How to find the best and cheapest restaurants while traveling

Essential Guide on How to Find the Best AND Cheapest Restaurants for Your Trip

We travel quite a lot these days and get this question: “How do you travel that much?? For sure you have very high salaries!”, very often. However, we are not millionaires (yet), but we definitely make some preparations and adjust our budgets before trips. Since spendings on food usually occupy a fairly significant expense item I prepared for you some tips that I always use when trying to find the best restaurants for upcoming trips. 

I believe that food plays a huge role while traveling because it is a part of culture and experience, plus it gives you the energy to explore more places. I also love my meals to be diverse and always try to find more options to choose so we will not be tired of eating only pizzas and fast foods. In case you are willing to spend some time before the trip scrolling the internet, I hope this article will help you to cost cut and expand your trip experience with a nice food tour. 

Find out how expensive (or cheap) are the restaurants in your destination

I guess it is good to understand what is expensive for you and what is not. Before the trip, we always check Numbeo in order to have a glimpse of prices in that city in comparison with Bratislava. It is easy to use: you enter the city you live in and the city you want to compare with and it shows you different categories, which include restaurants, groceries, transport, utilities, leisure and etc. From my experience, not always prices are 100% accurate, but they can’t be since in the shops it varies a lot. However, it is a great tool to see what do you need to prepare for. For example, we found out that Balkan food is delicious and in most countries also very cheap (except Croatia). The same was in lovely Istanbul (and with their amazing Turkish breakfast). On another hand, when we were in Sweden or Denmark it was much harder to find something on a budget. 

Check the traditional dishes of your destination

Exploring culture consist of exploring traditional meals as well. Of course, you can always ask waitresses to advise you about some typical food of that place, but I like to be prepared. Usually, I make a list of things I really want to try and then doing my research of restaurants based on those things. I knew we had to try typical Turkish breakfast (which is usually made in such fancy way for tourists, but anyway looks and tastes amazing) so I found Yigit Sofram Gozleme ve Kahvalti in Istanbul where for 30TL (approx 4.8 euro) per person we got an endless amount of plates with some spreads, veggies, eggs, cheeses, traditional kaymak, olives with an unlimited amount of bread and Turkish tea. 

In Barcelona, I was seeking to try the real tasty Churros and I found Xurreria Laietana and for 3.4 euros per person, we had 6 churros and a cup of hot chocolate where you are dipping it in. Surprisingly for me, it wasn’t very sweet as I thought, it had just the right taste.

Churros with chocolate in a small coffeeshop in Barcelona

Start googling the restaurants and finding good and cheap ones

It sounds cheesy, but this is the way how the internet works nowadays. People usually write some articles like “15 cheap places to eat in Barcelona” or “where to try the best pleskavica” so you will have to read some of those. However, what I found out that most of these articles are very subjective, so what was cheap for the author doesn’t mean it is cheap for you. Also almost nowhere in these articles, they put prices and even if they do, check the time when the article was written because it could have been not updated with the current year prices. 

My advice is to check what Google shows you on the map when you type “cheap restaurants in …” because it is showing you good places based on reviews (like if more people were writing there that it was cheap), the same with if you write there “best paella in Barcelona” it will show you places based on people’s reviews. You also have there a sign of euro, where usually means it is pretty cheap, €€ – more expensive, but still could be ok, etc. 

Google maps - how to check reviews of restaurants when traveling

Another website to pay attention to is TripAdvisor. It will usually be shown to you in google if you type “cheap restaurants in …” on the first page, but you can search also directly on the website. They’ve got the same ranking system, but instead of the euro, there is a sign on the dollar.

Check them all!

Now we come to the most interesting part. I do it in the way that I just start opening web pages of every restaurant which seems more or less suitable (I do not check restaurants which have less than 3.9 stars on Google or TripAdvisor). And here we can have 2 main issues:

  1. The restaurant doesn’t have a web page
  2. The restaurant has a web page, but it’s not translated to English

We need the menu in order to check what do they have and what are the prices. The best option is when the restaurant has a web page, translated to English with a full menu there. However, by my experience, as the fancier web page is and as more information you can find there, as more expensive the food is since they had to pay developers for creating it. But it is not always the case. So usually I deal with those 2 issues which I’ve mentioned so I will tell you how to still not cut those places from your list, because usually, those are the most suitable.

