Rick Steves’ European Travel Tips and Tricks

Rick Steves’ European Travel Tips and Tricks

-Hi, I’m Rick Steves.
In this special program, I’ll share practical money-saving
experience enhancing lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of travel. In this talk, I’ll share tips and tricks
on stretching your travel dollar, avoiding crowds, eating and sleeping well,
packing smart and much more. After spending a third of my adult life living out of a carry-on-the-airplane-sized
bag in Europe, I know exactly how you can enjoy
maximum travel thrills for every mile, minute and dollar on your next vacation. Thanks so much for joining us. [music] -Ladies and Gentlemen, Rick Steves. [applause] -Thank you. Thank you. I have a sense
we have some eager travelers here. What I’m so excited about is sharing with you the lessons I’ve learned
from a lifetime of traveling through Europe. How many of you have been to Europe before?
Let me see a show of hands here. Well-traveled crowd and you’re here
for learning more information. Who’s got a trip coming up,
they’re planning for in the next 10 or 15 years?
Anybody? [laughter] -Two weeks.
-Two weeks? All right. I’ve learned so much that you can learn
from other people’s experiences and have a much better trip. Now, I’ve spent a good part of my life,
I would say a third of my adult life, four months a year since I was a kid,
living out of a small bag, hanging out with other people,
experiencing Europe. Right from the start, it occurred to me
that I just love European travel and I love also teaching it. What I’m excited about today is sharing with you the fundamental skills
so you can do this yourself. In my TV shows, I have an ethic
where we never film anything that our viewers can’t do themselves. I just love the thought
that anybody can travel this way if they can just expect themselves
to be traveling smart. Now, I’m in Europe for four months
out of the year, every year, for the last 30 years. April and May in the Mediterranean,
then I go home in June and then I go back July and August,
North of the Alps. It just makes sense when you’re traveling,
to think about the climate, think about the crowds.
If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s very hot and crowded in the summer,
do it in the spring or fall. If you’re going North of the Alps,
Scandinavia, Britain, Ireland, frankly, I want crowds. You want crowds there, you want good weather,
you want long days. I would go in July and August. Now, when I’m in Europe,
I’m out there most of the time on my own, unless I’m filming or leading one of our tours.
Usually, I’m on my own researching and my whole idea is to make mistakes. Take careful notes,
learn from those mistakes. When I get ripped off, I celebrate
[chuckles] because they don’t know who they just ripped off.
I’m going to learn that scam. [laughter]
I’m going to take it home and tell everybody about it. I just think it’s so important
because of your trip is important. It’s a huge investment of time and money. You can go over there tomorrow
without any planning and have a reasonable time,
but you can have the trip of a lifetime. We’ve been working really hard.
We’ve written guide books in Europe and so on, but, today, what I want to do
is to still the lessons of a lifetime of travelling in Europe into one packed hour,
with all sorts of practical skills. You can learn from my experience
and enjoy maximum travel thrills for every mile, minute and dollar
on your next vacation. Thank you so much for being here. Our talk is going to cover trip planning, packing, safety, communication, transportation, eating, sleeping
and, very important, avoiding crowds. Right off the bat,
something really important is planning. The more you plan, the better you’re going use your time
over there. Planning is a fun dimension
of the whole experience. Get into the mood of your trip ahead of time. Recreational reading,
recreational movie going, going to their friends.
Anybody who’s been to Europe loves to show their photographs.
You’re a chance for them to show off. Learn from people and think about
the style of trip you want to have. I’ve learned there are some very fundamental elements of travel
that carbonate the experience, most importantly, people. If you’re not meeting people in your travels,
it’s going to be a flat kind of experience. You’re going to see cultural cliches on stage, you’re going to go to dead buildings
and you’re going back to the hotel and wonder, “Is there good Wifi?” You’ve got to just get out there
and meet the people. When I’m leading a tour, making a TV show, researching a guidebook
or even on my own vacation, I mark the quality of the experiences
I’m putting together by how many real people are my travelers meeting. When I’m in Spain, in a little bar or cafe, I’ll sit right up at the bar and meet this guy. He’ll speak English
and he’ll be eager to explain to me what’s in that plate of peppers. This is Pimiento de Padron
and in Spain, it’s like Russian Roulette for your taste buds.
One of them is very hot. [laughter] If you don’t talk to the people,
you don’t know what’s going on. Experiences, that’s the other thing.
I’ve noticed these days when we’re selling tours
and selling guidebooks and so on, people are looking for experiences.
They’ve seen the buildings. They want to roll up their sleeves
and get their fingers dirty in that local culture. You can do that too, but your attitude has to be
if something comes to you as an experience even if it’s out of your comfort zone,
the answer is yes. Would you like some Escargot? What’s the answer?
-Yes. -At least one.
[laughter] -As a tour guide,
I’m [chuckles] just doing a lousy job if I have a group in France and everybody doesn’t try
at least one Escargot. Here we have a dozen of Escargot.
You got a family of four? Don’t make everybody eat a whole plate.
But buy a plate and let’s all try it. You’d be surprised
how many things you will enjoy that you didn’t think you would enjoy. There are experiences all over the place
that really distinguish a good trip. The other thing that’s important
is where are you going to go? You’re going to the famous places,
that’s fine. But find the places
that have no promotional budgets. Places that are just going through
another century. There are amazing hill towns.
I just love the hill towns in Italy. This place is called Civita de Bagnoregio.
Can you imagine walking up that donkey path? Oh, my goodness, it just never gets old. All over Europe you can find these places
that are somehow keeping their heads above the flood of the 20th Century
and that’s your challenge when you do your planning.
Don’t just go to the most promoted places. Find places that have missed the modern boat. When we look at a town like this-
this is in the Cinque Terre, my favorite town and my favorite stretch
of the Italian Riviera, Vernazza. When we look at this town, I want you to recognize
there’s no modern buildings there, right? It’s a national park.
Nobody is allowed to change any of their buildings. This is pure old-world Italy. When you go there, you’re going to find
that there are no comfortable hotels. This is very good news because it keeps away the most obnoxious slice
of the travelling public. People who insist on comfortable hotels. They’re over in Portofino
complaining about traffic jams and bad prices and mean service,
while you’re here surrounded by vineyards, gazing out at the twinkling Mediterranean,
enjoying wine that was made right there, outside of the village. If you can put up with the funky
little bed-and-breakfast here, you’ve got Italy in your laps. This is fundamental.
This is what I call going through the back door. I’ve showed you some little towns and little towns can fall through the cracks
and be exciting and you want to weave those into your itineraries. Of course, you need to see
the big famous things too. If all I had to talk about was the Acropolis,
I’d really have no business gathering us all together today.
We know to see that. I would recommend
when you go to a place like the Acropolis, you should anticipate crowds. How you are going to enjoy it
without the crowds? When I look at this slide,
it comes with a soundtrack because it seems
whenever I go to the Acropolis, I hear the whistle of the guard saying, “Monsieur, Monsieur or Mister,
get away we’re closed now, you have to go.” I’m the last one on that hill. There’s nobody there but me
and the wonders of the Parthenon and vast views of Athens and the setting sun. That’s a great experience.
There are no crowds when you come early or when you go late. Also, you’re going to see famous sites
like the windmills and the wooden shoes,
of course, when you go to Holland. When you go there
understand what’s it all about. Everybody’s going to see a windmill.
Climb up that windmill and feel the oak beams creaking as the wind turn those sails and then check out that Archimedes’ screw
in the foreground. Imagine centuries ago the innovation,
when the Dutch people harnessed the wind to turn the Archimedes’ screw to pump the water from the lowlands
over the dyke and reclaim that land
and create their country. You see?
You don’t need to be a scholar, but little bit of information helps you really get excited
about what you’re looking at. Now, I’ve showed you little towns. I want to remind you there’s a lot of big towns
that are very touristy and you’re going to go to them
because you got to go to Salzburg when you’re in Austria. Don’t go to touristy places
and complain about the tourist crowds. [laughter]
Go to touristy places and celebrate the touristiness out of it.
It’s fun. I love Salzburg.
It’s Mozart town, it’s Julie Andrews, it’s Sound of Music, but so many people go to Salzburg, complain about the crowds and the next morning,
they sign up on the Sound of Music bus tour. [laughter] They’re going to be rolling
through the foothills of the Alps with 40 Japanese and American tourists
singing Do I Dare, complaining about the tourist crowds.
You put yourself into the most touristy possible thing
and you wonder why it’s touristy. We are tourists. We want to do the lonely goatherd
when we’re there, right? Do that, have fun,
but complement that touristy experience with something just two hours away.
Go South into the mountains, find a cute little village, bullied onto a ledge
