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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.
When it comes to drinking-I go local: in Bavaria, it's a liter of lager; Tuscany- a robust red
wine; Provence-a nice rose; Ireland-a hearty Guinness; Spain-a rich Rioja; in Denmark-a
fiery acquavite [..."yes"] And in Greece- it's ouzo with a sunset.
Adapt to the culture you're visting. Over here, dining is not rushed. Slow service is
often good service. In a nice restaurant, the table is yours for the entire evening.
To get the bill you need to ask for it. As service is often included and waiters are
generally paid a living wage, tipping is less expected and often unnecessary. This varies
from country to country. Get advice from locals.
Picnics are fast and fun-and give you a purpose in Europe's colorful markets and shops. When
picnicking, you can buy whatever looks good regardless of price.
Choose an atmospheric place to make your picnic memorable. We've put together a cheap and
healthy meal for two; delightful cheese, a tiny quiche, strawberries, grapes, wine...a
little something for dessert...and...a reasonable view.
Traditionally, on the Continent, breakfast is small. In France, locals just grab a croissant
and coffee on the way to work. But these days, most hotels are offering hearty breakfasts
buffets-complete with cheese, meat, yogurt, and fruit.
We're speeding-at nearly 200 miles per hour-to London, the final stop on our best of Europe
loop.
Europe is continuing to unite-both politically and physically. From the start, the wealthier
countries of the European Union have helped their less affluent neighbors catch up. And,
after a generation of huge investments, its transportation infrastructure keeps European
commerce and trade moving faster than ever. And that includes us tourists.
The Eurostar train, which speeds under the English Channel in 20 minutes, is just one
example. From Italy to Norway, great bridges, tunnels, and bullet trains are making this
small continent even smaller. The fastest way now from the Eiffel Tower to Big Ben is
not by plane...but by train.
London's giant wheel is an example of how the nations of the EU can work together. How
do you make a spectacular Ferris wheel? Swiss motor, Italian steel, German design and a
capital English view.
As Europe continues to unite, nations are less threatened by regions. Within Spain,
Madrid now lets Barcelona wave its Catalonian flags and speak its own language. The Irish
gift of gab comes in Gaelic ...and London doesn't care. And for the first time in centuries,
Britain has allowed Scotland to have its own parliament. For those of us who love Europe's
cultural variety here, this is good news.
Unification does not threaten Europe's diversity. In fact, that diversity is both as vivid as
ever, and more accessible. Imagine: today for lunch, it was quiche and fine French wine
under the Eiffel Tower and, for dinner? Pub grub and a hearty ale in a classic London
pub. Here's to diversity.
Throughout Europe, cities are becoming increasingly better organized. Visitors can easily master
excellent transportation options: buses, subways, and taxis.
Even budget travelers need to remember that vacation time is valuable. Spend money to
save time. Groups of three or four can travel cheaper and faster by taxi rather than by
riding buses and subways. These days, throughout Western Europe, most cabbies are regulated,
honest, and charge the metered rate. The extra fees are clearly explained-and legitimate.
I round the bill up 5 or 10%.
London, like most big European cities, has a fine underground system-letting you zip
anywhere in town, regardless of rush hour traffic-fast.
Big cities become surprisingly manageable when you get comfortable with their subway.
To avoid ticket window lines, buy tickets from machines. Follow the signs to the right
platform. You'll find helpful maps everywhere. In what Londoners call "the tube" everything
is labeled north, south, east, or west.
Each line has two directions and therefore two platforms. Signs list the line, direction
and stops served by each platform. Lost? Locals are happy to help. Because some tracks are
served by several lines, signboards announce which train's next and how many minutes till
it arrives. Final destinations are displayed above the windshield. And always... mind the
gap.
City bus systems are also worth figuring out. Buses are generally frequent, user-friendly,
and come with a view.
Here in London, as in most cities, a 24-hour pass pays for itself in about 3 rides. It
lets you just hop on and off both the buses and the tube as you like.
Even if you never use public transportation back home, try it over here. After a few rides,
you'll be getting around like a local.
Once you've mastered getting around, your next challenge is to better understand your
sightseeing. You can do that with a guide-either by taking a tour or hiring one privately.
All over Europe independent local guides, while pricey, give meaning to the cultural
and historic riches that surround you.
Female Tour Guide: Can you imagine 2,000 years ago a person who has never seen the photograph
of a leopard. And then they see the first leopard ever pounce out of the floor live.
To enjoy the help of a local expert without the expense of a private tour, you can catch
a guided walk. Especially here in Britain, you'll find hard working local historians
taking visitors on fascinating walks through a particular slice of their town's past. Some
tours hit the biggies. Others are more off-beat.
Male Tour Guide: Down below there of course is Cleopatra's Needle. Why is it called Cleopatra's
Needle? Because she's the only Egyptian we know, that's the reason why.
Walking tours like these are advertised at the tourist information office and on the
Internet. For me they're almost always time and money well spent.
While most major cities have your standard big bus orientation tours, all over Europe
there's a more flexible option. "Hop-on hop-off" buses make a circular route stopping at the
top dozen or so attractions with 3 or 4 departures an hour and a continuous narration of the
sights. A single ticket gives you 24 hours of hop-on hop-off privileges as you sightsee
your way efficiently through town.
And, for the ultimate in economy and control, you can use your mobile device and download
self-guided audio tours.
After every trip to Europe, I'm reminded we can never exhaust this continent of what it
has to offer. The fine points of European culture survive and inspire. Its art packed
museums make it clear; the passions of the past are still with us. And, most of all,
it's the people who keep me coming back. Whether truffle hunting with friends in Tuscany; going
for a torch-light sled-ride high in the Swiss Alps or joining new friends on the beach for
a shrimp-fest in Denmark; Europe is both a playground and a classroom.
This concludes our three part travel skills special. Remember, anyone who equips them
self with good information and wants to travel smart...can. Thanks for joining us. I'm Rick
Steves...keep on travelin'. Cheerio.
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European Travel Skills Part III

3913 Folder Collection
SylviaQQ published on September 6, 2015
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