European Travel Skills: Trip Planning

European Travel Skills: Trip Planning


This video is an excerpt from a much
longer European Travel Skills Talk. To view other topics or to watch my Travel
Skills Talk in its entirety, visit ricksteves.com or check out my Rick
Steves YouTube channel. Thanks. I’m Rick Steves, thank you so much for joining us
today, and I have thirty years of travel experience I want to pack into a quick
series of lectures. Right now I want to talk about travel skills, alright, travel
skills and when you think about planning your trip it’s clear to me the more that
you see the planning part of your trip as part of the joy and the value of your
trip, the better. The more you plan
ahead, the smoother trip you’re gonna have and trip planning involves information,
deciding what style of travel you want to have, and then also how to make a good
itinerary. Information is fundamental, information empowers you. More and more
people are recognizing that they can be their own guides. Simply yourself with good information, expect yourself to travel smart, and you
can. Now of course, that’s what we do for a living, I write guidebooks. I’ve got a
hundred people that work with me and we’ve got guide books that give you the
skills, we’ve got guidebooks that give you the phrases, we’ve got guide books
that give you all of the sites, and we’ve got guidebooks that talk about the art. When
you travel, you want up-to-date information. One thing I do is spend four months a year
in Europe, I’ve done that for the last thirty years making sure my information
is up-to-date. Things are changing constantly over there, you need up-to-date information. Now the textbook for this talk really is Europe Through the Back Door. I update that
every year with four months of travel. One of my great joys is splicing in what I
learned in the last year into the newest edition of this book. Just between
you and me, this is the “Karma Sutra” of European travel fun, and I hope that with
this book you can learn from my mistakes rather than your own, and have a better
trip. Your trip is really important. We got to make sure we get the most use out
of our money, and out of our time. We always wish our dollar would stretch
further, and we always grumble about short vacations. We Americans have the
shortest vacations in the rich world, and it’s important not to just be swimming
through all the superlatives, but to cut through those superlatives
and know exactly how should I use my precious vacation time over there. Once I
get to Europe, the first stop I make in a town, no matter how well I know it, is the
Tourist Information Office. This is where you find out “where can I rent a bike,”
“can I have a map of town,” “when are the fountains on tomorrow,” “what’s happening tonight?” Now in the old days, the Tourist
Information Office was genuinely a tourist information service. In the last
generation, they’ve been privatized and now they have to make a profit. They have
to pay their rent, they have to pay their people, and they have to actually turn a profit. What they are is advertising agencies in disguise. That
doesn’t mean they’re not still information services, but as savvy
consumers, you need to know that their information is colored by who is paying
the price to get their information up top and center. They’ve still got the
information down here but anything up here is being paid for, and any little funky
idealistic tour guide gets the last of the priority, compared to the big
companies that are paying the commissions and so on. Understand that, but still use those
Tourist Information Offices. Now if you’re good traveler, you know when you
drop by the Tourist Information Office, you can pick up the rudiments of a smart
visit to that particular city. You’ll find for instance, what’s on in Oslo. I
don’t care how good your guide book is, it can’t tell you what’s happening Friday
night in Oslo, you get that on the internet, or you get that from the
periodical entertainment guide published by The Tourist Board, and available for
free right there. By the way, you don’t need the address of the
Tourist Information Office, you always find it. It’s very important because
tourism is the number one source of foreign revenue for a lot of these
places and, they would do a lot to help you, not to help you, period, to help you have fun spending
money in their town. That’s their mission, you see. So, what’s on in Oslo or what’s
on wherever, you’ve got a card that gives you free run of all the public transit.
Very handy to know about. You’ve also got a card that gives you free entrance to
all the sites. This is a big deal in Europe these days, these museum passes.
And, when you get a museum pass, different countries formulate a different economic
kind of equation. Some of them are good, some of them are really cheesy and not good,
and actually confusing you intentionally to make you think it’s a
good value. Guidebooks will do that arithmetic for
you, but one way or another, assess the museum pass. When you do assess the
museum pass remember, like the Paris Pass, you know I forget the exact price but
it’ll pay for itself in four admissions and it’s good for two days. There’s
different durations, but let’s say you get the two day one, you got to go to four sites to pay for itself. Well, you do the arithmetic there, but
also you gotta remember, when you have that pass, everything is free so you pop into
Victor Hugo’s house, just because it’s right there. You know you you just zip
into this or that, hey, underneath the Notre Dame, I can go into the crypt,
it’s free because you don’t have to think 10 or 15 bucks extra. That makes it more fun.
you just paid up front. Also, and most important, with the museum
pass you skip the lines. We’ll talk about this later, but skipping lines is a big
deal, and with this pass, you walk right up to the turnstile. Sometimes you have
to be a little bit aggressive to do that because you feel like you’re cheating,
but that line is not a line to get into the site, that line is a line to buy a ticket to get into the site, you’ve already got your ticket. So use that pass and go
to the front. If your times worth anything, this Paris Museum Pass for
instance is about my most popular tip. When you’re traveling you’ve got to
remember there’s a lot of information out there. You guys are overwhelmed by
data these days. When I started traveling, the problem was there wasn’t
enough information. Now there’s too much information and it’s uncurated.
