So the azure coastline of the Albanian Riveria has caught your eye? Did a quick Google search tell you that Belgrade is an amazing city to visit? Have you stumbled upon an article about Skopje’s odd collection of brand new buildings and statues and are longing to see it for yourself? In short, it seems that the allure of Balkans travel has infected you, but before you book a flight you need to find the answer to one simple question…how much will a Balkans trip cost?
Luckily for Western travellers, the Balkans are an incredibly affordable region and your money will go a lot further than it would elsewhere in Europe. With this in mind, Balkans travel is attainable for even the tightest of budgets. Neither Michael nor I are strangers to the penny-pinching ways of most backpackers and we found it very easy to stick to a fairly tight budget while still maintaining a comfortable standard of living.
That being said, the Balkans are also an incredibly diverse region and some countries and destination are going to be a lot more expensive than others. For instance, the cost of a trip to Croatia is going to average far more per person per day than it would to travel in Albania.
While no country in the Balkans is anywhere near as expensive for travellers as Western or Northern European countries, expect Slovenia and Croatia to be the most expensive. Countries like Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia to be the friendliest to your purse strings.
The main objects of concern for any Balkans travel budget will be accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and entertainment. After visiting the Balkans as budget backpackers in 2016 and again with a slightly higher budget in 2019, we are well versed to knowing the prices in the Balkans when it comes to travelling. I am writing from my own experiences, which included travelling on a minimal budget while still leaving room for the occasional splurge.
All prices are listed in Euro as each Balkan country uses a different currency. If you want to check the current exchange rate, have a look at xe.com.
Accommodation Prices in the Balkans
Accommodation is probably going to be the biggest thing you will spend your money on when you’re travelling in the Balkans. Fortunately, with the increased popularity of Balkans travel and the entrepreneurial spirit of locals, there are myriad accommodation options to choose from.
On our first trip through the Balkans, Michael and I stayed predominately in small hostels and, if you’re on a budget, I would highly recommend this for you as well. Not only is a bed in a dorm affordable, but private rooms can also be within reach as well — especially if you’re splitting the costs. Another reason I would recommend staying in Balkan hostels is that they are, for the most part, run by young locals who can give the best information about where you’re visiting.
On average, a bed in an eight-bed dormitory in a Balkan city will set you back roughly €10-15. A private room in a hostel will cost somewhere between €25-40, depending on what country you are visiting.
Airbnb is another great budget accommodation option in the Balkans and it can also be a great way to get to see a more local side of the area you’re staying in. Depending on where you are, a private room in a local’s home on Airbnb can work out to be just as inexpensive as a dorm bed in a hostel and an entire apartment can cost you around €20-30 per night. This is a good option if you’d like to have a bit more privacy while still sticking to a budget. Click here to find the best Airbnbs in the Balkans!
If you would rather stay in a hotel while on your Balkans adventure, then expect prices in hostels to start at around €40 per night, again, depending on where it is you’re visiting. Obviously, bigger cities and highly trafficked areas are likely going to be more expensive than smaller cities or rural areas.
All in all, though it is likely going to be your most expensive constant cost, accommodation prices in the Balkans don’t have to break the bank.
Transport Prices in the Balkans
Aside from accommodation, one of the significant costs you should consider in your Balkans travel budget is transportation. If you have one thing to keep in mind when you’re planning your trip to the Balkans, it’s that buses are king and the train network in most countries is painfully slow or not well-developed. This is all well and good, however, because travelling by bus is not only faster, it is also often cheaper than train travel.
On average, an international bus ride from one capital city to another (roughly a six-hour journey) will cost about €15-20 per person. A domestic bus will land somewhere between €5-10, depending on the distance being travelled.
Another common mode of transport for locals and tourists are minibuses, small vans that offer door-to-door service to no more than eight passengers. These busses run internationally between main cities and often times are much faster than a typical bus, due to border crossings being much more efficient. An international connection on one of these minibuses generally costs no more than €20-30.
Many people opt to rent a car while travelling in the Balkans. While this will be the most expensive mode of transport you can choose, it is also the most convenient. If you want to save money on your car hire in the Balkans, we recommend using RentalCars.com. This aggregates all of the prices amongst all available companies so you can find the best deal.
We also suggest taking out a third-part excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance so you can ensure you’re completely covered for out-of-pocket expenses should anything happen to your rental car while avoiding high fees from the rental company.
All in all, while transport can be a significant cost, if you don’t travel every day and rely on public transit, then you aren’t looking at it taking too much out of your total Balkans trip cost.
Food Prices in the Balkans
It will probably come as no surprise that the Balkans are also an affordable place to eat, and it is perfectly easy to sample the local Balkan cuisine with minimal damage to your wallet. Trying the local food and drink is one of the best ways to get to know a foreign culture and it should be very easy to work this into a Balkans travel budget.