between a mountain and a lake and commune with nature with local Austrians. This happens to be a town called Hallstatt.
I just absolutely love Hallstatt. Big cities with great art and lots of culture and lots of sightseeing.
They’re going to be crowded and touristy. We don’t veto it
just because it’s got tourist crowds but we think of enjoying it
in a way that minimizes those tourist crowds. Toledo, a great example. Toledo is the historic spiritual
and artistic capital of Spain. The modern capital is Madrid
about an hour to the North. When you go to Toledo in the middle of the day,
it’s going to be mobbed with tourists. But at night the tourists retreat one hour north to the predictable plumbing
of their high-rise hotels. The locals have made their money,
they push their postcard racks away and they come out very relaxed
ready to do their paseo thing. El Greco would recognize
his hometown of Toledo after dark. What we want to do is be there after dark. Be there early, be there late. Plan your sightseeing
so when you’re in touristy areas avoid that ten o’clock to four o’clock
tour group mob time. Okay?
That’s when the cruise groups come in, that’s when the big bus groups come in
and so on all over Europe. We can find touristy places are all ours
if we get up early and stay out late. They’re just much more atmospheric that way.
If you go to Germany, I’m sure you’re going to go
to Rothenburg under Talbert. It’s the best medieval walled town in Germany. During the middle of the day
mobbed with tour groups coming in from Frankfurt and Munich. Probably the greatest concentration
of tourists anywhere, shopping those cobbled lanes
in cute little Rothenburg. At night they’re back in the big cities, the local people are out and relaxed. The ramparts are floodlit and it’s you
with this delightful little remnant of feudal Germany.
Spend the night and be out and about. Venice, another good example. Venice is mobbed with tourists. In fact, one reason I think Venice is sinking
because it just wasn’t built to support all those tourist crowds. I would say the vast majority
of the tourists in Venice, which by the way it’s just a small town
of 60,000 people inundated with far more tourists every day.
It’s rush hour. They come in and they go out.
In the morning the boats coming in are packed with tourists
and the boats going out are empty. At night it flip-flops.
Everybody’s going out. The tour groups stay on the mainland. 10 miles inland where tour organizers can get cheaper hotels, where they’re all cookie cutter-square
and modern so there’s no complaints. Where they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere so the tour can sell you
the optional sightseeing tour to get into Venice.
Do you see what I mean? Everything encourages tour organizers
to not pay extra for funky hotels where the elevators don’t work in downtown because it costs too much,
they get more complaints and people can step out the door and be in Venice without having to pay extra
for the guided tour. Do you see what I mean
if you’re on an organized tour? Read the tourist information. They’re going to say
you’re going to sleep in the Venice area. That could be halfway to Bologna.
[laughter] I’m a sucker for the old medieval stuff. I love it. I can see half-timbered villages
and thatched roofs and ruined castles [?] a great time. But I am mindful of the fact that Germany is not sitting on a stump wearing lederhosen
and yodeling. Much as I’d like it to be, Germany is a no-nonsense,
lean and mean business machine. It’s the size of Montana
with it roughly one-quarter of our population and one-quarter
of our gross national product. It is a lean and mean business machine and we owe it to ourselves
to go to a no-nonsense German city, just to feel the pulse
of today’s urban Germany. This is Berlin. Berlin is an amazing city.
It’s the most changed city in Europe. A generation ago
if you walked across this street, they would shoot you
because that was the Berlin Wall. Today there’s no hint of the Berlin Wall.
Just a pipe in the pavement and an American tourist going,
“Hey, I’m in the East and the West at the same time.
Where’s Checkpoint Charlie?” That’s fun.
But today’s Germany is looking forward. We owe it to ourselves, especially with all the challenges
we have today in our country to see how other societies
are organizing their urban world. It’s quite inspirational. When we plan our itinerary
and this is really fun, you’ve got options
and it’s really important for you to be engaged and proactive
and not just going to the clichés. Here’s a good example. A lot of people,
when they’re thinking about Germany, they want to go to castles. If you think Germany castles, what river comes to mind?
-The Rhine. -The Rhine, okay? The Rhine River,
it’s got all those famous castles. Your image of the Rhine on the other hand
I think is the little sister of the Rhine, the Mosel, M-O-S-E-L.
This is the Mosel here. It’s winding.
It’s got vineyards. It’s got half-timbered villages.
It’s got ruined castles galore. It doesn’t have all the traffic
and the noise and the industry. The Rhine is exciting, but it’s muscular. If you want a sleepy,
little laid-back version of the Rhine, the Mosel. It’s not as highly promoted as the Rhine.
It’s worth knowing about. On the Mosel, you will find my favorite castle
anywhere in Germany Burg Eltz, E-L-T-Z. Now, when we look at Burg Eltz, we’re looking at feudalism. 700 years old, built when Germany, the size of Montana, was 200 or 300 independent little,
petty fiefdoms, dukedoms, kingdoms and so on.
Each with its own pride, its own dialect, its own weights and measures,
its own wall and curfews. There’s so much diversity in feudal Europe
and so much quirky history to see. We need to understand what feudalism is
before we go to this castle. If you step into that castle
and know just the basics of feudalism this castle will be
a much more interesting experience. Happens to be the best castle interior
anywhere in Germany. This castle is an altogether different slice
of the German story of castle architecture and so on. This is romantic, built in the late 1900s. For four or five trips
I remember going to Neuschwanstein popularly known as Mad Ludwig’s Castle, thinking it’s medieval. It’s pointy. [laughter] I really thought anything that was pointy
was medieval and then I realized that the pointiest stuff
is actually faux-medieval, over-the-top medieval, neo-medieval.
Have you heard neo-gothic neo-Romanesque and so on? That’s all from the late 1800s. If you think about
the pointiest stuff in Europe. The pointy church on the main square in Prague. You, guys, have been there. The pointy castle in Segovia. The pointy House of Parliament and Big Ben. The pointy skyline in Bruges. Of course the pointy castle
of Mad King Ludwig in Bavaria. They’re all made in the same generation and that’s the same generation
as the Eiffel Tower. There is an example
that’s called Romanticism. Romanticism is a romantic response
to the intellectual movement of the revolutionary age,
the French Revolution and so on. I’m just reminding you,
you don’t need to be a scholar, but if you know what romanticism is,
a third of your sightseeing takes on meaning. I speak from experience.
I didn’t know about that for a decade and I missed all sorts of understanding.
Before your trip get a handle on this stuff. One of my favorite kinds of castles
is a ruined castle. Here with a little imagination,
you’re under attack thousand years ago in Portugal. There are ruined castles
rotting away unnoticed all over Europe from Finland to Portugal to Israel. Our challenge is to find these things. I do want to remind you
that free things are not promoted. We’re all in the business.
It’s tourism, they want our money. We’re consumers. Any information that comes to you
is coming to you with an agenda. They want to sell you that stuff something that’s just free on a hilltop
is going to be ignored from an advertising point of view. You owe it to your vacation
to give the free things a fair consideration as well as the paid commercial ventures. When you walk down the main street
in Amsterdam, you’ll come to something
that looks like a tourist information office. It’s not. It’s a box office
selling highly commissionable, tacky commercial ventures
as if they’re important museums. The clueless naive hen party, stag party, business traveler
in Amsterdam for two days walk down Damrak, they’re going to see this sign and go,
“Here’s the things we got to do, dear. We’re going to go to the Madame Tussauds. We’re going to go to the Body Works,
the ice bar, the torture dungeon and the Heineken beer experience.
We’ve seen Amsterdam.” Well, that’s fun stuff,
but it’s quite expensive and you’re missing Anne Frank.
Where’s van Gogh? Where’s Rembrandt?
Where’s the Rijksmuseum? Where is the Houseboat museum?
There is so much else to see that our highbrow national museums that don’t have
these gimmicky promotional budgets. In your hotel lobby
all those little flyers you see, it’s worth looking at them. They pay good money to get there
in order for you to go there because they want to make money off of you. You are consumers.
They want your money. You got to have a little screen
as information comes at you. Is this really what I want to do on my vacation or is this being effectively advertised
because it’s quite profitable? When you are traveling,
for us to step into these amazing buildings and be properly wowed by them is so exciting. I know, as a tour guide for 25 years,
I was bringing people to these great sites. How much you bring with you
determines how much you get out of it. You can step into the Saint Peter’s Basilica,
the greatest Church on earth, and you can just kind of go, “Yes, it’s big.” or like I used to go, “This is disgusting.
Who paid for all this stuff?” [laughter] Park your Protestant sword at the door.
[laughter] -If you’re not a Roman Catholic become one
as you step into Saint Peter’s Basilica. [chuckles] It’s a much nicer experience. As a good Lutheran I can tell you, it doesn’t work to be a Lutheran
in Saint Peter’s, okay? You get into Saint Peter’s
or you get into any great thing and you’re surrounded by art
and symbolism and meaning. You go to Saint Peter’s Basilica,
you see this guy with a bushy beard and a big key. Everywhere there’s a guy