That’s a key thing. A lot of Americans love this crowd sourcing stuff,
TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, Yelp, all that. You know it has its place, it is information,
but nobody’s curating it, and when you think of TripAdvisor, there’s a lot of
people that are just enamored with this whole concept, and they proudly do their
whole trip according to TripAdvisor. Who’s their guide? Their guide are people
who’ve only been there once that are writing feedback, their guide is companies in
India that make a lot of money saying good things or bad things about
businesses in Europe for hire, their guide is people who go to a little B&B
in Edinburgh and get a free breakfast in order if they promise to send a review
to TripAdvisor, their guide are enemy businesses that want to torpedo another
business by saying bad things about it, their guide is people who go to Paris and eat
Tex-Mex. So remember, TripAdvisor is a service, but it is uncurated, and as a
guide book writer, I see there’s quite a big difference. I go back every year, my
staff goes back every year, we know our travelers, we know the culture, we try to
sort through the information to give you a balanced look at it. Frankly, the most
valuable thing in TripAdvisor for me is not hotels and restaurants as much as
what to see and do in the town. I find it very helpful because if I’m coming into
Amsterdam, I wanna know what’s new, and everything that’s in business is listed on
Tripadvisor. Every food tour. every bike tour, every Segway tour, every zip line,
every goofy, you know, goblin tour, it’s right there on Tripadvisor, and then you
can sort through that and decide what you want to do on your time if you’d
rather be your own guide book writer, but guidebook writers do that for you, and I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind. When you are planning your trip, you remember
you’re coming into these big cities, you’ve got a day or two days in the town,
how do you get your bearings? Much as I’m a fan of independent travel, I’m also a
fan of spending 40 bucks and sitting on a bus for two hours and just having an
expert show it to me all. It’s relaxing, it helps me get my bearings, it’s
efficient. So you have these half day orientation tours that are good. Also,
remember, a lot of times, and this is a strange company called Blands, but it’s
actually quite interesting it’s in Gibraltar, the guy who owns it’s ego is a little bit bigger than his marketing sense, but I like Bland’s tour when I’m in Gibraltar because
things are spread out all over the place, and with Bland’s Tour, you go here and you have half an hour to
look around, then you go up here and you have half an hour to look around, then you go over
here and you have an hour to do the thing, and you come back there. So there’s a lot of tours that lace together things you and I couldn’t do without our own
car, and we certainly don’t want a car in that city. When I’m in Bergen, I love the
half-day tour that goes out to the Stave Church outside of town, hard to get to on your own, and Edvard Grieg’s home on Troldhaugen, also outside of town, hard to get to. with
the tour bus, it’s super efficient, and your time is really valuable in Europe. A
lot of people underestimate how important their time is. One very popular concept is hop-on hop-off bus tours. All over Europe these days you’ve got these tours, you pay, I
forget, 30 bucks and get 24 hours access, and it goes around the town in a big
three hour swing with 20 stops. And every 20 minutes, in-season, there’s another bus
coming by. The idea is you get on that and you hop on and hop off as you like as you
lace together all the sites in town. Cruise travelers find they’re very handy
because they include the cruise part in their loop, so you can just step on that
hop-on hop-off to all the big sites, and you can do it on a hop on hop off bus, or some of them have very good private, I mean local guides. Living guides, you have tape
recorded guides or living guides. If you get on a hop-on hop-off tour and you really
like your live guide, stay on the bus, don’t hop off for the whole loop
just ’cause that’s really an entertaining tour, and then you could do it again just
for the transportation, to mention of it. But hop-on hop-off bus tours are worth
knowing about in these towns. One of my great splurges, personally, is hiring a
local guide, a private guide. It’s a little expensive, but if you have a
picnic for dinner and if there’s four people to share the cost of the guide,
you’ll find it’s money very well spent. All over Europe, there are
licensed private guides working really hard, who would love to be hired by you,
to meet you at your hotel, and give you a three or four hour half-day trip around
their town. Many of them have cars. All of them, who you would be approaching, speak very good English. When you look at my TV show, it seems like I have friends
everywhere doesn’t it. I’m just hiring them to be my friends. They are private guides, and every one of
them is scrambling to fill their schedule and they’d love to be your
friend also, for a price. The good news is that guides get to be
less expensive where they’re more important. In the easiest countries like
in London, in England, they’re very expensive. and you don’t need them. In the more difficult countries, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Morocco, they’re
very cheap, they’re half the price, and you need them double. This is a friend of
mine in Poland who is a university student, speaks great English, and she’s
got a car. Hundred dollars for half a day, that’s a
very good deal. So remember the private guide. How do you find private guides? You
can Google it, you can see him on Tripadvisor, you can look at guidebooks,
tourist information services always have a list of local guides. I’m in Europe for
hundred and twenty days a year, eighty of those days I’m alone researching, forty
of those days I’m producing my TV show. Of the eighty days that I’m researching,
most of those days I’ve hired a local guide to be with me. I get triple the
value in a researching point of view to have my own guide. Last summer I probably had sixty
different guides. Of those guides, I think all of them are worth the time and money,
half of them were worth recommending and they’re in my guidebook. If I work with a
guide and I like them, they’re in my guidebook, and you can contact them directly, and it
can be a very good deal. You go to Morocco, you’re gonna be drinking tea with Aziz, and that’s a lovely afternoon. Walking around Tangier with
Aziz is a highlight. Now if you don’t have money for a private guide, remember
in a lot of cities they will organize public tours with a great local guide.
