Food Abroad

Payment Method & Cost of Meals Abroad

Depending on the specific program, some or all meals may be included in the program fee or it may be the responsibility of the student to shop for groceries or go out to eat at their own expense while abroad. Be sure to read the program brochure for more information on whether or not some or all meals are included and to budget accordingly.


Determining Cost of Meals Abroad (If Not Included)

If some or no meals are included in the program fee (i.e. it will be the student's responsibility to shop for groceries or go out to eat while abroad), it's important to build a budget based on the cost of living abroad. The following websites may be helpful for students to determine the cost of purchasing meals in the host country:

  • Budget Your Trip - insert your destination, hit 'Search', and the page should lead you straight to an overview of how much you're estimated to spend in different categories. The average amounts are set in foreign currency, so be sure to convert it to U.S. dollars to get a more accurate estimate 
  • Food Prices - Numbeo is a search engine for international grocery prices. Search your destination, and it'll give you a list of common food items and their average prices. This'll help if you're into preparing meals for yourself
  • Cost of Living Index 2018 Mid-Year - Numbeo also has an updated index on average costs for groceries and restaurants for numerous countries. For an even closer estimate, select your region and it'll list some cities for more accuracy

Food Considerations

Vegans & Vegetarians

Having a dietary restriction and traveling to a foreign country may be difficult, but it doesn't have to be. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself by doing research ahead of time. Consider traditional cultural ingredients. For example, meat is a huge staple of Spaniard cuisine. What is your destination's main dishes, and what do they usually consist of? Look up the ingredients for those dishes, consider what you could substitute for it, and go from there. Take this opportunity to try new recipes and restaurants with an international twist. 

Food Allergies

If you have food allergies, whether mild or severe, it's extremely important that you consider doing the following:

  • Carry around a card in your wallet that says "I am [severely] allergic to [name of food or ingredient]" in English and in the language of the host city or country you'll be living in or traveling to. Be sure to add additional text, if necessary, such as "I cannot eat food that has been prepared using the same utensils as [name of food or ingredient]. Show this card as applicable
  • Research the host city and country to determine where the best places would be to eat or purchase groceries where you could opt for options that do not have the particular food or ingredient 
  • Ensure you have the proper medication on you at all times in the event that you have an allergic reaction

Budgeting for meals

Food can get expensive when you're eating out all of the time. Some ways you can save include:

  • Go to the local fresh market (ask on-site staff, faculty members and locals for tips on how to haggle, how to say common phrases in the host language, etc.)
  • Gather small snacks for picnics with friends
  • Prepare a small dish for a potluck with friends
  • Identify grocery stores or restaurants that offer student discounts (may need an International Student ID card or ISIC card)
  • Find a place to fill a reusable water bottle

More Resources:


All information is subject to change. Any links leading to external sites are not endorsed by UNC Charlotte or the OEA.