European Travel Skills with Rick Steves


I’m Rick Steves, thank you so much for joining us
today, and I have thirty years of travel experience I want to pack into a quick
series of lectures. Right now I want to talk about travel skills, alright, travel
skills and when you think about planning your trip it’s clear to me the more that
you see the planning part of your trip as part of the joy and the value of your
trip, the better. The more you plan
ahead, the smoother trip you’re gonna have and trip planning involves information,
deciding what style of travel you want to have, and then also how to make a good
itinerary. Information is fundamental, information empowers you. More and more
people are recognizing that they can be their own guides. Simply yourself with good information, expect yourself to travel smart, and you
can. Now of course, that’s what we do for a living, I write guidebooks. I’ve got a
hundred people that work with me and we’ve got guide books that give you the
skills, we’ve got guidebooks that give you the phrases, we’ve got guide books
that give you all of the sites, and we’ve got guidebooks that talk about the art. When
you travel, you want up-to-date information. One thing I do is spend four months a year
in Europe, I’ve done that for the last thirty years making sure my information
is up-to-date. Things are changing constantly over there, you need up-to-date information. Now the textbook for this talk really is Europe Through the Back Door. I update that
every year with four months of travel. One of my great joys is splicing in what I
learned in the last year into the newest edition of this book. Just between
you and me, this is the “Karma Sutra” of European travel fun, and I hope that with
this book you can learn from my mistakes rather than your own, and have a better
trip. Your trip is really important. We got to make sure we get the most use out
of our money, and out of our time. We always wish our dollar would stretch
further, and we always grumble about short vacations. We Americans have the
shortest vacations in the rich world, and it’s important not to just be swimming
through all the superlatives, but to cut through those superlatives
and know exactly how should I use my precious vacation time over there. Once I
get to Europe, the first stop I make in a town, no matter how well I know it, is the
Tourist Information Office. This is where you find out “where can I rent a bike,”
“can I have a map of town,” “when are the fountains on tomorrow,” “what’s happening tonight?” Now in the old days, the Tourist
Information Office was genuinely a tourist information service. In the last
generation, they’ve been privatized and now they have to make a profit. They have
to pay their rent, they have to pay their people, and they have to actually turn a profit. What they are is advertising agencies in disguise. That
doesn’t mean they’re not still information services, but as savvy
consumers, you need to know that their information is colored by who is paying
the price to get their information up top and center. They’ve still got the
information down here but anything up here is being paid for, and any little funky
idealistic tour guide gets the last of the priority, compared to the big
companies that are paying the commissions and so on. Understand that, but still use those
Tourist Information Offices. Now if you’re good traveler, you know when you
drop by the Tourist Information Office, you can pick up the rudiments of a smart
visit to that particular city. You’ll find for instance, what’s on in Oslo. I
don’t care how good your guide book is, it can’t tell you what’s happening Friday
night in Oslo, you get that on the internet, or you get that from the
periodical entertainment guide published by The Tourist Board, and available for
free right there. By the way, you don’t need the address of the
Tourist Information Office, you always find it. It’s very important because
tourism is the number one source of foreign revenue for a lot of these
places and, they would do a lot to help you, not to help you, period, to help you have fun spending
money in their town. That’s their mission, you see. So, what’s on in Oslo or what’s
on wherever, you’ve got a card that gives you free run of all the public transit.
Very handy to know about. You’ve also got a card that gives you free entrance to
all the sites. This is a big deal in Europe these days, these museum passes.
And, when you get a museum pass, different countries formulate a different economic
kind of equation. Some of them are good, some of them are really cheesy and not good,
and actually confusing you intentionally to make you think it’s a
good value. Guidebooks will do that arithmetic for
you, but one way or another, assess the museum pass. When you do assess the
museum pass remember, like the Paris Pass, you know I forget the exact price but
it’ll pay for itself in four admissions and it’s good for two days. There’s
different durations, but let’s say you get the two day one, you got to go to four sites to pay for itself. Well, you do the arithmetic there, but
also you gotta remember, when you have that pass, everything is free so you pop into
Victor Hugo’s house, just because it’s right there. You know you you just zip
into this or that, hey, underneath the Notre Dame, I can go into the crypt,
it’s free because you don’t have to think 10 or 15 bucks extra. That makes it more fun.
you just paid up front. Also, and most important, with the museum
pass you skip the lines. We’ll talk about this later, but skipping lines is a big
deal, and with this pass, you walk right up to the turnstile. Sometimes you have
to be a little bit aggressive to do that because you feel like you’re cheating,
but that line is not a line to get into the site, that line is a line to buy a ticket to get into the site, you’ve already got your ticket. So use that pass and go
to the front. If your times worth anything, this Paris Museum Pass for
instance is about my most popular tip. When you’re traveling you’ve got to
remember there’s a lot of information out there. You guys are overwhelmed by
data these days. When I started traveling, the problem was there wasn’t
enough information. Now there’s too much information and it’s uncurated.
That’s a key thing. A lot of Americans love this crowd sourcing stuff,
TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, Yelp, all that. You know it has its place, it is information,
but nobody’s curating it, and when you think of TripAdvisor, there’s a lot of
people that are just enamored with this whole concept, and they proudly do their
whole trip according to TripAdvisor. Who’s their guide? Their guide are people
who’ve only been there once that are writing feedback, their guide is companies in
India that make a lot of money saying good things or bad things about
businesses in Europe for hire, their guide is people who go to a little B&B
in Edinburgh and get a free breakfast in order if they promise to send a review
to TripAdvisor, their guide are enemy businesses that want to torpedo another business
by saying bad things about it, their guide is people who go to Paris and eat
Tex-Mex. So remember, TripAdvisor is a service, but it is uncurated, and as a
guide book writer, I see there’s quite a big difference. I go back every year, my
staff goes back every year, we know our travelers, we know the culture, we try to
sort through the information to give you a balanced look at it. Frankly, the most
valuable thing in TripAdvisor for me is not hotels and restaurants as much as
what to see and do in the town. I find it very helpful because if I’m coming into
Amsterdam, I wanna know what’s new, and everything that’s in business is listed on
Tripadvisor. Every food tour. every bike tour, every Segway tour, every zip line,
every goofy, you know, goblin tour, it’s right there on Tripadvisor, and then you
can sort through that and decide what you want to do on your time if you’d
rather be your own guide book writer, but guidebook writers do that for you, and I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind. When you are planning your trip, you remember
you’re coming into these big cities, you’ve got a day or two days in the town,
how do you get your bearings? Much as I’m a fan of independent travel, I’m also a
fan of spending 40 bucks and sitting on a bus for two hours and just having an
expert show it to me all. It’s relaxing, it helps me get my bearings, it’s
efficient. So you have these half day orientation tours that are good. Also,
remember, a lot of times, and this is a strange company called Blands, but it’s
actually quite interesting it’s in Gibraltar, the guy who owns it’s ego is a little bit bigger than his marketing sense, but I like Bland’s tour when I’m in Gibraltar because
things are spread out all over the place, and with Bland’s Tour, you go here and you have half an hour to
look around, then you go up here and you have half an hour to look around, then you go over
here and you have an hour to do the thing, and you come back there. So there’s a lot of tours that lace together things you and I couldn’t do without our own
car, and we certainly don’t want a car in that city. When I’m in Bergen, I love the
half-day tour that goes out to the Stave Church outside of town, hard to get to on your own, and Edvard Grieg’s home on Troldhaugen, also outside of town, hard to get to. with
the tour bus, it’s super efficient, and your time is really valuable in Europe. A
lot of people underestimate how important their time is. One very popular concept is hop-on hop-off bus tours. All over Europe these days you’ve got these tours, you pay, I
forget, 30 bucks and get 24 hours access, and it goes around the town in a big
three hour swing with 20 stops. And every 20 minutes, in-season, there’s another bus
coming by. The idea is you get on that and you hop on and hop off as you like as you
lace together all the sites in town. Cruise travelers find they’re very handy
because they include the cruise part in their loop, so you can just step on that
hop-on hop-off to all the big sites, and you can do it on a hop on hop off bus, or some of them have very good private, I mean local guides. Living guides, you have tape
recorded guides or living guides. If you get on a hop-on hop-off tour and you really
like your live guide, stay on the bus, don’t hop off for the whole loop
just ’cause that’s really an entertaining tour, and then you could do it again just
for the transportation, to mention of it. But hop-on hop-off bus tours are worth
knowing about in these towns. One of my great splurges, personally, is hiring a
local guide, a private guide. It’s a little expensive, but if you have a
picnic for dinner and if there’s four people to share the cost of the guide,
you’ll find it’s money very well spent. All over Europe, there are
licensed private guides working really hard, who would love to be hired by you,
to meet you at your hotel, and give you a three or four hour half-day trip around
their town. Many of them have cars. All of them, who you would be approaching, speak very good English. When you look at my TV show, it seems like I have friends
everywhere doesn’t it. I’m just hiring them to be my friends. They are private guides, and every one of
them is scrambling to fill their schedule and they’d love to be your
friend also, for a price. The good news is that guides get to be
less expensive where they’re more important. In the easiest countries like
in London, in England, they’re very expensive. and you don’t need them. In the more difficult countries, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Morocco, they’re
very cheap, they’re half the price, and you need them double. This is a friend of
mine in Poland who is a university student, speaks great English, and she’s
got a car. Hundred dollars for half a day, that’s a
very good deal. So remember the private guide. How do you find private guides? You
can Google it, you can see him on Tripadvisor, you can look at guidebooks,
tourist information services always have a list of local guides. I’m in Europe for
hundred and twenty days a year, eighty of those days I’m alone researching, forty
of those days I’m producing my TV show. Of the eighty days that I’m researching,
most of those days I’ve hired a local guide to be with me. I get triple the
value in a researching point of view to have my own guide. Last summer I probably had sixty
different guides. Of those guides, I think all of them are worth the time and money,
half of them were worth recommending and they’re in my guidebook. If I work with a
guide and I like them, they’re in my guidebook, and you can contact them directly, and it
can be a very good deal. You go to Morocco, you’re gonna be drinking tea with Aziz, and that’s a lovely afternoon. Walking around Tangier with
Aziz is a highlight. Now if you don’t have money for a private guide, remember
in a lot of cities they will organize public tours with a great local guide.
Sometimes it’s free. In Bath, this man’s in Bath, there’s a club of retired teachers and so on, and they all have a rotation, and
every afternoon somebody’s going to meet you at the tourist office and
take a free two-hour walk through the town. These people are great at making a
short story long, and I find that charming when I’m in
England. So take advantage of these local tours, sometimes you’ll pay $15 for them
sometimes they’re free, but I find they’re a very good value. Also remember in Europe, a new trend is
bike tours. A lot of bike tours. Now these are exercise, you get the wind in your face, you get the novelty of biking through a big city in Europe, and they have hard-working guides. So this would be in Paris, and this is the Sound of Music
bike tour in Salzburg. Lots of good bike tours that you can choose
from. A phenomenon in Europe these days, free tours. Now we know there’s no such thing as a free tour. There is a free class, but there is
no free tour. Actually, the free tours in Europe, they are tip based, that’s
what they call it, and they’re advertised to the youth hostel crowd, to the
backpackers, they are not local licensed Guides. These are expats, these are mostly
Australians, Canadians, Americans, and Brits, who memorizes the script and will
meet tourists at the main square and take him on a free walk for an hour and
a half or two hours. They’ll worked their heart out teaching, hoping to get tips at
the end. At the beginning you will assemble for a nice photograph that you
can get online, that’s just a good way for them to get your email address, and for
the bus to charge the guide for generating all these people. The bus
charges the guide three euros per person and, you can count the people that photo, and
now the guy owes the bus 150 euros if you had 50 people there. At the end of the
tour, the guide better get more than an average of three euros per person, or
he’s paying to work. Do you follow me? If the average is five euros tip, he makes a
hundred euros. So that’s the situation on free tours you’ll see them all over
Europe, they’re not bad ’cause I mean they’re free and you tip the guy five pounds.
They say money is, or coins are bad luck, so you gotta do paper, and it’s gonna be five
or ten euros, so it’s not free it’s disingenuous I think from the start, but
remember he can’t really answer good questions. It’s kind of a frat boy history,
it’s just always entertaining and trying to be clever, but you don’t really have a
licensed local guide, so the choice is yours. When you’re traveling, you’re gonna
find a lot of overwhelming sights. You come to this palace, and this could be a
palace almost anywhere in Europe, and you got the King’s apartment, you got the main
assembly hall, you got the chapel, you got their romantic little hunting lodge in
the garden, you got the place for their carriages, it’s really a lot, and you need
to get your bearings when you get there. There’s always information, there’s
guidebooks, there’s tours, there’s audio guides, there’s posted English signs
throughout.Find out in these sites how you’re going to get your good
information. One of my favorite things is the guides at the site, and in much of
Europe, especially in the north, when you pay for a museum, also included in that
is a free walk around. If you go to the big castle in Oslo it is stony, empty
meaningless, and expensive, except that there’s somebody right there
at the table that would love to take you around for half an hour. Suddenly have your own private guide and
it all comes to life. So be sure you know how to get the local information. This
man is a former student at Oxford that now loves to take groups around through
all the colleges in Oxford. I’ll tell you, going with a former student through the
colleges of Oxford makes that visit a lot more interesting. Find the audio
tours. This is something that’s trendy in Europe, it just makes a lot of sense. Just
a silly little extra, it really is nice to have your own earbuds in your day
bag that you really use a lot because audio tours, generally, you have to hold up,
and for a couple of hours you might be holding your hand to here, and it’s lousy
quality, and with an earbud, assuming it has that international unit, that
universal jack, you can put the thing in your pocket and have quality sound. You can
even cut your audio rental costs in half by sharing one device with two people.
Little “Europe Through the Gutter” days trick. Alright, but one way or another, use those audio guides, they come in English and they are either included or at a reasonable
price and excellent. I work very hard in my teaching to produce an app that is
full of free tours, and I really want to stress this, because this will save you
50 bucks a crack when you’re in Europe. I’ve got audio tours, must have 40 of them, for
all the great sites, museums, and walks, in Europe. I’ve worked on this really hard. Tens of thousands of people are going to
the Pantheon, they’re going to the Orsay Gallery, they’re cruisin’ the Grand Canal
in Venice with me in their ears. And it’s so nice, it’s just the tours that’s in
the book already, but it’s beautifully designed in a real-time way, so you just
turn it on and you rarely have to pause, and then you can just relax, you
need to read and look up, but I’m right in your ear the whole time, and we’re
walking together through St. Peter’s Basilica. If you like my style of
teaching it absolutely free, its simple, you don’t need the book or anything,
you just download Rick Steves Audio Europe, and it’ll be, I hope, a real boon
to your sightseeing. Again, there’s forty or more of these tours covering all the
major sites in Europe; London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, you’ve got the tours with that app. You need to decide early on, are you gonna take a tour, or are
you gonna go on your own? the most common reason Americans have for taking
tours is because they don’t think they can do it on their own. Anybody smart enough to be streaming
right now, or here in this theater, has what it takes intellectually to make it around Europe
without being spoon fed by a guide. You’re smart enough. Now there are
reasons to take a tour, good reasons to take a tour. A tour is efficient, and a tour
can be be economic. You’re talking people into sharing a big vehicle. People ask me
how do I make any money in my tour company, it’s the biggest part of our
business. We make a lot of money on our tours, we took twenty thousand people
on 800 tours this last year and people ask me how do you make any money? When they
try to add it up it seems like about the same cost as going on your own, and I
remind them if I can talk 25 people into sharing one vehicle, right there, compared to the cost of renting vehicles
and so on, or getting a train pass, is more than enough profit for me. If everything
else is a wash, the tour is good business for me and a great value for our
travelers, assuming we can accomplish more in one day, with the help of a guide
in a bus, than you could do on your own. That’s the rationale for taking the tour, you
got a guide, you got a bus, all the ducks are in a row, you’ve got reservations to
the complicated sites, and so on. If it’s done well it can be a very good
deal. The big money, if you’re a tour operator,
is in those last 25 people on the bus that we don’t have. Fifty people on a 50 seat bus, wow. We have 25 people on a 50 seat bus. You see, the standard,
impossibly cheap tours in Europe are fifty people on a 50 seat bus. Now
that’s economic, that can be efficient, but remember they don’t make any money
off of you on the beginning price, they’re going to make their money by
selling you stuff over the course of your tour, and you gotta be ready for that
because as consumers you just got to be realistic, it’s not that cheap. They’re
going to park you outside of town, why? Hotels are cheaper outside of town, they’re all
cookie-cutter, Days Inn, predictable, everything works, they got air con, and
elevators, there’s less complaints, and, you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere so
you have to pay 50 bucks to take the bus tour into town tonight. Fifty people
times $50 is $2,500 of gravy for the guide and the tour company. That’s good
business, that’s what makes their world go round. read the fine print on your standard
budget tour bus brochure. It says you’re gonna sleep in the Florence area. that could be halfway to Bologna. I like to
stay right downtown. I’m not worried in my tour company that people are gonna, like,
not take our tours because they already paid for the tours, its included you see,
in the tour cost. So, understand when you’re shopping around for a tour the
built in financial concerns of the company, and do remember you cannot take
fifty people into a cute pub and experience a cute pub. You’re going
through Europe with fifty people seeing cultural cliques on stage, with a company
that didn’t make a fair profit off you in the start, and they’re gonna work very
cleverly to sell you sightseeing, and take you shopping for kickbacks, and then
angle for tips when it’s all over. As a tour operator I know what it’s like,
I mean I know just where to park the bus in Lucerne for Swiss clock shopping. You
get $50 and a bottle of champagne as soon as you park your bus there. 45
minutes later, after everybody’s done their Swiss clock shopping, they’re back on the
bus, the tour guide goes back into the back room office and gets 15% of whatever went
into the till during that period. That’s enough to corrupt a normal tour
company, and you’ve got to, as consumers, understand what you’re getting
into when you take a big bus tour. And you gotta remember, when you take a
big bus tour, again, you’re going to be doing things in a mass tourism kind of way. These people here are in Tangier. They went over with a big bus tour from Spain,
they got one in their life in Africa, and they’re all having lunch together.
Here you are, your only meal in your life in Africa, and its lunch with a bunch of
people from New Jersey and Florida. Now you do have your boy George belly dancer
which is kind of fun, but its a crass example of the local culture, very very
touristic, and then you got people that are just worried about not getting
ripped off and not getting diarrhea and they want to buy their carpet, get back
onto their boat safely. It’s a whole different approach to travel, and you see
them in Morocco, I see them and it’s just, you just shake your head. They go through
the town looking like you know a bunch of nervous kangaroos with their bags on their
bellies like this, kind of like this, and all I can think is “self-imposed hostage crisis,”
alright. You really can do it on your own if you want to, but you do have that option
taking a big bus tour. I will remind you, the good thing about a standard, big,
impossibly cheap, bus tour, think of it as a bus pass that comes with hotels. Impossibly cheap, it’s the cheapest way for an adult that doesn’t want to do hitchhiking, and youth hostels, and
picnics, to have a normal tour. Enjoy the bus, enjoy the forgettable, no-stress,
standard American-style hotels, skip out of lunch even if its included, do your own
thing, equip yourself with a guidebook, freeloading on the structure of a trip
provided by a tour company that makes its money by selling you stuff once
you’re over there, just buy none of their stuff, and if everybody did that they’d have to charge upfront what the tours really worth. really worth, you follow me there? So that
can be a good deal, that can be a very good deal but many people get onto a bus
and it occurs to them on day two, “we could have done this on our own,” and that’s the big
deal. You can travel on your own if you want to, and that’s what I just love.
Now, with my tour company, it seems contradictory ’cause okay I’m saying you can
do tours without a tour. Yeah, you can do it on your own, but if you want
somebody to do the driving, if you want somebody to organize the hotels, it can
be very efficient. As I mentioned, I led these tours for 25 years, for the
last ten years I’ve been taking them, I know my guides now do a better job than
I ever could their local specialists, I’m the
generalist and every time I take a tour, about day 3 it occurs to me, “yeah I see why
people love these tours,” I’m so relaxed they’re doing the driving, I know there’s
going to be a great hotel tonight, I don’t know exactly what it is but it’s going to be
fine, they’ve got lunch figured out, we’ve got
some sort of activity in the afternoon, it’s a vacation and I’m sharing the cost
of the transportation with 25 people, and I got a great guide. One thing about our
tours is, and I cant really advertise this but I find it’s true, it’s just the
kind of people we attract through the way we advertise our tours really gathers a
fun-loving group of people that you enjoy traveling with. And that’s pretty
important. Remember, the kind of tour you’d choose, the way
