As budget travelers, we are always looking for ways to save money while traveling, especially when it comes to eating. We are constantly on the hunt for cheap food, be it local restaurants or street food. So to help, we came up with a list of 13 pay-what-you-want restaurants around the world where you can enjoy a hearty and healthy meal without emptying your wallet.
Pay-what-you-want restaurants are a great concept, freaking genius if you ask us, because you pay what you think the meal is worth. So don’t take advantage of them. Pay a fair price and if you can’t afford to make a monetary donation, consider volunteering for an hour in exchange for your meal.
So without further ado, here are 13 pay-what-you-want restaurants around the world!
Der Wiener Deewan
This popular Pakistani restaurant in Vienna serves a delicious buffet for anyone who wants to enjoy Pakistani food. The all-you-can-eat and pay-what-you-want buffet offers five different curry dishes, three vegetarian options, and two meat dishes. What sets Wiener Deewan apart from the others is that they’re open 23 hours every day except on Sundays. They also have a play-as-you-wish jam session every first Monday of the month.
Location: Vienna in Austria | Website: deewan.at
Moya is one of the many squat restaurants in Amsterdam. However, Moya is different from the others because it serves free food every Thursday, starting at 8pm. The event is known as “Eat the Rich.” The best part is that you don’t have to pay anything, you just come and eat. Reservations are required.
Location: Amsterdam in the Netherlands | Website: moya.squat.net
Okay, this isn’t a restaurant but who cares, they have a pay-what-you-want policy for wine! After 8pm, you pay a € 2 fee to rent a wine glass and then get unlimited access to drink as much good wine as your liver can handle. When you are ready to leave, you pay whatever you think your wine consumption is worth.
Location: Berlin in Germany | Website: weinerei.com
The Land Split
The Land Split is more of an attraction than a restaurant…well, really it’s a farm. Several years ago the owner of the farm woke up to find a huge crack splitting his property in half. Unable to farm the way he wanted, the thrifty farmer decided to turn his property into a tourist attraction. He welcomes all guests with a warm smile and unlimited roasted peanuts, sweet papaya, baked sweet potatoes, plantain chips, fresh Roselle juice, alcohol and jam. All of the delicious goodies are grown and made on the property. Best of all, everything is by donation. After paying what you think the snacks are worth, head up the hill and check out the split. Visiting the Land Split is a must do in Pai, Thailand!
Location: Pai in Thailand
When you land on SAME Cafe’s website, the first thing you read is “everyone, regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity.” SAME Cafe takes those words seriously as they serve daily meals made from fresh, organic ingredients with no requirement for visitors to pay. No cash register, just a donation box.
Location: Denver, Colorado in the USA | Website: soallmayeat.org
Annalakshmi is an international volunteer-run Indian restaurant with locations in Malaysia, India, Australia, and Singapore. Their model, “eat what you want, pay what you feel”, allows everyone the opportunity to enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal with no worries of cost. There are no prices in place and no set menu or bill, instead diners just pay what they can afford or whatever their heart desires. “At Annalakshmi we want to feed all those who dine with us, but also give you the opportunity to give and feed others too.”
Location: Multiple locations in India, Malaysia, Australia, and Singapore | Website: annalakshmi.com.sg
Lentil As Anything
Eating a healthy and nutritious meal does not have to be expensive, especially if you are visiting Melbourne. All four “Lentil As Anything” restaurants serve hearty and healthy vegetarian meals on a pay-what-you-want basis. For over 13 years, the restaurants continuously promote community values, with a mission to take money out of the equation when it comes to providing any and everyone with wholesome and nutritious meals.
Location: Multiple locations in Australia | Website: lentilasanything.com
JBJ Soul Kitchen
The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen is not necessarily a pay-what-you-want restaurant, however the three course farm to table meal costs only $20, with no sales tax or tipping allowed. The $20 donation goes back into the community to help provide fresh, organic food to those in need. If you cannot pay for the meal, you can volunteer at the restaurant for an hour as payment. The hour of volunteer work covers the cost of the volunteer’s meal as well as meals for up to four family members. JBJ Soul Kitchen has two locations in New Jersey, one in Red Bank and the other in Toms River.
Location: Multiple locations in New Jersey, USA | Website: jbjsoulkitchen.org
Ziferblat is a unique cafe in that you don’t pay for the food you consume, rather you pay for the time you spend inside the shop. For every minute you spend inside, it will cost you. This may sound expensive, but it’s not. For example, at the Liverpool location you are only charged 8 pence per minute, meaning if you spend an hour there it only costs you around £5 (~$6 USD). The owners of Ziferblat describe the cafes as “an extension of your own home where you can study, work, read, relax, play, hang out, socialize and enjoy free food and drinks”.
Location: Multiple locations in Russia, Great Britain, Slovenia, and Ukraine | Website: ziferblat.co.uk
Panera Cares Community Cafe (Panera Bread) Panera Cares Community Cafe is just like another Panera Bread, same food and everything. The only difference is Panera Cares Cafe is a non-profit bakery running solely on donations where guests pay what they can. At the cash register, which is only there for placing orders and getting change, guests are given a suggested price for the meal and they can decide whether they want to pay the amount, pay more and pay it forward or pay whatever they can afford, without being judged. Anyone who is unable to make any monetary donations can volunteer at the cafe for an hour in exchange for their meal. Location: Multiple locations in the USA | Website: paneracares.org
Update: Unfortunately, Panera closed all pay-what-you-can restaurants.
ComeUnity is a cafe in Jackson, Tennessee that welcomes anyone looking to have a healthy meal regardless of their ability to pay. With a menu that changes everyday, CameUnity serves the Jackson community mostly organic, locally sourced, seasonal foods on a pay-what-you-want basis. ComeUnity’s mission is to love, feed and dignify. If you are unable to pay, CameUnity offers patrons the opportunity to exchange an hour of volunteer work for a hot and healthy meal.
Location: Jackson, Tennessee in the USA | Website: comeunitycafe.org
Karma Kitchen is a volunteer-run experiment in generosity that operates on a unique gift- economy system. At the end of your meal at any of the Karma Kitchen restaurants, you will receive a check that says $0.00 and a message that reads “your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you”. Guests can pay-it-forward however they wish, be it with money or time. Practice and experience generosity at any of the many Karma Kitchens around the world.
Location: Multiple Locations in the USA, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, UK, Japan, France, Spain, and Dubai | Website: karmakitchen.org
Save the Date Cafe
With a mission to eliminate food waste while feeding hungry people, Save the Date Cafe prepares all their healthy and tasty meals from food waste. It may sound weird, but really it’s just food that supermarkets and other stores deem not good because it’s bruised or banged up. Save the Date does not discriminate when it comes to food, instead they turn “food destined for landfills into restaurant quality pay-what-you-want meals”. Kill two birds with one stone by filling your belly while helping reduce waste. The cafe also has a pay-what-you-feel supermarket where you can grab your week’s worth of food.
Location: London, UK | Website: savethedate.london
I hope this list of pay-what-you-want restaurants help to keep your food expenses low while traveling on a budget, but please remember to not abuse this wonderful concept and pay a fair price for your meal or volunteer your time!
Have you eaten at any of these restaurants? Do you know of any pay-what-you-want restaurants not listed here? Tells us about them in the comments below!
For more tips on how to save money while traveling be sure to check out some of our articles below!
- 63 Tips for Backpacking Through Europe
- 16 Essential Tips for Flying with Budget Airlines
- 14 Tips on How to Save Money for Travel
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