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The Balkans – Is This As Cheap As European Tourism Gets? Update: Yes

Skopje Aqueduct, Macedonia

The ancient Skopje Aqueduct. One of countless free historical attractions in the Balkan nations.

As a tourist, $1000 US might get you a week in Norway or Switzerland, or maybe a couple of weeks in Paris or London. Maybe. In the Balkans, it will get you a solid month of dream travel. For a grand, you could stay for a month in well located fully equipped accommodation, eat and drink until your hearts content, and explore four, five, or six distinctly different countries. Cities, beaches, lakes, food, culture, and mountains. For a week or a month, the Balkan nations of Southeast Europe make for compelling holiday value. It’s Europe, on sale.

We both understand that travel expenditure is very personal. Some won’t settle for anything less than fluffy white robes and five star accommodation, others are happy in a sixteen bed dorm room at a hostel. From fine dining to street food, the costs of travel can vary widely. In the cost break downs below you will figure out what sort of traveller I am – so adjust your budget accordingly.

From one end of the Balkans, almost to the other, I have so far traveled through Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia. I’ve been in this area more than two months. What I have found is similar prices in all three countries for accommodation, food, and travel expenses. Reliably, I have been told that prices are similar in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro.

Although there are other nations in “the Balkans” it’s the non-Euro dollar area that is the focus of this article. So, lets break it down.

Lake Ohrid at Night - Macedonia

Priceles foggy night view over Lake Ohrid, Macedonia – from my apartment balcony. Nightly cost? See below.

Costs of Accommodation in the Balkans – Hotels vs Apartments

Apartments represent the best value in Balkans accommodation, especially for two or more people travelling together. For solo travellers, hostels will be cheaper and Hotels are generally more expensive – although they’re cheap by European standards.

Every apartment I have booked has been equipped with cable TV, great WiFi, and a central location. They were all clean, comfortable, nicely decorated, had kitchens and usually a laundry. Here’s the details…

Belgrade, Serbia : I rented two different one bedroom apartments. The first was $190 US per week. The second was $230 US per week. Both apartments were within a few minutes walk of the center of the city.

Skopje, Macedonia: a small, but very central studio apartment with an amazing view and modern decor, $230 per week. The second apartment I stayed in for a further 4 nights, was $36 US per night.

Ohrid, Macedonia: my current digs, it’s so good I may never leave. Right on the oldest lake in Europe centrally located to the old part of the city, a large sized studio apartment is $170US per week. There’s a private balcony with a great view, LCD cable TV, kitchen, washing machine, good sized bathroom, and WiFi.

Nis, Serbia: a large studio apartment style Hotel room (I guess you could call it a Suite), central location,  probably a upper 3 star level Hotel was $38 US a night.

Zagreb, Croatia: a loft style apartment that was reasonably spacious and absolutely perfectly located was $186 US per week. A little “bohemian”, but I liked it.

Weekly rates tend to be cheaper than nightly rates, and prices will change dependent on season and availability. Keep in mind the exchange rate can also change these prices.

Did you notice the links above? That’s exactly where I stayed, and I personally recommend all of these places. If you have questions on any of them, feel free to ask in the comments below the article.

 

Church Mother of God Peribleptos

Thousand year old churches are a dime-a-dozen in Ohrid. Some are free to enter, others may cost you as much as two US dollars.

Travel in The Balkans – Public City Transport, And Between Countries

Public transport is usually cheap, and often free. Ranging from 50 cents US in Macedonia, up to what seemed obscenely expensive – $2.50 for a city bus ride in Croatia.

For transport between cities and countries, examples include about $15 US for a scenic train journey from Zagreb to Belgrade, $10 US for an intercity bus across half of Serbia, $10 US for a bus from Serbia to Macedonia, and $5US for a bus from Skopje to Ohrid. These were direct express buses, with comfortable reclining seats and a fair amount of room. The train journeys through the Balkans have been great – although in many cases they are much slower than a bus ride.