they promote their tour shapes the kind of people that take that tour. This is
one of my tours recently, and I just thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the
people on the tour. We’ve got thirty five different itineraries all over Europe,
and you can learn a lot more about that by just checking on our website or
picking up our tour brochure that explains the reality of our tours. But
again, small groups, fun-loving people, and a guide who’s
fully paid up front, and this guide is on your side from beginning to end. I am so
proud of the work our guides do, our customers have a very high level of
expectation and these guides, year after year, exceed those expectations. So, if you’re curious about a bus tour, check out a Rick Steves tour, if you like. A big possibility for
you is cruising. Cruising is a booming part of the travel business in Europe
these days it’s efficient, it’s economic it’s just kind of exciting. Now it’s not my
style of travel, but I’ll tell you I love cruising, I do a lot of it. I’ve written a
guide book, it’s the best selling guidebook for Mediterranean cruising and
we’ve written a companion cruise book for Northern Europe port. And
I’ll just say a few minutes about cruising, the cool thing for a lot of
people about cruising is you move into one hotel and every day you’re in a
different country, and you don’t have to relocate every day, and you travel while you
sleep and you toggle from a standard floating American resort with a bunch of
Americans looking you know just have fun, and putt-putt golf, and drinks, and all
that, nothing wrong with that, that’s a holiday and then when you land, you become a traveler,
and then you get back on the ship and you’re back on your floating resort with a
bunch of Americans again. So, given that that’s what it is, they do it really,
really well. Now when you think of a cruise ship, there’s three thousand tourists on
one of these cruise ships. That’s a remarkable thing, and by my estimate, one
thousand of them are not even travelers, they’re just looking for a floating
alternative to Las Vegas. 1,000 of them are the worst kind of travelers, they don’t
even know where they are they just got a bucket list of things they want to see
before they die, and they better hurry up. Okay, and 1,000 of them are actual
travelers that like the idea of eight hours in the city, and tomorrow eight
hours in the next country, and the next day 8 hours, and the next, they’re well organized when that gang plank hits the shore they’re on their way. Now I was skeptical, but you
know, I just did it myself and they’re very well organized, so my
challenge is to take this the shell, this efficiency, recognize it’s a huge market,
and there’s reasons people want to take a tour, it’s safe, it’s cheap, it’s
efficient, you’re getting– its ADD America. it’s all about ADD these days, our way,
and it’s one day per country. Okay, don’t complain about it, it’s what
they’re asking for, make the most out of that. And I just find that you can be having
breakfast here in Istanbul, like I was, in the top of the ship at eight o’clock, at
nine o’clock the gangplanks down you’re free to go ashore, and by 9:30 you’re on
top of this hill, you’re on top of this hill, in this crowd, and there’s not a hint of
your cruise ship. Fundamentally that’s the exciting thing about cruising in
Europe, if you take the initiative, you can be completely apart of that garish,
mass tourism, American cruise world. You can be in Naples, in Istanbul, in
Barcelona, and the great thing about cruising is, in many cases, the ship parks
right there downtown. So, if you take advantage of the
guidebook and the information, that’s what we’ve worked on very hard is making these
cruise ship books. You get these books and my goal is to let the people that
wanna take the cruise program, function as independent, smart travelers for the
eight hours they have onshore. You can do it, and it can be very very efficient.
Remember, when you when you leave the ship there’s a dividing point. Bus tour is
this way, suckers going on their own that way, alright.
No, independent people and people who opt in for the bus tour. So you go to the
left, you got your buses waiting for you. You go
to the right, and you see a barrier where all the local guides who’ve been
booked by more independent travelers are meeting them. For the cost of four bus tours,
you can get your private guide waiting for you and your friends to take you on your
own around the town. Much better, because those bus tours all have an agenda.
They’re gonna take you shopping, they’re gonna do– the buses in Turkey are
provided by the carpet shops for free, you bet they’re gonna go to the carpet shops, you
see. So, understand that sort of nature and remember, at every port in Europe, I don’t know why, but for some reason the tourist boards, like, stick up
for independent travelers and they insist on having a kiosk right there in the
dock to help people who are completely independent. Here’s the bus to Pisa, the
crew members are going to take that bus, and a few the travelers might take it
also. Okay, I wanna talk about what most of you are
gonna be doing on your trip, you’re gonna be traveling by car or train with a
guidebook, being your own guide. And that’s so exciting. Again, I’ve done this
for four months here ever since I was a kid, and the key is to equip yourself
with good information, and expect yourself to travel smart. You need to
plan an itinerary, a smart itinerary. You need guidebooks that are up-to-date. Now
there’s lots of guidebooks, and every guidebook has its own personality and
style, and you know, for the right traveler, my guidebooks work really well, but I’m the
first one to say that for some people, they want a different kind of guide book.
I’m not into shopping, I’m not into gambling, I’m not into nightlife I’m not
into pretentious dining, you know, there’s a lot of people that
want that kind of stuff, and there’s great guidebooks for you. I’m just sort
of an old hippie that’s running around with a backpack still enjoying hitting
the culture, getting out of my comfort zone, making friends, eating well, and
learning. Okay, and that’s sort of my passion, and it comes through in these
guidebooks. These guidebooks are lavishly updated, they are more up-to-date than
anything else in print, and they give you the nitty-gritty so you can put the trip
together. Now there are the big, full guidebooks, about 1,000 pages each, and
that can be expensive and it can be bulky. We’ve been able to produce what we call
snapshots. We’ve covered every country in Europe, but if you don’t wanna buy
Scandinavia you can just buy Norway, and it’s half the bulk, and half the price. Those are called snapshots. The same
information, the same depth, the same up-to-date-ness, but just a part of the
book. Again, a snapshot. Also, one thing that’s been very fun for me, is to
develop the big cities into guidebooks of their own. My frustration when I
first started writing guidebooks was you’d have a great guidebook for a city,
and you’d be in Paris, and you’d go out to Versailles, and then when you get to Versailles you realize “oh, my guidebook doesn’t cover Versailles in a room-to-room
kind of way, I need to now by a guidebook at Versailles,” which costs as much as the
France guidebook its as big as the France guidebook, way more information than I
want, translated from a scholar thirty years ago, so dry if you read out loud
your lips would chap. I don’t want that kind of guide book, but that was the only
option, so what I’ve done over 25 years is developed these tours that we give
our groups, and I put the tour, in the books, so that you can do our tours
without us. And these books, these city books, the
goal of them is to give you everything you need to know eating, sleeping, nitty-gritty, site
seeing, getting there, getting away, at night, shopping, all that kind of stuff,
and, self-guided tours to the great sites, the must-see sites in that town. So, the
philosophy is, you buy this book, you got everything you need for a week in that
city, and they work really really well. I want to remember our guidebooks
originated back in the early eighties as handbooks for my tours. I didn’t write
the guidebooks for the general public, I wrote them as handbooks for the people
who took my bus tours around with me. Time after time people were stealing my
manuals during the break. I thought they’d flip through the manual, like what they see, and take
the tour, they’d flip through the manual, like what they saw, and took the book. I thought, these
books are driving decent people to theft, they should be available for purchase. So
I did the book, and I thought, I’m going to honestly put everything in that book
that I know to do the tour, so people can do my tour without me. The first books
were called France in 22 days, written in 22 days because it was a 22-day tour route, and on day three you did exactly this, and people were drafting behind
our tours. And it’s a great thing, I love it. Now that’s evolved, now we took the 22
day program out of there, but it still has that passion, not for just taking care of
your money, Europe on $5 a day style, but taking care
of your time, France in 22 days style. So, your time is a limited resource just
like your money, and these books today are the best selling guides in the
United States for each country in Europe, because they take care of your time, they
cut to the superlatives, and they take care of your money as well. Okay, so if you like my style, I think they
can be helpful for you. Complete guidebook, Snapshot, or city book. Now, a lot of Americans like to read the New York Times, and a lot of Americans
think that’s just too much print, “I want to read USA Today.” It’s two different
markets. What we produced is the USA Today version, and the New York Times
version of each of our city guide books, and they’re called Pocket Guides. The
little, punchy, colorful Pocket Guide has everything most people need to know, but
about half of the verbiage as the big full guide. But its punchier, it’s more
bullets, it’s more charts, and maps, and colors, and they’re very popular. We’ve
got the option to get the full guide, or the Pocket Guide, and we just are working to handle your
needs so you can put your travel dreams into a smooth, and affordable reality. I
want to stress, we could never do these guides without our local guides in
Europe. We’re hiring guides all the time. I’ve got twenty people from my office
that go over there, and we’ve got guides in every city in Europe that help us out. This
is Peter Poltzman, and Peter took five days, and just went around the
countryside last time I was in Hungary, and we checked out all these little
towns outside of Budapest, and I really am thankful for the work and the help we
get from our local guides, couldn’t do it without them. Whether you’re going to use
a printed guide or a digital guide doesn’t matter, it’s purely a choice. All
of our information is available digitally as well as in print, and how
you like it really is up to you. Now, Europe 101 is the book I wrote after 25
years of leading tours around Europe, understanding what people need to know,
and just as importantly, what they don’t need to know. This is a very fun, and
practical, swing through the story of Europe, from the pyramids to Picasso, designed
with your sightseeing in mind. It’s really important if you want to enjoy
and appreciate the sites, and as you know, museums can ruin a good vacation, they
really can. I know tourists are good for about two hours in the Louvre, and our job as
tour guides and guidebook writers is to cut through the superlatives, and lay out what
is the best of that museum, so you can enjoy it while you still fresh. In the
third book, which is the sort of philosophy book, is the Travel as a
Political Act book, which talks about how we can get out of our comfort zone and
gain an empathy for the other 96% of humanity, and come home with a mindset
where we’re more inclined to build bridges, and less inclined to build walls.
Now these are the three fundamental books. Europe Through the Back Door, that’s the
skills we’re talking about today, Europe 101, the art, and then
Travel as a Political Act, that’s how to broaden your perspective through travel,
and they all work together as a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of travel needs, to
give you those skills, appreciate the culture, and then taking home the very
best souvenir, that broader perspective. For more information, we’ve been filming TV shows like
nobody’s business, and we’ve got an archive of a hundred shows covering all
of Europe, and you can go to our website anytime you like, and just click. There’s
four shows on Ireland, 16 shows on Italy, four shows on Turkey, two shows going
across the Alps, lots of information. Of course I like to
think of them as entertaining and broadcast television, but I also think of
them as a resource. Go to ricksteves.com, go into to the TV section, if you’re
going to Denmark there’s two shows for you. That’s a one hour lesson on
Denmark, and I tell you it really does help to let people know how they should
spend their time. Also, at ricksteves.com, we’ve got this talk, and a whole slew
of other talks I give talks on different countries. I’ve got wonderful guides
giving talks just like this, talks on packing , talks on art, talks on Italy, talks on tech, a lot of very important information beyond the scope
of this class, and they’re all free. Go to the Travel Talk section at ricksteves.com and you can go to school before your trip, and the whole idea is
to learn from our mistakes rather than your own, so you can travel smoother. Very
near and dear to my heart is my three-part art lecture series that is
available at our website, giving you a five-hour swing through the story of Europe
from the Middle Ages until today. Now, when you have that background
information, now you can get down and dirty with your itinerary planning. What
you do, is lay down everything you could, sit down with a travel partner, and just
brainstorm everything you want to do, and how many days you want to spend in each of
those spots. Then, you add it up and you realize, “oh that’s twice as many days as
we have for a vacation,” which is generally the case. Alright, that’s
start, so you take your wish list, and then you go through it with a hard look
at, “what do we really have time for,” and the philosophy here needs to be,
“yes, I know you can spend four days there, but two days will do it.” Just as bad as
going too fast, I think, is going to slow. In each day that you stay in a town,
I think there’s a diminishing curve of returns. Day number four in a great city
is not as good as day number one in a secondary city. If I had three days in
Edinburgh, I could make a strong case. Two days in Edinburgh, and take 45 minutes a
trip to Glasgow, you see. So you’ve got those kind of decisions to wrestle with,
but don’t think that five days in one stop is as good as its trendy to say. All
right, I keep it moving, and I’m the first one to say you can go too fast, but also
you can go to slow. Also don’t try to exhaust Europe of what it has to offer on one trip, you can’t, you’ll always be frustrated. Assume you will return. On this itinerary,
you know, we had seven days in Greece. Its just not gonna happen. Let’s do Greece on
another trip, and focus right in on Greece and do it off season, much smarter, you see. Think about the weather, think about not spending a lot of travel
time getting somewhere in back, think about taking a few night trains,
thinking about paring it down, and now you got your trip into 21 days. You lay it
out on a calendar, and then I like to build a chart like this, just on word,
and it’s a living document, everything I’m working on is in this chart. Guides I’ve made, checklist of things to do, reservations to make, hotels that I wanna
get, hotels that I have booked, keep careful track of it because if you’re
sloppy, and you book a hotel and you forget about it, it’s expensive, you know, they’re
gonna bill you. If you’re sloppy and you didn’t know that you gotta
make a reservation for the Last Supper, you’re gonna get there and be very
frustrated. So here’s where you put all your notes. It’s a lot to keep track of,
and you can do it with your growing file. And then you print that thing out, you
make three copies of it, and one of them is in your pocket all the time so you
can be referring to it. This is one of our– that’s one of our most popular
itineraries, this is the best of Europe in 20 days. That’s the tour I was doing
in my minibus back when I got started, I absolutely love this tour, and I would
take a hard look at that as the core of Europe. It’s a little heavy on Italy, eight days in Italy, ’cause that’s my favorite country. It’s open jaws, starting in Amsterdam and finishing
in Paris, because you should not fly in and out of the same city unless have a
good reason to, it makes no sense at all. It takes extra time and money to get
back your starting point. Go open jaws, and then fashion that into
something that makes sense to you. And if you’ll look at here, you’ll notice there’s
only two one night stands. One night stands are inefficient, I would rather
have a long day in order to have two nights in a row, and then a long day. Your second night in a town really is a
joy, because you’re already established, you know the ropes, and it’s not so
frantic about, “where I am.” So, you minimize your one night stands. What’s the trip gonna cost ya? Well, you’ve got to just kind of go through and figure your flight, you gotta figure your room and board,
ground transportation, and sightseeing. Room and board varies if you’re one, two,
three, or four people, because the more people you put in the room, the cheaper it gets.
One person in a hotel room, very expensive. This is based on two people in a hotel
room, $150 a night for your hotel including breakfast would be 75 bucks
per person, and $15 for lunch, if you get a lunch down here for $15 that’s
satisfying to you, you can get a lunch anywhere in Europe for $15, and then
you’re going to splash out for a nicer dinner, and when it comes to
transportation it depends if you’re gonna take a car or a train, but you need to
kind of sort that out before your trip. Remember, there are a lot of tourists in
Europe, everybody’s trying to get you to go to different places, and you’ve got to
be careful, as tourists, when you come into town, to recognize that all of the
heavily promoted things are heavily promoted, not out of the love of travel
and art, but out of the love of your money. Okay, in the hotel lobby you’ll see little
brochures. That’s paid to be there. At the Tourist Information Office, even the
Tourist Information Office, it’s corrupted by, you know, paid display. So,
you’ll see these highly promoted things but generally they’re gimmicks, and you
need some reasonable source that lets you sort beyond that, and know what you
want to do. And do remember any time you go around Europe you can choose to go to
the tourist places, or you can choose to hangout where there are no tourists.
Europe is very, very crowded in the very, very popular places, but I was just in
South England for two weeks and I saw forty Americans the whole time. It was
remarkable how lonely and desolate it was, it was beautiful. I was just in the south
coast of Greece the Peloponnesian Peninsula, it was just me, and my
beautiful oranges, and those lovely sunsets. You can leave the tourists quite
easily, you can find yourself all alone at your own private little
version of Stonehenge, and I like that. Even though it’s not his grandiose as
Stonehenge, there’s more magic here I can promise you that. And there’s a hundred of
these for every touristy Stonehenge surrounded by tour buses, and port-a-loos, and barbed wire, and blow horns, okay. That’s your challenge, off-season, or
peak-season, or shoulder-season, there’s pros and cons. Remember, in Europe, the
most grueling thing about European travel is the heat and the crowds in the summer. if you’re wondering, “can we do this,” steer away from the summer. It’s very hot
and very crowded in the Mediterranean. My pattern, and I’ve done this for thirty years, April and May in the Mediterranean, I go
home in June. July and August, north of the Alps, okay. Scandinavia and Britain, I want
peak of peak. Long days, good weather, and I want some action. There’s really not
many crowds in Scandinavia or Britain, and I’d rather have the parks full of
people and there to be lots of activities. If you go off-season in Scandinavia, it’s
gonna be dark, it’s going to be gloomy, and the open-air sites are gonna be
desolate, alright, July and August. When you think about peak-season, and shoulder-season, and off-season, there is a little golden, you know, Goldilocks time in the
middle called shoulder-season, it’s one big bell-shaped curve. I really like May and
September/October, that’s very nice. Here I am on the beach in the Riviera,
it’s too cold to swim but there’s plenty of space, there’s nice sunshine and it’s
before the summer break, July and August, and that makes a lot of
sense. Again, you can go off-season, that’s the easiest time, if you’re wondering, “can
we do this,” just bundle up. I love the idea of a road trip off-season if you’re wondering, “is this
too grueling physically for me.” Europe is crowded with people who live
there, and it’s crowded with all of us who hustle in every summer, and to be
honest, most travelers have the same things in mind. You know if you’re
going to London, or you’re going to Paris, you’re gonna go out to Versailles and you’re gonna
make a beeline for that Hall of Mirrors, it’s a mob scene all day long. If you go to
Rome, you want to go to the Vatican Museum. Look at this crowd in the Vatican
Museum. I want to remind you, there are emerging economies, India and China, and
now there’s a lot of poor people in those countries, but man there are
a hundred million people that have money to go to Europe, and when they go to Europe, they got a handful of things in mind, They’ve got as
sophisticated an approach to Europe as I would have goin’ to China, or as I would
have goin’ to India. You know from a far distance with a very different culture
you, just want to see the famous marquee sites. Consequently there’s ten sites in
Europe that are just overwhelmed by emerging economy travelers and you’ve
got a choice, “am I gonna deal with that or am I gonna steer clear?” Probably you’re gonna deal with it, but you want
to be very careful about dealing with it smartly, you’re gonna go through the Rafael rooms in the Vatican Museum with this kind of
a crowd all day long. There’s no way around it, so don’t complain about it,
just be thankful a lot of people are able to travel, be thankful that there’s this
stability so they can, and be thankful that you’re able to shuffle through that,
enjoy the Rafael, and then go do something without a lot of tourists, because
there’s a lot of alternatives. Remember, when you see a long line, those people
are not waiting to get into that site, those people are waiting to buy a ticket to
get into that site, and good travelers know there are alternatives to getting a
ticket right there, you can get one of those museum passes, or in the case of the
Colosseum, Italy is now selling combo tickets. If you go to the Coliseum,
they’ve already charged as much as they can for the Coliseum but they’ve got
this gimmick where they make you buy a ticket to the Palatine Hill nearby, in
order to see the Coliseum, so it’s a combo ticket, it costs a lot more. The good news
is, there’s never a line at the Palatine Hill. It’s a hundred yards away, you walk
right up to the tourist desk, you buy your ticket, and then you walk past all
of these people straight to the turnstile and you go in, and you enjoy the
Coliseum. When you go to the Eiffel Tower, you’re gonna find long lines waiting to
get up that elevator. Now I have a good guidebook, and I used it, and it said you’d
better get a reservation or you’re gonna spend a lot of time in line. So I went
online, I got the reservation, I’m not good with this online stuff but it’s
just follow the prompts, and it works, and when I got there I had the inconvenience
of going through that empty little entryway, and walking zig-zagging through
all those empty stanchions. And I thought, “how silly, I’m walking half a mile just
to get to the front of the line,” and I got up to the front and they said, “oh
you’ve got a reservation, please come this way,” and they crowded me in front of
everybody, and they put me directly onto the elevator. I went up, I had a great time, I
came back down, and I walked that whole line looking at everybody in that line,
and it occurred to me, not one of them had the Rick Steves Paris guidebook. There’s two IQs of European travelers,
those who wait in lines, and those who don’t wait in line. If you’re waiting in
line, frankly, you’re messing up, and you’re
doing your loved ones a disservice, if nothing else. Be aggressive about
avoiding those lines. I never wait in lines, you can get around the lines,
that’s my passion in my research, is to help my travelers, with my books, not wait
in line. A lot of people just think, “I’m going to Disneyland, I’ll wait two hours for
this site.” No you don’t need to do that. There are ways around those lines. In
many cases, you can call or email and get an appointment. This is Mad Ludwig’s
castle in Bavaria, two hours south of Munich. Many people drive from Munich down to Mad Ludwig’s castle, they go to the ticket office, and there’s this little sign that says, “sorry all the
tickets are alotted for today, come back tomorrow.” That’s catastrophic. You can
drive down and go to will call and pick up your appointments. Here I’ve got
tickets to both castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, and I get an
English tour, and it’s very, very efficient, it’s just good travel. Remember,
