Travelling in Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. I spent years travelling in Central Europe and the Balkans for less than €50 per day and often for half that (when travelling slowly with a partner).
With a little planning and insider knowledge, it’s not hard to travel on a budget and still have money to enjoy activities and eat good food.
In this guide, I review the cheapest places to visit in Europe for tourists.
Cheapest Countries to Visit in Europe
I’ve picked out a couple of the cheapest cities in the cheapest countries in Europe. Use that as your starting point for your own research.
Look at low-cost airlines and see where they fly and if you can get a good deal. But it’s always better if you can avoid flying, if possible.
You can save money by travelling in the off-season and either booking well in advance or, conversely, very last minute.
Consider the type of accommodation you book, it doesn’t have to be a hostel, apartment stays are usually affordable and you can find basic hotel rooms for less than €30 in many places.
Save even more by staying a little out of the centre, taking local transport, renting a bike, or walking.
1. Albania – Korca and Gjirokastra
The Albanian Riviera can be overpriced, even in the off-season, but there are many cheap cities in Albania.
I stayed in a beautifully renovated apartment in Korca that was very cheap for 2 people. But you can find hotels and guest houses for as little as €20-25 per night.
Korca is cheap because it’s not on the tourist trail in Albania due to its distance from Tirana and the beach.
It’s a pretty city with great architecture, excellent restaurants, and a huge cafe and bar scene. It’s a young university city, so it’s one of Albania’s most progressive and vibrant cities.
Gjirokastra is quite different to Korca. As the birthplace of former dictator Enver Hoxha and famous novelist Ismail Kadare, the city has an interesting history and joint (with Berat) UNESCO listing thanks to its stunning Ottoman architecture.
It’s where you’ll find the remains of a shot-down US spy plane (although that’s possibly communist propaganda) and incredible views of the snow-capped Gjere Mountains.
Gjirokastra recently underwent a massive rejuvenation making 2023 a great time to visit. Highly rated rooms with private bathrooms are incredibly cheap for most visitors.
2. Lithuania – Vilnius and Kaunas
All three Baltic States are among the cheapest countries to visit in Europe, with Estonia being the most expensive, Latvia next, and Lithuania being the cheapest once you get there.
Some of the smaller, more remote towns can be extraordinarily cheap, but to have a balance of affordability and things to do, the capital Vilnius and Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas, are your best options.
Vilnius is a great walking city with many sights you can visit for free. You can visit the famous Cathedral Square, the popular shrine at the Gates of Dawn and the restored Bernardine Gardens in the old town.
Cafes in Vilnius are lively and cheap and the riverfront precinct has many cheap bars.
Basic hotels in Vilnius start at €35 (I stayed here) or you can get something quite fancy for a little more.
The better value in Vilnius is apartment stays. You can get a modern apartment for less than €30 per night.
I spent a month in an apartment in Vilnius. It was a great way to experience the city and it was particularly affordable as I was visiting in August, one of the quietest times of the year.
Kaunus is a smaller city, so it’s nice for a weekend break or a stopover on the way to somewhere else.
There are a few things to keep you busy in the old town, but also some interesting day trips to the Hill of Crosses, Pazaislis Monastery, and the nearby national park and lagoon.
This historic hotel in the very centre of Kaunas is a cheap place to stay. But like with Vilnius, the real bargains are with apartments. Just be aware that apartments can lead to higher housing prices for local residents, which may be a reason to avoid them.
3. Hungary – Debrecen & Pecs
Hungary is one of the cheapest countries in Europe thanks to free attractions, budget set menu lunches, ridiculously cheap ruin bars and an abundance of budget apartments.
You can take your pick of cheap cities in Hungary and enjoy these free things to do in Budapest, but in general, I recommend Szeged and Pecs for stunning architecture and old towns and Gyor and Debrecen for offbeat character and lower prices.
Budapest is definitely cheap too, especially if you’re looking for nightlife, but it’s not on the same level as the smaller cities.
4. Moldova – Chisinau & Tiraspol
If you’re looking for an offbeat destination, a country most people never have and probably never will visit, Moldova is the place to go.
Moldova is rather unloved as a tourist destination, and I’m not going to lie, there are not as many things to do for visitors there. That’s subjective, though. You might love it!
