Eat and Drink What’s Local When You Travel

cheap local wine

Wine in Bulgaria – $1 to $2 per liter

The “locavore” and “slow food” movements have taken off bigtime in the last decade, but budget travelers have been following them for ages for economic reasons: eating local and drinking local can save you a small fortune.

Sure, there are high-minded environmental and social reasons for consuming what’s produced locally. Less fuel is used, more locals get employed, more of the money stays in the community, fewer preservatives are needed, etc. If you’re on a $30-a-day travel budget though, those things are icing on the cake. The real driver is lower costs.

Almost every country has a group of items that are cheaper because they’re local and not imported. The most prominent are usually include locally grown food items, as well as drinks produced from local ingredients. Here are a few random examples of screaming bargains I’ve found over the years:

eating local in Mexico

Eat what the locals eat (35 cent tacos in Mexico City)

Oranges in Portugal
Wine in Eastern Europe
Yogurt in Bulgaria
Coffee in Colombia
Bia Hoi (sidewalk draft beer) in Vietnam
Cashews in the Philippines
Rum in Nicaragua
Vanilla in Mexico
Watermelons in the southern USA
Bananas in Honduras
Any fruit or vegetable in Ecuador
Tea and vegetarian thali meals in India
Beef in Argentina
Sticky rice and mango in Thailand
Fish in Indonesia

Part of the reason I found Portugal so inexpensive on my recent trip is almost everything I ate and drank came from Portugal. Well, apart from the coffee. When I’m in Southeast Asia, I eat Asian food. I don’t order a Jack Daniels when I’m somewhere that makes great rum.

Also look at utilitarian items produced for local household use (like wooden cooking utensils), as well as clothing items made for domestic purchase.

The idea also extends to transportation methods that working class people use. Upper class people and executives shun the metro in many cities for example (including Mexico City), so join the masses and you’ll get from A to B for cheap.

When fuel itself is a local commodity, that may be the greatest bargain of all. Filling up a rental car in the Gulf states or in Venezuela is not going to set you back very much.

What kind of great local bargains have you found in your travels?

  1. Gerald

    I love that some of the best beer in the world is cheaper than home when you’re in the Czech Republic and that some of the best wine in the world is cheaper than home when you’re in Spain, Italy, or France. (If you stick with the local house wine that is.)

  2. Jerry

    My plan is always to see what’s on offer for the set menu lunch. That gives you a good idea of what’s local, in season and cheap. Also hit the local market soon after arrival. You’ll find great deals on whatever’s fresh.

  3. Anthony

    The Metro in Mexico City is horribly cheap. I think it works out to $.40 a trip. I traveled all around the city from end to end. I only had to use a Taxi to attend an exclusive event on the opposite end of town and because it ran until 5-6am.

    What makes traveling and living overseas expensive for many is needing typical stuff that’s cheap in America but in low demand or non-existent in another country.

  4. Ian

    What’s annoying is when the sin taxes get so high that the locally made product is no longer a bargain. Like raki in Turkey or Agudiarte in Colombia. Or Mexican wine in Mexico. In some countries the tax is 50% of the price you’re paying.

  5. Claudia

    Well, I think that what travel also is about, to try the food and drinks that are special to the country. They taste best in the place and cost less usually. I sometimes try to make the opposite in my home country and try to make some special dish that I tasted abroad and it just doesn’t have the taste as it has there. I like to go on the local farmer markets when I am abroad, you can catch the best atmosphere and the most impressing sounds, odors and tastes, also great for photographing.

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