a lot of sites these days require reservations. If you want to go to the
Alhambra, you gotta get a reservation. If you want to go to the Last Supper, you
gotta get a reservation. If you want to go to the Borghese Gallery, you gotta get
a reservation. So, guide books will tell you which sites require reservations, and
which sites offer reservations, and it’s crazy not to get reservations, In a lot
of cases, I would say if reservations are available, it means ’cause there’s a lot of
crowds. Even if it’s not required, you’re wise to get a reservation. I came into
Rome one time, just seeing what it was like without reservations. It was just
horrible. I didn’t get into anything that I wanted to get into, you know, the Colosseum– it’s just really frustrating, so get on the ball when it comes to these
reservations. This is the Pantheon here. I stay about a week, about a block away
from the Pantheon, and in the middle of the day I like to drop in, just ’cause it’s
it’s a human traffic jam under that great dome. But I drop in early in the
morning and late at night, and I am literally the only person in the Pantheon.
A little kid comes chasin’ his dog into the place, and you know, a couple of
pensioners are dropping in to marvel at it early and late, but in the middle of
the day, that’s the packed scene. Remember, 10 til’ 4, it’s really
crowded ’cause that’s when the groups can come in from cruise ships and from
outlying hotels. Cruise crowds are a big deal. This is the Acropolis, and when you
think of a cruise ship, 3,000 people on the cruise ship, five cruise ships
docking, everybody’s making a beeline for the Acropolis. That’s a mob scene, it’s a
rush hour. Why would you, if you’re not on a cruise ship, put yourself in the middle
of that cruise rush? Go there early, or go there late. Here, I’m going to the
Acropolis at five o’clock in the afternoon. I still have a couple of hours,
it’s cooler, shadows are nice, the colors are warmer, and so on, and look at
the situation. Everybody is rushing out, nobody is going in. I’ll be the last guy
on the Acropolis. I’ll be the guy who their guard blows his whistle at when
it’s time to get down, and those are beautiful moments that no cruise traveler
gets to enjoy. Stay right downtown, in Venice. The groups are coming in from
their cruise ships, or from cheaper hotels in the mainland. Spend a few extra bucks, stay downtown, be
out early, be out late. You need to take the initiative to get around those
crowds these days, and it’s more important than ever that you look at
places that simply have no tourism. Ninety percent of Europe really has no
tourism to speak of, and it is just as Europe as the rest of it, it’s just not as
famous and glitzy. Find yourself in a little town where there’s no tourism, no
Tourist Information Office, see four cute guys sitting on a bench and ask them to
scoot over. Join them, join them. This is the magic of European travel, I’ve been
saying this all my life, and it really is a delightful way to travel. You need to sit
on that bench, and watch the world go by. We’ve got lots of practical skills to
share, I’ve talked just about your planning, and remember, that’s just the
beginning. There’s much more for you to grab that information, and turn your travel
dreams into smooth and affordable reality. Thank you. Thank you for joining us, I want
to talk about packing light. My name is Rick Steves and I have spent
a third of my adult life living out of a 9 x 22 x 14 inch carry-on-the-airplane
size suitcase, and I’ll tell you, you’re going to learn now, or you’re
going to learn later: It’s important to pack light. I don’t
care if you’re going for two weeks or two months, winter or summer. You need to pack light. You don’t have a
mule. If you do have a pack mule you are
abusing your spouse, okay, every person should generally be able
to carry their own stuff, and they should pack assuming they got to carry it. Now, when you travel around Europe, you see a
lot of people with a lot of gear, and you wonder, “why do they need so much stuff?” I
mean look at this. I hope she’s going to use all that. Now, I
live out of a bag that I can get up that donkey path and into Civita di Bagnoregio
without a lot of effort and that’s really, really important. Good travel means you’re going to have
to walk. If your trips any good, you’re not gonna have a hotel right in
front of your tour bus, or right in front of the train station, and a lot of Europe
is inaccessible. You can’t get buses into the center of town these days, so, you need to be mobile, and if you need
to buy a porter everywhere you go, that’s bad style, and it’s going to put
you in a real bind, so just get serious about packing light. here’s the reality, you come in by train,
and you’ve got to get that bag out at least to the taxi rank, probably to the
subway, and then on to your hotel. this is a shot from one of our tours, I
took this tour just as a participant with my family. Lisa’s there in the front, one of our
guides, and I like to show this shot because this is a shot travel or tour promoters generally
don’t show, the reality of tourism. You gotta unload your gear, load it up,
walk out to the tour bus, and so on, and as I mentioned, if your tour is any
good, the bus will not park directly in front of the hotel. You want to be buried
in the old town with your hotel, and that means the reality of getting out to the bus,
getting out to the train station, whatever, so you’ll want to
be mobile. when I’m traveling, you’ve got a big
choice. Do you want a roller suitcase or do you want a suitcase that has a grip
that has hidden padded shoulder straps that hangs on your back? I still use the backpack hanging on my
back, which is a soft-sided suitcase, and I like it because it is a couple pounds
less, it is a little less expensive to buy, and
when I’m on an airplane, I can always jamming in the overhead
locker because it’s not a hard frame, and for me that’s a real advantage. I’m the last person on the plane, I like
to be the last person on the plane, and I’m never unable to jam my bag up above. If I had a roller bag, that’s a little bit of a different story. If
you need to have a roller bag, that’s okay. Someday I’m going to need a
roller bag. As long as I’m strong enough to carry it on my back, I will, okay. I find in my office, among the men it’s kind of half and half, half of us
carry it on our back, half use a roller bag. among the women, most women like that
roller bag. So really either way, and just because you have a roller bag doesn’t
mean you can pack heavier, that’s a key thing, right. Now this is my
home for four months out of the year. The bag is something we’ve designed, it
costs about a hundred dollars. If I could get a better bag for five hundred
dollars, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, because this is my home. It’s a lot of living, and I find that
this bag has everything we need. It’s a self-imposed limit, 9 x 22 x 14
inches, that’s as big as I can carry out of the airplane, very important. It’s got a very smart configuration of
pockets, and I hang it on my back with those padded shoulder straps. I just love it. These people are very
mobile and when you’re traveling by train, you need to be mobile. I will remind you
if you’re traveling by car, you can be packing a little heavier,
because you can use the car to get where you want to go, in most cases. But if
you’re traveling by train, you got to get serious about packing light. On our tours,
and we take a lot of people on our tours, this group here looks like a
reunion for one of our tours, people just like you guys, we do not
allow anybody to check any bags. 9 x 22 x 14 inches, that is the max. Last year we took twenty thousand people
on 800 different tours. For some of those people, that was a radical concept, “what, 9
x 22 x 14 inches for my whole trip? That was my cosmetics kit.” Nope, that’s
everything because– and it’s kind of tough love, and for years I’ve been
forcing people into this beauty of packing light, and I think, “am I comin’ down too hard on him?” I drop in and visit them a week into their
trip and I asked them how’s it going, and they’re always thankful. I’ve never met
anybody who was mad at me for making them pack light. You’re going to learn now or you’re going to
learn later the importance of packing light. So you can see these people here,
these are people who take– this is one of our tours, a small group from one of our
tours, and we got six people here, they’ve all got their roller bags, and they’ve
all got day bags. The roller bag day bag thing, that’s
really your world, whether you’re taking a cruise or a bus tour, or going on your own, you got your big bag, you leave it on the
ship, you leave it under the bus, you leave it in the hotel room, and you got
your day bag for out and about. Here’s me coming back from a two month
trip. That’s my world. When I leave home, I always think, “this bag is so light, I
must be forgetting something,” and I go to my Europe Through the Back
Door Book, and I look through the packing list, and it’s all there. You don’t need to pack heavy, as I was
talking about. Whether you’re going for two weeks or two months, whether you’re
going winter or summer, whether you’re a man or a woman, rich or poor, old
or young, it’s all the same. You will do
yourself a huge favor if you pack light. You got your big bag, you got your little
bag. Now I do like to accommodate the reality
that you’re going to get things as you go. All right, I come, I leave home really
bare bones, I’m beyond getting tourist souvenirs, but a lot of people
understand what they’re going to buy, they’re gonna buy their beer stein, and
they’re gonna buy their whatever all around Europe, and I like to
have what’s called a hideaway tote. I leave that in the car, I leave that
deep stored on the bus, and that’s where I put my stuff I don’t want to carry
into the hotel every night, all right. Very nice, it lets you still be
packing light even though you’re cheating and you’re gathering stuff as you go, and
then when you fly home you can fly home heavy, and you’ve got this big bag that
you can check on to the airplane. If you can enjoy the luxury, however, of not
checking things onto the airplane, you’re doing yourself a huge favor. With
climate change, more flights are canceled in Europe these days, you need to be more flexible, and you
need to be able to go to the airport, and be able to roll with the punches. And if
I’ve got my bag with me, I can hop on an earlier flight, or I can
take a canceled flight, and jump over here, without wondering, “where the heck’s
my bag?” Just last year, I missed two planes in
Frankfort. Not my fault, there was a thunderstorm, it closed down
the airport, it happens a lot. So, if you have your bags with you, if you can handle that,
you become a more resilient traveler. if you’re packing heavy, you should go by car. One
thing I’ve learned, if you’re traveling with little kids, you should be packing heavy. There’s
a lot of stuff to keep the kids happy in Europe, alright. I got over my fanatic “pack light”
stuff a long time ago with little kids, and I learned anything mom thinks
is worth bringing is probably worth bringing, I mean just between you and me, so rent a car, you know, have a car from
airport to airport, and take a few extra bags, and the family will be much happier. Remember, when you have a car, you can be
a lot more flexible. You can you drive from one spot to the next, and it just
makes a lot of sense. I mentioned climate change, with or
without climate change, you’ve got to be prepared for the weather, and I would just anticipate some violent
weather over there, and the key is you don’t let the weather dictate your
sightseeing. You got to get out and do it. You want
solid shoes, you want Gore-Tex jacket, you want an umbrella, you got to have the
right gear. In Europe they say there’s no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing,
and that’s very wise, that’s very wise. So, you want to be able
to get out, and even more of concern than the the rain to me is the
heat, it is really hot over there. I don’t know my Celsius is very well, but
I do know that 28 equals 82, Celsius to Fahrenheit. That’s all I need to know, if it’s over
28 it’s hot, it’s over 82. And it’s not
unusual to find a climate like this, where in France everything is over 30. That means this is
a very hot day, an uncomfortably hot day. I do my Mediterranean traveling in the
spring or the fall, and I go north of the Alps in the middle of the summer, and I
highly recommend that. You can go to the Mediterranean in the summer, but it’s really
really hot. You’ll have air conditioning but it’s still
like a blow furnace when you go outside. I was in Germany last year for three
weeks, and every day was close to a hundred degrees in July. That’s
unprecedented in Germany. Every day it was that hot, it was muggy,
and there was a monsoon thunderstorm in the afternoon. This is just a new pattern. So you will
find in your travels, violent weather, lots of rain, and lots of heat. Many times
I’ve got this, just because many times you’re in an outdoor restaurant all of a
sudden the clouds came, it got dark and you got a monsoon, and everybody scampers for the tent. Get out and have a good time regardless
of the weather, bottom line. If you wait in your bed and
breakfast for the weather to get good, you’re never going to wake up that
little hill. Just get out there and the weather will
change three times during the hike. The main item of bulk in your
luggage is clothing, and the biggest thing in your clothing is your shoes. I mean, look at the size of my shoes
there to my little bag, that’s a big deal. I think it’s really important to have
practical shoes. My guides in Europe often have very
impractical shoes, and they’re out every day on the cobbles, and climbing the
ruined castles, and so on, and and I’ll never forget this guide here, I just
wanted to make a photograph to compare. I think it’s really important to
sacrifice a little bit of style and just have good solid shoes. I love my echoes, I
love a good solid sole, I don’t need high tops, but I do want a solid good sole. I want shoes that I can go through
puddles in and not get all wet, it’s pretty important. Now the question,
“do you bring more than one pair of shoes?” I would think long and hard about
bringing a second pair of shoes. If you need a second pair of shoes bring it, but
it should be a light one. A lot of times I bring a second pair of shoes just
because I think it’s expected but I don’t use it. Generally I use the same pair of shoes,
I have one pair of shoes. Some people go, “oh man that is barbaric.” I
take them off at night, they breathe. Shoes are big. Get a well-worn-in, well-tested,
favorite pair of shoes and use it. The main item of bulk again, shoes and
clothing, when you take less clothing it doesn’t mean you wash more, you just
wash a little as you go. And you’ve got a limited wardrobe, and you’re traveling
so fast nobody’s going to notice that except for your travel partner, and he or
she has the same problem. So just make an agreement where you
don’t complain about each other’s limited wardrobe, and you’re packing light. It’s quite easy to pack light, this is
what you need, right here, laid out on a bed. For a lot of people, they like to
compartmentalize. I think this makes a lot of sense. I don’t have time to get into all the
details on packing, but I would remind you, philosophically, don’t have this mindset
where you’re prepared for every scenario. This is an American thing, we like to be
prepared, we bring an extra one just in case two people want to use it, or you
lose it, or ones broken, or maybe you want to loan one out while you’re still
using yours, no, just bring one. If you need another one you can buy it. Assume they have it over there. Pack
for the best scenario, not the worst scenario, that’s
fundamental. If you lay at home thinking, “what all this stuff might I need,” you’re
going to pack way too much stuff. Look at the packing charts, we’ve got em’ in our
program, and just pack the bare essentials. In fact, it’s fun to have to go buy
something in Europe, it’s really fun to have to branch out and pick something up. People like to compartmentalize, these
packing cubes are one of the most popular items in our travel store. Again,
they know where their sweaters, are where their keys are, where their electronic
gear is, and so on. Compartmentalize in your bag. I don’t
have a lot of credibility among women when it comes to packing light, so it’s
just smart for us to have a woman who’s a great traveler and a great guide give a
talk about packing light for women, and we’ve got a wonderful talk on our
website in the travel talk section by Sarah Murdoch about packing light. I hope that you can enjoy that talk,
whether you’re a man or a woman it has a lot more information than what I’m going to share
right now about packing. When it comes to electronic gear, I used to say, “minimize
the electronics, no electronics.” That was a long time ago, now I love electronics,
there’s, nothing wrong with electronics, electronics empower you in Europe. You
want to know how to get the gear going in Europe. There’s two issues, converting the power and plugging it
into the wall. I have never had a piece of electronic gear, that I can remember,
that didn’t have a built-in converter. It’s not an issue these days, you’ll hear
about converters, 110-220 volts, and so on. I don’t even bother with that, I mean, if you
looked at the fine print you’d see 110-220. The issue is, can you plug it into the
wall? That’s what you need, and this is a very simple thing. In Britain and Ireland, you got the big three rectangular
prongs, boom. Everywhere else, you’ve got the two
little round prongs, boom. Technically, there’s a little part
on the switch of one that has an odd device, but I don’t– I just ignore
that, just keep it real simple. It’s good advice just in general on your travels, two plugs, and that will cover you everywhere. My electronic gear; I love my laptop, I
love my phone, I love my camera. That’s basically it. When
you’re traveling, you want to get online. There’s all sorts of great ways to get
online, there’s all sorts of media, you can enjoy those movies you can download,
you got your music, you got your Skype. There’s all sorts of reasons to have a
good computer, or a tablet, or a smart phone where you can get online,
depending on your style, but it’s important to be online in Europe to
travel well. There are little guilty pleasures that
all of us should feel free to bring, okay, I want you to be hardcore about packing,
but if you have some little treat you want to bring along, bring it. My guilty pleasure is my noise
reduction headphones. I love these things. I would rather go
economy class on a plane with noise-reduction headphones, than business class
without. There’s a lot of rumble on the plane, I’ve got lots of good things I want to
listen to, when I’m wearing my noise-reduction headphones nobody talks
to me. There’s just some beautiful reasons to
have your headphones on, and when you’re in your hotel room, or you’re in the
back of a tour bus, or whatever, you can enjoy beautiful quality sound with your
noise– with your quality speakers. So, everybody should be able to bring
their fun little extra. as far as toiletries go, there’s not a lot of
reason to bring a lot of toiletries. Frankly, I’m kind of surprised people
need so much stuff in their travels. I like to have a toiletry bag like
this, we sell these like hot cakes. They hang in the
bathroom, because a lot of times you don’t have a lot of hard surfaces. When I
lay out my toiletries, it’s pretty skimpy. It’s pretty basic, and I’m pretty fanatic
about that, and I think that’s all you need, so, without getting into all the
details, I’ll just remind you, you can travel very light when it comes to
toiletries. Don’t bring everything you need with you
from home, look forward to running out of toothpaste, yeah now you got an opportunity to go into Bulgarian department store, shop around, pick up something you think
might be toothpaste. That’s part of the cultural experience,
isn’t it, that’s part of the cultural experience.
When it comes to washing your clothes, it’s a reality we all gotta deal with,
and you’ve got options. You know, you can pay the ransom and have
the hotel do it, you can wash it in your sink, or you can go down the street to
the laundromat. When you go to the laundromat, you can
pay extra for them to put it in, and fold it for you, and come back later, and
pick it up. Sometimes, they even have a service where they
pick it up at the hotel and drop it back to the hotel, which is quite nice, or you can sit there like a local person
who doesn’t own a washer dryer, and you can just do your little work and, write your postcards, or whatever, while your launder is going. Hotels will tell you if there’s a
laundromat nearby, it’s not the first time they’ve had that question. If
there’s not a laundromat nearby, it’s fine, do it at the next stop. Sometimes
there’s no laundromats in town, but it’s not really an insurmountable problem, you’ll get your laundry done. It’s cheap when
you go down the street to the laundromat, it’s free when you do it in the sink. I
just roll up my sleeves and think of it as exercise. I wash whatever’s dirty in
the sink. Usually there’s a sign right next to
the sink that says, “don’t wash your laundry in the room.” That needs to be interpreted
as, “we’re classy joint, we’ve got expensive furniture and floors, we don’t
want you hanging stuff out the window, and we don’t want you dripping on our
wood.” Alright, but you’re paying a hundred
and fifty bucks, you can wash your stuff in the sink, I give you permission. Again, just do
it thoughtfully, wring it really tight, snap it a few times, and hang it over the
tub, and you’re doing fine. By the way, I don’t bring shampoo I just
use the– I don’t bring a laundry detergent, I just use the shampoo from
the “itsy-bitsy ” in the hotel, and it works just great. That’s the one “itsy-bitsy” I use,
otherwise, I bring my shampoo and soap from home. Hang it up and in the morning it should be
alright. By the way, before your trip wash everything out ahead of time, and straighten it out as best you can, and see what it looks like when it’s
dry. A lot of shirts just don’t work, and you
have to iron them, and a lot of shirts work great, and you should favor,
obviously, those shirts that wash and wear well with the sink. You want to have a money belt. A money
belt is important, whether you wear it everyday or not, you should have that
ability to tie your valuables under your clothing in a money belt, because theft
is a big problem for travelers. And of course, when you’re packing, a big an element of that is having your
information. This family is having a great trip, because mom has the right
guidebook, and she’s using it. She did not skimp on guidebooks. Guidebooks are
a 20 dollar tool for a 3,000 dollar experience. They’re
worth buying, and they’re worth carrying, and if they’re any good, they’ll pay for
themselves on the shuttle in from the airport. Now, you don’t want to just carry a
lot of paper, that can be a real problem, and you see a lot of people have a
library in there, and it’s a third of their bulk. Get serious about
ripping those books up. It’s a ritual for me, I get out of box cutter, and I tear
those books up, and I staple them, and I put a big plastic or a tape binding
on them, and I’ve got my little versions of the big books that cover just the
places I’m going to. So rip the heck out of those guidebooks. A lot of people
think, “oh that’s sacrilegious.” These are tools. Your guidebook should be a mess
after the trips over, and of course you can always buy another one, right. Okay, so you got your Moleskine, you got
your personal office, you got your ripped up guidebooks, you got your tourist information,
with rubber bands, it’s all right there. Have the information, but keep it light.
It is so important to pack light, it really is. Think about it, you’ll never
meet anybody who brags that, “every year I pack heavier.” With experience, you get
serious about the beauty of packing light. Money and safety. You’re going to spend your money
in Europe, and you’re gonna have a lot of people wanting your money. They’re gonna
want it in a legal way, and there’s people that want it in an illegal way. I
want to talk for just a few minutes about money and money issues. Remember, in
Europe these days nearly everybody has the same coins jingling in their pockets,
euros. 300 million people have the same euro coins jangling in their pockets. In
the old days, we had to change money with every border crossing. Now, the luxury is, you cross the border, you got the same coins. You change too much money and you
fly home with it, you go back next year, you got the same coins, it’s still good. So,
that’s a beautiful thing. When it comes to changing money, the days of travelers
checks are so long gone, the beautiful ATM is there and it is my– I just
have nothing wrong to say, nothing bad to say about ATMs. You get the utopian bank
-to-bank rate, 24/7, instead of the miserable tourist-to-teller rate.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any bank that would change cash right now. You
gotta find an ATM machine, and you slip your traveler– you slip your debit card into
that machine, you got your four digit numeric pin numbers, and you get hard
cash. Don’t change a bunch of small exchanges,
because every exchange, you lose a little bit with the conversion rate, but
you also lose with a fee, so you want to minimize– you can’t avoid the excursion– the
conversion rate problem, but you can minimize the fees. So instead $100 a day, change for $400 every four days, and you’ll cut your fees by 75%. You’ll find ATM machines everywhere you go. In the old