Taxis are also inexpensive. I haven’t caught a lot of cabs, but the short rides I have used taxi’s for have cost between about $2US and $4US for about a 10 or 15 minute ride. In Zagreb, any more than two people and taxi becomes competitive with public transport. In Macedonia, short rides are usually not much more than $2. In Belgrade, I paid about $4US for a cross-town late night journey.

supermarket in Skopje, Macedonia

Birds-eye view of a supermarket in the capital city of Skopje, Macedonia.

Food in The Balkans – Deliciously Inexpensive

Restaurant meal prices can vary widely, but around $5 US seems to be the starting rate for a decent meal. Typical examples – in Zagreb, Croatia, this would covered an amazing bowl of Truffle laden Pasta at a nice restaurant. In Serbia, a home-style local specialty of grilled meats and vegetables. A Skopje meal including “Shopska Salad” (a bit like Greek salad), grilled meats, vegetables, and a hot pot of local specialty “baked beans” (they’re amazing), was about $3US. Add a beer or a glass of wine and you can be happy for less than $4 US. Macedonia does seem to be slightly cheaper for restaurant meals.

In all countries of the Balkans, cheap food options abound. Meat, cheese, or spinach filled pastries – “Burek” – can be had for as cheap as 40 US cents. They’re huge, fresh, and tasty. In Belgrade, they make great Pizza slices, normally less than a dollar US. Absolutely delicious freshly made crepes known as “Palacinke” come in sweet or savory and are as cheap as 50 cents US. There’s plenty of sandwiches available for as little as $1US, such as a classic “Chevup” sandwich – five freshly grilled skinless-sausages, placed in a fresh pocket-styled roll with salad and maybe a pickled chilli. Less than $1.50 in Ohrid. And of course, fresh fruit is available everywhere.

Other national cuisines are also available – a large Mexican burrito in Skopje for about $2 US, a great authentic Israeli style Hummus with salad in Belgrade about $3 US, a hearty bowl of hot Roman soup with fresh bread in Zagreb, less than $2.

Cheap fast food options including hamburgers, kebabs, and similar greasy meals abound. Each country has a slightly different take on these items. There is no need to scrape the bottom of the food barrel by heading in to McDonalds or other franchises, the locals do it better and cheaper. Although, you can get a Beer with your McHappy Meal at McDonalds in Macedonia, should you choose to.

If you spend $10 US, or even $15 US, you could be looking at a truly large and wonderful meal with a few drinks at a nice restaurant anywhere in the Balkans. A hefty multi-course meal in a very touristy part of Ohrid, Macedonia, cost $10 US for two, including a drink each. Fine dining options are present in the larger Balkan cities, with prices substantially cheaper than what you would pay in most other parts of the world.

Panoramic photo of Ohrid Macedonia

Panorama of Ohrid, Macedonia. Are you convinced? And how’s your geography – below is a map of the Balkans area in South Eastern Europe.

 

Drinking in The Balkans – Stop at Five. Or Maybe Six…

For alcohol – a beer, glass of wine, maybe an Aperol Spritz or a strong cocktail, will range in price from $1US, to about $3US, at a typical bar or cafe. At night clubs, you will usually pay more. On average, I have paid between $10 US and 12 US for 5 or 6 drinks. After six drinks, I wouldn’t rely upon my recollection.

Coffee ranges from about $0.60 US to $1.50 US. After a night out in the Balkans, you may need one. I have paid just 20 cents for small cup of hot tea at a cafe in Macedonia, the cheapest hot drink I have ever had in Europe.

Tourist Attractions in The Balkans – Cheap

Belgrade has the enormous Kalemegdan Fortress and informative walking tours, both free. Zagreb has museums, many are free, or maybe a few dollars. Skopje has an incredible variety of architecture and cultural neighbourhoods to explore, and an ancient aqueduct, all free. Nature is free, and there’s plenty of that all over the Balkans. Ohrid has hundreds of historical sites, you may pay up to $2US for entry, but many are free. The enormous Samuel’s Castle overlooking Ohrid is worth the US 55 cents entry price for the view alone.

