Top 5 budget-friendly countries in Europe

South Africans know all too well how much money goes into a European holiday. After spending a small fortune on flights, we have to convert our hard-earned rands into euros, and shell out for accommodation, food, transport and entry fees to tourist attractions. The good news is that not every trip to a European country needs to break the bank – there are many relatively inexpensive idyllic destinations. We take a look at some of Europe’s most budget-friendly options.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria comes out tops in terms of affordability. Think R75 for your average meal, R150 for dormitory-style accommodation and R300 for a decent hotel room. While being a hub of traditional folk music, dance and crafts, it ticks all the boxes for lovers of the outdoors too: seven mountain ranges stretch across the interior, offering unrivalled hiking trails, while picture-perfect beaches attract sun-worshippers from afar.

Turkey

A melting pot of European and Asian cultures, Turkey is an intrepid traveller’s dream come true. From Istanbul with its rooftop bars, vibrant bazaars and baklava cafes to the glittering Lycian Coast in the south that stretches 540km, Turkey offers unrivalled natural beauty, ancient history and vast cultural riches. With an average daily budget of between R550 and R1 000, covering accommodation and food, you can easily stretch out your holiday by a few extra days.

Czech Republic

One of the European Union’s newest members, the Czech Republic brings history and folklore to life. Its capital city, Prague, is a treasure trove of Gothic architecture, palaces and old-fashioned bars, while the quality of its beer is world famous. Across the land, old beer-brewing traditions blend beautifully with hip micro breweries to offer the thirsty traveller a fine selection of beers and ales. Then there’s the countryside – a spectacle of misty meadows, pine forests and fairytale castles. Even though the Czech Republic is welcoming more tourists, and therefore inevitably becoming more expensive, it’s still a good bet for budget-conscious travellers.

Croatia  

On everyone’s bucket list, Croatia embodies seaside perfection with its glittering waters, terracotta-roofed homes, delicious seafood, and coastline dotted with islands. It’s sunny and there’s plenty of adventuring to pursue – whether you hop between the many islands by yacht or hike the more remote Istria region in the north, you’re guaranteed a memorable holiday. Set aside about R1 000 a day to cover food, accommodation and public transport.

Greece

Wonderful Greece with its hospitable people, gorgeous landscapes and famous islands is surprisingly affordable, especially if you venture beyond the tourist tracks. Islands like Mykonos and Santorini may be iconic but there are plenty of others that are as beautiful, more authentic and much more affordable. Take Andros, one of the largest islands of the Cyclades, which has white-washed seaside villages, farm-to-fork food, historic monasteries and a wide selection of hiking trails. It’s largely undiscovered by the tourist masses and not overpriced.

Know before you go: 

On Foot Holidays, one of Europe’s leading self-guided walking tour operators, offers South Africans all-inclusive holiday packages to all the destinations listed in this article. Accommodation, meals, excellent wines and information packs are provided on all routes. Walkers select their departure dates; luggage is transferred between inns each day; and all routes are designed by locals and tested by On Foot Holidays staff. There are more than 28 walking routes throughout Europe to choose from. For more information and expert advice, visit On Foot Holidays.

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