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 one of the best cities to visit for backpackers. 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 itinerary? 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 Eastern 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.
Central Europe Trip Cost: 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.
If you want to venture out of the main cities to places like the Jeseniky Mountains in the Czech Republic or the High Tatras in Slovakia or Poland, your best bet for budget accommodation will come in the form of guesthouses.
There are typically numerous penzions in the main towns of these destinations, as rural country getaways are popular amongst locals in this part of the world. It is worth noting that the level of English may not be the best once you get out of the big cities, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great places to stay. Generally speaking, you can expect a basic double bedroom in a rural guesthouse to cost €25-30 per night. Click here to find the best deal for budget rooms in Central Europe.
Another great budget accommodation option is Airbnb. A private room will often cost less than one in a hostel and it gives the added benefit of giving you a local experience. We have also found that, especially in less touristy cities, renting a whole apartment won’t break the bank either. On the whole, expect a private room to cost somewhere around €20-25 per night and a whole apartment to cost about €40 per night. Click here to check out Airbnbs in Central Europe!
Central Europe Trip Cost: Transportation
Another main cost to consider for a Central Europe trip is transportation. Contrary to travelling in the Balkans, 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 in this region.
On average, a domestic day train journey will cost around €10 – 15 depending on the distance and an international trip will land somewhere around €20 – 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, taking the bus for a night journey will leave you with more money in your pocket. Alternatively, you can get great deals on train journeys if you book in advance!
The other thing you need to account for in your transportation costs is the price of public transport within the city you’re travelling in. The bigger cities in Central Europe all have quite well-developed public transport systems that are also an affordable way to get around. Rather than splashing out the cash to take taxis everywhere, using public transport is not only more cost-effect but it also will give you more insight as to how locals live in the city you are visiting daily.
Take the time to assess how much you plan to use the public transport system in the city you are visiting before you arrive because it can often work out to be cheaper to purchase a 24- or 72-hour travel card rather than buying multiple single-journey tickets. On the whole, expect individual bus, tram, or metro journeys to cost somewhere around €1, though each city has a different pricing system.
On the whole, if you plan to take more than two trips on public transport per day, then it can be worth purchasing a travel card. The pricing information for whichever Central European city you are visiting is available online. Just search “x city + public transport prices” and that should lead you in the right direction.
If you’re planning on visiting some more rural or off the beaten path destinations while on your Central Europe trip, then it can be worth renting a car. While bus and train connections do still exist off the main tourist routes, they can be less frequent and it can be difficult to get to where you want to go because of this.
Car hire prices vary depending on the vehicle type, but if you just get a basic car you will most likely not need to spend more than €20-25 per day. You should, however, expect to pay a bit more if you rent a car with an automatic transmission rather than a manual. We recommend searching on Rentalscars.com to find the best deal across car rental companies.
To save money on car rental insurance, we recommend to buy excess insurance through iCarHireInsurance which offers policies for a few dollars per day – a fraction of what you’d pay from a car hire company!
Central Europe Trip Cost: Food
Food is definitely a major 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 €15 per person, including an appetiser, main, and wine or beer.
Outside big tourist centres like Prague, Budapest, or Krakow you can expect prices to be a bit cheaper. On a recent trip through the Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic, we rarely paid more than €10 per person for the same kind of meal.
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 a slice of pizza will cost around €3-5.
Central Europe Trip Cost: 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.
Central Europe Trip Cost: 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 Central Europe Trip Cost
To tie things together, I’ve averaged all of the general daily prices for a Central Europe trip.
Accommodation: €15-20 / night
Transport: €5 / day
Food: €10-20 / day (Depending on your eating habits)
Activities: €5-10 / day (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 to 40 per 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.
Another thing to consider when travelling in Central Europe is travel insurance. We personally used World Nomads for our Central Europe 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.
While not as cheap as some other destinations on the continent, travelling in Central Europe does not have to be an expensive experience. This is one of the best areas in Europe to travel on a budget while not sacrificing any sort of cultural experience.
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!