You won’t spend a lot on tourist attractions in the Balkans – although some of the heavily touristed areas can be more expensive for boat tours and similar activities. By “more expensive”, I mean maybe 10 US dollars for a private boat cruise.

Samuels Castle Ohrid. Macedonia

Samuels Castle in Ohrid. ou can play out all of your Game of Thrones fantasies here. Not the rude bits.

Supermarket Prices in The Balkans

Again, I haven’t noticed a large variation between one country and the next. One tip is to go for the locally branded option for products – they will be substantially cheaper than imports. It’s hard for me to give you a useful summary here – I can say supermarket shopping is the one area that isn’t significantly any cheaper than Western Europe. In some cases, it is more expensive. All the more reason to get out and hit-up the local cafe, bar or restaurant instead of cooking at home.

Summary (tl;dr) – You Want to Know How Much Will The Balkans Cost?

Travelling with a partner, we have spent on average anywhere from $35 US – $75 US a day. That’s all expenses, all inclusive, for two people ($17 – $37 per person). Now that I think about it, a $75 day is very, very rare. For my style of travelling, about $50 a day on average, for two people, has covered it. This figure has stayed constant over nine or ten weeks.

Apart from breakfast we rarely prepare meals at the apartment or hotel, but that would definitely save a little more. Most of the time we eat at “local” cafes or restaurants. Several times a week, we have a meal at a better restaurant. Every few days, I may have one or two more beers than I possibly should. We do a little shopping at food markets or supermarkets, almost every day.

We’re out and about daily, checking out attractions, and generally exploring. The average daily figure includes all expenses we have had over the last two months, travelling from one end of the Balkans to the other.

Again, that’s just my budget.

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Views like this won’t cost you a cent. Magnificent Lake Ohrid, Macedonia.

Spend a bit more than me, and you could be putting on weight like it was going out of style. Or, pick up some pretty substantial hangovers. However, I can see how people could get by on much less. For double my budget, you would be staying in fairly luxurious accommodation, and eating Elvis-like quantities of food.

When you can have a great European holiday for $25 US dollars a day per person, the Balkans makes for incredible value. It’s Europe, without the European price tag. The cities are truly beautiful, on the level of many of the more visited European cities. The scenic countryside, often mountainous and covered in snow, will leave an impression on you forever. And the beaches along the Adriatic sea, well, I’m saving them for warmer weather. But by all accounts, the coast is one of the most stunning of anywhere on Earth.

Of the 25 counties I have visited in Europe, the Balkan nations represent the best value so far.

I can only see this area becoming ever more popular.

I’m afraid that if I do finally see the coast in summer, I may never leave.

Visit, and you’ll see why.

Nate.

PS, compared to many parts of South East Asia (which I have spent a lot of time in), I would say that overall the Balkans is cheaper. You heard it here first. 

PPS, two things: first, I’m still in Ohrid, Macedonia. I’m not 100% sure where I’m going next, there’s a few options. Second, and most importantly – there is a good reason why things are so cheap here in the Balkans. The next post will surprise a few readers. Make sure you pop your email address in below, and I’ll send it to your inbox.

 

 

*** If you liked this style of post, or found it useful, let me know – help me decide whether to do more “budget” posts in the  future. Thanks!

 

 

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59 Responses to The Balkans – Is This As Cheap As European Tourism Gets? Update: Yes

  1. Justin Apr 5, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    You either just made my travel planning a whole lot easier, or a whole lot harder. This is really helpful. You think it’d be easy to decide on where to go next, but . . .

    Great info! And the pics really make me want to book the flight today!

    Thanks!

