They last longer, are cheaper, and don’t require cooking.
A typical meal for us while abroad: loaf of day-old bread (every country has an equivalent), some weird packaged protein (usually a cured meat like salami), another unusual packaged dairy product (funky or hard cheese), beer or wine (we are on vacation after all), and sweet rolls/chocolate/cookies. Preservatives! YUM. We’ll occasionally buy fresh fruit, but it’s usually too difficult to transport and ends up bruised and unloved. Don’t worry, we go on a salad diet when we get home.
We’ll often hit up a grocery store each morning and then carry our sack-o-food around with us all day. We’re intrepid walkers and explorers, so we don’t want to scurry back to our lodging every time we want a snack. You can see why we aim for stuff that’s not going to spoil easily. I once had to check our sack-o-food at a museum’s coat check (thanks, Prado Museum in Madrid), but it’s generally a pretty solid way to have lovely picnics throughout the day.
Be Fancy People
Dinner is when we’ll sometimes dine at a restaurant. We are indeed closet foodies and we relish testing out local delicacies.
One thing we can say for sure: do not eat at any restaurant suggested by any guide book. Ever.
We’ve been burned so bad by these touristy, over-priced, mediocre assemblages of “local” cuisine. SAVE YOURSELF! What we’ve found works best is The Frugalwoods Wander & Stare Method (C). Divest yourself of tourist-laden plazas and spin off down local, neighborhood streets. Then, begin peering into restaurant windows and reading menus. Locate a venue packed with locals (trust me, you’ll be able to tell) and with reasonable menu prices. Enter and enjoy!
One of the best meals we had in Poland was at a cafeteria-style, linoleum floor, fly-filled diner. NOT at the white tablecloth spot our travel guide touted (still mad about the money we wasted on that meal). And if dining out is too rich for our blood—rinse and repeat with a grocery store run.
Calibrate By Region
Dining prices obviously vary by region and in expensive locales it may be best to just stay away. We ate at exactly one sit-down restaurant the entire time we were in Paris, whereas in Bratislava we dined out for every single meal (it was like $3 a person). Best part about Paris is that there was a grocery store right next door to our 5 star hotel (again, thank you Starwood hotel points!).
The concierge looked down her nose at us every time we rolled in with our grocery sacks. And one evening we ate our sack-dinner in the lobby next to the roaring fireplace. I don’t think anyone had ever done that before, so the hotel staff didn’t tell us to leave, but they were visibly rattled. All I could think as we drank wine straight from the bottle was, yep, Frugal Weirdos Do Paris.
Know Your Comfort Level
Unless you flawlessly speak the language of the country you’re visiting, it’s best if you’re OK not knowing exactly what you’re eating. If you have food allergies or true dietary restrictions, I suggest you conduct research in advance of your travel to determine what types of food you’ll be able to safely consume. I say this because, for example, vegetarian does NOT mean the same thing the world over. In many countries, fishies are included as vegetarian fare.
Depending on the region you visit, menus might be translated into English, wait staff might speak English, or, none of the above may be true. While Mr. FW and I always put in the effort to learn the key phrases of the language of every country we visit, our language skills never extend to the ability to truly read a menu in detail. We can identify the gist of a meal, but heck if we know all twelve ingredients listed.
Since Mr. FW and I are blessed not to have any food allergies or food aversions, we are what you might call extremely adventurous eaters. We’ve both had food poisoning (me once on a transatlantic 10 hour flight–ask me about air sickness bags and how to get through customs REALLY quickly!), lived to tell the tale, and it hasn’t dampened our courageous palates.
For us, the food of a region is one of the most intimate ways to understand and experience the culture. Since we immerse ourselves in the local, we sacrifice a good deal of knowledge about the ingredients of our meals. I previously shared that we were regulars at Zagreb, Croatia’s “Christmas Wine and Culture” tent and who KNOWS what meat we were eating there (no menu, it was the point-n-smile method of ordering).
