European Travel Skills Part III

European Travel Skills Part III


Hi, I’m Rick Steves, back with the last episode
of our three-part travel skills special. We’re in a village, high in the Swiss Alps. In this
finale, we’ll show that in so many ways, you can actually experience more by spending less. Our tips this time: finding the best value
accommodations, getting around in big cities, and enjoying Europe’s cuisine. This information
can help you make the most of your vacation time and, if you’re on a budget, it can cut
the cost of your travels in half. Whether you discover Norway’s breath-taking
fjords, explore ancient temples in Athens, hike along a Roman wall in England, sweat
with locals in Finland, or enjoy a concert in Ireland, you’ll find the kinds of places
and experiences you incorporate into your itinerary shape the character of your trip. In this three-part travels-skills special
we start in the Netherlands, venture through Germany, dip into Italy, sweep through Switzerland
and France before finishing in England. In this final episode we start in the Swiss Alps,
take a high-speed train to Paris and finish in London. When touring Europe, many travelers only visit
famous and well-promoted hot spots, like Grindelwald, here in Switzerland. It’s “the” famous Alpine
resort in the shadow of the Jungfrau. Europe energetically markets its top tourist attractions.
Alpine resorts like this are geared to large-scale tourism-helping the masses have fun…spending
their money. But, just one valley over, you can have an
entirely different experience. Riding this gondola, you soar, landing in the sleepy,
un-promoted village of Gimmelwald. In 30 years of researching guidebooks, I’ve found hidden
gems like this in every country. Gimmelwald would have been developed to the hilt like
neighboring towns but the village had its real estate declared an “avalanche zone” so
no one could get new building permits. The result: a real mountain community-families,
farms, and traditional ways. Choosing places like Gimmelwald and then meeting
the people, you become part of the party rather than just part of the economy. This is a realistic
goal for any good traveler. Take a moment to appreciate the alpine cheese. Once you’re off the tourist track, make a
point to connect with the living culture-pitch in… even if that means getting dirty. Here,
Farmer Peter’s making hay while the sun shines. Whether in a big city or a small village,
your major expense each day is renting a bed. You have lots of options. We’ll review them
from cheapest to most expensive. In rural settings-like here in Gimmelwald-I like simple,
less expensive accommodations. Gimmelwald has a pension, a bed and breakfast, and a
hostel. Europe has thousands of hostels-like Gimmelwald’s
Mountain Hostel-offering cheap dorm beds. While not for everybody, the price is certainly
right. Rather than privacy and your own bathroom, you’ll enjoy a convivial camaraderie: a helpful
reception desk; a welcoming common room with lots of information and hiking partners; and
the kitchen where hostellers cook for the price of groceries. It’s dinnertime. And after
a sunny day of hiking, travelers are sharing stories. Today, European hostels come in all shapes
and sizes. Modern ones are often big and institutional. They come with inviting lobbies and modern
facilities. Rather than the traditional large dorms, more and more hostels are offering
smaller rooms-family rooms and even doubles for couples. In cities or villages, the young at heart-of
any age-are entirely welcome. A great thing about hostelling-especially if you’re going
solo-is gaining an instant circle of friends. For me, B&Bs offer an ideal combination of
comfort and economy, privacy and cultural experience. Every country has private rooms
for rent. You’ve just got to know the local word…Husroom is Norwegian for Chambre d’Hote
which is French for Zimmer which is what they say here in Switzerland for Bed and Breakfast. B&Bs give you more than just a good night’s
sleep. Imagine, enjoying a renovated attic with a view of this small town Czech castle,
being a guest in a home rebuilt after a civil war in Dubrovnik, savoring the salty ambiance
in the captain’s house on a Danish Isle, or being a noble for a night with Giorgio in
the heart of Tuscany. Tonight, we’re sleeping in the home of Ollie
and his wife Maria. They teach in the village and supplement their income by renting out
three rooms in their home. As is generally the case with B&Bs, the rooms
are as comfortable as a hotel but homier. While you’re living in someone else’s home,
you can be as private as you like-just take the key and do your own thing. Or you can
go downstairs and get to know the family. Ollie: This yellow cliff over there, that’s
where the eagle has each year his nest. Typically, hosts enjoy sharing. Ollie knows
the backside of the Jungfrau intimately. Ollie: And the young birds, in early spring,
you see them starting to learn to fly. Pensions are a good value. A pension is a
place without many of the services you’d expect in a hotel. This one is inexpensive…with
the toilet and shower down the hall. The bedrooms are well-worn and traditional. And the place
creaks just the way you want it to-and once again, humbler places seem to foster community. Continuing our swing through the best of Europe,
we’re heading for Paris. After a full day in the Alps, this fast train gets us there
in time to cap our day with a view of the Eiffel Tower. A big city like Paris is bursting with world-class
sights: towering monuments, magnificent boulevards, and glorious history. In a major city like
this you have lots of hotel options. The neighborhood you choose as well as the hotel shapes your
experience. Many travelers opt for the big, international
class hotels outside the historic center. I find that these, while very comfortable,
build a wall between you and the people and culture you traveled so far to experience. I prefer a small-scale hotel in a cozy neighborhood.
For example, the area around Rue Cler is a pedestrian-friendly bit of village Paris,
a ten-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. Accommodations are a classic example of how
spending less can actually give you a richer experience. Europe’s big cities still have
well-located, characteristic hotels at an affordable price. There’s a range of categories. Many countries
have helpful rating systems. In France, plaques with stars are posted by the door. In a well-chosen
