Central Europe is quickly becoming one of the most sought after regions on the continent. The picture-perfect cities and towns of the Czech Republic and Poland scatter the pages of travel magazines and I’ve already talked about how Budapest is a backpacker’s Mecca. Any of this is enough to have you planning a Central Europe trip.
The region already has a reputation for being affordable, but that still begs the question: how much do you budget for a Central Europe trip? On average, your money will certainly go farther in this region compared to Western Europe, however, it is by no means the “cheapest” area to travel in Europe. Conversely, it is entirely possible to maintain a tight budget when travelling in this region.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be concentrating on the costs of travelling in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and East Germany. However, the pricing guide could easily be applied to Croatia and Slovenia, which both tend to be more expensive than the rest of the Balkans, where travel can generally be cheaper.
Please note: All prices are quoted in Euro. At the time of writing in August of 2017, €1 = $1.15 USD or £0.88 GBP
Cost of Accommodation
Like most anywhere else, accommodation costs are probably going to be where the majority of your money will go on a Central Europe trip. Compared to elsewhere in Western Europe, however, the price of a bed shouldn’t break the bank.
There are numerous accommodation options suitable for any budget in Central Europe, especially in the bigger cities. In smaller cities and towns, budget accommodation options can be fairly limited, however, there is usually a hostel if the town is slightly bigger.
On average, the price of a bed in an eight-bed hostel dorm will set you back roughly €15 and a private room about €40. Keep in mind that prices generally increase during peak travel season in summer months, and so if you are travelling in this time it is best to book quite far in advance.
Cost of Transportation
The other main cost to consider for a Central Europe trip is transportation. Contrary to Balkan travel, the train network in most of these countries is extensive and is a great option to consider when travelling from place to place. While certainly more comfortable and often more scenic, train travel generally costs a bit more than the bus.
On average, a domestic day train journey will cost around €15 and an international trip will land somewhere around €25 – 30. One thing to consider, however, is that night trains tend to be significantly more expensive than night buses, so if you’re after cutting costs over comfort (as I was at the time), taking the bus for a night journey will leave you with more money in your pocket.
Cost of Food
Food is definitely a main cost to consider for a Central Europe trip and, depending on your dining style, prices can vary widely. Especially in the big cities like Budapest or Prague, you can spend top-dollar at Michelin starred restaurants or eat like a pauper and stuff your face with kebabs or falafel.
Seeing as our backpacking budget didn’t allow for lavish dining experiences, we were able to eat very well while still being fiscally responsible. If you’re staying at a place with a kitchen, it can be a great budget option to purchase groceries and cook your own meals — this will save you the most money, however, you won’t be able to sample the local fare. A meal at a budget-friendly restaurant in a capital city, however, won’t set you back much — around €20, including an appetiser, main, and wine or beer.
Grabbing a bite from a street vendor or falafel stand will be even cheaper, provided you’re not in a popular tourist spot. Generally, a kebab, falafel, or slice of pizza will cost around €3-5.
Cost of Activities
If you intend to do some cultural activities on your Central Europe trip, you’re going to want to allot some money in your budget. While there are many historical sites that are absolutely free to visit, most things tend to charge an entrance fee.
If you are on a tight budget, I would definitely recommend going on a free walking tour — multiple are on offer in every big city. The guides work only for tips, so you don’t need to pay anything if you don’t feel the tour was worth it. Also, many churches are free to enter or only ask for a small donation if you wish to go inside.
Museum entry fees average around €5 and if you care to go on a tour, you will generally pay roughly €15 – 20, depending on where you are going and the length of time you are away.
Cost of Entertainment
The cost of entertainment can vary greatly depending on your habits. If you intend to go out and party every night in cities like Kraków or Prague, expect to pay quite a bit for this — everything including entry fees to drink prices are inflated and tend to be closer to the prices you will find in Western Europe.
Conversely, if you happen to be more mellow and want to hang out in a local bar or club and enjoy a beer, you’re in luck. In both Hungary and the Czech Republic especially, a pint of locally produced lager will often be cheaper than a bottle of water, averaging €1.25! And honestly, Czech pilsners are some of the best in the world, so you should definitely take advantage of this on your Central Europe trip!
Average costs for a Central Europe trip
To tie things together, I’ve averaged all of the general daily prices for a Central Europe trip.
Accommodation: €15-20 / night (Bed in hostel)
Transport: €20-35 (For a locally run bus or train)
Food: €10-25 / day (Depending on your eating habits)
Activities: €0-25 (Again, depending on your habits)
Entertainment: €3-7 (For 2-4 beers in a local bar or pub)
Assuming that you only plan to travel between towns and cities every 5 days or so and don’t intend to do many paid tours, expect to spend €35-40 / day on your Central Europe trip. However, it is certainly possible to cut costs even more, especially if you cook your own meals, opt for ridesharing, or explore couchsurfing options.
Are you planning a Central Europe trip? Have you been to Central Europe? What is/was your budget? Leave a comment and let us know!