Saturday, October 9, 2010

Spendthrift: Saving Money on Food in Europe

1.  If they have an English menu, then you will be paying a tourist price  (if it is butchered English and hand written, this is okay). For this, buy a translator book with a decent food section.

2.  If you can see a relevant landmark from the restaurant, then you will pay a tourist price.

3.  If you are sitting down, and it is not dinner, then you need to find somewhere else or stand up (We thought we were getting a cheap 8 euro pizza for lunch in Venice, but we were each charged 4 euros to sit down, meaning our pizza was 16 euros.  Almost every place will charge you to sit down, save the money for dinner.  You will want to sit down by that point.)

4.  For lunch, always grab something in a bar, like a slice of pizza or sandwich, and eat it standing if they charge to sit.  You can get a large cheese and salami baguette sandwich or a mozz, tomato, and lettuce (MLT) for around 2-3 Euros pretty much everywhere.  Pizza is cheaper.  If you are in Spain, then it is possible to be a complete hamitarian, eating small delicious ham sandwiches for next to nothing.

5.  When you are booking your room, always include breakfast, unless it is just ridiculously expensive (in this case, change hotels).  Breakfast is a damn near impossible meal to track down outside of Germany and the U.K. Most hotels will charge a princely sum if you did not include it when booking.  For example, I paid 5 extra Euros total per night for breakfast at a hotel in Rome.  If we were paying day of, it would be 18 each, 36 Euro total, Ouch.

6.  Bring Peanut Butter.  Buy bread, pretzels, or sesame sticks.  I also bring a box of Clif bars for emergency snacks.  They have saved my ass so many times from Barenhunger.     

7.  Find a nearby grocery store (best) or market your first night, and buy water, sodas, beer, or wine for the trip.  I paid .84 (yes, under one euro) Euros for a 6 pack of 1.5 Liter bottled water that should last me 3 days.  At a bar, this would cost 15 Euros or about 2.5 each.  These bottles cost up to 4 Euros each in a restaurant.  I know soda is usually around 2-3 euros at a restaurant, though I cannot quote the grocer price.  It is probably about the same price for 6 at a grocery store.  We saw numerous bottles of wine for under 2 euros at a grocer in the Trastevere area of Rome.

8.  Never let yourself get so hungry that you settle for the next restaurant.  This is a recipe for a 30 Euro lunch disaster.

9.  Do not tip like an American, but eat bread like one.

10.  Splitting meals is a surefire way to bring down costs across the board. 

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