Affordable culinary destinations are an excellent choice for travelers that don’t really enjoy luxury travel. But, on the other hand, they want to get the most out of their vacation and experience interesting things to do while not burning holes in their pockets. Don’t think it’s possible? Think again!
The key is to look for alternative destinations that are not yet overrun by tourists and, as a result, don’t come with a hefty price tag (read: ‘tourist prices’).
Fortunately for you, here is sharing a list of breathtaking yet wallet-friendly budget culinary destinations that may come in handy when planning your next gastronomic adventure!
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Mexico is known for being an affordable yet wonderful destination to visit and it’s within easy reach from the US! With plenty of amazingly beautiful beaches, interesting archaeological site and fun activities that don’t cost an arm and a leg, Tulum is a great choice for a culinary vacation on a budget.
The Mayan ruins are very popular and are usually incredibly crowded. But if you wake up early and show up before 9:30 am, you are likely to avoid the crowds. Extremely well preserved and having its own beach, the ancient remains at Tulum will surely be the highlight of your trip.
Food-wise, there are plenty of choice for your taste buds. Make sure not to miss tasting chevice, made from fresh raw fish or shrimp marinated in lime juice, tacos al pastor, which have their origin in Mexico’s Lebanese immigrants of the 1930s and are made from meat roasted on a vertical spit, sopa de lima, the local cure-all-chicken-soup or cochinita pibil, the local version of pulled pork.
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If you are craving some European flair but lack the funds to fly to Europe, head to Montreal. With lots of good restaurants, stunning architecture, and extensive public transportation, Montreal is an excellent choice for a culinary vacation destination that won’t break the bank.
Montreal offers a lot of free things to do, which helps a lot when the budget is a concern. You can visit Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, enjoy one of the many festivals which take place throughout the year and explore the city’s Underground Pedestrian Network.
When it comes to food choices in Montreal, you will have an endless option. Try the many poutine options, such as fois gras poutine, reggae poutine, poutine grilled cheese, or go for fish & chips, and finish the meal with a marshmallow and Nutella pizza or maybe a banana, bacon, and Nutella waffle. If you are after dishes from around the world, try beef pho, or falafel.
Jamaica, The Caribbean
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With low-cost carriers such as JetBlue offering flights from the US into Montego Bay and a variety of affordable accommodation and activities, Jamaica is a very interesting option for a budget-friendly culinary vacation in the Caribbean.
Spend your time lounging on the beach, snorkeling or hiking to amazing waterfalls.
Located only 45 min drive from Montego Bay, you can find Falmouth and the amazing water which turns blue because of the microorganisms which live in it. And yes, you can swim in the water.
As for the foods, you must try in Jamaica, jerk chicken is definitely one you should not miss. Treat your taste buds to callaloo, which are steamed vegetables with onion, garlic, tomato, and thyme, and don’t forget out the patty, and the plantains. Finish the meal with gizzada, a flavorful dessert with a gooey sweet coconut center, and coffee.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
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While flights to Cambodia aren’t exactly cheap, once you get here – or anywhere in Southeast Asia – you’ll be happy to know that you’ll get your money’s worth. The low cost of living makes both accommodation and food very affordable.
Siem Reap is famous for being home to the ancient temple of Angkor Wat. Make sure to visit it for an amazing sunrise experience. In Siem Reap, take time to tour the colorful markets. If you are craving a bit of French colonial style, head to Battambang, about 3 hours by car from Siem Reap.
Cambodian cuisine, also known as Khmer food, has many influences. The French influence comes from being a former colony, while the neighboring Thailand and Vietnam also had strong influences. You must try the fish amok, steamed coconut fish in banana leaves, samlor machu trey, sweet and sour soup with fish, char kroeung sach ko , stir-fried lemongrass beef, or nom banh chok , Khmer noodles.
Located only 85 miles from Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, Eger is a gem worth exploring. Known for the locally produced wines and for being the last fortress to fall to the Turks, Eger is easily explored on foot.
