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Budgeting for Meals

Hello, I am trying to figure out how much I should be budgeting on average for my daily meals (Breakfasts, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks & Wine). To me the estimates in RS guide books are low so I am hoping some seasoned travelers will weigh in with their thoughts and experiences. This is my first time to Europe and I'm not sure what to expect. I will be traveling to Amsterdam, Vienna and Italy (Rome, Tuscany, Cinque de Terre, and Venice). To me the local cuisine is part of the experience and I don't want to skimp in this area but at the same time I don't want to go overboard.

I see my typical day like this (knowing that on some days I may eat the breakfast at the hotel, or have a heavy lunch with a light dinner....)

Breakfast: Pastries & Coffee
Lunch: Light local cuisine or picnic style lunches
Dinner: Heavy (multi-course) with WINE
Then extra for Daily Snacks, Coffees, Gelato, etc...

Thank you in advance for your ideas, thoughts and suggestions.

Posted by
16883 posts

In addition to that summary on p. 6 of Rick's Italy book, the restaurant listings in each chapter usually give specific price ranges for first and second courses. Many restaurants menus online don't show prices but menus physically posted outside the restaurant do. Wine prices are not marked up as much as at restaurants here in Seattle, and house wine can be as cheap as bottled water in Italy. Don't start out splurging at every opportunity, but try to pace yourself.

Posted by
9110 posts

Twenty euro will get you up to supper. After that you're on your own. I do darn well on thirty total for the day, but I probably don't eat the places you will as a greenhorn.

Posted by
8293 posts

I usually budget about 50 euro a day, wine and coffee stops included.

Posted by
6152 posts

In general, I look at what I would spend in the US, and just plan on that in Euro. Though there are some differences, mostly by area and per person.

For pastry and coffee, probably 5 euro

For lunch like you mention 10 to 15euro

Then for dinner, 15 to 20 euro for an appetizer, main and a side or dessert.

Wine actually tends to be cheaper, not so much in Amsterdam, but in Italy 5 euro will still get you a carafe, enough for two, bottles, especially selected bottles will be 10 on up.

You can also gain economy and better food by heading off the squares and into the side streets. In Italy, no need to stick to the antipasti, primi, secondi, etc plan, just pick and choose as sounds interesting.

Posted by
484 posts

Venice is expensive. For two adults and one child, our dinner bill was typically 40-45 euro. I highly recommend Impronta Cafe near Frari Church on Crosera. It was the best quality for our money and good-sized portions. I wish I had a second meal there, but my husband wants to try different places. I regret his decision. Impronta was a lot better than the place he chose and we paid about the same amount of money. Our biggest price gouge was next to St. Mark's square - no surprise there. Try to avoid the St. Mark square area for food as much as possible. San Toma and San Polo area gives you better food for the money and no gimmicks. There is a small grocery chain called Billa. It was nice to get some fresh fruit and sodas there - good for "picnic style" meals in your room.

Posted by
11450 posts

Venice was the hardest for us to find good cheap food.. basically.. to be honest.. I have never had a meal that was more then mediocre at best there. Only been twice mind you.. so not an expert by any means.. but I think you should allow a higher budget for Venice then the other places. and good luck.!

Posted by
1277 posts

we found a couple of bakeries/pastry shops in venice that had some simple sandwiches already made up and on display for 2 euros, about the size of a mc donalds dollar deal sandwich but thicker. the place I'm remembering also had gelato and of course soft drinks.

Posted by
2353 posts

Frequently breakfast is included with your hotel. Lunch as you described €10 - 20 - depends on drink of choice. We got into a beer o'clock habit about noon or 1 and would enjoy a local beer - sometimes we would then split a salad or sandwich for lunch as the beer can be quite filling! For dinner we would usually get 1 appy, 1 entree and dessert and share (and always the cucumber salad) - especially in Vienna at 3/4 Takt, the portions were generous plus beer or wine. We averaged €40 - 60 for dinner.

Definitely do your homework for Venice - was very disappointed with the food quality there. One place insisted that Pizza Margherita did not have basil when I asked where the basil was!

Posted by
4699 posts

In Vienna, there are many bakeries/sandwich shops for a quick breakfast bite. Look for Anker, Strock and Der Mann. Obviously, coffeeshops abound as Vienna is famous for them, but don't expect a bargain at those located in the city center. Expect to pay 2-3 Euro per sandwich at the shops mentioned above.

Lunch is the best deal going in Vienna as pretty much every restaurant has a daily special which is only served mid-day. This will often be 2-3 courses. Prices are typically in the 10 Euro range, not including a drink.

Dinner would be your most expensive meal as special prices no longer apply. My suggestion would be to have a sausage from a Wurstelstand, dine at the Naschmarkt or go to a heurigen in the 19th District (Nussdorf in particular). Sausage stands are self-explanatory; Naschmarkt includes many casual restaurants where costs are lower; a heurigen dining experience is a buffet of snacks and heavier items accompanied by wine.

As a special note if you are in Vienna in the summer, be sure to have dinner one night at the Rathaus (city hall) where there is a food and film festival happening in July and August. Many popular restaurants have pop-up's in the main square, so a good chance to sample a variety of food for cheap in a very pleasant atmosphere.

Posted by
70 posts

Hello. You can spend $35 or $135 daily on food and still be greatly satisfied. Although, I have not been to Vienna, Netherlands and Italy can be expensive, or quite affordable with little difference in quality. (I fell in love with the Pancakes in Amsterdam; I also loved the Frites - two great snacks that don't break the budget. If you love beer, the prices are much less expensive when compared to America) Depending on where you are staying, breakfast may be included or modestly priced. Grocery stores and outdoor markets are a nice alternative to restaurants/cafes and are quite fun, as well as tasty and a great value. You can safely say that $50-70 daily is plenty for a daily meal budget, especially if you want to have wine daily. You can also easily knock that number as low as $30-$40 depending on your needs. Any lower, and you run the risk of filling up on breads/flour and not eating enough meat/protein. Plus, you want to enjoy what you eat, as this is a great experience of traveling to Europe. Vegetables are great too.

My advice, from personal experience, is to set a loose daily/weekly budget and stick to it. Not to save money, but to SPEND IT. I do not want to offend (as I do not know your personal situations), but it is not all too often that you go to Europe, and saving/spending a couple hundred dollars extra will not be that significant in the long run, but your memories will last for a very long time. Do what makes you happy!

Peace, and safe travels!

Posted by
2081 posts

deastwood78,

what i found on my trips so far is that food was at the bottom of my expenditures.

1 is usually transportation - plane, train, tram, bus

2 is usually lodging. (close 2nd too) i try to keep it to < 100 USD per night.

3 activities. City Passes if it pencils

4 souvenirs

5 Food

also, just an fyi, some of the places you may stay at may include breakfast. Sometimes you can opt out, sometime not. But if you do end up having to buy it, then pig out and make it last most of the day if you can.

happy trails.