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Finding The Cheapest Skiing in Europe
Searching for the cheapest skiing in Europe and the best bang for your buck when it comes to skiing, apres-ski, and a variety of other activities off the slopes? Skiing Bansko Bulgaria may be exactly what you are looking for.
Finding ourselves in Eastern Europe in January 2022, we began researching an affordable ski resort where we could spend a few weeks.
Our aim was to find not the absolute bargain basement of ski resort prices, but rather the best value destination that had great skiing, infrastructure, plenty of action off the slopes, AND reasonable prices that wouldn’t send us broke.
Eastern Europe is where you’ll find Europe’s cheapest skiing. But the cost of lift tickets is not the whole story. To find the most affordable skiing Europe has to offer, we needed to consider the cost of transport, food, drink, and entertainment, as well as the value of what you get in return.
Comparing ski resorts and countries throughout central and eastern Europe, we found that many popular resorts have become victims of inflation and the price difference between these resorts and western European resorts is closing. We also found a number of resorts lacked critical infrastructure, snow surety, or suffered overcrowding during peak times.
After some serious research, we finally decided that Bankso Bulgaria was among some of the best value skiing in Europe. Aside from being one of Europe’s cheaper ski resorts, Bansko consistently ranks amongst the best of affordable skiing in Europe.
Bansko offers a complete skiing experience with over 45 kilometers of piste, ample off-piste skiing opportunities, and enough activity off the mountain to keep everyone happy and occupied during a ski trip.
Despite enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity amongst skiers from western Europe, Russia, Israel, and neighboring regions, prices have remained relatively stable, allowing visitors to keep their vacation budget under control.
Where is Bansko?
Bansko is an all-season mountain resort town in southeast Bulgaria. It is two hours south of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.
What Mountain Range in Bansko in?
Bansko sits in the shadow of Mount Vihren in the magnificent Pirin Mountains. The ski runs and lifts are situated on Mount Todorka.
How to Get to Bansko Bulgaria?
If you are looking for skiing in Europe that’s affordable to travel to, then Bansko just may be your best bet. With direct flights as well as plenty of cheap cross-continent bus routes from most major European cities to Sofia, getting to Bansko has never been easier or cheaper. Bansko is also easily accessible from Turkey, Israel, and Russia.
From Sofia, private transportation companies like Traventuria Transfers offer direct transport from the Sofia airport to your hotel in Bansko with prices starting as low as €11 for a shared transfer.
Is Skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria Cheap?
Skiing in Bulgaria is cheaper than skiing in many of the other ski resorts throughout Europe. We spent a month in the beautiful mountain town of Bankso, Bulgaria’s best ski town. Having skied in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, and the US we can say that we have never been to another place where skiing and living were cheaper.
For an Airbnb in the old town, 20 minutes walk from the gondola (€500), 2 x 20-day lift pass (€1000), sim card, activities, food, drink, and incidentals we spent €2,500 for 2 people for 30 days. We ate out on the weekends and cooked at home during the week. When we ate out we did so mostly at cheap local restaurants and fast food kiosks but splurged on a couple of traditional mehannas (Bulgarian taverns) and a nice dinner at Skabrin Restobar. We did activities like massages, thermal baths, and we went out to bars on the weekend. This figure doesn’t include ski rental or transport to Bansko.
Bansko Ski Lift Prices
Lift tickets in Bansko are between 20% and 50% cheaper than in resorts in western Europe. A one-day pass cost 79 lev or €40. The price reduces if you buy multi-day tickets but only very marginally.
Twenty-day passes (non-consecutive) and season passes represent great value for people staying longer term at €500 (€25 per day) and €750 respectively.
Ski Rental Prices
Ski rental in Bansko is some of the cheapest you will find in Europe. For a standard week holiday (6-day ski rental), the Bansko ski rental prices range between approximately €65 – €105 for skis, boots, and poles.
Prices vary depending on the rental shop you use, your ski level (beginner, intermediate or advanced), and the age and quality of the skis you want to rent.
Many companies offer discount pricing when booking online or when bundling products like transfers or ski lessons.
Accommodation costs are one of the ways you are going to save serious money when skiing in Bansko over ski resorts in western Europe.
On average, hotel accommodation is around 50% cheaper than what you would expect to pay in resorts in France, Austria, Italy, or Switzerland.