Issue 1: The restaurant doesn’t have a web page or it has a web page but without the menu

  1. Check if they have a Facebook page. Sometimes they have either pictures of the menu there or even a separate block on the left where you can find it.
  2. Sometimes you can find a menu on some external websites, for Slovakia, it is Zomato for example. Just try to type in google “Name of the restaurant menu” and check out the first pages. Still, never trust it or 100% because sometimes restaurants put the old menu on those websites. 
  3. Usually, people take pictures of menus (or at least parts of it) and put on TripAdvisor or also Foursquare. But attention here: check the date of the picture, the best is if the picture is done the same year as you are traveling, you never know if they changed prices from 1-2 years. 
  4. The last chance to find some prices or specific meals is to check some reviews on these websites. Some people used to write the exact prices of some items they have ordered so it’s good for you to have a glimpse of it. Also, check the relevant year.
  5. If you didn’t find anything anywhere, yet they have some contacts (I usually write on Facebook page message) – just ask them if they cannot provide the menu to you. There is nothing bad in asking!

Issue 2: The restaurant has a web page, but it’s not translated to English

First of all, there are a lot of plugins for your browsers which helps you to translate things right when you are on the page. Of course not 100% accurate but you can manage. Secondly, sometimes it is easy to understand some things even without translation, almost in every language menu is the same or something like a la cart, Carta, meni and etc. When you search for a specific dish, usually you also will be able to find it (like paella, pleskavica and etc). Until it’s not written with Chinese alphabet and you don’t speak Chinese, you can survive. 

Ask for advice

I think this is the best and easiest way in case you have people to ask for. However, it is again very subjective: we had some of the hosts who were recommending something very expensive for us, but they called it cheap; we also had some experiences when people said they liked the restaurant, but we didn’t enjoy it that much. So there will be always different opinions on things, so you have to choose a happy medium.

Save good places in favorites on Google maps and write there notes 

Google made a very good feature (however, for me it works only on phone so far) – when you want to save the place in favorites, you can write there some notes so then when you check it on the map you can directly see all the notes about the place. I usually write things I wanted to try there with the price for it. 

Be open for adjustments 

Since we don’t make a whole timetable of when and where we will be it is quite hard to say for 100% that we will visit all the places I’ve found. So I usually find more of them in different parts of the city and then based on our state of hungriness and place we are right now we choose where to go. Also since I’ve mentioned before, you can get some advice on really good places from your hosts or local people you will suddenly meet, which sometimes can be much better than any research since those people know the city much better. 

Don’t forget to check the tipping system in your travel destination

I think it is very useful to know this information even if you are not checking any restaurants in advance. For example, we got into this situation several times in Italy, wherein the menus there was one price and after they gave us a bill there was automatically some % of tips included. The same lesson we have learned when traveling in Barcelona. So it is good to have an overview and not be surprised after if you will see a different price. Plus, this is also why I started to check some restaurants in advance because you never can trust the quality and service of those nice-looking places where all the waitresses are trying to catch you on street and promising you the best food and prices. 

Some of my examples of good findings 

  • Pizzeria Davidshall (Davidshallsgatan 23, Malmö, Sweden) – As I’ve mentioned before, it was pretty hard for us to be on a budget in Sweden. Moreover, it was hard to find out what prices do they have in this place and what are the options. The only place I found some pictures from was website Yelp and there were just a few of them, from which I understood that it is a Greek restaurant with pitas, some salads, and pizzas. Prices vary from 8 to 10 euros, however, it was one of the cheapest options and in the end, it turned out incredibly tasty. The owner served us himself with 2 huge pizzas after which we didn’t have any other food of the day plus gave us to try some traditional tzatziki – white sauce with some herbs and cucumber. 
  • Wok Republic (Francuska 5, Belgrade, Serbia) – Balkan countries have been a total paradise because it is cheap for us so it is much easier to find good places and also much more diversity of food we can have. I found this place which looked very authentic and they had amazing noodles and rice for 4-5 euros. They’ve got a pretty nice website with the menu there.
Traveling guy and tasty wok in Belgrade
  • Fitness House (Bulevar Partizanski Odredi 40, Skopje, North Macedonia) – Sometimes during the trips, I really miss some healthy food, because usually it is not the cheapest and with one salad you (or at least me) will not be full for a very long time. But if I wouldn’t search in advance I would never find this nice restaurant with a variety of healthy dishes for 4-5 euros per dish. 
Healthy omlette in Macedonia
  • La Tasqueta de Blai (Carrer de Blai, 17, Barcelona, Spain) – If you are in Spain you have to try famous Spanish tapas and pintxos. In my article 15 lessons I’ve learned while traveling in Barcelona I’ve mentioned the difference between pintxos and tapas, so we had pintxos and 1 piece there cost either 1 euro or 1.8 if it was very fancy. With 5-6 of them, you can be pretty full for dinner time.

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