Eating for Cheap while Traveling

In order to keep our budget under control while we travel, Matt and I make a real effort to reign in our spending on food. Between getting meals for cheap and staying at inexpensive hostels, we stretch our budget far. Here are my top tips for eating for less money while you travel.

 

  1. Use Local Grocery Stores: When Matt and I arrive at a hostel, we immediately ask where the closest grocery store is. You should look for a real grocery store too. That’s going to be the cheapest. Convenience stores are great for when you need them but they definitely won’t be as cheap as a typical market. In the grocery store, pick things that you will have to cook for yourself. Anything pre-made will, once again, be more expensive. Matt and I enjoy cooking so the task of making a meal isn’t a task at all. Matt and I have some basic staples that we are always buying. Cheese and bread always fill us up and usually are a part of every meal for us. We also buy large containers of yogurt and share them. Typically we also buy tomatoes and eggs. Plus odds and ends that we think of or need for a specific meal. We haven’t been spending that much money on food so it seems to be working. You might notice that we don’t buy any meat. I’m a vegetarian and Matt’s willingly along for the ride. Because of this, I’m not quite sure how buying meat would affect the budget. I always found it more costly than the other items that I would buy when I did buy meat. So, if you can handle it, maybe stay away from meat if you want to cut costs.
  2. Leave Wiggle Room to Indulge: Everyone has their favorite types of food. Trying new food and drinks is also a big part of traveling for me. I have room in my budget to eat new pastries or other traditional (vegetarian) fare while Matt always leaves some money for trying local beers. If food isn’t that big of a deal to you, you could probably just strike this tip completely but I know for a lot of people (including myself) it is important to have money to indulge in new types of cuisines.
  3. Don’t Bother Stressing Over Food In Between Destinations: About every five days or so Matt and I find ourselves moving to a new location. We try to bring cheap snacks with us but we also don’t stress if we don’t have time to buy something in advance. Travel days are definitely part of the wiggle room in our budget. Usually it only ends up being one expensive meal if we are traveling by plane. When we travel by bus, we are sure to collect some snacks in advance because there aren’t any stops along the way, at least for the trips we’ve done so far. Food from travel locations can be expensive so we rarely buy a full meal. (The only full meal we’ve done so far was during a ten hour layover in Iceland.) We tend to survive off snacks until we can get to our next grocery store. We also are always willing to spend some money on some good coffee while we are traveling. It makes the lack of sleep more bearable.
  4. Try Farmers’ Markets: Farmers’ markets are a great way to try out local cuisine and produce while also staying within your budget. The prices can be comparable or better to the grocery stores (unless you’re getting something really fancy). You can also find really high quality homemade goods that taste awesome. For example, not all of the baked goods at grocery stores are up to par with farmers’ market baked goods.
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Awesome Objects from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is awesome. This sprawling museum hosts everything from weapons to wedding dresses and everything in between. The cost of admission when I went was fifteen euros per adult. If you spend the time there, it is totally worth it. Matt and I spent a good four to five hours there exploring every floor and gallery. The more I explore museums in other countries, the more I recognize my limited knowledge of history and art in other countries. It’s great to be in a museum that is focused on a culture other than the USA’s because it gives me an opportunity to learn so much more. Assuredly you see the big names like Van Gogh and Picasso in these museums but you also get much more information about the particular country that you find the museum in.

 

Here are some of my top object picks that I found interesting enough to take a picture of while we visited the Rijksmuseum:

 

Detail of Embellished Wedding Dress

Detail of a wedding dress with a skirt embellished with glass bead pendants. This dress was made in 1882 by Lina de Goede.

Detail of a wedding dress with a skirt embellished with glass bead pendants. This dress was made in 1882 by Lina de Goede.

 

Tea Chest

Tea was really expensive so they would often put locks on tea chests. The keyhole is covered by a ribbon lock plate on this chest.

This is a tea chest made by Pieter Adolf Brune in 1785.

This is a tea chest made by Pieter Adolf Brune in 1785.

 

Fir

Cozens most likely used Switzerland as a model for this landscape.

Fir by John Robert Cozens, 1789.

