During my last vacation to Europe (May-June 2012) I flew over with the typical South African mentality of EUROPE = EURO = EXPENSIVE (apart from fashion brands).
I spent time in Germany, Italy, Austria & Czech Republic.
I spent a week with SA friends who live in Munich, which is the most expensive city in Germany. I lodged at my friends place but kept an eye out for accommodation prices nonetheless.
Accommodation in Munich (and was told in most of the other larger cities in Western Germany as well) starts from about EUR 50 pp for a guesthouse (pension), right through to EUR 250 for a 5star hotel. Prices incl breakfast. Considering that for R600-700 you can find a good level of accommodation, I would say fair enough. Southern Africa is NOT cheaper.
Food – we paid on average around EUR 12 for a decent size meal in Munich at restaurants, mainly pork dishes. Steaks/beef dishes are slightly more expensive. Beer costs around EUR 3,50 per half liter, which is expensive for SA rates.
Our biggest surprise though was grocery shopping. Germany has loads of budget supermarket chains (Aldi, Lidl, Penny) where you can buy a week’s worth of (good quality) groceries for 2 people for around EUR 50-60. In SA I pay more almost R500 for just one bag of groceries at PNP etc.
Property – Munich is very expensive (as mentioned most expensive in Germany) & you can look to pay around EUR 400K for a 2-bedroom flat. The rental prices are graded accordingly. However, 50km outside of Munich & it’s a whole new world. I spoke to 3 couples who own property in smaller towns in Bavaria & prices range from EUR 60K for a big family house (yes, in a small town called Hollenbach) right through to EUR 180K for a family house on the outskirts of the city of Augsburg. So the prices are really not THAT high if you can avoid the likes of Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, the Cologne/Dusseldorf area. I was told that Berlin property prices are also very moderate. Also you need to consider that the infrastructure of even the smaller towns is very good & the public transport infrastructure in Germany as a whole is near perfect.
We spent a week in Tuscany which is really nice. The weather is great for most part of the year, the food & wine is wonderful, and the architecture is quite astounding.
We spent the entire week on a winefarm with self-catering accommodation. We paid EUR 650 for the entire week for 4 people & the place was really great. In Italy (especially Tuscany) there is a huge industry for winefarm accommodation called Agriturismo. This is a great alternative to guesthouses or hotels & has that personal touch. Hotels along the Tuscany coast cost from around EUR 40 pp through to EUR 180 for luxury.
Food & Beer – we paid on average a similar price to Munich, yet Italy mainly offers pizza, pasta & beef dishes. You can find little Osterias all over where you can expect to pay around EUR 8-10 for a decent size meal. For a good bottle of wine you can pay up to around EUR 15 in a Tratoria/Osteria, which seems fair.
I could not find out too much about property prices in Italy, but was told that property in Tuscany is pretty expensive. You can find a small farmstead in the country interior for around EUR 100K, at the same time you can expect to pay Munich prices for a small flat along some of the coastal regions of Tuscany.
We spent a week in the Czech Republic, including 4 nights in Prague. The Czech Republic is a real eye-opener. Prague must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The people are friendly, the food is great & the beer is cheap (yet good).
Food - In Prague you can find a decent size meal for around EUR 6 (they still have their own currency koruna 25kr = 1EUR). The beer can easily match the German beer & costs around EUR 1,20 for half a liter, unless you are intent on going to Irish pubs where you pay a lot more. Prague has loads of little alleyways where you can find small Czech Pubs & eateries with local traditional dishes.
Accommodation – We paid EUR 50 pp for a 4star hotel in the center of Prague. This was excellent value for money.
We also spent a few days in the country side & in smaller cities / towns. Here you can expect to pay EUR 3-5 for a good meal & around EUR 0,70 for beer in the local eateries.
Property – The center of Prague is (obviously) very expensive but you can find a good size family house in the suburbs of Prague for around EUR 250K. On the country side you can find family homes for as little as EUR 30K.
Car rental in Germany costs around EUR 3-40 per day (for a good standard sedan), and you can use the vehicle throughout Europe.
My conclusion is that
A) If planned correctly, Europe is not much more expensive to visit as a holiday destination than Southern Africa. In fact I paid a lot more for the same duration holiday in Namibia/Botswana.
B) Living in Europe is also not that much more expensive than in Southern Africa. If you look at the property prices in countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia & Botswana, you would easily be able to afford property in most parts of Europe. Your cost of living in most parts of the countries which I visited is equal to or lower than we are used to in SA
I for one look forward to my next vacation in Europe, which will include Czech, Poland, Germany, NL & France! This time with a proper mindset & at ease to how much I will spend. J
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