23 Oct,2018 By Jagabond
People are looking for cheap holidays. I’ve been posting a lot on Quora, the social media forum that acts as a question & answer repository for any topic you can think of. Frequently, prospective travelers are asking how to save money, particularly in expensive regions like Europe.
I address this by suggesting value cities that meet two key criteria: cheap and nice. Of course you can have one without the other, but finding a city with both can turn a budget traveler into a three meals per day restaurant-goer. I wanted a comparison price. Based on some research, I decided on Berlin as a median priced European city. Thanks to the website Numbeo for the cost information.
1. Budapest, Hungary
Pint of Beer = 1.39 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 27.88 Euro
Taxi per mile = 1.55 Euro
Consumer prices 34.5% below median
In Budapest you can easily spend a week and have a full itinerary everyday…TripAdvisor currently lists 526 things to do. Everything here is inexpensive, but for super great deals on beer visit one of the many ruin bars, which are similar to what the US calls dives but with a more artsy touch. The only drawback is the lack of day trip opportunities, but why bother when you can spend all your time in a wonderful city like this.
2. Gdansk, Poland
Pint of Beer = 1.86 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 25.62 Euro
Taxi per mile = 0.97 Euro
Consumer prices 38.5% below median
Although Gdansk is only marginally cheaper than Krakow, there are fewer crowds. The old town area is gorgeous with the Neptune fountain shown below and a towering Ferris wheel overlooking the Vistula river. History addicts will be satiated, as this is where World War II began when Hitler launched an attack on the port, and also where the solidarity movement started that eventually helped topple communism.
3. Zadar, Croatia
Pint of Beer = 2.02 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 37.02 Euro
Taxi per mile = 1.12 Euro
Consumer prices 24.3% below median
You can walk the old town rather quickly, check out the nice belfry tower for great views, and experience the smooth sounds of the sea organ. Take a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park for amazing waterfalls, and I recommend the tourist company Romeo and Juliet for getting you out there. You can also spend an overnight trip on the island of Dugi Otok, and drive a cheap rental car down the Dalmatian Coast to Split, which is only two hours away.
4. Bucharest, Romania
Pint of Beer = 1.71 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 25.71 Euro
Taxi per mile = 0.60 Euro
Consumer prices 41.8% below median
There’s a lot said about how gritty and rough Bucharest looks, but it’s really not that bad if you can get past all the stray dogs. Locals here are among the nicest in Europe. The city has an interesting recent history pertaining to their ex-dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, who was famously executed along with his wife on Christmas Day, 1989. You can day trip from here to Brasov, and even across the border to Bulgaria.
5. Kotor, Montenegro
Pint of Beer = 1.75 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 30.00 Euro
Taxi per mile = 0.83 Euro
Consumer prices 33.5% below median
This was a place I wished I’d stayed longer. The Bay of Kotor is stunning, and walking around town with the tucked away side streets reminded me of Croatia…not surprising since it’s the next country to the north. I remember sitting with my Belgian friends on a terrace, drinking margaritas all day and enjoying the majestic views. We were in no condition to hike that day, but I’ve heard that’s quite an experience as well.
6. Belgrade, Serbia
Pint of Beer = 1.52 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 25.30 Euro
Taxi per mile = 0.98 Euro
Consumer prices 42.3% below median
There is nothing bad to say about Belgrade. I felt so comfortable here that at times I thought I was back home in the US. I didn’t get the chance to experience much nightlife, but from what I saw it was both cheap and wild. For science geeks like me, don’t miss the Nikola Tesla museum to learn about one strange but superbly smart dude. If you have time you can even day trip to the nearby wine country in Topola.
7. Lviv, Ukraine
Pint of Beer = 0.93 Euro
Restaurant meal for two (3-course) = 15.47 Euro
Taxi per mile = 0.37 Euro
Consumer prices 61.6% below median
The country on the edge of forever boasts an incredibly vibrant city that I predict will be the next big deal in Europe. Lviv is the most affordable place on this list. I recall buying drinks for strangers my last night in town because I guessed wrong on how much local currency I’d need. Whether it be drinking craft beer to orchestra music, scoping out politically themed street art, or learning about the yard of lost toys, you will find unique adventures in Lviv.
No point disguising the obvious, that Western Europe lacks any cities on this list. Central and Eastern Europe are typically cheaper than the more touristy alternatives. The exception is Lisbon, which keeps shocking travelers with its prime location and reasonable prices. A good rule of thumb for Europe is keep going east and watch the cost drop.
The stigma of the east is real. Every place in the region claims that Eastern Europe starts with the next country over. This is changing, as more tourists are realizing the unique travel opportunities here.
Bottom line…pack your bag and head to these cheap European getaways.