In general, Europe is an expensive and crowded place to travel, putting a lot of strain on your wallet and your patience. What many people don’t realize, however, are the great deals they can get by traveling to some of the lesser-known eastern European countries. Many of these places rival the best-known Western European destinations in beauty and history but are dramatically lower priced.
A trip to Europe may sound like an expensive getaway, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these tips to enjoy a vacation without sparing all luxuries.
Many people dream of wandering the streets of Paris, exploring the Swiss Alps, or strolling past the Venice Canals, but it doesn’t have to be a dream. Travelling to Europe is possible even on a budget. Here are a few guidelines to follow while planning a European vacation.
Be a flexible traveller
There are times of the year when a flight to Europe would require a second mortgage on your home, and then there are other times when it can be less than a single car payment. The first tip, start planning early. The best deals can be found months in advance. It is best to avoid the busy season, such as the summer months. Consider traveling in October and November or February and March. Not only will prices be lower during these off-season times, but the crowds will be smaller too. Also, be aware of what festivals and events take place in the counties or cities being traveled to, such as Oktoberfest in Germany or Fashion Week in Paris.
What accommodations to choose
Many people are aware of the inexpensive hostels in Europe, but if one is not traveling solo, these hostel fees can add up. If traveling with one or more companions, it may make more sense financially to look at cheap hotels over hostels. However, be aware of hotel charges based on per person occupancy. The cheapest hotels may not be the best; in a large metropolitan area, spending a few more dollars to be centrally located may be worth it rather than saving a few pounds staying on the outskirts. Also, look at amenities offered at the hotel, such as free wifi, complimentary breakfast, and others to take into consideration.
Getting Around in Europe
After leaping across the pond, one will want to see as much as possible of Europe, but what is the best way to get around. The train is one way, but not always the cheapest. Deciding on a mode of transportation will depend on how many cities one is going to and the length of the vacation. Staying for two weeks or more, a Eurail Pass may be worth looking into, but only if there are many destinations on the to-see list. So here are some accessible cities and countries you can visit on a budget.
Budapest, Hungary, and vicinity
Budapest rivals cities such as Paris and London for its beautiful architecture and lovely riverscapes. Budapest has a fascinating history, and architecture buffs will be excited to see the influences from Turkish and Austrian occupation and influences from Communism. Hungary is not a member of the EURO yet, making museums much cheaper. The city is filled with scenic walks, baths, and several areas where you can enjoy nature in one of the ancient parks or roam the cobblestoned streets looking at old palaces and churches. A boat trip up the Danube offers incredible views and takes travelers to the nearby towns of Szentendre, Esztergom, and Visegrad – all incredible day trips in their own right.
Though Istanbul is packed with tourists every year, it is not difficult at all to find very nice hotel accommodations, great food, and cheap transport in the downtown area. Istanbul’s attractions are mostly outdoors: the mosques, the beautiful historic streets, the old Byzantine churches. Many of these attractions are free. The best time to travel to Istanbul is in the winter when you can find fantastic deals.
Moldova has put a lot of work into making the downtown of its capital city an attractive place to be. Alexander Pushkin was once exiled to Chisinau, and the city boasts many cheap museums. Chisinau is sometimes known as the “green city,” it is a pleasant and relaxing escape with pretty forested parks and tree-lined streets. On the outskirts of Chisinau is a famous winery, and tourists can drive through their underground wine storage area. Old Orhei, located farther outside of Chisinau, has a fascinating museum, fascinating Roman and Dacian ruins, Slavic cave monasteries, and excellent hiking. Moldova’s wine is world-class, and it can be purchased cheaply in the country. Anything can be found in Moldova at a bargain price, including hotels, great restaurants, and taxis.
Lake Balaton, Hungary
Lake Balaton is one of the largest mineral lakes in the world and provides a great waterfront vacation for little expense. There are some amazing historic areas and towns to be discovered. On the Tihany peninsula, you can rent a bike and explore old ruins and medieval cave monasteries. On the southern side of the lake is a slew of nice resorts, some offering private beaches, spas, and sailboat rides. Many of the resorts are classy but much cheaper than similar counterparts in Western Europe. Travel around the lake is fast, easy, and inexpensive, with water taxis zipping across from town to town.
Transylvania is a gorgeous place, with ruined castles, monasteries, and medieval towns all against the backdrop of the breathtaking Carpathian mountains. Unlike a vacation in the Alps, you can explore Transylvania with few large expenses. Bus and train transport between the cities is cheap, reliable and comfortable. There are tons of opportunities to hike, cave, bike, or ski for those who love the outdoors. A popular attraction is “Dracula’s Castle,” and there are many other amazing castles and ruins in the area. Busing between the primary medieval towns of Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu make a beautiful, cheap, and historic visit.
Spending time in Tallinn is like stepping back into the 13th century. It is a gorgeous town with cobblestone streets, pretty churches, red roof buildings, and markets. It is safe and easy to roam the streets of Tallinn and explore every inch of the historic area. Accommodations are cheap, and no taxi is needed to get around. The downtown is packed with fun restaurants that are easy on the wallet. The viewing areas above the city are stunning.
The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
While tourists flock to the coasts of Italy, France, and Greece, making seeing the sights and finding a place to stay increasingly expensive, going to the Dalmatian coast in Croatia is a steal. Sprinkled along the Adriatic Sea are beautiful ancient seaside towns and interesting islands. Zadar is a great place to visit, and you can score amazing deals.
Slovenia is one of the best-kept secrets of Europe. It is a gorgeous country made up of mountains, charming coasts, and forests. There are tons of outdoor activities to do there, and one of the most common tourist activities is biking along the breathtaking coast. Ljubljana is a joy to visit and has managed to avoid the crowds that plague other European cities.
Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria
Bulgaria is an interesting and historical country that doesn’t get much attention from tourists. However, Bulgaria has a string of beautiful and elegant seaside resorts along its Black Sea Coast. Many of the resorts are just as nice as the Turkish resorts available yet are half the price. Some are situated on cliffs overlooking the sea, and all have a plethora of activities available for tourists.
Travelling to Europe doesn’t have to be as expensive as it sounds. by setting a budget and researching, almost anyone can afford to go to one of the most sought-after travel destinations. Being thrifty on the more expensive items such as airfare, lodging, and other transportation can go a long way.