one star place, budget travelers can sleep well and safely. Rooms are pretty basic…but
come at near youth hostel prices. European cities have lots of night noise,
and, especially in cheap hotels, this can be a problem. Rather than paying a premium
for a room with a view, I’ll take a quiet room in the back. In France, two-star hotels offer, for me,
a great balance of price and comfort-still basic but with good beds, private bathrooms,
and often tiny but appreciated elevators. The more people who share a room, the less
expensive it gets per person. A double costs just a little
more than a single. And many hotels are happy to squeeze in a cheap third bed. While three-star hotels are more expensive,
they can also be a good value. Here, you’re paying for extras like a lounge, room service,
and all the comforts. Hotelier: It’s one of our typical rooms, with
big TV, mini bar, iPod bays, of course air conditioning. It can be very useful, especially
in August in Paris. Um, bathroom. Rick: Two sinks.
Hotelier: Yes, two sinks. French people like it. You can be two at the same moment in the
bathroom. Know your priorities. This hotel is great.
But those on a budget may need to choose between these extras-for an additional $50 a night-and
a nice dinner, concert or city tour. Throughout Europe, small family-run hotels
offer fine values. This London hotel is plush, beautifully located, and more affordable than
you might expect because it has no elevator. This historic former monastery in Florence
costs no more than a top end chain hotel, but is bursting with Renaissance character.
Here, in Norway, you can enjoy feeling right at home on a fjord. And a favorite of mine in Rome-small enough
where the owner can go over your sightseeing plans-provides fine rooms and a breezy conviviality
you simply can’t find in bigger hotels. Some travelers love the freedom of just finding
hotels as they go. But, to get the best rooms in the popular places, book in advance. Smart travelers use a savvy mix of guidebooks
and the Internet. Web-based review sites are popular and powerful. But, while helpful,
they can also be misleading. So be careful. And, by the way, making reservations through
a web-based booking service may be convenient, but it costs your hotel 15 to 20%. I get the
best price by booking directly through my hotel. Health concerns while traveling through Western
Europe are about the same as traveling back home. While I take extra precautions when
traveling beyond Europe, in Europe I drink the water and eat everything in sight. If you do get sick, get help right away. Over
here, a good first stop for medical advice is the neighborhood pharmacy. Also, hotels
can refer you to a nearby clinic or call a doctor who makes “house calls”-for far less
money than you might expect. Then, prescription in hand, you can head for
the 24-hour pharmacy. Europe generally has whatever medicine you need. In case you need
a refill, bring your prescription from home with the generic name typed or printed legibly. My health tips are all about wellness. Being
on vacation can be exhausting. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, drink lots of water,
and pace yourself. Know your limits. One of the great joys of travel is eating.
Each country in Europe has its own distinct cuisine. Leave the tourist zones. Find places
filled with locals enjoying seasonal and regional specialties. The variety of food is endless
and if you know how to choose a good place you don’t need to spend a fortune. A few basic
rules for eating your way through Europe: go for the local specialties-you’ll get better
quality and price. Eat seasonally…don’t miss truffles on your pasta in the Fall or
fresh berries in Norway in Summer. The location can make the meal. Bosnia may
not be famous for its food, but dining under the bridge in Mostar makes a lifelong memory.
Most of all eat fearlessly try things you’ve never had in places you’ve never been. There
are eateries to fit every budget. And while I recommend an occasional gourmet splurge
especially in countries famous for their high end cuisine like France and Italy, you’ll
save money and improve your experience with Europe’s countless budget options. Some of the most affordable and enjoyable
food in Europe can be found, not while seated at a table but while standing in the street
or the market. Every country has its own beloved street food. It’s fast, cheap, and delicious.
In Greece try the corner souvlaki stand, and in Istanbul on the Golden Horn grab a fish
sandwich fresh from the guys who caught it at one of the venerable and very tipsy fish
boats. For a step up and a seat, there are lots of casual bars and bistros; home town
hangouts where you can enjoy local cuisine in comfort without going broke. One of the best examples of this is in Spain.
Every town tempts you with tapas bars where you belly up to the bar and just point at
things you’d like to try. In Denmark, I love the open-faced sandwiches which manage to
be both simple and elegant at the same time. You can munch the best pizza ever, for the
price of a fast-food hamburger in Naples where pizza was invented. The rustic simplicity
of sausages and fondue feels just perfect high in the Swiss Alps. And these days, pubs are more than friends
just gathering for a beer-they can come with tasty meals too. By the way, interiors in
Europe-from restaurants to hotels to pubs-are now essentially smoke free. Especially in France, consider the cuisine
sightseeing for your palate. And when you know the budget options, eating at the corner
cafe or bistro costs only a little more than lunch at a fast food joint. Most countries have a plate of the day-that’s
a plat du jour here. A hand-written menu-in the local language only, with a small selection
indicates a good value. And the house salad makes a quick and healthy meal. In France,
bread is free. [svp]. Just hold up your basket to ask. In France, a free carafe of tap water is either
on the table or will be quickly if you ask. When it comes to drinking-I go local: in Bavaria,
it’s a liter of lager; Tuscany- a robust red wine; Provence-a nice rose; Ireland-a hearty
Guinness; Spain-a rich Rioja; in Denmark-a fiery acquavite […”yes”] And in Greece-
it’s ouzo with a sunset. Adapt to the culture you’re visting. Over
here, dining is not rushed. Slow service is often good service. In a nice restaurant,
the table is yours for the entire evening. To get the bill you need to ask for it. As
