My funds were running low, but after a long day of hitchhiking in Scotland, I was getting hungry. Scratch that, I was getting positively hangry. Despite my better judgement, I decided to look at a menu in the pub I’d found quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Shock and horror ensued. You want how much for macaroni and cheese?!
That’s when I started to wonder: what kind of dinner could I be chowing down on for $5 USD across the world? I knew in some countries I could feed several people, while in others (cough, the UK) I’d get half a plate of mac and cheese. So I decided to do a little experiment.
Thanks to many brilliant bloggers, as well as some of my own friends I enlisted to participate in this experiment, I present you with what a $5 meal looks like across the globe.
Glasgow, Scotland – Kieron Campbell
Haggis is a traditional Scottish ‘sausage’ made from a sheep’s stomach stuffed with diced sheep’s liver, lungs and heart, oatmeal, onion, and seasoning, with whisky cream sauce poured over. Traditionally served on Burns Night with ‘neeps and tatties’ (mashed swede and potatoes) and a wee whisky.
Tallinn, Estonia – Charlie, Marketing Manager of JayWay Travel
Pelmeenid (Estonian for Pelmeni, an Eastern European dish) or just ‘dumplings’ in English, at F-Hoone.
Mumbai, India – Lucy at Lucy Smiles Away
This is a photo of an Indian Thali. They are usually served in a large metal round dish, though often in the south, they’ll be served on a banana leaf. Thalis are made up of rice, some sort of Indian bread, such as a chapatti or paratha, and a crisp bread called a poppadom. There will also be a mixture of different vegetable curries which will vary depending on where in India you are and what the restaurant has available. Southern Thalis tend to be slightly creamier and may contain fish if you are near the coast, while Northern Thalis are usually slightly spicier. The best thing about Thalis are that they are both hugely filling and insanely cheap, with the average Thali costing less than $3, leaving room for my favourite Indian dessert – Hello to the Queen. Hello to the Queen is a quirky dessert invented solely for tourists (meaning that you’ll find it all over India in touristic places but not in small villages), containing banana, vanilla ice cream, crushed biscuits, and lots of chocolate sauce.
Los Angeles, United States – Bryan Heck
An awful Burger King burger.
Pyeongtaek, South Korea – The Hungry Partier
Bibimbap is a traditional Korean dish that literally translates to “mixed rice.” It is served in a very hot bowl of warm white rice topped with vegetables, a choice of meat (usually beef), soy sauce, and spicy gochujang red sauce. On most bowls, a raw egg is served on top, and then you are supposed to stir everything together before you eat it.
Bibimbap is my favorite Korean food, and it’s commonly enjoyed at any local restaurant!
Dubrovnik, Croatia – Sharon at Where’s Sharon?
Dubrovnik is expensive compared to the rest of Croatia. US$5 will only give you half a cheaper meal option. This is a Venus clams and Adriatic prawns risotto served at a restaurant within Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is one of the cheapest restaurants we could find.
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica – Andrew at VegHead Productions
Casado con Pollo – beans, rice, salad, fries, and chicken.
Coffee Bay, South Africa – Anna Elizabeth Vecchio
Mielie pap with sauteed cabbage and potato.
Osaka, Japan – By Carolann & Macrae at One Modern Couple
Across Japan you will find many locals dining at the popular conveyor-belt style sushi restaurants that serve 1+ USD plates. At these places, the bill will depend on your appetite but 4-5 dishes will get you 8-10 delicious pieces and would be considered a full meal for many!
Bogota, Colombia – Jon and Kach at Two Monkeys Travel Group
This is Chunchullo, usually made from the intestines of lamb, pork, or beef, flame-grilled or barbecued. In this dish the tasty internals are served up with roasted pork belly, fried arepa, boiled potatoes with chopped tomatoes and onion. Probably not the healthiest thing we’ve ever eaten, but it only cost about 15,000 Colombian Pesos, which is pretty much exactly $5 USD!
Paris, France – Shannon Butts
From the McDonald’s in the Louvre.
Katowice, Poland – Jub at Tiki Touring Kiwi
The meal (as per Google translate): whole wheat bun with tofu patty and lettuce with rosemary sauce, spinach, parsley, carrot salad, and chips.
Manila, Philippines – Brenda and Andrew at Dish Our Town
This is what $5 looks like in Manila. This offering comes from two stalls that exist in an outdoor emporium called
“Market Market”. The first is a noodle dish called Pancit Malabon, which is basically the Filipino equivalent to
carbonara. Its gravy is egg based and it’s topped with squid, shrimp, a bit of shredded dried fish, a hard boiled egg,
and pork crackling. The second dish is one of the staples of Filipino cookery, pork adobo. This comes with a side of
stewed vegetables, some soup, and white rice. Lastly, it’s washed down with young coconut juice called buko.
Edmonton, Canada – Alouise Dittrick at Take Me to the World
I’m not sure if I’d consider poutine to be an average dish in Canada, but it’s definitely something travelers should try when they come here. Poutine is a dish that originated in Quebec and it consists of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds (not grated cheese or cheese sauce). You can get poutine in many different places across Canada, and lots of restaurants will have their own spin on this dish, but the classic is always my favourite.
