Planning (or dreaming) of a vacation in Europe but don’t think you can afford it? You’re not alone. Many people have the misconception that anywhere you go in Europe is overpriced, and while that may be true for some European countries, there are many that are affordable! So don’t let the price stop you from visiting overseas, even on a budget.
The idea of a cheap European vacation often feels unattainable. For many, it feels like they are trying to chase down a rainbow sparkle unicorn and we all know how that hunt will end. Fortunately, you will not be chasing a mythical vacation deal here… While, we can’t say we’ve seen a unicorn on any of our European vacations (yet). We have had incredible adventures in European countries that are affordable to visit.
To help shorten your chase, we’ve put together a list of the cheapest European countries to visit so that you can pick your favorite. Whether you are looking for great food, reasonable hotel rates, or easy train access to other destinations in Europe – we have found it here! So what are you waiting for? Let’s explore which one of these affordable European countries is right for YOU!
Putting Together The Basics For Your Cheap European Vacation
Traveling overseas is a tad bit different than staying in the United States for a family vacation. If you’re a seasoned traveler you can probably skip the next section, but if you’re new to traveling to foreign countries there are two key components that should be the foundation for every traveler in the 22nd century—travel documents and vaccinations.
European Trips Require Passports, Including Babies!
To start, each person in the travel party will need a passport and may need a travel visa. If a travel visa is required, this will be based on citizenship or the nationalization of your sovereign state.
If you are a U.S. citizen, a passport is a must-have that is easily obtainable with the proper planning (do NOT wait until the last minute to get one). Even infants require a valid U.S. passport to travel internationally. Check out our Easy Guide on Applying for a Child’s Passport.
On that thought, we have some tried and tested safety measures you should check out, which include an invaluable tip regarding passports!
To Be Or Not To Be, A National That Needs A Schengen Visa For Your Cheap European Vacation.
The Schengen Area in Europe is made up of 26 EU countries that have an agreement that their citizens can move freely between any of their member countries.
If you are not a citizen of a Schengen Area country or the U.S.. (details in a minute…) be sure to find out if you need a Schengen Visa to travel to one or more of the Schengen member countries.
Luckily for U.S. citizens, if just vacationing, we are one of the countries that are not required to obtain a Schengen visa in order to enter any member country of the Schengen Area. Bonus!
One last tip: if your travel plans don’t include getting fined or detained, make sure the border officer stamps your passport with an entry stamp when entering the Schengen country or area.
“Times They Are A Changin’” Covid Vaccination Requirements When Visiting European Countries
It appears that we’ve permanently shifted from “life as we know it” to “life as we knew it” in terms of the pre and post 2020 Covid pandemic. Nothing has been untouched and one of the biggest impacts has been on Travel.
At this time in our global history, it is essential to consider all the ramifications of safe travel on the world stage as part of your European trip planning. Currently, in the U.S., our CDC maintains and updates an International Travel During COVID-19 web page weekly.
It’s important to note that each and every European country has its own standards when it comes to letting people in who haven’t received the Covid vaccine. (Some still aren’t letting US citizens in regardless of being vaccinated or not)
To verify what each country requires there is a valuable tool for U.S. families to utilize while planning their vacation. This COVID-19 Country Specific Information lists details, pertinent travel restrictions, travel advisories, vaccination information, as well as entry and exit requirements.
Here is a quick cheat sheet from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases to give you an idea of the U.S. requirements regarding Covid when planning to travel internationally:
Whew! Now that we’ve gotten the gory details settled let’s start the fun part and explore these great opportunities to travel to European countries that won’t break the budget!
7 Least Expensive Countries in Europe: Places to Visit When Budget Traveling
There are so many options available today to help choose a cheap European vacation. You should take advantage of the many travel apps and websites that can get you flying off to fantastic destinations for obscenely cheap airfares!
You’ll find these tools invaluable as the cornerstone to incorporating European vacation travel into your lifestyle regularly!
One of the cheapest countries to travel to in Europe is Albania, where the average price for a hotel room starts at $30 per night. Make sure your accommodation accepts credit cards because not all do; however, most hotels will take euros.
There is plenty of shopping, but get a stash of lekë (Albanian currency) for your purchases and expect to enjoy some Raki, (their version of Italian grappa), a twice-distilled grape and anise liquor that will give you a full immersion experience. While the Museums may charge a small entrance fee, the parks are free to explore.
