The Annoying Additional Cost Many Tourists Don't Prepare For On A Trip To Europe

Traveling to Europe can be an incredible experience. Whether you're jetting off on a picture-perfect wine vacation, soaking up some sun at one of the continent's most under-rated (and breathtakingly gorgeous) beaches, or diving deep into all things ancient history while exploring some of Europe's oldest archeological sites, you're bound to see and do some pretty spectacular things.

However, in between the excitement that comes with planning and prepping for your travels, there's a not-so-pleasant reality to consider: things can get awfully expensive very quickly. Beyond flights — which range between $600 and $2,200 if you're flying New York to Madrid, for example — there are also plenty of other expenses to consider. First, there's the conversion fee of going from USD to euros, pounds, or other local currencies. On top of that, there are also the costs of accommodation, eating out daily, local transportation, shopping for souvenirs, and even splurging on a personalized tour guide to make the most of your experience. Whew — your wallet is shaking.

And if you thought your expenses stopped there, think again. Beyond these, there's one more unexpected cost in Europe that typically catches many travelers off guard: the sneaky tourist tax. Although it's not applied throughout all of Europe, there are various destinations that enforce it — and it can lead to an unexpected surprise when you're ready to leave.

How do tourist taxes work in Europe?

Put simply, tourist taxes, also known as "city taxes," are extra fees imposed by local governments in various European cities and countries. The aim is to generate additional revenue from tourists that can, in turn, help fund infrastructure improvements, maintain popular attractions, and even promote sustainable tourism practices.

On most occasions, the tourist tax is usually added on to the nightly cost of a hotel or short-term rental. This fee is often based on a fixed rate per person per night, or on a percentage of the room rate. This ultimately means that, depending on your choice of accommodation — say, choosing a luxury hotel versus budget inn — the tax you pay can be higher or lower.

In addition to accommodation taxes, some countries also apply specific visitor fees for certain activities. For example, starting in April 2024, Venice implemented a day-trip fee — about $5.40 — for non-overnight visitors in order to regulate tourism and ease congestion.

European cities where travelers can expect to be taxed

Knowing where you can expect to be hit with tourist taxes is an important step to make sure you budget your trip accurately. With that in mind, if you're planning on traveling to any of the following destinations, it's probably best to start putting aside some extra cash.

Kicking off the list is Portugal — with a total of 13 cities that participate in the scheme, including Lisbon and Porto — where you can expect to pay around $2 per person for every night's stay. Over in Barcelona, Spain, tourists should budget an additional $4.30 per night. In France, the additional charge is calculated through a municipal rate that ranges from 25 cents to $5.40 per night. The tourist tax varies in Germany, but in Berlin, there's a 5% fee added on to all accommodation costs.

Traveling to Amsterdam? You might be disappointed to learn that the Dutch city has one of the highest tourist tax schemes in Europe: an extra 7% on top of your accommodation price, plus an added fee of $3.30 a night. Other notable destinations that charge a city tax include Vienna, Austria, with a 3.2% fee on top of your accommodation cost; Brussels, Belgium, at roughly $4 a night; Croatia, between 25 and 90 cents per day; Greece, capped at $4.30 per night; and Italy, between $1 and $7.50 per night.