service is often included and waiters are generally paid a living wage, tipping is less
expected and often unnecessary. This varies from country to country. Get advice from locals. Picnics are fast and fun-and give you a purpose
in Europe’s colorful markets and shops. When picnicking, you can buy whatever looks good
regardless of price. Choose an atmospheric place to make your picnic
memorable. We’ve put together a cheap and healthy meal for two; delightful cheese, a
tiny quiche, strawberries, grapes, wine…a little something for dessert…and…a reasonable
view. Traditionally, on the Continent, breakfast
is small. In France, locals just grab a croissant and coffee on the way to work. But these days,
most hotels are offering hearty breakfasts buffets-complete with cheese, meat, yogurt,
and fruit. We’re speeding-at nearly 200 miles per hour-to
London, the final stop on our best of Europe loop. Europe is continuing to unite-both politically
and physically. From the start, the wealthier countries of the European Union have helped
their less affluent neighbors catch up. And, after a generation of huge investments, its
transportation infrastructure keeps European commerce and trade moving faster than ever.
And that includes us tourists. The Eurostar train, which speeds under the
English Channel in 20 minutes, is just one example. From Italy to Norway, great bridges,
tunnels, and bullet trains are making this small continent even smaller. The fastest
way now from the Eiffel Tower to Big Ben is not by plane…but by train. London’s giant wheel is an example of how
the nations of the EU can work together. How do you make a spectacular Ferris wheel? Swiss
motor, Italian steel, German design and a capital English view. As Europe continues to unite, nations are
less threatened by regions. Within Spain, Madrid now lets Barcelona wave its Catalonian
flags and speak its own language. The Irish gift of gab comes in Gaelic …and London
doesn’t care. And for the first time in centuries, Britain has allowed Scotland to have its own
parliament. For those of us who love Europe’s cultural variety here, this is good news. Unification does not threaten Europe’s diversity.
In fact, that diversity is both as vivid as ever, and more accessible. Imagine: today
for lunch, it was quiche and fine French wine under the Eiffel Tower and, for dinner? Pub
grub and a hearty ale in a classic London pub. Here’s to diversity. Throughout Europe, cities are becoming increasingly
better organized. Visitors can easily master excellent transportation options: buses, subways,
and taxis. Even budget travelers need to remember that
vacation time is valuable. Spend money to save time. Groups of three or four can travel
cheaper and faster by taxi rather than by riding buses and subways. These days, throughout
Western Europe, most cabbies are regulated, honest, and charge the metered rate. The extra
fees are clearly explained-and legitimate. I round the bill up 5 or 10%. London, like most big European cities, has
a fine underground system-letting you zip anywhere in town, regardless of rush hour
traffic-fast. Big cities become surprisingly manageable
when you get comfortable with their subway. To avoid ticket window lines, buy tickets
from machines. Follow the signs to the right platform. You’ll find helpful maps everywhere.
In what Londoners call “the tube” everything is labeled north, south, east, or west. Each line has two directions and therefore
two platforms. Signs list the line, direction and stops served by each platform. Lost? Locals
are happy to help. Because some tracks are served by several lines, signboards announce
which train’s next and how many minutes till it arrives. Final destinations are displayed
above the windshield. And always… mind the gap. City bus systems are also worth figuring out.
Buses are generally frequent, user-friendly, and come with a view. Here in London, as in most cities, a 24-hour
pass pays for itself in about 3 rides. It lets you just hop on and off both the buses
and the tube as you like. Even if you never use public transportation
back home, try it over here. After a few rides, you’ll be getting around like a local. Once you’ve mastered getting around, your
next challenge is to better understand your sightseeing. You can do that with a guide-either
by taking a tour or hiring one privately. All over Europe independent local guides,
while pricey, give meaning to the cultural and historic riches that surround you. Female Tour Guide: Can you imagine 2,000 years
ago a person who has never seen the photograph of a leopard. And then they see the first
leopard ever pounce out of the floor live. To enjoy the help of a local expert without
the expense of a private tour, you can catch a guided walk. Especially here in Britain,
you’ll find hard working local historians taking visitors on fascinating walks through
a particular slice of their town’s past. Some tours hit the biggies. Others are more off-beat. Male Tour Guide: Down below there of course
is Cleopatra’s Needle. Why is it called Cleopatra’s Needle? Because she’s the only Egyptian we
know, that’s the reason why. Walking tours like these are advertised at
the tourist information office and on the Internet. For me they’re almost always time
and money well spent. While most major cities have your standard
big bus orientation tours, all over Europe there’s a more flexible option. “Hop-on hop-off”
buses make a circular route stopping at the top dozen or so attractions with 3 or 4 departures
an hour and a continuous narration of the sights. A single ticket gives you 24 hours
of hop-on hop-off privileges as you sightsee your way efficiently through town. And, for the ultimate in economy and control,
you can use your mobile device and download self-guided audio tours. After every trip to Europe, I’m reminded we
can never exhaust this continent of what it has to offer. The fine points of European
culture survive and inspire. Its art packed museums make it clear; the passions of the
past are still with us. And, most of all, it’s the people who keep me coming back. Whether
truffle hunting with friends in Tuscany; going for a torch-light sled-ride high in the Swiss
Alps or joining new friends on the beach for a shrimp-fest in Denmark; Europe is both a
playground and a classroom. This concludes our three part travel skills
special. Remember, anyone who equips them self with good information and wants to travel
smart…can. Thanks for joining us. I’m Rick Steves…keep on travelin’. Cheerio.

