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How to Dine out While Traveling (and Not Break the Bank)

From flights to lodging and extra activities, traveling can turn into a huge expense. Even if you’re trying to travel light, you still need to eat. Luckily, there are ways to dine out while vacationing and keep your bank account happy.

Here are six ways to eat well without breaking the bank.

1. Get out of the Tourist Trap

You know that one restaurant with all the tourists lining up outside? It’s a safe bet you’ll pay more there than if you ate at the authentic Thai spot across the street. To save money and eat well, you need to travel outside the tourist bubble and find new places to grab a meal. Ask the locals about any restaurants they would recommend. Chances are, those off-the-beaten-path places will give you better food for a better price.

When you’re traveling abroad, American food is often more expensive than local dishes. For example, a gyro could cost only €2.50 in Greece, while a pizza in the same part of the country would cost €6. Even if you get sick of the local fare, try to avoid eating globalized food choices every day.

2. Read Local Reviews

Reviews are your best friend. If you aren’t having luck getting the locals to recommend spots, try different review sites and apps. Websites such as Eater help you find restaurant reviews around the world from locals. Apps such as Yelp or TripAdvisor have an “all language” option which will help you find some of the best food travel destinations. Use Google Translate to decode the reviews and find where you’ll eat dinner that night.

3. Take Advantage of Street Food

Street food around the world isn’t all like the sketchy stands in New York City. Street chefs in South American, Asian and other countries around the world can whip up some delicious local foods. You can often find the same dishes from street vendors you would order in a restaurant. Make it a meal or a quick snack between breakfast and dinner to avoid paying for a full lunch.

4. Try Small Plates

If you’re traveling with friends, small plates are a great option to keep your restaurant bill down. It’s an excellent way to check out a variety of menu items at a restaurant while sampling another culture’s food. Order enough small plates for your group to have a few bites of each — chances are, you’ll feel full afterward, and your wallet will thank you.

5. Eat at “off ” Times

Another solution to save money while traveling is to try to eat at “off” times. Different restaurants and bars may offer more deals at times when fewer people are out. For example, a happy hour or late-afternoon special can help you find cheap drinks and appetizers. Local bakeries also have deals on bread at the end of the day when they can’t sell products the next morning.

6. Make Lunch the Main Meal

Lunch is typically cheaper than dinner, which can help if there’s a particular restaurant you want to splurge at. For example, that famous restaurant with the incredible atmosphere will have slightly lower prices at lunch, and you’ll get just a slightly smaller portion than if you had gone for dinner.

Plan to Dine on a Budget

When you want to eat well on a budget, you need to plan. Look at reviews, talk to friends who have traveled in the same area and figure out where you want to eat. Then, figure out how to get the best meals for the lowest price to make your vacation one you will always remember.