The popular city breaks where prices have soared – and those that remain affordable

travel advice holidays rome city breaks europe analysis - Getty
travel advice holidays rome city breaks europe analysis - Getty

There’s something afoot in the travel industry. British holidaymakers are doggedly pursuing winter sun, despite the miserable economic and geopolitical situation. Naturally, inflation isn’t the sole concern of Britain, but the combination of a strong US dollar, post-pandemic staffing issues and a European land war have affected some of our favourite destinations more than others.

So where can travellers still find value for money, and where have prices increased the most?

According to data from the Trivago Hotel Price Index, the European city that has increased the most in price is Rome, with rooms costing 38 per cent more this November than last.

Lisbon, Barcelona and Amsterdam have all increased by over 35 per cent, too, while Vienna and Berlin, the lowest ranking destinations, have only put up prices by 18 and 19 per cent respectively – still a considerable increment. Those who regularly winter abroad can undoubtedly expect to feel the impact on their wallets.

Paul Charles, the CEO of travel agency The PC Company, says that these hikes are to be found almost everywhere. “We typically see a five to 10 per cent increase from year to year,” he says. “But this year it’s closer to 20 per cent. Increased food costs, staff wages and, of course, the war in Ukraine means that prices have to be put up to ensure a profit.”

Is this affecting holidaymakers’ plans? It seems not – or at least not yet. Charles says that the demand for travel is higher than ever, and operators are choosing to emphasise better quality experiences over pursuing total occupancy.

“That means hotels will reduce their capacity to around three quarters full, focusing on giving those staying a better service – especially as guests are willing to pay that bit more.”

Hotel price isn’t everything, however. Taken into account with other elements of a trip, like lunch out, a five-mile taxi journey and the all-important pint of beer, Reykjavik reveals itself to be the destination that has increased the most in Europe. Prices are up 35 per cent this year according to cost of living comparison site Expatistan.

Every element of a trip to the Icelandic capital will now likely cost more: the bill for a midday meal was £16.40 last year; it’s now averaging £21. The price of a pint has surged by nearly a quarter to £7.89. A short cab ride will cost you nearly £30. Iceland has never been cheap, but a visit is now likely to be pricier than ever.

Despite the hike, Reykjavik isn’t actually the most expensive place to visit on the continent. That accolade goes to Zurich, where hotel room prices have only increased by a measly quarter. Samantha Aeschbach, the founder of tour company The Zurich Insider, says that people are still willing to pay for higher quality accommodation – but are slightly more discerning when picking things to do.

She has advice for groups looking for good value activities, recommending that guests visit museums with free entry and utilise public buildings with viewing terraces to see the city. “You won’t break the bank eating at traditional Swiss restaurants in the Old Town either,” she says. “It’s just about knowing what to spend money on, too – it’s 10 francs (£9) to visit the National Museum, and that’s absolutely worth it.”

Europe does seem to have become comprehensively more expensive, but globally the picture is more complicated. The price of a trip to Istanbul (which straddles the border between Europe and Asia) – taking in all four factors – has increased by 138 per cent, largely due to rampant inflation in Turkey.

The amount the pound can buy means it remains a worthwhile place to visit, with the increased costs absorbed by the exchange rate. In September 2021, one pound would buy you about 11.5 lira. Now you can get around 22.

For those travellers committed to a leisurely midday meal, North America should be avoided. Contenders for the most expensive lunch include New York, where menu prices have escalated by 38 per cent to an average of £21, Vancouver, where bills of £20 are up 58 per cent and Toronto (£17.50; an increase of 44 per cent) – leaving quite the sour taste.

As for the non-negotiable drink in a bar? Istanbul is in the rogues’ gallery again, having a 123 per cent markup on prices. A pint still comes in at around £2.50, though, which isn’t a price to sniff at.

For a truly costly Heineken, Dubai has the highest cost at £10.46 (although that’s actually a 17 per cent decrease). Singapore follows it with a £7.95 average. In Europe, London and Paris tie for the top spot, in at £6.10.

Regardless, Tom Harding, who runs bespoke travel agency Nemo, thinks that there are real savings to be made by going long haul. “Places like South Africa, India and Morocco use a local currency which isn’t tied to the dollar, and that means that operators can sell those trips at a lower rate to the traveller – at a similar cost to last year.”

In fact, Delhi is one of the few destinations where the average price appears to have dropped this year, and Johannesburg has only seen an 8 per cent increase. “Our advice is always to book early, because you essentially fix the price. If you’re on an all-inclusive trip, you’re ensuring against price rises in food and accommodation,” says Harding.

As for the very cheapest destinations in Europe? Warsaw is the place to beat on the continent, although Gdansk – which recently featured in the pages of Telegraph Travel – wasn’t listed in the Expatistan data, and should also be considered for a cheap break.

gdansk city breaks travel holidays - Getty
gdansk city breaks travel holidays - Getty

For Paul Charles, a good value trip doesn’t necessitate a change of destination. “Alter the timing of your trip if you can – go out of season; try March and November. Those months are now notably warmer than in previous years.”

“Britain is still a great value holiday too: it’s great to continue that post-pandemic trend of exploring our own country, and you can save on the cost of flights.” Indeed – just try to avoid those £6.10 pints if you’re buying a round.

How much do prices rising impact your decision when choosing a city break destination? Join the conversation in the comments section below