The capital Chisinau is fun for the curious. It’s quiet and quirky compared to elsewhere in Europe. It’s a bit beat up and run down in places.
But there is some interesting architecture, old-style trolley buses to see the city on the cheap, and the city is becoming known for its wine bars.
More interesting is a visit to Transnistria, a ‘country’ within Moldova. Basically, after a short war backed by Russia, Moldova broke up into two parts, with the new, internationally unrecognised region becoming Transnistria with Tiraspol as the capital.
You have to go through a border crossing to get there, but the moment you’re across the border, it’s like being in another world, not just another country.
There’s new infrastructure everywhere (paid for by Russia), tanks guard a few key corners, they have their own currency and Russian is the official language.
For something completely different, visit Transnistria during its independence day celebrations.
Update: You might want to reconsider a visit to Transnistria until after the end of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Both Moldova and Transnistria are extremely budget-friendly for foreigners but be careful not to get ripped off on accommodation as I did.
Book online before you go and make sure all the reviews are positive. Don’t have high expectations when it comes to quality accommodation but apartments are definitely better than hotels and they are outrageously cheap.
- Highly-rated hotel in Chisinau.
- Affordable apartment in Tiraspol.
5. Poland – Wroclaw & Gdansk
Poland is not as cheap as it used to be and I’m sure the locals don’t feel like it’s cheap at all. But Poland is still decently priced away from the most popular tourist cities like Warsaw and Krakow.
For me, the best places to visit in Poland are Wroclaw, Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow. I’ve never had a bad experience in Poland, the people are welcoming, the food is hearty and delicious, the drinks are cheap, and every city I step foot in is beautiful.
6. North Macedonia – Skopje & Ohrid
Easily the cheapest country in the Balkans, North Macedonia is budget-friendly no matter where you go. Skopje is weird and wonderful but definitely not for everyone. Its unique architecture is quirky, but the historic bazaar is more traditional. Expect to pay €30 for a budget apartment and €5 for a meal.
Ohrid is stunning and peaceful at times, rowdy and expensive at others. I completely fell in love with Ohrid on my first visit. Calm and quiet, with beautiful landscapes around the lake.
I planned my return the moment I left, but I was kind of disappointed when I did make it back. I found a touristy party city with music blaring from every corner of the city, even from boats on the lake.
I knew Ohrid was busy at times, but I had no idea the difference a couple of months would make. Visit from November to April for a peaceful visit.
Away from the centre of Ohrid, food is cheap, coffee is cheap and the apartments are cheap. In fact, in the off-season, even apartments on the water are only €25 per night.
My only tip for Ohrid is don’t visit in the summer.
7. Slovakia – Bratislava & Kosice
On the higher end when it comes to budget destinations, Slovakia is still one of the cheapest countries in Central Europe.
Bratislava can be more expensive if you want it to be, there are plenty of luxury hotels and hipster cafes. But there are definitely cheaper options too.
If you don’t mind staying slightly out of the city centre and are happy to eat in budget restaurants or track down street food, Bratislava is considerably cheaper than its neighbours Vienna and Prague.
The real savings in Slovakia are in the east of the country. Kosice is the main city (read about where to stay in Kosice) and it’s way cheaper than Bratislava.
You could base yourself in a smaller city like Presov or Spisska Nova Ves to save even more money. These cities might be a little short on tourist sights, but there’s plenty to do in the region.
You can visit the ruins of Spis Castle, go hiking or see the waterfalls in Slovak Paradise National Park, walk around the medieval town of Levoca or go sweet wine tasting at the famous Tokajik wineries.
8. Bulgaria – Sofia & Plovdiv
I regret not spending more time in Bulgaria. I basically just drove through it, staying one night in Ruse and another in Sofia. I didn’t even really visit Sofia because I was tired after driving all day. I figured I would go back not long after, but unfortunately, I never did.
There are so many places on my travel wish list in Bulgaria; Plovdiv, Rila Monastery, Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia. They are all easy to get to and cheap to visit. Entire apartments in Sofia go for €15 per night and we’re talking about really nice apartments. It’s crazy how cheap it is in Bulgaria.
9. Ukraine – Kyiv & Lviv
2023 Update: I wrote this before the war and unfortunately, visiting Ukraine is no longer safe. But I’ll leave this here to keep the country and its people in our minds. Hopefully, we’ll be able to visit in the near future as a way to support and help rebuild the country.