Fir by John Robert Cozens, 1789.

 

Table Orrery

Device shows relative position and movement of sun, moon, and planets.

Table Orrery made by Hartog van Laun circa 1800-1808.

Table Orrery made by Hartog van Laun circa 1800-1808.

 

Facial Casts

The Dutch anthropologist Kleiweg de Zwaan conducted research on ethnic groups in the Dutch East Indies. These casts are the product of that research and colonialism.

JP Kleiweg de Zwaan's facial casts of Nias Islanders. These casts were made after 1910.

JP Kleiweg de Zwaan’s facial casts of Nias Islanders. These casts were made after 1910.

 

Summer Luxuriance

Summer Luxuriance by Jacobus van Looy, c. 1900.

Summer Luxuriance by Jacobus van Looy, c. 1900.

 

The Battle of the Downs

Detail of the Battle of the Downs by Willem van de Velde I. Made in 1659.

Detail of the Battle of the Downs by Willem van de Velde I. Made in 1659.

 

Vase with Chrysanthemum

Detail of a Vase with a Chrysanthemum, 1914-1915

Detail of a Vase with a Chrysanthemum, 1914-1915

 

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Please note that the featured image is a detail of Willem Van de Velde I’s The Battle of the Downs, 1659.

8 Things You Should Know About Brussels

When Matt and I arrived in Brussels, he wasn’t impressed. We did arrive in the evening so he didn’t get the best glimpses of the city while we looked for an open restaurant to relieve our hunger. We saw a couple fighting aggressively in the street (thankfully they stopped before it escalated to the point where Matt would’ve had to step in). There were more sirens than Matt had heard our whole trip (he’s very aware of those things). The streets seemed dirty. I told Matt to try not to let his first impressions ruin our visit to that city. I was convinced that it would be a great experience and it was. Brussels is beautiful (though admittedly it is a bit dirty). And it provides tons of great food to its lucky visitors. Here are my tips for when you visit the lovely city of Brussels:

 

  1. Get Ready to Indulge. There are tons of beers, fries, waffles, and chocolates that you need to try when in Brussels. Just give in to it. It’s a great experience for everyone, foodie or not. I accepted my fate, enjoyed my time, and started to eat healthier again once we left the city.
  2. The Belgian Flag Isn’t Normal. Notice how the flag is flying vertically instead of horizontally in the picture below? That’s how the Belgian flag is supposed to fly but it is placed horizontal to meet international standards.

    Belgian Flag

    Belgian Flag

  3. Buy Some Chocolate From the Grocery Stores. Don’t get me wrong, you should go and indulge at all of the chocolatiers around Brussels but you can get chocolate that is just as good from the grocery stores. Matt and I picked up chocolate from there and saved money. I recommend Dolfin’s Masala Chai chocolate bar. It’s awesome.
  4. Not All Belgian Fries Are Fresh. Our walking tour guide reminded us of this. The tour guide recommended Fritland which cuts its fries fresh each morning. No frozen fries there. Matt and I did some quality control for you all out there. We can confirm that Fritland’s fries are indeed fresh potatoes. Also, the locals eat their fries with mayo or tartar sauce. If you want to eat like them, give it a try. It’s great.
  5. Visit the Waffle Corner. Right near the Manneken Pis (a major tourist attraction that is simply a statue of a boy peeing into a fountain) is a lovely corner with waffles that cost one Euro each. Toppings are extra. I enjoyed the waffles plain which is how the locals eat them. I tried one with powdered sugar too but it’s a bit messy. If you get a plain waffle you can walk around and stuff your face simultaneously. No need to step to the side and wait until you’re finished eating to enjoy the city’s sites.
  6. Planete Chocolat Gives an Awesome Chocolate Talk. Matt and I looked into taking a chocolate tour of Brussels. It was a ton of money so we decided to just visit the big chocolate places on our own and try their confectionary wonders. For a mere seven Euros each, you can go to Planete Chocolat and do their chocolate talks on the weekends. You get five pieces of chocolate, a hot chocolate (a legit one, mind you), a chocolate making demo, and information on chocolate’s history. Totally worth it. Plus they make their chocolate all by hand. I’m sure that the commercial chocolatiers can’t say that.
  7. Viva Brussels! This was the awesome free walking tour that Matt and I took the first day that we really started exploring the city. Of course, they ask you to pay what you can or what you think the tour is worth. It was worth a lot in our opinion. We were able to see all the tourist attractions and learn local tips at the same time. I’d suggest it to anyone visiting Brussels. It definitely helps get you oriented. Plus, I love the tour companies that let anyone have access to a good tour. I believe that the amount of money in your pocket shouldn’t limit on your ability to go on a really nice tour. (It can certainly feel that way for those of us traveling on a tight and small budget.) Viva Brussels delivered an impressive product.
  8. Get Beer from the Grocery Stores. Just as with the chocolate, you can still get great beers at the grocery stores. Matt loves trying new beers so he went this route to save some money. Don’t bother buying beers from the tourist shops. They just jack up the prices and you can probably get the same beers at the grocery stores. Matt did this with some of the Trappist beers and saved two to three Euros a bottle as opposed to the tourist shops.