days, we used to bring some cash with us from home to get started, no more. You can get your cash while
you’re waiting for your baggage at the airport. it’s very, very cool, 24/7, in front of the
casino, at the airport, at the train station, you don’t need to worry that
there’s a holiday or a strike tomorrow. Remember, it’s expensive to employ people
in Europe these days. Europeans are very well paid, and there’s
a huge incentive for companies to automate. If you’re like me, you’re
uncomfortable giving your credit card to machine in a foreign country, you’d
rather talk with a person. If you insist on that, you’re gonna pay a
premium, you’re going to get lousy service, and you’re gonna wait in a long line. You
are the last priority, you’re bucking the system. It’s really important to
recognize that next to every long line at a ticket office, there will be a
machine that says self-service tickets. This is for you. Now, you go there and
stick your credit card in or your debit card in, and you punch English, and then
you do your thing , or you put in the cash. This is really a blessing and
we have to get used to it, and frankly I think we need to trust it. When I’m hanging– I’m disinclined to do this, but I’m getting better and better at it–
when I’m hanging out with my European guides, they just swing from one machine
to the next and they go very fast. I’ve missed a lot of trains because I didn’t
know how to use the machine, or wasn’t comfortable with the machine. Try to
figure out the machines, and when you do, you feel good about it. The credit card is something that is
causing a lot of American stress these days, because Europeans have a more
advanced credit card than we do. They have a card called a chip-and-pin card,
and we have a traditional magnetic strip, or we have a chip in our card that is
not a chip-and-pin, but it’s just a pin where you still have to sign. So, you could
even have an up-to-date card here, and you’re gonna still have the frustrations
that Americans have in Europe, because Europeans have more high-tech cards than
we do. Now, you’ll hear scare stories about this, but I’ve got the lousy
American-style debit card and credit card, and I use it all the time, and it
rarely a big deal. It’s just a little bump in the road. Automated gas stations, after midnight,
you can’t buy gas with an American credit card, right. Getting a Coca-Cola from the machine
down the hall in your hotel, you can’t use your credit card. Automated parking booth, you can’t use your
credit card, you gotta go to the ticket guy and pay for it in cash. So, just remember with our American
cards, you got a little bit of a glitch, but it’s not a big deal, you can
certainly get your cash advances from ATMs, you can certainly pay for your hotel,
rent your car, buy things on the Internet, and so on. Europe is a very safe place from a
violent crime point-of-view, and it’s a very dangerous place, especially if
you’re a tourist, from a petty purse snatching and pick-pocketing point-of-view, and
from a con artist point-of-view. Con artists are fascinating in Europe,
and you’ll see them all over the place. You’ve got the classic shell game going
on, any of that, also too friendly people that wanna buy you a drink, and these
kind of things that you got to be pretty naive to sucker for it, on the other hand
a lot of us are just in a good mood over there, we want to trust people, and we
find ourselves in trouble. I hesitate to say be paranoid about it, because you
lose opportunities to meet people. But I would say, it’s better to be safe than
sorry when it comes to connecting with people that can get you in a jam that
are gonna cost you a lot of money to get out of. So, be on the ball when it comes
to meeting strangers on the streets, certainly steer away from any kind of a
scam. In Germany I recently– I was in Berlin, and the police were actually
demonstrating how the shell game works, because it was so prevalent, and so many
people were falling for it. So it’s fun to be on the street, I love to be on the street with all the commotion, but remember, when you see these games going
on, not only are people getting ripped off playing the scam, but they’re
getting ripped off watching the scam, because wherever there’s a commotion,
there’s pickpockets at work, they’re working together. If there’s a commotion,
it’s a fake commotion. If there’s a pushing match on Plaza Mayor in Madrid,
people gather around, people jostle people are getting their pockets picked.
If there’s a commotion getting onto a train car, people’s pockets are being
picked. If an old lady falls down the escalator in the Underground in Munich,
step back, pockets are being picked. I know that sounds kind of harsh, but then
you can move in and help out. But remember, when there is a jostle, when
there is a crowd, when you’re on the most popular tourist bus going from the train
station to the Vatican in Rome, that’s where the thieves are you gonna be. A lot
of people with beautiful eyes, beautiful children, and sad stories. They step right
up, “euro please, give me a euro.” They don’t
want a euro, they want your wallet. Beggars are pickpockets, you should
just understand that. European thieves target Americans, not because they’re mean, but
because they’re smart. We’re the people with all the good stuff in our purses
and wallets, and they know how to get it. I like to watch it, for me it’s kind of
sport to see this in action, but I know that when somebody comes up to me and
asks for a euro, they really want my wallet, and they target tourists and they
target tour guides, they’re very, very good. It seems like she’s holding her
baby, but she’s got a long arm. It’s her scarf that may be holding her baby, and
she’s got a long arm that knows how to do the work. Again, if you have a
commotion, if you’re jostling to get onto that subway car, that’s the perfect time
for a pickpocket to grab your wallet. And this is remarkably easy to get, isn’t it.
I mean it’s right, there it’s amazing to me how easy that is to get, and it’s
amazing to me, it’s invasive to me, when I’m targeted that way. So, use a wallet,
use a purse, but expect to lose it, okay, expect to lose it. Everything that matters should be in
your money belt. It’s a nylon pouch that you wear around your waist ticket,
tuck it in like your shirt tail. You don’t get at this for every nickel, dime, and quarter, this
is your deep storage for select deposits and withdrawals. When you’re wearing
a money belt, its luxurious peace of mind. Think about it, when you’re wearing a
money belt, all of your essential documents are on you as thoughtlessly and
securely as your underpants. Ever think about your underpants? You put em’ on in the morning, you don’t even think about them all day long, and every night they’re exactly where you put them. And now when I’m traveling, my Eurail pass,
my passport, my credit card, are just as securely out of sight, out of mind.
That money belt is so important. If you’re wearing a money belt and if you know the pickpockets–
the beggars are actually thieves, it just it takes all the stress out of it.
in fact when you’re wearing a money belt and you know that the beggars are
pickpockets, having a gypsy’s hand slip slowly in your pocket just becomes one
more interesting cultural experience. It happens to me a couple times every year,
a stranger’s hand gently slips into my pocket, I just leave him there. I just
leave him there. Now, you don’t need to be paranoid, they’re not gonna strip and mug you,
that’s what they have to do to get your money belt Zip up your pocket, you know, button it
away, if it’s zipped up or buttoned away, it’s good. If it’s in the hotel, it’s good, if it’s
in your day bag, it’s bad, if it’s in your pocket, it’s bad. Okay, so you just gotta know that the most
dangerous place is in your day bag. The second most dangerous is in your pocket,
unzipped. The safest place is in your hotel room. I’ve never used a hotel safe, I just
don’t bother. Hotels– now remember, your door’s open for hours at a stretch, you
don’t want your computer and your money sitting on the bed, tuck it away. But I’ve
never– I just pride myself– it’s just sort of my quality of life in Europe, I’m
not paranoid about my valuables in my hotel room. And I’ve spent a lot of time
in hotel rooms, and I just take things away, out of sight, but I don’t worry about
locking it. It’s much safer there than on the streets. Now, when it comes to your
money belt, there’s three different kinds of money belts that we sell, and I think
it’s just a matter of personal choice. I like the standard nylon pouch tucked around your waist under your pants. You can wear it around the back, women like to wear it around the back sometime, but that’s the
standard thing. Some people like to hang it around their neck under their shirt, other
people like this sort of side deal where you hang it on your belt, and you
tuck it in. Either way, as long as it’s not in your pocket and is under your
clothing, that’s what it’s all about. Exactly what you put in your money belt,
its kind of common sense just the essential stuff. You want to wear it
comfortably, it’s got to be very light, so you just put your your irreplaceables
in it. And then, as I mentioned, I function with
a wallet. I expect to lose this wallet. In it, it’s got a day spending
money, odds and ends, and a funny little note to the thief. It comes with a piece
of paper that says, in five different languages, “Dear thief, sorry this contained so little
money. Consider changing your profession.” The point is, you can lose your purse or
you can lose your wallet, if it doesn’t have your passport and your
driver’s license it’s really not a big deal. When it comes to security, here’s sort of your options. As I mentioned, you’ve got your day bag, that’s the most
dangerous. You’ve got your wallet, and if you’re in a comfortable situation you
can rely on that. You’ve got your money belt, which I wear when I’m feeling like
it’s a risky sort of venture, and also in our bags we design a security pouch
that’s like a money belt, but it clips into the inside of the big bag. And
security pouch is the same fabric as the liner of the bag, so it’s invisible and
it’s not locked in or anything but it’s just clipped there, and that’s a place
where, you know you got your money, you know you got your valuables. And a thief
doesn’t want to grab your big bag, a thief walking out of a hotel with a big
bag is just not something they do. They just want to rifle the bag and grab
your valuables, so I find that to be quite, quite a good place to put my valuables.
The security pouch that we clip into the bag, of course you can unclip it
and put it in the hotel safe, or take it with you, or clip it to your day bag, and
so on, but you need to think about your personal arrangement for your valuables.
Remember in Europe there are lots of soft targets, and there’s a lot of
concern about terrorism. Europe is a very safe place from a terrorism point of
view, every year twelve million Americans go to Europe, and twelve million come back.
If there’s a terrorist event tomorrow, it doesn’t change the reality that it is
safer in Europe than it is here in the United States. Without belaboring that,
please understand that every month in the United States, a thousand beautiful
people are killed on our streets. That’s real. Tomorrow, if an American is killed
by a terrorist in Europe, that’s a tragedy, but it doesn’t change the fact
that it’s safer in Europe than it is in the United States. Europeans laugh out
loud when they hear that Americans are staying home for safety reasons. You are statistically
10 times safer on the streets in Europe than you are here in the United States. In other words, if you care about your loved ones, you’ll take them to Europe
tomorrow. That’s how we sell tours. Now, Europe is gonna have its glitches, its
gonna its terrorists event, and if you hate terrorism as much as I do,
please understand the most powerful thing you can do to fight terrorism, is
not to over react to it, not to freak out just because it’s a media fest and
they’re going to bump up their viewership with hysterical coverage, and
remember that the most powerful things we can do, as Americans, to fight
terrorism, is to get out there and better understand the rest of the world. When we
travel, it makes it tougher for their propaganda to dehumanize us, and it makes
it tougher for our propaganda to dehumanize them. It helps us all connect,
and gain empathy for each other, and celebrate the diversity of this planet
and find ourselves more inclined to build bridges, and less inclined to build
walls. This is a powerful force for peace, and a powerful way to fight terrorism, I
think, is to travel a lot. Please don’t let terrorism mess up your
trip. Now, you’re going to find that security over there, and you’re gonna
have to be patient with it. In a lot of cases, to get onto a train you have to go
through security, and a lot of cases to get into a great museum you got to go
through security. In a lot of cases, you won’t be able to check your bag anywhere
’cause they don’t have baggage checks because of the concern about bombs. Europe is just
on guard, they’ve got a lot of challenges, and they’ve got a lot of soft targets. If
you do check your bag in a place that has a security machine, it’s going to
cost you seven or eight dollars because you’re having to pay for that machine. When
you’re traveling you need to take care of your money, and you need to recognize
that you are targeted by people who want your money. When you master those two
areas, you’ll travel better. Thank you so much for being here, I want to talk
about communication, I want to talk about technology, and phones. All of these
are very important for us to travel. When we’re exploring Europe, it’s just
obviously really important to connect with people, and it’s important to take
advantage of all the wonderful technical innovations that make travel more
efficient, and easier now than ever before. A big issue when we’re traveling
is simply your phone, and we’ve decided, just recently, that any good traveler in
Europe now it needs to have a phone. Find out if your phone works in Europe.
You might want to buy a phone in Europe. that’s certainly doable. And if you have a
smart phone that’s ideal. Whatever kind of smart phone you have let your company here,
your provider here, know you’re going to be in Europe, and explore your
international options. The key thing is, your phone can work in Europe and roam,
but it’s going to cost you a lot more money than if you would let them know
you’re going to Europe, and buy the right plan for your trip. When it comes to
using your smart phone in Europe, there are three dimensions to it, you’ve got to
simply making calls and making texts, and that’s pretty straightforward, you’ve got
data roaming, and you’ve got using it and thinking it of it as a little
computer, and getting online with WiFi in Europe, and functioning that way. It’s
pretty straightforward getting online, that’s either free, or at a straightforward,
nominal cost. And then you can use this just like you use it here when you’re
getting online. Making the the phone calls, I’ve got a policy where it’s
twenty cents a minute to call, and it’s just pennies for a text. That’s pretty
straight forward too. The big issue is data roaming. Data roaming is where you
can run up a huge bill. Data roaming is when you can bail yourself out by not
being able to get WiFi, and still being able to get online, but you just gotta
know how to control that data roaming, buy that data policy from your provider, and
then know how to turn it on and off, and use it sparingly. You can use WiFi till’ the cows come home and it’s just
fine, but you don’t want to use the data roaming recklessly. you need to know how
it’s working, and how much it’s going to cost you. Bottom line is, on your settings,
you can turn data roaming on and off. If you’re nervous, simply turn the data
roaming off, and you can make phone calls, and you can get online with your smart
phone, and then you can data roam sparingly. As far as FaceTime and
Skype, and different ways that we can talk to people with our phones, or with our
tablets, or with our laptops, think of it as no different than right here, because
you can’t do Skype and those things without being online and having a good
connection. If you have a good connection in Europe, and if your friend who you’re
talking to has a good connection here, it’s just like Skyping within the United States when you’re in Europe. So, if you can do it here, you can do it there, and
I’ll tell you it’s a wonderful service. It’s so great to be able to FaceTime
people and Skype people, I use Skype, as a matter-of-fact, as a phoning tool as well,
and I can call people just on their phones through Skype when I have a good
connection, and it costs pennies a minute. Learn how to use that, and once again if
it works here for you, it’ll work for you over there, because it just requires
being online and having a good strong connection. Getting a good strong
connection used to be a challenge. Nowadays, you’ll find it everywhere in
Europe it is just getting better and better. The first thing people ask at the
hotel is, “how do I get online?” And hotels know it, it’s almost a joke these days. In
the old days, they used to charge you to get online, now any good hotel or B&B will provide that
as part of their– they’ll include it in their services, and when you’re traveling
in Europe you’ll find a lot of people enjoying getting online in their hotel
rooms. Traditionally, travelers use their guidebooks in the print format. I still
do. ninety percent of my sales are still print. On the other hand, if you want to
go digital, all the books essentially are available digitally. Same information,
some people prefer it, some people don’t, it’s a personal choice, but you could have my
entire librarian, and lots lots more on your tablet, and do just great in Europe with that. I find my guides are very
enthusiastic about tablets in Europe. A mini iPad is ideal, or a full iPad, and
with this you can download movies, you can collect your photographs, there’s
just so many tools and it’s such a portable device. The iPad is, or the similar
device, is just a real boon, especially if you’re going to be teaching in the
context of a tour guide. Photography used to be a big deal, I think twenty
percent of my luggage in the old days was gonna be film, and lenses, and all
that. I love photography, but I’m impressed by how good the small cameras
are these days. If you’re a serious photography and you want a big SLR and changeable
lenses you can do that, but I hope you’re really committed your photography, ’cause
that a lot of gear, a lot of stress, a lot of headaches from a theft point-of-view,
and so on, and I find that, rather than buying the little $100 Coolpix point and
shoot, I wanna buy about the most expensive pocket sized camera I can. I
spent 600 bucks for my Sony rx100, and it fits in my pocket, and I swear it takes pictures as beautifully as my old SLR. So, it depends on how much how
technical you can be, and what tools you want, but you’ll be amazed at the quality
photography you can do with a pocket sized camera. For a lot of people, a
simple iPhone is all they need, and if it’s good enough for you, great, ’cause that is really convenient. And I would say invest a little time in knowing how to use that smartly, ’cause there’s a lot of tools that can help you do really well, even with the smart phone.
As far as communication goes, Europe is multilingual, and I speak only English.
Nothing to brag about, this substantiates what I’m about to say, you can speak
English and do just fine around Europe if you are on the ball. Now
remember, it’s really important to remember that Europe is multilingual. If
you go to Slovenia and you wanna get sugar, you’ll see it there in five different
languages, right. They’ve got the language there, but it’s good to function as well
as you can in the local languages. When I say I speak only English, I’m not
bragging about it, it’s a shame I don’t speak the local languages. But we speak the
world’s linguistic common denominator. If a Greek meets a Norwegian hiking in the
Alps, how do they communicate? Broken English, what Greek speaks
Norwegian? Now, learn the polite phrases, even if you’re going to function with
English, it is really– it behooves you to know the top ten polite words in every
language, I would say the top ten words are more important than the next two
hundred words combined, and you should use them all the time. It’s inexcusable for
you to be in a country, and not know the nice words. It’s rude, it’s bad style.
That excuses the fact that Americans are so lazy when it comes to languages. Now,
for me, I just think it’s polite to start the conversation by asking, “parlez-vous anglais?” “Sprichst Du Englisch?” if they say no, I do my best in their language. Generally, after a
couple of sentences, they’ll say, “actually I do speak a little English, and I would be
thankful if you spoke clearly, enunciate every letter, assume I’m reading your
lips, wishing it was written down, hoping to see every letter as it tumbles out of
your mouth.” I speak this way almost robotically for four months out of every
year. When I return home, my friends say, “Rick, you can relax now, we speak English
fluently.” But if you wanna be understood in Europe, listen to yourself, listen
your friends, they sound like, you know, Gaddafi in a shredder. You need to make
it simple, easy words, no contractions, no slang, internationally understood words.
If my car is broken in Portugal, I point to the vehicle and say, “auto kaput.” That
would be understood. Honestly, I marvel at how easy it is to communicate with that
simple awareness, and conversely, how hopelessly
messed up Americans are everywhere in Europe, when
they don’t get that. You don’t say, “excuse me sir, can I take a picture of you,” you
point your camera and you ask, “photo?” and that would work, that would
work just beautifully. A phrasebook is a beautiful thing. We design phrasebooks,
they’re the bestselling books in the United States, and we just love them. Not
necessarily for practical things, you can you know, to be honest, you can handle the
practical things probably without a phrasebook, but it just gives you that
little extra edge. You can communicate. You got all the menu items right there,
you can order breakfast with with finesse, you
know what your options are, you know all the different kinds of coffee at a bar
in Italy. You can be in the back seat of a taxi in Rome, and be able to stay if
he’s going too fast in perfect Italian, you can say, “if you don’t slow down, I
will vomit.” I love to be able to floor people by being able to see a goofy
phrases, and one thing fun about our phrasebooks is, it’s full of goofy
off-the-wall things, as well as practical things. You know, you’re going to be
dealing with gestures, they’re going to be doing this to you,
they’re gonna be doing that, they’re going to be doing this, that, and a few other things,
and you want to know what it means, and with a good phrase book, it’ll help you
recognize how to connect with the locals, Anyplace that wants your money will
explain how to spend it in whatever languages are necessary. Okay, here’s a little boat station in
Bruges. They’re selling you a tour, and if you look at that, you can read the Dutch
can’t you? Or the Flemish, it says, “boat excursions 30 minutes long,” and if you
look further it says 7.64, four different ways to say adults, and 3.40 for four
different ways to say children. How old are children? It says right there, four to eleven “jaar.” And then down below, four different ways to say the entrance to
the boats. That’s your standard experience, right there, when it comes to the
language barrier. You’ll notice two new languages on the list, Chinese and Russian. Didn’t see that
before. Another thing you’ll notice, is in restaurants now, instead of four
different languages, two languages. The local language for the local people, English for everybody else. English has
risen to become the “lingua franca.” I’ve been saying this for 30 years, and since
then, a whole generation has grown up speaking better English than ever before.
This is the hip and pop language on this planet. Young people, educated people,
people in tourism, will speak English generally when you’re going around
Europe. As a matter-of-fact, counter-intuitively, the little language
groups, Estonia, Bulgaria, Norway, they would be more likely to speak English
than you would think, even more than the people from the big language groups like
Spain, France, and Germany. You can be German, and have a big world speaking
just German. You can’t be Estonian and have a big world speaking just Estonian,
only a million people speak Estonian, so anywhere you go, you can do fine speaking the language. I’ve noticed at
airports nowadays, there are some airports that have dispensed with the
local language altogether. This is a country that speaks Dutch, it’s Holland, and
the airport you just see English language signs. We’re lucky. Now, make
educated guesses, and proceed confidently as if you figure it out correctly. If
you’re not feeling well in Denmark, and you see a sign with a red cross on it
pointing to the “Sentralsykehuset,” go down there and get fixed up. It’s
impressive to me how many Americans would bleed to death in the street
corner looking for the word hospital. They have these things, they just have
different names. Make an educated guess. Here’s a sign on a shop in Germany. Now I
have never looked up any of these words, I don’t need to, I can just fake it.
You look at this sign and you realize these are hours, and you don’t say, “what
on earth is that top long word,” you think, “what can this sign be telling me?” It’s
either open times or closed times. So you talk it over with your partner, and you