Beginning with the most important meal of the day, a simple breakfast from a bakery will not set you back much. Indeed, a sizeable portion of burek costs no more than about €1 and the same goes for a Turkish-style coffee or cappuccino.
A fast food meal of a cevapi sandwich, plijeskavica, or kebab will cost between €3-4 for a large portion that will fill you up. A meal at a mid-range restaurant, including one starter and main dish, will average about €10.
If you want to stretch your Balkans travel budget further or just don’t care to eat out much, groceries are incredibly affordable and generally will cost about half of what you would pay at a restaurant. It is entirely possible to eat very well in the Balkans for no more than €5-10/day.
If you do want to eat out at a restaurant, however, it won’t cost you all that much if you head to a budget or mid-range local establishment. Again, the price of a meal in a restaurant in the Balkans will vary depending on which country or city you’re visiting, but you can expect a two-course meal for two that includes a glass of wine or beer to cost about €30 total, or €15 per person.
Activities Prices in the Balkans
Now that the prices for accommodation, transport, and food are accounted for — you now need to know how much money to allot in your Balkans travel budget for activities.
Fortunately for the budget-conscious traveller, many of the main attractions in the big Balkan cities are free of charge or only ask for a small, voluntary donation. It is entirely possible to have a fulfilling sightseeing experience in the Balkans without spending a penny.
Every main city offers a free walking tour, where guides work only for tips — the generally accepted etiquette is to give the guide what you think the tour was worth. In the Balkans, I usually would tip no more than €5 for a free tour unless the guide was something spectacular.
Another activity that you may need to include in your Balkans travel budget would be for all-day tours. These can be an incredible way to visit hard-to-reach areas if you don’t have your own transport while learning about the local culture and history. Depending on where you’re visiting and how long the trip is for, expect a full-day guided tour to start at around €30. We like to use Get Your Guide to find the best tours when travelling as they list tours from local companies and helps you find the best offerings.
There are certain areas where a day tour might make sense for you, for instance, if you want to visit Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina as a side trip from Split, Croatia or any of the other day trips from Split and you don’t have your own car. The same goes if you want to take the hassle out of planning a trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.
All in all, plan to budget for the occasional tour if you want to explore hard-to-reach areas and don’t have your own form of transport.
Entertainment Prices in the Balkans
No Balkans travel budget would be complete without accounting for the drinks and parties notorious in the region. I was consistently astonished at the affordable prices of drinks in the Balkans, and these prices make it feasible to go out and experience the notorious Balkan nightlife without breaking the bank.
The average price for a domestic beer at a bar is around €1.25 and you can essentially cut that in half if you purchase from a liquor or grocery store. A basic cocktail, like a gin and tonic, will cost about €3. Also something worth noting, I don’t recall ever having to pay a cover charge when entering a night club or bar in the Balkans — definitely an added highlight!
Average Balkans Trip Cost
To sum it up, I’ve averaged all of the costs for the five categories mentioned above to give you a better understanding of how much to budget for your trip to the Balkans.
Accommodation: €10-20 / night for a bed in a hostel or the split cost of an Airbnb
Transport: €5 /day for locally-run buses assuming you only travel between cities once every couple of days
Food: €10-20 for one restaurant meal eaten out per day plus any groceries
Activities: €5 / day including entry into museums and assuming you don’t go on many or any organised day tours
Entertainment: €5-7 / day (depending on your habits) for 2-3 drinks in a popular bar or nightclub
Assuming you’re only travelling between cities every four to five days, your average costs should land somewhere around €40-50/day. However, it would be prudent to expect to pay more in EU countries like Croatia and Slovenia, both of which see more tourists than the rest of the Balkan countries. Conversely, in Albania and Kosovo, you can expect to spend less per day as they tend to be the least expensive countries in the region.
Obviousely, you can cut down on your Balkans trip cost if you cut things like alcohol or many restaurant meals, as well. All in all, the Balkans can be a great region to visit for those travelling on any kind of budget.
This does not include any pre-trip expenses such as flights or gear that you need to pack such as a proper jacket, adapters, packing cubes or a microfibre towel! Click here to see our recommended packing list for more items you might have forgotten!
Another thing to consider when travelling in the Balkans is travel insurance. We personally used World Nomads for our Balkans trip however it’s important to read the policy details to ensure it’s right for you. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads.
Another affordable option is SafetyWing which is great for travellers on a budget or long term. However, their coverage isn’t as comprehensive as WorldNomads. Click here to get a quote from SafetyWing.
So are the Balkans expensive? Well, for most western travellers, no, they are not! They are a refreshingly affordable region to visit and are friendly to all kinds of travellers — from budget backpackers to luxury travellers! If you’re smart about where you spend your money, your total Balkans trip cost doesn’t have to break the bank in the slightest.
Have you travelled in the Balkans? What did your Balkans trip cost look like? Let us know in the comments!