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Lisa Owen

For many travelers, affordability is a key factor when making plans for their next overseas adventure. European countries range in affordability, but I’ve come across many inexpensive destinations in my travels – that offer just as good food, nightlife, culture and sights as their more expensive neighbors. Here are seven of my favorite budget friendly destinations in Europe.


1. Poland

Poland offers beautiful old towns, intriguing history and mountain getaways for prices that won’t break the bank.

Krakow has a great deal to offer the budget traveler, from cheap dorms to tasty and hearty food. Check out Greg and Tom’s Home Hostel in Krakow for a cheap bed with buffet breakfasts and dinners included in the price.

Sights wise, Krakow has one of the most beautiful Old Towns I’ve seen in my travels. Krakow also has a castle, bohemian Jewish District, and you can take a tour out to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. For those interested in Poland’s history, head to the museum inside Oskar Schindler’s former Enamel Factory, or the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum – both provide a sombre experience that will help you understand a bit about the country’s background.

For the cheapest meals in Poland, head on over to a milk bar and try some traditional food such as dumplings.

Other cities to visit in Poland include Poznan and Wroclaw with their colourful Old Towns. The capital Warsaw also has a beautiful Old Town which was rebuilt to mirror its former glory after being destroyed in World War II.

You can get around Poland on the cheap, modern and clean buses offered by Polski Bus.

A three-hour bus ride from Krakow lies the Tatra Mountains. The gateway town is Zakopane. Summer is hiking season in these parts, and winter is a hive of activity for skiing enthusiasts because of affordable accommodation options. While visiting the Tatras, make sure you head on over to Lake Morskie.


2. Ukraine

The Eastern European country of Ukraine would have to be the cheapest country I’ve found so far on the European continent.

You can get a dorm bed for the equivalent of $5 a night, a metro ticket costs 20 cents a trip, and a ride on a tram costs less than five cents! Need to get some food? You can buy a couple of days of food and snacks and get change from $5 in a supermarket.

If you’re heading into the Ukraine, the top spots are the capital city of Kiev, or visit the beautiful city of Lviv near the Polish border. Some of the most interesting sights in Kiev are the bold and colorful cathedrals, including St Andrew’s, St Michael’s (also known as the Golden Domed Church) and St Sophia’s, which dates back to the 11th century.

Lviv has a lovely Old Town quarter and it’s worth the hike up to the High Castle viewpoint for spectacular views across the city. For affordable and clean rooms in Kiev, check out the Dream House Hostel. Stay at Old City Hostel in Lviv.

You can easily and cheaply get around Ukraine on comfortable and modern trains. Get around Kiev on the metro, and Lviv is well serviced by trams.


3. Portugal

Portugal offers accommodation, food and sights at much lower prices than other countries in Western Europe. Be quick though, as Portugal gets more and more popular with tourists, prices are going up, particularly for stays during the summer months.

The best place to start your Portugal travels is the capital of Lisbon, where you can immerse yourself in the historical Alfama District (Old Town), go check out a castle, indulge in Portuguese tarts, take in the views from the many miradouros, chill out by the river, and enjoy the nightlife.

From Lisbon, take a short train ride to Sintra to check out unique castles and palaces including the colourful Pena Palace. North of Lisbon is Porto, a historical city known for its port wine production and filled with old buildings and impressive bridges. Heading south, make sure Lagos is on your must do list if you love the sea. Lagos is a great and cheap place to relax, go for a swim, or take a boat along the coastline.

Portugal is a great country for backpackers with lots of modern and creative hostels to choose from to suit any budget. It’s also easy to get around Portugal – and kind to your bank balance. In Lisbon, the metro is cheap, modern and efficient and you can even get to and from the airport on the metro. Buses run regularly between Lagos and Lisbon, and trains are a good way to get between Lisbon and Sintra or Porto.


4. Romania

Romania is another budget destination with lots to offer travelers. The capital city of Bucharest offers beautiful buildings and is the perfect city to start your Romanian adventures and get your bearings. From Bucharest, take the train and check out the Transylvania region with a stop at Brasov, and then continue onto Sibiu, Sighisoara and Timisoara.

