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 is this all going to 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.
The main objects of concern for any Balkans travel budget will be accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and entertainment. I am writing from my own experiences, which included travelling on a minimal budget while still leaving room for the occasional splurge.
Please note: All prices are quoted in Euro. At the time of writing in July of 2017, €1 = $1.15 USD or £0.88 GBP
Cost of Accommodation
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.
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, private rooms can 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. Click here to get £25 off of your first stay with Airbnb!
Cost of Transportation
Aside from accommodation, the other main cost 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. So much so that most train lines in the region are only used for commercial purposes. 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. 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.
Cost of Food
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.
Cost of Activities
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. Many hostels and guesthouses throughout the Balkans offer these and they can be an incredible way to visit hard-to-reach areas while learning about the local culture and history. I did not go on many of these, however, I was always glad when I did. If run by a hostel or other budget travel company, an eight-hour tour averages around €20.
Cost of Entertainment
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 Travel Costs
To sum it up, I’ve averaged all of the costs for the five categories mentioned above to give you a better understanding for how much to budget for your trip to the Balkans.
Accommodation: €10-15 / night (Bed in hostel)
Transport: €15-20 (For a locally run bus)
Food: €5-10 (Depending on where you eat)
Activities: €0-20 (Free attractions to all-day tours)
Entertainment: €5-7 (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 €30/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.
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.
The Balkans are an amazing place to travel no matter the amount of cash in your wallet. However, the relative affordability of the region make planning and sticking to a Balkans travel budget an easy task.
Have you travelled in the Balkans? What did your Balkans travel budget look like? Let us know in the comments!