Same deal at Bratislava, Slovakia’s outdoor Hlavné Námestie Christmas Market. There, festive tents greeted us selling warm honey wine (that was the best I could do with translating the sign) and steaming bundles of meat and dough (with no sign). To this day, no clue what was actually in those sandwiches. Again, no menu or list of ingredients. We simply observed that everyone else was devouring and loving these delicacies, so we dug in amid the glow of Christmas lights, gently falling snow, and Slovakian Christmas carols.
If the thought of eating unknown foods terrifies you, you can certainly hew to restaurants that a guide book recommends as they often have English menu translations and simpler fare. You’re on vacation and should enjoy yourself, so select cuisine options that won’t stress you out. Embrace what you’re comfortable with and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
That being said, if you travel with me and Mr. Frugalwoods, expect to be buttonholed into some roadside kebab stand cooking their halal meat on an outdoor smoker. Don’t say I didn’t warn you :).
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten while traveling?
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wow great stuff. I’m so jealous you’ve been to Croatia! That is my next big trip. I will have to email you to get some details. I always try to eat local and when I went to iceland this past March, I brought a lot of food with me because it’s SO expensive there for food! I mean outrageous. But…there is a certain point where I want to make sure that I do indulge in the food and not be thinking about budget every second. It’s so rare I get to do big traveling, so I don’t want to be super restricted. It’s a balance thing I think. OMG 10 hours of being on a flight with food poisoning? That is literally my nightmare!
Croatia is awesome! Definitely email me–I’m happy to share details! You’re right, it’s always a balance between not wanting to spend a ton of money, but also wanting to enjoy the local culture. The food-poisoning flight wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I mostly just sat in my seat and limply watched movies while Mr. FW scurried around to get me juice and, uh, bags :).
We usually just do two meals a day while traveling. It may be a light breakfast, big lunch and snack for supper, or big breakfast and early dinner. You guys really had a great breakfast buffet at that hotel. Eating your sack dinner and drinking wine from the bottle in the lobby! I love it!
The two meal pattern is a good one. We felt pretty fancy at that breakfast buffet, let me tell you!
I also use the two meal pattern! I find it makes a huge difference for both convenience and cost. There are so many ways to save on food as long as you are strategic about when and where you eat.
I’m terrible, because when travelling, I often skip out on the free breakfast, leaving me starving by 11:00 AM and needing restaurant food. That is going to change though, on our honeymoon! I need to learn to eat the free food, haha. J is also bad though, he doesn’t usually eat breakfast until later, and usually by then the free one is gone.
Yah, you’ve got to go for that free food :)! Take it with you in a baggie if you’re not hungry at the time. You just can’t beat free food–even on a honeymoon! Have fun!
Croatia is on my to-travel list so badly! When I was staying in Vienna, we had this small (30 room) boutique hotel. That place could feed you breakfast! The full deal… but we didn’t have champagne and smoked salmon. Whenever I go to a new city, I hit up a grocery store to buy some fruit and yogurt (if we have a fridge) and some nuts and granola bar type things. Then if I need to eat, I have reasonably priced food to tide me over until I can have the really good stuff.
So, I am also familiar with those air sick bags. I was totally alone, and absolutely mortified. Not my best moment!
OH I hear you–I was mortified at first too, but after awhile there was just nothing I could do. Fortunately it was just me and Mr. FW in a two-person row. I was a sad little limp mess though. Sorry to hear you were alone–that’s the worst.
Vienna is so beautiful! But talk about expensive food–whoa, baby!
The most adventurous I got when eating is when we were in Sweden – I had bear and moose whilst we were there! I’m like you; up for most things 🙂 that buffet breakfast sounds amazing!
Bear and moose, oh my! I’ve never had either of those, but I’m intrigued. Way to go, fellow adventurous palate traveler 🙂
My wife and I went to the Netherlands about 2 years ago. I have been a few times when I was younger. Most of my relatives live in Holland. They insisted we eat raw herring. I love it! It grosses most people out. I have fond memories of being in Holland when I was young and watching my mother eat raw herring. We also eat a lot of Indonesian food. Very similar to Thai. Thanks for the great guide to eating abroad.