think, “hey, they’re telling us when it’s open.” Open times. Open times ‘vom,’ from, ‘vom,’ if it rhymes,
go for it. The fourth of July. Okay, these are the open
times from the fourth of July. On the left, you see six words, most of which end in
“tag.” “Gutentag,” soup-of-the-tag, Montag, Monday, it’s the day of the moon,
isn’t it? Monday, moon-day. What is Monday in French?
“Lundi.” Lunar day, it’s a riddle, the more you play, the easier it is to step over that
language barrier. Two days later, we have something called “Mittwoch.” Mittwoch. Now you know two more German words, midweek. That’s what Wednesday is, right? Now on Monday, it’s
open 9 to 11, “und” from 4 to 6. Anything over twelve, subtract 12 and add
p.m. 16-12, 4 p.m. No, 16-12, what am I a… 16-12, 4 p.m. Somebody said two, confused me, So, yeah and you gotta get good with the 24 hour clock. At the risk of insulting my students, I
really hammer this home, because I know Americans are over there for three weeks,
and they still go giddy every time it goes over twelve. They have the 24 hour clock.
if you refuse to learn the 24 hour clock. you’ll miss your train in Paris, and be
mad at the French for refusing to speak English. Get with it on that 24 hour clock.
Now, on Wednesday afternoon, something different happens. You see how we’re thinking
here, there’s two options, everything else is open, this is
different. You don’t need a phrase book here, with all the confidence in the
world you can tell your travel partner, “hey, on ‘Mittwoch,’ after ‘nochmittag,’ it’s ‘geschlossen.'” Very nice. There’s a lot of signs. There
are a lot of signs. But you know, they’re pretty self explanatory, if you look at
these signs, you can see where you’re gonna eat ice cream and where you’re not going
to eat ice cream, and where you can honk your horn, or where you can’t honk the horn. A
counter-intuitive thing, of course a “slash,” you kind of think no, but
counter-intuitively, a red circle also means no, so it would be reasonable to
think this is where you can take your horse, but no. That says, “horses not
allowed” this says, “no motorbikes and no cars,” except what? Except for access. That
means if you live in there, or you have a hotel, you can go downtown. So remember, read the sign, understand the context. All over the place you’ve got lots of
signs, they’re pretty self explanatory. And I want to stress, you got
multilingual signs for your tours. Here’s a boat cruise, and what do you got, 16
different languages. that would be a tape recorded tour, you just dial whatever language you want
to hear the tour in. The audio guides In Europe, they’ll program them for your
language. So, communicating is critical, and if you have good skills, you’ll find
the most important language that you can have overseas is English.
Thank you. Transportation. Man, oh, man. Transportation is so important for your
trip, and transportation is part of the joy of the trip. For me, just to be
enjoying the beautiful engineering of the roads, or going on the bullet trains
in Europe, I love it. And every year, transportation investments are making
the trip faster. It screws up my guidebook, I have to go back there all
the time and update my guidebook because there’s new tunnels, new bridges, new
super freeways, new bullet trains, and the journey is faster this year than it was
last year. When you’re thinking about traveling around in Europe, because things
are getting so fast, I think it’s more important than ever that you make a
point to get off the beaten path, and smell the roses. Car or train, you gotta
make a point not to just zip from big city to big city to big city, ’cause
you’re missing a lot of the charm of Europe. A big question for us when we’re
planning a trip is, “do we take the car or do we take the train?” And you can analyze
it, there’s not one right answer, it depends on your style of travel. If you’re going
all over creation, that’s too much driving, you really want a train pass or train
tickets. if you’re going from big city to big city to big city, you really don’t
want a car. A car is a worthless, expensive, headache in a big city. You want the
convenience of a train that takes you from downtown to downtown fast, safe, and, effortless. If you’re scouring the countryside, that’s where public
transportation schedules will be frustrating, and you want your own wheels.
It’s liberating. If you got a two-week trip around Scotland, I’m telling you,
you’re gonna be glad you got a car. If you’re packing heavy, a lot of people
just don’t buy this business of packing light, rent a car. You can even rent a
trailer, okay. But if you’re going by train, that’s
where it’s really important that your mobile, ’cause whether you like it or not,
by train you’re gonna do a lot of walking with your gear. Another dimension of this
choice, car or train, is how many people are you traveling with? If you’re
traveling alone, a car is ridiculously expensive, much cheaper by train. If
there’s three or four or five of you, it’s cheaper by car than by train
because one car costs the same for one or five people. Five train tickets costs five
times as much as one train ticket, so you can see the economy of scale there,
and you want to factor that in to your travel planning. Now for me, over the years I
find my travel style has evolved. In the old days, it was Eurail everywhere. I was just doing these once-over lightly trips, and in the old days, rail passes were a better value. Now, train
passes come with all sorts of caveats, and you gotta pay extra supplements, reservations,
and car rental has become relatively, cheap, and you’ve got the advent of cheap
discounted airline tickets. So what I find myself doing these days, is cobbling
together a whole mix. I’ll buy point-to-point train tickets, I’ll buy the big leaps by air because you can fly cheaper than you can take the train
these days, and I will drill into certain areas with car rental, all mixing together quite nice. Let’s talk about
those different modes of transportation. By train, its a futuristic world, and I’m
telling you, just to be on the trains in Europe is a thrill. I just feel like a
first class human being when I’m traveling around Europe, even
on second class trains. This is the new train station in Berlin, the Hauptbahnhof.
A thousand trains coming and going a day, different levels coming in at
right angles, it’s just remarkable. Bullet trains, very beautiful schedules, strict
adherence to the schedules. You will be on the train because it closes in 25
seconds, and it closes, and it’s gone, so you really want to take advantage of
that efficiency when you’re traveling. I’ll tell you, the trains are going faster
and faster and faster. I was recently in Munich, taking pictures of trains coming
into the station, specifically taking pictures of cute little, what were cute little birds squished onto the windshield. I know it’s tragic, and when I saw that little
bird I thought two things.First of all, I thought, “it’s a dangerous continent if
you’re slow bird,” and then I thought, “this is a surreal image.” I don’t know about
where you live, but here in Seattle you just cannot imagine a bird squished
under the windshield of a train. That’s just not gonna happen. I could imagine a bird sitting on a folding chair with a cigar and a drink on the rooftop, but not
flattened to the window, and that’s a routine problem right now in Europe
because those trains are so darn fast. I was recently on a train going across the
French countryside, it was silent, it was smooth, beautiful pastoral scenery
out the window, and then I noticed the speedometer in the passenger car only
turned on when the train was exceeding 300 kilometers an hour. They were shy– they were bashful, they were sort of shy about the fact that it would be going
less than 300 kilometers. 300 kilometers an hour, what’s that? Well, this is going, what 313 kilometers stick. To figure kilometers to miles is a very simple formula, you cut it in half and add back ten percent. So round it up, say it’s 300, cut
that in half, what do you have, 150, add back ten percent of the
original, what would that be, 30, 150 plus 30 is 180 miles an hour. So, play that little game with yourself, because you
should just look at signs in Europe and, if you think in terms of miles, be able to cut the kilometers in half,
and back ten percent of the original. 100 miles an hour, 50 plus 10-100 kilometers
an hour 50 miles, 60 miles an hour. 75 kilometers, cut it in half, that would be about 40, add back 7, 47 miles. You can do that quite easily, in this case we’re zipping at a hundred and eighty miles
an hour into Paris. Now, when you get on the train tracks, now you got to play the
game, and this is confusing even for locals over there and those of us who
take advantage of the system, and understand how it works, and read the
signs have a huge advantage. Look at this track here. We are on track six.
Specifically, we’re on segment A of track six. A lot of people don’t realize that
tracks have segments. I’ve been diligently standing on track six, not realizing there’s a
difference between A and C, and I’m wondering where’s my train, and then I see a little train
down there, a hundred yards down the way, pull off without me, because I didn’t
read on the schedule it’s leaving from track 6 C, not 6 A. I’m traveling
here, I’m sitting, I’m standing at segment A of track six, and when I look at that
train schedule readout, I see on the lower left, “A, B, C, D, E, F,” do you see that? That coincides to the segment of the platform, and I will see the first class car is at
A, the dining car is B, C, D, and, E are second class cars. Now that’ll save
you a lot of walking, and on a big train you’ve got 20 cars, and two cars will be
first class, one is the dining car, and the rest is second class. If you’ve got a
reservation, you know your train car number, it says
there, and then rather than this nervous commotion with all the people, and
thinking the door’s gonna close and the train’ll leave without, me you can stand in
front of the exact car that will be stopped when your train comes in and you’ve got two
minutes to get on board. People who don’t know that simple trick
get all frazzled, they have to jump on the train, and then they have to walk
with their luggage 10 cars down. It’s a horrible thing, and anybody can get
around that by simply knowing how the system works. The clock up on top is
critical. I don’t care what your clock says, that’s the time that matters, and it
is now 12:16. In two minutes, at 12:18, this train is going to Luxembourg. It’s
exciting to use the trains. Here’s another chart. The time right now, 5:12. At
5:33, remember the 24 hour clock, 17 minus 12, 5:33 p.m., you’ve got a train going from track 5b,
segment B, to Vienna, specifically the West train station. Now look at the lower
left on that reader, and you see, “B, C, D.” This is a three-car train, first class at
B, coffee car at C, and second class at D I’m standing at B, so what comes right
here is the first class car, got it? And when you see where that train’s going’
it’s going to Vienna. Remember Europeans call their cities sometimes different
names than what we call them. Vienna is not Vienna any more than United States is Estados Unidos,
right, that’s what we call it. The people who live there call it “Wien.” And big
cities routinely have more than one train station, and you, as a smart
traveler, need to know not just what city you are going to, but what station in that
city, and this is the West station. If you come into Vienna and the first stop is
“Ost,” or “Sud,” or “Nord'” you’re gonna get off the train and have to wait for the
next train, because your hotels at “West.” So, know your options that way. Also, on the very top of that readout, it
says, “Verspatung 10 minutes.” I don’t know what “verspatung” means, but I know that means the train is 10 minutes late, because they’re not gonna say, “10
minutes early,” and they’re not gonna say, “in 10 minutes, there’s a nice view out to the left of the car.” The only thing they’re going to say is, “this
train is 10 minutes late.” So if you’re on ball on the ball, you realize now the train is
gonna leave at 17:43, that means I got half an hour. I could actually run down the
street and take some more photographs, or have a coffee, or get my sandwich for a
picnic on the train. So use that train readout out to your advantage. Here we
have a reminder that half of all the schedules you see are not for you, they’re
arrivals. You need to know that you’re looking at the departure schedule. You
don’t speak the language, they’re not telling you the language here, but you speak
enough Italian, don’t you, to figure out which is departures and which are arrivals? Are
there any questions, which one is departure, the bottom one because it
says “partenza” rather than “arrivo.” The time right now is 12:06, and the train’s
departing at 12:14. There’s a train going to Sestri Levante from track number
one, and it happens to be 10 minutes late. You don’t need another word for track,
You don’t need to know the word for “destinazione,” and you don’t need to
know the word for “retardo.” You just need to make your educated guess. This
train is 10 minutes retardo, okay. Now what I like is to be able to look at the
time right now, and look at that chart, and to know exactly what trains are
still on the track.This is very, very important, because in Italy especially, a
lot of trains are very late, and you can think, “oh man, I missed the
train, there was traffic, I’m coming in 15 minutes late.” You look on the board and you realize
your train is still there. A lot of times, the train is still there. So play that
board. Your printed schedule doesn’t matter, this is the board, this is
exactly what’s going on, and you need to play it to your advantage. A big challenge for a lot of travelers
is not to realize that you’ve got to date your tickets. Whether using the subway or
the train, you got it put it in the box and get the date printed on it. It’s not
every country, but in a lot of countries, so when you’re traveling know, in this
country if we have to date our tickets, because if you just innocently didn’t
know you have to pay your ticket, you’re sitting there in the train, the conductor
comes, and you don’t have a dated ticket. He thinks you’re stealing, he’s got every
right to think you’re stealing, and he’s going to levy a $100 fine on you. There’s no excuse because you’re a stupid
tourists, okay, so figure that out. If you have to date your ticket and you didn’t
date your ticket, you physically have to find the conductor before he finds you,
and say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t date this, can you date it for me,” okay. But, realize, “ka-chunk” before you get on
the train. A great new innovation in Europe are these little quick
information booths you’ll find next to the platforms. I don’t like to wait in a
long information line where you have to grab a number and wait in the lobby, you know, I
like a quick answer to a quick question right on the tracks. In all of Europe these days,
you’ll find that. Confirm your plans, find out what the schedule is, you know,
go to that little information booth, you’ll do great. Europe has wonderful
synchronicity in all of its trains. In this Norwegian port on some fjord way
in the middle of nowhere, four trains a day come down, and four boats a day take
off. Each boat is coordinated with the arrival of the train, it’s just logical. All
over Europe, except in Italy, where the train comes in just in time to see the boat pulling out, you will find trains, departures, and boats, and buses, connected. And I’ll remind you, a lot of the people using those trains are commuters, and every day
they take the train, and they catch on the boat, so if you stop and get a coffee,
or go to the bathroom, there’s a good chance you’re gonna miss that coordinated connection,
and have to wait for the next train to come in, before the next connection takes you
out of there. Beautiful, scenic rides all over Europe, enjoy the view. Remember also when you’re traveling,
Europe has first and second class cars. Second class is four seats across with
more crowds, first class is three seats across with less crowds. There is a
formula, you pay 50% more to go first class. A $100 second-class ride would be $150 in first class. Almost all trains have first and second
class cars, each going precisely the same speed, and the new second class is more
comfortable than the old first class, so I would say if you’re on a budget, second
class is the best value. Having said that, when you’re an American getting a Eurail
pass or any kind of a train pass, it’s often first class only. Of course, you can use it in second class, but it comes first class and that’s forced luxury, and I gotta say I like it. If I’m
working hard, and I got a choice between at $30 ticket and a $45 ticket for three
hours in Italy, I’ll spend the extra to have that convenience, and the peace and
quiet to do my work in first class. So you do have that option as you’re
traveling around Europe. A lot of people are little nervous about their baggage.
What are they gonna do with their bags? Well, you just carry it on and throw it in the rack up above, I mean, the
only limit of how much you can carry onto the train is, “how long is the train
stopped, and how quickly can you throw everything through the window?” I’ve been
seeing people actually moving from Turkey to Germany on the train, and they
fill the compartment with all their stuff. So you just stick it in the
overhead locker or overhead rack, and then of course you got to be concerned
about theft as you’re traveling, but it’s a very convenient thing from a luggage on
the train point-of-view. In Europe, you can sleep on the trains when there’s a
seven or eight hour journey. The problem in recent times, is
trains are so fast that there’s fewer convenient overnight train rides, what
used to be an eight hour ride is now a four hour ride, but there still are a lot of
potential overnight train rides, and I love to sleep on the train because every
time I sleep on the train, I save a whole day in my itinerary, and it just
makes sense. I’m in Munich, I’m having a great time at the beer hall, I had checked
my bag at the train station, at midnight I stumble over to the station, find my bag
get on the train, and by eight o’clock in the morning I’m navigating the canals of
Venice. It’s pretty good. You won’t sleep very well on the train, but you’ll sleep really
good the next night. You can sit up all night in the train, or for
the cost of a cheap hotel room, you can get two bed in a couchette, and then you
can sleep with a regular bed, and that’s a great deal, and our guidebooks talk
more about that. The rail passes used to be the way to go, and they’re still a
good way to go for a lot of people, but they’re not quite as widespread in their
use. Because, as I mentioned, trains are more expensive, cars are relatively less
expensive, and train passes have sort of sold out by being not all trains, but now
if there’s fancy trains they’re not included, and you gotta get reservations for certain expresses, and so on. Nevertheless, you can save a lot of money
if your gonna do a lot of traveling, by knowledgeably picking the right train
pass for you. This happens to be a German rail pass covering all the trains
in Germany. You can get individual country passes, you can get all 17 countries
passes, you can get collections of passes, you know, France and Italy together, and
so on. Rather than 21 days in a row, a lot of
people these days opt for what is called a Flexi pass. A Flexi Pass gives you, in
this case, any ten days within one month so you buy your Flexi Pass, and it has 10
dates to fill in, and you choose them, and you write, in ink, every day you get on a
train. You wouldn’t want to spend a whole day by just taking the little train out
to the castle, ’cause you’d rather pay five bucks for that, you use this for real
days of travel, and you bought it with those days in mind. This is a beautiful
convenience when you’re traveling around Europe, if you knowledgeably get the
right train pass for you. You can also buy tickets as you go, point-to-point
tickets. You can buy them at travel agencies, you can buy them at the ticket
window, or from machines, and you can buy them online. One way or another, take full advantage of the train system
in Europe. I wanna remind you that bus transportation is a good alternative. In
a lot of countries, there’s a hub, and the rail lines all go in and out of that hub. And if you’re going across the, grain you don’t want to go by train, you’ll have to go into the big city and out again, but buses will go across the grain. Also in a
lot of countries, buses are just cheaper, and more prevalent, and easier, you know, you can go from Madrid to Toledo effortlessly by bus, and
they’re leaving every 20 minutes. In Germany I’ve noticed there are new,
very inexpensive, buses directly competing with trains, actually using
train stations as their own curbs to park on. Here we have a bus that goes from
Rostock to Dresden in Germany, and if you do the arithmetic it’s four hours, two
hundred and fifty miles, $20. Pretty good deal, and you’re on the
Autobahn, very comfortable ride. I was just in England, and I was in Oxford, I
was in Cambridge heading for Oxford, and I just assumed I’d have to take the train
into London and go back out to Oxford, and then I realized there’s a direct cross-country
bus. And it was about half the price of the train, it took an hour or so longer,
but very relaxing, and I thoroughly enjoyed catching the bus, which I’m not
inclined, to do instead of the train. So remember, you’ve got a good bus option when
you’re train traveling. When it comes to driving in Europe, you can rent a car remarkably afford ably, and a cool thing
about renting a car is you go open jaws just like flying, you can pick up and drop the car at a hundred different Hertz or Avis offices anywhere in Italy, or
France, or Britain. Take full advantage of that. Think cleverly about not paying to have
your car in London, and Bath, and York, and Edinburgh, if you’re going to England you
don’t want a car in those cities. For the case of England, here’s a smart trip. Land at
Heathrow, take the bus or the train out to Bath, spend a couple of days in Bath,
without a car, getting over jet lag, pick up your car in Bath, drive and do your country side stuff, the Cotswolds, North Wales, Cumbrian Lake District, Hadrian’s
Wall, places you’ll want a car. Drop the car when you get to Edinburgh, ’cause you don’t
want a car in Edinburgh, three days there, and then you go to York by train, two days
there, and in an hour you’re in London, and you got four days in London where
you don’t want a car anyway. Just see the advantage of that, you’re using a car
where you should use the car, and you’re not paying to rent a car, to pay to park
it, in a city where you wouldn’t want to use the car anyway. Very, very important,
and it’s easy to do when you remember you can rent your car in that open jaws
fashion, picking up here and dropping it there. Europe’s road system is really good. In
the old days, there weren’t a lot of freeways. Now as Europe is united, they’ve got this huge investment in their infrastructure, it’s like an internal martial plan, and they’re taking
the poor countries, most of eastern Europe, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and
so on, investing in them, and you got beautiful German style freeways
everywhere. And that comes with a lot of tunnels, and a lot of bridges, and just a
lot of fun driving. Look at this tunnel here in little Norway. 4 or 5 million people
are drilling the longest tunnels in the world. Every tunnel in Europe has a sign
outside that is the name of the tunnel and how long it is, which I find fun
when I’m driving. Normally they’re just in meters,a meter is the same as a yard
essentially, in this particular title it is 24 1/2 kilometers, so
figure 24 kilometers, cut in half, 12, add two, that’s a 14 or 15
mile-long tunnel. That’s a long tunnel. And those are kind of commonplace in Europe
these days, you’ll find a lot of tunnels saving a lot of time. You gotta decide,
are you going to get insurance with your car or not, and it is a headache to have a
car in Europe, knowing it’s very expensive to bring it back with a ding in it.
Now I like the peace of mind of having zero deductible insurance, and one way or
another I get it. Sometimes it’s covered with your credit card, sometimes it’s covered in your leasing
or your rental fee, and sometimes you gotta pay extra. Sort through that, but
understand there’s a huge, huge advantage to knowing you can bring your car back
in unrecognizable shambles and just say, “sorry, I’m new in this country.” And I
think, psychologically, you will travel safer when you know you can
drive aggressively on the road. So pay for their zero deductible collision
damage waiver. There’s a lot of police in Europe, a lot of carabinieri in Italy, and
there’s a lot of American travelers getting tickets in the mail, or just
build on their credit card. If you’re coming into Bergen, and you don’t read
the sign that says, “if you drive into town without this special local pass,
you’re going to have a fee,” you’re gonna be billed, you know. If you drive into
Bologna, or Florence and you pass this one camera stop, you’re gonna get a pretty
stiff penalty because you didn’t read the sign. There’s a lot of pitfalls, and
the car rental company has your credit card, and when you break the law you will
pay the price. Remember, in Europe you don’t need the
international driver’s license. Some people will say you do, the international
driver’s license, technically it’s required in a couple of countries, but I’ve never used it, and the international
driver’s license service has a formal translation of your American license, so
when you get pulled over the cop could read it okay. I find if you want to get it,
