When planning a trip to Romania and Bulgaria, it’s essential to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. This article is not about narrowing your focus solely on traveling with a tight budget. Instead, we aim to guide travelers in searching for and selecting the most suitable options for their needs. 

Why visit Romania and Bulgaria?

One article is probably not enough to paint a complete picture of all the wonderful reasons to visit Balkan countries like Romania and Bulgaria. And when words are not enough, all you are left to do is visit and see with your own eyes the rich history, stunning landscapes, vibrant cultures, and all the ways these countries can offer an unforgettable experience. 

The best part? You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy everything Romania and Bulgaria offer. A fun and affordable trip to the Balkans is possible if you consider budget-friendly flights, local culture and cuisine, souvenirs, and welcoming accommodations.

But before proceeding, it’s essential to grasp the currencies utilized in these two countries and how they compare to the Euro (EUR) and United States Dollar (USD).

Currency Exchange Rates

Before embarking on a journey to Romania and Bulgaria, one must become acquainted with their respective currencies and exchange rates. In Romania, the official currency is the Romanian Leu (RON), while in Bulgaria, it’s the Bulgarian Lev (BGN). As of September 2023, the exchange rates are as follows: 

1 EUR = 4.945267 RON / 1.955031 BGN

1 USD = 4.5602 RON / 1.802445 BGN 

Understanding these exchange rates will facilitate effective budget planning and ensure that every penny is well spent! 

Planning your budget for your Romania & Bulgaria trip

When globe-trotters embark on their adventures, scoring well-researched flights becomes a game-changer, especially when jetting off to Europe’s alluring Balkans. It’s not just about getting where you want to go; it’s about saving those precious travel bucks to squeeze more out of your escapades.

In today’s tech-savvy world, there are nifty ways to snag budget-friendly flights. One essential tip is to be flexible with travel dates, which can unlock significant savings. Additionally, fare comparison websites are your best friends; they provide a comprehensive overview of available flights and their prices, enabling you to make informed choices. 

Moreover, consider exploring airlines that offer budget fares, and always watch for promotions and deals. Your adventure begins with the flight, so why not make it as memorable and affordable as possible?

Now, let’s talk tools. When you aim to bag budget flights, make Skyscanner your first pit stop. It’s like the guru of European budget airlines, laying out all your options in a neat little package. Plus, it also got your back with the significant non-budget carriers. 

And hey, there are other excellent websites to check out, like the trusty all-rounder Kayak. But when you’re feeling fancy, give Momondo a whirl. It doesn’t just show you the best deals for your set dates; it’s got a trick up its sleeve, letting you in on those nearby airports that might have even better offers (make sure you’re on the same page about which airport you’re talking about).

Are there any strings attached?

When searching for affordable airfares, awareness of potential challenges is essential. Those budget-friendly tickets often have limitations: they’re usually nonrefundable and can’t be changed once booked.

To make sure your travel plans go off without a hitch, we recommend taking the time to carefully read all the details in the fine print before you book your flight. This way, you’ll have a crystal-clear understanding of what you’re signing up for. 

Another thing to consider is… You are traveling to Europe!!! This means clothes for multiple weather scenarios are in order, shoes, supplies, medicine, not to mention all the souvenirs…All these need room in your bags! So what about luggage fees? 

When booking tickets with many budget airlines, paying the baggage fee upfront during the booking process is wise. Remember that on these airlines, the cost per checked bag tends to rise as the departure date approaches. Additionally, travelers should know that extra charges might apply if they bring a second carry-on, check larger or heavier luggage, or carry odd-sized items like baby equipment. 

Another important tip is that European carry-on size requirements can differ from other carriers, and budget airlines often have smaller limits. To avoid any unwelcome surprises, it’s crucial to carefully review the airline’s baggage policy before confirming the booking. 

Be extra prepared

These are all great tips, but as any traveler knows, many unpredictable things may occur. To be extra-prepared is something everybody should take into consideration, so what about travel insurance? Consider this scenario:

  • You might require medical attention due to an injury or illness.
  • Your meticulously planned trip could face an unexpected cancellation.
  • You might find yourself separated from your luggage.
  • You could even face a situation that necessitates an abrupt return to your home country. 

Fortunately, travel insurance has your back, covering these unexpected costs and sparing you from potential financial burdens that could run into several thousand dollars.

Finding your accommodation

Regarding accommodation, Romania and Bulgaria offer fantastic value for money. You can find quality and comfort at 3-star and 4-star hotels for a fraction of the cost in Western Europe. A night at a 3-star Balkan hotel has an average price of 25$ – 52$.

