Throughout my trip, there were times when even I was astounded by how little I was spending despite doing the whole backpacker thing for months and months. When I am away from home on a backpacking adventure, I rarely cook. It just doesn’t make sense because the food is generally amazing when you are on your hols, and also because it so often such great value. I guess that one of the great benefits of coming from London where everything is jaw-on-the-floor expensive is that there is so much that seems dirt cheap in comparison when you are abroad. Here are my three top destinations for eating on the cheap and a few recommendations for what to order.
India is of course #1. It is not only ridiculously cheap to eat the local food when you are on a trip to India, but in my opinion it is also the most delicious food in the world. I guess I have a slight bias because 1. I am from London where everybody eats very good Indian food on a regular basis, and 2. I am one quarter Bangladeshi and grew up eating more Bangladeshi and Indian food than most. But seriously, this is the one kind of cuisine that I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the remainder of my days. India is also incredibly big, and with so many local specialties to try, it’s near impossible to get bored of the food. And of course, it’s all dirt cheap, even when you go to the tourist haunts. My personal recommendations for eats in India would be idly and sambar (spongey pancakes with a fiery broth) for breakfast, some dal fry and chapatis for lunch, and a calorific but amazing portion of butter paneer masala for dinner.
Mexican is my second favourite kind of food following Indian, and it also happens to be pretty cheap while you are in Mexico. You might have to eat from street food vendors and from sprawling market stalls, but that is where the best food is located anyway. Of course, you might get a dodgy tum now and again but I reckon it’s a small price to pay for consuming the delicious food on offer in this amazing country. When in Mexico I like to start the day with Huevos Divorciados. Mexicans really like their eggs at breakfast time and this is a particularly special brekky dish consisting of two fried eggs, one smothered in red salsa, one smothered in green salsa, and divided by a line of chilaquiles. Lunch is the main meal of the day in Mexico, when I pig out on tortilla soup as well as a bunch of soft corn tacos, and at dinnertime I would snack on fresh grilled corn from the street covered in cheese and chilli – incredible.
I wasn’t such a fan of the food in southeast Asia, so when I arrived in Malaysia and actually enjoyed the food, I was ecstatic. In fairness, I pretty much ate all the food that had a leaning towards Indian cuisine, but it’s still a reason to return. And once again, the food here is incredibly cheap and the country is well known for having a diverse and exciting food culture on street stalls, in cafes, and in restaurants. For breakfast, I would have simple toast with kaya jam, which is a coconut jam, washed down with kopi chai, a mix of coffee and tea that sounds disgusting but is genuinely very drinkable. For lunch, grab a couple of pieces of roti canai, the enduringly popular chewy fried bread that comes served with curry, and for dinner you obviously need to slurp down a bowl of fragrant laksa.
And there you have it – my absolute favourite foods that are not going to leave your wallet empty. Finding the cheapest holidays to India, Mexico, and Malaysia are completely do-able if you think a little about what you are putting in your mouth.
This post is brought to you in collaboration with travelzoo.