Honolulu, Hawaii – Anna Elizabeth Vecchio
Poke, a Hawaiian delicacy found in every grocery store across each island. What makes this dish so ono? Freshly caught Ahi diced up and tossed with green onion and shoyu. While this may look like a lot, it’s actually just one layer in a small container!
Karlstejn Castle, Czech Republic – Bryan Heck
It was fried cream cheese. It was nasty.
Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia – Anna Faustino, Chief Editor & Designer at Adventure In You
For $5, have a meal for two people consisting of a spicy chicken rendang and pork saksang, a local dish by the Batak people here in Sumatra. Coincidentally, when I researched what saksang was, I found out it’s pork cutlets stewed in blood (OMG!), coconut milk, kafir lime, and other spices. It was delicious though… but not sure how we feel about it now!
Sao Paulo, Bazil – Aleah Taboclaon at Solitary Wanderer
The prato feito is a must-try when you’re in Brazil. It’s a one-plate dish complete with salad (yep, that tomato and piece of lettuce is already considered salad!), some meat dish, potatoes, rice, beans, and farofa (cassava flour mixture, not visible in the photo). Prices (and presentation) vary, but it generally costs from $2.50 onwards. This one cost me $5 at a small restaurant in Sao Paulo, including the drink. While the presentation leaves much to be desired, the meal was super delicious and I finished all of it, carbs and all!
Bangkok, Thailand – Sharon at Where’s Sharon?
Thai food is delicious and ridiculously cheap in Bangkok. US$5 can buy you three pad thais at a good shopping centre food court. They are delicious.
Sydney, Australia – Brian Forst
Pancakes, ham, egg. That’s all you get for $5.
Stockholm, Sweden – Danie at Like Riding a Bicycle (hey, that’s me!)
Two thirds of a falafel pita… and I’m lucky I could get that much for $5!
Nairobi, Kenya – Dom at Everyday’s An Adventure
The staple food is ugali, made by heating maize flower. Ugali is the norm, though this fish is the luxurious part of the meal. You go straight into the fish with your hands (wash them at the station before and after) to break it up. The ugali is first when it comes to eating. Grab some, widen it out to allow room for the fish, and then add the veg – often chakshucka (similar to kale, mixed with cassava leaves and sweet potato leaves) – to finish.
Oh, and for your $5, chuck in an avocado juice if you’re feeling adventurous!
Tbilisi, Georgia – Jub at Tiki Touring Kiwi
Nectarine smoothie, tomato celery broccoli soup, sandwich with hummus.
Burgess Hill, England – Will at The Broke Backpacker
Burger for a fiver.
Lima, Peru – Laura at Savored Journeys
Arroz con Mariscos (Rice with Seafood) – This dish is very popular in Peru and you can find it on many restaurant menus throughout the country. Rice is fried up with an aji amarillo pepper, some onions and plenty of fresh seafood, like shrimp and squid. A huge plate of this tasty dish will cost you about $16 Nuevo Sol ($5USD).
Colombo, Sri Lanka – Anna Elizabeth Vecchio
Spicy deviled shrimp with rotti and string hopper.
Oslo, Norway – Sharon at Where’s Sharon?
This city is known for being expensive and it is true. This take away half serve of vegetarian sushi is worth US$5 and it was one of the cheapest options we could find.
Malacca, Malaysia – Dom at Everyday’s an Adventure
Nancy’s Kitchen – just brilliant. For $5 you’ll enjoy plenty of Malaysia’s finest top hats and a grass jelly drink. How tasty do they sound!? No, but genuinely, the top hats – round type spring rolls – were hands down the best appetizers we had across three spots, two weeks in Malaysia. The grass jelly juice had to be tasted, being a drink I’d never tasted before; I was beyond curious to find out what it tasted like… Sweet grass would be the correct reaction! It grew and grew on me. I had the choice of the grass jelly to be mixed with water or milk; milk seemed to work nicely.
Granada, Nicaragua – Eden at Really Truly Living
Plate of one piece of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, rice, and plantains. Including the coke it was $5. The food was bought at a typical Nicaraguan buffet restaurant, very common type place.
Athens, Greece – Konstantinos at The Travel Issue
“Souvlaki” is the most traditional Greek street food and is a kind of sandwich. One souvlaki usually costs about 2 to 2.3 euros (2.2 to 2.5 dollars), but most of the people buy two of them. The main ingredients are pita (a round-shaped flatbread) and meat. The meat used varies from pork to chicken, kebab or beef. It includes also French fries, tomato, onion, sometimes lettuce, and a sauce made of yoghurt and garlic called “tzatziki”. In Greece you can find souvlaki in almost every corner and you can make it even in your home easily!
Orewa, New Zealand – Luke Collett
Meals in New Zealand are pretty pricey, so when I asked my friend Luke to help me out with a photo, he got innovative:
Okay, I did the math: $5 USD gave me $7.83 NZD. So, weighing my options carefully, and deciding not to buy a pie, I started this wee meal project. In the end I bought a $2.50 pair of sunglasses, a roll of nylon, and a piece of number 8 wire… then I went for a wander.
$5 doesn’t look like much in some countries, but you can try to get the most out of your currency by choosing the best rate. CompareTravelMoney.net is a great resource for choosing the best deal out of 30 companies – check it out!
So there you have it – this is what a $5 USD meal looks like around the world. Have a photo of your $5 meal – whether giant or pitiful? Throw it in the comments below!