Image: St. Mark's
Gigi Costantini  /  AP
Tourists enjoy the sun in a crowded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. Columnist Charlie Leocha says tourists to Europe won't be hammered by high prices, after all.
By Charles Leocha Travel columnist
updated 7/25/2007 11:40:26 AM ET 2007-07-25T15:40:26

Wait! The sky is not falling! Europe is actually still affordable.

From reading newspaper headlines and watching the news on TV these days, one would believe that the cost of traveling to Europe has gone through the roof. It just ain't so. Traveling in Europe will not cost you an arm and a leg, nor put you in the poor house, any more than a vacation closer to home.

OK, I admit that when I travel to the United Kingdom or to Ireland I feel sticker shock at the cost of hotels, meals, wine and pints at a pub. Frankly, I don't know how the locals manage to live with the sky-high prices. To say nothing of Scandinavia, which has always been a relatively expensive destination.

But as far as I can see, the prices in continental Europe are similar to those in the United States, if not lower. True, in the past, Europe was always a bargain for American tourists, and it isn't any longer. But it ends up costing about the same as a vacation in our own country. Moreover, package tours and Web sites offer excellent rates when combining air with hotel arrangements, which can bring vacation costs almost into the bargain category.

Are the prices in Europe higher than last year? Yes.

Is the dollar-to-euro exchange rate worse than ever before? Yes.

Does it cost more to stay overnight in Rome, Italy, than it costs to stay overnight in Rome, N.Y.? No.

Is beer more expensive in Munich than in Milwaukee? Not necessarily.

Does the average meal at a good restaurant set visitors back more than the same meal in their hometown? Probably not.

A quick look at in the third week of July showed that hotel prices in London were about the same as in New York City, and there were more low-cost options in London. It cost far less to stay at a hotel in Madrid, Spain, than it did to stay in the center of Chicago. Boston hotels are far more expensive than hotels in the middle of Paris. Low-cost hotels in Munich, Germany, cost about the same as Econo Lodge or La Quinta hotels here in the United States.

I just spent two weeks in Pamplona, Spain. I was there at the height of the city's fiesta, when some prices are jacked up to take advantage of the crush of tourists. The bottom line is that costs there, even in the middle of fiesta, aren't any higher than here in the United States. And in many cases they are lower.

Here are some examples from my receipts.

  • A cup of café solo, the equivalent of an espresso here, costs 80 to 90 euro cents or about $1.10 to $1.25.
  • A glass of good wine or beer in a bar costs 1.50 euros, or about $2.10.
  • A six-pack of beer in the supermarket costs 2.64 euros, or $3.65.
  • An eight-pack of Pepsi Light in the supermarket costs 3.20 euros, or $4.40.
  • A pizza in a restaurant costs between 10 and 12.50 euros, or $14 to $17.
  • A platos combinando meal of chicken, French fries and peppers, right on the main walking street of town, costs 14 euros, or less than $20.
  • A full dinner at one of the better restaurants in town, Amostegui Restaurante or Restaurante St. Ignacio, just off the main Plaza Castillo, costs about 35 euros, or $48; this includes a starter, main course, dessert and a half bottle of good wine.
  • An Irish coffee for dessert costs 3.90 euros, or $5.40.
  • T-shirts range from 6 to 12 euros, or $8.25 to $16.50.
  • Three rolls of paper towels cost 1.65 euros, or $2.25.
  • A box of 25 British tea bags costs 1.53 euros, or $2.10.
  • Six wine glasses cost 4.20 euros, or $5.80.
  • A chocolate-covered ice cream bar costs between 1 and 2 euros, or between $1.40 and $2.80.
  • A bus ride from the airport to the center of town costs 1 euro, or about $1.40.
  • A taxi ride from the airport to the center of town costs 10 euros, or about $14.

These prices are not at all outrageous by American standards. In fact, American travelers can live just as well on vacation in Europe as they do at home.

I'm headed to Venice next month. Last-minute tickets cost less than $1,200 from Boston to Venice purchased through 1-800-FLY-EUROPE, where agents helped me maneuver through the low-cost options. I have rented an apartment so the admittedly high hotel costs are avoided, but the other prices I will face will be about the same as I have noted above. It will be a great, affordable time in Europe.

