Who wouldn’t want to travel the world? Millions of people have this dream, but very few are actually able to do it, mainly because of one all-too-true fact: traveling is expensive. Generally, that’s true. What you might not realize is that the price tag of your next vacation depends heavily on the country you’re staying in. And now you’re probably thinking that it might have a slight impact, but you might not realize to what extent. Let’s put it this way: a fast food meal in one country can cost you $0.32 USD, while in another it can cost up to $24.63 USD. Now apply that difference to your hotel charge for the entire trip. Huge, right?
Looking into these costs ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars, especially in Europe. While Europe is usually thought of as a very expensive continent to travel to, what many travelers don’t know is how inexpensive some of the countries within Europe are. Planning your budget according to the country you're visiting is an incredibly important part of the process that is often overlooked. If you’re planning a trip abroad anytime soon, here are the facts you need to know: which 10 countries in Europe are the least expensive to visit, which 10 are the most expensive, and most importantly, why.
20 Poland (Cheap!): Budget Friendly Winter Magic
Offering an intensive outdoors life, a thriving nightlife, and a rich history, Poland is a great destination for travelers looking to get a little bit of everything out of one country. Even the larger cities are widely known as some of the cheapest spots in Europe.
Unlike other cities, you can "live it up" without worrying about budgeting.
Hotels and hostels are small but very affordable, and food is filling and cheap. Even transportation is quite doable here, whether you choose bus, train, or taxi. Many tourists choose to visit Poland during the winter to experience its incredible snowy magic.
19 Finland (Expensive!): Pricey Food, Pricey Views
Finland is unsurprisingly pricey, but still seen as worth it for many tourists. Hotels are generally the price of any major city in the US per night, but do tend to offer an upscale yet cultural experience. Transportation is actually the least expensive of the costs here. Food is very pricey, even fast food, and tours can get up to 1,000 EUR.
To save costs, tourists often flock to lunchtime buffets, which are very cost effective. Rideshares, particularly Uber, are the best way to get around cities. There are also many free walking tours for tourists wanting to see the sights and learn more of the culture. The winter, albeit cold, is the best time to travel to Finland for budgeting purposes.
18 Greece (Cheap!): Beautiful Cities, Affordable Islands
Depending on the season, accommodations in Greece can be incredibly affordable. Summer months (mainly July and August) can be double or triple the prices of any other.
For tourists who want to experience the warmth but save money, May and September are the best months to go.
Food is also dependent on the season and can range from very affordable to pricey.
The main islands (Santorini and Mykonos) are the most expensive. Smaller, more local towns offer a really authentic experience with a third of the price tag. History buffs will get lucky: many of the ancient sites are free or very affordable as long as you can get yourself there, and transportation is known to be budget friendly.
17 Switzerland (Expensive): Higher Prices For The Swiss Dream
With an incredibly strong currency and high cost of living, Switzerland is daunting to many travelers. The stunning scenery and culture (chocolate anyone?) appeals to all ages, but the prices throughout the country tend to bring in older and wealthier tourists. Even fast food is the price of many sit down restaurants in other moderately priced countries.
Luckily, if you are planning a visit to Switzerland and are on a budget, the heavy emphasis on natural scenery and activities such as hiking lends to a cheaper vacation. Winter activities are undoubtedly more expensive, especially skiing, but many tourists think the extra cost is worth it to experience such a unique culture and see the amazing sights of Switzerland.
16 Croatia (Cheap!): Food Buffs Eat For Cheap
Croatia is known for its fabulous food that is incredibly affordable. Eating out is a huge pastime here! If you're a food buff looking to try authentic dishes, such as grilled lamb or Croatian pastries, you're in luck. Accommodations are also affordable, especially if you're able to rent an apartment or villa from a local (AirBnB works too). Family run places are usually best and offer the nicest amenities as well.
Most of the castles and ruins tourists seek out are free to visit, as long as you're willing to do your own investigative work ahead of time and know where you want to go (tours are more pricey).
15 Netherlands (Expensive!): Large Cities = Large Expenses
Travelers are often surprised to find that visiting the Netherlands can be expensive. The costs that add up the quickest are usually taxis, eating out, and hotels. The summer months (June, July, and August) are the least cost effective to visit: travelers can head to the Netherlands in May and September and still have a great experience.
Larger tourist destinations will play a huge role in your spending. Staying in a hotel just outside a larger town can be a big budget help, and you might get a more authentic experience in the countryside. Amsterdam is especially expensive, so if you really need to save, limiting your sightseeing in Amsterdam to a day trip can help.
