Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Ellen
The summer of 2023: how much money did we spend hanging out in Southeast Europe? We explored and enjoyed Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria by bus and train over three months, and we were pleasantly surprised by the overall cost.
We arrived on June 17 (flight from UAE) and departed into Türkiye (via bus at a Bulgarian land border) on September 15.
The complete itinerary is below.
10 nights — Belgrade, Serbia
3 nights — Timisoara, Romania
4 nights — Alba Iulia, Romania
4 nights — Sibiu, Romania
3 nights — Brasov, Romania
28 nights — Bucharest, Romania
3 nights — Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
4 nights — Nessebar, Bulgaria
30 nights — Varna, Bulgaria
As you can see, we mixed our typical slow travel with more touristy spurts of sightseeing and short stays throughout the eastern Balkans.
In all honesty, after spending more than four years in low-cost Asia (including the ‘COVID years’), we were concerned our return to the European continent might blow up our budget. But in the end, we are super satisfied with our 2023 summer spending.
So what did it all cost in total? Below are the exact figures.
$2276 — Housing
$1083 — Restaurants
$826 — Groceries
$739 — Excursions
$668 — Charity/Gifts
$544 — Supplies
$388 — Distance travel
$226 — Beer
$180 — Local transport
$56 — Health
$6,986 2 persons / 90 days
$77.62 per day total!
It was a great summer – to say the least! And while we were watchful of our budget, we don’t feel we skimped on anything. We enjoyed unforgettable human history, nature, culture, food & drink, music, art, beaches, and people. And did it all for an average of $77.62 per day!
A reminder: we are absolutely certain of these expenses because each morn over coffee/tea we record the previous day’s spending — every penny — in our “Spending Tracker” cell phone app. Any given time period is then easily totaled or dissected. We highly advise everyone (retired travelers or not) to record and review their spending to better understand their finances and future.
Further notes and observations
We’ve aimed to keep our total monthly costs under $2,000 ever since we started our global vagabonding in 2015. Amazingly, we were very close to that goal for this 2023 time period and location.
In fact, charitable giving is mostly what pushed us ‘over budget’. Still, we feel it’s only right to share our blessings whenever possible.
The ‘Supplies’ category is abnormally high. Clothing, shoes, some small electronics, and online subscription renewals comprise most of that total.
In contrast, the ‘Health’ category is very low. We addressed various medical issues before we left India. And a long-term prescription drug has been discontinued.
Admittedly, we got fantastic prices on our two month-long Airbnb stays. Most similar units were much more costly. But methodical searching and booking early saved hundreds on housing — and proves it can be done.
Finally, an important point I often mention: my wife Ellen does not drink alcohol. I consume a few beers a day – but mostly carry-out. Buying drinks, wine, American liquors at restaurants and bars could easily double a dinner tab and add hundreds per month.
Why the Eastern Balkans?
In our view, the eastern Balkan countries remain an overlooked tourist area. Understandably, their proximity to the war in Ukraine is worrisome. But for tens of millions of people, the region is home (including fleeing Ukrainians and Russians). We had no real worries about our summer-long stay.
For the record, at present (2023), Americans can stay 90 days out of 180 in each Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria. Visas are free upon arrival. Prices throughout the east Balkans are similar, and seem moderate by western standards. The surroundings are pleasant, orderly, and often historic. The people respectful (but speak limited English). We expect to spend more time in the region in coming years.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Summer spending breakdown for Eastern Balkans.”
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