The 5 cheapest EU countries for the shoestring nomad

Backpacking or sojourning on a limited budget in Europe? We’ve narrowed the 5 cheapest countries for your itinerary, ranked by affordability and, well, general awesomeness. Take a break from the London and Paris obsession that afflicts so many and get a genuine taste of the real Europe with us!

5. Croatia

Croatia, very popular in recent times, still offers unbeatable value and breathtaking natural beauty. Split and Zagreb, if you’re sensible about it, are very affordable. Split, set on the Adriatic coast, offers a mix of ocean paradise and cosmopolitan city life. Diocletian’s Palace sits in the centre of Split, a pleasant labyrinth of restaurants, wine bars and boutiques. Tending to rival other cities in price in peak season, nomads are well advised to be picky or escape to the nearby islands for relief (ferries are plentiful from Split). There are a number of accommodation options and AirBnB offers real value outside the hostel space. English is widely spoken. Restaurant prices vary widely, but the best seafood places on the islands, outside the main tourist or “party” haunts, are very inexpensive.

Split waterfront. Image credit: Kalasancjusz/Pixabay (2015) CC0

Zagreb, inland, doesn’t boast the beaches and idyllic waters most crave, but is certainly worth a visit and will surprise you. Well reputed for its museums, nightlife and nearby lakes and hiking trails (many within the city itself), Zagreb offers life for nomads all year round. Of course, don’t miss Zagreb’s upper town, replete with artsy boutiques, hip bars and historical attractions.  EUR 38 a day will keep you rested, watered and fed, with a few sites and drinks to boot.

Image credit: Kalasancjusz  

4. Hungary

Hungary, and Budapest, remain great value for nomads and, more importantly, a cosmopolitan delight. An exquisite meal, with wine, can cost no more than EUR 25 in Budapest and the choice of pubs, restaurants and nights spots will leave even the die-hard hedonist satisfied. Of course you can eat for, on average, EUR 6 to 8. Hostels are plentiful in the capital and public transport is cheap. Like other cities in recent times, Budapest has developed a gourmet twist on beer, burgers and cocktails, so you’ll have plenty of stylish dining options, as well as the traditional fare, for your Euro. Walking tours, taking in Hungary’s communist past or medieval intrigue, are a cost-conscious distraction and a great way to engage with the locals. You’ll also find the usual pub crawls arranged for foreigners.

The Chain Bridge, which crosses the Danube, connecting Buda and Pest. Image credit: Bergadder

The Chain Bridge, which crosses the Danube, connecting Buda and Pest.

Outside Budapest, however, you’ll find a different taste. Here Szeged and Pécs deserve a mention, and your purse will notice the difference, although some things (including hostels, for example) have a tendency to be slightly more expensive outside Budapest. Most things are really inexpensive, however, and Budapest still remains great value (certainly, when compared with Prague).

Image credit: Bergadder

3. Lithuania

palangos-tiltas-cr-palanga-tourism-info-centre

Our value picks couldn’t leave out Lithuania, one of the three Baltics, and a country that has come a long way in recent years. A gem of the Baltic region, Vilnius is not to be missed. The city is packed with history, offers an exquisite old town (UNESCO listed) and a selection of hip bars and restaurants. The craft trades scene has really taken off here and all your daily needs are affordable. Having just joined the Euro, less counting and fumbling is called for and any number of operas, classical concerts and rock shows are within reach if you plan ahead. Take a hostel or choose from among the many affordably-priced niche hotels. A train to Klaipeda or Palanga, a seaside town on Baltic Sea, comes well-recommended. Palanga’s long beach sits behind the dunes and, surrounded by pine trees, has a magical air. Palanga also sports plenty of restaurants, B&Bs, bars and concerts in July-August, and your Euro will stretch comfortably. Pick up some cherished local amber jewelry or just sit back in the sun to a dark beer and listen to the band. One of the cheaper locations, Lithuania is doable on EUR 35 – 40 a day.

Image credit: Palanga Tourism Information Centre 

2. Czech Republic

The Czechs still earn our value vote, having so much to offer besides Prague. Take in Český Krumlov, a gorgeous city in Southern Bohemia, that boasts a fantastic old town set on the Vltava River. The old town is UNESCO listed, and its narrow bends, charming cobble stones streets and architecture (dated from the 14th century) will woo you. Just three hours from Prague or Vienna, Český Krumlov is an atmospheric wonder within easy reach.

Image credit: Ivabalk / Pixabay

Not as busy as other destinations, you’ll often find yourself the only foreigner within sight. Movie buffs will also know that the notorious Hostel I and II horror flicks were made here, so take it from us that the city catches the imagination. A hostel bed should cost you about EUR 4, entry to the local castle is about EUR 2 and a pint of beer is about EUR 1.20. The beer houses and pensions will delight, with Krcma v Satlavske Ulici earning a special mention. All told you can get by here on less than EUR 35 a day, eating three meals, using the public transportation and enjoying some drinks. Other cities in the Czech Republic well worth a visit are Kutna Hora, Telc and Plzen.

Image credit: Ivabalk 

1. Poland

Once beyond Warsaw, Poland offers great opportunities to nomads on a budget and is an amazing country that everybody should visit. Krakow and Gdansk offer medieval charm, with their spectacular old cities, and at a price point that’s hard to argue with. May through July is arguably the best time to visit, and you’ll be greeted by open air eateries, live music and friendly locals. Krakow’s bars and nightclubs offer an eclectic mix, with offerings ranging from “beer library” niche pubs to specialist cocktail and vodka places. Rated for its pub crawls and general spirit, Krakow takes on a character of its own after dark.  Once you’ve recovered, there is a wealth of architecture and cultural attractions to take in, with St Mary’s Basilica,  Wawel Royal Castle and Schindler’s Factory, a World War II museum, crying out for your attention.

Image credit: neufal54 / Pixabay

Gdansk, on the Baltic coast, is a port city and one of the most beautiful in Poland. Check out the Long Lane and the Long Market, taking the time to absorb the Mannerist and Dutch-inspired architecture. If you’re feeling more adventurous, how about a swim at Stogi beach? Stogi is one a of few sandy beaches that Gdansk boasts (although the Baltic is usually a colder experience).

Poland’s currency is the Zloty and daily costs are likely the best in Europe. A hostel dorm or cheaper guesthouse in Gdansk, for example, will set you back about 50zł, a basic meal approximately 30zl and transport about 20zl – 25 zl a day. 140zl is doable for a day, and equates to about EUR 33. You can get by with less. Tipped by some as Europe’s hidden secret on price, Krakow is even more manageable on less than EUR 30. Drinks are affordable, with EUR 1.50 beers and EUR 1.20 vodka shots being commonplace. In short, Poland is a excellent choice for a fantastic time and to stretch your money farther. Just watch the Vodka intake!

Image credit: neufal54

What are your top tips for nomadding in Europe? Don’t be shy. Let us know by leaving a comment below. 

What are your friendly tips? Don’t be shy. Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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