Traveling Europe can be surprisingly affordable if you don’t mind skimping on certain luxuries and avoiding the west in favor of the cheaper nations of the east. The continent has plenty on offer that won’t break your bank account, but you have to know where to look. If you’re strapped for cash and want the best bang for your buck, here are 8 of the best value destinations in Europe.
Note: The prices listed here are approximate and may fluctuate considerably during high seasons or festival times. The approximate daily travel budget is the lowest one can spend while eating modestly, staying in budget accommodation and rarely splurging on luxuries.
Albania is a good budget alternative to the more expensive Mediterranean countries of Italy or Greece. With a rich architectural and cultural heritage derived from its close contact with Greece, Rome, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires and Italy, Albania has plenty of historical sites to keep you busy, as well as some terrific beaches. The official currency of Albania is the lek, and the exchange rate between it and other major world currencies should be enough to draw hoards of international backpackers.
Hostel dorm bed in Tirana: from $10
Hostel private rooms: $14-$15
Budget hotel rooms: $25
One-way ticket on local transport: $0.30
Regional bus ride: $1-$2 for short rides, $5-$10 for longer trips
City taxi ride across town: $3.50 during the day, $5.75 at night
Regional train: Tirana-Vlorë (5.5 hours) $2; Tirana-Pogradec (4 hours) $3.30
Street meal: $2
Meal at budget restaurant: $3-$5
Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant: $10
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught): $1.30
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle): $2
Albanian coffee: $0.50
Approximate daily travel budget: $30-$35 a day.
When Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, the dual-pricing system that once made foreigners pay considerably more than locals for accommodation and museum admission fees was abolished. Prices have risen since then, but food, drink and transport costs are surprisingly inexpensive compared with Western European countries. Bulgaria has a long list of attractions that remain seldom visited by foreign tourists, so get there now while the prices are low and the crowds are scarce.
Campsite: $6.50 per person.
Room in a private home: $8-$20, depending on location.
Hostel dorm bed in Sofia: $8-$15
Budget hotel room (outside Sofia): single rooms from $13.50, doubles from $27.
Midrange hotel: single room $25, double room $40.
*Most hotels offer discounted weekend rates (usually Friday to Sunday night). Some top-end Sofia hotels offer discounts during August.
City buses, metro: $0.75 per journey
City taxi: $0.40-$0.70 per kilometer
2nd-class round trip train Sofia/Varna: $25
Regional buses: Roughly the same as the train.
Street food and sandwiches: $0.50-$2.
Simple meal at a cheap café: $2-$5
Soups/salads at restaurant: $1.50
Typical restaurant meal: $4-$10 for several courses.
Liter of beer from convenience store: $0.50-$0.80
Liter of beer in bar: $1-$2.50
Wine in restaurants: $1.40-$2.50 a liter for homemade wine, $4-$8 for a typical bottle, $8-$14 for the best.
Local vodka: $2
Shot of raki: $1-$2
Approximate daily travel budget: At least $33 per day.
Did you know Lithuania once enjoyed an empire that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea? Or that it was the first Baltic state to win its freedom from the Soviet Union, initiating changes that ultimately led to its collapse?
Hostel dorm bed in Vilnius: $10+
Private room in budget hotel: $15+
Private room in mid-range: $25+
Private room in four-star hotel: $40
City buses: $0.75
City taxi: $0.75 starting tariff, then $0.75 per km.
Regional buses: as cheap as $9.50 per 100 km.
Meal at inexpensive local restaurant: $4.50-$7
Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant: $9.50-$15.50
Domestic beer (0.5 liter bottle) from convenience store: $0.88
Draught beer in bar: $1.50-$2.50
Regular-sized cappuccino: $2.00
Approximate daily travel budget: $35+
Romania vies with Bulgaria as the cheapest destination in Europe and Romania is by far one of the world’s most intriguing places to travel. From Dracula’s Castle (Bran’s Castle) in Transylvania to the medieval towns of Wallachia, from the cafe culture of Bucharest to the ski resorts of Postavaru Massif — Romania is the place to go if you want to experience on of Europe’s most adventurous destinations for a fraction of what you would spend in the west.
Hostel dorm beds: as low as $5 in some places, but $7-$14 is the average
Double room in private home: $20-$35 in large cities, $12 elsewhere
Double room in monastery: $18 – $24
Mid-range hotel: $30-$70
* Hotel owners will often provide free breakfast or other goodies to give them an advantage. Be sure to ask.
Local buses, trolleys, and trams: $0.30-$0.70 per ride
City taxi: About $0.45 per kilometer
Buses: Most buses from Bucharest to towns in the Transylvania region cost under $15
Trains: $5-$9 per 100km
Street snacks: $0.30-$1.25
Meal at budget restaurant: $3-$5
Upscale restaurant in touristy area: $5-$15
Domestic beer from convenience store: $0.75
Beer in bar: $1.50-$2.50
Wine: very best local wines for less than $15 in a store, $20 in a restaurant.
Glass of distilled fruit liquor in bar/restaurant: $0.75-$2
Approximate daily travel budget: $33+ per day.