with a bushy beard and a big key. That’s how we know Saint Peter. He has the keys to heaven
and he’s identified by a big bushy beard. It’s amazing to me
how many people don’t know that. Who’s this guy with the bushy beard?
There’s another guy. He’s got a big key and a bushy beard. Understand and then you look up above
and you see in the mosaic, “You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build my church.” Why is the Bishop of Rome the Pope? It’s because Saint Peter was martyred there.
It was a Roman chariot racecourse long before there was a church there. His followers took him up to a little cemetery,
buried him there. 300 years later the Roman Emperor becomes Christian
and they can build a big Church around it and worship in the open
and that was the beginning of the Pope and Saint Peter’s and the Vatican. It’s exciting
when you know a little bit about that. As a tour guide and a travel teacher,
it’s really fun to have smart people
steep on the learning curve. You don’t need to get a lot
out of your sightseeing, but a lot of people are wondering about,
“Give me a budget tip.” Here’s a budget tip. Know more about what you’re going to see and it’s going to be twice as rewarding
when you pay to see it. When we look at this, do you know about this,
the famous aqueduct in Southern France? It’s not really an aqueduct. It’s the most scenic bridge
in a 30 mile long aqueduct, built 1,800 years ago by the Romans,
engineered so that water would flow using gravity instead of the sweat of peasants
into the great city of Nimes. Engineered so the water drops one inch
every 100 yards for 30 miles. Wow. There’s a little tiny square River
on the top of that, that goes 30 miles. Can you imagine after viewing this, go to Nimes and look at the end
of this 30-mile long structure. Imagine the jubilation on that day
when water gushes into Nimes. We got beat by Rome, that was a drag,
but now we’re on the winning team, we got running water.
[laughter] We got stability.
We got roads. Try to get a sense of what you’re looking at. Humanize it. When you go to Nimes, where that aqueduct ends,
you can see the distribution well. Where the water gushes in, you can actually see
a little bit of economic justice, social justice. You can see the lowest pipes
when there was not a lot of water would go to power the life-giving wells
for the neighborhoods. The higher pipes,
when there is an abundance of water, would go to power the decorative fountains
in rich people’s courtyards. That’s a dimension to that
that makes it quite a lot more real. There’s that realism all over the place
as we travel thoughtfully. As sightseers, as tourists,
we need to know what our options are. You’re going to see all the famous stuff,
of course, but if you want to see human bones
you got to do a little studying. A lot of people want to see human bones,
they go to the catacombs in Rome. No bones in the catacombs of Rome.
You messed up. You got another word ‘Capuchin’. The Capuchin monks buried their dead brothers
and 100 years later the flesh is all gone it’s just the bones
and then they decorate with the bones. You can go into their crypt
and see all these decorative bone works by the Capuchins. Whatever you’re interested in,
do your studying. If you’re really into French fries
there’s a museum for you. If you’re really into the Olympics
there’s an amazing museum. I was just at in Lausanne in Switzerland. If you’re into marijuana
there’s a good museum for you. If you’re into the Beatles,
if you’re into leprosy, you go to Bergen
and you have a fascination with leprosy and you leave Bergen without knowing
Dr. Hanson’s Hospital was right there. It’s an amazing thing. What about art done by people who were locked up because they were considered
criminally insane? It’s a fascinating museum. You’ll see that, if you know where to look
as you’re traveling around Switzerland. Do your studying and make sure you know
what are the odd quirky museums that are top quality,
but with a very narrow market. We’ve all got these interests some of them
that we don’t even tell our friends about. You can see museums about this stuff
in your travels. Another trick I think very important
is find a way to become a temporary local in so many ways. Imagine a tailgate party here
outside of the stadium. How Americana, that is,
if you were a European tourist. You can do the same thing in Europe.
Go to a soccer game. To go to a soccer game,
you really feel the energy of it. I was in Ireland, I went to a hurling match and it was enthusiastic.
Hurling, it’s a rough, fast game.
It’s like airborne hockey with no injury timeouts.
[laughter] I learned a lot of new ways to swear
with an Irish accent at that hurling match. You can find plenty of ways
to connect with the locals by doing things that locals do. The obvious thing is the evening stroll. In Spain, it’s the paseo.
In Italy, it’s the passeggiata. I asked when I check into a hotel,
“Where do people stroll in the evening? I want to be there.” Take a siesta if you have to,
but be out strolling. That’s where you feel
the pulse of the local community. In these cute little Italian towns, the old men,
they’ve been strolling together for 40 years ever since they got out of school.
It’s called the lapse, the vasca. They go from the parking lot down to the beach, seeing all their friends, gossiping and so on and back up to the parking lot
doing their laps. It’s just every tourist is welcome.
That’s where it’s happening. You go to the main square in Salamanca.
It’s the greatest scene in Spain, the paseo. Early in the evening,
all the boys are going counterclockwise, all the girls are going clockwise, the old ladies, who can’t walk so well anymore,
they’re up in the windows looking down just disgusted at how trashy the girls
are dressing this year. There’s so much going on in the streets
if you’re there to enjoy it. If you’d rather just sit and have a drink
and watch the parade you can do that. That’s the aperitivo. This is the most expensive square
in Siena, Il Campo. I’ll never forget spending 45 minutes here
after busy day of sightseeing. I’m not a happy hour kind of person normally,
but when I’m travelling I like to enjoy the scene. Spend too much for a cup of coffee or a drink because you’re right there
in the best real estate around and watch the parade of life go by. This is €11 for two cocktails
and it comes with munchies. It’s about a dollar, a euro or so.
A euro’s roughly $1.20. I like to just think of it as a dollar, a euro. It makes it more fun. I get home-
[laughter] everything costs me 20% more than I thought,
but I really had a good time until then. Roughly a dollar, a euro.
€12, $6 per drink and I get this great show. That’s good travel. Be a cultural chameleon. I’m really into this.
I love to just morph from one country to the next.
I don’t ever think chocolate is to die for, unless I’m in Belgium. [laughter]
Then chocolate is to die for. I go to the finest chocolatiers
and I talk to people and I savor it. I have never gone home in Seattle where I live
after a long day of work and thought, I feel like a nice glass of Ouzo. [laughter]
It’s inconceivable, but every day when I’m in Greece
on the Greek Islands, after a long day, the sun’s going down,
I want an Ouzo. I just need an Ouzo. Pour the water, the beautiful cloudiness,
your little munchies and you’re part of the scene. When I’m in Prague the best beer in Europe
if you like a Pilsner and you just enjoy the beer scene in Prague. If I’m in Belgium for a beer
I want that milkshaky monk-made beer. When I’m in Tuscany I want a good full-bodied, it’s one of the few Italian words I know [?] vino rosso, a full-bodied red wine. Tea makes no sense at all to me. I don’t know when the last time I had tea
in this hemisphere was, but when I’m in England, a spot of tea. Yes.
Bob’s your uncle. [laughter] -Become a temporary local. We have some exciting natural wonders
here in the United States, but the great thing
about Europe’s natural wonders is they are so accessible. It’s an important part of your travels.
She looks pretty rugged, but she’s not. She rode the lift up for breakfast. I’m standing on the edge of
a revolving restaurant to take this photograph filled with women in high-heeled shoes
who just rode the lift up for the beautiful view. Anybody can get to the top of the Alps
and then you can walk along the ridge. That is so accessible.
Ride the lift up, have breakfast and then you can hike or frolic
all the way across the Alps. Can you imagine tight-roping on a ridge? Actually tight-roping on a ridge
for three hours. You didn’t get sweaty.
You rode the lift up and it’s level. On one side you got lake
stretching all the way to Germany. On the other side you got the most incredible
Alpine panorama anywhere. The Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and ahead you hear the long legato tones
of an outpouring announcing that the helicopter stocked
mountain hut is open it’s just around the corner
and the coffee schnapps is on. [laughter] That’s good travel.
Anybody can have it. You don’t even need to be a serious hiker. Do your studying, get up early, it’s nice and crisp
and clear usually in the morning before it clouds up in the afternoon. As you are enjoying nature,
you find plenty of ways to eat and sleep up there. You’ll come to mountain huts.
Wherever there are mountains there are mountain huts. This place happens to be
in the most traditional part of Switzerland, Appenzell. It’s specifically Ebenalp, E-B-E-N-A-L-P. Don’t need to write it down. You can get a guidebook that covers all of that.
That’s what guidebooks are for. I love this place.
It’s one of my favorite listings in my Switzerland guidebook.
When somebody has that information, they know that this place
is run by Benny and Claudia. They know you can go milk the goats
with the kids before dinner. They know that after dinner the Swiss hikers
love to teach the American hikers how to play the spoons and yodel. They brought their piano in by helicopter. Don’t forget to check out the guestbook,
because German hikers and Swiss hikers have been doodling it since the 1960s. It’s just a beautiful experience.
It’s cheap, it’s just rainwater.
You’re not going to get much of a shower, but you’re experiencing Switzerland. You see, you can have those experiences.