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:52 am #

      Hey Justin! I’m still following along with your journey, waiting to see where the next big move will take you. And I’m going to make this easier/harder for you – bring your family to the Balkans, book a flight. It’s unbelievably good value. Great to hear from you again, Nate.

  2. Jackson Apr 5, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Nate,

    Great post. I enjoyed the informative style, would love to see more in the future. The Balkans look great, love the Aquaduct photo.

    Jackson.

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:50 am #

      Hey Jackson…nice to hear from you. It looks like I’m going to have to sneak in a few more one of these “informative” article. You should put this area on your radar, I think you would love it.

  3. gargamel Apr 5, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    - When you come to the Croatian Adriatic cost, it will get a bit more expensive. But it will be worth the price.
    – I find it weird and I am questioning mi own impression of cost in Zagreb, Belgrade, Skopje and Ohrid. I live in Zagreb and have visited Belgrade, Skopje and Ohrid. And I told to mi friends that food in Belgrade is cheaper than in Zagreb and that it is extremely cheaper in Macedonia. And other prices to. I may have compered it to prices on the Croatian cost in apartments. But I was absolutely shure that the restaurant prices in Macedonia were half the price in Zagreb.
    – One small critic: Your definition on cevapcici is almoust completly wrong. But You will get another chance when you go to Bosnia, because the people thera are proud to be the homeland of the cevapcici :) (you are the first person to compere it with a sausage :) but it may be that you just tried the serbian chevup which probably looks the most like a sausage. but the meet is more similar to a burger)

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:49 am #

      Thanks Gargamel.. I will be heading to the coast (hopefully) in summer, so I’ll raise my price expectations. I have noticed accommodation there is much more expensive in summer compared to the rest of the year.

      As for food – yes, restaurant prices are cheaper in Macedonia compared to Zagreb or Belgrade. Maybe even half the price, at restaurants. Cheaper food places in Macedonia (fast food/pizza/bureks/sandwiches) are cheaper, but I don’t think it would be half price. Also, I haven’t experienced a huge difference between Belgrade and Zagreb – maybe slightly cheaper in Belgrade.

      Cevapcici/Chevup… they are kind of like very small sausages, with no skin! haha. Yes, the meat is much closer to a burger than a sausage – I have had them in Zagreb, Serbia, and now Macedonia. They vary from one restaurant to the next, and one country to the next. I love having them in a sandwich best…..mmmmm.

      I now look forward to trying them in Bosnia!

  4. Megan Apr 5, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    every time i read about the balkans i get the urge to book a trip down there. im afraid i wont go back to norway, unfortunately (or fortunately…) i have yet to go anywhere in the area (slovenia doesnt count to me) but am seriously thinking this will be my next big trip. especially since you emphasize the affordability of the balkans! thanks for listing the places you stayed. will def come in handy when i finally make it there!

    im in armenia right now and if you want a good value for your money…holy hell this is the place to come next. i was just telling someone earlier today that it is much cheaper than anywhere i traveled in SE asia.

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      Oh wow… I would love to check out Armenia….and Georgia as well. My plan originally was to head there after Iran, but things changed. I’m sure I’ll get there sooner or later. Norway, it’s expensive – I know what you mean,the prices are comparable to my home town of Perth, Australia. That is to say, damn expensive!

      And I never realised how much I would like the Balkans, I think I’ll be here for quite some time yet.

  5. Geoffrey Apr 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Thanks for this post! It really helps you get a realistic idea about what is financially possible when doing long term travel. Looking forward to a few more of these in the future.

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:17 am #

      You’re welcome Geoffrey. It seems to be a popular post, so you can look forward to more posts like these as I explore the different parts of the world.

  6. Leyla Giray Apr 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    You’re absolutely right in saying Albania might be part of the mix. The prices you mention are certainly on a par with Albania’s – and in some parts of Albania you might even find lower prices. It’s also not on everyone’s radar screen yet. I wish I’d written down prices at the time – I just remember being consistently shocked at the price/value ratio – not to mention the empty beaches!

