When planning travel to and within Europe, visitors will find that the cost of living and the prices for accommodation, restaurant meals, shopping and services can differ greatly between European countries and even between cities.
As a rule of thumb, Western Europe is more expensive than Eastern Europe and Southern Europe has a lower price level than Northern Europe. For example, if you’re looking for a beach vacation, Albania and Bulgaria rank among the more affordable destinations as compared to Spain or France. Everyday travel expenses on the other hand will generally be lower in Croatia, Greece or Portugal than in Finland, Norway or the United Kingdom.
However, there are a number of exceptions to that rule and there are also a number of distinctive areas that are notable for a higher general price level. Large cities tend to be more expensive not only in terms of overnight costs, but also for out of pocket expenses. Moscow, Zurich, Munich and London are examples where things are usually a little pricier than outside of these cities but still in the same country.
If you are travelling on a budget, your best options for Europe are in the Eastern half of the continent. Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine and Kosovo are on that list of places to go to. These are mostly countries that are catching up to the standards in Western Europe, which reflects in still lower costs of living. Others, such as Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania are a step further in their development, but can still be considered affordable when compared to more traditional destinations. On the other end of the scale, Switzerland, Monaco, Malta, Denmark, Iceland and France are considered to be rather expensive spots for travelers. However, there are of course also very affordable travel options available in these countries as well.
In terms of paying for things, note that in many European countries, cash is still by far the most often used payment option. A credit card is usually required to make hotel or car rental reservations, but shopping often is still cash-based and smaller amounts in particular usually are not paid for by credit card. Check for stickers with the symbols of credit card companies at a store’s door or near the cash register if you intend to use your credit card for purchases.
As far as currencies are concerned, note that while the Euro is widely accepted across the continent, it is not the official currency everywhere and not even everywhere within the European Union. In some cases this may lead to the need to exchange currencies when crossing borders, for example between Germany and Czechia, between Slovenia and Croatia, Austria and Switzerland or between Ireland and the UK, among others.
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