You need good information. That’s critical. If you’re basing your trip on a borrowed copy
of some guidebook five years old, you save $20 on the guidebook, but you don’t have up-to-date information.
You won’t know when you’re in Rome,
at the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the building everybody loves to hate
because it’s a relatively modern monstrosity on top of precious antiquities,
that you can ride an elevator that’s been retrofitted in the back of it
up to the top and for $10
you can enjoy the greatest view in Rome. 360 degrees looking down on the Forum and you don’t have to look at
the building you’re standing on. [laughter] I show this slide because I want to remind you
it’s fun to sort through your limited time, your unlimited interests
and come up with a smart itinerary. It’s beyond the scope of this talk,
but if you look at this you can see here is a good example
of an aggressive three-week look at the best of Europe. This is what I consider the best 3,000 miles
in three weeks in Europe. It’s open jaws, that means flying into one city
and out of another city. A lot of people just think you got to fly
in and out of the same city. It’s been 10 years
since I flew in and out of the same city. Start in one spot and leave from the other spot. You don’t need to waste time and money
getting back to where you started. You’re starting mild
and working into more challenging areas. Don’t start in Italy.
Start in Holland and then Germany
and then you work your way into Italy. It finishes with a finale in Paris
which makes a lot of sense. You’ll notice the numbers on there.
That’s how many nights you’d spend in each stop. Of course, this is fast travel.
Some people would scoff at that and say you’ve got to stay at least four days,
but you got three weeks and you want to see it all and this is the best maximum speed trip
that I could design. I would highly advise
one-night stands. Minimize one-night stands.
That’s where you get frenzied and it just becomes a chore. Two nights in a row, that’s the minimum
and you’ll see on this itinerary it’s mostly two nights in a row. Heavy on Italy,
because Italy is my favorite country. You could do that in three weeks if you wanted to. You got to decide.
Are you going to take a tour or are you going to go on your own? No right or wrong answer.
For some people tours are great and for some people they should go on their own. Remember, many people take a tour because they are told
they can’t do it on their own. You can do it on your own.
Anybody smart enough to be here today has what it takes up here
to be their own tour guide. You’ve qualified. A tour organizes the hotels,
it does the driving for you and so on and it can be of very good value,
but study the tour and understand that the standard operating procedure
for tours these days is to give you a no profit price to get you on the bus and then they pack it
with 50 people on a 50 seat bus because the profit will be in the end. In order to get that profit
they’ve got to sell you things. They’ve got to keep you away
from the town center to charge you to get in
with the optional sightseeing tours. The guide is generally paid a token wage,
sometimes no wage at all, and makes the lion’s share of his income
selling you things for kickbacks and angling for tips. Getting tips, selling you sightseeing for commissions
and taking you shopping for kickbacks. That’s not criminal, but as consumers
you should know what’s going on. Here’s a tip. If you don’t want to do the driving
and if you just want a bunch of low-stress forgettable hotels all over
organized in advance take the cheapest tour you can find, bus tour,
that has an itinerary that you like and promise yourself
you will only think of it as a bus pass that comes with hotels. It’s a no profit thing. You’re going to be freeloading
on that tour company. Equip yourself with a guidebook.
Function as an independent traveler. We’re letting them do the driving
and you’ve got your hotels and it’s cheaper than you thought
really when you look at it carefully. You’d pay more just for the hotel room
than you’re paying for the whole day package with the transportation
and the room included. I am all about people going on their own. I really believe anybody
who wants to be their own tour guide can. But it’s work. You got to drive, you got to park,
you got arrange the hotels and so on. You got to do some studying on that. My whole work
with my 100 workmates up in Seattle is to make these guidebooks. Our guidebooks originated
as the handbooks for the tours that we lead. I had tourists before I had guidebooks and I had the handbooks
laying around in my classes. During the breaks I’d hope people
would thump through the book and like what they see and take the tour. Time and time again they’d thumb through the handbook
like what they see and they took the handbook. [laughter] It occurred to me these little tour handbooks
are driving decent people to theft. [laughter]
They should be available for purchase. We decided to write the guidebooks putting everything we knew
about doing the tours into the guidebooks so people could literally buy the book
and do our tours without us. The point is there are a lot of good guidebooks and if you are just a good student
and you pick the right guidebook- and there’s great guidebooks
for different styles. I write guidebooks
and other people write guidebooks that I have huge respect for.
Figure out what’s your style of travel, use that guidebook and expect it to work
and you will travel more smoothly. Putting a million tabs in it,
I think that’s going overboard but those guidebooks do make a big difference. One thing I’ve put a lot of energy into lately
is creating an app just out of my passion
for providing guided tours. Rick Steves out of Europe is absolutely free.
You don’t need my books or anything like that. You just download it
and then you choose which tours you want and you listen to them offline
when you’re in Europe. When you’re there right in the middle
of whatever wonderful– This is the Ferrari Church in Venice
or in the Sixtine Chapel or in the Pantheon Temple,
somebody who’s been there before, sort through all the information
and explain it to you and bring it to life rather than reading and looking up,
it’s a beautiful thing. Remember, as you travel
when you equip yourself with information and expect yourself to travel smart you will have a very rewarding
and economic experience. If there’s one tip that you take seriously
that’ll really help your travels I think it’s an importance of packing light. You do not have a packhorse. If you do you’re abusing your spouse.
[laughter] I’ve been living out of a nine by 22 by 14 inch
carry-in-the-airplane-sized suitcase for a third of my adult life and it’s no hardship.
It’s enlightened. If I had sherpas I would set them free. Think about it, you’ll never meet anybody
who after five trips brags, “Every year I pack heavier.” With experience you get serious about the beauty of packing light. In Europe, you’ll find two kinds of travelers,
those who pack light and those who wish they packed light. You’re going to be wanting to be mobile. You want to get up to that hill
and stay in a beautiful little B&B with a view of the valley?
You’re going to have to get up. There’s no taxi that takes you there. There are good wheelie bags and there are fit travelers
that can get up there. One of the realities of travel,
almost any way you go you have to leave the hotel and get to your car,
get to the bus, get to the train station. If you look at this you can see
some people have wheelie bags, some people carry their bags on their back, but everybody’s walking with their own gear. All over Europe, there are cities
like Florence that have become traffic free and you can no longer get the bus to the hotel. It’s a blessing that Florence is traffic free, but the downside is you got to carry your bag four blocks
instead of parking right at the hotel. That’s just the reality today.
When I look at the people struggling with their gear
I wonder how can somebody need so much stuff. This is what I live out of
for two months at a stretch, nine by 22 by 14 inches. It’s a carry-in- the-airplane-sized bag,
I’ve got it right here. This is my home for a third of my adult life. There’s all sorts of companies
that make great bags this dimension. That’s as big as you can carry onto an airplane. This has a beautiful configuration
of pockets, compression straps on the side. I like it because it’s got
padded shoulder straps that can zip away so it can be a soft-sided suitcase or you can reveal the padded shoulder straps
and then you can wear it on your back. I use it exclusively as a backpack. The day will come when I’m not going to be
strong enough to carry it on my back and I will be wheeling my gear around Europe.
Nothing wrong with that. Most of the women in my office
use wheelie bags, a lot of the guys do. For the time being
I’m still hanging it on my back, but this is my home.
The point is this is your self-imposed limit
9 by 22 by 14 inches, as big as you can carry onto the airplane.
You see a lot of people with these kind of bags. There’s many companies that make these bags. The squishy ones are nice from an airplane point of view
because you can almost always get it overhead, I rarely have to check my bag
when I’m flying around. Here are six people,
who happen to be taking one of our tours and all of them have the roller version
of the bag I just demonstrated. For these people, we took 20,000 people
on our tours last year. None of them were allowed to take any more
than a carry-on-the-airplane-sized bag on the tour, nine by 22 by 14 inches. For a lot of them that was a radical concept,
“What? Nine by 22 by 14 inches? That was my cosmetics kit.” No, that’s everything.
This is tough love, baby, and we talked about it.
I visit with them a week into the trip and I’ve been doing this for decades.
I’ve never had anybody upset with me for making them pack light. Consider this.
Spread everything out on the living room floor with your travel partner before your trip. Look at each item critically. Hold it up, ask yourself,
“Will I use this snorkel and fins enough to feel good about carrying it
through Europe.” Not, “Will I use it?