We didn’t have any raw herring while we were in the Netherlands–now I feel like I missed out :)! I’ll have to go back… 🙂
Please do so! You’re welcome for a free Dutch diner at my place 🙂
This is a great story! I really like how you are both closet foodies – me too 🙂
Yay closet foodies! We really do love a good meal 🙂
That first grand buffet brunch you described sounds absolutely awesome. That’s my kind of meal. My stomach is fairly sensitive, so I do get concerned about eating while traveling. I haven’t traveled overseas yet, but I would definitely research a few key words in other languages beforehand. I have no clue how you made it through that 10 hour flight, but I admire how you’re willing to try everything. Shopping at the grocery store is a great plan.
The buffet really was incredible. I still can’t believe I didn’t take any photos! The blog hadn’t been born yet, so I guess I just wasn’t forward-thinking enough with my photography at the time :).
The breakfast buffet in Amsterdam sounds phenomenal!!! I love when we stay some place with an awesome free breakfast buffet because we typically eat as much as we can then and just snack for lunch to save money. I have only traveled to Italy so I did not encounter any wacky foods there, although, I always giggled at the fact that every breakfast buffet had cured meats.
Italy is one of my favorite spots! Doesn’t hurt that I could happily eat Italian food for every single meal either :). I agree, the cured meats are odd, but Mr. FW loves them. LOVES them.
I love little hole in the wall places, as they tend to be much better than tourist traps! Living in Bulgaria for a few years made me a much more adventurous eater. I’ve tried some weird (to me) things, like pig tongue. I’ll try (almost) anything once 🙂
Oh I’d love to go to Bulgaria! Agree–I’ll try almost anything once. Why not? 🙂
Oh my goodness, your buffet story was hilarious ! I can so relate. I think they have a picture of my husband in the kitchen of our local Chinese Buffet with a giant X over it. He is always just about the thinnest person in there, but he out-eats the heavy weights by a mile! Thanks for the laugh. I can’t wait to share it with him. I love the travel suggestions too. I think eating has always been our biggest expense when we travel. If it ‘sounds’ good, we eat it! You’d think we ate with our ears. Fun post ! 🙂
Hahah–photo with an X! Pretty sure the hotel would’ve banned us if we’d been there for any longer. Thanks so much for stopping by!
That breakfast buffet sounds dreamy! This whole post has made me so hungry! 🙂
I know it! I made myself hungry just writing it 🙂
We try to only do two meals a day when on vacation and we try to get one of those for free (usually breakfast). Quite often we visit the local grocery store and buy a few snacks to much in case we get hungry between meals, but since being on vacation is so exciting, we usually don’t get that hungry.
Good point about hunger–I think we’re probably less hungry on vacation too. There’s so much to see and do!
I love this post and I would totally travel with you! Haha I am totally with you about gorging on the smoked salmon and mimosa buffet and stealing croissants (I’ve had weirder things in my purse!) in order to skip paying for lunch. And I love making a picnic out of local bread and cheese. This post made me want to travel again SOON – I miss exploring places and foods, and trying to decipher what the other 12 words on the menu were based on what we got on our plates 🙂 I’m definitely sharing this post (I came across this on twitter, thanks to MillDollarNinja)
Thanks so much for stopping by, glad you found us :)! Sounds like we’d be good travel partners! I’m longing to travel again soon too–writing this makes me nostalgic…
Such fun! My wife and I were just in Austria a few weeks ago and headed to the grocery store as the first destination upon arrival…couldn’t read a single sign but managed to figure things out. Most of our travels have been in Southeast Asia though, and we LOVE the hawker street stands, the hole-in-the-wall local diners, and the unbelievably low prices. (Costs less to eat out than to cook at home, practically.) It’s also an adventurous eater’s paradise…who knows what creepy crawlies you might be ingesting!
Perfect! Love it.
We rocked the free breakfasts when we were in Australia in April, which helped quite a bit since the food costs there are approximately 2x what we are used to. We also tried to maximize the per diem on days that we had it, and go a little easier on days when we were footing the bill.
As a vegetarian, I just try to make sure I have fruit and nuts in my bag whenever we’re traveling since that can always tide me over if we end up someplace without vegetarian options. =)
Good plan on the fruit and nuts! Our quasi-vegan/vegetarianism goes totally out the window when we travel 🙂 I’m the worst vegan ever.
