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Cost of living: Is Central Europe really as cheap as people think?

Budapest, Hungary – How cheap or expensive is life in Central Europe? How does the cost of living in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic compare with the rest of the EU?

Although several past studies have identified Central European countries, especially Poland and Hungary, as some of the cheapest destinations in the EU, a new interactive Eurostat study might bring more detailed answers and presents, in relative terms, consumer prices across all EU member states for a wide range of daily products and services, from food and beverage to housing costs, transport, culture and communications – compared to the EU average index of 100.

Let’s start with the basics: Food (including bread, cereals, vegetables, fruits, eggs, oils and fats, meat, fish, milk, cheese) is cheapest in Poland (32% lower than the EU average, and second lowest in the bloc after Romania), followed by the Czech Republic (17% lower) and Hungary (16% lower). Comparatively speaking, food appears a little more pricier in Slovakia (only 7.5% lower than the EU average).

When it comes to alcoholic beverages and tobacco (wine, beer, spirits and liquors, cigarettes, etc.), prices are much lower all across Central Europe, especially in Hungary (31.5% lower than the EU average, second lowest after Bulgaria), but also in Poland (30% lower), Czech Republic (26%) and Slovakia (25.5%).

The contrast in not that significant when it comes to clothing and footwear (clothing material for men, women and children, accessories, footwear, etc.): although slightly lower in Hungary (12%) and Poland (4.4%), clothing is actually more expensive than the EU average in both the Czech Republic (by 0.2%) and Slovakia (1.7%).

Although prices have skyrocketed in recent years, housing costs (house rentals, maintenance and repair costs, water supply, electricity, energy bills, etc.) is where the gap with the rest of the bloc is the widest: housing costs are comparatively the cheapest in Poland (62.8% lower than the EU average, second lowest rate after Bulgaria), but also in Hungary (57.5%), Slovakia (53%) and Czechia (37%).

How about transport? When it comes to personal transport equipment (cars, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.), the cheapest you could find is in Slovakia (20% lower than the EU average and single lowest in the bloc), followed by Poland (17.5% lower), Czech Republic (15%) and Hungary (11%). The situation slightly changes regarding transport services (air, railway, etc.): the Czech Republic (47% lower than average) and Poland (46% lower) have among the most affordable transport services in the EU, followed by Slovakia (42%) and Hungary (33%).

Communications (including postal services, internet connection, telephone services) reach their highest level in the Czech Republic (1.5% higher than the European average), as compared to the rest of Visegrad Group countries: communications costs are particularly attractive in Poland (cheapest in the EU and 55% lower than the EU average), and in a lesser extent in Hungary (16% lower) and Slovakia (15%).

Recreation and culture (including cultural services and equipment, books, package holidays, newspapers, etc.) prices are well below the rest of the bloc in every Central European country, particularly in Poland (39% lower than the EU average) and Hungary (37%), as well as in the Czech Republic (29%) and Slovakia (23%).

The same goes for restaurants and hotels (hotels and youth hostels, bars, cafes, pubs, restaurants, etc.), including in Hungary (39% lower) and Czechia (37%). Poland (25.5% lower) and Slovakia (23%) also boast rather attractive prices in that area compared to the rest of the EU.

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