Thanks to a great response from our fans on social media, we uncovered your three favorite frugal cities you most want to visit this summer holiday! We’ve created travel cheat sheets to help you plan each step.
Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic.
The currency of Prague is the crown (koruna). The current conversion rates will get you 34Kč to the pound. ATMs (bankomat) are common and usually get you a better exchange rate than a currency office.1
Outlets will require a type E plug with a 230V and 50 Hz frequency. Purchase adapters before you leave, as they can be hard to come by within the city. If they are available, they are usually overpriced.
Tipping at restaurants is normal. Sometimes tip is included, so check your bill. Otherwise, 10 – 15% is customary. It is also polite to round up on your taxi fee for tip (around 5%), more if they carry your bags for you.
Keep small change handy for public toilets.
Getting to Prague is easy, no matter what your method is. Václav Havel Airport Prague is less than ten kilometers outside the city centre. The city is also accessible by the Eurail trains and buses.
Once you’re there, take advantage of Prague’s wonderful public transit system. A daily pass is only 110Kč (about £3). Prague is a very easy city to explore on foot, and many of the best landmarks are within walking distance of each other.
Taxis may be cheap, but tourists are often taken advantage of! If you prefer to take a taxi, call ahead from your hotel or restaurant for a more honest fare.
A popular destination for frugal tourists, Prague has a large range of accommodations that could fit any budget. Expect to pay more the closer you are to the Prague astronomical clock, the city’s most popular attraction located right in the Old Town Square.
Average cost for accommodations per night:3
- Hostel: £11.50
- Hotel: £90 – 125
- Luxury hotel: £200
Take a free walking tour around the city. Your stroll through the cobblestone streets of Prague will give you a great overview of the history of Prague and highlight the buildings that contributed to the nickname, “The City of a Hundred Spires.”
Visit the John Lennon Wall, a graffiti wall coated in years of messages of love and peace. Spurned by communist rule in the 1980s, the younger residents of Prague would visit this wall to express themselves through art or writing song lyrics from the Beatles.2
Prague is known for their beer and you’ll be able to find it around every corner. In fact, Czechs drink 132 litres per capita every year, the most of any nation!2 Traditional Czech beers are lighter lagers and pilsners.
Czech cuisine tends to be hearty with a great mix of meat and potatoes. Try guláš, a traditional beef goulash that is served with rice or dumplings.
Street food is readily available around the city. Pick up some trdelník, light pastry bread sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
Split down the middle by the Danube river, Budapest was originally two separate cities (Buda and Pest) before uniting in 1873.5
The pound is currently converting to 401 forints, the currency of Hungary. Generally, Budapest is a more affordable city and a little can go a long way. Local beers are around £1.50 a pint.6
Hungary uses two-pin plugs with 220V, the same adapter you would need for Prague.
Tipping is encouraged in any service-based situation. This includes waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel bellhops and thermal spa attendants.4
If older locals walking down the street don’t appear friendly or frown at you as you pass, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Communism ended in Budapest less than 30 years ago and senior citizens are used to walking down the street with a discontent look — an unhappy face did not garner attention from USSR officers on patrol, but a look of contentment could have raised suspicion.7
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport lies 16 kilometers southeast of the city. A local express bus runs between the airport and the city centre and only costs £8 one way. If you’re looking for a quicker route, taxis are readily available. Negotiate before you get in. Depending on the location of your hotel, fares range from £12 – £24.
Public transit is readily available in Budapest with tram, train and bus systems. A 24-hour pass will run you just over £4. Budapest is another great pedestrian-friendly city with several major landmarks within walking distance of each other.
Don’t use taxis waiting on the street around the city — there are many scam artists who choose to target tourists this way. They have been know to give back improper change, old currency that is no longer valid or overcharge. If you feel you need to take a taxi, have someone at your hotel or restaurant call one for you.
Average cost for accommodations per night:5
- Hostel: £7 – 15
- Hotel: £37 – 70
- Luxury hotel: £125 – 180
If you happen to be in Budapest during a national holiday (March 15th, August 20th or October 23rd), you’ve secured yourself free tickets to the Museum of Fine Arts, Hungarian National Gallery and Hungarian National Museum.
