cost of travel travel budget travel planning

Cheapest and most expensive EU countries

Over the past year I have spent time traveling in Denmark and Bulgaria, two countries with the distinction of being the most expensive and least expensive of 28 EU member countries.

My frequent travel to Europe over the past three years has been aided by spending most of my time in travel budget-friendly EU countries like Bulgaria (#1 cheapest), Poland (3rd), Lithuania (5th), Czech Republic (7th) and Slovakia (8th). All these countries rank in the lower third of EU price comparisons and well below the average EU price index.

$1.50 pints of beer in Ceske Velenice train station pub.

Beer in Czech Republic is generally less than $2/pint. In Copenhagen $7.50.

Denmark is recognized as the most expensive EU country for hotels and restaurants, although, prices are even higher than Denmark in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, three non-EU countries.

I paid 20,000 Choice Privileges points I bought in April 2018 for $100.

Loyalty Traveler – Cost of travel Copenhagen and Rome vs. Lithuania and Poland (June 30, 2018).

Price Levels Compared 2017 data

Price level comparisons are based on a scale of 100 designating the average for all 28 EU countries on a variety of consumer needs such as housing, transportation, goods and services.

Ranked cheapest to most expensive (source: Eurostat)

  1. Bulgaria = 44 
  2. Romania = 48.4
  3. Poland = 53.2
  4. Hungary = 58.3
  5. Lithuania = 60.2
  6. Croatia = 63.7
  7. Czech Republic = 64
  8. Slovakia = 65
  9. Latvia = 68
  10. Estonia 74.2
  11. Greece 82.2
  12. Malta 82.3
  13. Portugal 82.8
  14. Slovenia 84.2
  15. Cyprus 90.1
  16. Spain = 93
  17. EU = 100
  18. Italy = 101.8
  19. Germany 104.4
  20. France 106.7
  21. Austria = 112.2
  22. Belgium = 112.3
  23. Netherlands = 114.6
  24. UK = 117.4
  25. Finland = 123.3
  26. Ireland = 127.8
  27. Sweden = 134.7
  28. Luxembourg = 141
  29. Denmark =141.2
  30. Norway* = 151.9
  31. Switzerland* = 165.6
  32. Iceland* = 171.6

Non-EU countries in Europe include Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and several eastern Europe countries including Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. Balkan states of Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia are not in EU. Prices are even lower than Bulgaria and Romania in some of these eastern Europe and Balkan nations.

My travel in past 12 months

Among cheapest 10 countries = 42 nights

  • Bulgaria = 44 (4 nights) Oct
  • Poland = 53.2 (15 nights) Oct, June, July
  • Lithuania = 60.2 (6 nights) June
  • Czech Republic = 64 (17 nights) Oct, Dec-Jan, July
Plovdiv, Bulgaria Roman Theater

Among middle of the pack 10 countries = 10 nights

  • Italy = 101.8 (3 nights) June
  • France 106.7 (4 nights) Oct
  • Austria = 112.2 (3 nights) July
Monaco views for 3 days in Oct 2017 when I stayed at La Porte de Monaco Marriott for $57 per night on a winning auction bid.

On a budget for most expensive 10 countries = 13 nights

  • Netherlands = 114.6 (7 nights) February
  • UK = 117.4 (3 nights) December
  • Denmark =141.2 (3 nights) Jan/June
Bread, cheese, salad, smoked salmon and six 2.30 DKK beers cost $18.52 in Netto market, Copenhagen.

23 nights in countries with price levels above EU average and 42 nights in countries below EU average.

When I average out EU price level statistics to my 65 hotel nights across these EU countries over the past 12 months, I find:

  • 23 nights in countries with above EU average price levels = 115.
  • 42 nights in countries with below EU average price levels = 55.
  • 65 hotel nights price levels average in EU countries = 76.23.

Basically, I spent 1/3 of my time in EU countries with higher than average prices and 2/3 of my travel in EU countries with lower than average prices. My 65 days of travel would be cut down to about 43 days of travel if I stayed in more popular tourist countries with the same budget.

Compounding the travel budget price comparison even more is difficulty finding a good city center hotel deal with points in London, Paris or Amsterdam compared to Prague, Krakow and Sofia.

Greece, Malta, and Portugal all have a price level around 82 and are the least expensive of the more popular European countries as tourist destinations.

In general, my price comparison experiences for places I traveled show a good correlation to the EU data between the relative prices I pay for stays in different countries when I combine the cost of food, alcohol, entertainment and transportation.

