Budapest was second only to Riga in the survey of 23 city break destinations across Europe and the US. The Latvian capital was best value for the second year running in a clean sweep that saw five Eastern European cities top the ratings. At £121.47 for meals and drinks, sightseeing, travel and accommodation, Riga cost just 40% of the total price for ten items surveyed in Stockholm, the most expensive European city at £298.27. New York was the highest-priced overall (£331.33).
Prague dropped from second to fifth place in the annual survey, and although it remains one of the best value city breaks, a 7.2% rise in prices made the Czech capital 11.6% more expensive than Budapest, at £144.88 compared with £129.72.
The company's head of travel money, Andrew Brown, said: “This year’s City Costs Barometer shows clearly how the prices tourists will pay on a city break are inextricably linked to the value of sterling against individual currencies. In Budapest local prices are level with those a year ago but costs for UK tourists have fallen and this is the result of a 19% strengthening of the UK pound against the Hungarian forint.
“However, rising local costs can easily cancel out the benefit that comes from an improving pound and that is exactly what has happened in Prague. Even though UK holidaymakers can expect to receive over 7% more Czech koruna for their pounds at the moment, higher costs in the Czech capital mean that prices have actually risen by more than 8% – making a visit to Budapest significantly cheaper.”
In third place Tallinn was cheapest in the eurozone (£134.83) with prices down 5.1% year-on year. Historically, prices have risen when countries join the eurozone but tourist costs in Tallinn are 14.5% lower than when it had its own currency (kroon).
The other eurozone cities surveyed were significantly more expensive than Tallinn by between 35% (Dublin) and 87% (Bruges). However, despite rising prices, Dublin (+8.3%) and Lisbon (+22%) remain in the top ten cities. So does Berlin, where a 2.7% fall in hotel prices has kept costs relatively low.
Four new cities were surveyed by Post Office Travel Money this year. Belfast was the lowest-priced (£172.80), coming in behind the five Eastern European capitals in sixth place, just beating Dublin (£174.15). Istanbul also features in the top ten with a spending total of £188.64 while Vienna (£196.64) and Dubrovnik (216.45) were cheaper than traditional favourites like Paris (252.88), Amsterdam (£241.49) and Rome (£234.90).
Brown said: “The strengthening of the UK pound against European currencies is good news for people planning city breaks because spending costs will be lower than they would otherwise have been. That is why we recommend keeping a close eye on exchange rates and matching these with individual city costs before choosing which capital to visit.
“Money can also be saved by getting a Post Office Travel Money Card Plus and loading it with cash when the pound is performing well. It is a chip and PIN-enable Mastercard and a safe and secure way to carry money, which is a real consideration on a city break.”
For more information on the survey visit www.postoffice.co.uk/cityreport2012