THE COST OF TRAVELING FAR EASTERN EUROPE

The Cost of Bulgaria

A gorgeous view of nature and a beautiful building in Bulgaria
While in Bulgaria, I spent a total of 1,405.40 lev (BGL) in 23 days. That works out to be roughly $1,000 USD, or $43.47 USD per day at today’s exchange rate. In the 23 days I was there, I visited all the major sightseeing destinations, including the expensive and way overrated Sunny Beach.

How I spent my money
All prices are in Bulgarian lev.

Food: 475.90 (cheap local meals, a few restaurants, and a lot of sushi)
Accommodation: 445.70 (I stayed in dorm rooms and Couchsurfed for five nights)
Alcohol: 259.40 (I partied pretty heavily, especially along the Black Sea)
Buses: 100
Taxis: 19 (a few intra-city and airport taxis.)
Tours/Sightseeing: 53
Movies: 42.5
Water: 8.9
Chess in the park: 1

How much can you really do it for?
About the same. Excluding my sushi splurge, my daily average would have been around $38.29 USD. I didn’t spend lavishly in Bulgaria or really do anything beyond what the normal budget traveler would do. I used local transport, ate local meals, stayed in cheap hostels. If you aren’t a sushi fan, budgeting $35–40 USD per day in Bulgaria should be adequate.

If you’re looking for nicer accommodations and more restaurant meals, you should consider budgeting $50–55 USD per day. And while these are not the rock-bottom prices you can find in other parts of the world, when comparing them to prices in Western Europe or Scandinavia, things are considerably cheaper.

How to save money in Bulgaria
If you want to save even more money in Bulgaria, here are a few ways to cut your expenses:

Couchsurf – Hostels are cheap, but if you want to save even more money on accommodation, you can Couchsurf and stay with locals for free. There are a lot of available hosts in this country.

Cook – There’s a lot of cheap Bulgarian food, especially the pizza, hot dogs, and sandwiches on the street. Cooking your own food will obviously make things cheaper too, especially since the markets have a wide variety of inexpensive fruits and vegetables.

Stay at Hostel Mostel – Staying at this hostel can lower your costs, because not only do they offer free breakfast but they also offer free dinner (which also comes with a free beer). Staying here gets you two meals a day. They have locations in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Velinko Tarnovo.

Take buses – The trains in Bulgaria are more expensive than buses.

The Cost of Romania

Romania
While in Romania, I spent 1878.30 leu (RON) or $578.83 USD in the 16 days I was there. That works out to be 117.38 leu or $36.17 USD per day. This covered the cost of travel from Bucharest through Bra?ov and Transylvania to Cluj-Napoca.

How I spent my money
All prices are in Romanian leu.

Food: 724.4 (sushi meals, a few nice restaurants, as well as cooking for three days)
Accommodation: 881 (dorm rooms and two nights in a private room)
Alcohol: 9
Transportation: 113.9 (buses and airport taxis)
Tours/Sightseeing: 80 (Bran Castle, a bunch of museums, and walking tours)
Cold Medicine: 57
Water: 13

How much can you really do it for?

You can do Romania cheaper than I did. I spent quite a bit on sushi and had a few nights in a private room. Moreover, I got a cold and had to spend some money on medicine, which upped my budget too. $30 USD a day is a reasonable backpacker budget for Romania, though you’ll probably spend more if you drink.

If you want a few nights in a private room, nice meals, and more sites, your budget will probably come close to $45 USD per day. If you only stay in private rooms, then simply triple the amount of money I spent on accommodation and that’s how much you’ll need to budget for a place to stay.

How to save money in Romania
I didn’t find that Romania offered amazing ways to save. There wasn’t really any one thing that I found and was like, “Wow! This is going to be great! My budget is saved!” Outside the normal Couchsurf/cook/eat local tips, the country is cheap enough.

The Cost of Ukraine

gorgeous statue in Ukraine
My last stop in the region was Ukraine. While I was in Ukraine, I spent a total of 2377.95 Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH) or $297.07 USD in the seven days I visited the country. That works out to be a 339.70 hryvnia or $42.52 USD per day. I was in Kiev and Lviv while I was there.

How I spent my money
All prices are in Ukrainian hryvnia.

Accommodation: 740 (I stayed in dorm rooms for about 100–110 hryvnia per night)
Food: 1122.50 (mostly local Ukrainian restaurants and two fancy sushi dinners)
Alcohol: 261 (two nights out in Kiev)
Transportation: 219.20
Tours/Sightseeing: 10
Water: 15.25
Chess: 10 (I paid to lose at chess in the park. It was fun.)

How much can you really do it for?

One of the reasons my budget for Ukraine was so high was because I went out for sushi twice. When you exclude those meals from my budget, my daily average drops to 251 hryvnia or $31.09 USD. I don’t think you can visit Ukraine for much cheaper than that. I was the ultimate backpacker here and stuck to everything cheap.

However, I suggest you spend more and not be so frugal. Splurge on sushi or drinks or a nice room every so often. This country is cheap (the cheapest I’ve been to in Europe, in fact). Live it up. Enjoy it, because after the European soccer championship comes here next year, prices will surely go up. The Ukraine is currently one of the best value countries in Europe. Make the most of it while you can.

How to save money in Ukraine
If you really feel the need to spend even less money in Ukraine, you can do three things:

Couchsurf – If 5–10 euros per night is too much for you, then Couchsurf and save yourself money.

Head out of Kiev – The country is substantially cheaper outside of Kiev, as well as the closer you get to Russia. (Note: As of now, avoid eastern Ukraine and Crimea.)

Eat local – By only eating at local restaurants like Puzata Khata, you’ll keep your food prices down as low as you can. A typical meal here cost me about 30 hryvnia ($4 USD).

Drinking – This tip actually applies to all the countries mentioned here. In all these countries, you can buy 2.5 liter bottles of beer in supermarkets and corner shops for $1–2 USD. It’s incredibly good value and is the way to party on the cheap.

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The eastern part of Europe is the best bargain you’ll find on the continent. These three countries were much more affordable than I’d previously thought, and traveling here definitely helped me correct some of the overspending and higher costs of Western Europe. But, beyond just the monetary savings, these countries are rich in history and delicious food, and they offer a challenge for travelers that you don’t find on the well-worn trail in other parts of Europe. I’m so happy to have finally made it out here.

Note: I didn’t visit Moldova because of time constraints, but I’ve heard its prices are on par with the rest of the area. I didn’t go to Belarus either, because it costs a few hundred dollars for a visa, and I didn’t feel I would spend enough time there to justify the cost.

Read more good travel articles in  nomadicmatt.com