Hotels are less of a price factor for me due to using points in the expensive countries and paying for rooms more frequently when traveling in cheaper countries.

Earning points through good value hotel promotions throughout the year and buying points when there are good sales promotions allows me to budget the hotel expenses of a trip over many months. The main expenses of my travel are the daily costs for places I visit.

Balancing low cost destinations with high cost destinations helps. As a solo traveler, I generally get by on $20 to $30 per day anywhere I go.

Romania, 2nd cheapest of 28 EU countries, is my next destination for October 2018. Cheap living for a week in Romania will be balanced with frugality for the few days and nights I stay in London and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Loyalty Traveler – SFO to London, Romania, Iceland 12 days $1,000 plan (Aug 23, 2018).


  • Jason August 28, 2018

    Again! Another really good post Ric.
    Curious to know why you spend so much time in Europe. Do you work in an industry/job that requires it/specializes in it, or is it just for fun?

  • Bluecat August 28, 2018

    You allude to the distinction between consumer costs (that which is being measured) and traveler’s costs, and I wholeheartedly agree. A traveler will have costs that can vary greatly from the consumer in at least 3 ways: the expenditure items for the typical tourist, the locations where the expenditures take place, and the time of year. (It’s possible that *your* travel eating style–with its frequent grocery purchases versus dining out–brings it a bit closer to the “typical”.)

    Exhibit A is Croatia. I wonder if anyone who has been to that country–to the locations where tourists go–would consider its costs to be “below median”. On a trip there this year, I found it extremely costly. Even Stockholm was cheaper.

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    I wonder if there is a similar Eurostat price guide for travellers.

  • Ric Garrido August 28, 2018

    @Bluecat – Croatia is an excellent example. I looked at Croatia as an option instead of Romania for October, but prices did not look that inexpensive to me.

    I searched Eurostat info for a comparison of restaurant prices. Did not find one.

    For more specific comparisons of cities a tourist visits, I check and

    Dubrovnik, Croatia
    Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant $13.34
    Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course $65.94
    McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) $7.85
    Domestic Beer (1 pint draught) $4.71
    Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) $3.45
    Cappuccino (regular) $2.57
    Coke/Pepsi (11.2 oz small bottle) $3.09
    Water (11.2 oz small bottle) $2.57

    Dubrovnik prices are about double the average prices for Zagreb, Croatia inexpensive restaurant meals $7.06usd and beer $2.35.

    Zagreb, Croatia
    Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant $7.06
    Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course $37.68
    McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) $5.97
    Domestic Beer (1 pint draught) $2.35
    Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) $2.83
    Cappuccino (regular) $1.71
    Coke/Pepsi (11.2 oz small bottle) $2.11
    Water (11.2 oz small bottle) $1.48

    Zagreb is comparable to Prague, CZ for restaurant prices, except beer is a bit more expensive.

    Prague, Czechia
    Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant $6.33
    Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course $31.78
    McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) $5.90
    Domestic Beer (1 pint draught) $1.63
    Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) $2.04
    Cappuccino (regular) $2.23
    Coke/Pepsi (11.2 oz small bottle) $1.44
    Water (11.2 oz small bottle) $1.08

  • Bluecat August 29, 2018

    @Ric, Ya, the number prices are better but, one, still quite a ways off. I imagine that these prices are an average of the metropolis rather than the touristic region. I was in Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula, and Split and it was impossible to found a 3 course meal for 2 for 31.78. Maybe in an area with no tourists…

    Btw, Croatia suffers from a new (to me) phenomena: “set jetters “. These people, combined with cruise ship people and big groups of Chinese tourists, are living some of these places to death.

    That’s why your trip reports to some of the lesser known places are so refreshing. (E.g., I’ll go to cesky budojovice one day!)

  • Bluecat August 29, 2018

    *number ->. Numbeo

  • JohnnieD August 29, 2018

    Recommend Romania! Very inexpensive. Airbnb rental was $54 a night which included 3 bedrooms and pool north of Bucharest. Three course meal with bottle of wine $32 in Brasov.
    Plan to return to visit northern border area.

  • Ric Garrido August 30, 2018

    @Jason – my choice, just for fun and stories.

  • SERBIA is another beautiful country – not part of EU – but excellent and cheap food, hotel & B&B accommodations, and easy to get to and travel in. We are visiting Belgrade for the third time in three years !

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