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      Hi Leyla… I can actually see Albania across the lake outside my window, so I am definitely going to be there at some point soon. I think a lot of this part of the world is off-radar, it’s a pity, because it’s just such a great destination. Empty beaches sound nice…

      • genc Apr 11, 2013 at 8:23 am #

        Hi Nate,
        If you like to experience Albania (the northern alps – Thethi, Vermosh, Valbona), have a look at this article http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/travel/balkan-promises-hiking-the-albanian-alps.html?pagewanted=4&_r=0 and
        to witness this, the “Peaks of the Balkans” – is Winner Tourism for Tomorrow Award 2013, have a look at http://wttc.org/news-media/news-archive/2013/leading-sustainable-tourism-businesses-celebrated-wttc-tourism-t/.

        The rest of Albania where you can go: cultural destinations as the 3 UNESCO sites – Butrinti, Berat and Gjirakasta and Apollonia archaeological site, and others such as Tirana, Durresi, Shkodra, Kruja, Korca, Permeti, or National Park of Prespa Lakes, canyons for rafting in Vjosa and Osumi Rivers, or the coastal area ……… don’t forget the Ionian Coast at destinations as Drimades beach in Dhermiu and Livadhi, Llamani, Potam and Filikur beaches in Himara, or Saranda more in south.

        The prices: rural area is so cheap really, and how much you are paid back about the experience you get there, and in other destinations you get really value for money, while Tirana is more little expensive.

        • Ricardo @Zbulo! Discover Albania Feb 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

          I can only absolutely agree! The Peaks of the Balkans trail is a great project, connecting the three most interesting mountain regions with each other, putting for the first time uncharted areas on the map of many travelers. Get to know the real and authentic Accursed Mountains region ;)

      • Carol Pucci Apr 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

        Enjoying your posts because I’ll soon be in Belgrade, Prizren, Lake Ohrid etc. I blogged about Albania a couple of years ago http://carolapucci-albania.blogspot.com

  7. Georgie and Will Apr 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Hi Nate. We are really enjoying your posts and pics -please continue to send us all you budget tips. You and Phillipa are the same kind of travellers that we are – ie: we pride ourselves on not being tourists. Anyone can find a fancy (expensive) hotel to lie around in for a few week and then miss out on the real stuff. We now have this place on our list.

    Cheers and Thanks.

    Georgie and Will (Perth)

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Georgie and Will… first, do you realise that I am from Perth as well? Phillipa is from New Zealand, but has lived in Perth for more than half of her life.

      Glad you enjoyed the budget posts, I will definitely do a few more. And I agree.. laying around in fancy hotels is nice, but it’s not really what travel is about, for me (or for you guys!).

      Good luck with the travel planning, hope you make it to this part of the world.

      • Georgie Apr 17, 2013 at 12:14 am #

        Hi Nate (and Phillipa)

        yes, I know you are both from Perth – Hi Phillipa, we are all missing you but can see why you’re not rushing back!

        We love getting your posts every week or so and as I know that you have a “quirky” view of things – much like my own – it makes reading about the places you are experiencing and seeing the photos (even the dead dog ones!) even more fun.

        Keep ‘em coming!

        Cheers

        Georgie (and Will)

  8. Arthur Apr 6, 2013 at 1:47 am #

    Well you’ve sold me. I’m off to the Balkans…

  9. Steve Whitty Apr 6, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Thanks for the post Nate. I’m off to the Balkans in September. Already looking forward to it.

    • Nate Robert Apr 6, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      You’re welcome Steve… enjoy it when you get here, any questions feel free to ask mate.

  10. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family Apr 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    Sounds great Nate. You’ve got me convinced. :)

  11. Turner - Around the World in 80 Jobs Apr 7, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Looks great. When I was in Serbia – Belgrade more specifically – I didnt think it was that cheap. Your places look pretty good though. All in all getting your own place near the center for sub $800 a month not to bad in Europe. I miss it already.

