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The Cheapest Country in the Balkans: A Comprehensive Guide for Budget Travelers

History, culture, and affordability all converge in the Blanks. Often overshadowed by its Western European counterparts, this region offers travelers a unique experience without the hefty price tag. 

By almost all metrics, Kosovo is the cheapest country in the Balkans, followed closely by Turkey and North Macedonia. Tourists can easily get by on $50 or less per day in Kosovo, and the current cost of living is cheapest here, too. 

But from the ancient ruins in Albania to the bustling markets of Bosnia, this entire region is a goldmine for those seeking authentic experiences on a budget.

So, why is the Balkans a top pick for budget travelers? Keep reading!

A map of the Balkans with a dollar sign on it.

Understanding the Balkans: A Quick Overview

For solo female travelers and backpackers alike, the Balkans is a dream destination. It’s safe, diverse, and most importantly, wallet-friendly. 

Moreover, the Balkans’ lesser-known status as a tourist destination means fewer crowds and a more authentic experience. You get to interact with locals, delve into traditions, and immerse yourself in cultures that have remained relatively untouched by mass tourism.

CountryAverage Cost of Living (per month)Average Price of Cappuccino
Kosovo$380Not specified
Turkey$515$1.57
North Macedonia$629$1.31
Bosnia and Herzegovina$655$1.28
Romania$784$1.29
Bulgaria$786$1.26
Albania$792$1.31
Montenegro$861$1.31
Serbia$923$1.28
Croatia$1,074$1.64
Greece$1,087$3.71
Slovenia$1,230$1.78
Source: Livingcost.org and Yahoo!Finance

The Balkans, often referred to as the “Balkan Peninsula,” is a region in Southeast Europe characterized by its mountainous terrain and a rich tapestry of cultures. Bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas to the south, and the Black Sea to the east, its strategic location has made it a crossroads of civilizations for millennia.

Balkan Geography and Countries 

The Balkans comprises several countries, each with a distinct identity and heritage. There is no ‘official’ list of every Balkan country, but the following are what are widely recognized as belonging to the region: 

  1. Albania
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Croatia
  5. Kosovo (Note: Kosovo is a partially recognized state and a disputed territory. While it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, not all countries recognize its sovereignty.)
  6. Montenegro
  7. North Macedonia (formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM)
  8. Romania (partially, as only the southern part of Romania is in the Balkans)
  9. Serbia
  10. Slovenia (partially, as only the southern part of Slovenia is in the Balkans)
  11. Greece (partially, as only the northern part of Greece is in the Balkans)
  12. Turkey (partially, as only the European part of Turkey, known as East Thrace, Turkish Thrace, or European Turkey is in the Balkans)

While some definitions might include other neighboring countries as part of the Balkans, this list represents the core nations most commonly associated with the region.

The city of istanbul at sunset.
Find some of the most beautiful cityscapes in Europe in the Balkans

Balkan Culture and History

The Balkans is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and languages, as the region has been a battleground and a bridge between the East and West for centuries. Here, orthodox churches, Islamic mosques, and Roman ruins coexist. 

Balkan history is a complex web of empires, wars, and revolutions, reflected in its unique architecture, art, and traditions.

Balkan Economies

The fall of communism in the late 20th century and the subsequent wars of the 1990s had profound economic implications on the Balkan region. Fast forward to today, and many Balkan countries are on a journey of economic recovery and growth, with some even eyeing membership in the European Union.

That said, despite the recovery and the region, when you stack up the costs of traveling in the Balkans against those in Western Europe, the difference is stark. 

Accommodation, for instance, can be significantly cheaper here than elsewhere in Europe. A comfortable hostel bed or a private room in a guesthouse in the Balkans can cost as little as $10-$30 a night, whereas in cities like Paris or London, you might be looking at upwards of $50 for a hostel bed alone. 

Dining out, too, can be much cheaper, without sacrificing quality. A hearty meal in a local eatery in the Balkans can set you back just $5-$10, while a similar meal in Western Europe might cost $20 or more.

Meanwhile, the Balkan economies are as diverse as their landscapes. While some countries like Slovenia and Greece have more developed economies with strong ties to Western Europe, others like Albania and Kosovo are still emerging. Tourism, agriculture, and remittances play significant roles in many of these economies.