The Castle is the highlight of the visit. Its exhibits will keep you busy for hours. The most interesting part – the underground fortification system – can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Spend some good hours in the castle and you get a crash course into Hungarian history. Good food, good wine, and delicious sweets accompany your stay in this charming Hungarian town.
The hearty Hungarian cuisine is particularly known for gulyás, a stew made from pork meat. Other traditional dishes which are a must-try include halászlé, fisherman’s soup, töltött káposzta, stuffed cabbage, and paprikás csirke, chicken paprikash. If you are craving something sweet, try túrógombóc, sweet cheese dumplings, bejgli, spiral strudel, dobostorta, dobos cake, or kürtőskalács, chimney cake.
Athens is one of the most affordable European capitals to visit. And it doesn’t lack interesting places to visit either. One of them is Anafiotika, an area in Plaka where you feel as if you are on the Cyclades, though you are enjoying a vacation in the city.
At the foot of the Acropolis, stands an area that gets overlooked by travelers, unless you have a friend in Athens to suggest visiting. The white-washed houses, the colorful window shutters, and the cats feel they shouldn’t be in this location. Mostly uninhabited nowadays, the houses were built by workers who came from Anafi, one of the islands part of the Cyclades group, and who wanted to keep their heritage alive. Take some time to talk on the narrow streets, take photos and just explore this interesting hidden gem, right in the heart of Athens.
Known for the healthy Mediterranean cuisine, Greece’s staple food is feta, a sharp goat, and sheep cheese, that can be found on top of the classic Greek salad, in spinach pies, and other hearty dishes. If you are on the go, try the gyro, which is a grilled meat served in a pita. Sit down to enjoy mousaka, or share some mezedes with friends (dolmades, tzatziki, etc).
Apulia (Italian: Puglia) is only one of Italy’s charming regions. The trullis – traditional small round stone houses with a conical roof – are its signature and Alberobello is its pearl. Within easy reach from Bari, the city is picture-perfect and will keep you busy for a good while.
While you can find accommodation in Alberobello, the affordable way to visit is a day trip from Bari. A train ticket costs only 9 euros round trip and the ride is quite scenic. The UNESCO protected area, where most of the trullis of Alberobello is located, looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. You cannot help but expect a gnome to pop from behind one of the houses! Take the time to walk on the streets that don’t have any shops or restaurants around because that’s where you can take interesting photos and really see the unique beauty of these houses.
The cuisine of Apulia is based on the traditions of cucina povera (poor kitchen) so you will find a lot of wild vegetables and plants in the dishes (wild chicory, wild arugula, etc). Pasta (especially orecchiette) is also very popular. Don’t miss trying melanzane ripiene (stuffed eggplant) and the cheeses (burrata, parmegiano, etc).
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Bratislava is the small and very charming capital city of Slovakia. Located on the Danube, Europe’s second-largest river, Bratislava is far from feeling like a capital city.
Devin Castle, located outside of the city and right on the Austrian border, is a great idea for a half day trip from Bratislava. You can reach it via a cruise on the Danube (for only 8 euros round trip). After touring the ruins and getting back to the city, enjoy one of the many affordable restaurants featuring local dishes. Within the city, the Old Town is a compact and scenic area, offering plenty of affordable things to do.
If you want to explore a larger capital city, both Vienna and Budapest are within easy reach by land from Bratislava.
The traditional Slovak cuisine is hearty and bares resemblance to the Hungarian one. The most famous local dish is bryndzové halušky, potato dumplings, served with sheep’s milk cheese. Other must-try dishes include kapustnica, a soup made with sausages and sauerkraut, lokše, baked potato pancakes, and the Hungarian goulash, a hearty pork stew.
Cris Puscas is a contributor writer for BookCulinaryVacations.com. Passionate about Mediterranean food and countries, she loved to explore affordable destinations and try new foods.