One can eat very expensive, complicated and elaborated meals or one has to conform to still overpriced, but bad, touristy targeted meals. For many travelers it seems these are the only options available while traveling.
In my experience the expenses of eating abroad is one of the limitations that many put on their travel plans. I lived in Rome, Italy for several years, it is a very expensive capital with a lot of very bad, overpriced restaurants, several ultra-chic venues for those with deep pockets and many good affordable restaurants that cater mostly to locals.
It was common to see tourists eating in bad places, around the most known attractions exclaiming how good the food was when everyone from Rome knows the place is a tourist trap.
The truth is that it is possible to eat well, enjoy healthy affordable meals while traveling. To attain such goal, one has to plan ahead. It is a good idea to try new foods, and to be an adventurer, but this has to come along with prudence. One has to remember that there are certain microorganisms that do not affect locals but can make many outsiders sick.
I have been traveling for many years and I do not compromise with meals and at the same time I stay on a budget. But how is this possible?
When I am staying at a recognized brand hotel I try to stick with the same chain. Loyalty pays, and after years of traveling I have attain the highest status in their reward programs and that means free breakfast and sometimes even other meals. Breakfast is one of the best offering of hotels, buffets are huge where one has the luxury to choose well.
If I am staying several days in a city I try to get a place with kitchen, I love to cook, it is a relaxing thing, and the whole process is a great way to be immersed in local culture. I read recipes, choose something very local, go to a farmer’s market and prepare very clean meals, I never have gotten sick with this.
When I am driving I love to carry my food and stop along the way under a nice tree, next to a river, or in a place with a great view. This is very affordable and another great way to explore local products. In every city I try to choose a very well rated restaurant, where locals go and that is far away from the main tourist attractions. I read reviews in several web pages and since I saved a lot preparing my own meals I can indulge from time to time.
I love wine, but drinking in a restaurant or a bar is tremendously expensive, most times one pays four times the retail prices of a bottle of wine. The solution? Look for wine or your favorite liquor in a local supermarket or specialized store, duty free stores may have good options (But it is not always cheaper). We enjoy some drinks before meals or if local laws allow we take the wine with us to have it with lunch or dinner along the way.