Balkan Currencies

  • Albania: Albanian lek (ALL)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnian convertible mark (BAM)
  • Bulgaria: Bulgarian lev (BGN)
  • Croatia: Croatian kuna (HRK)
  • Kosovo: Euro (EUR)
  • Montenegro: Euro (EUR)
  • North Macedonia: Macedonian denar (MKD)
  • Romania: Romanian leu (RON)
  • Serbia: Serbian dinar (RSD)
  • Slovenia: Euro (EUR)
  • Greece: Euro (EUR)
  • Turkey: Turkish lira (TRY)

Is it Cheap to Travel in the Balkans?

It can be very cheap to travel in the Balkans. The region has steadily gained a reputation as a haven for budget travelers, offering experiences that rival those of Western Europe at a fraction of the cost. 

What Does “Cheap” Really Mean? Let’s be clear: “cheap” in the Balkans doesn’t mean cutting corners on experiences. Quite the opposite! 

Whether it’s savoring a hearty meal in a local eatery, exploring ancient ruins without the jostling crowds, or finding quaint accommodations with heartwarming hospitality, the Balkans delivers. 

The region’s cost-effectiveness is about getting more bang for your buck, not compromising on quality. It offers a plethora of experiences that are rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. 

Kosovo: A Budget Traveler’s Dream

A cloudy sky over Prizren, Kosovo
Prizren, Kosovo

Kosovo stands out as one of the most affordable countries not just in the Balkans, but in the world, rivaling even some destinations in Southeast Asia. 

Despite using the Euro as its official currency, the prices for various services and commodities in Kosovo are considerably lower than in many other European nations.

Of course, individual prices will vary. But based on the experience of several travelers and tourist websites, you can expect the following prices for travel in Kosovo. 

Accommodation: Mid-range hotels are the norm for many travelers, with prices averaging around $33.37 per night. For instance, decent hotels in Pristina and Peje can be found for around $34.50 per night, while in Prizren, it’s slightly higher at $36.23. 

For those willing to stay in hostels, the cost can be even lower.

Many of the top ranked hotels in Kosovo are $100 per night – or a lot less. Check them out here.

Transportation: The primary expense in transportation comes from taxis, especially to and from the Pristina airport, which can cost between $17.25 to $23.00. Long-distance buses around Kosovo are a bargain at $4.60 each.

Food: The capital city Pristina boasts a variety of restaurants and cafes, with the average daily spend on food being around $10.83. Alcohol is also quite cheap here. 

Activities: Most activities in Kosovo are incredibly affordable. For instance, visiting the monastery in Peje costs only $2.30. Many attractions, like the castle ruins in Prizren, have no entry fee. There are some museums in Pristina and other activities that might have a fee, but overall, activity expenses are minimal.

All in all, a traveler in Kosovo can expect to spend an average of $48.95 per day, excluding flights. This makes Kosovo an attractive destination for budget travelers, offering a rich cultural experience without burning a hole in your pocket.

A view of a mountain valley in the Sharr Mountains with rocks and boulders.

Daily Travel Budgets for Balkan Countries, Ranked

Kosovo is great, but it’s hardly the only budget-friendly country to explore in this area. 

According to Budget Your Trip and other travel bloggers, here’s what you can expect to spend per day at various countries in the Balkans: 

  • North Macedonia – $57/day
  • Turkey – $60/day
  • Albania – $69/day
  • Bulgaria – $71/day
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – $75/day
  • Romania – $85/day
  • Croatia – $107
  • Slovenia – $102/day
  • Greece – $169/day
A graphic of a woman is looking at a map of bosnia and serbia.

Of course, your experience will vary, based on your preferences. We’ll cover some ways to make your trip even more affordable below. Or, if you want to splurge, go for it!

Cheapest Country in the Balkans to Live

The Balkans, with its rich tapestry of cultures and landscapes, isn’t just a traveler’s paradise; it’s also becoming a sought-after destination for those looking to settle down without the high costs associated with many Western countries. 

But which Balkan nation offers the most bang for your buck when it comes to living expenses?

Factors to Consider: When evaluating the cost of living, it’s essential to look beyond just rent. A holistic view includes utilities, groceries, entertainment, and those little indulgences that make life sweet.

