Being able to love the world’s cheap eats requires a little understanding. Embracing the simplicity of street food is important. We’re talking cheap and cheerful, a backpacker’s heaven, so please don’t hand over a dollar and expect gourmet excellence. You pay for what you get – most of the time.
The thing is, every so often, you’ll pay a little and get a whole lot more in return. The secret to finding the world’s best cheap eats is to eat your way through every market, every back street, every hawker and every ‘dai pai dong’ on earth. Never be afraid to try something for the first time, because it could turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
As the author and editor of The Smart Girl’s Travel Guide, it’s been my life mission to eat my way around the globe. As a self confessed over-eater (luckily with a great metabolism), I can say that I’ve found some of the best cheap eats around the world. Here I share some of my favourites…..
My Top 5 Cheap Eats in the World
Pad Thai Noodles in Bangkok
There really is no Pad Thai like street Pad Thai, and in Bangkok, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to eligible vendors. So why are the street vendors so much better than indoor establishments? Pad Thai vendors sell nothing else but Pad Thai, all day, every day, 365 days year – you get my drift? They have perfected the globally recognised Pad Thai and you will never taste a better noodle dish anywhere else. I guarantee you.
Pay around 25 Bhat (just over 50p) for a portion of noodle heaven. It doesn’t really get any cheaper than that, does it?
Ais Kacang and Aloe Vera Desserts in Singapore
Crushed ice, fresh fruit, colourful mango balls, generous chunks of soothing aloe vera jelly, topped with an indulgent scoop of ice cream or sweet condensed milk – does it get any cooler than this on a hot summer’s day? Singapore is famous for its food hawkers, and believe it or not, South East Asian desserts have a lot more to offer than rubbish broths and eggy sponge cake.
I found a great selection of savoury stalls and dessert vendors in the Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre. It’s a backpacker’s paradise and chubby man’s playground.
Lo Mai Fan (Sticky Rice) in Hong Kong
Lovingly steamed in banana leaves, this has got to be one of the most amazing comfort foods I have ever tasted in my life. Whether it’s hot, cold, windy, rainy or chucking it down with hail stones, Lo Mai Fan is just incredibly heartening. It’s not much to look at so don’t expect to see a beauty queen when you unravel the wet banana leaves. Just take in that smell (it’s pretty unique), add a dash of soy sauce and tuck into the gooey, glutinous delight.
Escargot in Marrakech
I love the chewy texture of snails. I don’t care how disgusting English nursery rhymes brand them; they are just lovely to me. Maybe it’s the Parisian-wannabe inside me that draws me to these shell dwellers, but whatever it is, it’s a treat to find delicious escargot at such a giveaway. Get the best of French cuisine at bargain prices in the night bazaars of Marrakech.
Watch out for the snake charmers, wade through the pickpockets, push past the con artists, and get yourself to an escargot vendor. If you haven’t been scammed of all your money yet, spend 6 Dirham on a bowl of escargot. That’s less than 40p a bowl – you wouldn’t get that in Paris now, would you?
Pylsur Hotdogs in Reykjavik
Iceland is ridiculously expensive. Those who know me will roll their eyes at me telling the same story again, but I spent £15 on a keyring. Yes, FIFTEEN whole pounds! On one small keyring! Anyway, that sets the scene. Even buying a sandwich in Iceland can upset your bank account, so these Pylsur hotdog stands should keep your energy levels up, day and night. Pylsur hotdogs are only 300 ISK (about £1.50) and they are just irresistible. I have no idea what makes them so appetising, but I can’t be too wrong if Bill Clinton loves them too.
About the Author:
Mags Yip is the author and editor of The Smart Girl’s Travel Guide. Her online budget travel guide covers South East Asia, Africa, America, Europe and the UK. She can slum it like the rest of us but Mags also has a weakness for luxury travel. Visit her blog to discover more about her experiences around the world.