It’ll be fun on the beach in Greece,” but will you use it enough to feel good
about carrying it through the Swiss Alps. Leave it home, all right?
[laughter] Load everything up, go downtown,
walk around the block with your gear and see what it’s like
and then go home and get real. You’ll be thankful for that. As far as changing money goes
it’s easy these days. You just have your debit card,
your credit card and you use ATMs and you get money
at the beautiful bank-to-bank rate instead of the miserable
tourist to teller rate and most of Europe
has the same coins in their pocket. 300 million people with the euro.
I just love that. You cross a border
you still have the same money. Changing money is not an issue these days. Safety is an issue. When we go to Europe I want to remind you
we are targeted by thieves. We are targeted by thieves. Thieves target Americans
not because they’re mean but because they’re smart. They know we’re the people
with all the good stuff in our purses and in our wallets. A lot of times a beggar will come up to you
and ask for a euro. She’s got a sad story,
she’s got a beautiful baby, she says, “Euro”,
she really wants your wallet. It sounds harsh but assume that the beggars
are pickpockets and begging is their front, because tourists are targeted. They hang out at the museums.
I know just where to watch the local street thieves
picking the pockets of the tourists. When you’re on a bus,
if you’re on the bus that all the tourists are on there’s going to be pickpockets.
There’s a pickpocket right there. I observed her for 45 minutes in Lisbon this last year, eyeing different victims
and she makes her living by grabbing the bags
or the wallets of sloppy people. You want to not be vulnerable.
That means button it, zip it up or wear a money belt.
I really like a money belt when I’m traveling. In fact, I’m wearing one right now. Have you noticed? No.
I even forgot about it. The money belt is the piece of mind. Let me show you where I keep my money belt.
Okay, this is my money belt. I’ve been wearing it all whole day.
I haven’t even thought about it. When I’m traveling and I want to be safe,
this is where I keep my essential stuff, my credit card, my passport and so on. A related issue when it comes to safety
is terrorism. A lot of Americans have a big concern
about terrorism. When you go to Europe, you are going to see
some pretty serious security in front of all the precious soft targets. I love to see the army out these days,
jeeps and camouflaged soldiers standing in front of St. Francis Basilica
in Assisi and so on. It’s there and that’s for good.
Now, I really want to encourage you to not confuse risk and fear. Here, in our country,
we’re a very fearful nation right now. It’s charming to think that news is news,
but on commercial media, news is entertainment masquerading as news and if it’s all a crisis
they make more money in their ads. This is just amping up
and we are the victims of that. Remember, when we first started traveling,
people said, “Bon voyage.” Now, what do they say? “Have a safe trip. We’ll pray for you. Are you sure you want to go there
considering all that’s happening?” When somebody tells me, “Have a safe trip,” I’m inclined to say,
“Well, you have a safe stay at home.” [laughter] Because, where I’m going
is safer than where you’re staying. If you understood the statistics and I know statistics are optional these days, but if you decided
to understand the statistics- and you knew what those statistics were
and if you care about your loved ones, you would take them to Europe tomorrow. This is how I sell tours. [laughter] We lose 1,000 people to homicides every month in our country.
Every month, 1,000 people. In Europe, 12 million Americans go every year
and 12 million come back. If one is killed tomorrow that’s tragic,
but it doesn’t make it scary. It doesn’t make it dangerous.
It’s dangerous to stay here. Europeans laugh out loud
when they hear that Americans are staying home for safety reasons. Fear is for people who don’t get out very much. The flip side of fear is understanding.
We gain understanding when we travel. When we travel
we get to know the rest of the world. We gain empathy for the other 96% of humanity and we come home
with that much better understanding. That makes us safer,
not staying home and building walls, but traveling,
getting to know the rest of the world and then coming home.
That’s one reason I am committed to keeping America traveling.
Thank you for traveling. [applause] A way of life.
Rest assured in Europe, they are working very smart on their security. There was a horrible vehicle
that killed people on Westminster Bridge. You go back now and there are barricades
that keep the vehicles off the sidewalk. Two Bastille days ago,
a horrible van killed 80 people in Nice on the Promenade des Anglais. Today, there are these
beefy white ballards there that keep the vehicles up so that people
can walk and bike safely on their promenade. Just this year I was at Oktoberfest. I love Oktoberfest. Like the Palio, like the running of the bulls,
like anything, you’ve got it cordoned off now with police and security. That’s how you get into Oktoberfest. You have your bags checked
before you go inside. When you get inside, this is German style security,
at every intersection in the fairground, you’ve got a literal circle of police keeping an eye on every direction
at every moment and we are having fun. This is important that we go over there,
celebrate the security, recognize the value for us to get out there
and better understand the world and travel. I just love traveling because it puts us in a mindset
where we are more inclined to build bridges and less inclined to build walls. When we’re going to be
connecting with your Europeans, of course, we need to communicate. What about that language barrier
we’ve heard so much about? I’ve been teaching ever since I was a kid. I always start my language barrier talk
by mentioning I speak only English. It’s nothing to brag about,
but it substantiates what I’m going to say. If I spoke all the languages and said,
“Hey, it’s easy you can go over there and do fine,” it would ring hollow. We speak the world’s linguistic
common denominator. If a Greek meets a Norwegian hiking in the Alps, how do they communicate? English.
What Greek speaks Norwegian? I don’t know if it even that happens. I think it’s only polite
not just to assume that they’ll speak English but to start by asking,
“Parlez-vous Anglais?” “Sprechen zie English?” 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 very bit of English.” [laughter] “I would be thankful
if you speak clearly and slowly.” They’re going to do you a favor
by speaking your language. Do them a favor
by speaking what voice of America calls simple English. Enunciate every letter. Assume they are reading your lips
wishing it was written down, hoping to see every letter
as it tumbles out of your mouth. No contractions, no slang, easy words, internationally understood words. Picture does not work, photo does. Vacation does not work, holiday does. I don’t know why, but those words work better. Internationally understood words.
If my car is broken in Portugal, I point to the vehicle and say, “Auto kaput.” [laughter]
That would be understood. Remember, Europe is multilingual. If you are in Croatia and you wonder,
“What’s in this packet?”, it’s going to say, “Sugar”
in five different languages and English always makes it. Also, remember
you need to make educated guesses. If you’re not feeling very well
somewhere in Scandinavia and you see a sign with a red cross on it
pointing to central sick house. It’s surprising how many Americans
would bleed to death in the street corner looking for the word ‘hospital’.
[laughter] They’ve got these things
and sometimes they’ve got different words, so make an educated guess. Here’s a sign
that drivers will have to deal with. I can’t say I get it right every time,
but I go at it with a healthy optimism that I can fake it. You’ve got a sign in a parking lot here
and it says, “P for parking.” When you are in Europe, you’ll be the heads ups
and you know that a sign with a red slash on it probably means “No.” It’s a sign
that says when and where you can park. Something got to say days. The cross would be holidays or festival days and the crossed hammers would be workdays. On a workdays,
you can park there from eight to 20. 24-hour clock anything over 12
subtract 12 and add PM. 20 minus 12, 8 PM. On workdays from eight until eight,
you can park for two hours. Then it has that other thing, that little clock thing there
and if you’re traveling in Europe, you’ll recognize a little cardboard clock
comes with your rental car you set the time, put it on your dashboard,
you’re good for two hours. If you happen to be there on a holiday, you read that and it says,
“No parking from eight to eight” and you can read the Italian under that
because it says, “Except residents with authorization.” I certainly don’t know those words, but it makes perfect sense that residents
with authorization would be an exception. We’re making educated guesses. The average tourist would look at that
and say, “I don’t get it.” You can look at that and sort through it. If you’re really good at that
you can be a tour guide like me. [laughter] Transportation in Europe is a delight. When you’re traveling these days, there are all sorts of ways
that you can get around economically and efficiently. When I was a kid,
nobody flew point to point in Europe. Flying was just ridiculously expensive. Now, it’s been deregulated
and before buying any long train ride, look into flying because routinely
you can fly cheaper than you can take the train or the bus. As far as trains go,
Europe is investing in its train system beyond anything I’ve ever experienced
elsewhere in the world. These are bullet trains.
I was recently on a train in France. It was smooth.
It was silent. There was beautiful pastoral views
outside the window. I noticed the speedometer only illuminated
when it exceeded 300 kilometers an hour. That’s 180 miles an hour. They were like embarrassed
if they were going less than 180 miles an hour. 200 miles an hour smooth, silent
and, bam, you are in Paris. It’s amazing how fast these trains are.
They are synchronized. If you’re in a remote little community
