If you’re going to dine in these cities, choose your restaurants wisely. (Photo: Thinkstock)
By Nikkitha Bakshani
Traveling is expensive, especially if you’re passionate about eating excellent food. There are many ways to stick to a reasonable food budget while traveling — for instance by eating at market stands or food trucks instead of sit-down restaurants — but it is more difficult in some cities than others. Here are the nine most expensive cities in the world when it comes to food and drink.
To compose this list, we looked at the Economist Intelligence Unit survey of the cost of living around the world (the most recent report was released in early 2015); Expatisan.com, which breaks down the cost of living by food (restaurants, bars, groceries), rent, and other expenses, as reported by expats living around the world; TripAdvisor’s annual TripIndex Cities study, which ranks the cost of cities for travelers; and PriceOfTravel.com’s list of the most expensive cities based on their three-star traveler index, which is formulated using a fixed set of typical expenses that every traveler will encounter.
Keep in mind that the cost of eating in various cities is always personal; you might have paid less in London than you did in Paris, but that does not mean others will have the same experience. It depends on where you go and what you order. This ranking is based on the average prices of meals, beverages, and groceries at moderately priced restaurants.
If you feel your stomach sink because you’re worried these amazing cities are too expensive for you, fear not: we have included ways for you to eat well in these cities without breaking the bank. And if that’s not worth it to you, you can always check out our list of the best food cities for your wallet.
While vodka is cheap (the basic stuff can be had for less than $6 a bottle), coffee costs about $8 in Moscow, and the average cost of a dinner for two is 4,192 rubles ($84). However, since the process of getting a visa to Russia is so difficult, you don’t have to worry about tourist traps — there just aren’t that many tourists to trap. If you’re not willing to spend too much, try the buffet at Grabli, a chain of self-service cafés, or eat some blini at the fast food joint Teremok. The cafés near youth hostels tend to have inexpensive options as well.
Food in Venice is more or less as expensive as the food in Rome, but because Venice is much smaller, the options for wallet-friendly eating are more limited. Also, since there are no large wheeled vehicles, a lot of the food has to be brought in on boats and delivered in small quantities. An average lunch is about €15 ($17), and near the Piazza San Marco, you can expect to pay just as much for a cappuccino. The trick is to go further away from the center of the city or eat at one of the many bacari (wine bars), which serve cicchetti (small plates) alongside prosecco, a glass of which will cost you no more than €3 ($3.42). Go to Cantina Do Mori, which was established in 1462.
It’s not that you can’t eat well in Tokyo on a small budget — especially since three-course lunchtime meals in restaurants can cost you less than 1,200 yen ($10). But Tokyo is so famous for its fine dining, having had the most number of Michelin-starred restaurants of any city for eight years in a row, that food lovers cannot help but dream of investing in at least one unforgettable meal, especially at one of Tokyo’s 5 best sushi restaurants. Unfortunately, that meal could cost as much as a plane ticket.
Singapore tops the Economist Intelligence Unit survey as the No. 1 most expensive city to live in, so naturally, dining in Singapore does not come cheap. A dinner for two costs a whopping 152 Singapore dollars ($116). While Singapore has plenty of excellent, high-profile restaurants where people willing to spend the money can go, you’ll find some of the best food in the city-state — and, arguably, the world — in hawker centers (food halls). These collections of food stalls serve laksa, kway teow, and other regional dishes for very reasonable prices.
It’s no surprise that Paris is on this list, as its culinary heritage is one of the many reasons why the city is so iconic. Even a fast food meal can cost up to €9 ($10) in the French capital. Paris, like Tokyo, has a slew of excellent, top-tier restaurants that are hard for food aficionados to resist, but plenty of restaurants have reasonable prix fixe menus – reasonable as in the amount of food you get for what you pay, not exactly what you pay, which is around €20 ($22). You can always justify the price by saying you are paying for the ambiance, which the long, leisurely, coursed meals let you enjoy to the fullest. You can grab a baguette, some Camembert, and a bottle of wine at one of Paris’ many markets and enjoy a picnic by the Seine, which will satisfy your wallet and your taste buds.
While dinner for two at a decent restaurant in London costs, on average, £59 ($93), less than in Singapore, it’s the amount one pays for basic food and drink needs that packs the biggest punch: £4 ($6) for a beer, £10 ($16) for a cocktail, and £32 ($50) for grubby pub food. Even curry house meals will set you back by about £14 ($22) — so make sure you go to a good one, like Malabar, where you can enjoy an exquisite monkfish curry. On the bright side, all the museums are free, so as far as travel goes it is tit for tat.
A dinner for two at a restaurant in Copenhagen can easily get travelers into the three-digit zone, where the average cost is 1008 kroner ($153), and just a single cocktail tends to cost around 126 kroner ($19). While the city’s emphasis on fresh, local food is admirably sustainable, it does not come cheap. Lucky for you, the Copenhagen Street Food market, which sets up shop on Papirøen (Paper Island), consists of food trucks serving all different kinds of cuisines for prices around 50 kroner ($8) per dish.
PriceOfTravel.com lists Zürich as the most expensive city in the world for travelers. In a city mostly composed of people skiing the Alps and bankers burning through huge expense accounts, it makes sense that dinner for two is 143 Swiss francs ($155) on average. Restaurants even charge money for tap water. To eat on a budget, stick to the area around the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where the student-friendly prices will burn less of a hole in your pocket.
Seth Kugel of the Frugal Traveler blog has a funny anecdote in which he thought he found a rare bargain in Oslo: a six-pack of Denmark’s Carlsberg beer for 27.40 kroner ($5). It turns out that was just the price of one can; the entire pack was more like $30. Kugel says that what Norwegians consider “cheap” coffee (not a latte, but a cup of black coffee) is 26 kroner ($4). Dinner for two comes at a painful 2,109 kroner ($285). The silver lining is that Oslo is beautiful and worth the visit anyway. Plus, if you pick up snacks at the farmers markets (along with a healthy helping of samples), you’ll be very satisfied with the fresh produce and local offerings.
More from The Daily Meal:
WATCH: Making Mexican Pizza With the World’s Best Cook