The 10 Best Places To Travel for Foodies on a Budget

Solo female traveler has fun on Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand.
Boogich / Getty Images

Traveling is all about seeing the sights of faraway lands and soaking in the local culture – and that includes the foods native to the region. That’s especially important for self-described “foodies.”

It’s easy to find good prices for transportation and lodging to an international destination, but it’s tougher to figure out where you can sample regional cuisine that still fits your budget. So GOBankingRates turned to those who specialize in travel – and local cuisine – to find some of the best spots for foodies to travel on a budget.

Their responses? A smattering of spots that will keep travelers full and happy – without breaking the bank – across the continents.

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Asia

Vietnam

Throughout the country, pho is the go-to.

“It is a Vietnamese soup dish consisting of broth, rice, noodles, herbs and meat that really warms the heart,” said Craig Zapatka, the co-founder of destination travel company elsewhere. “Cost in almost any location will be less than $3 USD. Some of the more upscale and modern restaurants will charge more.”

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Thailand

“Without a doubt, one of the most exciting places to eat is Thailand, and being one of the most visited countries, flights are typically good value wherever you are flying from,” said Luke Charny, the co-founder of A Chef’s Tour.

“Isaan food, the cuisine from the northeast region of the country, near Laos, is some of the most exciting – think grilled marinated meats smoking over barbecues, spicy som tum salads that start with unripe green papaya and pounded with everything from fried shrimps to funky fish sauce, larbs made from minced pork tossed with fresh mint, toasted ground rice and lime juice and spicy soups. Issan food is a sharing style with small dishes placed all over the table along with sticky rice. It’s some of the cheapest — around 30-50THB (or 90 cents to $1.20 in U.S. dollars). And if travelers don’t want to travel north to the region, good Isaan food is found on street carts and small eateries across the capital, Bangkok.”

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Malaysia

“Go to Ipoh city, Malaysia, to get amazing food on a budget,” said Ruiz Asri, the editor of Honest Food Talks.”The signature dish is Nasi Ganja Ipoh, which is a plate of spiced fried chicken, house sambal pickled egg, a side of sliced cucumbers served with steamed rice. All this for just $2.50 per plate.”

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India

“It would take a lifetime to truly understand the regional food here,” Charny said, but he suggested one specific dish in the city of Kolkata for travelers.

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“They can’t leave without trying the city’s famous katha roll –roasted meat from a skewer wrapped in a paratha,” he said, estimating the cost at a maximum of about $1.35 in U.S. dollars.

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Africa

Morocco

Here, tagine is the dish to order, Zapatka said.

“Slow-cooked savory stews made with meat, poultry or fish are cooked alongside veggies, aromatic spices and dried fruit such as an apricot. All these ingredients are served in, well, a tagine. A tagine is a ceramic cooking bowl and top that maintains a uniquely moist and hot environment for the dish being cooked. As the food cooks, steam rises into the cone and then falls back into the dish. Cost for a tagine is typically less than $6 USD at mid-range restaurants.”

Charny said travelers to Marrakech, in western Morocco, will find more than tagines.

“Dig around a little deeper and there are plenty of other dishes to try,” he said. “Smoky liver skewers roasting over charcoal, soothing harira bean soup and pastilla, shredded chicken with spices layered in thin filo pastry. Away from the tourist traps, street and local food starts around 30 MAD ($3.23 USD).”

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Ethiopia

“Some of the best destinations for budget-conscious foodies are in Ethiopia. The country has a diverse cuisine with unique spices, tastes, and touches that are not available to travelers in other parts of the world,” said Becky Moore, the founder of Global Grasshopper.”The signature food in Ethiopia that I recommend is beef wat. A dish of this type might cost $5 to $10 depending on the restaurant and the amount ordered. Beef wat is a traditional Ethiopian dish that consists of sauteed beef in the wat sauce, the wat sauce being spiced clarified butter. There are various regional variations, which are differentiated by the use of local herbs and spices.”

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South America

Colombia

This is where you’ll find the arepa, which is a thick dough, kind of like a tortilla, topped with meats and veggies.

“Plopped on top is dealers’ choice of braised meats, sauteed local vegetables and hot sauce,” Zapatka said. “They can come as extravagant as you’d like, but you’ll find locals eat them more bare, with a single topping. Cost is $2 to $4 for a plate of two to three arepas.”

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Peru

Travel blogger Denise Cruz from Wander Her Way is enthusiastic in her recommendation.

“For foodies on a budget, no place beats Peru,” she said. “Peru is surprisingly inexpensive to travel. And the quality and variety of foods and flavors will delight anyone who appreciates a delicious meal.”

“Peruvian cuisine has many signature dishes: ahi de gallina, anticuchos, lomo saltado, arroz con pato, pisco sour, and endless types of fish and ceviche dishes. For the true foodies, there’s also cuy and chicha, the infamous Guinea pig dish and the traditional fermented corn ale.”

“But my favorite thing in Peru is sushi. Japanese immigrants combined their traditional cuisine with the local Peruvian fish and ingredients and the culinary result is absolute magic.”

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Europe

Spain

“Europe is not expensive if you know where to go,” Zapatka said. “In Spain, forget the paella and pair your Rioja red with a smorgasbord of northern Spain tapas (Pintxos). Each of these little creations, often served on bread, usually with a cured ham or puree of olives or roasted vegetables costs around 1 Euro or less. And don’t expect the wine to exceed 3 Euro.” A single Euro is worth about $1.14 these days.

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Italy

“Rome is the perfect place for foodies on a budget. You can sample local fare for just a few euros, thanks to the city’s rich street food tradition,” said Molly Fitzpatrick, an American living in Italy who runs the Luggage and Life blog.

“One of Rome’s most popular street foods is a relative newcomer to the eternal city: the trapizzino. Available exclusively at its namesake locations in the Testaccio, Trastevere and Ponte Milvio neighborhoods, a trapizzino is a pizza pocket that’s split in two and served with fillings that range from eggplant parmesan to chicken cacciatore to meatballs to beef tongue with salsa verde. At just 4 Euros — less than $5 – trapizzini are easy on the wallet and heavenly on the tongue.”

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About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.
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