on a fiord in Norway, there’ll be four trains a day coming in and four boats coordinated with the arrival
of the trains going our every day. All over Europe except in Italy,
where the train seems to come in just in time to see the boat pulling out. [laughter] You will find
that there’s that beautiful coordination. When it comes to trains there is a formula.
Second class and first class, you’ll pay 50% more per kilometer
to go first class. Second class is more crowded and four seats across. First class is less crowded
and three seats across. Nearly every train has both first
and second class cars on them, each going precisely the same speed. I guess my point is,
if you’re just buying transportation, second class is a fine value. A big question is, how are you going to cobble
all this transportation together on your trip? In the old days, people would just get
a Euro Pass for all of Europe. That’s become quite expensive
and people aren’t doing the big vast tour these days so much. Flights were ridiculously expensive
and the train was a lot cheaper than cars. Things have changed in the last generation.
Now, it’s so cheap to fly. I talk with my travel agent
and when I get my open-jaw flight from the United States to Europe and back, I at the same time
connect with the one-way flights. You can go Wizz Air or Ryanair
or discount airlines for $30 or $40 a jump. Personally, I’d rather pay $100
in fly Lufthansa or Swissair or something from major airport to major airport direct and having hourly departures. My average one-way flight in Europe
on major airlines is $100 and I think that’s a great deal. As far as car or train,
if you want to get to a beautiful site like this on the Isle of Skye in Northern Scotland, you’re going to be glad to have a car. There’re certain variables
that encourage you to go by car or train. You can almost analyze that.
You could say, “If I’m going from big city
to big city to big city, I don’t want a car.”
A car is an expensive headache in a big city. You’re paying to rent it
and you’re paying to park it, and you’re spending hours
getting out of town through all that traffic when you can go from downtown to downtown
effortlessly by train. Big city travel, train is better than car. If you’re touring around the countryside,
that’s where public transportation schedules can be frustrating
and you’re glad to have your own mobility. If there’s a group of you, six people in a station wagon or a minibus is far cheaper
than six people buying six train tickets. One or two people go cheaper by train,
three or more go cheaper by car. If you just don’t buy
this business of packing light, you should rent a car. You can even rent a trailer. [laughter] If you’re going by train
you better be serious about being mobile because you’re going to do a lot of walking
with your gear by train. Those are the variables
that will help you choose. When you’re in a big city
commit yourself to public transportation. I think this is really important. Public transit is just good style travel
to get you out of the traffic jams. It’s economic.
It’ll overall save you time than worrying about driving and so on. A lot of my European friends
never get around to learning how to drive. It’s not a political
or environmental statement. They just, “Why I have a car?
Public transit is so good.” I love the power public transit gives me. Another great thing about traveling in Europe
is bike rental. I’m not much for big bike trips between cities, but I love to have a bike in a city
when it makes sense. When I’m in Munich, when I’m in Stockholm,
when I’m in Amsterdam, when I’m in Copenhagen, I just have a bike. I park it at my hotel and I get around faster
than if I had a taxi waiting for me. If you like biking, think seriously
about biking in towns that lend themselves to biking.
t’s a very European thing to do and all over Europe cities
are becoming more and more bike friendly. I want to talk about eating.
Eating is very important in your travels if you’re like me. You want to get a good value
and a good experience, but you don’t want to go broke
when it comes to going to these restaurants. There are plenty of good ways
to get a good value. What I want to do
is not go to the biggest neon sign that brags, “We speak English and accept Visa cards.” I want to find a little hole in the wall place run by somebody who’s passionate
about feeding locals. This shot just reminds me of the value
of getting a little mom-and-pap place. I call this woman, Aunty Pasta.
[laughter] She just loves to cook. What you don’t want is to go to the most expensive piece
of real estate in town, Piazza Navona in Rome and look for a big sign in English that says,
“No frozen food.” They have a printed menu in five languages that serves the same clichetic items
all year long regardless of the season. Everything’s wrong about that.
What I want is to find a handwritten menu that’s small and I want it to be in one language. I want it in a place that has low rent. A little hole-in-the-wall place. a mom-and-pap place, just big enough,
10 tables, so that mom can cook and dad can serve or vice versa. It’s going to be a family-run
in one of these great- my favorite formula. It’s small menu
because they’re just cooking up what they can cook and sell profitably. It’s one language because they’re targeting
locals not tourists and it’s handwritten because it’s shaped
by what’s in the market this week. This is so important. If there’s a good, enthusiastic
local crowd here and I got that menu, it’s a fine value. When we’re thinking
about choosing a good restaurant, I love the idea that if a smart eater
goes to a good restaurant that traveler can look at the menu
and know what month it is and where they are by what’s being served.
Do you see what I mean? You want to eat with the season
and you want to eat locally. I don’t like to go to fancy restaurants where I have to get a reservation
long in advance and dress up and spend a fortune. Occasionally that’s kind of fun to do,
but I want to eat well in a foodie small creative place and I like to go to a more expensive place
even on a tight budget and order sparingly. That’s much better
than going to a mediocre place and ordering wild. Share the main course. Get a carafe of house wine
instead of a bottle of fine wine. When it comes to dessert,
get one and ask for three spoons. It’s not classy,
but they are thankful you’re there and it’s a beautiful opportunity
to have the fine presentation, the quality food
surrounded by elegant local people who are enjoying quality local cuisine. One of my passions lately
is eating family-style. In some cultures,
it’s just the way you do it and it’s easy. In other cultures,
you have to push it a little more. Anywhere in Europe
you can order with your partner and ask for a small plate on the side.
You order different things and you share them. You’re not trying to win some award
in sophistication here. You’re a wide-eyed student of that culture
and you want to maximize the experience. A fun thing about ordering family-style is you can have an arrangement
with your travel partner that we’re going to order one high risk
and one low-risk dish and at worst we’ll split the edible one. Do that family-style business
and then you can try both of the pastas. Do that family-style
and you will have more experience with not more cost. In Spain, they’ve got this
wonderful tradition of tapas. That’s a great way to get out
and experience the local cuisine. When it comes to lunch,
I’m just looking for an expedient, healthy, efficient, economic meal. I don’t need anything earth-shaking
and memorable for the rest of my life, but when I have lunch
I would rather go to a local restaurant and eat just a local salad or something.
This would be a good little restaurant in Venice rather than a sandwich shop
or a fast-food place. I’m having beautiful Venetian cuisine. All over Italy, you got these antipasto bars that are just a wonderful quick
and healthy lunch. were getting run down
because people are moving out into the suburbs and using the big supermarkets to reinvigorate their traditional market halls as is the case I think around the United States. These old-style iron glass market halls
are now becoming food courts. They still have
the merchants selling the produce and the fish area and so on,
but that was getting run down and now I find they’re very enthusiastic
and full of energy because they’ve got
these little restaurants in there. They are quality restaurants. If I think about it
every city in Europe now will have what was a rusty old marketplace
that’s now a very trendy place for lunch. In Florence the Mercato Centrale
is just wonderful. It’s the best place to go for lunch and you got a lot of choices
and you’re eating with the locals. From a picnic point of view,
you go to those markets and you put together
the healthy ingredients of a picnic, find a nice spot to enjoy that,
it’s always nutritious. If it’s chosen well, it’s local style
and that’s a very good value for your lunch. When it comes to sleeping I am glad I’ve got the help of slides
to show you what I think is a good hotel, because I’m not talking about this. [laughter] When I was a kid this was a great spot. $4 for the bed and actually not really worth it. There are lousy non-government
regulated flophouses in Europe even these days where you can get a bed for $25 and a kitten tossed in for no extra. I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about
is an alternative to this. This is what defeats people who are on a budget.
This big international class hotel. When I’m traveling on the United States on work I love to have
my big modern business class hotel. I don’t travel all the way to Europe
to stay in an American-style hotel. Think about it, Intercontinental,
what are they telling you? The same everywhere. Intercontinental designed for people
who deep down inside wish they were not traveling.
[laughter] People who need a paper strap over the toilet
promising them nobody has sat here yet. You can get transplanted American niceties,
but you’re going to pay American prices plus shipping for them and I would rather really know where I am.
When I’m in Switzerland I want a Swiss chalet. I want to stay in Walters hotel,
beautiful place here. I’m on the balcony, looking out at that