Cities to visit include: Berat, “The Town of A Thousand Windows,” for a mountainside retreat, Tirana or Durres, both within driving distance of some of the best coastal beaches that are found on the Adriatic coast. If you prefer to stay at the beach, Saranda or Ksamil will fit the bill.
There are many inexpensive countries in Europe, but Albania is the most affordable of them all.
Vienna is often considered one of the most tourist-friendly cities in Europe. The city has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses and underground trains, making it inexpensive to get around town, especially if you purchase a Vienna TravelCard for unlimited public transportation within the inner zone. Better yet, children under six ride free!
While not as expensive as some other major European countries, if you want to explore as much as you can, the total cost of sightseeing can quickly destroy your budget. A cool way to really save money but splurge on experiences is through the Vienna Pass, which includes over 60 attractions and museums, and the Hop On Hop Off Travel Bus.
If your budget decides the Vienne Pass isn’t for you, the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, the Schönbrunn Palace, offers many different tour and ticket options along with restaurant and pastry shops to enjoy the outdoor views. The best part is admission to the “Schönbrunn Palace Gardens” is free and includes metered running trails within the gardens for those interested in running off the previous night’s indulgences.
Don’t leave Austria without experiencing the futuristic Kunsthaus Graz museum, Murinsel island, or the many trendy design shops. An extra advantage of Graz is that it is home to a large college population, so there are many eateries and opportunities to explore for less money, for example, the theater at the Graz Opera House, where seats can be had for a reasonable rate.
Check out our trip to Graz and find out my two favorite things to do there, one you’ll never guess, and the other has to do with the world-famous Terminator himself!
Bulgaria is home to some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Europe. The country offers everything from cloudless summers, snowy winters, and lush green forests no matter what season you visit.
Bulgaria has been gaining popularity with those looking to save money for the cheapest European vacations. There are several inexpensive places to stay, whether it is a hostel, hotel, or homestay. Some hostels can be as low as $25 for a four-night stay, including free wi-fi and breakfast. (I found this on booking.com just testing out the info).
Bulgarians are among some of Europe’s friendliest people- declaring “hello” as soon as you walk into a store or restaurant is common practice there.
Getting around is cheap; three-course meals can be less than $30, including a bottle of wine, and in some places, there may be a glass of wine to be found for $1.
Bulgaria is a country that has found its niche as a ski destination, with many slopes costing less than 30 euros per day (about $36 USD) for lift passes and rental equipment. The area offers excellent skiing at such reasonable prices you may not want to pay for the more expensive alternatives in the Alps ever again.
A bonus is the tourist industry just isn’t mainstream in this country, with a lot of rural towns you can easily immerse yourself in the local culture. A drawback to that is that there could be a language barrier with corresponding signage that is difficult to navigate.
Other than the coastal towns in the summer, there aren’t a lot of tourists to help offset the communication issues in historic and picturesque cities such as Veliko and Plovdiv. But don’t let that stop you; be adventurous and armed with a handy translation app or phrasebook and go native!
The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, has long been a popular tourist destination for those looking for cheap European vacations especially because you can get a glimpse of the country’s rich history at landmarks like the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and The Church of St. George in Sofia.
Sofia was voted as one of the cheapest places to visit in Europe, with an average meal costing around $12USD and hotels for only $30-$60 per night. However, keep in mind, hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, and shops accept payments in Bulgarian Leva only.
There are several reasons why this country has become so popular with backpackers and those seeking a cheap European vacation.
With beautiful beaches, surprisingly affordable prices, and rich history and culture, Croatia offers everything that a traveler needs for an unforgettable experience on a budget. UNESCO has even recognized the country’s cuisine as one of the world’s intangible cultural heritage!
Croatia has been getting rave reviews lately as an affordable destination, so if you want to visit Croatia, Zagreb might be a good starting point because it’s cheaper than Split or Dubrovnik.
If you prefer to stay somewhere more remote, try National Parks Plitvice Lakes, which are just outside southwest Croatia, with 16 lakes connected by natural cascades, including some waterfalls.
Rovinj (awarded the Destination Of The Year For 2019 by the Croatian National Tourist Board) and Pula are also popular tourist spots with affordable accommodations. Your choice will get you a quintessential seaside getaway or a cultural experience opportunity with a more local feel, respectively.
Dare we mention Croatia and not touch on a near and dear topic to a multitude of travelers, no matter the budget?
Regardless that the series is over, Game of Thrones fans will delight in uncovering many of the places in Croatia where the renowned television program was filmed. With filming locations in Dubrovnik, Klis, and Split, these places allow experiencing the series’ unique emotion, envision some of the scenes, and appreciate the real-life historical significance of these areas and structures.