Portugal is in the eurozone and is surrounded by some of Europe’s most expensive destinations, so it’s not as cheap as what you’ll find in Eastern Europe, but compared to its neighbors it’s a real bargain. You’ll eat well (the seafood is great), you’ll drink well (Porto and Ginjinha, for example), and you’ll get a taste of Western Europe and Iberian culture by seeing great monuments like the Belem Tower, at a fraction of the price.
Hostel dorm bed in small city: $18.50-$33
Hostel dorm bed in Lisbon: $13-$28
Private rooms in Lisbon pension: $26.50-$66
3-star hotel: $30-$80
Tram in Lisbon: $3.75 one way, $8 all day unlimited
Subway in Lisbon: $1.85 one ride, $8 all day unlimited
Taxi in Lisbon: $3 start, $2.15 per km
Rental car: $210-$350 per week
3-hour train from Porto to Lisbon: $46-$55 1st class, $32-$40 2nd class
Regional buses: About $13 per hour
200 grams of cheese: $1-$4
Set meal in restaurant/cafe (several courses plus drink): $6.50-$13.50
Main course in basic restaurant: $3.30-$10
Main course in nice restaurant: $6.50-$24
* Nothing placed on your table is complimentary. If you don’t want to be charged, ask the waiter to take them back or push them to the side of the table.
Domestic beer from convenience store: $0.65-$1
Beer in bar: $1-$2.50 (liter draft: $4-$5.50)
Wine in store: $1.50-$16 for most
House wine in restaurant: $1.30-$3.30 per glass
Better wine: $2.50-$6.50 per glass, $6.50-$20 per bottle
Approximate daily travel budget: $50+
Unfortunately for Slovakia, when Czechoslovakia spilt much of the tourism industry remained on the Czech side. As a result, Slovakia has been seen by travelers as sort of the Czech Republic’s dull sister. This is good news for you because Slovakia’s dullness is a myth, and its status off the tourist trail makes it a great value destination.
Campsite: $8 per person with tent
Hostel dorm beds: $17-$25
Mountain hut in National Park: $6-$10 per person
Double room in mid-range hotel: $26 -$70 including breakfast
City buses: $0.60-$1
Train, Bratislava to Kosice: $24 2nd class, $35 1st class
Train, Kosice to High Tatras hiking point) – $8 2nd class, $12 first class
Regional buses: $6 per 100 km
City taxi: $0.80-$1.30 per km
100 grams of local cheese: $0.40-$2
Set 3-course lunch in basic restaurant: $3-$8
Main dishes: $1.50-$6
Domestic beer (500ml) from convenience store: $0.60-$1
Beer (500ml) in bar: $2
Bottle of wine in a store: most $3.50-$8, premium $8-$20
Decent bottle of wine in bar/restaurant: $6-$12
Glass of house wine: $1-$2.60
Shot of local fruit brandy: $0.60-$1.60
Approximate daily travel budget: $37 per day.
With its rich cultural heritage, plentiful historic sites and gorgeous array of landscapes, Poland is another great country to travel on budget. With roots that stretch back to the first millennium, there are plenty of ruins and medieval castles to explore, not to mention the bustling modern cities and vast swathes nature full of dense forests, high peaks and lake reserves.
Hostel dorm beds: $13-$20
Hostel private rooms: $18+
Budget hotel rooms: $20+
City buses: $0.75 one-way
City taxi: $0.60-$0.75 per km
Regional buses: $0.89 for short distances, $30.84-32.24 cross-country
Return train ticket Warszawa-Kraków-Warszawa: $64.52 (2nd class)
Large pizza at pizzeria: $6.25-$7.75
Two-course meal at budget restaurant: $12.50-$15.50
Dinner at mid-range restaurant: $15.50-$30
Domestic beer from convenience store: $1+
Beer in bar: $2.50
Normal bottle of wine from store: $5.96
Bottle of vodka: $7.75+
Approximate daily travel budget: $35-$40.
Over the past few years Croatia has been attracting more and more travelers due to its sunshine, beaches and gorgeous scenery. But it’s not all sand and sun. Croatia also has a thriving food and wine scene, charming cobblestone towns, fashionable cities on the Adriatic coast, UNESCO World Heritage sites and plenty more — and all of this on a relatively slim budget.
With the tourist boom Croatia has experienced lately, prices have been steadily rising, but the country still offers great value in comparison to other Mediterranean beach destinations, especially if you avoid the high season in July and August.
In high season, expect to pay:
Hostel dorm beds: $20-$25
Room in private home: $20-$30
Mid-range hotel: $60-$80
*Prices are up to 40% lower during off-season.
Local ferries: $3.50-$5 one-way
City taxi: $2.50 starting tariff, $1 per km
Regional buses: $3.50-$5.50 per hour of travel
Train, Zagreb to Rijeka: $17-$20 (4 hours)
Train, Zagreb to Split: $30-$32 (5 hours 50 min fast, 8 hour 20 min slow)
Large pizza at pizzeria: $6.50
Pasta or risotto at budget restaurant: $7-$9
Meal at mid-range restaurant: $10.50-$14
Bottle of local wine at store: $6-$9
Beer in bar: $2.50
Shot of local liquor: $2.50
Approximate daily travel budget: $45+