Cheap and Europe in the same sentence? For South Africans?
It may sound like a far-fetched pipe dream, but it’s true!
Travelling to Europe is an irresistible challenge for my frugal loving heart. It’s full of jaw-dropping scenery, captivating history and once-in-a-lifetime festivals. But if you want to experience any of this, you need to be rolling in dollar, dollar bills.
Well, that’s at least what I thought before I ever stepped foot onto the continent.
Flash forward five years and 28 countries later, and I’ve budget travelled the shit out of Europe.
I stay far, far away from money-sucking countries like Switzerland. Instead, I prefer to explore Europe’s lesser-known gems with a sprinkle of its top sights like Rome and Amsterdam on a budget.
The best part? I didn’t have to take out a second mortgage on my house (figuratively speaking, of course. I’m a millennial I don’t own any property lolz) or abuse my credit card to survive.
Here are 16 of the best rand-friendly holiday destinations in Europe!
*Prices checked with Budget Your Trip and are estimates.
Imagine walking down Budapest’s cobbled streets, soaking up its old-world charm.
Feeling parched? Grab a draught of local beer for less than R 25.00 or warm up with a cappuccino for R 22.00
Explore Hungary’s FREE museums, hop on board one of the oldest ever underground railway systems or unwind at Budapest’s famous thermal baths.
But don’t limit yourself to the country’s capital city. Venture out to the quaint hillside villages, such as Drebecen. You’ll find cheaper accommodation, food, and activities outside of the main tourist hub and a few hidden gems.
But what makes Hungary a fantastic rand-friendly holiday destination in Europe is that you don’t need to stay in hostels to make it through your holiday. There are tons of mid-range hotels that offer excellent value for money.
Oh, and there is a wine county.
Average Costs in Hungary for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 420.00 – R 1,083.00
- Average food budget per day: R 103.00 – R 255.00
- Hostels per night: R 228.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 596.00
- Total cost for one week: R 2,971.00 – R 7,583.00
The “Paris of the East” or as I prefer to call it, the digs of Count Dracula.
It’s full of 17th to 18th-century Byzantine churches, mystery and a delicious street food scene.
Fly into Bucharest and uncover it’s fascinating art scene and Cismigiu Gardens. But if you’re really in search of a cheap European holiday from South Africa, go to Cluj. With an exciting nightlife, it’s the perfect stop for young South Africans looking to experience a slice of Europe’s famous party scene.
But no trip to Romania would be complete without a stop at Transylvania.
(You said that with your best vampire accent didn’t you?)
Visit Vlad the Impaler’s birthplace, and hike into the Carpathian mountains. Inside Piatra Craiului National Park, you can track down the Transylvanian wolf, bears and the elusive lynx.
Average Costs in Romania for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 503.00 – R 1,060.00
- Average food budget per day: R 158.00 – R 381.00
- Hostels per night: R 151.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 356.00
- Total cost for one week: R 3,500.00 – R 7,456.00
I know what you’re thinking.
“The land of pizza, gelato and ancient Romans is NOT cheap!”
But what if I told you that if you travelled off season, you could spend as little as R 2500 per week in Rome?
Of course, this is a strict backpacker budget. You’re going to have to stay in hostels, cook your own meals most nights and stick to an itinerary that doesn’t have any entrance fees.
But it’s possible!
All you need to do is avoid the hell that is Europe in summer (June to August). Trust me, I’ve done it. It’s hella expensive, and you won’t find a free spot in front of the Trevi Fountain.
If you want to see more of the country, here’s a 10-day itinerary for Italy that will take you to Venice and Florence!
Average Costs in Italy for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 804.00 – R 2,044.00
- Average food budget per day: R 150.00 – R 400.00
- Hostels per night: R 250.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R1,070.00
- Total cost for one week: R 2,900.00 – R 5,600.00
*These prices are reflective of travelling in Italy’s offseason and not spending a ton of money on activities and food.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there has been an uptick in South Africans going to Portugal.
Portugal is one of the cheapest European destinations for South Africans to fly into. It’s the perfect springboard to catch a flight to another country, with tickets costing as little as R 200 return.
But don’t just fly in and fly out. Portugal has a lot of offer the frugal traveller.
Head to the Algarve and soak up the sun. Wander the charming streets of Lisbon. Explore the canals of Aveiro and indulge in lots and lots of wine.
Average Costs in Portugal for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 650.00 – R 1,140.00
- Average food budget per day: R200.00 – R 400.00
- Hostels per night: R200.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 500.00
- Total cost for one week: R 3,500.00 – R 8,000.00
Turkey is home to one of the best cities in the world: Istanbul.
It’s rich with culture, delicious food, nightlife and an efficient transport system that can take you wherever you want.
Plus there’s the dazzling Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the Topkapi Palace.
For South Africans, Turkey is a cheap rand-friendly holiday destination in Europe.
I spent 5 days in the country and spent R 1,780.00 on food, accommodation, activities and transportation. South African’s can also get a FREE e-visa and return tickets average around R 5,000.00.
Turkey is also home to Cappadocia. You know, the hot air balloon place with penis-shaped rocks that’s on EVERYONE’s Instagrams.
