11 Budget European Destinations
Many factors come into play when planning an international getaway. No matter if it’s a few weeks, a few months, a year, or more, one’s budget largely determines where to go. We talk a lot about budget destinations and getting the most bang for your buck here on BootsnAll. That’s because very few of us are rich, and when discussing long term, RTW travel, it’s imperative to always think about your budget.
Because of this, we sometimes leave out more popular (and expensive) regions of the world to travel in. Europe in particular gets a raw deal. With its poor exchange rate (up until very recently, which is another reason to add a budget European destination to your trip right now!) and more westernized culture, it’s a lot more difficult to get around Europe on the cheap than it is in other areas of the world like Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America.
But if you’re planning an international trip sometime soon, or as part of a longer, RTW trip, don’t automatically leave Europe off the list.
There are still plenty of places on this continent to travel inexpensively, and the following 11 cities across 5 European countries won’t cost more than $50US/day to travel in, so take advantage of an opportunity to see an otherwise expensive region on the cheap.
Travelers are catching on to Portugal, a gem in Western Europe that for some odd reason has never topped the list of popular European destinations. While tourists are starting to take advantage of all Portugal has to offer, it still remains pretty inexpensive compared to most of the rest of the region. Backpackers can expect to get by on about $40-45US/day. Dorms can be found in most cities (they may be a bit higher in Lisbon) for as low as $15US/person , and privates can be had for about $20US/person .
Porto offers a great mix of styles that are aesthetically appealing to all travelers. Narrow alleyways, wide boulevards, hills stretching upwards, buildings built into the cliffs, large squares, and massive churches are all part of Porto’s landscape. A great metro system has been part of the renaissance of Porto over the last 20 years, and architecture buffs will be in heaven with the Museu de Arte Contemporânea and the Casa de Musica. For beautiful landscape views and photo opportunities, consider a cruise up the Douro River, or give your taste buds a treat by crossing the river to Gaia and taking a port wine tour.
No matter where you are in the world, visiting a college town is a sure fire way to save a few bucks while taking advantage of a young, vibrant, and entertaining culture. Coimbra is a university city with a labyrinth of medieval streets, riverfront parks, and plenty of gardens. The nightlife is always kicking here with student festivals occurring during the school year. The party nights are typically Tuesdays and Thursdays as many students head home for the weekends, leaving it surprisingly quiet.
If you visited the Czech Republic 15-20 years ago, you were firmly in Europe’s budget territory, with obscenely low prices and a wonderland to travel in. Unfortunately the rest of the world has caught on, making this stunning country much more expensive and crowded. It’s still cheaper than many of its Western European counterparts, though, and if you visit in the shoulder or off seasons, high prices and large crowds start to dwindle. Even if you do travel to the Czech Republic in the expensive and crowded summer months, most frugal travelers can stay under that $50US/day mark. A dorm can be had for about $15-20US/person, while privates start at about $25US/person. And while you can’t get a beer for mere pennies anymore like the good ol’ days, you can still partake in plenty of drinking for cheap.
When Prague started getting too crazy, tourists started visiting Cesky Krumlov. Known as a smaller version of Prague, with an equally stunning castle and old town square, Cesky Krumlov is now just as overrun with tourists as the capital. But 750 years of history is sure to impress even the most jaded of travelers as they meander along the riverside to try out the various cafes and bars. Great museums, rafting and tubing the Vlatava River, and day trips to places like the Rozmberk Castle, the Zlata Koruna Monastery, and the Divci Kamen Castle will get travelers away from the massive crowds. Or consider visiting in the winter to catch a view of the snow covered castle while not having to deal with the summer tourists.
Prague and Cesky Krumlov are more expensive and touristy and getting more and more like popular Western European cities. But that doesn’t mean travelers don’t have options for less popular and more budget friendly destinations in the Czech Republic. The student town of Olomouc has much less tourism and a town square that rivals Prague. Only 2.5 hours from the capital, Olomouc is a great town for walking and has an impressive public transport system if your legs start to tire. The Trinity Column, the largest column in Europe, is impressive, as are the six Baroque Roman-themed fountains scattered about town. There’s a ton to offer travelers in Olomouc, including a great collection of churches, parks, museums, art galleries, and microbreweries. For a change of pace from all the beer drinking, don’t forget to try the Moravian wine.
The Czech Republic takes tremendous pride in their beer, so when a city is described as the birthplace of Czech beer and home of the original Budweiser, it’s probably a good idea to visit. Their main square is one of the biggest in all of Europe, and the narrow streets and alleyways make it a great city to get lost in. Only about 3 hours from Prague, travelers should check out the Pivovar Budejovicky Budvar brewery tour, the Black Tower, or a consider daytrips to other locales in Southern Bohemia.
>> Read Indie Travel in the Czech Republic for $45 Per Day, and read about off-the-beaten path spots in Czech Republic
Croatia has been gaining popularity on the travel circuit over the past 5 years, and with good reason. The hype is warranted, and while most travelers come here for the miles of coastline and beaches along the Adriatic, there’s more to Croatia. Because of the popularity of the coast, building a budget trip while still being able to enjoy the beach is challenging, but can be done. Backpackers can get by on $40US/day in Croatia, but if you plan on hitting up more than one or two coastal towns or moving around a lot, that can figure can easily double. Exploring cities not on the coast will give travelers a totally different view of Croatia while getting away from the crowds and saving a lot of money.
