My general rule of thumb is daily travel expenses in eastern European countries like Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria will be about $20 to $30 per person, excluding lodging.
Places like Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Barcelona will be about $40 to $60 per day with countries like Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden pricing at $50 to $100 per day and highly variable depending on how much you move around these countries and amount of drinking and dining is involved.
This article looks at price differences in Copenhagen, Rome, Lithuania and Poland on my recent trip of 2 days in Copenhagen, 4 days in Rome, 4 days in Poland and 6 days in Lithuania.
While lodging can be the major expense of any trip in Europe, I exclude lodging from this analysis due to the option for hotel loyalty points to level that playing field significantly. My average nightly room rate for 80 to 90 hotel nights over the course of a year generally ranges from $55 to $75 per night, yet the published room rate for these same rooms I book using points is often 2x or 3x more than that average.
Loyalty Traveler – Copenhagen, Lithuania, Poland and Rome 9 hotels trip using points in 6 loyalty programs (June 29, 2018). This 15 hotel nights trip had room rates over $3,000. My actual cost was about $250 based on points purchases I made to book rooms. Most of my points redeemed were earned through good value hotel stays offering promotion bonus points over the past several years.
- 48 hour transportation card = 150 DKK = $23.80/person = $11.90/day.
- Phoenix Cafe for lunch = 262 DKK = $41.52 for 2 persons meal. Shrimp sandwich 105dkk/$16.77; french fries 59dkk/$9.37 and 2 Stella Artois 49dkk/$7.68usd per pint.
- Beer = 47 DKK/pint = $7.41/pint x 3 pints = $22.23/person
- Market food and beer = $35 for 2 days = $8.75/person
- Tivoli Garden admission = 120 DKK = $18.82 (cost of rides is extra or buy all-inclusive ticket 535 DKK $83.84/adult including restaurant meal and rides).
- Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket Museum = 115 DKK admission = $18.03
Our expenses were about $80 per day per person, relying on complimentary hotel breakfast included in our Nordic Choice Hotels reward nights and one mediocre dining experience with primarily supermarket food. On other trips to Copenhagen and Scandinavian cities I generally rely on market food and beer to avoid dining out and reduce travel expenses.
My normal travel style when solo is buy market food and drink and find a nice public space to people watch and dine. Our June 2018 trip during the dates of World Cup Russia 2018 qualifying rounds meant three games of soccer every day and Kelley wanted to be in a pub a good deal of the time between 2 and 10pm.
Rome had a pretty standard 5.00 EUR per beer price and meals were typically 8 to 12 EUR per plate at mid-priced cafes. Seemed like every block of every street in Rome had at least five pizza and pasta restaurants. We passed by many restaurants with entree meals priced at 12-17 EUR.
A 25 EUR meal at Il Fico Rome cafe included bread, one bowl of pasta, a plate of vegetables and 2 beers.
Not being much of a pasta eater, I ate pizza everyday at restaurants and loaded up on market purchased fruit and vegetables for a healthier diet.
Pam Local seemed to be the main grocery store I encountered walking around Rome. We got a deal on two prepared salads for 5eur. I purchased a whole roasted chicken for 5.90eur in a different market. Big 666ml bottles of cold beer like Birra Moretti, Peroni and Nastro Azzurro averaged 1.30eur in different markets I shopped.
My best value food purchase was a small hot pizza for 3.00eur at 3P bakery on Via Montebello down the road from Best Western Hotel Artdeco.
Rome Transportation and Metro and Bus Passes
The cost of a ticket for Rome bus and Metro is 1.50eur for 100 minutes. We purchased 48 hour Metro passes for Rome at 12.50eur per day.
Metro passes are available for 24, 48, 72 hours and one week.
- 24 hours = 7.00eur
- 48 hours = 12.50 eur
- 72 hours = 18.00 eur
- one week = 24.00 eur
Turned out Rome is far more walkable than I expected. One morning I walked from Best Western Artdeco to the Colosseum. Best Western Artdeco is 2.4km from the Colosseum.
Then we rode the Metro B line from Castro Pretoria near our hotel with a one station stop at Termini Station for change to Metro A line to Vatican City at Ottaviano ‘San Piettro’.
After seeing the Pope address the crowd at Piazza San Pietro-St. Peter’s Square at noon, we ended up walking about 5km across Rome sightseeing, eating and drinking and eventually reached the Colosseum. Six hours in the low 80s and a little humid was doable with about half our time in a restaurant and then a pub watching England-Panama World Cup.
