One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a country’s culture is to indulge in traditional food, locally sourced and freshly prepared. However, the days where you can eat like royalty on a small budget in Europe and Northern America are well and truly over, and now eating out often costs the same as it does at home. So, you are faced with three choices: keep a close eye on overspending and consider your budget at every meal; go all-inclusive and risk missing out on real local cuisine; or opt for self-catering and enjoy a mix of home-made local produce and eating out.
If foregoing that extra drink, side dish or even course doesn’t appeal to you, and all-inclusive and self-catering are not your idea of a gastro-holiday, consider the price of food before you book. Some destinations allow you to sample everything on the menu for the price of a drink in the UK! We take a look at some fantastic holiday locations that offer a range of holiday must-haves: sun, sea, culture and fantastic food, accessible to even the most restricted budget.
Of course, the cost of a meal may depend on location, the type of establishment you choose, and how expensive your tastes are! As a rule, if you go off the beaten track slightly, to less touristy areas and find cafés and restaurants frequented by locals, you are likely to discover cheaper prices and delicious, authentic dishes. Don’t be put off by a less than enticing façade, or be tempted to head straight to the nearest sterile, air-conditioned chain; take the plunge and immerse yourself in traditional local life.
Peruvian Sol – PEN – S/.
S/.1 is about £0.25 (25p).
£1 = S/.4
If you are visiting Lima, food costs are likely to be higher, but it is a small price to pay (literally) for some of the best food in the world. Otherwise, eating out in Peru is famously cheap. From street grills, to ceviche, Peruvian fare is fresh and delicately flavoured. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, but be a little discerning about the stalls you choose (opt for busier stalls with locals queuing).
On street stalls you can sample meat kebabs (lomo saltado), marinated chicken or grilled chorizo for as little as S/.1, while your average meal at a middle-of-the range restaurant may cost around S/.10 per person (£2.50). If indulging in ceviche or seafood, it is best to make sure that you are getting high quality, so it is worth going to a reputable cevicheria where you can enjoy some of the freshest, tastiest seafood in the world. Soft drinks and local alcohol usually come in at under £1 each, too, so you can budget £20 a day per person, eat well, and possibly even have a little bit left at the end of the day.
Budget eats for less than £2.50
Splash out – fine dining costs around £20 – £30 per person.
Indian Rupee INR ₹
₹10 = £0.12 or 12p
£1.00 = ₹83
In India, you will be greeted with an array of predominantly vegetarian dishes, freshly cooked and packed with delicious spices. Prices in Delhi and Mumbai are a little higher than elsewhere, but it is still possible to eat exceedingly well for relatively few rupees. As always, f you want to buy alcohol or opt for air-conditioned restaurants that cater almost exclusively for tourists, expect to pay a much higher price for a meal.
Play fairly safe with street vendors. Samosas are definitely worth a try but make sure they are freshly cooked and piping hot. Local delicacies, such as chai and sweets from street vendors can be bought for less than ₹40. Simple, local restaurants will serve vegetable curries made in the style of the region, alongside flatbreads, rice, roti and dahl for around ₹60 per dish, but if you go to the more touristy areas, the same meal will cost around ₹250 (about £3) a dish. A thali (mixed dish) offers you the opportunity to try a bit of everything for less than ₹300, so if you find yourself in a restaurant that offers a fresh thali platter, it may be worth considering. If alcohol is permitted, local beer costs an average of ₹100, with soft drinks costing about ₹30. On average, you can eat and drink well for about £15 a day in India, and enjoy incredible food free from the worry of budgeting!
Feast on a budget for about ₹250 (£3 per person)
Dine in style for around ₹1000 (£12 a head)
Sri Lankan Rupee LKR ₨
₨10 = £0.05 (5p)
£1 = ₨189
Rice and curry are at the core of Sri Lankan food, with locals eating the dish most days (sometimes twice a day). Visitors to Sri Lanka will be hard-pushed to place its dishes on the curry spectrum as we know it; classic cuisine is a mix of Malaysian, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch and Asian, bringing a fusion of flavours and spices that are quite simply incomparable to anything else. While most rice and curry dishes are simple affairs, you are likely to encounter rijsttafel (translated “rice table”), a memento of the Dutch colonisation when all the large houses of Sri Lanka were expected to bring their best dish to the Dutch table. The result is a delicious selection of meat, fish and vegetable curries – literally the best of everything.
A snack from a street vendor will cost around ₨100, while you can get a meal and drink at a small local restaurant for ₨500. Meanwhile, a middle-of-the-road three-course meal with drinks will cost in the region of ₨2000 (£10) – unless you choose the lobster. If you vary where you eat and switch between street vendors, local rice and curry cafes and higher-end restaurants, your average daily food spend will be about £20.
Budget eats – ₨500 (£2.50)
Splash out on a starter, lobster and dessert with a beer – ₨3,300 (£17)
Dong (VND) d
10,000d = £.35 (35p)
£1 = 28,000d
US Dollars ($) that are less than five years old are widely accepted in Vietnam – expect to pay in dollars and get your change in dong.
Vietnamese food is often thought of as a milder version of Thai food. However you describe it, the noodles, spring rolls and rice dishes in Vietnam will be among the best you ever taste, whether you buy them from a street vendor or a restaurant. Street food is great for snacking on the go – the portions are small and unlikely to fill you up, but at around 4,000d (14p), you won’t feel hard done by if you are still hungry afterwards!
Your food choices will be dictated primarily by your budget and your sense of adventure – while prudence is advised, as always, don’t be afraid to try local delicacies or street vendors – just exercise a little common sense! There are now a range of Western restaurants popping up in Vietnam, which are, unsurprising, relatively expensive. If you opt for the Western choices, expect to pay a lot more for a meal – not only that, but you will miss out on the foodie paradise that is Vietnam. You can pick up a delicious bowl of pho noodle soup for less than 20,000d, while a three course, mid-range meal will cost around 250,000d £9). Overall, a budget of £15 per person should suffice, provided you are happy to patronise more authentic cafes and restaurants.
Snacking on a shoestring – 60,000d (£2)
Dining in style – 350,000 (£12)
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