  • Rent: Housing costs can vary widely based on the city and type of accommodation. Whether you’re looking for a city-center apartment or a quiet home in the countryside, the Balkans offers options to fit various budgets.
  • Utilities: Think electricity, water, heating, and the internet. While generally affordable across the region, there are variations from one country to another.
  • Groceries: Fresh produce markets, local dairies, and bakeries are staples in the Balkans. The cost of groceries is relatively low, especially if you embrace local products and seasonal produce.
  • Entertainment: From vibrant nightlife to cultural events, the cost of entertainment is another factor that can influence the overall cost of living.

Based on our research, Kosovo is the most affordable country in the Balkans for long-term living. With an average monthly cost of living for a single person at around $500, it’s hard to beat the value Kosovo offers. Pristina, its capital, boasts a lively atmosphere, burgeoning tech scene, and a mix of modernity and tradition.

Of course, economies change, as do your needs. Kosovo may not be right for you, right now, for a variety of reasons. 

While Kosovo stands out for affordability, other cities in the Balkans deserve mention for the value they offer:

  • Skopje, North Macedonia: A blend of the old and new, Skopje offers affordable living with a rich cultural scene.
  • Tirana, Albania: The Albanian capital is known for its colorful buildings, vibrant street life, and low living costs.
  • Belgrade, Serbia: A city that never sleeps, Belgrade offers a mix of history, culture, and affordability.

Ultimately, the Balkans presents a range of options for those seeking an affordable yet fulfilling living experience. Whether you’re a digital nomad, a retiree, or someone looking for a change of pace, this region promises a life rich in experiences without the hefty price tag.

A grassy field with mountains in the background in Albania, ideal for solo travelers relying on public transport.

Cost of Living In The Balkans: From Cheapest to Most Expensive

Whether you’re thinking of moving or just want to explore the Balkans, understanding the cost of living can help provide a more complete window into daily life and expenses. 

Based on our research and the data gathered from various sources, including livingcost.org, Yahoo! Finance, and other travel and finance-related websites, here’s a list of Balkan countries ranked in order by their average monthly cost of living for a single person:

  1. Kosovo: $500
  2. Turkey: $515
  3. North Macedonia: $550
  4. Albania: $565
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina: $570
  6. Bulgaria: $600
  7. Serbia: $610
  8. Romania: $650
  9. Montenegro: $700
  10. Croatia: $800
  11. Greece: $850
  12. Slovenia: $1,000

It’s worth noting that while some countries might appear more expensive on this list, they might offer other advantages like better infrastructure, healthcare, or education. Always consider the broader picture when evaluating the cost of living.

And of course, expect this data to change over time. 

A woman is taking a picture of a town with a cell phone.

Stretch Your Travel Budget Further in the Balkans

The Balkans, with its affordability and diverse offerings, is already a dream for budget travelers. 

But with a few savvy strategies, you can stretch your budget even further, ensuring you get the most out of every dollar spent. 

Here’s where I would start:

Accommodation:

  • Choose Hostels: Especially popular among solo travelers and backpackers, hostels in the Balkans are not only affordable but also offer a chance to meet fellow travelers. Many come with added perks like free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and communal kitchens.
  • Choose Guesthouses: For those seeking a more local experience, guesthouses or ‘pensions’ are the way to go. Often family-run, they provide a homely atmosphere and sometimes even home-cooked meals.
  • Choose Affordable Hotels: Don’t be surprised to find well-rated hotels at prices that would be unthinkable in Western Europe. 
A woman in a striped t-shirt is using a key to open a locker in a hostel
Using hostels can be a cheap and easy way to save money in the Balkans

Food:

  • Enjoy Local Eateries: Dive into the local culinary scene by dining at small, family-owned restaurants. Not only will you get authentic dishes, but the prices are often much lower than touristy spots.
  • Enjoy Street Food: From burek in Bosnia to kebabs in Turkey, the Balkans is a street food lover’s paradise. Delicious, quick, and easy on the pocket.
  • Shop At Markets: Fresh produce markets are a staple in the region. They’re perfect for picking up local cheeses, fruits, and other delicacies at a fraction of supermarket prices.

Transportation:

  • Use Public Transport: Buses and trams are prevalent in most Balkan cities and are an economical way to get around. Tickets are usually purchased in advance from kiosks or directly from the driver.
  • Use Shared Rides: Apps like BlaBlaCar are gaining popularity in the region, allowing travelers to share rides and split costs.
  • Use Budget Airlines: While the Balkans is well-connected by buses and trains, there are also several budget airlines that offer cheap flights between major cities, especially if booked in advance.

