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Europe on a springtime budget?
Friday, 23rd March 2007
Source : SmarterTravel.com / prnewswire.com
List of must visit European cities revealed -

Astrong Euro and continually increasing airfare, have made summer travel to Europe expensive, but SmarterTravel's most recent report notes the cities and regions that offer good value, beautiful surroundings and a variety of activities for travelers of all ages.

"Although still a huge draw for American travelers, over the last decade, Europe has become extremely cost prohibitive," said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. "Fortunately, there are destinations that are still very affordable, and somewhat undiscovered, for travelers looking to avoid the typical tourist experience and save a few dollars."

What locales made this year's list? SmarterTravel's "Under-priced and On-the-rise European Destinations" includes:

Montenegro.

June 3 will mark its first anniversary as an independent country, but Montenegro remains a destination undiscovered by most North Americans. With so much to offer, from miles of beaches to mountains, glacial lakes, and pristine forests, it's unlikely the country will remain a secret for long.

Though a concerted effort to improve the infrastructure is in full swing, the tourism industry is still rough around the edges, which can be a boon for travelers on a budget looking to explore the country and appreciate the natural beauty before getting priced out.

Lisbon, Portugal.

Lisbon stands out as an affordable and fun city, and hotels can be found for under $130, even in summer, and alternative
accommodations such as apartment rentals and guesthouses regularly cost less than $65 per person. Lisbon is also an excellent jumping-off point for other affordable excursions to nearby regions.

The Estoril Coast, Sintra, southern Estremadura, and the Setubal Peninsula are all within easy driving distance. And more rural locales promise what some travelers consider to be Portugal's gold standard of value in accommodations.

The Croatian Islands.

Already a summer destination for Europeans, Croatia is well on its way back to being the hotspot it once was. The islands that dot the Adriatic Sea offer travelers both Mediterranean beauty and affordable prices. Ferries regularly travel to many of the islands, but some nautically minded travelers prefer to rent boats and explore at their leisure.

Though most accommodations remain relatively affordable in the high season, better deals can be found while the weather is still nice during the late-spring and early-fall shoulder seasons. In smaller towns, inexpensive guesthouses offer excellent value and make up for the lack of hotels. Accommodations rates often start between $26 and $65 per night.

Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Slovenia's capital offers visitors a lot for their money. Lush with green parks and rich in architecture that draws on diverse historical influences and the vision of a single early 20th-century architect, Ljubljana's beauty stands out against the Alps
that rise up behind it.

The average age of residents is about 30, and the sizeable university population helps keep the city young, vibrant and affordable. Ljubljana isn't the cheapest city in Central Europe, but good value and overall affordability are still the norm. Accommodations range from about $20 to over $200 per night, depending on the class and type. Inexpensive private accommodations can often be booked through tourism offices.

Riga, Latvia.

The vibrant capital of Latvia boasts one of the finest collections of art nouveau buildings in Europe, so much so that in 1997 UNESCO declared the city's historic center a World Heritage site. Accommodations, transportation, and food can all be affordable in Riga. Small hotels with rates under $50 are common, and lodging prices at guesthouses, B&Bs and in vacation apartment rentals can cost even less.

Avid sightseers who want to cut costs can benefit from the Riga Card (starting at about $15 for adults), which offers discounts on entry into museums and at attractions. Airfare costs vary by season, though both easyJet and Ryanair serve Riga, so if budget trumps convenience, try pricing flights to more popular destinations such as London, Frankfurt, or Berlin and adding on the cost of the short low-cost carrier flight.

"Even with all the usual, expensive, popular spots, Europe still offers hidden gems that are reasonably priced, and offer an unbelievable experience steeped in culture and history," continued Banas.

SmarterTravel's full report is available at: smartertravel.com/link/underpriced-europe
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