68 thoughts on “European Travel Skills Part III”

  • We followed Rick Stevens's book  and went to Europe couple years ago. We visited 17 countries and 26 cities. the trip was great. We will try one more time in the near future.

  • One day, I'll save up and go back to Switzerland. My parents are not good tourists because they just want to "glance at the usual" then run back home. They aren't even interested in the history. Switzerland is one of my favorite places and I'd love to walk in a place like Gimmewald or Maienfeld and milk a cow or help call the cows out to the farm (that's the purpose of those huge bells). Rick is saying, you'll enjoy your trip more if you try out their lifestyles just once instead of standing by and snapping away with the camera.
    Oh, and Europe is very clean in many parts. I've drunk from a public fountain in Switzerland even though my parents were too chicken to even approach it. Hey, the locals were drinking from it and it didn't cramp their stomachs. And it tasted great, no chlorine or smelly chemicals. How many people in your town can say they've drunk water from the Swiss Alps but not from a plastic bottle?

  • Grace Serena Christie says:

    16:07  Ouzo with the Sun Set…… dreams are made of these things…. you make them come true.   Thank you…..

  • Rick has a very enjoyable way of speaking and the videos are great but I thought the tips on open-mindedness he's constantly giving to fellow Americans are self-explanatory. I hope Americans are a little bit more sensible and not so self-absorbed.

