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The Most (and Least) Affordable European Cities

SmarterTravel

The cost of a typical day in one of Europe’s most visited cities ranges from $47 in Prague to $132 in London. A new report from the hotel booking agency AlphaRooms breaks down the costs per city.

The study weighs a typical day of sightseeing including breakfast, lunch, dinner, one beer, one cocktail, two one-way public transport tickets, and admission to two paid attractions. Figures do not include hotel accommodations.

The Most Affordable European Cities vs. the Most Expensive

The findings cover 10 cities. Here’s how they compare.

  • Prague and Istanbul, at $47 and $48, are by far the most affordable European cities
  • Amsterdam, Vienna, Dublin, and Rome, at a range of $89 to $94 per day, fall closely together in the middle.
  • Paris, at $97, and London, at $132, are the most expensive European cities.
  • Antalya, Turkey (the cheapest $35 per day), and Benidorm, Spain ($107 per day), are included in the study, but they’re not as popular among Americans as the other top-10 cities.

The blog data also include separate estimates of just the cost of meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus one beer and one cocktail. The comparison limited to food cost shows only minor differences:

  • Paris, at $65, tops London (by only $1) when it comes to dining.
  • Rome, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Vienna dining costs are in a range of $52 to $58.
  • At $25 to $27, Istanbul and Prague’s dining costs are about half of those in the middle group.

Of course, if you prefer cheap eats or were to eat mainly at fast-food chains, you can visit Paris or London for less than $65 a day. But enjoying traditional local cuisine is an essential part of European travel for most, and the figures seem in line with my own experiences.

Weighing Affordability

I’m not a big fan of choosing a destination because it’s cheap: If you want to see Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London, go to London. But, I am a fan of incorporating the cost of “destination overhead” in planning daily activities: The overhead cost is the rate of the necessities of just being in a destination area, without including all the things you want to do.

You can calculate a typical destination overhead based on transportation, accommodations, and meals before any out-of-pocket costs such as theater tickets, admissions, and taxis. Figuring in the overhead means planning expenses realistically. And it means not spending a lot of destination time chasing small cost differentials—taking 45 minutes traveling halfway across London, for example, to find a slightly cheaper dinner, or incurring the cost of a commute out of a city center to knock down the cost of a hotel.

If you want to see London or Paris, then go. Don’t go to Istanbul or Prague instead just because they’re cheaper—go to Istanbul or Prague only if you’re interested in visiting those cities. But if you do go to an expensive destination, don’t let penny-pinching make you miss out on the blockbuster attractions and local cuisine. Plan to budget enough to cover the full experience.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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