Super smart tips! Warm honey wine? Sounds amazing! Sorry about the stomach bug, though…transatlantic flights are hard enough as it is!!! I’m not a super adventurous eater, but I find that if I don’t know what it is, I’m usually okay. See, language barriers don’t always have to be a bad thing. :p
The honey wine does sound good and we really wanted it to taste good, but honestly, it was a little odd. Super sweet and sort of too alcohol-y. But that didn’t stop us from drinking plenty of it ’cause it was warm and soothing!
99% of the time, included breakfasts aren’t even worth getting up for. (At least at the types of places we stay at.)
When we HAVE stayed at fancier places though, my what a spread they put on. My fave was a nice hotel in Munich that had the most amazing buffet.
It could be Hotel Ritzi in Munich. Great Breakfast. Lived there for many years. Another recommendation in Munich is L’Angolo della Pizza – best Pizza absolutely affordable. The Pulitzer in Amsterdam I only know from the outside, but now I would like to try the breakfast buffet 🙂
Little off the path places have produced some of my favorite foods/memories. But, I’m not a very picky eater, so thankfully I’ll have a go at just about anything set in front of me. But I’ve never understood why someone would travel and then go eat something they could just as easily have at home. “Hmmm… is there a Chili’s around here?” Nope. No thank you. And I will absolutely pay more for a hotel that comes with breakfast. Not only does it provide breakfast, a granola bar or two is a great snack for later if you grab one and aren’t against that sort of thing, AND it forces me to get out of bed. Win-Win-Win.
Agreed! We always seek out foods we’ve never had before because, well, why not?! It’s all part of the adventure!
I was half expecting it to say “buy all the cheese wheels” when I clicked to here from Twitter 😀
Eastern Europe looks beautiful! Have only hung out in Western Europe and would love to see the east when we eventually goto Europe again. Will keep these tips in mind for when we do!
Yes! Cheese wheels! That photo is from a cheese shop we went to in the Netherlands. They had cheese samples and we, uh, helped ourselves :). It was amazing.
I wish I had someone to travel with… 🙁
I love hearing about your adventures.
Thanks for stopping by!
Hi Trista… I saw youre post from about 2 years ago. i wonder if you still receive mail at this same address . I too would love to find an easy going travel partner.. Are you still interested in entertaining that thought? Your profile picture looks like its the shape of NFLD. Hope it is for I am also a fellow Canadian.. An Anglo in Quebec in fact… Hope we get to connect and continue an adventure..
We’ve only ever traveled in America, but can’t stand eating restaurant fare too frequently. In fact, we enjoy our vacations MORE when we brown bag as much as possible. Otherwise, our bodies just feel gross from eating out all the time.
The financial savings is just a bonus. Though doing a 5 day trip 300 miles away with a family of 5 for $250 is pretty badass. (Free lodging with friends, and we took turns cooking and buying food.)
Jealous of all your European trips – looks awesome! I’m hoping that when the kids are older (teens), we’ll be close enough to FIRE that we’ll take them on some slow travel style trips as a finishing touch to their education. They’ll also be able-bodied enough to handle backpacking or bike touring. Maybe the Camino de Santiago?
Love the idea of travel as education–I learn so much every time we set foot outside of our own city! 5 days for 5 people at $250 is super impressive!
Great tips.. and such beautiful pictures!!
I think that you should always take the time to try local cuisines when traveling. That is always one of the most exciting parts for me!
Absolutely. It’s part and parcel of the whole out-of-your-comfort-zone nature of travel!
Love your pictures and I love food! Eating like a local is so much better when traveling than just sticking with your hotel’s restaurant.
Thanks! Definitely all for local eating–provides so much more insight into a culture.
I love Central and Eastern Europe. I was there in 1999, so I am sure it has changed drastically. I would love to go back and see it again.
The weirdest things I have eaten while traveling were in Portugal (different trip, in 2005) Every restaurant had fresh, delicious, and often unidentifiable seafood. I ordered something that I thought would be basically calamari. It was actually tiny baby octopuses with the saddest little octopus faces. They had been cooked in their ink. I am happy to eat a wide variety of weird food (squirrel with rice and gravy with the neighbors, tacos de lengua, pho with tripe, whatever. But somehow those poor little octopus faces just did me in.