In contrast, in other parts of Europe, that average would start at 110$, considering that you will receive the same amount of services, commodities, and comfort. Bigger cities and highly trafficked areas will likely be more expensive than smaller cities or rural areas.

Airbnb is a fantastic option for budget-conscious travelers exploring the Balkans, and it’s also a fantastic means to dive into the local scene of your host destination.

If you are not so much into the hotel culture, booking an Airbnb in Europe can save you up to 60%. Depending on your location, an entire apartment can cost around €40-50 per night. This is a good option if you want more privacy while sticking to a budget.

Viscri Blue Traditional House – Airbnb

But if you’re more about discovering unique stays that can immerse you into the Balkan culture, we suggest researching some of the special Airbnbs like a cabin, a traditional rural home, or a boutique-type stay. You’ll often find unique listings that offer an authentic taste of local life, and Romania and Bulgaria have many options!

When choosing your accommodation, aim for a sweet spot that balances cost, service quality, and the unique experiences that come with your choice.

Transportation in Bulgaria & Romania

Public transportation is generally affordable and reliable in significant cities. You can expect reasonable prices in Romania and Bulgaria for the metro (2$ two-trip card), bus, and tram tickets(0.65$).

Taxi is not a very good option for the Balkans: the yellow cabs you will see parked on the sides of the road tend to overcharge tourists daily. If you need a quick ride, opt for a Bolt or an Uber – download the apps prior, and you can even enjoy rides with discounts! 

However, renting a car can be cost-effective and convenient when traveling between cities or exploring remote areas: the average rental price per day is 23 $. 

Alternatively, you can simplify your journey by relying on the services of a trip operator like Balkan Trails, which handles all the logistics for you! 

Exploring Balkan Food

Local Cuisine

One of the highlights of visiting Romania and Bulgaria is indulging in their delicious cuisine. Traditional dishes are hearty, filling, and often meat-centric. You’ll find portions to be generous, and the overall cost of a meal is budget-friendly. 

Eating your way through the Balkans won’t just tantalize your taste buds but also leave your wallet smiling. The region is a haven for budget-conscious travelers looking to savor authentic Balkan cuisine without breaking the bank.

Whether you’re a breakfast enthusiast or a late-night snacker, the Balkans have you covered. A hearty portion of burek or a rich Turkish-style coffee can be enjoyed for as little as €1. That’s right, a delicious breakfast that won’t make a dent in your budget!

Sarmale – cabbage rolls

To get a taste of the local flavors, consider dining at traditional restaurants and trying dishes like ciorba – Romanian sour soup, sarmale – Romanian cabbage rolls, banitsa – Bulgarian cheese pie, kavarma – Bulgarian stew – we wrote a couple articles on the topic of Balkan cuisine, have a look on our blog! 

Banitsa – Bulgarian Pie

For those craving something more substantial, fast food favorites like sandwiches, plijeskavica, or kebabs offer a belly-filling experience at a wallet-friendly price, ranging from 2$ to 5$. Even if you’re in the mood for a sit-down meal at a mid-range restaurant, you can expect to pay an average of just 10 $ for a starter and a main dish. 

But if you’re a penny-pincher or prefer a cozy homemade meal, groceries in the Balkans are a steal, costing about half of what you’d pay at a restaurant. With some savvy shopping, you can easily enjoy delectable Balkan meals for a mere 10-15$ a day. So, eat, explore, and savor the Balkans without worrying about your budget! 

Here are a few price ranges to consider for daily purchases that might occur:

  • The average cost of a traditional meal in capital cities: 8- 20 $ 
  • The price of one coffee in Romania or Bulgaria: 1.65 – 4.31 $ 
  • Cost of bottled water in supermarkets: 0.5-0.7$ 
  • Cost of a beer at the restaurant: 1-4 $ 

Cultural attractions. Landmarks.

Luckily for travelers on a budget, a good chunk of the must-see attractions in the major Balkan cities won’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, many of these gems are either entirely free or request a modest, voluntary donation. So, if you’re worried about your activity budget, fret not! You can soak in the sights and culture of the Balkans without emptying your wallet. Enjoy a fulfilling and wallet-friendly sightseeing experience without spending a bundle. 

Romania and Bulgaria boast a wealth of cultural attractions and historical landmarks. Entry fees to museums and heritage sites remain reasonable, making it accessible for travelers to explore iconic places like Bran Castle and the Rila Monastery

Bran Castle – Dracula’s Castle

Additionally, both countries host various cultural events, such as jazz concerts, folk music performances, and art exhibitions, providing enriching experiences for visitors. Passing through traditional markets, fairs, or even souvenir shops can also be an amazing experience in Balkan countries: You can often find handmade objects made of wool, wood, and metal – they make great presents for family and friends or beautiful memories for your future self. 

