Europe is a wonderful travel destination, with rich historical and cultural sites, outstanding museums, wonderful cuisine, and many other delights. However, European destinations can be quite expensive, and not just for the airfare. Vacations to London or Paris can seem to cost an arm and a leg.
Can you have a wonderful vacation in a European city without the high costs? Indeed, you can. Here are five notable examples.
- Lisbon, Portugal – Lisbon features typical Western European amenities at a lower price. The Lisboa Card, which can be purchased at various tourist spots, allows free use of public transit and bargains on major attractions. Lisbon has wonderful beaches and many other lower-cost options – for example, attendance at many museums and attractions are free prior to 2 pm on Sundays. Affordable coffee bars and dining options are plentiful.
- Prague, Czech Republic – Prague features some of the most breathtaking architecture in all of Europe, offering plenty of free sightseeing and tours. For those of you who enjoy a brew, the many pubs of Prague feature some of the finest beers in the world. Costs in the romantic capital city are beginning to rise, but they are still a relative bargain.
- Barcelona, Spain – As with Prague, prices are trending upward, but Barcelona is still a relative bargain for a cosmopolitan area. Activities range from beaches to beautiful churches and sacred buildings to diverse shopping experiences.
You can cut costs by renting apartments instead of staying in hotels. Large and relatively inexpensive lunches are available, allowing you to spend less at the costlier dinner hour. You do not want to travel there in August – many shops and restaurants close during portions of the month because of the heat.
- Budapest, Hungary – An interesting and eclectic blend of old and new, Budapest offers relatively affordable lodging and dining, as well as inexpensive attractions. The thermal baths are a required visit, and the Castle Hill district will take you back to the past with its medieval architecture, cobbled streets, and lack of cars. Public transit is affordable thanks to the availability of discount cards.
- Dubrovnik, Croatia – Are you a Game of Thrones fan? If so, the walled, medieval city Dubrovnik will look mighty familiar to you. "Game of Thrones" walking tours of Dubrovnik are available, as well as other tours of the Croatian countryside. The Dalmatian shores offer lower prices, nice beaches, and beautiful scenery. Consider getting supplies from the bakeries and markets and enjoy a nice picnic near the beach. Lokrum Island is a short ride away via taxi boat and offers a more secluded experience.
While these are five wonderful options, there are many other economical and travel-worthy cities throughout Europe, as well as more rural areas. Do your own detailed research to find the options that work best for you.
It is wise to monitor international news for any sudden economic changes, currency fluctuations, or unrest that could cause a nasty surprise. For example, book any pleasure trip to eastern Ukraine with caution…
You might consider exchanging your money in the U.S. prior to the trip and well in advance, unless you expect a significant rate change. This is not equally true in all countries (some, like Argentina, offer far better conversion rates locally). Check out multiple, established travel sites on these countries to get a feel for the best approach.
Plan your trip with a professional, or book through online sources – whatever you feel the most comfortable with. If you do the booking yourself, we suggest finding several quotes and verify exchange rate assumptions. If a price seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
With some due diligence, you can have a great trip without breaking the bank. Upon your return, you can enjoy the experience even more by looking at the photos you took, and the money you didn’t spend. Consider getting a credit card, which could earn you frequent flyer miles and rewards from airline and hotel partners.