  • Awe2b Traveling says:

    Awesome video! I actually started making my own videos of my travels! You're more than welcome to check them out! 🙂

  • Bags and Biscuits says:

    Thanks Rick. I enjoyed all three parts of your travel tip series.  All travel tips were very helpful and informative. As we are going to start our year long trip in Europe.

  • @Rick… I'm from India, and a big dreamer of travelling through the world and exploring the cultures as I go. Though I'm not yet financially strong enough to make to to anywhere outside my country, a video guide such as yours does allow me to keep my hopes and excitement alive. I thank you a lot, for a memory I made today by watching these videos that I can dream about. Wish you a lot more travel, happy healthy and safe. Cheers.

  • Very good informative and useful video, keep up the great work Mr. Rick, I'll watch the video again and again before my travel 🚢 I especially love the idea of knowing locals rather then visiting popular and commercial tourist sites.

  • Hello there .. I watch Rick Steves video guide on how to guided yourself .. I have a few Q's . This will be my first time traveling to Europe this year to Barcelona, Spain . I need some advice on how to pack while being there for two weeks .. Was narrowing down the places to stay but found it to be a little pricey .. Currency wise also …

  • I only wish you mentioned prices for anything at all you mentioned. But thank you for the videos extremely informative.

  • Lúcás Ó Daimhín says:

    The TGV (High Speed Trains in France) are extremely expensive and need to be pre-booked… keep that in mind

  • Joseph Forest says:

    Wow , Rick always has a way of painting a pretty picture. That is why I always go with Walter's World for reality.

  • pradheep eradi says:

    considering average (travel, hotel, shopping and food) amount of spending, how many dollars should i need to have to go for a euro trip?

  • Jens-Chr Strandos says:

    Another great video. Love your work. Living in Norway I'm well known with Europe, but there is so nice to see your shows and all the small places you find. When my wife and I travel around we always look for 1 or 2 stars hotels away from the main tourists places and there we almost always get 6 stars service.

  • Daniel McCullough says:

    Lol when I saw that over ambitious guide at 22:40 I knew (and Steves knew) he could've done a much better job.

  • London Walks, the company shown giving the walking tour in London, is absolutely one of my favourite things to do in London and a great company to take a walk with!

  • Kris Schobben says:

    Dude, Gimmelwald is full of tourists … and uhm … you just need to search for "Zimmerfrei" if you need accomodation …

    Zimmer is not German for Bed and Breakfast … Zimmer is "room" … so if you need a place to stay, just look out for "Zimmerfrei" …

  • Hi Rick, what is the name of the BnB you stayed in in Gimmelwald? I subscribe to your YouTube videos, follow you in FB, downloaded your app in my devices, and also bookmarked your website. Next will be getting a copy of your many travel guide books. I'm planning an independent travel to different countries and cities in Europe on budget next summer, and prefer to stay in small comfortable dwellings. I've bookmarked convents and monasteries as possible overnight options. I'm also writing down the places /dwellings you stayed in because I know those are already tested. While I want to go to some touristsy locations, my heart is set on areas outside the beaten path. My trip will be steeped in cultural experience. Thank you! Hope to hear from you.

  • Your words are as insuring as you want them to be heard but fear for the unknown and worry of 'how much of good information is enough' hold me back. Granted I haven't gotten my first guidebook yet – it's on its way – I hope after reading through it I could travel on my own and explore the hidden corners as you did.

  • Robert Smith says:

    Try the Hotel du Midi in Paris. It is very close to the catacombs and inside the ring road in the center of the south of Paris. Only a 2 star, but cheap and clean……the neighborhood has everything you'll need and cheaper than anywhere touristy!! The Subway is around the corner…..

  • Great episode
    Any recomendtions for vegetarians, as mostly we would go hungry or broke as veg food would be too expensive for us in Europe

  • If you;'re going to eat like the locals in the Netherlands you'll be eating Chinese food, Thai food, Suriname food, Greek food, Turkish food, Japanese food etc.

  • I love these travel videos but one thing I've always been curious about is the quality of water throughout Europe. Do European countries fluoridate their municipal water supply like the US does?

  • mayang anggarani says:

    i have just found out the joy of watching rick steves’ videos. and i love it, because most of the time it share humble way of traveling. meaningful traveling, light traveling. the kind that i also prefer. consistent educational content, not just showing off luxurious traveling like other travel vlogers. i am pleasantly surprised. thank you for sharing.

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