If money was no issue we could travel anywhere without a care in the world, chartering our own private jets and hitting up the most outrageously luxurious hotels, hydrating only with Moet (I’m more of a beer man myself but you know the drill). But this is real life – bangs head against wall – and we don’t know about you, but we’re pretty f*cking skint at the best of times.
Thankfully though from our experience, travelling on a budget in Europe does not have to mean that you’re bedding down with mosquitos and considered lucky if you get a pillow on which to rest your head; there are SO many countries that are as stunning as they are affordable, and that goes for everything from accommodation to dining out and getting around.
If you’re considering where to book for your next European getaway, and you’d really rather not pay €15 for a pint, listen up. Behold, our list of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe!
Croatia is rising up the ranks as an unbelievably stunning alternative to your typical package holidays along the Costa Del Sol but as the popularity rises, so too do prices. Thankfully, the real tourist trap is only in Dubrovnik where you won’t notice a major saving when compared to Irish prices. However, travel up the coast towards Split and island hopping from Brac to Korcula and Hvar (Croatia’s far cheaper answer to Ibiza), you’ll soon see your euro go a long way. With so much lush vegetation and mouthwatering seafood, these lesser spoiled Croatian spots are well worth a visit before the rest of the world cops on. Hurry!
Unmissable: One of our all-time faves is Skradin, located just near the Krka River with easy access to the Krka National Park, not forgetting the uh-mazing Politick Lakes. 100km from Split, this is one of the oldest, smallest and most charming towns in Croatia.
Price guide: €1.40 for a coffee in Split, a seafood meal for two with wine and bubbles will set you back €35 in some of Skradin’s best restaurants.
If you’re really into your history and culture, Bosnia-Herzegovina is a stone’s throw from Dubrovnik and as it’s only starting to pique the interest of European travellers, it’s still hella cheap. An inland neighbour of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina (originally part of the former Yugoslavia before gaining their independence in 92) is steeped in history following the civil war of the early 90s, and its towns and villages – tucked away among the country’s mostly mountainous terrain, are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. European countryside just doesn’t get better and you won’t find more photographable valleys in as cheap a place. And they still have a teeny bit of access to the stunning Adriatic coastline, down in the South. Perfect!
Unmissable: Mostar’s medieval bridge and old school vibes; your Instagram game’s about to go through the flipping roof.
Price guide: Less than €5 for a meal for one in your average restaurant in Sarajevo.
There’s so much more to this region of Romania than all of the Dracula fanfare, but the ubiquity of castles makes for such an original trip (there are so many, they easily rival Germany’s offering). Having ticked this country off our list not long ago, we were blown away by the landscape. The city of Brasov is one of the most populous in Transylvania and surrounded by the Carpathia mountains, the whole place looks too picturesque to be real.
Unmissable: Bran Castle, one of Romania’s most celebrated national monuments and landmarks (on the vicinity of Brasov) and the incredible neo-renaissance Peles Castle – on the route that links Transylvania to Wallachia – are our ultimate must visits.
Price guide: €20 for a 3-course dinner for 2 in Brasov, Transylvania, Romania
If it’s a beer-filled holiday you’re after, Hungary is one of the cheapest European destinations for a big dirty pint, there I said it. Budapest, the country’s capital, is another place where you can guarantee a creek in your neck on account of all there is to see. Situated on the gorgeous River Danube, one day here will really make you wonder why you’re only just discovering it and leave you frustrated that you’ve spent so much money in other equally as beautiful cities. But Budapest isn’t just known for its cheap beer; the city’s thermal and medicinal baths are enough to make any grown man or woman squeal with excitement. Remember in school when you learned about the Romans and their luxurious baths? Well, in a wise move from the Hungarians, they never let that trend slip and to this day, it’s still a hugely popular recreational activity, minus the togas. Those who’ve never been will be surprised to learn that Budapest sits on a network of over 125 thermal springs. After a morning spent pounding the pavement, take time out to chill in one of the city’s many respite spots.
Unmissable: Aside from the obvious baths, be sure to climb to the top of Gellert Hill as the sun goes down so you’ve got the best vantage point when the city lights up. Visit the ruin bars of Anker’t (this used to be a fairly run-down, derelict part of the city but now it’s incredibly trendy and an ultimate hotspot, but be mindful of the fact that it’s only open in the spring and summer) and if it’s a feast you’re after, head to Central Market Hall. Oh and one last thing, the Book Cafe on Andrassy Avenue is, in a word, faboosh.
Price guide: €3.80 or a bottle of wine in a local supermarket in Budapest
As far as we’re concerned, Lisbon is Portugal’s finest offering. You’ve got culture bursting at the seams and the city sights all within reach of the sea and beaches that are beyond fab (and even more gorge seaside towns), should you need a day of R&R away from the hustle and bustle. Take a leaf out of our book and spend a day browsing the vintage markets of Belem and whatever you do, be sure to eat at Pastel de Nata, where their dessert pastries are too good to comprehend.
