It seems like everyone is on a budget these days, but pinching pennies shouldn’t stop anyone from continuing to travel… especially when some of the most interesting travel destinations are surprisingly affordable. Here are five possible European travel destinations that won’t break the bank. I’ve visited each one myself on a budget and have been surprised by how far my limited funds have gone.
Western Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. Cities like London , Rome , Paris and Barcelona usually command a premium when it comes to airfare, lodging and entertainment. One of western Europe’s most affordable cities, hands-down, is Berlin , Germany . Possibly surprising to most, the German capital city packs a punch when it comes to fun and affordability. Airfare is usually very reasonably priced, and the range of hotels is expansive. From hostels to a Ritz Carlton, everything is available. Festivals take place year-round and are usually free and open to the public (look in the major squares like Alexanderplatz or Potsdamer Platz), and for inexpensive food, try off-the-beaten path local restaurants. Transportation is inexpensive, too: an all-day subway pass for the Berlin city area is around 6 Euro. Most historic sites are free and open to the public (for fun, find Hitler’s bunker, take a photo in front of Checkpoint Charlie, and wind among the large concrete blocks in the Jewish Memorial).
Moving toward the east, visit Prague , which is located in the Czech Republic . Though the tourist part of the city can be very expensive, venture off the beaten path to find inexpensive hotels and entertainment. The beautiful Prague Castle sits atop the city and the walk from the other side of the river yields some interesting sights and restaurants that are less expensive. Visit the church located in the Prague Castle compound for some of the most beautiful stained glass in all of Europe .
Though Romania isn’t yet on the popular list of tourist destinations, it will be in the near future. The capital city of Bucharest is surprisingly cosmopolitan, with plenty of museums and upscale hotels and cuisine. Spend just a little bit of time researching hotels online, and you are almost guaranteed to find a deal that isn’t too far from the city center. Try one of the local restaurants’ version of the national dish (polenta, usually with eggs and/or sour cream) and you’ll find that it is surprisingly affordable.
Also in Romania is the famous (infamous?) region of Transylvania . Made popular by Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, this mountainous area of the country is full of castles and monasteries. Most tourists are interested in visiting Bran Castle , which is the castle that Dracula is based on. There are some excellent places to stay in nearby Braşov , which is only about 30km away from Bran, and is easily accessible by bus. When I was there, I stayed at a bed and breakfast with a lovely family and 4 other groups of travelers. The family that lived on the premises was invaluable in helping us book our bus tickets, and enjoyed talking with us about our travels and sharing their own experiences.
Moving to the edge of the European continent is the beautiful and unique city of Istanbul , Turkey . Half in Europe and half in Asia, Istanbul is as interesting as it is affordable. Many hotel options are available here, from five-star luxury of the Ritz Carlton to smaller American chains and independent hotels. For the best location, stay near the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, which are more near the center of town. Shopping in Istanbul is relatively affordable because the of the exchange rate between the Turkish Lira and the US Dollar and Euro. Be sure to visit some of the rug and ceramics shops. Many of the local restaurants serve excellent Turkish fare at good prices; veer away from the normal tourist hang-outs to have a nice meal and a talk with the friendly locals.
Berlin in 48 Hours
Prague in 48 Hours
Five of the World’s Most Affordable Travel Destinations