Here are our suggestions: in Romania – see the Spring Craft Fair at the Village Museum; for Bulgaria – visit Bulgaria’s International Fair of Arts and Crafts held during August in Varna.

You can even check out yearly festivals or events like: 

  • FESTIVALUL IEI – The event will showcase the best handmade and hand-embroidered traditional Romanian blouses, as well as masterclasses and demonstrations from talented local artisans who specialize in creating these unique pieces of clothing. There will also be displays of traditional jewelry, pottery, and musical instruments, along with a wide selection of local food and drinks.
  • ROVINHUD WINE SHOW – Each year in November, in Timisoara City, Romania. Visitors can taste some of the finest Romanian wines at the festival, red and white. Special tastings and activities, such as barrel tastings and winemaker dinners, are also available. In addition, visitors can explore the wine cellar, sample international wines, and purchase bottles to take home.
  • THE SIGHISOARA MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL – It is quite the ball and has been going strong for 28 years! It’s all about showing off what the locals can do with some medieval severe flair – we’re talking medieval dances, theater, cool workshops, and, of course, epic parades filled with knights, ladies, warriors, and troubadours. The best part? The festival goes down in the Sighisoara Citadel, which is basically a medieval fortress all on its own. This place has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, so you know it has some severe history vibes!

Sighisoara Medieval Festival 

  • The INTERNATIONAL FAIR OF TRADITIONAL CRAFTS – Held at the Etar Museum, is unlike any other fair in Bulgaria – it’s got a museum vibe going on! Its goal is all about education, preserving those cool handicraft traditions, and keeping our cultural heritage, both the physical stuff and the rituals themselves, alive and kicking. When this event happens, crafty folks from all over the place, even from other countries, come together to swap ideas and make new buddies. And for all visitors, it’s a chance to soak up traditions in a one-of-a-kind and super-inspiring way!

Souvenir costs

Souvenirs serve as tangible memories of one’s journey. Romania and Bulgaria offer diverse, unique options, from intricately embroidered clothing to locally produced wines, ceramics, and handcrafted wooden items. To avoid falling into tourist traps, it’s advisable to shop at local markets and artisanal boutiques, where authentic, locally-made products are readily available.

Hand-painted wooden eggs 

Here are a few options for Romanian souvenirs:

  • IE – traditional handmade shirt – from 50$ to 300$ 
  • Wine – between 8$-20$
  • Traditional painted eggs – from 2$ to 10$ a piece
  • Horezu Ceramics – average of 30$ depending on the object 
  • Homemade Jams – 5$-10$, depending on the vendor. (If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon a Balkan grandma and have a taste for free!) 

Romanian IE details

Understanding Tipping Culture

Romania and Bulgaria take a laid-back approach to tipping. They won’t hassle you about it, so you’re welcome to tip when you genuinely appreciate the service. Leaving a gratuity of approximately 10% of the total bill is typical in restaurants. 

It’s important to note a recent regulation requiring patrons to request tip inclusion on card receipts when settling the bill. Rounding up the fare or employing ride-sharing apps like Uber can simplify tipping when using taxi services. Additionally, it’s considered polite to offer tips to hotel staff who assist with luggage and tour guides who provide valuable insights into the local culture.

Need help determining what amount is appropriate in some instances? Check out this calculator.

Total cost of a trip to Romania or Bulgaria

In a nutshell, we’ve crunched the numbers from those five categories we talked about to help you figure out how much cash you should set aside for your Balkan adventure. Just keep in mind that these calculations assume you’re sharing some expenses, like splitting the bill for accommodation and car rental with a traveling companion. 

  • Accommodation: $10 – 75 / night 
  • Transport: $5 – 20 / day
  • Food: $30 – 60 / day
  • Activities: $5 – 20 / day
  • Entertainment: $5-15 / day

*without considering flights or travel insurance costs.

Overall, the Balkans can be an excellent region for those traveling on any budget. Planning a budget-friendly trip to Romania and Bulgaria is achievable and highly rewarding. By doing some research in advance and understanding the local customs and practices, you can make the most of your journey. 

Ready to live your fun, memorable, and affordable Balkan adventure with no hustle? Contact Balkan Trails and let us design the ultimate budget-friendly getaway personalized to your needs and wants!