Europe continues to be home to many of the world's most expensive cities, as well as some bargain cities where many things cost only about a quarter as much for an international traveler. Now in its 7th annual edition for 2017, the Europe Backpacker Index ranks 56 of the continent's most popular cities from cheapest to most expensive.
Thanks to a stagnant economy and virtually no inflation (except for a few countries), prices for visitors in Europe held very steady throughout 2016. Iceland keeps getting more expensive, partly due to its soaring popularity. And Britain is now a relative bargain after the post-Brexit currency weakness. That probably won't last too long, so don't put off your next London visit.
For tourists holding US Dollars, Europe continues to be unusually cheap. Those who track exchange rates over the years will know that they tend to swing back and forth. In other words, in a few years it's very likely that Europe will feel much more expensive for Americans than it does in 2017.
How does the Backpacker Index work?
Prices for most things (hostels, transportation, attractions) are fixed and measurable, however prices for things like a “budget lunch” or a "pint of beer" tend to vary depending upon area, establishment and type. The European Backpacker Index still makes a great job of it and estimates are based on a comprehensive research, and in most cases are close to the right numbers, if not right on. here below is how the Index is measured...
Costs for each city
- 1 night in the cheapest bunk at the least expensive hostel with a good location & good reviews
- 2 public transportation rides per day
- 1 paid/famous attraction per day (Every city is loaded with free things to do for budget-conscious travelers, but here we take the average cost of a major attraction in each city for each day.)
- 3 “budget” meals per day (We took our minimum meal price and added 20% to make it more realistic for a longer trip).
- Three cheap, local beers (or wine) each day as an “entertainment fund.” Non-drinkers might have dessert and coffee or attend a local music performance instead, so this is a general benchmark that should be proportional for each city.
European Backpacker Index for 2017
Here below are the top 10 cheapest cities for 2012 taken directly from the European Backpacker Index's own website.
1. Sofia, Bulgaria (cheapest)
Sofia remains a fantastic bargain among European capitals, with a
very pleasant city center that is quite welcoming of foreign tourists.
Prices of nearly everything are very cheap, except for inbound flights
from other major cities. For this reason, Sofia is out of the way for
anyone who isn't doing an extensive tour of the region. Don't expect any
major checklist attractions, but you can expect a surprisingly lovely
urban experience at shockingly reasonable prices.
- Currency: Bulgaria Leva
- Best cheap hostel: Hostel Mostel – 11.45 (includes breakfast and unchanged since 2012)
- Transportation: 2.00
- Meals: 16.80
- Drinks/Entertainment: 7.50
- Attractions: 6.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: BGN43.75 = US$24.04/day
Krakow continues as Europe’s best travel bargain. The low prices have drawn in larger numbers of Europeans for weekend breaks, and there’s many great and cheap hostels, bars, and restaurants to keep prices low while you are enjoying the beautiful old city and the local culture. A weak currency has offset small price increases for most.
- Currency: Polish Zlotych
- Cheap/good hostel: Atlantis Hostel – 25.00/night
- Transportation: 5.60
- Meals: 24.00
- Drinks/Entertainment: 24.00
- Attractions: 16.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: PLN103.75 = US$24.82/day
Definitely not Romania's most charming town, Bucharest's Old Town gets decent reviews but the rest of the city struggles to appeal to tourists. Fortunately, those that make the effort to come will at least be rewarded with low prices all around, which certainly help make up for the other frustrations of visiting. And that huge parliament building is worth a look. Hostels seem to be getting cheaper lately, so it's even more appealing for the backpacker set.
- Currency: Romanian leu
- Best cheap hostel: X Hostel Bucharest = 31.12/night
- Transportation: 5.00
- Meals: 45.60
- Drinks/Entertainment: 15.00
- Attractions: 12.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: RON108.72 – US$25.70/day
- Currency: Serbian Dinar (prices below are in euros)
- Best cheap hostel: Downtown Hostel Belgrade – 6.00/night
- Transportation: 1.50
- Meals: 9.60
- Drinks/Entertainment: 4.50
- Attractions: 3.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: €24.60 = US$26.17/day
Budapest, HungaryKiev, UkraineKiev has always been fairly cheap (and very remote) compared to the rest of Europe, but the conflict and uncertainty that Ukraine has gone through starting in 2014 caused its currency to plunge and inflation to skyrocket. It's hard to say what prices may be at any given moment in 2017, but at least it should continue to be cheap for outsiders. Hopefully the situation on the ground will feel more secure soon as well.
Another excellent travel bargain, Budapest is all-around cheap as long as you steer clear of the most touristy places along the river. The castles and cathedrals are enough, but here you also get thermal spas that are cheap even for the backpacking set. Hostels, in particular, are great value, but you have to get a bit out of the center to find inexpensive hotels.Sarajevo, Bosnia and HerzegovinaAnother Balkan-area city whose name conjures up images of its past troubles, Sarajevo is a destination that is struggling to attract tourists. The location deep into the mountains is remote, but it's also gorgeous once you arrive. The Muslim Old Town next to the modern center is very interesting and incredibly welcoming. This one is a hidden gem, partly because it's so hard to reach. If you can figure out a way to get here, do it and see what the fuss is about.
Another excellent travel bargain, Budapest is all-around cheap as long as you steer clear of the most touristy places along the river. The castles and cathedrals are enough, but here you also get thermal spas that are cheap even for the backpacking set. Hostels, in particular, are great value, but you have to get a bit out of the center to find inexpensive hotels.
- Currency: Hungary Forint
- Best cheap hostel: Treestyle Hostel – 1547/night
- Transportation: 700
- Meals: 3120
- Drinks/Entertainment: 1050
- Attractions: 1500
- Daily Backpacker Index: HUF7,917 = US$26.75/day
- Currency: Converted Mark (fixed, so prices below are in euros)
- Best cheap hostel: Hostel Ljubicica – 5.84/night
- Transportation: 3.60
- Meals: 9.60
- Drinks/Entertainment: 3.75
- Attractions: 4.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: €26.79 = US$28.50/day
- Currency: Ukraine Hryvnia
- Best cheap hostel: Hostel Elements – 191/night
- Transportation: 8.00
- Meals: 354.00
- Drinks/Entertainment: 180.00
- Attractions: 15.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: UHR748.00 = US$29.18/day
The second most popular tourist town in the Czech Republic is another jewel not to be missed if you are nearby. Framed by a gorgeous serpentine river, the historic Old Town feels perfectly preserved yet not overly touristy. Best of all, Český Krumlov seems shockingly cheap when you are there, with hotels, food, and drinks at very low prices even in the heart of town. This place is a huge hit for Asian tourists, for some reason, though it's highly recommended for everybody.
- Currency: Czech krona
- Best cheap hostel: Travel Hostel – 247/night
- Transportation: 48
- Meals: 288
- Drinks/Entertainment: 90
- Attractions: 100
- Daily Backpacker Index: CZK773 = US$30.34/day
- Currency: Polish Zlotych
- Best cheap hostel: Chillout Hostel – 38.06/night
- Transportation: 6.80
- Meals: 39.60
- Drinks/Entertainment: 24.00
- Attractions: 23.00
- Daily Backpacker Index: PLN131.46 = US$31.45/day
- Currency: Croatian kuna
- Best cheap hostel: Hostel Temza – 60.80/night
- Transportation: 20
- Meals: 84
- Drinks/Entertainment: 36
- Attractions: 30
- Daily Backpacker Index: HRK230.80 = US$32.69/day
- Istanbul (many consider off limits due to security concerns at present)
- Saint Petersburg
- Santorini (surprising entry)