Most cities in the southern coastal region of Dalmatia are extremely popular, and thus, extremely expensive and crowded. While Zadar does see some crowds, it’s nowhere near as much as the more popular Dubrovnik. Roman ruins (including the Roman Forum, one of the best preserved Roman forums in the world) and a plethora of churches, fortifications and some great beaches make this a fantastic tourist destination without the exorbitant prices. There are also a good number of museums, a very nice promenade, and the large student population means good bars and cheap eats. For those with a little higher budget, the nearby islands of Ugljan and Dugi Otok offer a nice little getaways.
If you want to get away from the coast and the high prices, then consider a trip to Zagreb, which is only a three hour bus ride from the waters of the Adriatic. Zagreb loves its outdoor activities, so while you won’t be enjoying a beach holiday, there’s plenty of ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors here. There’s Maksimir Park, an in-city haven for walkers, bikers, and runners, and a world class zoo perfect for families traveling here. Nearby Jarun Lake is fantastic for the younger travelers, with a hopping nightlife, while Mount Medvednica is good for those looking to get out and do a little trekking or biking in the wilderness. The best part about Zagreb? Travelers can find dorms and private rooms in hostels for as low as $11US and $15US/person respectively.
This former Communist nation has been emerging from the shadows as a fantastic European destination that can be visited for a fraction of the price of most other countries. Surviving on $40US/day shouldn’t be a terribly difficult challenge in Albania, with hostel beds and privates averaging around $20-30US/person. The beauty of Albania lies with its variation. Picturesque beaches on the Ionian Sea, a bustling city in Tirana, and towns offering a rugged mountain setting offer something for all travelers.
Tirana can be rather crazy. With its constant traffic jams, it’s very pedestrian un-friendly in many places. But Tirana has been undergoing a major renovation in the last decade. The once all gray city has been re-painted in bright, vibrant colors, creating a scene, look, and vibe completely different from the one only a short time ago. The Skanderbeg Square in the city center offers access to many of the city’s attractions, including the National History Museum, the Et’hem Mosque, and a clocktower. The Deshmoret e Kombit Boulevard is compared to the Champs de Elysee and heads south from the square. If heading in that direction, it’s probably a good idea to check out one of Albania’s best preserved castles, Petrela. The entertainment district, known as The Block , once off limits to commoners during Communist rule, is now full of life, especially for the younger crowd.
Known as the Town of 1000 Windows, the entire city was preserved as a museum by the Communist government. The large, white Ottoman style houses stretch up the hillside to the castle, earning the town its nickname. A gorgeous city to explore, Berat has plenty of churches and mosques, and the Kala Castle that has origins back to the 4th century BC, which offers great views. If you’re looking for a little more action, many travelers raft the Osumi River.
Located on a horseshoe shaped bay, surrounded by mountains on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other, Saranda is opposite Corfu, Greece. Ksamil, near Sananda, offers a great beach with small islands a short swim away. The highlight of a trip to Saranda is the chance to visit nearby Butrint, an ancient city and Unesco World Heritage site. This amazing site has origins dating back as far as the 8th century BC, with a Roman amphitheater, Roman temples, and a Byzantine Basilica. Excavations are still underway, and word is there is much more to this site than what has already been discovered.
>> Read about why you should visit Albania now
You may think of the famous blood sucking vampire when hearing the name Romania, and while Transylvania is a major tourist attraction, there is so much more to this country. Another place that has been gaining popularity in recent years, especially since it joined the EU a little over 8 years ago, Romania is a country that is very unique to others in the region. On the shores of the Black Sea, with scenic mountains, stunning natural beauty around every turn, friendly, rural areas that have tourists hearkening to days past, beautiful monasteries and churches, and plenty of castles, Romania can still be done if you’re on a tight budget. Backpackers can get by on $40US/day without much of an issue, especially if you stick to the more rural areas.
If you’re really looking to go back in time and see what life was like 100 years ago, then the Maramures region of Romania is for you. It’s not a tourist hotbed by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are into rolling green hills, wooden churches, stunning landscapes, and the chance to visit a multitude of tiny villages virtually untouched by Westernization, then this is the place for you. Luckily prices are still really cheap for what you get, with accommodations as low as $40US for a private room including breakfast.
Many new travelers to the international scene automatically think of Europe as the place to go. But as travelers get more seasoned, and if they start to consider long term, RTW travel, Europe tends to get neglected because of its high prices. While the word budget doesn’t exactly go together with cities like Paris, London, and Rome, there are plenty of other destinations around this continent that can be done on the cheap.
Check out this multi-stop trip to Europe:
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Europe is a large region with 50 independent countries and thousands of cities, so compiling a list like this will never be complete. What other budget European destinations should be added to this list? Comment below to let us know:
Read more about travel in Europe and unexpected budget-friendly places: