Britons on a budget should head to Bulgaria, new research has shown, with the country topping a holiday cost survey of popular destinations across Europe.
The study, carried out by airport transfers website hoppa.com, compared prices for hotel accommodation, taxis, cinema tickets, and a variety of food and drink purchases in 48 cities and seaside resorts.
Sunny Beach, the summer favourite on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, was found to be the best bet for sunseekers on a shoestring, with the total bill for eight items coming in at £58.22. In contrast, the same shopping list in the most expensive city to feature, Copenhagen, is likely to set you back £302.90.
The study’s findings echo those of a Post Office summer price survey, published in April, which also named Sunny Beach Europe’s cheapest seaside destination.
But besides low prices, what can one expect from the Bulgarian Riviera? Is it worth the potential savings?
“It’s cheap and cheerful, with some fairly rough-and-ready communist-era concrete constructions,” said Telegraph Travel’s Adrian Bridge, following a visit to the resort of Varna, just north of Sunny Beach. “But there are some nice cafés and restaurants. We drank a couple of beers (£1.30 for the two) and ordered fish fresh from the Black Sea. Over a shopska salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta-style cheese), I was introduced to the pleasures of rakia, a fruit-based schnapps.”
Varna’s other attractions include the beautiful Sea Gardens, modelled on the Baroque palace gardens of Schönbrunn and Belvedere in Vienna, the lavish Cathedral of the Assumption, an open-air theatre, an aquarium, a zoo, a planetarium, a “bizarre” little naval museum, a well-preserved old town, and, of course, the sea itself: “I took a dip and experienced the strange sweetness of the Black Sea,” recalled Bridge. “It has barely any salt.”
He adds: “It’s still a working port and in addition to a sea of cranes I spot cargo ships. It lends the beach itself a certain hardness that may not appeal to all holidaymakers (most of whom anyway head further north to the purpose-built resorts of Sunny Beach and Albena). But for an afternoon – or a day or two – it’s fun.”
Robert Nurnden, meanwhile, a former resident of Bulgaria, recommends another Black Sea resort: Sozopol. “It manages to cater for the young, party-going set from Sofia as well as those seeking something more sedate,” he says. “The classy old town offers shoreline restaurants and bars where you can watch the sun slide down over Asia. To the south, miles of sandy beaches stretch as far as Turkey. To the north, Sunny Beach pulsates to the beat of 24-hour parties.”
Europe’s cheapest – and most expensive – holiday destinations
1.Sunny Beach, Bulgaria – total cost of eight items* – £58.22
2.Ostrava, Czech Republic – £69.27
3.Antalya, Turkey – £69.51
4.Istanbul, Turkey – £84.69
5.Sofia, Bulgaria – £92.66
6.Debrecen, Hungary – £96.08
7.Jurmala, Latvia – £109.77
8.Zagreb, Croatia – £110.50
9.Rhodes, Greece – £120.65
10.Algarve, Portugal – £124.54