2014 is looking to be a good year to grab a holiday bargain, thanks to the strengthening of sterling against most currencies. As far as European city breaks are concerned, the best advice may be to head east, to Eastern European cities such as Budapest, Warsaw and Krakow and to the Baltic cities of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. Low costs for meals, drinks, transport, sightseeing and accommodation give these cities a clear price advantage over rivals in the west.
According to a number of recent polls, Budapest is the cheapest place in Europe for a short break. There is some very good value accommodation to be found in Budapest, from clean, comfortable and friendly 3* hotels to 4*s with more facilities and which probably offer even better value for money, particularly when compared with their equivalents in cities such as Paris and Amsterdam. Getting around Budapest on public transport is easy and inexpensive. A daily ticket (valid for 24 hours) enables unlimited travel on buses, trams, undergrounds, trolleys, cogwheel railway and local trains within the boundaries of Budapest for just 1500 HUF (approx 5€) . Many tourists choose a Tourist ticket which is valid for 72 hours and costs 3700 HUF (approx 12€). Eating out in Budapest can be very expensive but there are also plenty of good, cheaper restaurants to be found. Many of these serve local dishes such as goulash, fish soup, chicken paprika and homemade stews. There are also fast food stalls at many of the big markets around the city.
Krakow is also very popular as a short break destination, partly because it offers great prices and amazing value for money. 3* hotels are generally of a very good standard and provide all the comfort and facilities that most travellers require but there are also some very reasonably priced 4*s.
With most landmarks being located within the small central area, the best way to enjoy old Krakow is on foot. The bulk of the city’s historic area has been turned into a pedestrian area making sightseeing on foot a very pleasant experience. The Market Square with its elegant Cloth Hall, Wawel Caxtle and the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz can all be explored on foot. However, for any journeys further afield the public transport system is pretty comprehensive and includes trams and buses. A one way ticket by tram or bus costs just 3.8 zloty, or 0.9€.
With regard to eating out in Krakow, the city has the usual wide range of fast food restaurants, snack bars, burger joints, pizzerias, and the like for those tourists on a limited budget. However, it’s good to remember that Krakow is known as the gastronomic capital of Poland and many of its numerous restaurants offer good food at very affordable prices. A three-course set menu can often cost as little as the equivalent of 8€. As in any city, it’s worth avoiding the main tourist spots and to search down quieter side streets to find the best value for money.