at the avalanches on the north side of the Eiger. The peasants were up in the steep hills
cutting hay all day and they’ve gathered downstairs
in the bar and they’re playing the spoons and yodeling and fighting.
I’m right there watching this thing, part of the scene.
It’s inexpensive, it’s vivid, I know I’m in Switzerland. I like comfort. I like a safe central location.
I like a friendly management, but I don’t need a lot of the extra bells
and whistles that lets a two-star hotel become a four-star hotel. Two stars is good for me. I like a little hotel
where I know the man and the woman, Françoise and Stefan, who run the place. It’s on the pedestrian-only street, $6 from the Eiffel Tower. There’s a market
outside the door every morning. It cost $150 for the double.
It’s got an elevator, it comes with a nice breakfast.
It’s so French when I step outside in the morning I feel like I must have been a poodle
in a previous life. -It’s not rocket science.
You just need a good listing that knows your values and then consum
at the level you want to consume. I like to have about this level of comfort. These days you need air conditioning
in the summer, if you’re going to be in the Mediterranean area
because it is hot. I’ll just warn you about that. I like to have a central location. I don’t want a view.
I want a quiet room. A lot of times they think you want a view.
You’ll pay more for the view and it’ll be on the square
and it’s noisy at one o’clock in the morning. I’d rather walk three flights up further
and be on the back. It’s cheaper and it’s quiet. A big option is bed and breakfast. Ever since I was a kid, B&B has been a big deal. Now, B&B has this wonderful new option
with these crowdsourcing sites, Airbnb and so on.
People absolutely love it. This a typical Airbnb apartment.
This one’s in Prague. The big choice when you’re going to B&B,
whether you’re doing it in the conventional way by just emailing places and so on
or going to a booking service like Airbnb, do you want to get to know the family
and have a cozy time together, or are you just looking for an efficient bed
with a key that you can come and go? There’s no right or wrong, but you should that because you can tell by the way they advertise,
you can tell by the comments.
There’s no right or wrong, but you should that because you can tell by the way they advertise,
you can tell by the comments. This place is charming,
you’ll be having tea and cookies and watching TV together, she’ll take you out, you can walk her dog with her or whatever.
There’s plenty of ways you can, “Oh, I’ve got a friend in this little town,” or it’s just quiet, comfortable,
modern and cheap. You see?
Choose what you want. Again, there’s no right or wrong. I just love to stay in people’s homes.
I’m boosting their humble family budget, and I’m right down town.
This is Mama Rabati, she’s three blocks away
from Michael Angelo’s David in Florence One beautiful thing about staying in a B&B is it’s like you have your own
temporary local mother. When I’m Ireland,
way on the West coast of Ireland where they stand in the bluff and they gaze out
and they say, I’m staying with Kathleen Ferrell and she’s all excited
that Ricky from Sedale is here. She runs out after me in the morning,
“Where’s your umbrella? You call yourself a travel writer
and in Ireland you don’t have an umbrella? Take mine and be back by nine o’clock because Shaun and the band
are playing traditional music in the pub.” She cares about you. She’s excited you’re there. She’s got a map on her refrigerator
of the United States and she’s colored in every state
from where she’s had a visitor. She says, “If you know anybody from Wyoming, they got a free bed right here.”
[laughter] The more people you pack into the room,
the cheaper it gets. Families, if you got two kids,
get a triple and improvise the fourth bed. You’ll save a lot of money
rather than two doubles. A great option for people on a budget
and for families is youth hostels. There are thousands of youth hostels in Europe
offering amazing deals on beds. In a hostel, you don’t pay for the room.
You pay for the bed. Sometimes you can have 20 people in a room, sometimes you can have
two or four people in a room. Usually,
they’re institutional kind of places, the modern youth hostels with institutional
sort of industrial strength rooms. You get an instant circle of friends
at a youth hostel,
the modern youth hostels with institutional
sort of industrial strength rooms. You get an instant circle of friends
at a youth hostel, you get a kitchen where you can cook
for the price of groceries. I want to remind you, a lot of people go,
“Youth hosteling? Can we still do this?” They took the word “youth” out of the system.
Now it’s called Hosteling International. You get a discount and a membership card
if you’re over 55. When it comes to hosteling, if you are alive, you are young enough to hostel, all right?[laughter] There’s two IQs of European travelers: those who wait in lines
and those who don’t wait in lines. If you’re waiting in line,
frankly, you’re messing up. My passion, when I’m working on my guidebooks,
is to short through those lines. This is the Coliseum. These people are not waiting
to get into the Coliseum. They’re waiting to buy a ticket
to get into the Coliseum and there are lots of ways to get tickets
without waiting in that line. That’s your challenge. These people are leaving the Acropolis in Athens and it’s rush hour on the way out
and I’m heading in. You see, it’s four o’clock. I would imagine 90% of those people leaving
are all going back to their cruise ships. Think about ways
to navigate around the crowds. We’re all going to go to the Eiffel Tower,
you can wait in a long line or you can go right by that line
and be escorted right to the front like I did, because I used a guidebook. A few days before, I made a reservation online,
I had my appointment, I got there, I was ushered through that empty entryway,
past all those stanchions, and then when I got through,
they took me immediately to the elevator, I had seen it and enjoyed it and got down before the people in the end of that line
got to the elevator. When I was all done,
I walked this entire line of tourists waiting to get up the entire Eiffel Tower.
I looked at each one of them, not one of them
had the Rick Steve’s Paris Guidebook. [laughter] Two IQs of European travelers
those who wait in lines and those who don’t. My passion is to help people
get around those lines. It’s very realistic not to wait in those lines. You can make reservations.
Going Mad Ludwig’s Castle, you make a reservation for his dad’s castle
and his castle, you’re in. Too many people drive from Munich
all the way down to Fussen, they get there and they’re just told,
“Sorry, we’ve allocated all of our tickets for today, come back tomorrow.” That’s a major mess-up.
You can avoid that. Remember, these days,
there’s a lot of important sites that need reservations.
Read your guidebook ahead. Also remember,
you can pick up these museum passes. I love these museum passes. This is probably one of the most popular tips
I give for traveling in Paris. Pick up the museum pass.
It’s expensive, but it pays for itself
in four or five admissions. Let’s say it’s good for four days
or whatever length you get. More than just economic, it lets you sightsee more because you don’t consider
how much does it cost. You’re going to the Notre Dame,
there’s the crypt. $10, doesn’t matter,
I’ve already got the pass, go down and check it out. You wouldn’t have done it otherwise,
and it’s a good thing to see. Most importantly, it lets you skip the lines. You’ve got that ticket,
you walk right up to the turnstile and you go in directly.
You’ll save lots of time at the Orsay, The Louvre, Versailles, the San Chapelle
and on and on. Remember,
most of Europe has no tourists at all. In all my adult life,
I’ve been reminding people, “Go where you’re part of the party
not where you’re part of the tourist crowd and if you see four cute guys sitting on a bench, ask them to scoot over.” [laughter]
I’ve been saying this for decades, and it works. You’re right there,
it’s a quintessential European experience with the old boys
watching the parade of life go by. If you don’t know what to talk about, you can compare bushy-eyebrows, okay?
There’s lots of things you can do there. They’ll would never forget you,
it’s just an opportunity to connect with the locals. There’s plenty of options.
That’s what’s fun about travelling when you’re planning your trip.
You can take a tour, or you can go on your own. My passion is
to equip independent-minded people to travel independently around Europe. For me, it’s just my confidence
is based on the feedback I get from people who went over there
and had the time of their life. A lot of people wonder, “Can we do this at our age?” and so on. I think the most demanding thing
about European travel physically is the heat and the crowds of summer.
If you’re wondering, “Can we really do this,” go shoulder season and bundle up.
It’s much easier than with the crowded, sweaty, middle of the season time. I’m very tuned in to my travelers
and if I was making it easier than it sounds, I’d get some complaints. It’s so clear to me,
if you want to travel this way, you can. I’m so inspired by people
whose grandchildren said, “You shouldn’t be doing this.”
They went over and had the time of their lives and came home with money in the bank
for next summer’s trip. You can travel this way, again, but you need to equip yourself
with good information, expect yourself to travel smart, and you will. Embrace those experiences.
To me, Europe is just full of unforgettable experiences. The culture is on display better than ever, there’s a proud, proud tradition.
There are artisans that want to show you their stuff.
The copper smith will be thrilled if you drop in, the ventinors want you to test their latest
and the traditions are alive and well. The key for you is to get to Europe
through the backdoor, to find those offbeat nooks
and wonderful intimate crannies where you meet the people
and enjoy Europe at its best. Thank you so much for joining me today
and I hope you have happy travels. Thanks a lot. [applause] Thank you. Thank you.
That was a lot of fun. [applause] [music]

