The Difference Between ‘Budget’ and ‘Cheap’

(Photo above: Estadio de Luz in Lisbon, Portugal. The home of Benfica. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Anna Pickard/FlickreviewR)

Make no mistake: budget doesn’t mean cheap.

Budget means value. It means your dollar does more for you than it would somewhere else, somewhere that’s absolutely not budget – somewhere like London or New York, depending on. Cheap means cheap. And there’s nothing wrong with cheap; just don’t confuse it with budget, is all I’m saying. The difference between budget and cheap is no less than the difference between style and fashion, or beauty and attraction.

That’s why places like Lisbon or Madrid or Florence are budget. They’re grand old European cities with shockingly better and lower-priced food than you’ll find in many of the alphas nearby. I suppose that would be Barcelona for Madrid, and maybe even for Lisbon. That would be Rome for Florence.

And all three cities are refreshingly easy to get around, to navigate through. You don’t need a Metro card to spend a day in any of them.

In September, the New York Times included Lisbon, Madrid, and Florence in its list of European favourites. But there’s a twist – the list, which also featured Copenhagen, Moscow, and Champagne, was written to include choices for “budgets high and low.”

And I don’t know which belongs where, even after reading the Grey/Gray Lady’s piece – and of course, I’m pretty sure it’s intentional.

Read: ‘Kolby Did Madrid, But Only Barely‘ (November 25, 2013)

So, that’s a bonus. I’m sure some think of Florence as a lavish city, simply because of the style and the shiny handbags that you picture when you think of Italy.

“Today, a visitor to Florence could be stricken by a modern-day variant of that syndrome, simply faced with the treasures arrayed on counters and shelves in the city’s jewel-box shops and artisan ateliers,” writes Ingrid K. Williams. “And it can happen at price points at both ends of the spectrum.”

I’m sure Madrid‘s the same, with its museum districts and its one grand boulevard. And I know Lisbon is budget because, well, it just is.

I’d imagine Copenhagen breaks the bank, because it’s Scandinavian. Champagne? Probably could be expensive, because you’re going to be downing bottles of a drink the city lent its name – “the world’s most elegant and expensive sparkling wine,” writes the Times‘ Alexander Lobrano, in his write-up.

Moscow? Honestly, couldn’t it go either way, and doesn’t it sorta just depend on what Vladimir Putin wants to show you? “Even with Russia’s recent economic downturn and fallout with the West over Ukraine, there’s still no shortage of splashy upscale club culture,” writes Charly Wilder, in his profile on Russia’s nucleus. And apparently, he says, “The crowd is young, urbane and gay-friendly.”

But the flip is, the beauty of any of those six cities is, they’ve no doubt got dual personalities. And they attract any kind of traveller. (“Happily, though, discovering the bubbly on its home turf is as much a pleasure for budget travelers as it is for big spenders,” writes Lobrano, on Champagne.)

And there’s not one I’d avoid, if I had the chance to go.

I like this bit on Lisbon. And I can tell you, as a three-time visitor, Seth Sherwood is correct when he writes:

“To the west, bohemian Bairro Alto is the graffiti-sprayed warren of vintage stores, hole-in-the wall restaurants, dive bars and live-music venues, where noisy throngs fill the narrow streets until the wee hours.”

Oh, memories…

VIDEO: Lagos, Portugal – “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done”

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