If like me you like to go on as many trips as possible, you are sure to want to keep some of them budget friendly. It is very easy to spend a lot on a trip but there are also ways of travelling to amazing places whilst still sticking to a strict budget. For those of you who live in the UK, Europe is always the best place to head to if you are after a cheap destination, not only because the flights tend to be cheaper as they are shorter but also because there are a number of lesser known destinations that once you have arrived don’t have all of the usual tourist traps and costs that go with them.
One such European city is Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. I find that eastern Europe is generally cheaper to travel to than western Europe and there is still plenty to see and do here. So here is my guide to Bratislava on a budget.
Flights and hotel
There are always plenty of flight deals to be had when it comes to travelling to Europe from the UK with some of the well known budget airlines including Ryanair, Easy Jet, Wizz Air to name a few. But, there are also a few ways that you can guarantee yourself a slightly cheaper trip, here are a few of them:
- Shop around – I always use skyscanner to look for the cheapest flights first and then check the actual airlines website to make sure it isn’t cheaper there or there isn’t a deal on or a voucher code I am missing out on to make the price a little cheaper. Also make sure you do your searching whilst incognito on google else the prices may increase based on your search history.
- Be flexible – Not only with your dates but also with your flight times. Friday to Sunday are when most people travel and this will therefore cost more. Try a Sunday to Tuesday or Thursday to Saturday and look into booking early or late flights as these tend to be the cheapest as they are slightly more inconvenient.
- Don’t buy the extras – If you are really trying to stick to a budget then don’t choose your seat, take extra luggage or book airport security fast track. These things soon add up and can often cost more that the flight itself. My best tip is to pack a rucksack as your luggage as these will still get onto flights as standard hand luggage that doesn’t cost any extra money!
We found our flights with Ryanair, leaving from Stansted in the early hours of a Thursday morning in February and returning later on the Saturday evening. In total we paid £70 for two return flights.
Booking somewhere to stay can often be a minefield, you want to stay somewhere central but these places tend to cost the most. You want to try an Airbnb but you are worried about whether it will be ok. I always do a quick compare to see whether a hotel or Airbnb will be the cheapest option. Usually in terms of location and often pric,e hotels come out on top for me. At the moment Tesco clubcard points can be exchanged for Hotels.com vouchers which is great, it means you can get three times worth off a hotel booking, as long as the booking can be paid for there and then online. This has meant many of our recent trips we have only had to pay the taxes for the hotel and the vouchers covered the rest of our stay. I also usually opt for rooms that do not include breakfast as this can considerably heighten the price you pay and you can easily pick food up for cheaper.
We struck gold when we came across the Ibis Centrum, chain hotels are always a safe bet as you know you are going to get a decent basic clean room. This hotel was only a short 5 minute walk from the Old Town and only 10 minutes to Bratislava Hrad and after using our vouchers cost us only £16 for two nights.
Once the budget friendly hotel and flights are booked its time to think about how to see and do plenty of amazing things whilst exploring the amazing city of Bratislava.
Bratislava has an amazing Taxi service app just like Uber, called HOPIN. Make sure you download the app before you arrive at the airport. It works exactly the same as Uber, book the taxi through your phone saying where you are and where you are going, you are given a price and can select what type of car you want to pick you up and the nearest available car will come to you. We were lucky when coming out of the airport that a car was waiting outside so once our order was placed we jumped in. Our experience of using HOPIN was fantastic, the cars were clean, the drivers were friendly and safe, we had no issues with waiting times and we were able to pay our driver in cash. The two airport journeys we took were under 10 euros and were quick and simple.
The town itself is only small and thankfully everything is walkable, however the city does have good tram and bus services if you intend on travelling slightly further afield. See my post on a day trip to Devin Castle for information about buying bus tickets.
Things to do
Visit Michaels Gate
Michaels Gate is one of the cities original gates and dates to around 1300 AD, its a brilliant start to any walk around the Old Town however it also houses the Museum of medieval fortification and arms. The museum is only small and doesn’t cost a lot for entry. The added bonus to visiting the museum is once you reach the top of the tower there is an amazing view of the city.
Walk around the Old Town
I love exploring the Old Town when I visit a new city. The main reason is because it costs absolutely nothing. Old Towns are usually relatively small and quaint but full of hidden surprises. Bratislava was no different, high streets full of shops and cafes, churches and lovely old buildings with red rooves. The best part of the Old Town is the main square which is lined with the Town Hall, the Primatial Palace and Jesuit Church. There are plenty of photo opportunities in the Old Town, so make sure you make the most of them.