    Thanks for making me jealous.

    • Nate Robert Apr 7, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Cheers Turner. Maybe the currency fluctuations have made Belgrade cheaper than when you were here? In any case, you’re in Bangkok? Then we’ll call it even on the “making me jealous” situation…

  12. Helen Apr 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    The exchange rate for UK pounds is so dire at the moment, it usually makes visiting anywhere in Europe very expensive and out of reach, but its nice to know that there are still cheap and interesting destinations out there.

    • Nate Robert Apr 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Hi Helen… first time I visited the UK, year 2000, it seemed ridiculously expensive – especially coming from Australia. These days, it seems much cheaper than Australia. It’s one reason I am travelling at the moment – you never know what will happen with exchange rates, so I’m making the most of it while I can!

  13. Laurence Zankowski Apr 9, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    Nate,

    I wonder how all this will play out with Cyprus going through some amazing financial difficulties. Hoping that some how soon, sorry broken record, that a side bar of costs is put up. Its an history of your travels in the pragmatic sense. We get to play with monopoly money while you pursue a dream.

    Be well

    Laurence

    • Nate Robert Apr 9, 2013 at 4:19 am #

      Hey Laurence… I have a feeling Cyprus is just the start. Believe me, as an Australian I understand how fragile the currency situation of the the world is. I’m kind of assuming the stunning purchasing power of my home dollars won’t last. If it does last, well that’s great, and if not, at least I’m making the most of it while I can. Who knows what the future will bring – the important thing is, I can’t change the future, but I can decide to strike while the iron is hot – which is right now for me. I’m spending my money before it becomes monopoly money as well.

      As for the side bar – I will do more budget posts, and in the mean time, they can all be accessed in one place by clicking the tag that says “travel expenses”. I may make a menu item for these posts, once I have built up a few more…

  14. Antoinette Apr 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    It’s always refreshing to read and hear about cheap travel outside of Southeast Asia. I have only been in Croatia and I didn’t think it was that cheap; then again I also stayed in the old town only for a few days and didn’t really get to get out much of that area. I still think South America is relatively cheap, but somehow their economy has been picking up slowly but on a steady incline. I’m all for more budget posts and actual price/cost breakdown. It really helps a lot with planning and such.

    • Nate Robert Apr 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      Hi Antoinette – thanks for the feedback, I will do some more budget posts in the future.

    • Laurence Zankowski Apr 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      Nate,

      just curious, did you get to this

      http://www.medjugorje.org/overview.htm

      Be well

      Laurence

      • Nate Robert Apr 15, 2013 at 11:09 am #

        Hey Laurence – haven’t been to Bosnia yet… but maybe coming up.

  15. Lisa @chickybus Apr 15, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Nate–I am so glad you wrote this. I am strongly considering visiting Croatia and now you’ve got me wondering about the other parts of this region. Hmmm.

    A few questions not related to price:

    1. Was it easy to get information about transportation options? How well do people speak English?
    2. How safe did it seem to be there? Typical for Europe or slightly iffy in some areas?
    3. How do you think travel in this region would be for for a woman traveling alone? Have you seen many solo female travelers?
    4. Are there ripoffs and scams to be on the lookout for?
    5. How awesome are the beaches in Croatia?

    Thanks so much!

    • Nate Robert Apr 15, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Hi Lisa… so nice to hear from you.

      1. Transport in Croatia/Serbia/Macedonia is very easy. Just head to the central bus or train station and somebody will help. English is reasonably widely spoken, I have had no problems so far.

      2. All of the places I have been to so far, have been very safe (Croatia/Serbia/Macedonia). I would say more safe than many other areas I have been to in Europe. People have been friendly, and trustworthy.

      3. I have seen a few solo female travellers – Larissa from the Blonde Gypsy went all over this area last year, solo, and loved it. She ventured into what would be considered some of the more off-the-beaten track areas, and didn’t report any problems. I would say you would be fine in the three countries I have mentioned.