I’m cheating a little by mentioning Ukraine as one of the cheapest countries in Europe because I’ve never actually visited. But every person I know who has been to Ukraine, everything I’ve read and all my travel blogger friends confirm Ukraine is without a doubt the cheapest country to visit in Europe and it’s undoubtedly an incredible place to visit.
10. Belarus – Minsk & Brest
2023 Update: As mentioned above, I wrote this list before the war. The Belorussian government’s support for Russia is appalling. I don’t support visiting Belarus and I’m not sure it will ever be appropriate to visit, even with a change of government. I’ll leave this here for now for informational purposes but I might remove it later, not sure.
Belarus is probably the most expensive country on this list. It’s one of those places that can be very cheap but, at times, it’s priced like Western Europe.
On a budget, I think the key to Belarus is to avoid the hipster cafes and stick to traditional eateries, avoid hotels by staying in an apartment, and use public transport to get around.
Independence Avenue, Victory Square, the KFC Soviet monument, Lee Harvey Oswald’s apartment, Soviet-era department stores, the KGB building, the Island of Tears, Trinity Hill and Gorky Park are all examples of free things to do in Minsk, but there are many more.
One of the incredibly cheap things to do in Minsk is to see a show at the famous Bolshoi Theatre. Tickets start at €2. You can see The Nutcracker, Don Quixote or other famous productions.
Minsk is a huge city where the sights are spread out over a large distance. While it’s fun to walk around the back streets and explore the different neighbourhoods on foot, it’s a time-consuming way to get around.
The metro is cheap and easy to use, but I used Uber everywhere. It’s affordable and reliable and I didn’t have to struggle attempting to speak Russian.
Not that you need to speak Russian in Belarus, but I do recommend at least learning to read Cyrillic before you go.
Other cheap cities in Belarus are pretty much all of them. My experience is limited, so I suggest reading this post when choosing where to go. It looks like Brest would be one of the best cities outside of Minsk.
Belarus’s biggest problem as a cheap country to visit is the cost of flights. I flew with Austrian/Belavia, which was expensive, but it’s the best airline that flies to Belarus.
Cheaper options are Ukraine International (who don’t have the best reputation), Lot Polish Airlines and Aeroflot. I personally would not fly with Ukraine.
I think Lot is the best affordable airline for Minsk but I would pay a little extra for Austrian if Lot isn’t available.
Be aware that you’ll need a transit visa for Russia if you fly via Aeroflot, so I wouldn’t even bother with them if you’re not Russian.
If you’re flying into Belarus on their visa-free scheme, note that you must fly into and out of Minsk to be eligible, have your hotel pre-booked and purchase Belarusian health insurance at the airport (you can pay by credit card).
The good news is this is a hassle-free process and Belarus now offers a 30-day visa-free stay when you visit this way.
Hotels in Belarus vary wildly. You can find high-end international hotels and dodgy Soviet-era hotels. Most hotels are on the pricey side.
Apartments are your best budget option for Minsk, there are loads of them and the standard is generally pretty good. Read my full to where to stay in Minsk before you book.
Responsible Travel Tips
We all know that flying is damaging to the environment. Although flying is often the cheapest option to get around Europe, and cities like Budapest, Riga and Gdansk are particularly cheap to fly into, I recommend avoiding it if possible.
But not to worry, Europe has brilliant train coverage; if you have the time, it’s a great way to travel.
Also, be careful when booking apartment stays. Short-stay apartments have contributed to a lack of housing affordability, especially in some of Europe’s larger cities. But apartments can also allow residents in less affluent nations to benefit from tourism.
It’s just something to keep in mind when looking to travel responsibly.
My guide to the best places to visit in Europe is a good starting point if you’re looking for other places to visit.
In Western Europe, you could try destinations like Porto in Portugal or Portugal is not as affordable as it once was.
Smaller towns in Spain can be affordable, in particular in northern Spain or if you are interested in France, search for cities in the northwest.
Southern Italian regions like Puglia and Sicily can be a bargain in the off-season, as can resort towns on the Mediterranean.
In the summer though, I’d avoid Western Europe and head east, in particular to offbeat cities you might not have considered before.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Europe. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.