it’s sold easily at AAA, it’s not very expensive, and it is a legitimate
piece of disposable photo ID, which a lot of people find handy, but you can rent a
car without the international license, from my experience. Look at those signs, a
lot of cameras monitoring things, a lot of those red circles, remember the red
circle says no go. So in the bottom left– bottom right-hand side here says,
“zona traffico limitato.” Must mean limited traffic zone, but then you look
at the little caveat below, you see crossed hammers. Crossed hammers on the
signs in Europe means work days that could be Monday through Friday or Monday
through Saturday, as opposed to a cross, which means Sundays and holidays. And you
see, on weekdays from 7:30 to 9:30, this is a limited traffic zone. You come in
eight o’clock at night you can drive right through. On the left you see the free
the speed limits all over the country. 50 kilometers an hour in the cities, 90
kilometers an hour outside of the cities, 110 on highways, and 130 on the freeway. All that’s very straightforward. Be engaged,
travel smartly, take advantage of that. Remember, your issue when it comes to
filling the tank is diesel or unleaded, and that’s color-coded at the pump. Generally the
pump won’t even fit in your car if you’ve got the wrong stuff, but know if you’re diesel to be sure
you’re not getting the wrong kind of gas. A lot of American travelers are all
stressed out about the high cost of gas in Europe. It’s expensive here, and It’s
twice as expensive in Europe. Don’t worry about it. Cars get great mileage, distances are
short, and I’m always impressed how much driving you can do for a very
inexpensive price when it comes to the gas. That’s a small part of the equation.
I travel for a week in England and I end up spending $60 on my gas, it’s not a big
deal. So, you know, you wanna be careful with your needless driving, but you’ll
get around fine and affordable. I’m kind of old fashioned when it comes to
navigating. I like a map. I just bought an atlas when I was in England, very
nice to have that sitting on the driver’s seat. On the other hand, it’s pretty, pretty slick these days,
the GPS that may or may not be with your car, and a lot of people find their
Google Maps and their apps on their smart phone works even better than the GPS. I dropped a lot of pins on my last trip,
and it works really great. If you like that, it’ll bail you out of all sorts of
problems, and these mapping apps, and so on, they know all the one way roads, and they know all
the traffic jams and it just works really marvelously. When it comes to
parking your car, just be big minded about it, don’t look for a free place to
park your car, just have a– I just hoard coins in my, you know, my coffee dish there, and
I just pay to park. Pay and display. I get as close as I can, I’ll pay and display, use the
machine, display the ticket, and then you’ve saved time, and you’ve got a safer place to leave your car. Also remember, most car rental cars come with the cardboard
clock that any European has. If they don’t have it you can get it at a gas
station or convenient, and this cardboard clock, you can see it here on the sign,
this is parking, and it’s free if you have the clock. The parking clock. You set
the time you arrive on your cardboard clock, you put it on your dashboard, and
then the parking attendant knows that you arrived at 12:00, and this
is good for 180 minutes on weekdays between eight and six, and you’re
good until three o’clock, because you’ve got your clock on the dashboard. Make
sense? That’ll save you a lot of headaches, but you need to use that clock. It’s hiding in
your glove compartment. No parking on Thursday. You gotta know the days of the
week to drive smartly, and that would be Thursday. I don’t know what “dispare” means,
but it sounds like a bad word. Thursday you can’t do it, and then you look at
that, but it says from zero to six. Zero would be midnight. Six would be just when they
start getting traffic. What’s the deal here, on Thursday what do they do? They
sweep the street, we do it here too. So you’re gonna get towed if you’re parking
there on Thursdays from midnight till’ six, and on the bottom, you can just
guess that last line says, “on every place on this street,” that’s what that
would say. So have your phrasebook, make your educated guesses, common sense, but you
don’t want to get towed. When it comes to flying, I rely on my travel agent, period, in
Europe. It’s complicated, I have complicated trips, I just use a travel agent. I think
it’s a great value, I don’t even talk about it much in my classes, I don’t mess with
frequent flyer miles, I just wanna fly efficiently over there, and I think it’s
a great value. To get to Europe and back, for whatever it costs, in nine hours, is a
beautiful thing. As far as getting in and out to airports in Europe, there are
wonderful shuttle services. Here in Barcelona, it costs five dollars, every 15 minutes a
bus takes you right to the main square. If you get in a taxi, you just blew $30.
Plenty of good ways to get downtown, in many airports in Europe you just follow
the crowd downstairs, and there’s a bullet train that takes you, at a
government subsidized price, right into the town center. A big deal in Europe these
days is the deregulated airline industry. When I was a kid traveling in Europe,
nobody paid for a one-way flight in Europe if they were spending their own money, it was
ridiculously expensive. Nowadays, it’s deregulated, and you can go round trip
for 50 bucks almost anywhere in Europe, if you know how to go to these discount
airlines. Travel agents don’t know about them, a lot of search engines don’t find
them, they got their own websites, and you got your Ryanair, you got your– even
a company called Wizzair, can be a very good value, okay. Know the ins and outs,
because sometimes they’re cheap in the beginning but if you don’t know how to
use it properly, you end up paying a lot of extra fees, and you didn’t save much
money. They also end up using secondary airports a lot which, I find a real drag,
frankly, I’ve got $100 for a ride in Europe and I just go for the Lufthansa
or the British Air one way ticket that I get through my travel agent when I buy
my big round trip ticket. I just tell her all the little one way flights I want
and they average $100 a flight, and then I’m flying exactly when I want to go, on
a reliable airline, with all this service and I’m using the major airports. So, to
me, I don’t mess with the discount airlines ’cause I just want to get where I want to go,
when I want to go, and the savings is not that dramatic. But, this opens up a lot of
fun travel to a lot of people that really know how to save money that way. Commit yourself to public transportation
public transportation. Public transportation is part of being in Europe. When I’m in London and I
fly to Heathrow, I will buy the one-week public transit pass
covering all the subways and all the buses, and I get to my hotel from the
airport, and I get the whole week of travel covered for what I would spend if
I just bought a taxi from the airport to my hotel, do you follow me there. I just feel
good when I’m traveling that way. Public transportation, if you use the
local passes especially, empowers you. A lot of Europeans never get around to
owning a car and learning how to drive. They don’t have any environmental or political
agenda, it just makes no sense to drive because they got wonderful public
transportation. Figure out how that works, then you will
do better. A nice thing about public transportation is, if it’s a subway,
it’s below the traffic jams. There’s a lot of traffic jams in Europe these days.
Subways cover that beautifully. Wonderful subway systems. I want to remind you that
there’s a lot of crowds in the subway system, so you’re likely to be
pick pocketed in a jam. On a crowded bus, on the tourists line, you got the pick
pockets, so be aware of that. Know the rudiments of using the public
transportation, the subways, and so on. If you have– if you use them in your
hometown here in the United States that’s great, if you don’t, you got color-coded lines. This
is Prague, four different color coded lines, each with a letter, you navigate by
cross points, and by end stations, and by what line, is it. So, you gotta know what
is the end station, where you go on, and where do you connect, and it’s pretty
straightforward. Places like London and Paris have much more complicated train
systems underground, but they work really well, and you’ll find you can get within
a five-minute walk of almost anywhere in town, when you empower yourself with the
local public transportation. Now, you can get within a five-minute walk if you use
the correct exit. if you are mindless about that, you can walk an extra 10
minutes, literally. So just get in the habit of– when you get off of the subway, be
heads up about your exit. Here we have in Paris, “sortie,” that’s one of the key words
you know when using the Paris subway system, and you got three different exits
there, and there’s three different exits elsewhere, you want to know where you’re going. Here
we have the exit in London on the Tube, and you can see exit one takes me to
Westminster pier, exit two takes me to Victoria Embankment, and exit 3 takes me
to the Houses of Parliament. Again, you’ll save yourself a lot lot of sweat and extra steps by using
those signs. In the subway system, on the bus system, like the train system, you
generally need to date your ticket. And remember, the ticket is oftentimes good
for an hour, or two hours, or 24 hours, with unlimited changes, and so on. You got lots of options, but you do have
to date that thing. Something very popular in Europe these days, as in the
United State’s with public transit systems, is these swipe cards. In England it’s
called– in London it’s called the Oyster card, and it seems little complicated but
it’s not. you just pay $5, and you get your card, and then you top it up for as
much travel as you need, and by having the swipe card, you get to travel
half-price. It’s the only way to travel economically on the system, and when
you’re done, you can generally sell your card back for the deposit you paid for it.
Buses complement the tube system quite nicely, a lot of travelers are disinclined to
use the buses. Get your brain around the bus system, get local help, it can really
empower you as well.There are apps, your Google Maps, and individual cities have
apps that help you know where the nearest bus, or tram, or subway is, how
long it’ll take, and how much walking is involved. You can refer to that before
you decide if you’re gonna take a taxi or not if it’s really awkward, you could
just hop in a taxi, if it’s really slick, you just go down the stairs and you hop
on the train. So use those apps if you’re using public transportation. I’ll remind
you, taxis can be a good budget trick a lot
of people think, “oh taxis is, like, for wealthy people,” or a splurge, no, your
time is really important. If there’s three or four of you especially, you
should routinely consider flagging down taxes, ’cause you save time, you save stress,
it’s just a relaxing fun way to see the town. Unless there’s traffic concerns, you can
be embroiled in traffic and then you wish you went underground and used the
subway. Taxis, it’s either an issue of hailing it down, having the hotel or
restaurant telephone it for you, or finding a taxi stand. And in some cases.
hailing it down doesn’t work, and you got to get to the taxi stand. In other cities,
it’s just you hail taxis, it’s great. I find taxis generally very honest. it’s
hard to rip people off these days, the meters are all fixed really well so they
can tamper with them, and unless you meet a rip-off cabbie that’s parked in front of
a tourist attraction just waiting to take a green naive tourists for a ride, I
think you can generally do pretty well on taxis. I think a great thing, rather
than stopping or getting a taxi who’s parked outside of a tourist location,
they’re looking for tourists, I like to hail one on the road that driving by.
He’s not camped out, he hasn’t spent a lot of time wasting, waiting for you, an easy victim, and you’ll find they’re
safer that way. Understand the meter system. Understand
what tariff, be careful about common scams, but generally taxis are a great
great service. Europeans love their bikes. Europeans bike
to work, they bike with their families, a lot of times they don’t use helmets.
America’s are just appalled at Europeans that’ll bike without helmets. They don’t
have any guns, you know, we lose a thousand people a year with guns, but we
have helmets on our bikes so that’s nice. Different societies get
upset about different safety issues I guess, but you got rental bikes that are
quite nice, and when it’s good for tourists to use a bike, you got plenty of
opportunities to rent a bike. Look at Nice here. This used to be all traffic,
now this is the new layout in Europe. You’ve got two lanes now for cars, a
beautiful bike lane, and a broad pedestrian boulevard along the
waterfront. That’s the new European people friendly waterfront. All over the
continent you can bake along riverbanks, and you can bike though
the countryside. There’s a lot of fun
ways that you can add to the joy of your travel by knowing your
options, and using transportation to empower you when you enjoy your
trip to Europe. Thank you. Thank you for joining us, right now I want to
talk about eating your way through Europe, and one of the joys of European
travel is food, right, how many of you are looking forward to eating in Europe? Nice.
Well I certainly am, and you don’t need to be wealthy to eat while in Europe, and
you want to just eat with the culture, you want to eat with the seasons, and you want to know how to find a
good value. The main thing is, you don’t want to be attracted to the big sign in
English on the most expensive square in town, that says no frozen food. That’s a
tourist trap, just like that. They’re paying way too much rent, they’re just trying
to snare naive, green, rich tourists. And you see here, four different
languages, a printed menu offering every menu item you could imagine. Everything
about it is wrong. You want to find the local mom and pop place that is serving
local specialties, with the season. They say in much of Europe, eaters can
identify the region and the month by what’s on the menu, and I think that
worth thinking about, because a good traveler will eat what’s good with the
region, and what is good with the season. In this little restaurant here, you can
see it’s a small, humble mom-and-pop place, it’s got paper tablecloth, you can see
a couple of tourists joining the local crowd and they’re eating very simply.
They’ve got a bowl of pasta, a bottle of water, and a carafe of house wine.
That’s not gonna break the bank, that’s going to be a great experience.
Even though for Italians that would just be a start, for us, that’s the meal. That’s a big bowl of
pasta, and a great scene. All over Europe you got trendy new restaurants, fun food, great
food, innovative food, that is affordable. You don’t need any pretense, you don’t need
any Michelin stars, you don’t need any, you know, big crowd-sourcing website to
tell you what’s hot, you don’t need to wait in a long line. You can just be tuned into
where the locals are eating, and order in a smart place. I like to go to a fancy
restaurant, and I like to have the fancy clientele, and the beautifully presented
food, but I don’t like to have to dress up and $100 for a meal. You don’t need to
do that. You can find plenty of classy restaurants, with classy clientele, and
I always say– I would say eat in these kind of restaurants, but when you do, if you’re on
a budget, order sparingly. Order each person a first
course, split the main course, split the dessert, and have a carafe of house wine
instead of a bottle of fine wine. They’re glad you’re there. And then, you’re gonna
walk out of that place, not feeling like you just ate a horse, like a lot of
Americans seem to brag about, but that you ate smartly. You’re not stuffed, and you were surrounded by local elegance. I would rather pay $25 for a pasta,
sitting with local politicians and big shots and having all that elegance, than
$15 for that same bowl of pasta down the street. If I’m in the mood for a fancy
restaurant, the key is you don’t need to go broke if you order low on the menu,
and you share. Ask for the dessert, but ask for four spoons with it. That
used to be bad, but I’ll tell you, these days they’re just glad you’re there, they
really are. Even better than that, you’ll find lots of sort of funky more
mom-and-pop kind of places that are really ramping it up with quality.
“Gastropubs,” pubs, serving gastronomic food. Gastronomic tapas bars, “enoteca,” in
Italy, serving fine wine by the glass and beautifully paired food, that’s what I like.
And that’s what I recommended in my books. This would be in an Enoteca, or in a
gastronomic pub anywhere in Europe. Now, you want a memorable experience, and
if you’re going to go to a popular place, I’m telling you, in Europe you gotta make
reservations. It’s really important to make reservations. For years I just thought,
“no as a tourist that’s not really appropriate.” You’re just the same as a
local person when you get on the phone and say, “table for four people, we’re
coming at eight o’clock, thank you, my name? Ricardo,” okay. You do that,
and you’ll have a table waiting for you. Otherwise, you’re gonna be roaming around,
and every place is gonna be full and it’s going to be very frustrating. Super popular
restaurant sometimes have two settings. In this place, everybody goes there when
they’re in this little town in Tuscany, there’s a seven o’clock seating. and
there’s a nine o’clock seating. When you do go out and about, remember, at the early seating it’s going
to be more tourists, and at the late seating. it’s going to be more locals. In my
research, I’ve learned if I go to a place at 7:30, it’s going to seem like a
tourist trap. If I come back at 10, it’s gonna seem like a local favorite. One’s not
better than the other, just remember, you eat early you’re eating with
tourists, you eat late you’re eating with locals. This particular steakhouse, wow.
This man comes around with big hunks of steak, he asks you do you want this one or
that one, tells you the cost, you say yes, he takes it back and cooks it, and every few minutes you hear a “whack,” and there’s like a quarter of a cow sitting on a gurney, and
there goes another slice of him. It’s into the oven at seven minutes on
this side, seven minutes on that side, 15 minutes later it’s on your table. This is
not a good place if you’re a vegetarian. This traveler is not a vegetarian, and
she had a lifelong memory. So, there are wonderful experiences waiting for you,
there are wonderful ways to eat outdoors. Here in this setting, this is Madrid, there
used to be nothing but traffic and parking on this street, but now its
underground, it’s kept out, its in tunnels, and they’ve turned their parking lots
into beautiful spaces. Lots of delightful places to eat out. One of my favorite
chores in my research, and I’m in Europe researching for– I’m in Europe for 120 days a year, 40 days is filming my TV shows, and 80 days is on my own,
just researching my guidebooks, and I just love it, and I’m just working all
day long, and all evening, checking things. This is one of my nights, and I don’t
know where I was there, but you can see I have my long list of things I need to do. On
the back of the restaurant cards I’ve written all my details, and I go home, into the hotel and pump all that new
information into the next edition of the book. One of the keys for, me as I
mentioned, is to find those local places in low-rent spots a few blocks off the
famous squares where you have a small menu, in one language, handwritten. Small,
because they’re just going to cook up what they can sell out and and do profitably
for the day. One language because they’re targeting local return customers, rather
than tourists, they’d love you to be there, but their priority is local people. And,
handwritten because it shaped by whatever’s fresh in the market this morning.
It’s really important to eat with the season. If you’re in Paris, hell bent on
having french onion soup in the summer, only a tourist trap is going to serve
that to you. Another restaurant wouldn’t serve french onion soup, ’cause that’s a winter
thing. If you really want your porcini mushrooms and you’re traveling in May, you’re there in the wrong time of year. You better tune into the white asparagus, and come
back in the fall. Go with the seasonal specials, that’s
what the daily specials are all about, that’s what locals order, that’s what they’re
happier if you order, and you’ll get a better value and taste to your food. That
handwritten menu indicates a good local favorite. Understand just the basic
language. You’ve got your “plat du jour,” you’ve got, in this case you’ve got your choice of veal with “riz pilaf,” or you’ve got your Menu
Express, which is a choice of ham or chicken with a green salad and french
fries. Certainly no prize winning meal there, but it’s ten or twelve dollars, and
you can eat in restaurants with the local people for ten or twelve dollars,
if you like. The phrase book, very important, because then you know what the
options are. There are a lot of good phrasebooks, we work very hard on our phrasebooks to cover all your options, so you can order smartly. One thing I like
to do, is eat where local office workers eat. At lunch time, I don’t want an
earth-shaking meal. I’ve got lots to do, I know it’s cheaper at lunch than at dinner,
but I just want to have an expedient lunch. And I ask for local– I lineup
where the local office workers lineup. They eat out every day, and they know
where the good values are. All over Europe you can find
government-subsidized cafeterias. Here’s the cafeteria in Oslo at the City Hall, it’s
called a “Mensa,” where you can eat with the local workers at a no profit price. And
remember, you got your quick businessman’s lunch and your pre-theater dinners,
where you get two courses for ten or fifteen dollars, and that’s a great value.
Here’s a meal for under $15, where you got a plate, and a salad, and bread, and a drink, in
Stockholm, a notoriously expensive city. You can find very fine and affordable
lunches anywhere in Europe. A nice salad and a glass of wine in France, A beautiful salad, this is the go-to
salad in Greece, the Greek salad. All over Europe I like a “salad nicoise.” This is in
Nice particularly right here, but you’ll find a “salad nicoise” is a good, healthy,
inexpensive, go-to plate, anywhere in Europe. Eat with the local cultures, in
Italy you’ve got an “antipasto spread,” its like a salad bar, but all this “antipasto”
stuff. In Spain, you’ve got the wonderful “tapas.” One of the challenges for us we
go to Spain, is local people really late. Unless you want lunch at three and
dinner at ten, you’re gonna have to roll with the punches there, and if you sit
down at a restaurant at noon or seven, you’re gonna be eating with the staff– in Europe that’s–
you’re just not very welcome. What you wanna do is go to a bar. And
they’ve got good food in their tapas bars all day long in Spain, and that’s
part of the cuisine scene. As I mentioned, people are sharing. Here are Germans sharing a “wurst” and “sauerkraut,”
even sharing their beer. That would never have happened in earlier days, but now
they’ve had their economic challenges, and again, they’re just happy that you’re
there. I love cultures where they have family style eating, and anywhere in
Europe I opt for the family style of eating, and remember, a lot of Americans
think it’s kind of bad style to be sharing their plates, and so on. But you’re
curious, you’re beginners, you step on the learning curve, and a chef loves it, even
if it’s not sophisticated, if you make a habit to order different things and then
sample them around. You just want to eat your way through the menu, it’s, fun it’s
part of the culture. In Greece you have the “meze,” and you get to order these
little plates. In Spain, of course, you’ve got the “tapas,” in Venice you’ve got the
“cicchetti,” all over Europe. In Italy, I find the “antipasto,” or the appetizer spread, is
really the most interesting thing on the menu. If you have dietary concerns, and a
lot of people do, whether they’re gluten-free, or vegan, or you have a very bad reaction to nuts, or
whatever you, need to write it down on a piece of paper, and then have a local
person translate it, so you can show that to the waiter and not have any risk of
getting what you don’t want. You have to be very explicit, because a lot of waiters just go, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” and then they ignore you. so be careful about that. A lot of people
wonder about the tipping, and the service, and so on, I want to remind you, service and taxes are included. So if you
look at a $30 meal in Europe that says service and tax included, that’s like a
$22 meal here, where we’d add on tax and add on service. It’s there already, so
discount the price in your mind when you’re wondering, “what is the value here.”
People ask about service, and in Europe, waiters and waitresses are paid a
living wage. You don’t have this very strong 10, or 15, or 20 percent tipping
thing that we do in the United States over there. Locals just leave the coins on the table,
rounded up, or often don’t tip at all. I would say ask in each country, “what are
the tipping norms?” Don’t ask a waiter, ask somebody else, and just find
out what you’re comfortable with, but don’t lose sleep over walking out of a
restaurant in Europe without tipping. Because, they’re paid a living wage, and
it’s not expected like it is here. And if you tip American-style in Europe, you’re just raising
the bar and messing up the local balance, and it’s bad style. A lot of Americans