14 Hungary (Cheap!): Live In Luxury For Less
Hungry is surprisingly cheap inexpensive compared to its neighbors. Food and drink cost practically nothing, and hostels are typically small but clean and affordable, even in the larger cities. Some travelers find that 4 or 5 star hotels are comparable cost wise to 2 star hostels in other countries. Sit down dining is very common, and might even be only a few US dollars for a full meal at a nice restaurant.
If you can stay off the beaten tourist track, you'll fare even better. Historic bath houses are plentiful, inexpensive, and always fun to try as a first time traveler to Hungary. Transportation makes it pretty easy to get around (taking a cab is super affordable to basically anywhere within a city).
13 Sweden (Expensive!): Beautiful Scenery, Less Than Perfect Costs
While Sweden isn't the most expensive country in Europe, it's still up there. Most travelers feel that costs just tend to add up throughout a trip. Booking in advance is huge: even 4 weeks beforehand can make a difference for any type of transportation tickets (mainly bus and train). Buying a rail pass can also help since transportation can be a steep cost.
A Stockholm card can help you get around the city and lets you into many museums for free, so it's worth it for longer trips. Eating out is also very expensive, but street vendors offer a huge variety of unique food for much cheaper. Hotels are typically pricey, so look at the off-months for special deals at nicer accommodations.
12 Czech Republic (Cheap!): History At Its Best
The Czech Republic continues to hold the spot it has earned as one of Europe’s cheapest countries. There are tourist traps, but they’re easily avoided, even in big cities. Although the Czech Republic is one of Europe’s smaller countries, it is divided into over 14 sections, each with very unique history. Prague naturally has the most expensive accommodations and food, but hostels and smaller hotels are still very affordable and can be up to half of what other countries cost per night.
Bus travel is typically the most affordable form of transportation. Trains are also decently inexpensive, and run throughout the countryside. The food throughout the Czech Republic is filling, and large portions are served for the amount paid. Generally, the Czech Republic is an excellent bang for your buck and a pitstop for history buffs.
11 Denmark (Expensive!): Higher Quality, Higher Prices
Being widely known as the most expensive country for utilities, it is unsurprising that Denmark is also astronomically expensive for travelers. For tourists, typically the food, transportation, and activities are the biggest costs. Even a hot dog on the street can be a budget breaker. Eating at smaller restaurants in the countryside is a good idea, as is buying a tourism card if you’re interested in any of the many activities. The tours offered can run more than two nights at a hotel just for a one person tour!
Booking in advance is also helpful, especially for transportation and accommodations. To really save money, couch-surfing is become more popular (i.e. staying with a local), especially if you want the full experience and don’t care about where you sleep.
10 Bulgaria (Cheap!): Least Expensive With A Stunning Countryside
Known as the least expensive country in Europe not only for tourism but for daily living, Bulgaria is an incredibly affording option to anyone wanting to see a gorgeous country in Europe. There are tourist traps, especially in larger cities such as Sofia, but there’s also affordable accommodations, food and drinks, shopping, and activities. More rural areas are known for being even more inexpensive.
Self-service restaurants are available all throughout Bulgaria, keeping costs down for travelers who don’t mind the lack of luxury. Small hotels and hostels are scattered throughout the countryside, and the refurbished old homes used as rented accommodations are known for being especially affordable. The countryside itself is absolutely beautiful and the locals are known for being extremely friendly and kind. For the price, Bulgaria is certainly a destination to keep on the list.
9 England (Expensive!): Typical Tourism With A Twist
With a constant flood of tourists, it's not surprising that England is super expensive. A weekly travel card can help cut down on costs, but accommodations will still run the budget up for anything nice (although there's a variety of lower-end hostels that may be within range).
Food-wise, supermarkets are your best bet and will sell authentic British food. Fast food is also affordable. If you plan to eat out, expect that food will be your major cost in England. On the flip side, the food is typically amazing, making it worth the money. Transportation is more reasonable which makes it easy to see the English countryside and still get to London for at least a day.
8 Serbia (Cheap!): Affordable Dining, Filling Food
Serbia is becoming a more popular destination due to the amount of English speaking residents it boasts. Accommodations are affordable, especially apartment rentals, and dining out is cheap as well. Grocery store food is surprisingly more expensive so tourists are encouraged to eat out.
Seeing the countryside is especially affordable (except for transportation there, which is comparable to typical European rates). The countryside is known to be insanely beautiful and is often sought out by tourists. The southern areas of Serbia are the places to be for anyone on a budget: costs can be half of the typical prices in larger cities.
