fOR THE GADABOUT ON A BUDGET
Europe continues to be home to many of the world’s most expensive cities, as well as some bargain cities where many things cost only about a quarter as much for an international traveler.
Now in its 7th annual edition for 2017, the Europe Backpacker Index ranks 56 of the continent’s most popular cities from cheapest to most expensive.
The Backpacker Index is based on thorough research and calculated on one night accommodation in the cheapest hostel, two public transport rides per day, one paid attraction per day, three budget meals per day and three local beers or wine, or dessert and coffee per day.
Thanks to a stagnant economy and virtually no inflation (except for a few countries), prices for visitors in Europe held very steady throughout 2016. Iceland keeps getting more expensive, partly due to its soaring popularity. And Britain is now a relative bargain after the post-Brexit currency weakness. That probably won’t last too long, so don’t put off your next London visit.
Here are the 10 top ten cheapest cities for travel in Europe right now:
1. Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia remains a fantastic bargain among European capitals, with a very pleasant city center that is quite welcoming of foreign tourists. Prices of nearly everything are very cheap, except for inbound flights from other major cities. For this reason, Sofia is out of the way for anyone who isn’t doing an extensive tour of the region. Don’t expect any major checklist attractions, but you can expect a surprisingly lovely urban experience at shockingly reasonable prices.
- Daily Backpacker Index: BGN 43.75 = US $24.04/day
2. Krakow, Poland
Krakow continues yet again as Europe’s best travel bargain. The low prices have drawn in larger numbers of Europeans for weekend breaks, and there are many great and cheap hostels, bars, and restaurants to keep prices low while you are enjoying the beautiful old city and the local culture. Put this one on your list before demand forces prices up like in Prague and Budapest.
- Daily Backpacker Index: PLN 103.75 = US $24.82/day
3. Bucharest, Romania
Definitely not Romania’s most charming town, Bucharest’s Old Town gets decent reviews but the rest of the city struggles to appeal to tourists. Fortunately, those that make the effort to come will at least be rewarded with low prices all around, which certainly help make up for the other frustrations of visiting. And that huge parliament building is worth a look. Hostels seem to be getting cheaper lately, so it’s even more appealing for the backpacker set.
- Daily Backpacker Index: RON 108.72 – US $25.70/day
4. Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade is one of the Balkan cities that had years of trouble in the 1990s and still struggles a bit to attract tourism. This is another where you won’t find an abundance of checklist attractions, but you will find a lively and interesting urban center with good nightlife and appealing prices.
Daily Backpacker Index: €24.60 = US $26.17/day
5. Budapest, Hungary
Another excellent travel bargain, Budapest is all-around cheap as long as you steer clear of the most touristy places along the river. The castles and cathedrals are enough, but here you also get thermal spas that are cheap even for the backpacking set. Hostels, in particular, are great value, but you have to get a bit out of the center to find inexpensive hotels.
- Daily Backpacker Index: HUF 7,917 = US $26.75/day
6. Sarajevo, BiH
Another Balkan-area city whose name conjures up images of its past troubles, Sarajevo is a destination that is struggling to attract tourists. The location deep into the mountains is remote, but it’s also gorgeous once you arrive. The Muslim Old Town next to the modern center is very interesting and incredibly welcoming. This one is a hidden gem, partly because it’s so hard to reach. If you can figure out a way to get here, do it and see what the fuss is about.
- Daily Backpacker Index: €26.79 = US $28.50/day
7. Kiev, Ukraine
Kiev has always been fairly cheap (and very remote) compared to the rest of Europe, but the conflict and uncertainty that Ukraine has gone through starting in 2014 caused its currency to plunge and inflation to skyrocket. It’s hard to say what prices may be at any given moment in 2017, but at least it should continue to be cheap for outsiders. Hopefully the situation on the ground will feel more secure soon as well.
- Daily Backpacker Index: UHR 748.00 = US $29.18/day
8. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
The second most popular tourist town in the Czech Republic is another jewel not to be missed if you are nearby. Framed by a gorgeous serpentine river, the historic Old Town feels perfectly preserved yet not overly touristy. Best of all, Český Krumlov seems shockingly cheap when you are there, with hotels, food, and drinks at very low prices even in the heart of town. This place is a huge hit for Asian tourists, for some reason, though it’s highly recommended for everybody.
- Daily Backpacker Index: CZK 773 = US $30.34/day
9. Warsaw, Poland
While Krakow gets most of the raves in Poland, the capital city also has plenty to brag about in addition to very reasonable prices. The Old Town center was famously rebuilt after WWII to resemble its former self, and it’s as charming as it is impressive. Warsaw is a bit out of the way for most travelers, but it’s very worthwhile for those touring the area.
- Daily Backpacker Index: PLN 131.46 = US $31.45/day
10. Zagreb, Croatia
The beach resort towns of Croatia are the main attraction, so Zagreb, which is well inland, tends to be only a short stop for most. Still fairly cheap by European standards, and especially compared to Italy next door, Zagreb is a bargain and a worthwhile pause on the way to one of the beach towns or nearby Plitvice National Park.
- Daily Backpacker Index: HRK 230.80 = US $32.69/day