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Eastern Europe – interesting and affordable

Eastern Europe may not be the first place you think of for a city break, but in terms of value for money, it has a great deal to offer...

There’s plenty to choose from, with cosmopolitan capital cities steeped in history to gorgeous, sandy coastlines. So where’s a good place in Eastern Europe to spend your hard-earned travel money? And should you head to the city or the coast? Here’s our lowdown on two of the best Eastern European experiences.

For a chic city break: Riga, Latvia

Why?

Riga tops the poll of the best bargain city breaks. Many budget airlines now fly here too, inevitably bringing with them many a rowdy stag or hen do. Thankfully these big groups tend to venture out at night and stick mainly to the bars in the Old Towns so you can avoid them and still enjoy everything this elegant, bohemian city has to offer.

What to do?

Spend the morning wandering cobbled streets and squares, admiring the way the city’s 800-year history is reflected in its architecture. Yes, despite the country’s chequered past of occupations and invasions, most of Riga’s buildings remain intact and are listed as a World Heritage site. In the evening, be sure to visit the Bellevue restaurant with its panoramic view of the city. Later on, head to one of the city’s chic cocktail bars and ask the bartender to mix you a drink made with some of the local brew – Riga Black Balsam, a traditional herbal liqueur.

Travel money advice: The Lat is the official foreign currency of Latvia – at present. It is thought the country may join the Euro in the near future. Shop around in advance for the best exchange rate on your travel money before heading off.

For the best beach holiday: Rugen Island

Why?

For years, the East German coast has been one of the travel industry’s best-kept secrets. Before the Second World War this was an affluent area that attracted many a wealthy German, who built elegant villas and hotels all along this 90-mile stretch of coastline. With the Iron Curtain dividing Europe, many stunning resorts went to rack and ruin as visitors simply couldn’t get here. But now this part of the world is popular once more – and with beaches to rival the Med, it’s easy to see why. A great place to visit is the charmingly old-fashioned resort of Rugen. This is Germany’s largest island with mile upon mile of stunning coastline – no wonder it’s also known as paradise in the Baltic Sea.

What to do?

Beaches, shopping, spas... Rugen has enough on offer to keep the whole family happy. Most holidaymakers tend to head straight for Binz, and it’s easy to see why. The whitewashed villas left to crumble by the Communists have been carefully restored making it seem like you’re stepping back in time. The beach is sandy and the water calm and safe enough for the kids to splash around in. If you’ve had enough beach action, hire a bike and cycle some of the dedicated cycle paths that run through the woods along the coast. During the evening, eat at one of the affordable beach-side restaurants serving the catch of the day.

Travel money advice: The currency here is Euros.

Again, make sure you shop around before you travel to get the best pounds to Euros rate. Alternatively, you could look into taking a pre-paid 'cash passport' with you, which you can use to withdraw your travel money from ATMs while abroad.

Make sure you also have a valid travel insurance policy for your destination and any activities you plan on getting involved in, before you travel.

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Key Facts

  • Short breaks

    Guide to short breaks, European mini-breaks, long weekend trips, city breaks, short break ideas, where to go on short breaks, mini-break travel advice and more

  • Latvia

    Latvia travel guide, including map of Latvia, travel tips, culture, attractions, health and safety and weather in Latvia

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