      4. No rip-offs/scams. Slightly higher prices in some “touristy” parts, but nothing worth mentioning. Everything has been smooth sailing in this regard – far more propensity to be scammed in SE Asia.

      5. I’ve heard they are AWESOME. But, I’ve been waiting for the weather to heat up before heading there! Maybe in June I’ll be at the Croatian beaches!

      Lisa – knowing where you are from, and where you have travelled to – you’ll find Croatia a walk in the park. You’ve got nothing to worry about!

      One thing is that I’ve heard the prices at the beaches can be higher – and from my investigations so far, the accommodation prices jump sometimes 100% in price in June/July/August. I still think it would offer incredible value compared to most beach locations in Europe though.

      Good luck, keep me posted with your movements, we may just bump into each other…

  16. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) Apr 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Thanks for such a thorough and candid review of your finances, Nate! We are 8 months into our own trip of indefinite length (want to go until the money runs out), and have gone through about half of our travel savings at this point. We know that there is no way we will be able to hit all the countries we had originally laid out for ourselves in our itinerary as we have wound up traveling far slower (but far better!) than we originally anticipated, really taking the time to get to know the places we are visiting. So, as we begin to think about what we will do when we reach pricey Europe (we’re currently in Asia), we have started to think about all the places we will need to cut from this iteration of our trip. As much as we hate to, numbers don’t lie and there is no way we can hit most of Europe with the funds we have right now unless we are willing to just rush through most places. Tony is more inclined to cut Eastern Europe than Western because he wants to hit places like Italy, France & Spain, but perhaps by showing him your numbers, I can convince him that our money & time will be better spent in the Balkans!

    • Nate Robert Apr 16, 2013 at 4:52 am #

      You’re welcome Steph, nice to hear from you again.

      Totally understand about the finances – I have been doing the same thing. All I would suggest – is don’t rush Europe. I rushed a small portion of Europe, and even through relatively cheap countries (the Baltics/Poland/etc), it still ended up being the most expensive three weeks of my entire journey so far. This was due to transportation costs, which can be high in most of Europe, and having to stop for a night or two – paying far more on average for accommodation than if I had stayed for longer and got a weekly discount. So, keep that in mind.

      Whether you go to Western Europe or Eastern Europe is a personal choice – they’re both great. I could say that Italy wasn’t obscenely expensive (outside of the tourist attractions/big cities), and same goes for France. I’m yet to visit Spain.

      If you decide to spend time in Eastern Europe/the Balkans, your money really will go much, much further. Your average daily spend will be 2, 3, 4, or more times higher in Western Europe, because of things like transportation and accommodation.

      Either way, good luck – sounds like you guys are travelling like Phillipa and I do.

  17. Kieu ~ GQ trippin Apr 16, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    I was convinced too when G and I visited Eastern Europe this past winter. So refreshing to know you can do Europe on the cheap.. even comparable to SE Asia. Great post!

    • Nate Robert Apr 16, 2013 at 4:45 am #

      It really is refreshing, Kieu. I had not originally planned to spend this long in Europe (I’ve been travelling through Europe for six months now), but it goes to show there are some bargains here. I think the Balkans/South Eastern Europe is cheaper than Eastern Europe, but have heard that Bulgaria is also cheap.

      Nice to hear from you again, gives me a reminder to check out your blog and see what you’re up to!

  18. Nate Cusick May 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Just stumbling across this post and really enjoyed it. Getting hard numbers on what many (at least in my circle) would see as a “dream” vacation was enlightening and encouraging. Especially for those of us Americans who only get a few weeks of vacation a year. :)

    Nate
    Washington St. USA

    • Nate Robert May 25, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it, from one Nate to another. I totally recommend this part of the world, it would make for a great vacation, and not too hard on the wallet.

