Where to Travel in Europe While the Dollar Is Strong
Frommer’s got its start 60 years ago with a guidebook called Europe on 5 Dollars a Day. As you might have noticed, prices have gone up a little since then. In fact, around the time of our 50th anniversary in 2007, both the euro and the British pound were so strong relative to the U.S. dollar that a European vacation was becoming exorbitant for most Americans. Lately, though, a surging dollar and a steep drop in the price of transatlantic airfares have made Europe more affordable than it has been in decades. That makes this a great time to visit dream destinations you might have once thought were out of reach as well as overlooked spots where your dollars will stretch the furthest. Here are 10 ideas for a cost-conscious European getaway.
1 USD = 0.81 British pound (April 2017)
The value of the pound took a plunge in 2016, following the decision by British voters to withdraw from the European Union. Much remains uncertain about the long-term ramifications of that decision, but in the meantime, Americans haven’t been able to get this much bang for their buck in London since the Margaret Thatcher years. The city’s cultural institutions have always been accessible—admission at major museums is free and theater tickets in the West End are reasonable (especially compared to Broadway)—but now maybe you can also sample some of Europe’s best dining and shopping without having to get a second mortgage. Another alluring option is Scotland, owing to ultra-low fares to Edinburgh recently introduced by budget carriers like Norwegian Air.
Photo: Tower Bridge, London
Buy our EasyGuide to London here.
1 USD = 0.94 euro (April 2017)
Portugal is one of the most affordable destinations on the euro—you can stay in upscale hotels for under $100 per night and your tab for an evening spent indulging in fresh seafood and locally made port wine will make you want to order another round. But there’s way more to the country than low prices, including a sunny climate, castles, cathedrals, and a thousand-mile coastline dotted with picture-perfect beaches. Can’t-miss experiences run the gamut from exploring tucked-away medieval towns to having your heart broken by mournful fado tunes in Lisbon’s music clubs.
Photo: The Algarve coastal region of Portugal
1 USD = 8.59 Norwegian krone, 7.01 Danish krone, 9.05 Swedish krona (April 2017)
Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are usually among the priciest destinations in Europe. Lately, however, their currencies have declined against the dollar, putting them back in play for budget-watching travelers. A 15% drop in airfare to Northern Europe in 2017 compared to the previous year has made getting there easier on the wallet, too, with discount airlines like Norwegian Air and WOW Air leading the way. The three countries’ capital cities—Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm—each embody the Scandinavian virtues of tolerance, elegance, and minimalist design in their own special ways. But you’re likely to find more savings in rural areas, where you can explore Norway’s fjords (pictured), Sweden’s lakes and mountains, or Denmark’s windswept islands.
1 USD = 7.00 kuna (April 2017)
Thanks to the TV version of Game of Thrones, which has used Dubrovnik (pictured) as a stand-in for the fictional city of King’s Landing, the secret is out when it comes to Croatia. Now anybody with an HBO Go password can see for themselves the considerable charms of the country’s sparkling Adriatic coastline and distinctive architecture blending Roman ruins, hilltop medieval castles, and walled cities topped with red tiles. This has contributed to a tourism surge in places like Dubrovnik, Split, the capital of Zagreb, and Plitvice Lakes National Park, where waterfalls connect terraced lakes amid lush forest. Prices remain low, however; you can easily find accommodations in all of the places mentioned above for less than $100 per night.
1 USD = 0.94 euro (April 2017)
A weakened euro is just one of the reasons Spain has lately become a bargain. Of the many newly discounted flights to Europe, round-trip fares to Spain are among the cheapest—often under $400 to tourism hotspots such as Barcelona, Madrid, and Ibiza. A stronger dollar means you’ll save more on hotels and tapas, too; head to the country’s mountains or small beach towns to find cheap cabins to rent, particularly outside of the high travel season of April to October. To sweeten the pot, Spain was named the globe’s most tourist-friendly country in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 rankings.
Photo: Paella cooking in Valencia, Spain
1 USD = 4.00 zloty (April 2017)
Because Poland is still relatively under the radar, tourism-wise, American visitors get the advantage not only of low prices but also smaller crowds than in more popular spots to the west. And the architecture, culture, and history you’ll encounter in cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, and Gdansk is every bit the equal of the grandest cities on the continent. In fact, if it’s affordable time travel you’re after, Poland might offer your best bet, whether you’re interested in revisiting the country’s medieval heyday via imposing castles and churches, or getting a feel for the Soviet era at monuments like Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science or the UFO-shaped Spodek arena in Katowice.
Photo: the main square of Krakow's Old Town
1 USD = 0.94 euro (April 2017)
In addition to a strong dollar, Greece’s ongoing financial trouble makes the cradle of western civilization an affordable vacation spot for Americans. And despite strikes, unemployment, and economic uncertainty caused by the country’s debt crisis, the sizable tourism industry rolls on free of turmoil. After marveling at ancient temples and marketplaces in Athens, head to the sunny islands of Mykonos, Santorini (pictured), and Crete for excellent beaches, tasty examples of the Mediterranean diet that gives locals their longevity, and dazzling scenery in shades of blue and white.
1 USD = 25.09 koruna (April 2017)
It’s not as cheap as it once was, but the Czech Republic remains a good deal. The country has picturesque valleys, famous hot springs at Karlovy Vary (otherwise known as Carlsbad) that’ve been soothing visitors for centuries, and well-preserved baroque architecture in the city of Cesky Krumlov, which looks like a storybook come to life. But it’s the Czech capital, Prague (pictured above), that’ll really win you over, with its cobblestone streets, romantic bridges, and soaring spires. Looking at all of that is entirely free, and refreshing yourself with chimney cakes (a soot-free pastry stuffed with ice cream, chocolate, and other delights) and the cheapest beer in Europe (less than $2 a pint! We'll take three!) won’t put much of a dent in your budget, either.
1 USD = 1.84 lev (April 2017)
Tucked away in southeastern Europe just above Turkey and Greece, Bulgaria regularly tops lists of the cheapest places to live on the continent (with prices less than half the EU average, according to one study), and is also the site of Europe’s cheapest spot for sand and surf—rowdy Sunny Beach along the Black Sea. Further inland, there are mountain ranges, rivers (including the Danube), quaint villages, and a wine region where your dollar will get you far more tastings than in Napa. Set in the shadow of snow-capped Vitosha mountain, Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, boasts landmarks reflecting the country’s diverse heritage, including two huge houses of worship: the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (pictured above) and the Sofia Synagogue.
1 USD = 111.79 krona (April 2017)
One of the leading factors currently making Iceland affordable—and fueling its unprecedented tourism surge—is the slate of discount fares offered by Reykjavik-based WOW Air. Travelers can find one-way flights to Iceland for as low as $99 from several U.S. cities, offering yet another incentive for going there, just in case you weren’t convinced by the vacation photos in your Instagram feed. At these rates, you might as well snap your own shots of the country’s sci-fi landscape, which includes lunar lava fields, steaming lagoons, otherworldly glaciers, and night skies aglow with the northern lights.
Buy our EasyGuide to Iceland here.