Eating while traveling abroad on a student budget requires strategic planning and resourcefulness. It isn’t a simple means of looking up the fun and trendy spots on social media or blogs and choosing to go to all of those. Smaller budgets also tend to mean that it’s sacrifices have to be made on whether you choose to one activity or another; meaning you can’t go to a fun and unique activity in the morning and then also go to the local foods cooking class in the evening. You have to decide what you care most about doing and seeing on your trip.

Why small student budgets create travel hurdles

Traveling abroad with a small budget poses multifaceted challenges for students. Limited financial resources often result in constrained dining options, hindering the exploration of local cuisine and unique dining experiences. Budgetary constraints may lead to choosing more affordable accommodations, potentially lacking communal spaces conducive to culinary exploration. Additionally, students may miss out on cultural events, cooking classes, and social interactions, impacting the overall richness of their travel experience. The stress of constant budget management and the potential compromise on nutritional quality due to financial limitations add to the complexities. Balancing the desire for a fulfilling travel experience with financial constraints requires careful planning and adaptability, as unexpected expenses and limited transportation options further contribute to the intricacies of student travel on a small budget.

Top tips for eating during student budget travels

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your culinary experience without breaking the bank:

Local markets and grocery stores

A produce and fruit stall in a street market in an Italian city. Street markets are great spots for travelers to visit when eating on a small student budget.

Local markets and grocery stores are great resources for students traveling abroad on a budget. These venues offer affordable fresh produce and snacks, allowing students to prepare simple and cost-effective meals. The availability of budget-friendly items helps stretch limited funds, enabling students to explore local flavors without overspending. Additionally, the experience of shopping in these markets provides an authentic cultural immersion and a chance to interact with the local community.

Street food adventures

Opting for street food vendors is advantageous for students on a budget while traveling abroad. Street food is often affordable, offering a cost-effective way to enjoy local flavors. These vendors provide a quick and convenient dining option, allowing students to explore a variety of dishes without breaking the bank. Seeking recommendations from locals ensures both budget-friendliness and a genuine culinary experience.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast)

Without a continental hotel breakfast, that morning meal is just another influence on the budget. And if you aren’t the type that can handle skipping eating in the morning, you’re definitely looking for ways to keep that cheap. Fortunately, there are tons of options for “breakfasty” foods that are small and portable. These means you can stock up on things like granola bars, instant oats, or cereal before traveling, add them into the suitcase, and eat them along the way. Then add a cheap snack like local fruits, yogurt, and coffees and you’ll have yourself a nice inexpensive meal to start the day

Pro tip: The space that your breakfast options took in your luggage on the way there is now your space for souvenirs on the way home.

Picnic perks

A woman lays on a blanket with a picnic spread next to here along the river in front of the 
Eiffel Tower in Paris.

So you want to go have a cute and aesthetic meal in a nice plan where you’re sitting. But all the restaurants and cafes in the area are pricey. And your student budget tells you that that just won’t happen. This doesn’t mean you have to forfeit your meal with a view goals to save money. Instead, consider taking a picnic to a scenic spot or a park with items you’ve grabbed from the local market. Not only is it cheaper, but it also allows you to savor your meal in beautiful surroundings. Basically a win-win for student budget eating.

Hostel kitchens

Hostel kitchens are valuable resources for students on a budget while traveling abroad. These communal facilities allow students to prepare their own meals, significantly cutting down on dining expenses. Cooking in hostel kitchens provides a cost-effective alternative to eating out, enabling students to utilize local ingredients and savor homemade dishes. Additionally, the shared space fosters social interactions, creating opportunities for cultural exchange and shared culinary experiences among fellow travelers.

Daily specials and happy hours

Group of friends gathered at an outdoor pub restaurant, enjoying drinks during happy hour at bar.

Daily specials and happy hours can have a significant impact on students looking to save money while eating abroad. Many restaurants and cafes offer discounted prices during specific hours or on certain days, allowing students to enjoy their favorite meals at a fraction of the regular cost. This is a strategic way for budget-conscious travelers to dine out without straining their finances. Taking advantage of these deals not only stretches the budget but also provides the opportunity to explore a variety of local cuisines without compromising on quality. Students can plan their meals around these promotions, making dining out a more accessible and enjoyable aspect of their travel experience.

Student discounts

You’ll only have access to student discounts for so long, and then never again unfortunately. So you might as well make the most of it. Companies give discounts to students because they know that their budgets are generally smaller than working adults and want to help them still have all the experiences. So make the most of being young and let businesses help pick up your tab. That way you can still have all the fun eating out experiences while managing your student budget responsibly.

Keep in mind that not every business will have student discounts. Depending on where you are, businesses will sometimes have a sticker on the door or window outside showing they do (although this is most common in college towns). You can also find lists and articles online on businesses with good student discounts. But when in doubt, just carry your student ID with you so that you are ready and just ask! So long as you remain polite about it, you won’t be hurting anyone’s feeling asking about it.

Food apps and vouchers

Students traveling abroad on a small budget can leverage food apps and vouchers to maximize savings on their eating needs. Whether you scan apps and articles for lists of all the discount options, or you download apps specific to food chain restaurants you love – both are great budget options. Having the apps to restaurants you frequent is a great way to see different promos and discounts they are running. Plus, many offer rewards programs that help you earn points towards discounts later. Additionally, students can seek out vouchers or discount codes either through these apps or through local promotions, allowing them to enjoy discounts or special offers when dining out. By staying vigilant for such opportunities, students can make informed choices, ensuring that their culinary experiences remain enjoyable without straining their limited budgets.

Cultural exchange

A traveler drinks from their reusable water bottle on the go, so that they can save money on eating while traveling on their student budget.

Sometimes the foods we see the most of social media and think of as /the/ food of the destination are more of a tourist thing than a local thing. And we all know that tourists things tend to come with tourist (ie expensive) price tags. Instead, engage with locals while you are traveling and learn from them about traditional, budget-friendly dishes that they eat. Or you can opt to attend local events or cooking classes to gain insight into cost-effective dining options. Both of these can help you to shop smart at the grocery store and local market. And it means that even if you’re saving money cooking for yourself instead of eating out, you can still eat local cuisine.

Water wisdom

Saving money while traveling abroad can be as simple as opting for water instead of more expensive bottled beverages. Invest in a reusable water bottle and refill it regularly to stay hydrated at a fraction of the cost. Look for public water fountains, refill stations, or use tap water in areas with safe drinking water. However, exercise caution and ensure the water is potable to avoid health risks. By prioritizing water consumption over more pricey bottled beverages travelers can cut down on expenses. And if you’re able to use a reusable bottle where you’re traveling, you’ll cut expenses further and promote environmental sustainability, too.

Navigating eating expenses while traveling abroad on a student budget can indeed pose challenges. Limited financial resources may restrict dining options and hinder the exploration of local cuisines. However, it’s crucial for students to recognize that eating is just one facet where budget-conscious decisions can be made. There are various other areas, such as accommodation, transportation, and entertainment, where strategic planning and resourcefulness can contribute to an enjoyable and affordable travel experience. By adopting a holistic approach to managing their student budget, travelers can strike a balance between savoring the culinary delights of a new destination and responsibly controlling their overall spending.