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  • Hi I'm Rick Steves back for the last episode of our three part travel skills special. We're

  • in a village, high in the Swiss Alps. In this finale, we'll show that in so many ways, you

  • can actually experience more by spending less.

  • Our tips this time: finding the best value accommodations, getting around in big cities,

  • and enjoying Europe's cuisine. This information can help you make the most of your vacation

  • time and, if you're on a budget, it can cut the cost of your travels in half.

  • Whether you discover Norway's breath-taking fjords, explore ancient temples in Athens,

  • hike along a Roman wall in England, sweat with locals in Finland, or enjoy a concert

  • in Ireland, you'll find the kinds of places and experiences you incorporate into your

  • itinerary shape the character of your trip.

  • In this three-part travels-skills special we start in the Netherlands, venture through

  • Germany, dip into Italy, sweep through Switzerland and France before finishing in England. In

  • this final episode we start in the Swiss Alps, take a high-speed train to Paris and finish

  • in London.

  • When touring Europe, many travelers only visit famous and well-promoted hot spots, like Grindelwald,

  • here in Switzerland. It's "the" famous Alpine resort in the shadow of the Jungfrau. Europe

  • energetically markets its top tourist attractions. Alpine resorts like this are geared to large-scale

  • tourism-helping the masses have fun...spending their money.

  • But, just one valley over, you can have an entirely different experience. Riding this

  • gondola, you soar, landing in the sleepy, un-promoted village of Gimmelwald. In 30 years

  • of researching guidebooks, I've found hidden gems like this in every country. Gimmelwald

  • would have been developed to the hilt like neighboring towns but the village had its

  • real estate declared an "avalanche zone" so no one could get new building permits. The

  • result: a real mountain community-families, farms, and traditional ways.

  • Choosing places like Gimmelwald and then meeting the people, you become part of the party rather

  • than just part of the economy. This is a realistic goal for any good traveler. Take a moment

  • to appreciate the alpine cheese.

  • Once you're off the tourist track, make a point to connect with the living culture-pitch

  • in... even if that means getting dirty. Here, Farmer Peter's making hay while the sun shines.

  • Whether in a big city or a small village, your major expense each day is renting a bed.

  • You have lots of options. We'll review them from cheapest to most expensive. In rural

  • settings-like here in Gimmelwald-I like simple, less expensive accommodations. Gimmelwald

  • has a pension, a bed and breakfast, and a hostel.

  • Europe has thousands of hostels-like Gimmelwald's Mountain Hostel-offering cheap dorm beds.

  • While not for everybody, the price is certainly right. Rather than privacy and your own bathroom,

  • you'll enjoy a convivial camaraderie: a helpful reception desk; a welcoming common room with

  • lots of information and hiking partners; and the kitchen where hostellers cook for the

  • price of groceries. It's dinnertime. And after a sunny day of hiking, travelers are sharing

  • stories.

  • Today, European hostels come in all shapes and sizes. Modern ones are often big and institutional.

  • They come with inviting lobbies and modern facilities. Rather than the traditional large

  • dorms, more and more hostels are offering smaller rooms-family rooms and even doubles

  • for couples.

  • In cities or villages, the young at heart-of any age-are entirely welcome. A great thing

  • about hostelling-especially if you're going solo-is gaining an instant circle of friends.

  • For me, B&Bs offer an ideal combination of comfort and economy, privacy and cultural

  • experience. Every country has private rooms for rent. You've just got to know the local

  • word...Husroom is Norwegian for Chambre d'Hote which is French for Zimmer which is what they

  • say here in Switzerland for Bed and Breakfast.

  • B&Bs give you more than just a good night's sleep. Imagine, enjoying a renovated attic

  • with a view of this small town Czech castle, being a guest in a home rebuilt after a civil

  • war in Dubrovnik, savoring the salty ambiance in the captain's house on a Danish Isle, or

  • being a noble for a night with Giorgio in the heart of Tuscany.

  • Tonight, we're sleeping in the home of Ollie and his wife Maria. They teach in the village

  • and supplement their income by renting out three rooms in their home.

  • As is generally the case with B&Bs, the rooms are as comfortable as a hotel but homier.

  • While you're living in someone else's home, you can be as private as you like-just take

  • the key and do your own thing. Or you can go downstairs and get to know the family.

  • Ollie: This yellow cliff over there, that's where the eagle has each year his nest.

  • Typically, hosts enjoy sharing. Ollie knows the backside of the Jungfrau intimately.

  • Ollie: And the young birds, in early spring, you see them starting to learn to fly.

  • Pensions are a good value. A pension is a place without many of the services you'd expect

  • in a hotel. This one is inexpensive...with the toilet and shower down the hall. The bedrooms

  • are well-worn and traditional. And the place creaks just the way you want it to-and once

  • again, humbler places seem to foster community.

  • Continuing our swing through the best of Europe, we're heading for Paris. After a full day

  • in the Alps, this fast train gets us there in time to cap our day with a view of the

  • Eiffel Tower.

  • A big city like Paris is bursting with world-class sights: towering monuments, magnificent boulevards,

  • and glorious history. In a major city like this you have lots of hotel options. The neighborhood

  • you choose as well as the hotel shapes your experience.

  • Many travelers opt for the big, international class hotels outside the historic center.

  • I find that these, while very comfortable, build a wall between you and the people and

  • culture you traveled so far to experience.

  • I prefer a small-scale hotel in a cozy neighborhood. For example, the area around Rue Cler is a

  • pedestrian-friendly bit of village Paris, a ten-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.