Prices for guest houses in the old town start from as low as €25 per night. Guesthouse-style accommodations are generally basic and dated but comfortable. You’ll be a twenty-minute walk from the gondola, but close to the cheap restaurants and bars of the old town.
Closer to the gondola, comfortable ski lodge hotels can be found for less than €100 per night.
A five-star luxury ski-on-ski-off hotel like the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena will set you back around €250 a night for a double room.
Restaurant and Bar Prices in Bansko
Eating and drinking out is another area you will save money on a Bansko holiday compared to, say, a trip to the Alps, where an outing for burgers with the family could end up costing upwards of €100.
If you eat at budget options such as the cheap local snack bar and cafeteria-style restaurants in the old town, or the fast-food kiosks near the gondola station you can expect to pay between €3.50 and €10 for a meal.
The mid-range western restaurants on the main tourist streets at the gondola end of town and the traditional Bulgarian taverns knowns as mehannas will charge between €10 and €20 for a meal.
There are a number of opportunities for fine dining in Bansko and prices for dinner and drinks can be around €50 per person.
Drinking at cheap local bars or at happy hour means you could be paying as little as €1.75 for a pint of domestic beer. If you find yourself at some of the larger more touristic bars expect to pay €3 or €4 for the same beer.
Shots and basic spirits with mixers cost between €2 – €4 around town.
Wine can cost anywhere from €2.5 to €7.50 for a glass.
Be aware that prices in restaurants and bars on the ski slopes can be 30% more than prices in town.
Given the price of food and drink in restaurants you may opt to eat out for every meal. If you do use the supermarkets, however, you can save even more.
Don’t shop at the Aldo supermarkets near the gondola or you will pay up to a 30% premium on groceries. The supermarkets and corner stores near the old town have much better prices.
A loaf of bread costs less than €0.50, eggs less than €2 per dozen, meat like sausages can be bought for less than €2 for half a kilo. Beer can be bought in large 2-liter bottles for just €1.25, or in 500ml cans and bottles for €0.60. Fruit and vegetables are widely available and cheap.
Buying Ski Gear in Bansko
If you are looking for ski gear or ski clothing, it is available both new and used in town but the prices are comparable to other places in Europe.
If you are transferring through Sofia and you have time, you may like to shop for ski gear here. Ski clothing especially can be easily found at the various second-hand clothing stores in the capital for cents on the dollar. We bought two ski outfits plus beanies, gloves, and neck warmers, for under €15.
There is also a Bansko Clothes Swap and Shop group on Facebook where you can organize to swap or buy second-hand gear with other travelers in Bansko or donate it upon your departure. Donated clothes are sold and funds raised go toward local charity Bansko Street Dogs.
Is Bansko, Bulgaria any Good for Skiing?
Bansko is one of Bulgaria’s premier ski resorts. It has world-class infrastructure, reliable snowfall, and enough ski runs to keep visitors occupied for a ski holiday.
When Can You Ski in Bansko?
The ski season in Bansko generally runs between early December and mid-April depending on conditions.
How Many Runs Does Bansko Have?
Bansko boasts 15 official runs over 48 kilometers of groomed piste.
The resort offers predominantly intermediate runs (51%) with plenty of easy runs (41%) and a handful of challenging groomed runs for experienced skiers (8%). There is a small fun park on the mountain, as well as, five (5) kilometers of cross-country trails.
What Are the Lifts Like in Bansko?
The resort is serviced by a gondola system and eight chairlifts. There is also a road allowing transports or private vehicles to reach the chairlifts. During peak times the wait for the gondola can be quite long, up to a couple of hours. Once on the mountain, when all the lifts are open you rarely need to queue very long for the chairlifts.
The best advice for dealing with the gondola in peak season is to arrive before 7:20 am each morning. You will wait between 45 and 60 minutes to get on the gondola, but you will be amongst the first people up the mountain. If you queue after this time your waiting time can easily blow out to two hours and you may not make it up the mountain until mid-morning.
The lift line normally subsides after lunch and you can simply walk onto the gondola.
You can also pay for a seat on a minibus up to the top gondola station for €5 per person. Once full (this doesn’t take long) the minibus takes approximately 20 minutes to get to the ski center. This can be money well spent if you get a late start and don’t want to waste time queuing.
Does Bansko Have Off-Piste Skiing?
Bansko offers plenty of opportunities to get off-piste without leaving the boundaries of the resort.