Split is home to The Cathedral of Saint Domnius, the oldest Catholic cathedral in use in the world that is still in its original structure. There is quite a history behind this building, originally built as a mausoleum and part of Diocletian’s palace at the turn of the 3rd century.
Split has a lot of good food, reasonable hotel rates, and it’s easily accessible by rail or road-tripping from other nearby cities in Croatia, such as Zagreb.
Not only is Croatia one of the cheapest European countries to visit, but it is a worthwhile destination over other high-traffic tourist destinations in Europe.
Hungary is one of the cheapest European countries to travel in and offers a lot for travelers on a budget, including beautiful architecture, delicious food, exciting historical sites from Soviet times, and Roman ruins.
If you are searching for one of the cheapest European countries to travel to for a honeymoon on a budget, you should definitely consider Hungary one of your top choices. In Hungary, you can embark on your new life together without sacrificing your future child’s college fund.
You will likely find accommodations from $30-$60 per night and often less. Most attractions are free of charge because they’re public services that belong to the government, like Matthias Church with beautiful architecture and no entrance fee.
While food, hotel, and beverage prices are some of the cheapest, you’ll find in all of Europe, taking a short cruise through town on the Danube River is something you’ll never forget. One-hour river cruises start at $10, including a welcome cocktail, or enjoy the breathtaking sunset cruise. If you’ve got a little more to splurge, take the two-hour dinner cruise, including live music, for around $56 per person.
Hungary is also the home to eight World Heritage Sites, with medieval castles and old Gothic architecture. One is in the city of Budapest that Includes the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue.
If you’re downright serious about sightseeing, your best value is going to be the BUDAPEST CARD. You get entry to 20 museums, free public transportation, walking sightseeing tours, access to visitor centers, and more. Up to 90% discount in some places. Go for the 72-hour card; you’ll get added services like free airport transfer and a cruise on the Danube, to name a few. Sounds worth it to me!!
Another great point of interest to visit in Budapest is Fisherman’s Bastion, with unique 19th-century fortress architecture, with seven turreted lookouts and panoramic views over Budapest’s river and lovely cafe’s from these fantastic vantage points.
There are many other cities worth exploring in Hungary besides the capital. To name a few, Nagykanizsa, with hotel costs around $20 per night and as low as $14, or Esztergom, where hotel rooms are $12-$15. The monastery is free to explore, and so are most of its attractions.
Pleasantly work off some of that great food by biking along the Danube, where rentals start at 8/10€ ($10-12USD) a day and get cheaper with multi-day rentals.
Tihany Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, is in the tiny picturesque village of Tihany. The Abbey is known for where the first records of the Hungarian language were found.
The House of Terror is a museum in Budapest, the Hungarian Capital, and consists of four stories of exhibitions sure to raise goosebumps on even the most stalwart visitor. The museum is a member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, dedicated to those who were victims of the two bloody periods of Nazi and communist rule. Currently, the entrance fee for all that history is 2,000HUF, which equals about $7USD.
Be swept away by exploring Kiskunság, Aggtelek, Cserhát, or Danube-Ipoly, to name a few of the breathtaking National Parks in Hungary where you may spot several protected species and indigenous plants. Admission is usually free, but there may be a nominal parking fee.
If you want to visit an affordable European country that has some higher-end hotels but still reasonable prices, then Hungary might be the right choice for your budget travels.
More than a few factors make Poland a great destination when looking for one of the cheapest countries to travel to in Europe.
Poland has a lot to offer its visitors: you can enjoy the Baltic Sea in the North, mountains to ski or hike in the South, and in between the stunning lakes and beautiful forests to explore.
Poland is a major tourist destination from a historic and sobering perspective due to the prevalence of sites associated with World War II, most notably Auschwitz.
On a much brighter note, people are very friendly, and the USD is currently worth about 3 ½ times the Polish zloty; prices for tourist attractions, food, and drinks all around Poland are even cheaper based on the exchange rate alone.
Warsaw, the capital city with nearly three million people, is the largest city in Poland and a popular destination for a cheap European vacation. In addition, Warsaw serves as a hub for rail and road trips to other Polish cities and offers travelers many museums, parks, palaces, and castles.
Warsaw’s hotel rates range from about $50USD to over $100USD per night for two people during peak season. However, you’ll find rooms at a hotel from about $25 to as little as $15USD per night in off-peak season.
Food prices are also very low, and drinks can be found at local bars or grocery stores for less than one euro each.
