Big Mac for 6 euros, served with a smile: Affordable and welcoming countries to visit in Europe

best countries to visit in Europe
A positive travel experience often revolves around how welcoming the locals are and how affordable the trip is. Source: AFP

No one wants to be yelled at or given the stink eye by a local when travelling abroad. For international students who likely have never been to that country, a bad interaction like this can sour the trip.

It’s even worse if you have to spend a huge amount of money because your country’s currency don’t amount much to the US dollar.

So while there’s glamour in globetrotting, you want to ensure you’re set up for a good time when you pick your next destination. To do that, there are two things you need to look out for:

  • how welcoming locals are
  • whether you can afford living and learning there

And if you’re looking for the best countries to visit in Europe that fulfill both criteria, we have some spots to recommend. After all, as travel writer Eugene Fodor once said, “You don’t have to be rich to travel well.”

4 most welcoming European countries

best countries to visit in Europe

Greece is known by many to be the most welcoming and friendliest country in Europe. Source: AFP

1. Greece 

According to the Expat Insider by InterNations, Greece ranks #5 for the culture and welcoming category among 53 other countries worldwide. Greece also comes in #10 for local friendliness and #8 for finding friends. 

This Redditor sharing their experience in the country says that it was their favourite place they’ve ever been, and they would recommend visiting to anyone who asks. “I learned how to say please and thank you. When you make an effort, even as minimal as this, Greek people are so appreciative and it shows. I didn’t get nearly the same reaction or appreciation as I did in Greece while I was in Italy when I attempted the language.”

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Greece: 

The best seasons to visit Greece are spring (April to June) and early autumn (September and October) due to warm temperatures.

best countries to visit in Europe

The best part about Spain is that there are no seasons you should avoid when visiting. You can visit the country all year round as Spain is often sunny with pleasant temperatures. Source: AFP

2. Spain

US News and World Report ranked Spain #2 as the friendliest country globally, making it one of the best countries to visit in Europe. 

Here, you’ll be dazzled by the beautiful architecture, experience a nice mixture of city and country life, and enjoy mouthwatering cuisines. 

Check out this list of places you should visit when in Spain: 

  • Cities: Madrid and Barcelona 
  • Coastal towns: Mallorca, Ibiza, and Galicia
  • Mountain towns: Asturias and Basque Country

The best season to visit Spain is throughout the year. Even during the winter months, Spain is often sunny with pleasant temperatures. However, you might want to watch out for the rainy months of July and August.

best countries to visit in Europe

Portugal is well-loved by travellers and expats as it is one of the most welcoming countries in Europe and one of the most affordable places to travel to. Source: AFP

3. Portugal 

Ranked #8 for the culture and welcoming category in the Expat Index, there is no question why expats and travellers rave about how friendly and great the Portugal locals are.

A Reddit commenter says, “Portugal isn’t ranked highly enough on European bucket lists, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful place, and the people are great.” From the vibrant city of Lisbon to the islands scattered around the country, Portugal has many gems you will easily stumble upon. 

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Portugal: 

  • Architectural towns: Porto, Braga, and Barcelos
  • Coastal towns: Algarve, Alentejo, Aveiro, and Peniche
  • Islands: Sao Miguel and Flores

Locals recommend visiting during spring (March to May) or autumn (September to October) for the best weather. If you’re looking to visit during off-peak season for smaller crowds, plan your trip for the winter months of December to April would be ideal. 

best countries to visit in Europe

St. Patrick’s Day is famously known as one of the biggest festivals in Ireland. It’s packed with parades, good luck charms, and all things green. Source: AFP

4. Ireland

Besides the fact that there are no snakes on the island, Ireland is one of the most welcoming and friendliest countries in the world, making it one of the best countries to visit in Europe. 

According to this LinkedIn article, the writer mentions that “The Irish are known for their hospitality and warmth, and this is evident as soon as you arrive in Dublin. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and they will go out of their way to help you if you need assistance.”

So, why should you visit Ireland? Well, it has jaw-dropping landscapes, rich heritage, delicious food, and fun festivals. 

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Ireland: 

  • Cities: Cork, Belfast, Dublin, Galway, and Limerick
  • Nature routes: Cliffs of Moher, Bray, The Giant’s Causeway, and Benbulbin Mountain
  • Coastal towns: Cobh, Kinsale, and Portbradden

If you’re looking to visit during a time with the least crowd, winter (December to January) would be best. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are recommended too. But brace yourself if you’re visiting during summer (July to August) — the St. Patrick’s Day and summer break crowd will be everywhere.