When it is snowing, Bansko has some of the best lift accessible off-piste skiing in Bulgaria. On powder days, expect to see (and hear) delighted boarders and skiers weaving in and out of the trees and under the chairlifts throughout the mountain.
Does Bansko Have Backcountry Ski Touring?
For those who enjoy going backcountry ski tours are readily available throughout the Pirin Mountains around Bansko.
Does Bansko Have Night Skiing?
Bansko has offered some night skiing in the past and has lights available on the ski road however there was no option for night skiing when we visited in February 2022.
How Snow Sure is Bansko?
Bansko rarely suffers from a lack of snow and 80% of the groomed runs are serviced by snowmakers for when it does.
What is There to Do in Bansko if You Don’t Ski?
If you aren’t a skier, or if you don’t want to ski the whole time you are in Bansko, or if you are looking for things to keep your partner, friends or family entertained while you hit the slopes, you will be glad to know there are plenty of things to do in Bansko besides skiing and snowboarding.
Visit the Thermal Baths in Banya
Visiting the thermal baths in the neighboring town of Banya is one of the best things to do in Bansko if you don’t ski and an even better thing to do in Bansko if you do. The thermal and mineral properties of the water will relax any achy muscles you have from a day on the slopes and have you feeling rejuvenated.
In Banya, there are multiple thermal baths to choose from. We recommend Hot Mineral Pool Izgreva. Izgreva in Banya is the most local of all of the thermal baths with the best prices. Expect to pay a €7.50 entry fee and find beers as cheap as €1.25 a pour.
There is one large thermal pool and a smaller and hotter thermal pool available for use. Towels can be rented for €1 each.
Transport can be arranged with Ski and Board Traventuria for €19 which includes transportation to and from the thermal baths and entry fees. Besides offering the convenience of not having to flag down a taxi service to and from the thermal baths in Banya, it is also cheaper than taking a taxi which costs approximately €15 each way for transportation to Banya.
Visit the Bansko International Art Gallery
The small mountain town of Bansko is full of surprises and one such surprise is the Bansko International Art Gallery. Home to a wide collection of art showcasing artists from both near and far, the Bankso International Gallery centers mainly around contemporary oil paintings.
The gallery is open daily from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Explore the Old Town with Bansko Free Tour
Bansko has a rich and fascinating history that stretches back well over 2,000 years. You can learn more about it on a free walking tour in Bansko. The free walking tour in Bansko takes approximately 1.5 – 2 hours and visits nine different sites within the historic, old town of Bansko.
While reservations are not required, it is recommended to book to ensure that a representative is there to meet you.
Private tours can also be arranged for any day of the week or you can purchase a self-guided Bansko old town tour from Bansko Free Tour which includes a guidebook delivered straight to your email explaining the notable locations and sights found throughout the town.
Take a Day Excursion to the Nearby Rila Monastery
The Rila Monastery, known as the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and one of ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. Set amongst the forest of the Rila National Park, the Monastery is strikingly beautiful.
Daily services are still held at the monastery each morning starting at 6:30 am and evening from 5:00 pm.
Tours can be booked with Ski & Board Traventuria. Prices start at $200 lev for one person and decrease depending on the number of people joining the tour.
Explore the House Museum of Neofit Rilski
Did you know one of the most influential Bulgarians is from Bansko? Author of Bulgaria’s first grammar book of the modern Bulgarian language, you can visit the home of Neofit Rilski, born Nikola Poppetrov Benin, in the old town of Bansko. As a Bulgarian monk, Rilski also translated the first popular translation of the New Testament into the modern Bulgarian language.
The House Museum of Neofit Rilski is open Wednesday to Monday from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Dine at a Mehana, the Traditional Bulgarian Restaurant
You should plan to visit a mehanna in Bansko regardless of whether you ski or not. A mehanna is a traditional Bulgarian tavern usually decked out in traditional Bulgarian decor. Expect a warm welcome and to dine on Bulgarian classics such as heaping piles of meat, fresh vegetables, and delicious wood-fired bread, all washed down with homemade wine and rakia.
There are many mehannas throughout Bansko. They increase in quality and decrease in price as you head away from the gondola station and toward the old town. Our favorite mehanna is Kasipanova.
Bulgarian Folklore Experience
If you are looking for a family-friendly and unique non-skiing activity that will deepen your knowledge and understanding of Bulgarian culture, join a Bulgarian Folklore Experience tour. An evening with traditional Bulgarian hospitality includes stories, music, dancing, and of course food. These tours run Monday and Thursday and cost €30 per person.