Brasov has a beautiful old town to explore, as well as a citadel. Hike or take the cable car up to the top of Mt Tampa for a bird’s eye view of Brasov. The town’s Upper Promenade also offers a good view of the city’s fortified walls and the Old Town. There’s signage along the way telling you about key historical buildings such as the Weaver’s Bastion.

A 45-minute bus ride from Brasov will take you to Bran Castle (of Dracula fame), and you can also check out the Rasnov castle on the way there or back.

There are plenty of backpacker friendly hostels throughout Romania. My personal recommendations are Umbrella Hostel in Bucharest and Jugendstube Hostel in Brasov. To get around Romania, trains are a cheap and efficient option.


5. Bosnia

Given its proximity to Croatia, you might be surprised how affordable Bosnia is. As Croatia’s popularity booms, so do the prices. But you’ll find that everything from accommodation to food is much cheaper in Bosnia – and there are also a lot less tourists!

While Bosnia doesn’t offer the seaside attractions of Croatia, it’s an interesting place to travel for budget travelers. If you’re coming from Croatia, start in Mostar. There are regular buses coming to Mostar from Dubrovnik.

Mostar is another destination with a beautiful Old Town, known as Stari Most. The original Stari Most dates back to the 16th century from the Ottoman period. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnian War but was faithfully rebuilt in 2004 to replicate its former glory.

From Mostar, you can visit nearby waterfalls or the Dervish Monastery. The monastery is built into the side of a mountain, and you can take quick boat trip inside the adjacent cave for a few dollars.

A two hour bus ride from Mostar is Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo. Key sights include the Yellow Fortress with a great view of the city, the Old Town (Bašcaršija), and the abandoned 1984 Olympics bobsled track. While wandering the Old Town, make sure you try Bosnian coffee at least once, as well as picking up some Turkish Delight. Hearty, traditional meals from local restaurants will also fill you up without putting a hole in your wallet.

Among the best budget options in Sarajevo is the Franz Ferdinand Hostel in Sarajevo and the Hostel Majdas in Mostar. Moving on from Bosnia? The cheapest way is by bus, with regular services to Croatia and Montenegro.


6. Estonia

Estonia is located next to Russia and across the Baltic Sea from Finland. The capital city of Tallinn is a great place to base yourself during your visit to Estonia.

The best way to get your bearings in Tallinn is to head along to the free walking tour. The tours are run daily starting from the tourist office. The tours run for around two hours and take you through the 14th century Old Town, and include visits to Freedom Square, Kiekf in de Kök cannon tower, Toompea Hill and Town Hall Square.

There are plenty of viewpoints from buildings across the city to see Tallinn for only a few euros. The best viewpoint is from St Olaf’s church. There are also a couple of free viewpoints at the Patkuli and Kohtuotsa viewing platforms in Toompea.

You can hire a car or do a day tour to reach the Lahemaa National Park, which takes you through impressive peat bogs. Estonia is another country offering great budget accommodation options. If you want a private room, take a look at Viru Backpackers. It’s sister hostels Monk’s Bunk and Tallinn Backpackers offer dorm beds.


7. Macedonia

Macedonia is one of the gems of Eastern Europe. Not only is it cheap to visit, but it also offers unique city and natural sights minus the crowds. Macedonia isn’t quite a staple on the tourist trail yet, so you might even get lucky like I did and share an eight-bed dorm with only one other person!

The country’s capital, Skopje, is often a bewildering but intriguing mix of old and new. Skopje’s city centre underwent a major overhaul in 2014 and is now filled with extravagant buildings, fountains, statues and bridges – all accompanied by music blaring through speakers strung up on poles.

Wander into the Old Town and you can check out the bazaar and a less ostentatious part of Skopje. On the highest hill of the Macedonian capital of Skopje sits a fortress. Most of what you see now is a restoration of a former fortress but entry is free so it’s worth a visit.

From Skopje, you can easily visit beautiful Matka Canyon, or head down to the south of the country to Ohrid Lake. You can easily get around Macedonia, and into neighbouring Kosovo, Turkey or Bulgaria by bus for only a few dollars.

Travelling Europe doesn’t have to break the bank when there are so many beautiful and affordable destinations to visit. Start planning your next trip now!


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 60 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.