Don’t look now, but Europe is cheap. Really cheap.
A confluence of events, from a sputtering Greek economy to record-low European interest rates, have pushed the euro to levels unseen since 2002. And that’s making your European summer vacation ridiculously inexpensive.
How inexpensive? Well, the easiest way to do the math is to substituted dollars for euros. (“Parity” means one dollar equals about one euro.) At the moment, one greenback is worth about 90 cents. It came within a few cents of parity this spring, and more economic turmoil could push it back in that range this August — just in time for your vacation. (Here’s a currency calculator.)
Dinner at Chez Casimir in Paris, a favorite bistro for locals near the Gare du Nord, would have set you back about $30 last summer. This August, you’ll pay just $25.
A standard room for night at Helsinki’s Fabian Hotel, a highly-rated boutique property, would have cost roughly $249 last summer. Next month, rooms can be had for only $208.
Cheapest European vacation in years? “Yes,” says Pauline Frommer, Editorial Director for the Frommer Guidebooks and Frommers.com. “That’s certainly true about the on the ground costs.”
On average, Europe is about 20 percent cheaper than it was last summer.
So where are the bargains?
“In the Eurozone, Berlin remains one of the cheapest major cities to visit because its hotel costs are far lower than that of other equivalent European cities,” says Frommer. “It’s undercut by those countries people don’t realize are on the Euro, such as Slovakia and Estonia. Portugal, too, is a very good deal this year in most areas.”
Frommer says the faltering euro has repercussions outside the Eurozone.
“Other European currencies are down against the dollar, too, and have historically been more affordable than Western European areas,” she notes.
These include Poland (3.06 to the dollar last summer, 3.77 to the dollar this July), Bulgaria (144 to the dollar last year, 180 this summer) and Hungary (trading at 384 to the right now, last year at this time it was 230), she says.
“The big standout is Greece,” says Arabella Bowen, the editor-in-chief of Fodor’s Travel. “With everything going on with the debt crisis, tour operators have slashed prices to encourage outsiders to visit in an attempt to boost their tourism economy.
But Greece isn’t alone, she is quick to add. “Even Scandinavian countries, which don’t use the euro and are often the most expensive places in Europe, are better bargains this summer because the dollar has been on the rise there as well,” she says.
In short, there probably hasn’t been a better time to take a European vacation in a decade, and maybe more. And with airfares headed lower, getting there may also be a bargain.