Go Paragliding Over the Pirin Mountains
Pirin National Park is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. What better way to see this natural wonder than from the skies. Fly Bansko Paragliding offers a way to make this a reality with tandem flights over the snowcapped mountains. Fly Bansko Paragliding has over twenty years of experience and takes extra care in ensuring your time in (and out) of the sky is superb. If you don’t trust us, just check out their Tripadvisor reviews.
Best Restaurants in Bansko
Dining out in Bansko can be tricky. Walking through the town, many restaurants have hawkers outside beaconing you to dine at their overpriced and touristy restaurants. If you are looking for convenience, then give it a go. We, however, tried to seek out the best restaurants in Bansko we could find. Most f these are off-the-beaten-path and you wouldn’t just wander by them without decidedly setting off to eat there.
Peshterite: Best Budget Dining on the Mountain
Dining on the mountain doesn’t have to be expensive…. that is if you ski almost all the way down. Most of the restaurants on the mountain are owned by the same company, Ulen, and offer exorbitant prices for Bulgaria standards. Keep your levs for beers and ski down the mountain along the #1 ski road to Peshterite.
At Peshterite, you can expect to find traditional Bulgarian cuisine for a fraction of the price alongside the cheapest beers in Bansko (€1.75 for 500 ml of local beer). Highlights of the menu include veal meatballs, smoked sausage, feta french fries, and traditional Bulgarian bread.
BBQ Restaurant Picnic: A Hidden Traditional Restaurant on the Mountain
This secret restaurant is hidden ‘off piste’ so to speak, in the forest next to the gentle 1a ski road. Look out for the canvas signs along the ski road. You’ll need to leave the ski road and follow the tracks in the snow through the woods to reach this secluded Bulgarian tavern.
Picture perfect amongst the trees draped in snow and sausages, a log restaurant and outdoor wood-fired oven welcomes weary skiers. Bulgarian bread is made to order, alongside various grilled meats such as their famous homemade horse sausage, vegetables, and salads.
Station Bansko: Best Cheap Eats in Bansko
If you only eat at one place in Bansko, make sure it’s the Station Bansko. This fast-food joint near the gondola is the place to be no matter what time of day. Stop in at breakfast for a grab-and-go Greek pastry and coffee with delicious freshly squeezed orange juice or sit down for breakfast for a full English or a delicious savory crepe. Stay for lunch or dinner for the best gyros in town at absolute bargain prices. You can even grab a sandwich to go and take a packed lunch up the mountain!
On top of having the best food, the staff at the Station Bansko are some of the best in the business in Bansko. Friendly, fast, and always quick with a joke.
This place fills up fast so finding a seat may be challenging but there is plenty of room outside to eat on the go and or take away. The Station Bansko also delivers which is an added bonus.
Skabrin RestoBar: Best Bansko Fine Dining
While Bansko might appear to run only on pizza slices, doner kebabs and great hunks of bbq’d meat from the mehannas, there are actually some great options for fine dining too. The absolute cream of the crop as far as we are concerned is the Skabrin Resto Bar.
Skabrin offers modern twists on Bulgarian classics. Their short menu is a welcome change from the hefty document wallets handed to you at many local restaurants. Alongside their impressive dishes is an equally impressive wine list with many excellent Bulgarian wines featured. The waiters are knowledgeable and friendly. A meal with wine costs around €50 per person here.
Best Apres Ski in Bansko
There are plenty of great options for ski-apres in Bansko. Here are some of our favorite ways to wrap up a day on the mountain
|The Barrels Bar||Kolibata Bar and Grill|
|The Happy End Bar||Bar 360|
|Massage and sauna at the Kempinski||Banya Thermal Baths|
The Best Bansko Accommodation and Ski Resorts on a Budget
Accommodation in Bansko is some of the cheapest you can find in a European ski resort. Here are some of the best value stays in town.
Apart Hotel Dream
To get the most bang for your buck in Bansko look no further than Apart Hotel Dream. Apart Hotel Dream offers studio and two-bedroom apartments in the heart of Bansko only a few hundred meters from the gondola station. It is a great value option in Bansko given the central location at under €100 per night for the studio apartment.
Outside of a great location, Apart Hotel Dream also offers free breakfast, sauna access, and friendly staff.