We ended up wasting money on our Metro Pass the first day with only one ride. The second day we took five Metro rides, but could have feasibly walked the route from Vatican City to Villa Borghese Park, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
Airport transportation was one of the biggest expenses for our trip in Rome. Our flight from Krakow, Poland to Rome Ciampino CIA Airport was cheap transportation at only 3.20eur each one way from Ciampino airport to Termini Station in 45 minutes. The train to Rome Fiumicino Airport FCO cost 8.00eur each one way for cheap train tickets requiring one train change and 53 minutes. Nonstop train service from Termini to FCO on the Leonardo Express in 32 minutes is a 14eur ticket.
The biggest rip-off we encountered was 15eur each round trip for the 5 minute airport shuttle ride from FCO Terminal 3 to Best Western Rome Airport. If traveling alone I am sure I could have figured out how to get the local bus for 1.50eur, but my wife would have none of that budget adventure on a muggy afternoon in Fiumicino with intermittent rain showers.
Summary of Rome prices
Transportation 5eur/day around Rome.
Beer/drinks 5eur per beer at pub/restaurant.
Dining – 8 to 15 eur per person without drinks.
Market food – 10eur per day for two of us. 666ml bottles of various Italian beers about 1.30eur.
Colosseum ticket admission with audio guide 6.00eur
Rome has so many tourist attractions and places to visit for free (The Pantheon, city parks) or inexpensively. I can see the frugal traveler getting by in Rome on $15 to $20 per day for food and drink or around $30 per day all in, excluding lodging. Our three days of pubbing and dining in relatively inexpensive cafes with simple food dishes made our expenses closer to $50 per person per day for food and drink balancing 2/3 restaurant meals and 1/3 store food for a couple of meals.
Lithuania Cost of Travel
I have visited Lithuania each year for the past three years. The country has great pub culture. And I always feel like I am visiting the Russian Front of the actually-not-over Cold War, as based on my observation I have seen U.S. soldiers at some point during my in-country travel on all three trips.
Lithuania and Latvia seemed to have similar food and transportation prices based on my April 2017 observations.
Food and Beer in Lithuania
It is possible to eat two meals and two beers per day in a city cafe for 15eur per person in Lithuania. We generally ate in mid-priced restaurants for about 14 to 25 eur for two meal items and 2 or 4 beers.
Beer is priced 2.30 to 3.00eur in most tourist area pubs of Kaunas and Klaipeda, Lithuania. Prices are likely lower in areas outside the city centers. Small meals can be found for 5.00eur or less and 7.00 to 10.00eur for restaurant meals at mid-priced and even some relatively nice restaurants.
We stayed three days in Kaunas in the center Lithuania and three days in Klaipeda, a Baltic Sea port city.
Klaipeda is also a 1.00eur round trip ferry ride gateway to the Curonian Spit UNESCO World Heritage site composed of The Curonian Spit National Park in Lithuania’s portion of the barrier spit dunes and the Kurshskaya National Park of the Russian Federation. The spit is a 60-mile stretch of very narrow land, from 400 meters to a maximum 3.8km near Nida. The spit is covered in sand dunes and forest on the Baltic Sea. A lagoon separates the spit from the mainland and the narrow opening to the Baltic Sea is at Klaipeda.
Transportation in Lithuania
Copenhagen to Kaunas, Ryanair $42 = $11.93 one way ticket + $29.99 one checked bag.
Kaunas Airport to city bus 1.00eur in 23 stops with 42 minutes on public bus #29.
Park Inn Kaunas to Kaunus Bus Station 1.00eur in 3 stops, many bus choices.
Kaunas to Klaipeda long distance bus 14.25eur/$16.70usd.
Klaipeda-Curonian Spit passenger ferry 1.00eur round trip (5 minutes each way).
Klaipeda public bus 1.00eur to shopping mall bus stop for Ollix bus direct to Kaunas and Vilnius Airports.
Klaipeda to Vilnius long distance Ollix bus 15.00eur/$17.56usd.
Vilnius Airport VNO to Gdansk, Poland GDN $70 Wizz Air
Wizz Air 27.49eur one way ticket VNO-GDN + 26eur one checked bag + 6.00eur Wizz Priority for additional one small bag to one carry-on bag. The 6.00eur Wizz add-on has advantage of allowing two bags on board and overhead bin storage space for carry on bag with early Priority boarding. I was able to take my two carry on bags using 6eur Wizz Priority with no need for a checked bag at 26eur, so $40 all-in for one ticket Vilnius to Gdansk, Poland.
Flying Copenhagen, Denmark to Lithuania, traveling around the country 6 days by bus, then a flight to Gdansk, Poland was less than $100 all-in for transportation. The need for one checked bag on Ryanair and Wizz flights added $60 for $160 in total transportation for all travel in Lithuania.
