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Travel industry news

16 Mar 2019

BY Jennifer Morris


Eastern promise of cheaper city breaks

Head east for the best travel deals, says Post Office Travel Money’s new City Costs Barometer. Jennifer Morris reports.

Biggest city price falls databox March 2019

Eastern Europe’s lesser-visited gems dominate Post Office Travel Money’s latest expanded City Costs Barometer for value, it has been revealed.

Vilnius and Belgrade head a list of emerging cities where costs are lower than in more established eastern favourites such as Budapest, Krakow and Tallinn. Porto is the only city in Western Europe to rank among the 10 cheapest places for a bargain break. The 2019 report also found prices have fallen in two-thirds of cities surveyed.

Lithuanian capital Vilnius narrowly beat Belgrade to take the top spot in the 2019 City Costs Barometer. At £147.35, the total cost of 12 typical spending items – including a range of drinks, an evening meal for two with wine, two nights’ three-star weekend accommodation, sightseeing charges and city transport – was down 11.1% year-on-year. Prices in Serbian capital Belgrade, one of 10 cities first surveyed last August for the Post Office Unsung Cities Report, were £4 higher at £151.57 – a rise of 1.9%.

The only other top 10 city where prices have risen since last spring is Riga (up 3.4% to £179, seventh in the table), although accommodation in the Latvian capital remains the cheapest in Europe at £67 for a two-night stay for two people sharing a room.

Best-value cities

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Warsaw (£160) rose to third place from fourth last year after an 11.5% fall in prices. Costs are also down 7% in Moscow (£187, ninth) and 5.3% in Prague (£190, tenth), enabling both cities to retain top 10 places.

In addition to Belgrade, there are four other new entrants to the 10 best value cities. Bucharest (fifth, £168), Porto (sixth, £173) and Bratislava (eighth, £182) are among the Unsung Cities first featured last August, and prices in all three have dropped since then. Istanbul (£167), is one of four new cities to be surveyed, and achieved fourth place because of the ongoing weakness of the Turkish lira – currently worth 31% less than a year ago against sterling.

Budapest, Athens, Krakow, Lisbon and Lille have dropped out of the top 10 best value cities as a result.

Prices have also fallen in 29 of the 44 cities for which Post Office Travel Money also researched prices in 2018. A total of 12 cities saw falls of 10% or more, boosted in part by a stronger pound, but also by lower local prices.

The biggest falls were for favourites such as Venice, where prices dropped more than 23%, and Amsterdam – once again the most expensive Eurozone city surveyed – despite a 17% fall in costs.

Stronger sterling

Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four UK currency transactions, said: “Sterling is currently stronger than a year ago against every European currency but that could change, so people should consider both exchange rates and other costs they will incur on a city break before booking.

“Canny travellers can save hundreds of pounds by comparing the cost of accommodation and picking a city where hotel prices are low, and where meals and drinks are also cheap. This applies to most cities in Eastern Europe, but also to Porto, Athens and Lisbon.”

Meanwhile, prices have risen in 15 cities, although the increases were below 4% in 10 of these. The biggest price rise of 21.2% was in Krakow, last year’s best-value city, while higher accommodation prices in Lille led to an 18.8% overall increase.

The five Nordic capitals (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Reykjavik and Oslo) were again among the priciest cities in the Post Office report. Stockholm was the cheapest of these at £395, while Reykjavik was the most expensive city overall. However, the Icelandic capital’s £463 barometer total was almost 10% lower year-on-year, thanks to the sterling surge.

Brown added: “Budget carefully before setting off on a city break in Europe and keep an eye on currency fluctuations. Change enough money before leaving home to cover likely costs, especially as there are better exchange rates for higher-value Post Office branch or online transactions.”

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