Even if you’re a teetotaler, you may find your drink budget nearing or exceeding your travel food budget. The reason is simple: restaurants make their profits from drinks. Not unlike movie theaters and popcorn, the food restaurants sell you is how they reel you in to purchase beverages, so meals are most often priced near cost with beverages reaching extortionate levels. Here are a couple tips to avoid going broke while staying hydrated.
Carry Water: you may remember this tip from yesterday as a way to save on your food budget. Being well-hydrated keeps you from gulping down lots of high-priced drinks out of sheer thirst. Either you can nurse one drink through the whole meal, or you can simply drink nothing at all.
Don’t Drink: it may sound crazy, but you really can get through a meal without drinking anything. In fact, this is the preferred modus operandi in Russia, when drinking (of tea) is saved for after the meal. Probably the most difficult thing is the not ordering of beverages, but Copenhagen is the only city where I’ve had to leave a restaurant because I refused to order something to drink.
Drink the Local Brew: when in Rome, drink wine. When in Munich, drink beer. Whatever’s most popular or brewed locally is likely to be served with the best price/ml ratio, even better than most soft drinks. And face it, you didn’t come all the way to X to drink another Heineken. At least, I hope you didn’t!
BYOB: in countries where liquor is outrageously priced, do what the locals do: buy a case at the grocery and sit on the park bench drinking it. Perhaps it sounds cliche or you fear flashbacks to your high school or college days, but drinking in public spaces is a well-cherished tradition in Europe. Walking around drinking a beer is one of the great freedoms America has relegated to men with bottles in paper bags. At least across the pond you can forget your puritan mores and reclaim the fun for a few glorious nights.
For the pennypinchers, even in countries where beer is cheap and plentiful, a grocery or train station bottle of beer with deposit is still far less than a restaurant drink.
Start Early: Happy Hours and drink specials are still the way to go for a cheap evening out. You’re most likely to find them posted outside the drinking establishment themselves, and will have best luck Sunday-Thursday nights, when bars and restaurants are trying to attract business. If you like sports, the broadcast of big games will often coincide with pitcher or drink specials.
Find Student Watering Holes: find bars and clubs in areas known to be student hangouts. The world over, bars attract impoverished young people with low-priced drinks and drink specials.
Carry a Thermos: another tip from yesterday applicable to today. A mid-afternoon coffee/tea/cocoa is a great break, and is easily put together with your own beverage stock and free hot water from your host or hotel.
Join Your Hotel Chain’s Rewards Club: depending on city and hotel, a free welcome drink at the bar or fresh orange juice at breakfast is ever more the norm. It doesn’t cost you anything to join and can even earn you additional perks such as late check out, free daily newspaper, or fruit and snacks in the room. The perks are generally even better overseas.
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