The ticket increase from $100 to $160 with one checked bag fee on two flights is a significant expense. Saves money to pack light with limited liquids in your airline travel bags. Still waiting for my wife to figure out how to minimize her make-up for the no checked bag travel method.
Summary of Lithuania prices
Transportation 1eur per ride, if you need city bus travel.
Kaunas CityBee shared bicycle rental 1.00eur/hr.
Lithuania regional bus travel 12 to 16eur within country or to Riga, Latvia.
Beer/drinks 2 to 3eur per 0.5l local beer at city pub/restaurant.
Dining – 5 to 10 eur per person without drinks at mid-range restaurant.
Market food – 5-8eur per person/day fruit, vegetables and food for most needs if you don’t dine out. 500ml bottles of various Lithuanian beers about 0.85-1.10 eur.
Many Lithuania museums typically 3 to 6eur admission.
Frugal travelers can get by in Lithuania for $15 to $20 per day for food and drink and dine reasonably well or around $25 to $35 per day all in with some transportation and activities, excluding lodging. Our three days of pubbing and dining in nice Old Town cafes and along the Dane River in Klaipeda made our expenses closer to $50 per person per day for lunch and dinner daily in restaurants with plenty of beer in the pubs for World Cup matches.
Poland Cost of Travel
After a week in Stockholm July 2016, our first night in Krakow was like finding dining nirvana. The Bier Halle in Krakow set us back $50 for two large dinner meals and 3 liters of beer each. A liter of beer cost $6 at Bierhalle at the time when a 0.33l glass of beer in Stockholm at a pub was about $8.00 to $9.00. Familiarity with Krakow pubs keeps away from Bierhalle these days. I found places in Krakow since with $2.50 liters of beer.
Poland is often cited as the lowest dining prices in Europe.
Sukiennice is at the Cloth Hall on Rynek Glowny, the heart of tourist Krakow. I would think a large restaurant in the center of the city’s tourist magnet would be relatively high priced. To the contrary, Sukiennice has some of the cheapest menu prices, large portions of food and has outdoor square seating for one of the best people watching opportunities in Krakow.
Poland is so cheap that I have eaten more hotel restaurant meals in Poland than any other country besides USA.
Bar Przystan local beer is 8pln/$2.14 for 05l glass.
Sheraton Sopot Bar 512 burger 42pln/$11.23 was best burger I recall eating in a long time. Kelley and I had 70pln/$18.71 in dining credit from LOT Airlines who put us up at Sheraton Sopot after cancelling our flight after midnight. We arrived back at the same hotel we checked out of 14 hours earlier that day.
Our last day at Sheraton Sopot included breakfast at Wave restaurant and a 70pln dining credit. Since we had about 9 hours before we would reach Krakow and Kelley slept through the Sheraton breakfast hours, we ordered two burgers. We split one burger and packed the other burger in ziplock bags for travel. I lived off that second burger as a meal supplement for three days in Krakow and Rome.
Poland Transportation in Poland
All three of Poland’s major international airports in Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk offer cheap train service directly from airport to city centers. The airport to Sopot train took about 30 minutes with one train change on a 3.80pln/$1.02 ticket.
Krakow KRK Airport to Krakow takes about 22 minutes and a one way ticket is 9.00pln/$2.41.
Public transportation in Krakow is 2.80pln/$0.75 for a bus/tram ticket.
LOT Polish Airlines Gdansk to Krakow cost $69 one way for a nonstop ticket at the time I purchased it in April 2018. In February 2017, I flew Warsaw to Gdansk on Ryanair for $1.99 one way + $9 for a checked bag.
Summary of Poland prices
Poland, along with Czech Republic seem to offer comfortable travel and dining experiences at bargain prices compared to most countries in western Europe. Dining in Poland averages around $10 to $12 per meal in good restaurants and many lower priced cafes offer meals for $6 and less. Beer and alcohol are relatively inexpensive at around $2 to $3 for a beer in nearly all pubs and restaurants.
Museums are generally $5 or less for admission.
Transportation is inexpensive, even for long distances with an efficient bus and train network operating across the country.
Frugal travelers can get by in Poland on $10 to $15 per day for food and drink eating in cafes with travel between major cities available for $5 to $10 one way by bus and train. $25 will feed two people good meals with alcohol in many restaurants.
I like Poland due to the economic feasibility of hanging out as a couple dining and drinking all day for under $50. Hotel rates in Poland are also some of the lowest in Europe.
Best of all to us are we find people generally interesting to be around in Poland.