complain about slow service. In America, time is money, bam, bam, bam, in and out, turning the table. European
restauranteurs don’t want to turn the table, I mean, if they get popular in an
American guidebook they have an early setting, because Americans prefer to eat
early, and then the Americans are gone by the time the regular clientele come, but
they’re not really designed about turning tables in Europe. You’re there
all evening. Respectful, quality good service is slow. Now if you want fast
service, you can get it. Europeans sometimes want fast service, it’s
just a matter of effectively communicating and say, “excuse me, I have a
play to go to, I need to be finished by nine o’clock.” If you can communicate that,
you’ll get fast service, but that is the exception, not the rule. I like music when I’m eating. I like to enjoy a cultural experience
when I’m eating, and all over Europe, you can choose your restaurant with fun
music along with it. Also remember, in Europe, you get fast food on every corner.
You got American chains on every corner these days. That’s a real loss if you go
all the way to Europe and eat a lot of fast American food chain food. I would
recommend, if you want fast food, find the delis that have the counters
and the stools, where the local businesspeople go. Here we have a
grocery store, an elegant grocery store that has a deli counter, and if you see in the
back there on the left, a bunch of local business people, sitting on stools, eating
great food at great prices, in a fancy grocery store. Also remember, all over
Europe, there are immigrants doing the hard work that local people don’t want
to do, for peasant wages. And these immigrants have very tasty food
traditions, they have very small budgets, and they like to go out and eat. I think
immigrant restaurants are a godsend for tourists, especially up in Scandinavia,
where the food tends to be really expensive and really boring, alright. you
want some spicy Pakistani food, or Lebanese food, or whatever when you’re in
Scandinavia. All over Europe, a “doner kebab” is a great go-to meal for
something fast and cheap. Pizza is another good standby, you can find pizza
anywhere for a great price. Street food, lots of fun. Know the street food,
have a sense of adventure, and enjoy that dimension of the culture. Know what the
unique specialties are. This is barnacles. Barnacles, in Portugal, very expensive but
really, really good, they are the best seafood I’ve ever eaten. It goes with
beer, it’s and something we wouldn’t know about if we didn’t try it. Truffles, in season, a beautiful thing.
Again, know what is in season and eat with the
season. Venture out, try the stinky cheese. if you want to learn more about the food,
remember, a great new thing is food tours. All over Europe you’ll find food
stores, you can Google it, you can look on TripAdvisor, in my guidebook, I
recommend the food tours that I’ve particularly enjoyed. They’re not cheap, it’ll cost you 80 or $90, but you get four hours, you go to eight places, you
get a big meal out of it, and it’s a tour and an education through a very
interesting, characteristic neighborhood at the same time. I really enjoy those
food tours. That one was in Rome, this one is in southern France, in Avignon. Another
popular experience is to go to a cooking school. These are very trendy these days,
just last year I met one of our groups in Florence and I joined them for
the experience. It took a little time, but it was really fun, we prepared the food,
we cooked the food, and of course, when you’re done cooking it, you got to eat it.
And when we sat down, this is one of our tour groups, and we ate at meal, it was clear
to us, this was as good as what you might have got at a restaurant, and we had the proud
chef beaming over us and, and we were all right there, making everything from the salad,
and the pasta, to the tiramisu. You can do that, if you want to look into
a cooking school. Picnicking is a European way to go, and you can create a
very atmospheric, inexpensive, and healthy meal, if you choose a good spot to picnic,
and it causes you to go into the market places. I love the marketplaces of Europe, to me they’re as important as the museums. This is the grand, industrial age,
marketplace in Budapest, you find them all over Europe. This is the big market
stall courtyard in Nice, and here in the Dordogne of France, in Sarlat, you’ve got, not a daily market, but a once-a-week market. Know when the
markets are, and make it a point to be there. When you go into the market stalls,
you feel the energy, you’ll enjoy the local push-and-shove, you get to test
things, and you put together a wonderful picnic with produce that is probably
tastier than produce that you’ve ever had here. When you go to a market,
you’ll find a lot of good eateries near the market, so you don’t necessarily have
to picnic in conjunction with your market visit. Remember, shoppers and
workers know there’s fresh produce and very competitive prices, and very
characteristic seasonal food in the little eateries that surround those
markets. The best new place to have lunch in Florence is the “Mercato Centrale.” Industrial age marketplace’s have had a big struggle in the last
generation, as people are going out of town to the supermarkets, and so on. What
they’ve done to revitalize them, is keep the farmers market dimension, but spice
it up, by letting it be outlets for fancy restaurants, and outlets for creative
foodies to serve right there. And in Florence, you’ve got a food court of
fun options in that marketplace ambiance, and I really love the “Mercato Centrale” when you’re in Florence. Of course, you’ve got just modern grocery stores as
well, all over Europe, one way or another, you can put together a beautiful picnic,
and you can eat very, very cheap and healthy if you want to. Whether it’s on a
train ride, just a very, very simple meal on a train, but it just costs a couple
bucks in the most expensive corner of Europe. Or, after a long day of
sightseeing, maybe you just want to take off your shoes, stretch out, and have a
simple, cheap meal, while catching up on your YouTube, or your TV watching, or
whatever in the hotel room. You’ve got that option, and I like to make a pantry
in my hotel. I don’t want an earth-shaking dinner every night, every second or third night
I just like to have a picnic in my hotel room. It’s relaxing to me, it’s healthy,
and it is certainly cheap. In each country in Europe, you’ve got the local taste
treats. Do your reading, make a point, make room in your budget. When you’re in
Belgium if you don’t try some beautiful gourmet chocolate, you don’t know what
you’re missing. And, of course, you’ve got the gelato scene. I love to not go with
the guidebook, and not go at the crowd-sourcing, but go with local
recommendation. “What is the most popular gelateria in town?” And go there and you’ll
feel the energy, as all the kids are there enjoying great gelato. Same with coffee. Wonderful coffee scene. I like to
pay too much to enjoy a cup of coffee the most expensive piece of real
estate in that town, and watch the scene go by. Remember, when you have a cup of
coffee and you sit outside, you pay a little more, but you’re not paying for
the coffee, you’re paying to be part of the scene, and that is integral to a
quality European experience. Related to that are the the happy hour drinks. I’m
not a cocktail, happy hour, kinda guy here, but when I’m in Europe I like to spend
half an hour or 45 minutes just enjoying a hard drink and some munchies on the
square as everybody’s out making the scene. This is the “aperitivo.” It’s a
big deal in Italy. Here we are in the main square in Siena enjoying spending
$7 for your drink, and it comes with little sandwiches, and pickles, and and chips, and so on. And again, you’re
renting a spot to enjoy the show, that’s what that’s all about. Make the scene. In
the morning, it’s a market, in the middle of the day it’s just a work-a-day scene, and
at night the little bars spring out and all the students, and all of the
fun-loving people are on the square having their spritz. If you go to that
square and buy a spritz, strike up a conversation, you’re gonna have plenty of
friends. That’s your challenge, the ball’s in your court. They’re not gonna come to
you, but you’re more than welcome to make that scene, but it’s easier to do with the
appropriate drink in hand, at the right time a day. You know, here at home I never
feel like a nice glass of “ouzo,” but when I’m in Greece, every night I feel
like watching the sunset with a glass of “ouzo.” When I’m in England, I feel like a
spot of tea. I don’t drink tea here, I drink tea in England, I’m a cultural
chameleon. When I’m in the Czech Republic, it’s a good Pilsner. When I’m in Tuscany, it’s good red wine, and so on. Make sure that you are a cultural
chameleon when it comes to the drinks and the food in your travels, and then
you will have a better experience. The food really makes a huge difference, and
if you know how to connect with the culture, you’ll find that just as
important as the museums and galleries, is experiencing and enjoying the culture,
through the hearth, through the dining room table, and through the kitchen.
Thank you. When you travel in Europe, every night you gotta
find a hotel. And the challenge for you is, “how do I find the right hotel for the
right budget?” You don’t need to stay in a slum, alright, there are lousy hotels in
Europe, where for $20 you get a bed and a kitten tossed in for no extra, and I’m
not talking about that. What I’m talking about is an alternative to this, this is
the high-rise Intercontinental Hotel, and frankly, that’s not what we’re
traveling for. When I go around the United States, I’m happy to stay in the
Intercontinental, but when I’m halfway around the world, I want to know where I
am. And an Intercontinental is designed for– think about the name– is designed for
people who, deep down inside, wish they were not traveling. People who need a
paper strap over the toilet promising that, “nobody has sat here yet.” You can get
that kind of American niceties, but you’re gonna pay American prices plus
shipping for them, and when I travel, I want to stay in a funky little hotel.
Walter’s hotel. It’s been a fire trap for a hundred years, I’ll risk it one more
night. I know I’m in Switzerland here, that peasants have been cutting hay up
on the field, and they’re downstairs in the bar playing the spoon, yodeling, and
drinking beer. I’m part of the scene. The less you spend, in so many cases, the more
experienced when it comes to accommodations, and I find accommodations
an integral part of your travel experience. I want a two star hotel on a pedestrian-only street in Paris, on a village– it’s sort of village Paris, there’s a market outside
in the morning, it’s just seven blocks from the Eiffel Tower. $150 for my double, so French when I step outside the morning I feel like I
must’ve been a poodle in a previous life. This is a good hotel. It’s not a fancy
hotel, it’s got an elevator, it’s got a private toilet and shower. It’s perfectly
good for me, and it should be good for the people who are planning to go to
Europe with my guidebooks. One of the joys for me is connecting with the
people who run these hotels. I’m so passionate about getting people to
people. These hotels are family-run. I’ve been doing this long enough where now I’m
in the second generation. Mom and dad have retired, and this is Nico, who runs
one of my favorite hotels in Venice. I drop by and see Nico every time I’m
in town, and we have a tradition where we hold up the latest book, and we hold up
the picture from our last visit, and every time I visit we do this, we hold up
the next picture, and you can see the previous visit, and then in the
photograph a previous visit, and it goes way back. The point is, we’ve got a long
experience with these hoteliers, and they really appreciate the people with
our guidebooks. Its extended family. If you use the Rick Steves guidebook to any of
these destinations in Europe, you will have a lot of friends, running a lot of
great hotels, that would love to host you. They can be fancy hotels like this, with
the Koch family, in a resort town in Austria. They can be elegant places with
beautiful, characteristic rooms. That’s really nice to have, but most of them are
going to be rather simple rooms, like this. A lot of times you get a twin– two
twin beds, and they can be made up as twins, or made up as a double, and that
would be your situation. A lot of times a double room would have a small double
bed and a little kinda single bed, and you can have two or three people in the
room. I want to remind you, the more people you pack into the room, the cheaper it gets
per person, and the fewer people, the more expensive, it is. A single is genuinely, or generally, a single occupancy of a double room, and it costs
nearly as much as the double room for two people. The exception would be if you
have a tiny single that physically does not fit a double bed. To find a cheap,
single room it by definition is going to be cramped, because it can’t fit a double
bed. If there’s two of you in a double room, much more economic. Rather than stay in
the high-rise, international class, five star hotel outside of town, I like to
spend about the same money, but stay right downtown in an elegant local style
hotel. So this is not a purely budget thing, I got plenty of money to stay in a
nice hotel if I want to, and I do choose to spend that splurge level, but when I
do it, I don’t want to be surrounded by American, noisy, international
business people, and so on, it’s just bad for my traveling soul. I
wanna be right there, immersed in the local culture, with people who know a
good value, in a beautiful hotel that has a long heritage heritage of serving guests.
A place that has the same people working at the desk year after
year, who really are part of the family. A lot of times when you get a
characteristic hotel, it’s right downtown and it physically cannot fit an elevator in
that thing. That’s okay. I like a few stairs, you know, and in fact, when you choose a
room, I’d rather be a few stairs up. Europe is noisy, a lot of Europeans
prefer to be down low and on the street. I don’t want to have a street view, I
want to be up three floors and with a view out the back, ’cause I want it quiet
tonight, there’s a lot of night noise. A lot of people insist on an elevator, they’re all
upset if there’s no elevator, they’d rather travel all the way outside of
town to get an elevator, than stay right downtown and climb a few steps. And it’s
kind of silly, because they do a lot more steps to get to their elevator, than if
they were right downtown. There’s something great about being in an old
building that can’t have an elevator, you’re right where the action is. Do
concern yourself with night noise, very important. The night noise, you can
minimize that, but you can’t always avoid it, and if you’re choosing a hotel on a
train track, above a disco, you know, right downtown, a lot of times you gonna
have night noise. That goes with European travel, and that something you want to be
aware of. Hotels provide WiFi these days. Big, stoney walls oftentimes don’t let
the WiFi go through, so much as you want WiFi in your room, it’ll advertise WiFi,
but you’ll find all the tourists are down in the lobby getting online every
night. They’ll have WiFi, but you have to scramble to get added a lot of times. I
love this photograph, because it shows the old-fashioned reservation sheet with
pencil and eraser, and that’s Tuesday on the 14th, you want two double rooms, okay, and
they write you down. Look at that, you don’t know how they keep track of it. It’s a reminder to me to
remind you, that many people’s trips are filled with fiascoes, everybody is
screwing them up. If everybody’s screwing you up, you’re at fault. Nobody screws me up because I don’t give
them the opportunity to screw me up. I call a day before to reconfirm. As a good
tour guide for your own family, you need to be reconfirming, double-checking, “what
could go wrong,” head it off at the pass so you don’t show up and say, “hey, I emailed
you a week ago.” Don’t let that be a problem, because it’s
complicated for them. Another development in the hotel world
is what’s called dynamic pricing, and this is very frustrating to me, because I
built my whole program, in my guidebooks, on being able to rely on a price from a
hotel for a room, and now they have these computer programs that let them charge more or less,
depending on what the market will bear, and they predict that a year in advance. It’s very tough for me to say what the price is
gonna be at a hotel. The result of that is, as consumers, they’re gonna perfect
price discriminate against us. We need to just defend ourselves. We need to send an
email to five different hotels that looked like a good value, and find out
who’s charging what on any particular day, and then go with the best value. It’s
unfortunate, but I think that’s how we have to handle that. There are a lot of
booking services. Booking services are brutal on hotels. They take a 20%
commission, and they require that hotels bump up their price and not discount and offer a net price to people that go around the booking service. I find a lot of
hoteliers are just really extorted by booking companies but there’s no way
around it. You are invisible if you’re not on
booking.com, or whatever, so it’s just a new way of doing business. You can go
direct, and when you go direct you’ll be a preferred customer, because the hotel
then is keeping all the money, instead of losing twenty percent of it, and exactly
how it all shakes out is up to you, but I like to go direct, and I prefer having my
hotels make all the money, instead of having that needless middleman in the
way. TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is crowd-sourcing.
TripAdvisor is, for me the main problem with TripAdvisor is you don’t know the
veracity, or the honesty of the information. There are companies in India
that make their living writing up nice reviews for people in TripAdvisor, and
other crowd-sourcing sites. There are hotels, that I know, in Edinburgh that give
you a free breakfast if you will write a report to TripAdvisor. And there are a
lot of people who are angry with another company, a competing company, that will
send dishonest misinformation through TripAdvisor to scare people away from
that hotel, and one disgruntled customer feels like they’re very powerful by
extorting a hotel with the threat of a bad thing on Tripadvisor. So, you just gotta– TripAdvisor has valuable
information, but as consumers, you need to understand, it needs to be sorted through.
It is uncurated, and that presents us with a challenge. The hotels in
Europe are a good source of information. we need to take advantage of that
friendly person at the desk who really knows what play is the most popular, “what
are the pitfalls of getting out to the airport,” and “where do I rent a bicycle.”
They are really a good source of information that way. I make a point, when
I get to hotel, of making that room my own. I take a few minutes, especially if I’m
there for three or four days, I stock the pantry, I go to the market and get a
pantry so I’ve get healthy food to eat, I get rid of all the little advertisement, I set things up comfortably, I make sure I got the right pillow. In a lot of
traditional French hotels you got this Lincoln Log pillow. Americans don’t like
it generally, hey, there’s an American-style pillow in the closet, or
you can get one if you ask, You’re not a problem, you’re not an ugly American if
you expect the hotel to fit your needs. You just gotta politely let them know what
your needs are. There are hotels in Europe that have rubber mats on the mattresses
to protect people from, you know, peeing on the mattress. I don’t wanna
sweat all night because they’re worried about their mattresses, I’ll physically
take that rubber mat off of the thing, in order to have a comfortable
night’s sleep. The point is, exercise your own
proactive concerns to make that room fit your needs. It can be done, and it makes a
huge difference. The more people you pack into a room, the cheaper it gets per
person. If you’re traveling with a family, rent a triple and figure out a clever
way to add that fourth person to the room. It’s a lot cheaper, and hoteliers
will work with you. When you have a hotel these days, you don’t have the toilet and
shower down the hall any longer, it is retrofitted into the room. It’s a tight,
little, pre-fab, yacht kinda toilet and shower unit, and a lot of times it’s not
a lot of surface. I like to be able to hang my toiletries kit there. It’s kind
of nice because a lot of times there’s strange hairs and stuff in the sink, and I know when I’ve got my toiletries there, those are my hairs, that’s all my stuff. So it’s a little cleaner
that way, and it’s just a reality. With climate change, you’ll find air
conditioning wherever you need it these days. In Europe Northern, countries
often don’t have air conditioning and now they’re realizing they need it. I
would suffer through the odd times when it’s too hot in the north, but in the
south I would insist on air conditioning, and
know how to use it. As far as smoking goes, smoking is no longer allowed in hotels.
You will not have any problem with smoky rooms, and that’s great news. Usually included in your hotel, is a big
breakfast. And it’s a buffet breakfast, it’s usually a healthy breakfast, and I
just love the breakfasts in Europe these days, they used to be just a croissant
breakfast, but now they are quite sizable. In Britain, and in Scandinavia, and
Ireland, you’ve got a lot of bed and breakfasts. I like a bed and breakfast.
You’re staying in somebody’s home, they’ve got a few extra rooms they’re renting
out. Traditionally, you’d find a street with a lot of B&Bs hanging out
their shingle. These days you go with, you know, web searches, and booking agencies,
and so on, to get your B&Bs, we list a lot of them in our hotels. In the classic
sense, a bed-and-breakfast comes with a big hearty breakfast, enough for a farmer
to go out and work all the way until dinnertime. A lot of Americans call this a
heart attack on a plate, You will have that traditional fry up
when you are in Britain, but you always have a healthy alternative to that as
well. The key for B&Bs is just to know the local
word for bed and breakfast. “Hus rum” is Norwegian for “zimmer,” which
is German for “chambre d’hôte,” which is French for “bed and breakfast.” You’re a guest
of this woman’s. Here we are, Casa Rabatti, Mama Rabatti, it’s four blocks from David
in downtown Florence, and its $100 for the double and it’s a beautiful
experience. This is Kathleen Farrell, an example, on the west coast of Ireland, of
how beautiful B&B is. A great thing to think about when you’re affording your bed and
breakfast, is to remember that, included in the price, is your own temporary local
mother. And I love that, I love it when Kathleen runs out after me, “hey, where’s
your umbrella, here take mine, and be back by eight o’clock ’cause Sean and the
band are playing Irish folk music in the pub tonight.” Plenty of opportunities to be part of
the scene when you’re staying at a B&B. I will remind you, the big, giant, efficient
cookie-cutter, kind of Motel six sort of places in Europe are providing very difficult competition for the cute
little bit and breakfasts and guest houses. You will get rooms for the same
price in a big hotel like this, but if you want the charm, you can remember the
B&Bs. Remember, in the old days, the ladies used to sit on the curb and wave their signs when you drove into town, now people generally go with Airbnb. Airbnb
is a powerful tool, and people love it. There’s couch surfing which is cheaper, but
Airbnb is everywhere. This would be an Airbnb apartment. My son actually rents
Airbnb apartments where he lives in Prague, in the Czech Republic. This is one
of his apartments. That’s the kind of accommodations you can have, for half the
price of a hotel when you use that service. All over Europe, you can stay
in farmhouses. In Italy it’s called agriturismo, and I find, when I do my
research, these agriturismos are just a wonderful opportunity to have that salt
of the earth experience. And I want to remind you, Europe as thousands of youth
hostels.Youth hostels in traditional kinds of ways, and youth hostels all
that are more modern and institutional. High-rise hostels offering $25 beds in
downtown Copenhagen, industrial strength rooms, and a member’s kitchen where you
can cook for the price of groceries, that’s the spirit of youth hosteling. If you’ve
got a family, if you’re on a tight budget, remembering youth hostel is a great way
to go. They’ve actually taken the word “youth” out of the system, so now if you’re
over 55 you get a discount on the membership card. In other words, if you’re
alive, you are young enough to youth hostel. There are informal hostels, there
are mountain huts, there are plenty of creative ways where you can have simple,
characteristic accommodations. And, all over Europe now, you’ve got artistic
designer hostels that compete to be the best hostel in the world. I love mountain
huts, you can hike across the Alps and every night sleep in a hut like this. And
I want to remind you, where you need to go in Europe you’ve got plenty of options,
some of them are gonna be expensive, some of them are gonna be cheap, some of
them are gonna be filled with tourists, and some of them are gonna be filled with
locals. The key for you in your travels, is to have good information
and to remember, when you can connect with the culture
and with the people, your accommodations become a beautiful
part of the trip itself, okay. Thank you very much, and
remember we got a lot more information. Happy travels,
thank you, happy travels.

