Thinking of doing a few weeks in Europe and wondering how the cost stacks up compared to a stay at home holiday? Plenty of travel sites offer advice on how to get the best travel insurance and hotel deals but what about those day-to-day costs that if you’re not careful can give your wallet an unpleasant surprise as you explore the sights around Europe?
Prices across the continent vary significantly and depend on the country and the actual region you choose to vacation in. Coupled with the strong dollar and the relative cheapness of Central Europe compared to the West, the former is the clear winner if you’re looking for some bang for your buck.
The US-based financial services website GOBankingRates lists the 112 cheapest countries in the world based on purchasing power and the cost index for services, rents and groceries in 2015. Here’s where Central Europe’s main players stack up next to the USA and UK.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to hotels, whether its budget, boutique, chain or Airbnb and of course, the closer to the action the more expensive. The European summer season (May to September) can see prices almost double from those in off-peak periods in some cases. When planning road trips, remember that given the close proximity of many countries, it can often be worthwhile to make that overnight stopover in a cheaper country rather than leaving it to the next day.
Groceries come in at almost 25% cheaper in Germany than in the states according to the Numbeo website (last updated March 2016). The same site lists restaurant prices as approximately 9% lower, with a meal for two at a mid-priced restaurant coming in at an average of $45. However, when it comes to fast food, the situation is often reversed — a meal for two at McDonalds is more expensive in Europe. One differential that American travelers may have to get used to is the size of the portions, which can often pale in comparison to those served in the USA.
Ever wonder why Europeans roll their eyes when Americans complain about the price of gas at home? That’s because you can expect to pay around three times more for gas in Europe than compared to the States. In Germany, there’s a whacking 147% differential in prices where it’s not unusual to pay over $1.50 per liter to fuel up that hire car. In comparison, public transport and taxis are pretty much the same in terms of fares. Given that public transport, although economical, can be time and location restrictive and a long distance taxi journey will require a second mortgage, many travelers turn to a competitively priced bespoke travel company complete with guide in order to make the most of their stay.
4. Admission prices
Although entrance to many museums and galleries are free in the States and Britain, travelers can expect to pay a modest admission charge that can average up to €10 per adult when visiting famous sites. Most castles offer a guided tour for a fee and many are happy to let visitors peruse certain parts and the grounds free of charge. European churches and cathedrals often provide an opportunity to savor fascinating architecture and artifacts, usually for a small fee or a donation.
Tipping in Central Europe, although appreciated, is not considered mandatory and certainly not as generous as in the US. If a service charge is included in the bill in a restaurant there’s no need to tip. To bring a smile to your waiter’s face then anywhere between 5-10% is normal. Large tips of 20-25% are unnecessary, and although your waiter may shower you with gratitude, you can be sure that he’s more likely to be laughing quietly to himself at your cultural ignorance. For taxis, there’s no obligation to tip, although rounding up to the nearest Euro or 10% on the bill will earn the appreciation of your driver and maybe a helping hand with your bags.