Krakow is another city in Poland that’s worth visiting. It is famous for its many museums and historical landmarks such as the old town square, Kazimierz district with lots of Jewish culture, or Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp memorial site near Oswiecim.
This area is rich in history, cultural heritage and well known for its historic old town district with medieval architecture, numerous churches, and many festivals and museums that showcase Polish culture.
A hotel stay in Krakow will cost you between $35USD and $100USD for two people per night in off-peak season. Most dishes are quite affordable with many restaurant options and don’t forget to try traditional Polish cuisine of pierogi (stuffed dumplings) and kielbasa (sausage).
You’ll find easy transportation on trains or buses from town to town to visit places in Poland, including the Wieliczka Salt Mine and the Tatra Mountains.
The Tatra Mountains are a popular spot for hiking or skiing in the winter months. Tatra is another place to visit if you’re looking for a cheap European country with good food, reasonable hotel rates, and easily accessible via train, bus, or a scenic road trip!
Besides being one of the cheapest European vacation destinations, many feel that the bonus for visiting Poland is that it is less touristy than some of its neighboring countries.
Slovakia ranks on our list as one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe, and it has many areas with the advantage of not being crowded with tour bus mobs or big groups of tourists led by someone with flags or a megaphone. What better way to relax on vacation with relative quiet, less chaos, and the ability to take pictures without the crazy photobomber popping up all the time?
With a hotel stay in Slovakia starting as low as $15USD a night, it’s worth spending more than a few days exploring Slovakian castles, historic churches, live music venues, and museums that give visitors insights into Slovakian history. Most attractions in Slovakia cost about 2€ ($2 USD), and you will rarely pay more than 6€ ($7 USD), so definitely budget-friendly!.
Topping even inexpensive attractions, the best values in Slovakia will end up in your tummy! Food, wine, and beer are amazingly affordable; wine and beer are typically less than a soda! So you won’t leave many places hungry (unless you want to) because a multi-course lunch and a couple of glasses of good wine or a great beer are less than $10USD.
If you’re looking for a somewhat more bustling atmosphere, then go with Bratislava. Because many people only stop for an hour or so before boarding trains or cruise ships onwards towards Vienna or Budapest. So you’ve got an energetic atmosphere but not around the clock.
The capital of Slovakia is a small but vibrant city with a lot to offer budget travelers on a cheap European vacation. It’s very walkable in its old town area so you can see all that it has on foot or hop on public transportation (which is affordable!). There are also plenty of museums like the Natural History Museum, Nedbalka Gallery, Bibiana, International House of Art for Children, and something really unique, the Railway Museum in Railway Depot Bratislava-Vychod.
There are great food options where the rivers Danube and Morava meet at the Devin Castle. In Old Town, a pedestrian zone filled with shops makes it worth visiting not just because it’s cheap but also because it offers the perfect place to get lost in an afternoon and is lined with outdoor cafes and vendors selling food, flowers, clothes, and jewelry.
After getting your fill there, head over to Bratislava Castle for a bit of culture, where they keep some of Slovakia’s most precious national treasures, including the Crown Jewels!
It is definitely worth a visit to one of their many beautiful national parks where you can hike and explore the beauty of this small country on a budget. Popular activities include mountain-climbing, fishing, and horseback riding. Other activities that dominate the Slovak Karst region are hiking, cycle tourism, and in the winter also cross-country skiing.
Uniquely “Wooden” Experiences?
Unique to Slovakia is their painted wooden churches, most notably in Velke Kralovstvo near Brno. These wooden churches are beautifully carved with intricate designs on every inch, some dating back as far as 1800 years ago!
The second is a wooden raft trip in the northern Slovakia/Poland border where you can experience a trip on the river through impressive rock canyons, forest, and in some places through an underground tunnel. There are camping sites and a few inexpensive places to stay in the area, and they are beautiful places to hike or cycle.
With a rich history and culture, Slovakia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to visit. The best months to visit are April and October when there are fewer tourists than at other times of the year.
Don’t let Money Stop You From Traveling Abroad!
When looking for the cheapest European countries to travel to, the continent has an abundance of budget-friendly destinations that are sure to have something for everyone.
Regardless if you prefer scenic countryside drives, beautiful national parks, or exploring unique historic sites for living education, you can find it all bundled into an affordable European vacation package.
If you want a bohemian-style experience with good food, high-quality, low-priced adult beverages, and lively nightlife, you can have that too!
There’s bound to be a great (and cheap) country on this list of affordable European destinations that will fit your travel style perfectly…without breaking the bank.