Average Costs in Turkey for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R140.00 – R 370.00
- Average food budget per day: R 30.00 – R75.00
- Hostels per night: R 85.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R240.00
- Total cost for one week: R 1,000 – R3,500.00
Read Next: How to Travel Istanbul on a Budget
Poland is home to two of the cheapest cities in Europe. It’s the best country to visit if you want to stretch your Rands, plus they don’t use the Euro.
The Polish Zloty is only three to one South African Rand. That’s already going to help you save so much money.
Visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum. Go to Krakow’s Old Town and walk around its 13th-century square Wawel Castle.
Head further north and take in the city’s cafe culture and nightlife. Or if you’re not a fan of city slicking, escape into the Tatra Mountains. Tackle the Dolina Gasienicowa hiking trail and stay in one of the Zakopane-style homes.
Average Costs in Poland for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 405.00 – 1,050.00
- Average food budget per day: R 89.00 – R 226.00
- Hostels per night: R 260.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 670.00
- Total cost for one week: R 2,800.00 – R 7,000.00
Never heard of the country Georgia?
Until I discovered that South Africans get a one year visa on arrival that won’t cost you a cent.
That was more than enough of a reason for me to head there. What started as a 3-week adventure turned into almost 2-months when my bag was stolen by another backpacker with my passport inside.
I have bad luck like that.
But in hindsight, it meant I got to explore more of this off the beaten track European destination.
Wander through the ancient streets of Tbilisi and watch the sunset from on top of the Narikala Fortress. Pack your hiking gear and visit the mountain town of Kazbegi. Discover the city of love, Sighnaghi, and if the mood strikes get married at the 24-hour Sighnaghi Wedding House.
Average Costs in Georgia for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 102.00 – R 360.00
- Average food budget per day: R 38.00 – R 100.00
- Hostels per night: R 113.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 280.00
- Total cost for one week: R 706.00 – R 2,000.00
Read Next: The Ultimate Tbilisi, Georgia Travel Guide
Want to visit the cheapest countries in Europe? Then Bulgaria needs to be on your frugal bucket list.
Set against striking natural beauty with a cultural heritage that dates back centuries, it’s a fascinating country to explore on a budget.
For hikers and history buffs, there is almost a never-ending list of things to do. Stay in an overnight hut inside Pirin National Park. It’s home to 70 glacial lakes, grey wolves and a 1,350 years old Baykuchevata Macedonian pine tree.
Make your way to Nessebar, a bustling 9,000-year-old town. Wander through its open-air old town museum and visit the monuments to the Roman and Byzantine eras.
Average Costs in Bulgaria for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 300 – R 740.00
- Average food budget per day: R 71.00 – R 188.00
- Hostels per night: R 170.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 400.00
- Total cost for one week: R 2,080.00 – R 5,222.00
Do you love cheap beer? Then you’ll love Slovakia!
This lesser-visited European country is an excellent option for South Africans.
Head to the capital city, Bratislava, and make your way around the local distilleries and microbreweries. A glass of beer will only set you back EUR 1.70. Once you’ve had your fill, you can get lost amongst the city’s impressive architecture and the myriad of museums.
Always thought of yourself as a Disney Princess? Slovakia is dotted with gorgeous castles that you can pretend are home to your long lost throne.
If you prefer to spend your European holiday surrounded by nature, go up to The High Tatras. You’ll find beautiful, affordable chalets surrounded by nearby forests and the impressive 2,655m mountain range.
Average Costs in Slovakia for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 480.00 – R 1,156.00
- Average food budget per day: R 132.00 – R 310.00
- Hostels per night: R 280.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 650.00
- Total cost for one week: R 3,400.00 – R 8,000.00
Nestled between Turkey and Georgia, Armenia completes a visa on arrival trifecta for South Africans.
It’s about as close as we can get to a Euro trip without going through the hassle of applying for a Schengen visa.
But besides being a cheap rand-friendly holiday destination in Europe, what I love about Armenia is its size.
If you base yourself in the capital city of Yerevan, you can reach most of the country’s top sights with day trips. Whether you decide to hire a car or just use the robust marshrutkas system, it’s an off-the-beaten-track adventure you won’t forget!
Average Costs in Armenia for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily Budget: R 117.00 – R 640.00
- Average food budget per day: R 60.00 – R 200.00
- Hostels per night: R 119.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 400.00
- Total cost for one week: R 1,940.00 – R 4,500.00
Read Next: 8 of the Best Day Trips from Yerevan
Lithuania is the best place to base yourself if you want to explore Europe overland. The country is well connected to its neighbours, and the journey won’t leave a gaping hole in your wallet.
Even though Lithuania joined the EU a few years ago, it has remained a cheap European holiday destination.
But you have to know when to go.
During Lithuania’s shoulder seasons (spring and autumn), you’ll find hotels up to 50% cheaper compared to the popular summer months. This doesn’t just apply to hostels, everything from luxury hotels to mid-range hotels slash their prices.
Average Costs in Lithuania for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 450.00 – R 1,110.00
- Average food budget per day: R 234.00 – R 450.00
- Hostels per night: R 167.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 550.00
- Total cost for one week: R 3,200.00 – R 7,800.00
12. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is one of the best value for money countries in Europe. It’s also home to the Pilsner beer, which is reason enough to visit.