Unmissable: A quickfire list of unmissables include… a shot of ‘Ginjinha’ with the locals in Rossio Square in Chiado; a walk to the lookout point at Sao Pedro De Alcantara where the sunset that descends across the city’s panoramic skyline will absolutely blow your mind. If it’s your first time, take the stress out of seeing everything on foot by hopping aboard the famous Tram 28 where you can hop on and off to your heart’s content and soak up all that the city has to offer without going home with an unmerciful toe blister.
Price guide: €7.65 for a meal for 1 in a local restaurant in Lisbon but one of the cheapest neighbourhoods in the city is Barro Alto, that also happens to be one of the highest.
How many times can we use the word stunning before someone hurls a thesaurus at our heads? Because there’s really just no other word for Montenegro. Contrary to what you might expect – given that it was most recently put on the map thanks to James Bond and his luxurious antics in Casino Royale – this country isn’t as expensive as it looks. In fact, it’s definitely one of the more affordable countries to visit and, just underneath Croatia, they get delicious weather. Best of all, it’s a small enough country ensuring that you can see most of it in a relatively short time. How it’s not yet completely overrun with holidaymakers we don’t understand, but perhaps let’s try to keep it that way.
Unmissable: No trip to Montenegro is complete without some time spent in the town of Budva, the walled Stari Grad (old town) which juts out perfectly into the Adriatic. Kotor, Montenegro’s medieval town with winding streets and its eye-catching cathedral, is straight out of a fairytale; no wonder it scooped the Lonely Planet award for Best in Travel, 2016. Also, add to that list a visit to Our Lady of the Rocks, a church on a man-made island just off Montenegro’s coast that was built on top of rubble and old sunken ships. To this day, the custom of throwing rocks into the sea to further support the island lives on so rocks at the ready.
Price guide: €5 for a meal for 1 in a local restaurant in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital. I mean its practically free!
Greece remains one of the cheapest countries to visit in 2016, especially if it’s a sun holiday you’re after. Turquoise waters and white-washed villages dotted on breathtaking cliff sides; if we could spend our days hopping from one Greek island to the next, we’d be there with bells on. The food, the people, no amount of photography and not even the Mamma Mia soundtrack can do this archipelago the justice it deserves, you really just have to see it for yourself. But Greece’s popularity has seen many of the islands get relatively crowded in the summer months. Our recommendation? Get thee to Antiparos, one of the less crowded islands that’s both ridiculously affordable and with plenty of unspoiled beaches, its also outrageously beautiful.
Unmissable: I’ll say it again, Antiparos! The smaller sister island of Paros – just spend as long as you can soothing your soul here and thank me later.
Price guide: A meal with as much local wine as you can drink will set you back around €15. Yes, you read that right. All the local wine you can drink, as if you needed another excuse to visit!
8. Slovakia and Slovenia
History lesson: What with the Eastern European civil wars of the early 90s, some people still seem a little confused about Slovakia and Slovenia and what they were before, what they are now, and where they are. A lot of folk still think they’re the same country, well quite simply they’re not. They don’t even share a border. Slovakia was formerly a part of Czechoslovakia but became an independent state in 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of the latter country. At this point, The Czech Republic also went its separate way. Slovenia, on the other hand, was a part of Yugoslavia along with Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. It became an independent state in 1991. And that’s the end of today’s trip down memory lane. Tune in next week when we’ll be discussing how the soviet influence paved the way for… I jest I jest, back to travel.
Slovakia has to be one of Europe’s most underrated countries and it is so incredibly beautiful we never wanted to leave. It’s always bypassed for the likes of Vienna or Budapest but it’s far cheaper and arguably even more stunning. A few days here ought to satisfy you before moving on to some of the aforementioned sweet spots. Go before the rest of the world cops on and the prices go up!
Unmissable: Be blown away by the beauty surrounding Vysoké Tatry.
Price guide: €2 beers just make life better, full stop.
Slovenia is another landlocked beauty where the cafe culture, particularly in the capital Ljubljana, is immense. Paris has nothing on these guys. It’s so chilled out here and there’s a real bohemian vibe to the place. The city’s three bridges will instantly put your camera to work and the public library allows you to take a book into the stunning Tivoli Park where a joyous afternoon awaits. They even make fresh lemonade from the lemon trees in the very same park, can’t even begin to deal with that nugget of info. They even have an outdoor cinema, yes!
Unmissable: If being outdoors immersed in jaw dropping beauty is your thing then get to Lake Bled. Just do it ok, you couldn’t possibly have any regrets.
Price guide: €5 for a bottle of gorge wine in Ljubljana, mmm.