Travel becomes more expensive every year and it sometimes seems as if there are very few hidden gems left. Europe is no exception. But, with a little research and a lot of flexibility, it is still possible to travel to Europe on a budget. The following destinations all offer food and lodging priced well below the European average and they can offer amazing views and wonderful touristic attractions.
Poland doesn’t land on many multi-country European tours, and it’s a shame. It’s a beautiful country with a rich history. For the best value, stay in Krakow - it has a compact city center easily explored on foot or with minimal driving. Castles, cathedrals, palaces, and town squares are all represented; everything you expect when visiting Europe.
Krakow has very affordable hotels and hostels along with cheap restaurants, bars, and cafes. It is possible to be under $30 per day for food and lodging which is about as cheap as Europe gets. For entertainment, try one of the city’s many pubs. Krakow is said to have the most per square mile in Europe. Old Town and Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter) are renowned for affordable nightlife options.
Hungary continues to offer value for travelers from all over the world despite the popularity of Budapest. It seems that every American teen loads up their best carry on backpack and spends the majority of their gap year in Budapest. Who can blame them? It is one of Europe’s greatest cities and is almost as cheap as Krakow.
In Budapest, stay away from the river for the best prices on lodging, restaurants, and bars. That area is where the tourists stay, and it is far more expensive than other parts of the city. If you go, make sure to tour the sights on Castle Hill and walk around downtown Pest. Budapest is built on natural thermal springs so make sure you sample the many spas. They are easy to find and cheap.
Food in Budapest is affordable but very Hungarian in flavor. If you like paprika, you will be fine. Still, for an overall budget of around $30 per day, you can live very well in Hungary.
Prague is becoming more expensive and more crowded every year, but it remains a bargain when compared to similar cities in Europe. Lodging is expensive so to travel on a budget you will have to choose where you stay wisely. Hostels will be your best bet. Food is still cheap if you stay out of restaurants aimed at feeding tourists. The large signs in English should be a dead giveaway. For beer drinkers, Prague is still a major attraction although drinks have become more expensive. Still, a world class pint for $2.50 is a pretty good deal, even for a budget traveler.
For a less expensive and more rustic look at the Czech Republic consider traveling to Cesky Krumlov. This small southern town of around 14,000 residents is centered around a 13th-century castle. Once in partial ruin after years of Soviet-era neglect, the town has been rejuvenated and greets visitors with open arms. And, it’s cheap. A full meal will set you back around $4, and beer is half the price compared to Prague.
With the fall of the Turkish Lira, travel has become cheap to this part of Europe. It is possible to visit Istanbul, one of history’s most significant cities, for less than $35 per day. As with Prague, affordable lodging will be difficult to find so do your research if you plan on being frugal. Food is plentiful and cheap, especially when purchased on the street or in the open markets.
Istanbul is unlike any other city in Europe due to its Asian influences and is well worth the extra travel to get there. A walking tour here will take you back thousands of years and expose you to layer after layer of cultures present in the city’s history.
Lithuania doesn’t make many top ten travel lists but it should. It is a scenic country with great infrastructure. And, it is affordable. You can enjoy Vilnius for only $35 per day. The only challenge will be getting here. The Baltic States are not on very many itineraries but the prices reflect the lack of tourism, especially for food. Quality meals can be purchased for less than $5, and drinks are cheap as well.
The other Baltic capitals, Riga and Tallinn, offer similar value although both are on the coast, so prices are high during tourist season. Still, the entire region offers tremendous quality for low prices.
Greece is not cheap, but it offers good value for anyone wishing to see a beautiful country rich in history and culture. Even Athens is affordable considering that most people would pay far more to see the Acropolis and other ancient sites.
Expect to pay around $50 per day for food and lodging on a budget in Athens, but it is possible to live more cheaply in the small villages which dot the countryside. Still, they are spread out and very small. Your best bet for an inexpensive side trip is to take the Metro to a port city and hop a ferry to a vacation island. Also, if you want a breathtaking birds’ eye view, Greece is definitely the country that can offer it. You just need to have a pair of compact binoculars and choose a high elevation spot.
Not all of Germany is cheap. Munich and Hamburg are two of the most expensive cities in Europe. Berlin, however, is very affordable. After absorbing East Berlin when the wall fell, the city was left with a lot of high-density real estate, some of which was converted to hostels and budget hotels.
Berlin is an exciting city to visit. It is edgy with avant-garde museums and strange bars filled with a multi-cultural clientele. Any trip to Berlin should include music, theater, and art to experience the culture of Germany’s capital.
Europe on a budget does not mean you cannot travel to amazing cities rich in history and culture. It means that you have to be smart about how you spend your money and knowledgeable about what each city has to offer. Affordable trips to Europe are still possible. You just have to look a little harder.
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