Comparing Apfels to Pommes: Relative Prices in Europe's Top Cities
|Laid-back Munich goes easy on your dollar.|
By Rick Steves
Budget alone should not determine where you go in Europe. If everyone says, "Portugal is cheap," but your travel dreams are taking you to the Swiss Alps, then your best value is in Switzerland...traveling smartly.
However, knowing roughly what you'll pay in various destinations can help you craft a more wallet-friendly itinerary. This chart attempts to compare apples to apples by showing very approximate costs, in US dollars, for basic tourist expenses in several of Europe's major cities (and, by way of comparison, my hometown in the USA).
What at first looks like a jumble of numbers becomes very informative as you compare cities. Not surprisingly, cities in Spain, Portugal, Greece, and most of Eastern Europe are at the low end of the scale, while cities in Italy, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Switzerland, and France are at the high end. Cities in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands fall in the middle of the range.
A few surprises are also mixed in. I would have assumed that London and Oslo were much more expensive than Paris or Rome...but the chart doesn't quite bear that out as clearly as I'd expected. The big difference between Prague and other Eastern European cities demonstrates what popularity (and huge tourist demand) can do to prices. And who'd have thought that Munich was so affordable?
The lack of consistency is also surprising — demonstrating that generalizations are just that. Prague has expensive hotels, but other things are relatively cheap. Hotel prices in Amsterdam or Zürich are manageable, but food and transportation are pricier.
As the dollar dips, I've been saying, "We Americans aren't as rich as we think we are. We can't afford to hop in a taxi like Germans. We'll have to start waiting in line at the bus station with the Portuguese." The relatively cheap costs for Seattle — one of the pricier American cities — show that I'm not far off.
By the way, if these numbers seem depressingly high, remember that these are estimates for major cities — almost certainly the highest prices in that country. If you head to smaller towns or the countryside, prices drop substantially. And always keep in mind: Even with the grim economic forecast, it's still possible to travel affordably in even the most expensive cities listed here.
|double room at budget hotel / B&B||double room at mid-range tour hotel||double room at upscale business-class hotel||cheapest sleepable hostel bunk||typical main dish at dinner for a mid-range eatery||cost of a Big Mac||one ride on subway or local bus||one-hour train ride to a nearby town||entrance fee at a top museum|
|Budapest, Kraków, Dubrovnik||$90||$120||$240||$20||$15||$2.50||$1.50||$6||$10|
*Many top museums are free in London.
Fine Print: All prices here are extremely approximate, based on the 2008 edition of Rick Steves guidebooks (and assume the exchange rate €1 = $1.50). All hotel rates are for a double room with private bathroom in the main tourist area during peak season (typically June-Sept), and include breakfast and tax. Train prices are for one-way, second-class tickets on regional (non-express) trains, and do not include reservations or supplements. For simplicity, some similarly priced cities (such as Copenhagen and Oslo) have been combined.