Europe is renowned for stunning architecture, rich history, delicious food, and sometimes a rather expensive price tag for visitors. But there are still plenty of affordable European destinations for budget-conscious travelers, from the east to the west and all the way up north. With some planning and research, you can experience Europe’s beauty without breaking the bank.
So what is the least expensive European country to visit in 2024? The cheapest European country to visit is generally considered to be Bulgaria. Located on the Black Sea coast, Bulgaria offers incredible nature, fascinating history, and lively cities at a fraction of the cost of other European destinations. With prices that are up to 50-60% cheaper than its west European neighbors and an emerging tourism market, Bulgaria offers good value for travelers on a budget.
Why is Bulgaria the Cheapest Country in Europe?
Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2006, yet it still uses its own currency, the Lev. One Lev is equivalent to about 50 Euro cents. This alone makes most things at least 30% less expensive compared to other European countries. But there are some additional factors that make Bulgaria such a budget destination:
- Emerging tourism market, so prices remain lower
- Lower taxes and living costs for residents
- Poorer economy than western Europe (for now)
- Less expensive transportation
- Cheap land & property prices
“Sofia in Bulgaria is one of the cheapest European capital cities I’ve ever visited! Accommodation, food, drinks and activities all seem to be about half the price of similar things in western Europe.”
As tourism infrastructure continues developing in Bulgaria, the prices will likely start catching up with the rest of Europe. So get there soon to enjoy rock-bottom prices!
Cheap Accommodation Options in Bulgaria
Hotel and hostel rooms are very affordable across Bulgaria, generally ranging from $10-25 USD per night for budget accommodation to $40 USD per night for higher-end hotels. Private apartment rentals via Airbnb and rental sites can also offer good value lodging.
Camping is also quite popular in Bulgaria during the summer months. There are campgrounds along the Black Sea coast and near other nature areas where you can pitch a tent or park a campervan for just a few dollars per night. Considering accommodation costs make up a large portion of any travel budget, Bulgaria’s cheap lodging really helps keep overall trip costs down.
“We found an awesome Airbnb apartment in Plovdiv for under $20 USD per night! It had way more amenities than we expected at that price point. Bulgaria is very budget friendly for travelers.”
Affordable Bulgarian Cuisine
Bulgarian cuisine has been influenced by Greek, Turkish, Balkan and other neighboring cuisines over the centuries. It’s heavy on grilled meats, fresh salads and vegetables, yogurt, cheese and pastries. Best of all – a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Bulgaria will only set you back $2-5 USD!
Some classic Bulgarian dishes to try include:
- Shopska salad – Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and feta cheese. The national dish!
- Kebapche – Grilled pork sausages similar to German bratwurst.
- Moussaka – Baked ground meat and eggplant casserole, very similar to Greek moussaka.
- Banitsa – Flaky filo pastry filled with cheese, spinach or other ingredients. Excellent snack or breakfast!
- Rakia – Fruit brandy and apéritif, similar to Italian grappa. Very popular with meals!
In addition to sit-down restaurants, walk-up stalls and kiosks selling doner kebabs, crepes, pizza and other fast bites are found all over Bulgaria for just a Euro or two. Perfect options for affordable on-the-go meals.
When it comes to evening libations, a domestic beer will cost about $1-2 USD and imported beers around $3 USD. Glasses of Bulgarian wine are quite cheap at $2-3 USD (and the wine here is excellent!). Overall Bulgaria offers outstanding food affordability.
Cheap Things to Do in Bulgaria
Once you’ve paid for flights and accommodation, the other major travel costs are activities, attractions and transportation. Bulgaria shines here as well in terms of affordability and value. Here are some top cheap things to do:
- Wander historic city centers like Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia
- Relax on beaches along the Black Sea Coast
- Explore ancient Roman ruins like Plovdiv’s Roman Theater
- Admire Bulgarian Orthodox churches and monasteries
- Hike incredible nature trails and gorges
- Ski or snowboard budget-friendly resorts
- Treat yourself to a mineral spa experience
Most historic attractions and museums charge just a few dollars’ entrance. Guided day tours of top sites or destinations like wine regions cost around $50 USD. Activities like skiing, hiking and beach days can be done very affordably if you bring your own food and equipment.
Domestic bus and train transport between cities and towns is also quite cheap, often just $5-10 USD each way. So getting around this compact country won’t break the bank either.
Popular Cheap Destinations in Bulgaria
The compact capital city features top-notch museums and architecture alongside a young, funky bar scene. Stroll to all the best landmarks without paying for transport. The magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and dynamic street art make for inspiring free sights.
Plovdiv claims the title for 2019 European Capital of Culture. Wander cobblestone lanes passing colorful Bulgarian Revival architecture in this art-filled city. Roman ruins like the ancient theater and stadium sit right in the central district for easy exploring alongside great cafes and shops.
Black Sea Coast
The budget summer beach escape! Sunny resort towns like Sunny Beach, Nessebar, Varna and Burgas offer affordable seaside hotels, apartments and camping. Relax on sandy beaches by day and check out seaside clubs and restaurants by night. It’s Eastern Europe’s prime beach destination without the high costs.
Set along a ribbon of hills and river valleys, this medieval fortress city looks straight out of a fairytale. The ancient stone houses, towering castle walls and stone churches create a romantic vibe with panoramas galore. Cafes set along the riverbank are nice spots to relax over local wines, beers and coffees without large price tags.
Rila Monastery and Seven Rila Lakes
Nestled deep in the Rila Mountains near Blagoevgrad, the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery is among Bulgaria’s most iconic sights with colorful architecture and religious artwork. Journey up to panoramic Seven Rila Lakes on scenic hiking trails through pine forests. Breathtaking nature without big entry fees.
So if you want to get the most bang for your buck in Europe, fly into Sofia or Plovdiv for an affordably epic Balkan adventure in Bulgaria! With reasonable prices across accommodation, dining, attractions and more – stretch your travel funds further and longer. Have any great budget Bulgaria experiences or destinations to share? Let me know in the comments!