Oh sad octopuses! We had a similar dish at a Sardinian restaurant and, while it tasted amazing, I did have to sort of close my eyes and not look at the little octos!
When I was just in Greece, the best places were off the main strip of restaurants and most of the menu (if there was one) was in Greek. It turned out that was the best food I had at the majority of those off the beaten path restaurants. We ate in one restaurant that was in my guidebook and it was rated the best within the islands and it was actually good, other than that we stayed away from anything in there. Love the tips and it’s something I’ll take to heart wherever I travel next.
Good tip to look for menus that aren’t translated–that’s certainly been the best food in our experience as well. Thanks so much for stopping by!
I have nothing exotic to report, but we take full advantage of those waffle makers that the Comfort Inn and many other mid-grade hotels have. We buy fruit, chocolate chips and whipped cream at a grocery store to enhance the waffle.
Pro tip: Arrive early to avoid the hordes of people that attack the breakfast items like they haven’t eaten in a week. It’s a bit like Costco on a Saturday afternoon. Every man woman and child for him/herself at the taquito sample table.
See, you’re braver than me: we’ve never actually been to Costco on a Saturday afternoon. We stick pretty exclusively to our Friday night Costco/Aldi’s runs. I do like those waffle makers! Good idea to bring waffle enhancements!
Ahhh, Friday night! What a great place to go for a date!
To go to Costco on a Saturday afternoon is an adventure. The samples bring out the worst in humanity.
BEST place for a date. Deserted store, plenty of samples, and we get to go home and have a frozen Costco pizza! Our life really should be envied 🙂
I just arrived in Macedonia. It’s very easy to eat cheaply here, although very confusing. I don’t know a word of Macedonian, and everything is in Cyrillic making it completely impenetrable. Today The only place i could identify was a burger joint, so I went and got a giant burger with lots of toppings, fries and a coke for about $3.80 US. Not very strange, but that stuff’s to come probably.
I’ve never had anything too strange. A lot of roadside meat, though. And in Montreal, I ate rabbit for the first, which as a bunny owner, I felt a little bad about.
Mmm, nothing quite like a big burger… yum! I’ll be interested to hear how Macedonia is–I’ve never been.
I usually end up eating at street vendors when I travel (the last number of years it’s been mostly southeast asia, south America and Cuba). For some reason street vendors usually just seem like the best meals to me, they are also insanely cheap. As for the most adventurous thing I’ve eaten… I guess the bugs in Thailand… but that’s just more of a touristy thing that you have to say you did. It’s not like it was a full meal or anything.
Street vendors are a great strategy–you’re right! Usually cheap, local, and yummy. Bugs would gross me out, I must admit.
I’m a vegetarian which is always a challenge when traveling abroad. Even in the Netherlands where EVERYONE speaks perfect english I had two meat incidents. I don’t think the the culture of vegetarianism is really there like it is here. Don’t even get me started on China though, haha.
Yes! There’s such a difference of opinion, it seems, on what constitutes “vegetarian”!
Sorry to hear about yout meat incidents. It’s in fact pretty common to be vegetarian (or even vegan) in the Netherlands, so I’m afraid you just had a bit of bad luck! Sweden, Norway and Germany are very vegan-friendly as well, especially Berlin is like a walhalla. I had most difficulties in Spain. “Oh you don’t eat meat… here’s some chicken… oh you consider that to be meat as well… weird… here’s some prawns for you.” (Translated to English)
You have me DROOLING at the descriptions of that amazing brunch!!! What a huge score. I would have been in a food coma the entire time. The best breakfast buffet I’ve managed to have included was at a Best Western in Cardiff. For some reason, the cheese servings were about 4″x3″x0.5″. You can be damn sure several of those made it into our backpacking lunches, heh.
In Bratislava, we ate like rich professionals, on the fancy main drag street. Sometimes, we were getting dirty looks from all the people in suits and whatnot., because we were 19 and backpackers… so not exactly stylish.
