An epicure is someone who loves to eat and drink good food and wine. The term is derived from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who believed that pleasure was the highest good. And while it didn't specifically focus on food and drink, the Epicurean philosophy has come to be associated with enjoying life's finer things.
For the traveling epicure, that means seeking out new and exciting cuisine around the world. But just because you're an international foodie doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune on meals. There are plenty of great budget destinations for those who want to experience culinary delights without breaking the bank.
Here are some of the best places to travel on a budget if you're an aspiring epicure or simply a food lover who likes to eat well on vacation:
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fresh, flavorful ingredients, hearty soups, and noodle dishes. And because Vietnam is still a relatively cheap destination, it's easy to eat well without spending a fortune. Just be sure to steer clear of the more touristy areas, where prices can be inflated, and to taste famous dishes like pho (noodle soup), bun cha (a meaty noodle dish), and, of course, banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches).
Like Vietnam, Thailand is a great destination for those who love to eat but don't want to spend a lot of money. Thai food is known for being spicy, but there are plenty of options for those who don't like it too hot like pad Thai (a stir-fried noodle dish) or massaman (a coconut milk-based curry). And don't forget to try other cheap Thai dishes for traveling epicures like papaya salad, yen ta fo, and street food on sticks.
Mexican food is another great option for the budget-minded epicure. From tacos and enchiladas to gourmet grilled elotes (corn on the cob), there's no shortage of cheap and delicious options in this south-of-the-border country. Just be sure to steer clear of the Americanized Mexican food found in many tourist traps, and stick to authentic dishes like cochinita pibil, mole Poblano, and huevos divorciados.
Indian cuisine is incredibly diverse, with something to suit everyone's taste. Whether you're looking for a delicious vegetarian meal (try the dal makhani or saag paneer) or something with meat (chicken tikka masala is a classic), you can find it in this country of 1.3 billion people, the world's second most populous country after China. That's a lot of mouths to feed, but don't worry, there are plenty of options to go around for the budget-minded epicure.
When the euro reached parity with the U.S. dollar in July 2022, which made the exchange rate one-to-one, Greece became a bargain destination for American travelers. That's good news for those who love Greek food, as this island-strewn country in the Mediterranean Sea is famous for its delicious and healthy cuisine. From classics like dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and Gyro sandwiches to fresh seafood dishes like barbouni, Greece is a great destination for traveling epicures, with many dishes coming in under $5 USD.
Moroccan food is a delicious mix of Arabic, Berber, and European influences. Here, foodies can stroll among vendors at the "souk" or marketplace and find a variety of cheap and delicious street food, including kebabs and khobz or batbouts (pita-style flatbreads) filled with lamb or chicken. Other popular and inexpensive dishes include lamb harira (a hearty soup) and B'stilla (a pie traditionally made with pigeon meat). Vegan and vegetarian options also abound in Morocco, with yummy dishes like couscous, vegetable tagine, and baked eggplant being readily available.
If we could sum up Hungarian food in one word, it would be "hearty." The second word? "Cheap," which makes it even better for the budget-conscious epicure. From goulash (a beef stew) to chicken paprikash and a variety of savory pies, this Central European country is a great place to fill up without spending a lot of money. Just be sure to leave room for dessert, as Hungary is also home to delicious pastries like kurtoskalacs (chimney cakes) and beigli (a poppyseed-filled pastry).
Indonesian food is incredibly diverse, with influences from Chinese and Indian cuisine. There are plenty of cheap street food options, such as noodles and fried rice. And if you want to try something a little more luxurious, there are also many great Indonesian restaurants serving up traditional dishes like nasi goreng (fried rice) and satay (skewered meats). Just be sure to bring cash, as many eateries in Indonesia don't accept credit cards.
Italy has long enjoyed a reputation as a foodie paradise. The entire country is filled with great trattorias and other homey restaurants, but Sicily is a particularly good option for the budget-minded epicure. This island in the Tyrrhenian Sea is known for its cheap and delicious street food, such as arancini (fried rice balls) and panelle (fried chickpea fritters). Other classic Sicilian dishes include pasta alla norma and baked anelletti timballo, with many going for as little as $5 USD. Be sure to taste the wine, too, as Sicily is home to some of Italy's best vineyards, especially those around the Palermo, Marsala, and Mount Etna regions.
Last but not least, we have Portugal, another great destination for the traveling epicure. This westernmost European country is known for its fresh seafood, and you can find plenty of cheap and delicious options at the many seafood markets in the country. Other popular (and inexpensive) dishes include caldo verde (kale and potato soup) and bacalhau (salted codfish), with many entrees coming in at under $10 USD.
So there you have it, 10 great destinations for the budget-minded epicure. Whether you're looking for cheap street food or more luxurious fare, there's something for everyone on this list. So get out there and start exploring the world of international cuisine!