If you haven't yet booked a break for the long Eid weekend, beginning on the evening of Thursday, August 31 and ending on the night of Sunday, September 3, help is at hand. We asked the travel search site Skyscanner to look at trips to the 10 most popular European cities for UAE travellers at the end of this month, and, factoring in the cost of flights, accommodation and basic expenses, rank them in order of price. The results may surprise you.
The Eternal City may well maintain its appeal, because even though the cost of an average return flight ticket to Rome is the same as other European destinations, Skyscanner's study shows that lower living costs in the Italian capital make the overall cost much cheaper. Overall, it's a full 20 per cent cheaper than the most expensive city on the list, Amsterdam. The low cost of hotels and the best coffee in the world provide the perfect base from which to take in this ancient city's astonishing beauty, free to see at every turn, from the tiniest details to the grandest of monuments. Just bear in mind that you won't be alone. For more information visit www.turismoroma.it.
Despite being located in generally expensive Switzerland, Zurich came out second-cheapest of the 10 most popular European cities for UAE travellers,thanks to competitive flight and hotel costs. When the total cost of flights, accommodation, a 48-hour travel card, a bus tour, a coffee and a soft drink were added together, the cost of a two-night trip for two comes in at a reasonable Dh6,807. This may be because Eid falls over a weekend, and business visitors tend to visit during the week, pushing up prices. While eating out in Zurich can be expensive, free drinking water is available from over 1,200 fountains. Costs can also be offset by the fact that the city centre is extremely walkable and there are plenty of free things to do, such as walking around the lake or visiting the Money Museum, Zoological Museum or Langenberg Wildlife Park. For more information, visit www.zuerich.com.
Portugal's handsome capital is still very affordable, according to this study. With the highest flight prices of all the cities, it makes up ground by having the cheapest hotel price. Its seaside location, compact centre and good value dining make a stay here both enjoyable and cheap. For more information, visit www.visitlisboa.com.
Surprisingly falling in the affordable half of the table, Paris makes up for relatively expensive hotel stays with cheaper flights, caused by the variety of routes available from the UAE. Getting around will take some planning, as there are fairly large distances to cover in this major capital city. However, its civic-mindedness comes to the aid of travellers with pleasant parks, historic districts, markets, cemeteries and riverfront walkways all alternatives to wallet-sapping attractions. Some major sites, like the Notre Dame cathedral and the Sacre Coeur basilica, are also free of charge. For more info, visit https://en.parisinfo.com/.
Falling in the middle of the table, London's reasonable flight prices, again caused by competition on routes from the UAE, are eroded by high accommodation costs. A bus tour here is also not cheap: if you're buying a travelcard, you can forgo this and read up on the most scenic bus routes instead. The good news is that there are thousands of free things to do in London, including free entry to the British Museum, National Gallery, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Saatchi Gallery and Wallace Collection. The city's parks and riverfront are also a good bet. For more info visit www.visitlondon.com.
Because of higher flight prices, which double when travelling as a couple, Dublin is now more expensive than London, according to Skyscanner. But, once you're on the ground, walkability and cheap public transport make seeing the sights easy. Parks, markets, Dublin Castle and the newly reopened National Gallery of Ireland are all free, as is the live Irish music which plays nightly in most pubs. For more info visit www.visitdublin.com.
The highest flight prices, combined with high hotel costs, reflect on the popularity of Barcelona as a destination and the lack of competition on direct routes there from the UAE. A two-night break here will cost almost Dh7,500 for two. When you do get there, costs can be balanced with reasonable dining costs, free visits to the beach and self-guided tours of the architecture-rich streets and markets. Just do your food research in advance to avoid being overcharged at tourist traps. Some city-run museums are free on Sunday afternoons, others on the first Wednesday or Sunday of the month. For more information visit www.barcelonaturisme.com.
In a similar way to Barcelona, the popularity of Berlin as a tourist destination and the lack of direct flights from the UAE means that travel time and costs mount if travelling as a couple. Yet the German capital is a must-see city, and shop around on accommodation here to bring the cost down further. Swap nights out for strolling in parks, a self-guided architecture tour and a visit to the Reichstag, which also offers a free audioguide, but book ahead at www.bundestag.de. For more info, visit www.visitberlin.de.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of this study is the cost of accommodation in Athens, which has made the Greek capital the second most expensive city on this list; perhaps this is down to a shortage of large new developments over the past 20 years and the current trend for small, expensive design hotels. Flights, too, are not cheap, given that it's only four and a half hours from the UAE. Still, like Rome, a visitor wouldn't be disappointed by just walking around this city, admiring its ancient sites and devouring its incredibly cheap, top-quality food. For more info, visit www.thisisathens.org.
Perhaps surprising, Amsterdam, like Barcelona and Berlin, is now so popular that it's no longer cheap. Here, reasonable connectivity in terms of air routes is reflected in average flight prices, but expensive hotels and sightseeing mean a two-night stay here will cost an average of Dh8,194 per couple, travelling at the end of August. Fortunately, a compact centre, picturesque canals and an abundance of street art make sightseeing free and almost effortless. Do your research and you'll find free walking tours, boat trips and some free museums. For more info, visit www.iamsterdam.com.
How the data was calculated:
The Skyscanner study compared an average return flight from the UAE for two adults to the European cities, two nights stay in a Hilton hotel for two adults during the Eid Al Adha weekend, two 48-hour travel cards, two bus tour tickets, two cappuccinos and two colas. The travel card cost for Athens, Dublin and Zurich covers three days, while Lisbon's card includes admission to other attractions. Average prices for cappuccinos and colas were taken from Numbeo. Prices were converted from Euros and Swiss Francs using currency exchange averages from January to August 2017; some prices have been rounded up or down to the nearest dirham.