39 Replies to “European Travel Skills with Rick Steves

  1. Ok, I'll be the fact-checker that everybody hates: The bit with the language barrier and the "Sentralsykehus", that is norwegian. In Denmark they're called "Sygehus" (Spelled not far from sykehus), "hospital" or "skadestue" for emergency room. Said the dane.

  2. The Google Translate mobile app is incredible. It's like something out of Star Trek. You select the language you wish you spoke, speak into the microphone, and it speaks the translation and displays it in huge letters. There isn't support for Cockney yet, though, but I heard that most of them understand English.

  3. My wife and I are traveling to Italy next month and we are renting a car for about half of our trip. Are there a lot of gas stations on the main freeway there? I only ask because on our honeymoon in Belize, we also rented a car for half of our honeymoon, and we ran out of gas there even though I suggested should we fill up when we saw the only gas station during our odyssey 🙂

  4. I had the nice honour of meeting Rick Steves twice in another tourist city (San Francisco) no, not in Europe proper, and used to watch his programmes on PBS until I decided to quit watching American TV altogether in general. He really KNOWS his stuff! Actually I am from Europe, Switzerland living in the City by the Bay for the moment. I have even suggested to many tourists to who I have encountered here of nice interesting places off the beaten path as an alternative to visit, to visit that are cheap and even free! A walk under the Golden Gate Bridge at the old Spanish Fort as well of course walking across the bridge as well. The observation tower at M H DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park is also free (44 m high) and worth it.

  5. Love you Rick! your travel advise saves us from getting duped and travel in a safe and frugal way just like a well-wisher would advise. Thanks very much. I love your app as well 🙂

  6. Guess I'm one of those crowds from an "emerging economy" that Rick assumes has a low level of sophistication when visiting Europe. However, I often find myself enjoying the local cultures (being able to learn foreign languages fast helps), traveling to the more remote locations in Europe and immersing myself in what Europe has to offer.

  7. hi rick! you should tell your audiences about the eurail train ticket for europe! it's a really great deal 🙂

  8. I love your videos, but you've got it wrong about adapters. I burned my hair off with a curling iron my first morning in France by thinking I could use just a plug adapter instead of a voltage adapter.

  9. Thank you sir for sharing this to us, Rome is such beautiful place , italy is such nice place to visit. Great video see you I subscribed and like your channel

  10. I'm from the UK, and I certainly wouldn't want to try to manage without my chip and pin debit (current account) card. I can't see how it's practical to travel (or reside) without one anywhere in Europe incl. Turkey.

    In the UK "contactless" has now become the preferred option – to the extent that I had to specifically request a "non-contactless" card when replacing mine recently The banks now send out the newer style cards by default – although they also work as chip and pin.

    Preloaded cards maybe an option for US citizens. It's worth taking a look: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/prepaid-travel-cards/#qa

    This guy is definitely the real deal when it comes to travel advice – well worth listening to what he has to say.

  11. Don't forget to pack enough kinkyness for Europe into your luggage! This prevent you from shocks in the red light district of Amsterdam, the bare boobed sun bathers in Germany and all the people drinkin alcohol in the public!

  12. Steve, I love your guides. But you curb the impulse to insult Americans please? Also keep an eye out for how political activism has effected the bottom line for other businesses. Just a thought. You do have conservative customers. This is not the right platform to debate ideas.

  13. 1:20:00 to 1:21:00 is probably the most important mentality every human being has to have when traveling. I am hoping all people to have a chance to travel to at least 2 countries (one traditional and one a unconventional destination) before their 30s, in order to understand what is going on in the world and not get fooled by Media! Traveling is most important weapon against any sort of hate!

  14. I cannot believe that there are people out there that turn up to museums such as the Ufizi, Louvre, Orsay, Vatican etc without buying a ticket in advance. They're probably cruise shippers.

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