From the Diary of a Nomad: Cheap Rooms, Cheap Food

by Jules on December 19, 2013

There is nothing else on earth that gives me the ripples than having to spend extra on certain types of necessities. To avoid this unpleasant feeling, I always keep my conscience at bay by looking for cheap hotels and meals wherever I go in the world. You may ask yourself, why have I selected these two areas to slash costs? My simple answer: because food and accommodation are important necessities that are often exploited with high price tags. There is no mind reading game to it: the commercial world knows that we need them.

I have been to South America, North America and Europe and always managed to get by on budget without calling home for backup. My mom always tries to squeeze some money on me (thanks mom, nice try!) out of fear I may go broke in a foreign land; but I have managed so far to live off my savings and work ad hoc jobs to get by. Now I want to show you how to join the boat of proud thrifty shoppers who will haggle a pin to an anchor to get cheap rooms and meals in certain parts of the world.

Brazil- Rio de Janeiro

Some people may not know it, but Rio de Janeiro has a lot of cheap inns that are comfortable and safe. When there, I chose to stay outside of the heavy tourist zones in what they call “pousadas” in Brazilian Portuguese. I stayed at one for about two days and then decided to move onto another part of the city and stayed in a “hostel” which is also known as an “albergue” in Brazilian Portuguese. This last one was a very basic arrangement and I shared a single room with four strangers. This may be intimidating to some people, but I did not mind- after all there were decent lockers and the place was safe. The hostels are not advertised as heavily as popular hotels and this is why they go unnoticed. I paid around USD$15 per night and this price included breakfast, hot showers, and a TV room. And yes. It was clean. ┬áLocated next to Santa Teresa made it easy for me to visit a lot of places without being jammed due to poor transportation or whatever other problem.

I also went to a number of self-service restaurants in Rio and chose the cheapest ones to keep my food bill down. With this arrangement a scale is used to weight how much you will eat and ultimately pay. This type of arrangement made it possible for me to eat healthily on a budget by choosing how much I am prepared to pay by making sure the weight of the food was as little as possible.

Belgium- Brussels

After staying in Rio de Janeiro for about two weeks I flew to Belgium where I would stay for a week in Brussels. I was lucky enough to get a deal that made me save around USD$200 on the ticket. Thank goodness for promo newsletter which I sign up for on many platforms to get the best deals in real time. This was what made me save without having to delve into a lot of online research to find cheap flights.

There are also cheap hotels and hostels in Brussels, but I made arrangement to stay with a host-family that was renting a room in their house for four days to get used to the place a little. The price would include free meals and being the thrifty person I am I could not refuse the offer. This type of affordable accommodation is ideal when you want to know the culture and customs of the place from people who are willing to put up. After staying with the family, I rented a hostel that had a number of interesting perks for the price. However, things got a bit noisy and messy so I moved to a cheap hotel in a nearby city. To eat cheap in Brussels, I visited a few of the fritland places that are popular in the county. However, to keep my fat ingestion under control I would go to the local markets where cheap meals are served.

United States of America

Fascinated with the hustle and bustle of New York City, I decided it was time to visit in 2012. I knew it would be a challenge living on the cheap side given the reputation of the place, but with a lot of research and some phone calls I managed to trim costs by finding cheap hotels and places to eat without breaking the bank. My three secrets? Location, Location Location! Small hotels in Falafel, Nassau Avenue, Midwood, Chinatown, West Village and Lower East are busy keeping budget eaters fed. Walking around some of these places requires some degree of tact, but once you get it right there is no telling what you will find. For cheap accommodation (less than USD$70 a night), I stayed at Lower East side at the New World Hotel. The place is pretty simple and for just somewhere to get some shut-eye it is just fine.

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