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Europe on a Budget: Cheapest Self-Catering Havens

Is staying at hotels and eating out too expensive these days? Stay at a flat with a kitchen, cook at home, and save big!

Inflation has made travelling much more expensive than it used to be. In addition, many airlines and hotels are trying to recover some of their losses during the pandemic. Anyhow, you can save on self-catering and grocery shopping, allowing you to explore vibrant cultures when visiting the local market or food shop! According to a Scandinavian Bank, these are the cheapest European countries to shop for groceries:

Turkey: Where East Meets West with Culinary Delights

Photo by iStock
Photo by Hussein a Himmati/Unsplash

Steeped in history and boasting stunning beaches, Turkey is a paradise for self-caterers. Explore the bustling Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, marvel at the ancient ruins of Ephesus, or soak up the sun on the turquoise Aegean coast. Fuel your day with a hearty breakfast of menemen, a symphony of eggs scrambled with peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Tantalize your taste buds in the evening with succulent kebabs and artfully grilled skewers of marinated meat and vegetables.


Try your hand at İmam Bayıldı (stuffed eggplant), a vegetarian delight.

Hollow out eggplants and brush with olive oil. Sauté chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic, and parsley—season with allspice and cinnamon. 

Stuff the eggplant mixture and bake until tender. Drizzle with lemon juice and garnish with fresh herbs for a taste of Turkish culinary magic.


Turkish Lira (TRY). One lira is divided into one hundred kuruş.

North Macedonia: Balkan Beauty on a Shoestring with Hearty Fare

Photo by Antonio Janeski/Unsplash
Photo by Ervo Rocks/Unsplash

North Macedonia offers a taste of the Balkans without the crowds. Hike the scenic trails of Lake Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or delve into the rich history of Skopje, the capital city. 

Embrace the national treasure, tavče gravče, a simple yet soul-satisfying dish of baked beans in an earthenware pot. Aromatic spices and slow cooking coax out the deep flavours of the beans, making it a perfect comfort food.


Recreate tavče gravče at home.

Photo by Oliver Manev/Wikimedia

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add diced tomatoes, kidney beans, and vegetable broth—season with paprika, bay leaf, and a sprinkle of sugar. 

Simmer for at least an hour, then transfer to an earthenware pot (or baking dish) and bake until a crust forms on top.


Macedonian Denar (MKD).Though subdivided into one hundred deni (дени), coins with a denomination of less than one denar are no longer in use.

Romania: Unveiling Medieval Magic, Dracula's Legacy, and Hearty Flavors

The city of Brasov. Photo by Zoltan Rakottyai/Unsplash
The city of Brasov. Photo by Dan Novac/Pixabay

Journey back in time with Romania's captivating castles, like the legendary Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle). Explore the charming city of Brasov, or unwind in the Transylvania countryside. 

Savour the hearty flavours of sarmale, a dish steeped in history. Tender grape leaves are meticulously stuffed with seasoned ground meat, rice, and onions, then simmered in a flavorful broth.


Unwrap the mystery of sarmale at home.

Photo by iStock

Prepare a mixture of ground pork, beef, or lamb with rice, chopped onions, garlic, and spices like paprika and dill. Blanch grape leaves and meticulously wrap the filling inside. 

Layer the rolls in a pot, cover with broth, and simmer for at least an hour. Savour the tender leaves, bursting with flavour.


Romanian Leu (RON). Each leu is divided into 100 bani. 

Poland: Where History and Pierogi Collide

Photo by Jacek Dylag/Unsplash
Photo by Pixabay

Uncover the poignant history of Poland in Krakow, a city reborn after World War II. Explore the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps to pay your respects, or stroll through the charming Old Town Square. 

For an authentic taste of Poland, devour pierogi, and delectable dumplings filled with savoury or sweet ingredients. From potato and cheese to sauerkraut and mushroom, the possibilities are endless.


Master the art of pierogi at home.

Photo by Getty Images/Unsplash

Prepare a dough with flour, water, eggs, and a pinch of salt. Make various fillings – try mashed potatoes and fried onions for a classic, or experiment with sauerkraut and mushrooms. 

Roll out the dough, cut circles, and fill them with your chosen delights. Seal the edges, boil the pierogi until they float, and pan-fry for a touch of crispness. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy a taste of Polish comfort food.


Polish Złoty (PLN). It is subdivided into 100 grosz (gr).

Albania: Unveiling the Adriatic Coast's Untamed Beauty and Culinary Gems

Photo by Elion Jashari/Unsplash
Photo by Unsplash

Albania boasts stunning beaches along the Adriatic coastline, with turquoise waters and dramatic cliffs. Hike the Albanian Alps, explore the historic city of Berat, or relax on the beach. 

Sample byrek, a flaky pastry with savory fillings, a delightful on-the-go snack. For a refreshing experience, try frescat, a yoghurt drink flavoured with rosewater or other aromatic options—perfect for a hot summer day.


Bake a batch of byrek at home.

Photo by Alamy

Prepare a dough with flour, water, oil, and a pinch of salt. Sauté onions, peppers, and your choice of protein (lamb, chicken, or spinach are popular options) for the savoury filling. Alternatively, create a sweet version with chopped nuts, honey, and cinnamon. 

Layer the filling between filo pastry sheets, brush with oil, and bake until golden brown. Byrek is a versatile dish you can enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or snacks.


Albanian Lek (ALL). The Lek is subdivided into 100 qindarka (no longer in circulation).

Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Cultural Tapestry with Delectable Dishes

Photo by Laurynas Zizys/Unsplash

Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a unique blend of Ottoman, European, and Slavic influences, reflected in its cuisine. Explore the captivating city of Mostar, famous for its iconic bridge, or delve into the rich history of Sarajevo. 

Ćevapi (grilled sausages in flatbread) are a national obsession – slight, succulent sausages nestled in warm somun (flatbread) and often accompanied by chopped onions and kajmak (a clotted cream).


Bring a taste of Bosnia and Herzegovina home with ćevapi.

Photo by Pixabay

Mix ground beef or lamb with minced onions, garlic, and spices like paprika and nutmeg. Form into small sausages and grill over hot coals or a stovetop grill pan. 

Pile into somun bread, add chopped onions and a dollop of kajmak (or sour cream for a substitute) for a delicious and authentic experience.


Convertible Mark (BAM). It is divided into 100 Pfenig or Fening

Bulgaria: Budget-Friendly Beaches, Rich History, and Culinary Adventures

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Plamen Vlaev/Pixabay

Bulgaria's Black Sea coast offers beautiful beaches and charming seaside resorts for a relaxing getaway. Explore the ancient city of Nessebar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or delve into the vibrant capital city of Sofia. 

Banitsa, a flaky pastry with cheese or vegetables, is a popular breakfast choice. In the evenings, delve into moussaka, a layered eggplant dish with ground meat, tomatoes, and a creamy béchamel sauce – a delightful symphony of textures and flavours.


Recreate the magic of moussaka at home.

Photo by Pixabay

Brown ground meat with onions and garlic. Layer sliced eggplant, the meat mixture, and a diced tomato sauce in a baking dish. Top with a creamy béchamel sauce made with butter, flour, milk, and grated cheese. 

Bake until golden brown and bubbly, and enjoy a taste of Bulgarian culinary tradition.


Bulgarian Lev (BGN). Each lev, meaning 'lion' in old Bulgarian, can be divided into 100 stotinki. The plural of lev is leva.

So pack your reusable grocery bags and unleash your inner explorer! With some planning and these captivating destinations as your guide, Europe awaits on a budget, ready to be discovered on your self-catering adventure.



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