  19. Zlatko May 28, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    I am a little bit confused about the maths. How could the average cost be around 25$ when just the accommodation costs are around the same amount?

    • Nate Robert May 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

      Hey Zlatko – travelling with two people, $50 between two is enough.

  20. Sanjiv Mulye Jun 26, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    Hi Nate,

    You make me feel jealous of you.
    Thanks a ton for sharing your experiences with us
    I am an Indian and been to Europe but what made me control my holidays up to 18 days is because of cost.
    Compared to Indian standard the cost in Europe is astronomical.

    My only worry is about security aspect. Is the war over. Saw a film on TV on Serbian war, I think the name was Behind the enemy lines or something. Wish to visit these countries someday if the peace has returned.

    Liked your style very much.
    Please keep roaming and keep writing.

    Thanks and regards,

    Sanjiv

    • Nate Robert Jun 27, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      Hey Sanjiv – the war is over. The security is absolutely fine! Europe is much, much more expensive than India – but if you choose your destinations wisely, it can be more affordable. Macedonia and Serbia offer the best value in my opinion. Good luck!

  21. Vesna Jul 3, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    I have been to Ohrid Macedonia many times and I must agree with you “it’s hard to leave”
    Thank you for sharing. Ohrid deserves every compliment you gave :)

    Happy Travels

    Ves

  22. asar Sep 17, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    I understand that the Balkans are good value. For someone who has never visited Europe, would you recommend visiting the Balkans before hitting the usual circuit of Paris, London, Rome etc?

    • Nate Robert Sep 17, 2013 at 4:00 am #

      Absolutely… but you could combine both – fly into Paris or Rome, and then head to the Balkans.

      • Nate Sep 17, 2013 at 4:33 am #

        That’s what my wife and I are doing. Flying into Rome for three days then onto Belgrade for seven. Using airlines free stop over rules (were flying United) there is no extra charge for the stop in Rome.

  23. Phil Oct 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    do you have any information for croatia and slovenia, how do these places compare?

  24. Urooj Apr 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Do you have links for any bus and train companies? I am planning a trip starting in Timisoara, Romania to Split, Croatia. I will likely want to visit Mostar from Split and eventually get back to Timisoara. I just can seem to find a reliable source for transportation between countries.

    • Nate Robert Apr 29, 2014 at 2:26 am #

      Hi there, it can be tricky to find information online – but the bus network in most Balkans cities is very good. You won’t have any problems catching buses from the main station of any particular city. There are also trains. I have had some success with a website called “Rome2Rio”, try checking that out – and enjoy your trip – it sounds like a good one!

      • Urooj Apr 30, 2014 at 12:09 am #

        Thank you! I feel Rome2Rio has its shortfalls. For example, many times I’ve used it, I’ve noticed that it provided far fewer options that a local/regional site. So now I mostly use it just to get a rough idea of the options for my itinerary.

        • Nate Robert Apr 30, 2014 at 3:33 am #

          Yes. To be honest – I have never booked any transportation in advance, it’s easy just to arrive at a bus or train station in any particular town, and get the information there. The Balkans are quite easy to travel around these days!

  25. Mr. Cool Jun 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    @Nate Robert
    very interesting
    -any suggestion for a relatively cheap adriatic destination for august 2014 please? i realize its probably high-season. maybe a smaller seaside town with kinda cheap accomodations/restaurants?
    thanks!

    • Nate Robert Jun 23, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Hey Mr. Cool… August is a tough one, but still, Albania is your best bet for seaside prices (and personally, it’s my favourite part of the coast). Good luck!

      • Mr. Cool Jun 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

        interesting.
        why do you prefer albania.. off the path, less tourists?

        • Nate Robert Jun 23, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

          You asked for relatively cheap… and I couldn’t think of any relatively cheap seaside town in peak season, outside of Albania!

          Croatia is expensive on the coast during peak season, Montenegro is heading that way (although cheaper than Croatia).

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