Climb the hill to Bratislava Hrad
Castles are my number one go too whenever I visit somewhere new, Bratislava Hrad is technically part of the Old Town although its located a good 10 minute walk up a hill from the rest of the town. Parts of the current castle were constructed in the 13th century however the site in which the castle sits has been used extensively since the Iron Age period. The walk to the Castle itself provides a number of breath taking views across the city and the River Danube. The Castle was closed when we visited however we were still able to walk around the outskirts of the castle walls, which if you are on a tight budget is absolutely free and still worth the time and effort.
Explore the cities Street Art
Although most cities usually have some street art, nowadays this is a hot topic and well documented on other blogs. I had no idea that Bratislava had a large number of amazing pieces scattered around outside of the Old Town. Although the area doesn’t really have a lot else to offer it is well worth exploring just to try and spot some of these pieces of art for yourself. I am sure there is plenty that we missed and it is probably being added to all the time.
Take a day trip
Day trips and excursions from cities can sometimes turn out to be expensive, but when they are booked and organised by yourself rather than using a tour operator they can be very budget friendly. We took two trips whilst staying in Bratislava. One to Vienna, Austria only an hours drive away, using Flixbus and the other to Devin Castle using the local buses in the city. In terms of transport costs both these trips were incredibly cheap and you can read more about my trip to Vienna here and to Devin castle here.
Places to eat and drink
Food and drink when travelling can often be where you spend most of your money, after you have come up with things to do that are budget friendly, it can then be a struggle to find good food and try new local cuisine that is also within your budget. Here are a few places that we tried and loved without breaking the bank.
We don’t like to book breakfast when we travel, finding hotel breakfasts quite over priced, boring and time restrictive. We often start our days early, especially if we are planning a trip somewhere and are always on the look out for somewhere we can grab some food to take with us. Praclik was a great little deli type shop in the Old Town on our walk to the bus station. They sold everything from pastries, sandwiches, cold drinks and coffees and we found it to be the perfect place to grab something suitable for breakfast on the go. The food had been freshly made that morning and their panini style sandwiches were delicious and priced reasonably too.
100 piv craft beer bar
We like to try the local beers when we travel, when I say we, I mean my husband does, as I am not a beer fan. I enjoy finding craft beer places for him to try and often find that these small independent bars are far cheaper than the touristy establishments selling mass produced beers. 100 piv craft beer bar was a little walk out of the Old Town and you probably would not stumble across it by accident as its quite small and not really surrounded by other restaurants or bars. Not only was there a selection of beers on draft but you could also buy cans and bottles to drink in or to take with you. Most of the beers on offer are sold as 1/3 or 2/3 of a pint and there was a small area of seating for you to sit and enjoy your drinks. When we visited it was only locals who were also in drinking, which is a sure sign of a great place.
When I was researching our trip I had come across Urban House a number of times, it had an industrial/quirky interior with loads of big tables and comfy seats and looked right up my street. Food and drink were served here from Breakfast and throughout the day, the menu was fairly normal for what you would expect of a modern and trendy place and breakfast cost between 5 and 9 euros, with lunch and dinner costing between 6 and 15 euros. We visited twice, once for brunch and again just for drinks. The hot chocolate is to die for, its only small but its literally liquid chocolate. Alcohol is also served, with a small number of beers on tap and a cocktail menu. This is a great place to stop off no matter what time of day it is.
I love trying traditional food, sometimes it can be hard to find, especially if you are trying to research based on other blogs and they have stuck to ‘normal’ food. When I came across Slovak pub I thought this has got to be the place for me. A short walk out of the Old Town and heading up some stairs Slovak Pub is a deceptively large restaurant, traditionally decorated and felt incredibly authentic.
Food prices vary depending on what you fancy eating but one thing is for sure, whatever you order will be traditional Slovakian food. I opted for the cheese and garlic soup which comes in a bread roll. It was incredible and perfect for a cold February day. My husband went for the sausage platter, three different types of home made sausages with bread and pickles, slightly too much meat for him to eat by himself. I kind of wish we had had time to visit here more than once as it really was my favourite place we ate during our visit.
So there it is, proof that visiting a European capital city such as Bratislava doesn’t have to be expensive and showing that just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on anything whilst exploring a new place. Sometimes it is nice to stay away from the expensive tourist traps and see a city in a slightly different way. Have you been to Bratislava? Have you got any other budget friendly tips for this amazing city?