4 most value-for-money European countries:

best countries to visit in Europe

Hungary is home to one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, Budapest. Source: AFP

1. Hungary

Based on the Big Mac index, if you get hungry in Hungary, it will only cost you six euros for a Big Mac. But the price of its McDonald’s isn’t the only reason you should be visiting this beautiful country. 

A Redditor shares that Hungary’s capital city of Budapest was their “love at first sight.” “I am not a mad traveller, but I have had my fair share of travelling around Europe, so I would say it depends on what you like and what beautiful means to you. [Budapest] just has a certain air to it; there are so many things to do, architecture is crazy amazing and a perfect place to meet a mix of different cultures apart from Hungarian’s, which by itself is exciting enough.”

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Hungary: 

  • Historical towns: Pécs, Szeged, and Eger
  • Lake towns: Lake Balaton and Siófok
  • Cities: Budapest, Miskolc, and Debrecen

The best time to visit Hungary is spring (March to June) due to pleasant weather conditions and less crowding. Summer (August to September) means dealing with more people on the streets, but the weather will be ideal for travelling. The autumn (September to November) and winter (December to March) months will prove to be more cold and rainy, so be prepared if you’re travelling then. 

best places to visit in Europe

Bulgaria is home to many historical sites and cities. Source: AFP

2. Bulgaria

Do you know that Bulgaria is the oldest European country that has preserved its original name throughout the centuries? It’s also the most value-for-money European country to visit. A Big Mac in Bulgaria costs approximately 7.20 euros. It’s so affordable that even studying medicine in Bulgaria is deemed cheap

The country has an extensive history, beautiful landscapes, one-of-a-kind cuisines, and rich traditions with folklore. You’ll be able to witness all its beauty when you’re in Bulgaria. 

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Bulgaria: 

  • Historical sites: Rila Monastery, Tsarevets, Old Nessebar, Boyana Church, and The Rotunda Church of St George
  • Historical cities and towns: Plovdiv, Sofia, Sozopol, and Nessebar
  • Nature routes: Belogradchik and Bansko

If you want to visit the places above and go sightseeing, visiting Bulgaria during autumn (September and October) would be best. Summer is also an excellent time to visit, though take note that it’ll be peak travelling season. For those looking for a winter wonderland getaway, Bulgaria is the best place for you during the months of December to April.

best countries to visit in Europe

The Škocjan Caves are limestone caves and are home to many waterfalls and one of the largest known underground chambers. Source: AFP

3. Slovenia

Despite being one of the most value-for-money European countries, Slovenia is rarely mentioned when discussing a country to visit in Europe. Based on the Big Mac index, a Big Mac in Slovenia is approximately 8 euros. 

Slovenia is a country in Central Europe known for its mountains, ski resorts, and lakes. If you love snow and scenic mountain views, you should book your tickets to Slovenia for Christmas. In addition to being a winter wonderland, Slovenia is also home to multiple UNESCO sites for those with a taste for nature. 

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Slovenia: 

Slovenia is best visited during winter (December to March) to enjoy the snow and its winter activities. For those who love the outdoors, the mid-autumn months of May to October are a great time to visit the country. Aside from that, the summer season, which lasts from June to August, is a popular time for tourists to visit. 

The Czech Republic (Czechia), historically known as Bohemia, is one of the most affordable countries to visit in Europe. Source: AFP

4. Czech Republic 

Do you know that parts of the famous movie series “The Chronicles of Narnia” were filmed in the Czech Republic? Also, the country’s Big Macs are approximately 8 euros, making it one of the most value-for-money European countries. It’s so affordable that the Czech Republic is a promising destination for university students.

Historically known as Bohemia, the Czech Republic (Czechia) is bordered by Austria, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia. It’s known for its cultural attractions and historical sites, easily making it one of the best countries to visit in Europe. 

Here’s a list of places you should visit when in Czech Republic: 

The best seasons to visit the Czech Republic are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), as the weather is cool and you can avoid the holiday crowd. Summers are from June to August, and temperatures can reach 30°C. If you’re okay with the heat, the Czech Republic is ready for you.