It’s not the Ritz Carlton, but hey, you will be spending most of your time outdoors. Todorini Kuli offers basic apartment accommodation a mere 150 meters from the gondola station all for less than the cost of a ski lift pass in other ski resorts in Europe. A bargain that is almost too good to be true.
StayInn Granat Apartments
Another option that is easy on the wallet is the Bansko ski resort, StayInn Granat Apartments. A stone’s throw away from the gondola lift and right near one of the main apres-ski bars in town, The Happy End, you cannot get much better than StayInn Granat Apartments. StayInn Granat Apartments offers basic room accommodation as well as one and two-bedroom apartments.
The apartments are clean, fully stocked, and the owner, Finka, goes the extra mile to make sure your stay is enjoyable. An easy choice when deciding where to stay in Bansko on a budget.
The Best Bansko Ski Resort
While the best Bankso ski resort may not be “budget”, it is definitely great value for money when you compare 5-star resorts in other ski towns in Europe.
Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena
The only ski-in and ski-out hotel in Bansko, Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena, offers the best accommodation in Bansko. Situated directly beside the gondola, the Kempinski channels that luxury ski lodge vibe. Open fireplaces greet you when you enter the connected lounge and bar inviting you to warm yourself with a hot chocolate (or something a bit stronger) after a day on the slopes.
During your stay at Kempinski, you can also access the 24-hour gym (if you haven’t gotten enough of a workout on the slopes) as well as the awesome spa and sauna.
Standard with hotels and accommodation in Bansko, breakfast is included with your stay.
This five-star hotel has everything you could possibly want and more for the perfect holiday skiing in Bansko Bulgaria at half the price of equivalent ski in ski out hotels elsewhere.
Co-Living and Co-Working in Bansko
Bansko has become a popular spot for digital nomads and remote workers. A variety of co-working and co-living organizations have sprung up to cater to the vast numbers of ex-pats that come here to enjoy the beautiful mountains, vibrant town, and low cost of living.
Bansko enjoys blazing fast wifi and mobile internet and good modern infrastructure and services which make it even more attractive to an untethered workforce.
With furnished apartments as low as €500 per month and plenty to keep remote workers busy in their downtime. It is little wonder so many ex-pats have locked in on Bansko for their winter season.
Van Life Bansko
One thing we were not aware of when we visited Bansko was the popularity of the destination amongst van lifers. However, we discovered that Bansko belongs to a very select group of ski resorts that offers ski on ski off van parking above the top gondola station, a huge perk of visiting here with your own wheels.
You can find parking above the top Gondola for €6 per day. From this location, you can ski down to the Bansko Ski center and access chair lifts to the top of the mountain.
You’ll need to be fully self-contained as there aren’t any facilities here.
Other Things to Know Before Skiing Bansko Bulgaria
Still have questions on skiing in Bankso Bulgaria? Hopefully, you can find just what you are looking for in our FAQ guide below.
Is Bansko Bulgaria Safe?
Bansko is considered safe. It has a low crime rate and is considered safe to walk through town during the day and at night. As with anywhere take precautions, don’t travel alone when possible.
Skiing can be a dangerous sport but Bansko has modern safety measures including security and ski patrol.
There are medical clinics in the town, a hospital in the nearby town of Razlog, and a larger hospital in Blagoevgrad, one hour away.
Kelli cut her hand open on a ski getting on a gondola and was able to receive stitches in town after hours on a Friday night quickly and cheaply.
Can I Drink the Tap Water in Bansko Bulgaria?
Yes, tap water is safe and reliable in Bansko Bulgaria.
What Currency Do They Use in Bansko Bulgaria?
Bulgaria uses the Bulgarian Lev code BGN. At the time of writing 1 lev buys €0.51.
Most places do not accept foreign currencies. You can exchange currency easily in town at a currency exchange though you may get a better rate from your bank or the ATM, depending on who you bank with.
*Prices in this article are given in Euro.
Are Credit Cards Accepted in Bansko Bulgaria?
Most restaurants and bars have facilities for credit cards (Mastercard and Visa) even if they are sometimes reluctant to use them.
Is There Fast Wifi in Bansko Bulgaria?
Yes, Bansko has blazing fast wifi and fast, cheap, prepaid mobile data, so it is easy to get online and work from Bansko. As such, Bansko is becoming popular amongst digital nomads.
Hopefully, you have found our skiing Bansko Bulgaria blog article helpful. If you have a question or a comment, please let us know below!
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