Oh Bratislava is so wonderful, isn’t it! Hah-you sound just like me with the cheese! I definitely ferreted away food from that brunch 🙂
In expensive cities (Paris, London…) lunch menus are often cheaper than dinner so we would do breakfast at home or hotel’s buffet, then wait until the last minute for the lunch menu, 3pm generally, and have ice cream around 8pm, or a beer somewhere.
In cheap cities we would eat at fancier restaurants, I remember an old style one in Bucharest where we had two bottles of wine and fancy silverware with a violin player for $25.
Late lunch is a great strategy too! Sounds like a divine meal in Bucharest. Thanks so much for stopping by :)!
That brunch sounds to die for! If we go there, I will keep that place in mind! Husband and I do a mixture of fancy and frugaling when on vacation like you guys. For our 11 day road trip weddingmoon to Canada, we camped, hoteled and fancied it up somewhat equally. Everyday of our weddingmoon we hiked (yes, even on our wedding day – I have a blog if you’re interested), and every day breakfast was either something quick, or included, or oatmeal at camp – lunch was on the trail – dinner was always out. Because it was our wedding trip and we could! We just did a 10 day California road trip where we mixed it up with camping, hotels and staying with friends. My favorite night of the trip was our $25 campsite in view of the ocean, short hike to a beach (whiskey may have been involved), ramen for dinner (I packed the ramen for emergencies, but really a restaurant was too far away), falling asleep to the sound of the ocean. Our goal isn’t to make it the cheapest trip possible, but to mix it with niceties and our normal camping style so we can do lots of trips every year. We have yet to do a European trip or somewhere that requires a flight and passports (Canada aside) but I have my eye and heart set on hiking the Italian Dolomites hut to hut trip.
Dog swapping is a great way to eliminate boarding costs. Hopefully your friends keep it equal. We used to do a doggie swap back in the days, but now our beloved goes to a free range pet hotel for only $21/night. Now she is too much of a biotch in her own home to host other dog friends (and too stressful for mom and dad). However, she does great at the pet hotel ironically – they say she’s a model student! It’s us and her home that she’s protective about. But we’ve also been adding more old dog friendly trips so we can take her along. Canoe camping is a great family vacation. She is so good in the boat.
Canoe dog! I think I can pretty safely say that Frugal Hound would tip a canoe. She’s gangly and she doesn’t sit very well 🙂
Sounds like you had an amazing weddingmoon! Wow! I wish we’d hiked on our wedding day. I agree with you on the blend of frugal and fancy–that’s basically the perfect vacation as far as we’re concerned.
Weirdest thing I ever ate was roast cuy in, Peru. The mister and I search out church dinners (fire department or boy scouts work as well) while travelling. In the main square in Cuzco, church ladies were offering lunch. The women who loaded my plate giggled as they gave me the head of a hamster on my mixed plate. I laughed and indicated that I would strongly prefer a thigh.
We did a home exchange with a family from Paris. They lived in the 14th, just down the street from a restaurant that offered a ten dollar dinner. We ate there five or six times in our month, but eventually devolved to having bread, fruit, cheese, and wine for most meals, eliminating all those other empty calories. When someone asked the mister how the food was in Paris, he said, “We had raisins in our oatmeal every morning.” He’s easily impressed.
Raisins in oatmeal! He does live large ;). The hamster head, on the other hand, is quite an unusual thing indeed. Can’t say I’d find that appetizing…
I could eat bread, fruit, cheese and wine for pretty much every meal and be a happy camper :). Thanks so much for reading and sharing!
This is such a late comment, but we’re going to Central Europe in December! We’re thinking of doing Prague, Vienna, Krakow, Bratislava and maybe either Budapest or Salzburg.
I’ve only been outside of the US twice (England and Mexico), so I’m super excited. I would love to pick your brain on Central European itineraries sometime. 🙂
How exciting!! We absolutely loved Krakow and Bratislava. Prague and Budapest are also nice, but I’d rank them second to the first two. And, in my opinion, Vienna is extremely expensive and touristy. I’ve never been to Salzburg, so can’t comment on that one :). But, those are just my opinions–everyone has a different travel style. Mr. FW and I prefer off-the-beaten-path non-touristy locations with lots of local culture and flavor. So, take my advice with that grain of salt. I hope you have a wonderful time! It’s such a gorgeous part of the world!
