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Backpacking Europe on a Shoestring


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Written by: Samantha Hussey

Many people dream of backpacking around Europe and visiting its many diverse countries and cultures, yet many are also put off by the exorbitant price tag. Many of Europe’s countries are some of the most expensive places to visit in the world so it’s little surprise many backpackers prefer the cheaper shores of Asia and South America.
However, backpacking around Europe on your gap year doesn’t have to be expensive if you budget carefully. This means planning ahead and choosing wisely when it comes to accommodation, transportation, eating and even which countries you decide on visiting.

Cheapest Destinations in Europe

Below are a number of cities on the continent that are among the cheapest destinations for backpacking in Europe.

Kotor, Montenegro

Like Romania, Montenegro is often missed off the itineraries of backpackers with most heading up to the islands of Croatia in search of vibrant nightlife and clubs. But those travellers that reach Kotor: you’re in for a treat! This idyllic ancient port town is a hub of cheap hostels and cheap local wine! Not only that, its picturesque bay and warm weather make for ideal relaxation on the beach.

Budapest, Hungary

Separated by the beautiful Danube River, Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is literally split into two, with the stunning Buda Hills to the west and the flat Pest side to the east.  This romantic city is filled with castles, cathedrals, spas and bridges spanning its mighty river. Considering the city’s popularity with tourists it is a relatively cheap destination to visit. You can find hostels on every corner and many of the main attractions offer large discounts for students. As for the cuisine, it is deliciously cheap and there are a ton of restaurants where you can eat for well under £10 per person. But note touristy hotels and restaurants near the river are not budget friendly so avoid them at all costs – literally.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is the largest and most popular city to visit in Turkey. This ancient metropolis boasts an abundance of fascinating historic buildings as well as many up-and-coming art galleries and museums to provide backpackers with plenty to explore during the day. At night the city turns into a vibrant mecca of bars and nightclubs. Its many bazaars and traditional markets are perfect to find budget option food and snacks and as for accommodation, the further away you are from the centre the more reasonable hostel prices become. You can easily find rooms here on the outskirts of the centre for around £9 a night.

Riga, Latvia

Due to rich history, active culture life, entertainment opportunities and cheap accommodation, Riga, the capital of Latvia, is an excellent destination for backpackers on a budget. Hostels are very affordable averaging around £3-7 per night and food and transport is relatively cheap here too! But since joining the Eurozone on January 1st 2014 prices are expected to peak up a bit quite quickly so better to head there sooner rather than later!

Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest certainly won’t be winning any prizes for the most prettiest of cities and it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to attract tourism to its doors. However, visitors to Romania’s capital will be rewarded with low prices for food and accommodation, and some good attractions too. The old historical centre is a great place to wander around, having retained its charm from the interwar period. The Palace of Parliament is probably the greatest attraction in the city; it’s main claim to fame is being the largest, heaviest and most expensive civilian building in the world.

Mostar, Bosnia

The ancient city of Mostar is most famous for its bridge. Recently rebuilt and named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this famous bridge is the place where young men on the cusp of manhood would traditionally dive off to prove their masculinity. The tradition spread and is now the number one attraction and experience for tourists – men and women alike. However the beauty of Mostar doesn’t just lie in its bridge; there is also a whole host of beautiful architecture with bullet-hole-laden walls, reminders of the city’s brutal past.

Krakow, Poland

The city of Krakow in Poland continues to be Europe’s bargain destination. Its cheap hostels, bars and restaurants draw hundreds of tourists for weekend breaks every week. This beautiful old city is full of attractions to keep you busy including plenty of wonderful buildings that somehow survived the war and the atmospheric Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. Similar to Prague, Krakow is realising its newly found tourist appeal so expect prices to rise quickly.

Bratislava, Slovakia

You would imagine being so close to Prague and Vienna that this city would be on more backpacker itineraries, but alas this interesting city in Slovakia is still mostly forgotten about. Maybe the gruesome – but completely fictional – horror film Hostel scared backpackers away? If you’re brave enough to visit, Bratislava is much cheaper than its neighbouring cities and is full of cheap hostels, bars and restaurants. The average backpacker budget is around £25 per day here. Be sure to check out the atmospheric historic centre.

About the author

Samantha has a love for travel and has been working in the travel industry for over seven years. She is a full time travel blogger at The Wandering Wanderluster and has a passion for eco-tourism and sharing travel inspiration to off the beaten path places. She is currently based in Prague, Czech Republic.

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