73 thoughts on “Rick Steves’ European Travel Tips and Tricks

  1. Amazing how much quality content Mr. Steves brings out on a regular basis. Looking forward to my 4th Rick Steves tour coming up soon!

  2. Thanks for this. I love watching these videos. If I ever get to Europe the success of the trip will be credited entirely to Rick’s tutorials.

  3. After years of talking about travel to Italy, we're currently researching our trip to Venice 2020. Instead of jumping around all over the country, we plan to stay 6 days. Gives us a reason to return and vist other parts in the future.

    Thanks Rick for what you do. Going to get you book soon. Looking to planning the trip and bring you along.

  4. Wonderful information Rick! I’ve enjoyed 4 different trips to Europe based on your travel guides and information you have shared. I am now addicted to traveling to Europe. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and knowledge of travel. I enjoy watching all your programs. Keep on traveling Rick!! You’re the best!

  5. I tour on my own with the help of your tour books. I have been doing it for 20 years. Thank you Mr. Steves. ☺

  6. I fully agree with travelling light for those who can visit Europe frequently but, for those of us who are 6,500+ miles from Europe (14+ hours direct flight) and get to go only once in a lifetime to each destination there, it is inevitable we'll need to bring many camera and video equipment and a less than half full check-in luggage to cart back all the goodies acquired during the travels. 😉

  7. Regarding using ATM's. I suggest smaller transactions and smaller bills. Big banks charge $5 plus 3 percent, many smaller banks and credit unions charge a flat one percent (some are even free). With a small flat percentage, I can pick up less cash as I need it rather than pack extra cash. As long as the card has a Visa or MC logo, it will work anywhere. Most places frown if they see a 50 euro note, especially for a small purchase. It's much better to have 20 euro notes, ten or smaller is even better.

  8. Rick awesome resource, thank you! Hello from Chicago! it was because of you that both my self and fiancé's favorite place is Monterosso! our fist time was in October 2018 and for our honeymoon we're going back in May 2019…. 🙂 I actually lived in Hawaii (Oahu) and Monterosso's one of my fave beaches… what better place to have italian food, wine and gelato… graze mille! 🙂

  9. For the seasons your are recommending Rick, its fine if you can take a few weeks off anytime of the year, but I have set vacation time,…. so i have summer months which I can travel, mostly, … and would love for you to do shows about different parts of Europe that you havent talked about in your shows or books. ex. Bordeaux, Lyon, St. Petersburg, Bari, … cheers

  10. Go in winter.. what's the nonsense about building walls? You then go into a speech about all these places that now have barriers. A little hypocritical?

  11. Very entertaining. We used Rick Steves guide books for Austria and Italy in the 1990s and found it worthless.

  12. Rick does some seriously interesting stuff. I live in the UK and travel around Europe regularly in Europe and I continually learn things.

  13. I'd like to point out that Prague has original medieval points. That church shown is from 14th century. Some quarters of Prague do have neogothic beauty (as Vysehrad – standing atop a gothic basilica or the St. Ludmila church). But when you are walking through the center it's original. It takes my breath away. I can almost hear the old bells sound and feel the big cobblestones under my feet. ♡

  14. Really like the educated guesses part.

    Remember in Milan asking for the Duomo. They guy kept repeating "piedzone" as non Italian speaker that didn't make sense but followed his directions.

    When entering the "piedzone" I started laughing since now I understood, pedestrian zone/crossing.

  15. I love Rick Steves! I listen to his radio show all the time, and catch his programs on KPBS when I can. He is so informative, and so interesting to listen to.

  16. Love this information …just a heads up on the effel tower ..you can buy those tickets up to 3 months prior to your trip and that museum pass …worth the money ..buy it straight off the websight and have it shipped to USA then take it with you ..we got the max days 6 ,just keep in mind these are consecutive days that you have to use it . Definitely worth every penny . Check the museum list before your purchase then purchase what you want to see that's not on the list on line . ?

  17. Rick Steves and Samantha Brown are the gurus of travel! They energized us up to go out there and see what the world can offer

  18. Did you notice that his ATM gave 50 Euro notes? If your ATM doesn’t have the ability to specify the denominations, then pick an amount that will get some, such as 285.

  19. Anyone notice the dual standard? We shouldn’t build walls, but it’s o.k. for them to have barriers and squads of police at every intersection of Octoberfest.

  20. Absolutely wonderful Rick. I'm a student so I head to Europe every other summer or so in May. You have been a huge inspiration for me to take on Europe through the back door. It started with your shows on cable TV and then on to your guide books and talks. Anyone can see how passionate you are about teaching the secrets of Europe. I am always yearning to head back and planning future travels. Your shows are the best sort of escapism. Better than any major TV platform with a fancy script and cameramen. You have inspired a generation to truly keep on travelling. Thanks mate!

  21. Rick was preaching carry on travel before it was trendy thanks to him I have been travelling lighter each visit I still buy his books and love his mindset

  22. This video was so valuable! I love Rick Steves and what he teaches travelers. I feel more prepared and equipped for my trip to Europe after seeing this video.

  23. Rick, the pothead, Peter was never in Rome: catholic propaganda. I guess you bought the wrong ticket in the kiosk.

  24. RS emphasis on preparation, minimalist packing and exploring paths less frequently taken, key to our phenomenal trip to Italy. Love the RS mindset and this video. Thanks!

  25. Thanks for captions for the Deaf. Real cations that you took the time to do, rather than the automatic. 😉

  26. I agree 100% with getting up early staying until late, the problem is when the weather is not nice at those times.

  27. A rule of thumb: if a castle has big windows at or near ground level, it's not a real castle, irrespective of any crenellations or pointy bits.

  28. Truth is…. you can take 90% of what is said and apply it to travel in America. His tips are good anywhere.

  29. 20 years old and doing my first solo trip in 2 weeks… have planned several family trips previously using our man ricks books

  30. I'm an independent traveler. I never use yours. Instead, I use Rick Steve's travel book which are extremely detailed and Google searches. I even do Google Earth to see the area where I will be staying. In my 20 years of travel, I have never had a problem

  31. Oh MAN Rick! You really messed up!!! There aren't any BLOOPERS at the end of this video! Just kidding, love, love, loved it! Thank you for being YOU for us!  Hugs! from CA

  32. My tip for France, especially Paris: Guide “Le Fooding”.
    Great small hotels& restaurants locals go to.??
    It’s online& a app in French& English.

  33. I don’t travel with books anymore. Too heavy.
    Rick Stevens has to get the guides digital!
    And honestly, the App is a joke. Improve it& take money for it.
    If not, we may have one day another travel giant in troubles.

  34. I am flying to Barcelona in a week before a 3 week Med and Trans Atlantic trip. You have to be flexible when the AirBnb I had originally booked cancelled I found a new one in the same central area. My Parents and I love traveling like locals. I booked myself a Paella cooking class in Barcelona. We are seeing Portofino, Cinque Terre, Lake Bracchiano and an Etruscan Winery, Almafi Coast, Cordoba, Murcia, Lisbon and Azores. I worked out the plan and am looking forward.

    I booked us at Los Coracoles in Barcelona for Friday night! I love traveling.

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