Activities:

  • Explore Free Attractions: Many Balkan cities have historical sites, parks, and landmarks that are free to visit. For instance, walking around the old towns of cities like Dubrovnik or Plovdiv won’t cost you a dime.
  • Take Walking Tours: Many cities offer ‘pay-what-you-wish’ walking tours, where local guides share their knowledge, and you tip based on your experience.
  • Seek Out Budget-friendly Experiences: Museums, galleries, and cultural events in the Balkans are generally affordable. Look out for discounted or free entry days.

In essence, the Balkans offers a plethora of experiences that don’t require deep pockets. With a bit of planning and these budget-friendly tips, your Balkan adventure can be both enriching and economical.

But …. Are The Balkans Safe?

Traveling on a budget is great, but no amount of savings is worth compromising your safety. 

Fortunately, the Balkans, with its warm hospitality and rich traditions, is generally a safe region, including for solo female travelers. Indeed, contrary to some outdated perceptions, the Balkans has evolved into a region that welcomes tourists with safe and open arms. 

landscape impage of village in kotor bay, montenegro

The majority of travelers to the Balkans recount positive experiences, highlighting the kindness of locals and the ease of navigating the region. For solo female travelers, this is particularly reassuring. 

While it’s always essential to exercise caution, many women have traversed the Balkans alone, cherishing the freedom and the connections they’ve made along the way.

General Safety Tips For Traveling In The Balkans

  • Stay Informed: Before traveling, familiarize yourself with the local customs and any recent events in the region. Knowledge is your best defense.
  • Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, trust your gut. Whether it’s an area, a situation, or a person, it’s okay to remove yourself if you’re uncomfortable.
  • Keep Valuables Secure: Use money belts or hidden pouches to store essential documents and money. While pickpocketing isn’t rampant, it’s always better to be safe.
  • Stay Connected: Share your itinerary with someone you trust and regularly check in. Having a local SIM card can be invaluable for emergencies.

Specific Concerns in Certain Countries or Regions

While the Balkans is generally safe, there are nuances to consider:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: While the war ended decades ago, it’s essential to be aware of landmines in remote areas. Stick to marked paths and heed local advice.
  • Kosovo and Serbia: Political tensions can sometimes flare up. Stay updated on current events and avoid discussing sensitive topics.
  • Night Travel: In some areas, especially smaller towns, it’s advisable for solo female travelers to avoid walking alone late at night. Opt for reputable taxis or rideshares if needed.

Beyond the Price Tag: Balkan Experiences Worth the Splurge

While the Balkans is a haven for budget travelers, some experiences, though pricier, are simply too precious to pass up.

  • Sailing the Adriatic: Croatia’s Dalmatian coast offers breathtaking sailing adventures. The azure waters and historic towns are worth every penny.
  • Montenegro’s Luxury Resorts: Overlooking the Bay of Kotor, some resorts offer unparalleled luxury and views. A night or two here is pure indulgence – Montenegro definitely isn’t expensive for travelers!
  • Culinary Tours: Dive deep into the region’s gastronomy. From Bulgarian wines to Albanian cheeses, guided culinary tours offer a rich taste of the Balkans.
  • Historical and Cultural Festivals: Events like Serbia’s EXIT Festival or the Plovdiv Night of Museums in Bulgaria might come with a ticket price, but the experience is unparalleled.
Aerial view of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Strike The Right Balance In The Balkans

Travel is about memories, not just money. While it’s wise to save where you can, don’t shy away from splurging on experiences that will stay with you forever. After all, travel is as much about moments as it is about budgets.

The Balkans, with its blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, offers an experience that’s rich in depth and diversity. While its affordability is a significant draw, the true value lies in the stories, the landscapes, and the connections you’ll make.

So, pack your bags and set your sights on the Balkans. Beyond the allure of budget-friendly travel, awaits a region teeming with experiences that are priceless in every sense.

Related Questions For Balkan Travel

Which is the safest country in the Balkans?

Serbia and Slovenia are often ranked among the safest country in the Balkans, with low crime rates and a stable political environment. However, safety can change over time and can be subjective based on various factors. Tourists should do extra research before they travel to any country to get the most up-to-date safety information. 

What is the most expensive country in the Balkans?

Greece and Croatia are generally considered the most expensive countries in the Balkans in terms of cost of living and travel expenses. That said, economies shift over time and can be influenced by a variety of factors , including tourism trends and global events.

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