It’s logical that the weak dollar would curtail travel to Europe, but according to Travelocity, logic doesn’t apply here. Data shows that travel to Europe is up; in fact, even over Thanksgiving, the most American of holidays, travel from the United States to Western and Eastern Europe was up 10 and 24 percent, respectively. What’s behind the increase? According to the online travel community, IGOUGO, people are still finding affordable places to go, some well-known and others a bit more obscure.
“Europe has an unprecedented charm that many travelers find impossible to resist,” says Giovanna Garlati of IgoUgo, who recently moved to the U.S. from Milan and frequently traveled the less beaten path across Europe. “The appeal of the old continent will never cease to attract tourists from around the globe. However, right now the trick to offsetting the weak dollar is to discover incredible places in Europe where the cost of living is considerably lower than the U.S.”
Several of IgoUgo’s members have traveled to Europe and discovered great spots & tips that make every dollar count.
“Our members are savvy travelers and can suggest how to find an affordable trip in very popular cities like Rome or Lisbon, or help discover new affordable places,” said Garlati.
Here are IgoUgo’s top 10 affordable European cities based on recommendations from IgoUgo members:
1. Riga, Latvia
Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States and its Historic Centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rich in superb Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture, the city is one of the new favorites of the Europeans and it’s also called the “Paris of the north.” One of IgoUgo’s travelers says: “The capital of Latvia combines grown-up urban attitude with a pretty, historical core, marrying the enchanting streets of its old town, the Jugenstil architecture of independence and a plethora of pubs, bars, and nightclubs to enchanting effect. It is a city whose time truly has come.” The same traveler also offered more budget recommendations: “...Riga is good for filling you up with hearty filling dishes and cheap booze…“Belle Epoque is one of Riga’s best kept secrets and is home to some of the cheapest drinks in town.” Low Cost airlines fly to Riga from London and Berlin.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
One of the most underrated European capitals, Lisbon has a special charm not to be missed. Flying from the US is often less expensive than to other capitals and life has a special pace there. Following is an extract form a journal on Lisbon on IgoUgo: “Although an earthquake in 1755 ended Lisbon’s period of glory as Europe’s greatest port, it can still console itself (and visitors) as the prettiest, friendliest, most laid-back and inexpensive capital city in Western Europe.”
3. Bratislava, Slovakia
Across the magnificent banks of the Danube River, Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and one of the newly explored European cities. Low Cost carriers fly to this European capital and it is still easy to find good inexpensive hotels and restaurants. “Unlike nearby Vienna or Budapest, Bratislava is still relatively undiscovered by many tourists and provides a relaxing change of pace with friendly people, laidback charm, and an extra bonus of very reasonable prices,” remarked one IgoUgo traveler.
4. Rome, Italy
Rome? Undiscovered? Certainly not, it is one of the most famous, amazing and beautiful cities in the world, where you breathe history, fashion and culture everywhere. Where food is a transcendental experience and there are a million things to discover everyday. Inexpensive? It’s possible! The “eternal city” can easily empty your wallet, but there are ways to save money as an IgoUgo traveler describes: “As a lover of architecture and classical times, I was in awe from the first minute in Rome. This is a city of 900 churches, countless fountains, several forums from the ancient Roman times and countless buildings, sculptures, bridges and structures. Rome doesn’t have to be expensive at all. Decide on what you want see for sure and check out all the pertinent information, and you can have lots of fun on a shoestring budget.”
5. Budva, Montenegro
Small and cozy town on the Adriatic Sea, Budva is the pearl of Montenegro and is 2500 years old. Montenegro is definitely a region to discover both in winter (the mountains are right behind the sea) and the summer where more and more tourists are arriving from all over the globe. Accommodations can be very cheap since there are many lovely B&Bs such as the one where an IgoUgo traveler stayed: “... It turned out to be the best accommodation of our trip; two pleasant rooms and a kitchen for 30 Euro per night. “
6. Athens, Greece
Athens is a bit too far south on the map, which may be the reason it often gets forgotten by overseas tourists. It is still one of the cheapest capitals in Western Europe both for food and lodging. According to one IgoUgo traveler: “Filoxenia is a budget hotel housing the thousands of tourists who descend on Athens each summer… Its main attraction is that it is midway between Omonia Square and Larisa Station in a prime spot…For the price [approximately 30 Euro], it’s a nice central hotel. And can you ask for better than that?”
7. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is recovering well from the Bosnian war and in 1914, it was the site of the assassination that sparked World War I. Sarajevo is becoming one of the new destinations visited especially by young people for the cultural buzz and the cheap accommodation, drinks and food. According to one IgoUgo traveler: “Sarajevo’s old town is a warren of cobbled streets and low-roofed Ottoman-style buildings that now house cafés, restaurants, and stores selling everything from traditional hand-beaten copperware and Turkish carpets to the latest shoes from Italy or fashions from Western Europe.”
8. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is unique, both in its language and in the rhythms of living which are more similar to the rest of Western Europe than the rest of Spain—from the five star and super expensive areas to the more affordable artistic neighborhoods. From Pensions, hostales to the main hotel chains, you can visit Barcelona with the budget you want. Just avoid the tourist trap restaurants and professional pickpockets on the Rambla “Stop by La Boqueria for inexpensive fruit and vegetables,” recommends an IgoUgo traveler.
9. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and is only an hour and a half away by sea from Helsinki. More and more Finnish often go there for the day for shopping. They can find deals unthinkable in expensive
Scandinavia. Besides good shopping, the city offers much more says an IgoUgo traveler: “Tallinn has an awful lot to offer a visitor: a depth of history and culture, a medieval Old Town which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, excellent restaurants providing local and international cuisine, plus a vibrant nightlife of bars and clubs.”
10. Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania, like all the others Baltic States, is one of the top places to visit at the moment. Vilnius is probably not as beautiful as Riga but its residents are building the city’s reputation for being the most hospitable in the world, and the surrounding area (Klapeida) is worth a visit too. According to one IgoUgo traveler: “Prices in Lithuania are still quite cheap for European standards: about half the price of what you would pay in Western Europe.”