Nice to read you’ve been in Poland. Pozdrowienia 🙂 I hope I get to visit the US some day 🙂
White tablecloths in restaurants really scare me off, too. Its not fancy at all and my dearest vacation memories include sitting one a sidewalk while eating something I just bought in a place that looks dirty (I usually also have a coke to kill all the germs ;))
We absolutely loved Poland and hope to go back again some day! I hope you’re able to visit the US too :)! And, I agree, the best meals can be found in the most unlikely of places.
late to the party again, making my way through old posts. 🙂 I looooove going to foreign grocery stores, I can’t believe anyone would want to miss out on that part of travel. I remember being in Sweden at a grocery store and gaping at all their millions of types of liquidy yogurt, and not really understanding what you do with liquid yogurt. (it’s good though!) Or being in Majorca and getting this chocolatey cereal and being like, “this is literally the best thing i’ve ever had” even though it’s something i would never eat in real life. (never to be found again…) Or, when i was studying abroad in London, it was totally great going to Sainsburys and trying to figure out what products were the cheapest staples, so we could save our $$ for ciders at the pubs and clothes from TopShop. Milk was extremely cheap for some reason (maybe a subsidy or something?), and we ate a lot of these tiny pita breads, a lot of yogurt, and there were all these types of Babybel cheeses we don’t have in the US- we were so into those for some reason. Grocery shopping is definitely one of my favorite travel activities. Has the added benefit of the language barrier generally not being an issue. Ordering in restaurants with a cranky waiter that is very annoyed i don’t speak German or whatever is very anxiety provoking for me.
The point you brought up about eating out when the price is right still holds true though- on our honeymoon in Sayulita we quickly realized the tacos you can get on the street for a dollar or two were much much better than anything we were making in the tiny, open-air humid as hell kitchen in our rental house.
Love it! Sounds like you travel just like we do :). I really enjoy foreign grocery stores too. So much fun to poke around and discover new foods! Also, mmmmm tacos!!!
Once upon a time, I confess, we used the Michelin red book to choose our restaurants driving thru Europe in a rented car. A 1-star meal was a luxury every week or so…
But it is impossible to eat day-old bread in Paris. They bake the baguettes 2x/day for real freshness….
I am in Praha now on a business trip, but I am from Bratislava. I love your blog, because you have very Slovak mindset and way of life. 🙂 We like our families and spend our free time in the nature, or garden. This is why I love to live in little Bratislava, because this city allowes me to be myself. And when I want a fancy coffe with a taste of big city, I go to Wienna, Praha or Budapest for one day trip. If you will have a taste for Medovina again, please consider to go to Banska Stiavnica, I think you might like it.
Eating like a local is a huge tip for saving cash on the road! Have to agree that breakfast is a budget killer too! I typically Air B&B and make my own meals for breakfast and lunch while eating where the locals eat for authentic dinners! Wander Away Frugalwoods!
I hear you on that breakfast buffet! My mum and I once stayed at a hotel in Budapest, which put on this unbelievable free buffet breakfast every morning. The first day, we couldn’t believe our eyes, so we just ate and ate and ate. Then, when it was time to go sight-seeing, we actually had to go back to our room and lie down for 20 minutes or so, just so we would be able to walk around. We were a bit more careful after that 🙂
>expect to be buttonholed into some roadside kebab stand cooking their halal meat on an outdoor smoker
Hey, sounds like a perfect dining experience to me!
And since you mentioned food allergies, I’d like to note that it is important to be VERY careful, because in some countries for whatever reason they don’t take food allergies very seriously. I suppose maybe because food allergies are rare among the native population? I’m not sure. But in China for instance, if you’re allergic to shrimp and you tell them that, they’ll still serve you a dish that has “just a little bit of shrimp” because apparently they think it won’t hurt if it’s a small amount. So if you have a severe allergy, just be careful.