There are many expensive river cruises available in the evening, but sometimes the best views are from the shore. Pack a picnic basket or grab an espresso and take an evening stroll along the Danube. Enjoy a path lit by the Chain Bridge or the warm glow of the parliament building.
Lángos is a frugal and tasty street food option. Structured like a pizza without sauce, lángos is fried dough covered in a variety of toppings like sausage, grated cheese, mashed potatoes and more. If you go to the Central Market Hall, you are bound to find several vendors selling it.
Hungarian food is an adventure in flavor both distinctive and spicy. Many traditional Hungarian dishes are heavy and sometimes cream-based. Try a variety of Hungarian stews with their signature paprikás.
The Turkish lira has been losing its strength over the last few years, currently only at four liras to the pound, making it a good time to visit. In 2005, the lira (known in Turkish as Yeni Türk Lirası or YTL), eliminated the excess zeros so prices are sometimes quoted in “millions” out of habit even if it isn’t the current terminology.8
Right on the border of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is where East meets West and old meets new. Where else can you find yourself passing bar-hoppers on their way home from the club while the muezzin’s call to prayer breaks the quiet at dawn?
The European influence is very much present in their electricity. They also used the recessed wall sockets that require two-pin plugs with 220V.
It is customary to leave a 10% tip for service in restaurants, but in most other tipping scenarios most just round up to the nearest lira.
Pack strategically: though Istanbul follows western style trends, modesty is encouraged. Most men will not wear shorts and opt for linen pants instead. It is also common for women to cover their knees. Many mosques will ask women to cover their heads when visiting, so it would be smart to pack a shawl or broad scarf to carry with you.8
Istanbul is home to two airports, Atatürk International Airport (European side) and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (Asian side), both accessible by taxi or shuttle bus.
Taxis are readily available and very affordable with base fare around £1 plus £0.70 per mile. Tips are not commonplace, but appreciated. If you had a great trip, round the fare up to the nearest lira. Be warned — taxi rates go up by 50% after midnight so check your watch before you hail one.8
Conventional means of public transit are available and easy to use, but don’t forget about ferries! The Bosphorus strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, runs through Istanbul and separates the country into Asian Turkey and European Turkey.
Average cost for accommodations per night:9
- Hostel: £9 – 20
- Hotel: £61
- Luxury hotel: £154
Enjoy the hustle and bustle at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar and immerse yourself in the thrill of vendors haggling with tourists. You can spend hours exploring hundreds of stalls packed with food and goods.
Taksim Square, located within the main business district, is a common stage for live musicians and street artists. Enjoy free music and entertainment in the midst of a major city hub.
Take a free tour of the Santrallstanbul culture complex. You can see sculptures and learn about the start of electricity.
If you have traveled around Europe, you are probably well acquainted with döner kebabs, a popular street food. Try this wrap filled with seasoned meat and vegetables where it originated.
For something sweet, choose lokum, more commonly known as Turkish delight. This dessert comes in a variety of flavours and fillings. You can find this nougat classic fresh all across Istanbul.
1 National Geographic. (n.d.). Prague travel basics. Retrieved 7 March 2016, from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/prague-travel-basics/
2A. (4 May, 2014). 7 free things to do in Prague. Retrieved 7 March 2016, from http://packmeto.com/7-free-things-prague/
3 Lonely Planet. (n.d.). Money and costs in Prague. Retrieved 7 March, 2016, from http://www.lonelyplanet.com/czech-republic/prague/money-costs
4 Lonely Planet. (n.d.). Money and costs in Budapest. Retrieved 7 March 2016, from http://www.lonelyplanet.com/hungary/budapest/money-costs
5 National Geographic. (n.d.). Budapest travel basics. Retrieved 7 March 2016, from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/budapest-travel-basics/
6 Price of Travel. (n.d.). Budapest prices. Retrieved 8 March 2016, from http://www.priceoftravel.com/75/hungary/budapest-prices
7 Tyre, C. (10 September 2015). 10 things to know before you travel to Budapest. Retrieved 8 March 2016, from http://nomadandcamera.com/blog/10-things-to-know-before-you-travel-to-budapest
8 National Geographic. (n.d.). Istanbul travel basics. Retrieved 7 March 2016, from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/istanbul-travel-basics/
9 Lonely Planet. (n.d.). Money and costs in Istanbul. Retrieved 7 March 2016, from http://www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey/istanbul/money-costs