  • Accommodations are a classic example of how spending less can actually give you a richer

  • experience. Europe's big cities still have well-located, characteristic hotels at an

  • affordable price.

  • There's a range of categories. Many countries have helpful rating systems. In France, plaques

  • with stars are posted by the door. In a well-chosen one star place, budget travelers can sleep

  • well and safely. Rooms are pretty basic...but come at near youth hostel prices.

  • European cities have lots of night noise, and, especially in cheap hotels, this can

  • be a problem. Rather than paying a premium for a room with a view, I'll take a quiet

  • room in the back.

  • In France, two-star hotels offer, for me, a great balance of price and comfort-still

  • basic but with good beds, private bathrooms, and often tiny but appreciated elevators.

  • The more people who share a room, the less expensive it gets per person. A double costs

  • just a little more than a single. And many hotels are happy

  • to squeeze in a cheap third bed.

  • While three-star hotels are more expensive, they can also be a good value. Here, you're

  • paying for extras like a lounge, room service, and all the comforts.

  • Hotelier: It's one of our typical rooms, with big TV, mini bar, iPod bays, of course air

  • conditioning. It can be very useful, especially in August in Paris. Um, bathroom.

  • Rick: Two sinks. Hotelier: Yes, two sinks. French people like

  • it. You can be two at the same moment in the bathroom.

  • Know your priorities. This hotel is great. But those on a budget may need to choose between

  • these extras-for an additional $50 a night-and a nice dinner, concert or city tour.

  • Throughout Europe, small family-run hotels offer fine values. This London hotel is plush,

  • beautifully located, and more affordable than you might expect because it has no elevator.

  • This historic former monastery in Florence costs no more than a top end chain hotel,

  • but is bursting with Renaissance character. Here, in Norway, you can enjoy feeling right

  • at home on a fjord.

  • And a favorite of mine in Rome-small enough where the owner can go over your sightseeing

  • plans-provides fine rooms and a breezy conviviality you simply can't find in bigger hotels.

  • Some travelers love the freedom of just finding hotels as they go. But, to get the best rooms

  • in the popular places, book in advance.

  • Smart travelers use a savvy mix of guidebooks and the Internet. Web-based review sites are

  • popular and powerful. But, while helpful, they can also be misleading. So be careful.

  • And, by the way, making reservations through a web-based booking service may be convenient,

  • but it costs your hotel 15 to 20%. I get the best price by booking directly through my

  • hotel.

  • Health concerns while traveling through Western Europe are about the same as traveling back

  • home. While I take extra precautions when traveling beyond Europe, in Europe I drink

  • the water and eat everything in sight.

  • If you do get sick, get help right away. Over here, a good first stop for medical advice

  • is the neighborhood pharmacy. Also, hotels can refer you to a nearby clinic or call a

  • doctor who makes "house calls"-for far less money than you might expect.

  • Then, prescription in hand, you can head for the 24-hour pharmacy. Europe generally has

  • whatever medicine you need. In case you need a refill, bring your prescription from home

  • with the generic name typed or printed legibly.

  • My health tips are all about wellness. Being on vacation can be exhausting. Get plenty

  • of sleep, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and pace yourself. Know your limits.

  • One of the great joys of travel is eating. Each country in Europe has its own distinct

  • cuisine. Leave the tourist zones. Find places filled with locals enjoying seasonal and regional

  • specialties. The variety of food is endless and if you know how to choose a good place

  • you don't need to spend a fortune. A few basic rules for eating your way through Europe:

  • go for the local specialties-you'll get better quality and price. Eat seasonally...don't

  • miss truffles on your pasta in the Fall or fresh berries in Norway in Summer.

  • The location can make the meal. Bosnia may not be famous for its food, but dining under

  • the bridge in Mostar makes a lifelong memory. Most of all eat fearlessly try things you've

  • never had in places you've never been. There are eateries to fit every budget. And while

  • I recommend an occasional gourmet splurge especially in countries famous for their high

  • end cuisine like France and Italy, you'll save money and improve your experience with

  • Europe's countless budget options.

  • Some of the most affordable and enjoyable food in Europe can be found, not while seated

  • at a table but while standing in the street or the market. Every country has its own beloved

  • street food. It's fast, cheap, and delicious. In Greece try the corner souvlaki stand, and

  • in Istanbul on the Golden Horn grab a fish sandwich fresh from the guys who caught it

  • at one of the venerable and very tipsy fish boats. For a step up and a seat, there are

  • lots of casual bars and bistros; home town hangouts where you can enjoy local cuisine

  • in comfort without going broke.

  • One of the best examples of this is in Spain. Every town tempts you with tapas bars where

  • you belly up to the bar and just point at things you'd like to try. In Denmark, I love

  • the open-faced sandwiches which manage to be both simple and elegant at the same time.

  • You can munch the best pizza ever, for the price of a fast-food hamburger in Naples where

  • pizza was invented. The rustic simplicity of sausages and fondue feels just perfect

  • high in the Swiss Alps.

  • And these days, pubs are more than friends just gathering for a beer-they can come with

  • tasty meals too. By the way, interiors in Europe-from restaurants to hotels to pubs-are

  • now essentially smoke free.

  • Especially in France, consider the cuisine sightseeing for your palate. And when you

  • know the budget options, eating at the corner cafe or bistro costs only a little more than

  • lunch at a fast food joint.

  • Most countries have a plate of the day-that's a plat du jour here. A hand-written menu-in

  • the local language only, with a small selection indicates a good value. And the house salad

  • makes a quick and healthy meal. In France, bread is free. [svp]. Just hold up your basket

  • to ask.

  • In France, a free carafe of tap water is either on the table or will be quickly if you ask.