(I keep bringing up beer and wine, I know).
Start your trip in Prague and make your way through the many traditional beer halls, taverns and microbreweries. A pint of will only cost you EUR 1.50 – so don’t be afraid to try as many different brews as your taste buds desire.
Not a fan of the drink?
Explore Prague’s charming city centre. It has a 600-year old astronomical clock, a castle and the spectacular Charles Bridge.
But for something different, go to the small town of Sedlec. It’s known for it’s famous “Bone Church” inside the Gothic All Saints Chapel. Here, you’ll find the remains of 70,000 people displayed as chandeliers, chalices, bells and more.
If you’re visiting for the Christmas markets, here’s a Europe winter packing list to make sure you stay warm while exploring!
Average Costs in Czech Republic for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 516.00 – R1,273.00
- Average food budget per day: R 129.00 – R 308.00
- Hostels per night: R 270.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 704.00
- Total cost for one week: R 3,616.00 – R 8,600.00
Is that trip to Capri or Cote d’Azur out of your budget? Get your Mediterranean fix on the sun-drenched beaches of Albania.
It’s also free from the crowds that plague Rome in the summer, making it an excellent choice for those want to travel to Europe during high season.
Albania’s coastal towns are known for their Greek ruins, warm seas and empty beaches. Plus, eating out at a local restaurant with drinks will only cost you about EUR 10 per day.
But no trip would be complete without visiting Saranda. It’s home to the Blue Eye Spring, famous for its crystal clear azure waters. There’s plenty of affordable accommodation nearby, ranging from backpackers to hotels with private beaches.
Average Costs in Albania for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 291.00 – R 680.00
- Average food budget per day: R 85.00 – R 206.00
- Hostels per night: R 118.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 280.00
- Total cost for one week: R 2,040.00 – R 4,795.00
Budget travel and Greece still go hand in hand, if you’re willing to flex your frugal muscles.
Santorini – that Instagrammable heaven of whitewashed buildings and blue-domed rooftops can be done on the cheap.
All you need to do is book your hostel or hotel well in advance and avoid eating out at restaurants with sea views. Besides, if you stick to where the locals eat, you’ll have a more authentic experience. It’s a chance to sit down and chat with Greeks and not just the hordes of other tourists.
But the best budget travel destination in Greece is The Peloponnese. Imagine yourself laying on it’s beautiful white, sandy beaches (free from the crowds of the main islands) and exploring ancient ruins such as Epidaurus and Olympia.
Stay in one of the medieval villages and cross off Greece from your European bucket list!
Average Costs for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
Daily budget: R 700.00 – R 1,800.00
Average food budget per day: R 200.00 – R 450.00
Hostels per night: R 250.00
Mid-range hotels per night: R 400.00
Total cost for one week: R 4800.00 – R 12,600.00
Estonia is a backpackers hub. It boasts low-cost accommodation, delicious cuisine and budget-friendly attractions.
Your first stop should be Tallinn. The capital city of Estonia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full to the brim with ancient cobbled streets, old buildings and a glimpse of a time long gone by.
Next, explore some of Estonia’s mysterious sights. Head to abandoned Patarei prison-fortress or the eerie Kaali meteorite craters.
For a unique experience, go to the fir forest in Voru County. There you’ll find massive wooden megaphones to help you hear the sounds of nature.
Average Costs in Estonia for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 420.00 – R 1,030.00
- Average food budget per day: R 100.00 – R 250.00
- Hostels per night: R 230.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 560.00
- Total cost for one week: R 2,900.00 – R 7,200.00
Kosovo is a country with recent battle scars. Since declaring its independence in 2008, it hasn’t been at the top of must-visit European destinations.
Luckily, that’s starting to change.
Tourism is still in its infancy, so don’t expect to run into a lot of other English speaking tourists. You’ll also only find a couple of hostels and hotels in each city.
Besides the lack of crowds (which is a major selling point for me), you also don’t have to worry about scams or pickpockets as much.
Kosovo is also a beautiful country to visit. From its old town in Prizren to the Spring of Drini i Bardhe and it’s 12-century churches, the country has more than enough attractions to cast a spell on you.
But it’s main selling point is that it’s probably the cheapest country in Europe. You can find a meal for less than 5 EUR at an upmarket restaurant, and most attractions are free of charge.
Average Costs in Kosovo for Budget to Mid-Range Travellers
- Daily budget: R 250.00 – R500.00
- Average food budget per day: R 80.00 – R 200.00
- Hostels per night: R 150.00
- Mid-range hotels per night: R 300.00
- Total cost for one week: R 1,800.00 – R 3,500.00
Which of these cheap European countries for South Africans are at the top of your bucket list? Sound off in the comments below!
Want more budget travel inspiration? Check out my other posts:
- The Cheapest Visa-Free Destinations for South Africans
- How to Travel on a Budget: A Complete Guide
- How to Apply for Your Schengen Visa as a South African
- Amsterdam Coffeeshops: How to Get Stoned Like a Pro
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