 

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If you like all the food advice I had in this post or if you just like food in general (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t), check out my food blog on Tumblr called Ravenous Wander. That’s where you’ll find more detailed information and pictures of my food adventures during my backpacking trip.

6 Tips for Visiting Amsterdam

Amsterdam is an awesome city. The canals are beautiful and the culture is rich. The city accepts everyone and, it seems, all of their personal and diverse beliefs. Amsterdam made me feel welcome. I highly recommend Amsterdam as a travel destination. That being sad, here are a few tips for traveling in Amsterdam:

 

 

  • Leave for the Anne Frank House early. Don’t fret if you can’t reserve tickets in advance. (I tried to but they were sold out for the whole week I was there.) Just plan to arrive at the museum early as a long line builds and is sustained throughout the day. I arrived there at opening time and waited about forty-five minutes in line. It’s totally worth the wait though. You get to see Anne’s original diary which is very moving. Plus, it’s one of the cheaper visits you’ll do in Amsterdam at a mere nine euros each for adults.
  • Definitely take a canal tour. Matt and I splurged a bit to take an open boat canal tour and it was worth it. Amsterdam is totally different when seen from in the canals. Plus it offers great opportunities for different photos that you wouldn’t get standing on the side of the water. And the whole great memories thing too. Don’t forget that you can bring some booze on your tour. I brought a shake which was just as wonderful on a hot day in Amsterdam.
  • The Van Gogh museum is packed and kind of not worth it. Matt and I each paid fifteen euros to get into this museum and we were disappointed. The place was so packed that we really didn’t get to see the art. Matt and I love Van Gogh so we thought the trip would be worth it. We dutifully went through each floor and read the text panels to make the pricey visit worth it but it was just too crowded. Go on a slow day or don’t go at all unless you really, really, really love Van Gogh.
  • The canals are beautiful at night so you should probably go there. Matt and I walked the canals almost every night we were in Amsterdam. Plus we stuffed our face while doing it. Amsterdam doesn’t go to bed until early in the morning so there are plenty of opportunities to people watch and eat some food. Matt and I sat by the canal and dangled our legs over the edge. It was fun and beautiful.
  • Watch out for bicyclists. Having lived in two cities (DC and Syracuse), I am used to the occasional bicyclist. I’m not used to the flocks of bicyclists that you’ll find in Amsterdam. It feels very chaotic when you first arrive. The bikes definitely pose more danger than cars. Cars yield. Bikes don’t. They’ll just go right through a crowd of pedestrians who have the right of way. So double check before you walk out into the street.
  • Rent a boat. I wish I had done this. You don’t need a license to drive a boat around the canals. The police even put up easy to read signs so you’ll know what rules to follow while you operate your boat. I’d say just be cautious when you do it. It seems like it would have been a really fun experience and a cool way to see Amsterdam.

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Above is a cool sign that police post in the canals. You don’t need a license to drive a boat. Heck, you don’t even need to read! Boat plus alcohol equals collision and lots of swearing.