Who wouldn't be happier spending the night in a bed and breakfast near the Colosseum in Rome than staying at the Econo Lodge in Rome, N. Y.? It's nice when travel dreams cost about the same as back-home reality. So, don't let Chicken Little travel writers rattle your dreams of traveling to Europe this summer. Go ahead and enjoy yourself.

Photos: A European tour

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  1. Venice, Italy

    Gondolas line the bank near Venice's grand canal with the San Giorgio Maggiore church in the background. (Peter Deilmann Cruises via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rome, Italy

    The Colosseum is one of the best-known attractions in all of Italy, and is the largest elliptical amphitheater built in the Roman empire. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. London, England

    The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower, located along the River Thames, are seen at dusk from Westminster Bridge. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Berlin, Germany

    Tourists take pictures of themselves at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The memorial, designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman and inaugurated in May 2005, is made up of more than 2,700 concrete steles that form a curved landscape in the heart of Germany's capital. (Barbara Sax / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Granada, Spain

    The Alhambra palace in Granada, although one of 21 finalists, missed out on being named one of the new seven wonders of the world. (Jose Luis Roca / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paris, France

    This bird's-eye view of Paris at dusk, with the Eiffel Tower and L'Hotel des Invalides prominent, show why the capital's nickname is the "City of Light." (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lindos, Greece

    The ancient town of Lindos is famous for its Acropolis, which stands on a 380-foot-high hill overlooking Lindos and the Aegean Sea and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Eyeswideopen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Dublin, Ireland

    People walk past The Temple Bar, which should not be confused with its neighborhood, also called Temple Bar, in central Dublin. Ireland's capital has been voted one of the top 25 cities of the world to live in. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lisbon, Portugal

    Belém Tower was built in the early 16th century as a ceremonial gateway to the city, and to serve as a defense at the mouth of the Tagus River. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sebastiano Scattolin / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Barcelona, Spain

    Columns and arches of the Sagrada Familia rise high in this Roman Catholic church, which has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Florence, Italy

    A woman looks over Florence from the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the city's cathedral church began in 1296 and finished in 1462. (Guido Cozzi / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. County Mayo, Ireland

    Ashford Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and sits on 350 acres of manicured gardens and land, now ranks among the finest hotels in Ireland. About a two-hour drive from Dublin, the castle has played host to myriad high-profile events, including actor Pierce Brosnan's wedding. (Tourism Ireland via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kaag, Netherlands

    A cyclist pedals along rows of tulips near the village of Kaag, outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Dutch often use cycling to get around, and Amsterdam is considered one of the most bike-friendly large cities in the world. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Amsterdam, Netherlands

    A tourist smokes at a coffeeshop "de Dampkring," or "Atmosphere," where a part of the "Ocean's Twelve" movie was filmed, in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city is famous for its nightlife, cultural activities and red-light district. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Stockholm, Sweden

    Boats line up on the shoreline in Stockholm, the capital and largest city in Sweden. The city is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Krakow, Poland

    The Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Krakow, Poland, is one of the most well-known tourist spots in the city and noted for its gothic, medieval architecture. However, most people come to Krakow because of its proximity to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi's concentration camps, which is now a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. (Jon Hicks / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nice, France

    Hundreds of people enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Nice on the French Riviera. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Brussels, Belgium

    The Grand Place in the heart of Old Town in Brussels, Belguim, is marked by many 17th-century buildings and flower markets. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Greek islands

    Oia, on the island of Santorini, Greece, is on a clifftop village filled with white structures and gorgeous sunsets. Santorini offers seaside tavernas, cliffside paths, black volcanic rocks and of course, sunshine and the Aegean Sea. (Saundra Virtanen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pamplona, Spain

    Revelers hold up their red scarves during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain. The annual festival is best known for its daily running of the bulls. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Prague, Czech Republic

    The buildings in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, are constructed in many architectural styles from Romanesque to gothic to art nouveau and modern. (Michal Cizek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tourists stand in the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik, Iceland. The Blue Lagoon's waters come from natural hot water springs flowing through rocks of lava. Many also believe the mineral-rich waters may have health benefits. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. St. Petersburg, Russia

    The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is seen on the bank of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Dmitry Lovetsky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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