7 Germany (Expensive!): Costly Transportation, Amazing Local Culture
While Germany isn’t known as the most expensive country in Europe, it is definitely up there. Most of these costs are due to transportation: one train ride can cost more than your accommodations for the whole week! AirBnBs are relatively inexpensive, and food is hearty yet affordable.
Ride shares are common in Germany to offset the cost of transportation. If you’re looking to save on food, checking out local markets or street vendors (provided they aren’t tourist traps in the major cities) is a good idea. Booking early is always a good idea: travelers can save up to 50% on the total cost of a trip by booking over 5 months in advance, even for train tickets.
6 Ukraine (Cheap!): Food Less Than $2
Ukraine is incredibly affordable as well. Even in the major cities, which tend to be the safest, a meal can cost $2 USD and entrance to some of the best museums are under $.40 USD.
Ukraine is especially known for its sweets, and the small price tag means that your sweet tooth has the ability to take over!
Strudels, ice cream, cakes, baked goods, and candy are all available at literally every corner, although the shops are a better bet than the stands price wise.
The restaurants are all high quality in decor and service; the food is fresh (fish is common) and typically under $2 USD for a 4 star meal. Accommodations are barely more than that, and you can easily book a luxury hotel in Ukraine for what one meal in another country would cost. For transportation, do some research before hand: many different companies offer car services for long distances that have a range of prices.
5 Luxembourg (Expensive!): High Prices But Low Tourism
The residents of Luxembourg get paid extremely well, which means that everything in the country costs more as well. One square foot of living can cost almost $800 USD! Grocery shopping as well as dining out are both very pricey, but the food is typically of a high caliber.
Luxembourg isn't known for being a tourist destination, but that's what can make it such an amazing country to visit. You're able to walk around and feel like you're on a tour because the experience is so authentic. Castles and other historical (and beautiful!) sites are usually free to visit since there are no tourists to make money off of.
While Luxembourg has a reputation for being one of the most expensive countries in Europe (and according to accommodation and food prices, this is accurate), the lack of daily spending on activities and tourist traps may change your budgeting plan quite a bit.
4 Romania (Cheap!): Vampire Land Without Breaking Your Budget
The low costs to visit Romania make it an especially attractive destination to digital nomads. Romania is known for its amazing views and friendly locals as well as its part in the vampire legends, particularly Dracula.
Surprisingly to many, food is actually relatively expensive here. Your best bet is to stay at a (cheap) hostel and cook there. Many hostels come equipped with kitchens to make this easier.
Romania has a thriving nightlife for night owls and a beautiful country side for the adventurous folk. It is home to many impressive castles, the majority of which offer inexpensive tours. The tour of Dracula's castle costs a good deal more but may be worth it for those who can't leave Romania without the full experience.
3 Iceland (Expensive!): Remote Prices, True Natural Experience
Iceland is known as one of the most expensive countries in the world, possibly because it’s so remote and difficult to get to and to keep running. While the cost of a trip can be astronomical, tourists have begun flocking to Iceland to view the many natural wonders the country offers and spend a few weeks living among nature.
Iceland offers a huge variety of accommodations, most of which cost a pretty penny (despite many of them being less than luxurious), but there are still many hostel and cottage like rentals that can help tourists save money.
Food is extremely expensive, even for quicker meals, but is also very traditional. Most tourists heading to Iceland don’t mind the hefty price tag because the experience is so awe-inspiring.
2 Turkey (Cheap!): Budget Friendly Bargaining
Turkey is becoming a more popular destination that is comfortably affordable. Resorts charge more per night, but travelers willing to seek out more obscure accommodation will do well. Transportation barely costs anything and food is budget friendly but culturally authentic and filling. Clothing is also really inexpensive but high quality, so shopping is a fun pastime in Turkey.
If prices seem a bit higher than you expected upon arrival, try bargaining with the seller. Bringing down the prices is a huge part of the culture in Turkey and bargaining is normal before almost any transaction, whether it's for food, transportation, lodging, or just shopping.
1 Norway (Expensive!): Hefty Prices But Hefty Culture
With a high price per square foot of living accommodations, Norway is incredibly expensive to both locals and tourists. Because of its viking ancestors, Norway is also attractive to many travelers willing to pay for the added cultural experience and historical immersion. Flights into Norway are typically affordable, but the budgeting ends there.
Norway is known as the most expensive country for car rentals and tolls, and other forms of transportation are just as bad.
Food prices can vary, so your best bet is to try eating out in smaller towns. Accommodations are also super pricey, and while renting private apartments or cabins may seem cheaper, many of the extra add-on fees will make it not worth it. Your best bet is finding a low cost hotel just outside a major city or in a small town.