7 Simple Ways to Save Money on Food While on Holiday

save money on food when travelling

Joanne Poh



One of the main goals of a Singaporean on holiday is to eat. In fact, when I look through some people’s holiday photos, I can’t even tell if they’ve been to another country or just a bunch of restaurants.

Given the large appetite of the average Singapore vacationer, there is a lot of potential for cost savings. Whether you’re gorging yourself on pasta in Italy or sushi in Japan, here are some tips for enjoying the local cuisine without bankrupting yourself.

1. Visit Restaurants During Lunch

If you are like many Singaporeans, you descend upon a new city with a list of restaurants to try. To save money, schedule the more expensive restaurants for lunchtime.

Many restaurants have a cheaper lunch menu that’s significantly cheaper than the dinner menu. Also, if you spend more during lunch, that might guilt trip you into shopping less during the day.

2. Use a Credit Card That Rewards You For Overseas Spending

Unless you’ve already changed thousands of dollars worth of foreign currency, you’re probably going to need to use your credit card at some point.

Instead of reaching into your wallet and using your “usual” credit card, do some research to find the best credit cards for overseas spending.

Some credit cards give you a higher percentage of rebates on overseas spending, while others enable you to chock up more frequent flyer miles than usual. Guess what? You can compare credit cards right here on MoneySmart.

3. Check for Deals on Groupon

If the destination you’re hitting has water, electricity and fine dining restaurants, there’s an 80% chance they have Groupon, too, as well as a whole bunch of other coupon websites.

If the destination you’re hitting has water, electricity and fine dining restaurants, there’s an 80% chance they have Groupon, too, as well as a whole bunch of other coupon websites.

Groupon is a great place to score deals if you’re heading Canada, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the UK and the US, since their sites are in English.

4. Bring Along a Water Bottle and Small Snacks

How many times have you ducked into a crappy restaurant full of tourists because you were starving and your travel companions couldn’t wait any longer?

This problem is easily solved by bringing along a bottle of water and a small packet of nuts or similar snacks. This little trick alone will help to keep hunger- and thirst-induced bad moods at bay and give you the perseverance to look for a restaurant that’s actually worth the money. 

5. Grocery Stores Are Your Friend

Even if your accommodation doesn’t have kitchen facilities, it’s always good to stock your fridge with some edibles. Keeping a few packets of Tao Kae Noi in the hotel will give you something to much on at night instead of resorting to room service.

Besides, grocery stores overseas are great places to get low cost souvenirs for friends back home. 1 euro packets of organic pasta from an Italian grocery store sure make better gifts than made-in-China Leaning Tower of Pisa fridge magnets.

6. Avoid Tourist Traps

Any restaurant in a central area close to major tourist destinations could be a tourist trap. These are usually either incredibly expensive or cheap but incredibly bad. Here are some of the more obvious signs:

  • The name of the restaurant contains the name of the country or city you’re in or a major tourist destination. Hypothetical examples include “Eiffel Tower Restaurant” or “Taste of China”.
  • There’s a special tourist menu, which usually contains Japanese or Chinese script.
  • It’s located right beside a famous tourist site.
  • It’s either empty or full of tourists.

7. Eat Street Food

If you spend all your time cooped up in air-conditioned restaurants, you’re missing out, seriously. In many parts of the world, sitting on a plastic stool by the side of the road, mopeds whizzing by as you slurp noodles from a street vendor, is part and parcel of the local experience.

Whether you’re enjoying spring rolls wrapped before your eyes in Luang Prabang, gnawing on yakitori at a yatai in Fukuoka or nibbling on shrimp from a food truck in Hawaii, these experiences all have one thing in common—they’re cheap.

Do you pay top dollar on food when you travel? Share with us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.