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Posted by on Dec 3, 2013

How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Central Europe?

 

Central Europe surpassed our expectations in so many ways. It was beautiful, mostly budget friendly and really our speed in terms of lifestyle and activities. From Budapest to Lake Bled to Zadar, we had an incredible few weeks traveling in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. These are countries not to be missed on a European tour. While they don’t have the cache of Paris, Amsterdam or Barcelona, they are full of history, interesting places to visit and tremendous views from the mountains to the sea. I would take them over the crepes in Paris any day (and that is saying A LOT)!

Hungary
Our time in Hungary was short-lived with five days in Budapest, but it was a gloriously cheap five days. We spent a total of $481 for a per day average of $96. This includes renting our own apartments through Airbnb in great neighborhoods, going to the opera, an art exhibit and visiting the famed thermal baths. This is a tremendous budget destination in Europe with so much to offer.

The castle in Budapest.

The castle in Budapest.

Croatia
In general, Croatia was more expensive than I thought it would be and not only because we splurged on a week-long sailing trip around the islands. In twelve days we spent a total of $2,389 for a per day average of $199. The total cost of the cruise was $1,337, which significantly brought up our daily average. While technically it isn’t an expensive country, it isn’t a budget destination. Food and lodging were particularly more expensive than I thought it would be after coming from Hungary. I would still go back there in a heartbeat. It is a fabulous country with so much natural beauty.

Viewpoint on the island of Krk in Croatia.

Viewpoint on the island of Krk in Croatia.

Slovenia
Slovenia continues to visit me in my dreams. It is beautiful, peaceful and just a joy to travel through. In eight days, we spent a total of $899 for a per day average of $112. The country uses the Euro as its currency, but everything is far cheaper than countries in Western Europe. We found great prices on lodging, food was delicious and inexpensive when eating out and the countryside is magnificent (Lake Bled is a must visit). For such an easy place to travel through, I would recommend it as a starting point for anyone wanting to begin European travel on more of a budget.

Slovenia's Lake Bled.

Slovenia’s Lake Bled.

By the Numbers

We spent $3,788 during 25 days in Central Europe for a per day average of $151. If you don’t count the days of the cruise in Croatia, we spent $2,170 over 18 days for a per day average of $120, which is much more reflective of regular travel within the region. As a reminder, these are daily expenses and do not include long-haul inter-country travel.

Item Cost
Lodging $2,383
Food & Drinks $999
Ground Transportation $126
Misc. $91
Sightseeing $189
Inter-country long distance travel (includes flight to Budapest from Lisbon) $580
Visas $0


Lodging

Aside from staying on a boat in Croatia, we spent the majority of our nights in rented apartments through Airbnb. There is a great amount of inventory in Central Europe through Airbnb and at reasonable prices.

In 25 nights, we spent:
14 in apartment rentals (Budapest – Buda side, Budapest – Pest side, Zagreb, Lake Bled, Ljubljana)
4 in hotels/inns (Plitvice Lakes)
7 on a sailing cruise

I would highly recommend almost everywhere we stayed on this leg of the trip and the links to my recommendations are included above.

Meals

We ate a number of meals in our rented apartments throughout all three countries. That being said, lunch and dinner at restaurants in Central Europe are very affordable if you stick to low/middle end establishments. We could easily eat a fantastic meal with drinks between 20 and 30 Euros. Budapest is by far the best value destination for food and has a lot of variety in the main city center. One of our favorite budget meals was at padthai wokbar in Budapest. It’s the Chipotle for Asian food – this place needs to make it to the States. For an authentic Croatian meal in Zagreb, Ivica i Marica (Hansel and Gretel), has delicious, healthy food and amazing cakes. Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, has terrific food choices and a nice variety of low budget options (Dave ate the same Indian wrap three times in two days he thought it was that good).

You should also eat as much Bled cream cake as possible when in Slovenia.

You should also eat as much Bled cream cake as possible when in Slovenia.

Transportation

The nice thing about cities in Central Europe is that they are small and very walkable. We didn’t spend any money on transportation once we were in the location where we were staying. We traveled by train from Budapest to Zagreb, which was long at almost eight hours but a nice, easy ride.

Border crossing from Hungary to Croatia. Plan on a little time stopped here for passport control.

Border crossing from Hungary to Croatia. Plan on a little time stopped here for passport control.

Traveling through Croatia on the other hand proved a little more complex. There is a system of buses and trains that can get you where you need to go, but the travel times are somewhat long. We took a bus from Zagreb to Opatija to catch our sailing trip and the two hour bus ride was almost $40 USD for the two of us. It was one of the most expensive buses we have taken this entire trip. We opted to rent a car for other travel within Croatia, which was the right option. Using an online site Holidayautos.com, we got a great deal on a car for a few days and the roads are virtually empty in Croatia!

Slovenian buses on the other hand are fantastic. The main bus station in Ljubljana is central to most things and the layout is easy to navigate. Bus tickets for the two hour ride to Lake Bled were just over 6 Euros each. The bus drivers are safe and the scenery is beautiful.

Central Europe is also a great hub for other travel. Our flight from Lisbon to Budapest was just over three hours. We flew from Ljubljana to Istanbul in just under three.

RTW Costs to Date

As of the end of October, we had spent $35,563 in 292 days of travel for an average per day cost of $121. Adding in major flight, long-haul transportation and visas, our grand total thus far is $39,471.