Sometimes it’s free. In Bath, this man’s in Bath, there’s a club of retired teachers and so on, and they all have a rotation, and
every afternoon somebody’s going to meet you at the tourist office and
take a free two-hour walk through the town. These people are great at making a
short story long, and I find that charming when I’m in
England. So take advantage of these local tours, sometimes you’ll pay $15 for them
sometimes they’re free, but I find they’re a very good value. Also remember in Europe, a new trend is
bike tours. A lot of bike tours. Now these are exercise, you get the wind in your face, you get the novelty of biking through a big city in Europe, and they have hard-working guides. So this would be in Paris, and this is the Sound of Music
bike tour in Salzburg. Lots of good bike tours that you can choose
from. A phenomenon in Europe these days, free tours. Now we know there’s no such thing as a free tour. There is a free class, but there is
no free tour. Actually, the free tours in Europe, they are tip based, that’s
what they call it, and they’re advertised to the youth hostel crowd, to the
backpackers, they are not local licensed Guides. These are expats, these are mostly
Australians, Canadians, Americans, and Brits, who memorizes the script and will
meet tourists at the main square and take him on a free walk for an hour and
a half or two hours. They’ll worked their heart out teaching, hoping to get tips at
the end. At the beginning you will assemble for a nice photograph that you
can get online, that’s just a good way for them to get your email address, and for
the bus to charge the guide for generating all these people. The bus
charges the guide three euros per person and, you can count the people that photo, and
now the guy owes the bus 150 euros if you had 50 people there. At the end of the
tour, the guide better get more than an average of three euros per person, or
he’s paying to work. Do you follow me? If the average is five euros tip, he makes a
hundred euros. So that’s the situation on free tours you’ll see them all over
Europe, they’re not bad ’cause I mean they’re free and you tip the guy five pounds.
They say money is, or coins are bad luck, so you gotta do paper, and it’s gonna be five
or ten euros, so it’s not free it’s disingenuous I think from the start, but
remember he can’t really answer good questions. It’s kind of a frat boy history,
it’s just always entertaining and trying to be clever, but you don’t really have a
licensed local guide, so the choice is yours. When you’re traveling, you’re gonna
find a lot of overwhelming sights. You come to this palace, and this could be a
palace almost anywhere in Europe, and you got the King’s apartment, you got the main
assembly hall, you got the chapel, you got their romantic little hunting lodge in
the garden, you got the place for their carriages, it’s really a lot, and you need
to get your bearings when you get there. There’s always information, there’s
guidebooks, there’s tours, there’s audio guides, there’s posted English signs
throughout.Find out in these sites how you’re going to get your good
information. One of my favorite things is the guides at the site, and in much of
Europe, especially in the north, when you pay for a museum, also included in that
is a free walk around. If you go to the big castle in Oslo it is stony, empty
meaningless, and expensive, except that there’s somebody right there
at the table that would love to take you around for half an hour. Suddenly have your own private guide and
it all comes to life. So be sure you know how to get the local information. This
man is a former student at Oxford that now loves to take groups around through
all the colleges in Oxford. I’ll tell you, going with a former student through the
colleges of Oxford makes that visit a lot more interesting. Find the audio
tours. This is something that’s trendy in Europe, it just makes a lot of sense. Just
a silly little extra, it really is nice to have your own earbuds in your day
bag that you really use a lot because audio tours, generally, you have to hold up,
and for a couple of hours you might be holding your hand to here, and it’s lousy
quality, and with an earbud, assuming it has that international unit, that
universal jack, you can put the thing in your pocket and have quality sound. You can
even cut your audio rental costs in half by sharing one device with two people.
Little “Europe Through the Gutter” days trick. Alright, but one way or another, use those audio guides, they come in English and they are either included or at a reasonable
price and excellent. I work very hard in my teaching to produce an app that is
full of free tours, and I really want to stress this, because this will save you
50 bucks a crack when you’re in Europe. I’ve got audio tours, must have 40 of them, for
all the great sites, museums, and walks, in Europe. I’ve worked on this really hard. Tens of thousands of people are going to
the Pantheon, they’re going to the Orsay Gallery, they’re cruisin’ the Grand Canal
in Venice with me in their ears. And it’s so nice, it’s just the tours that’s in
the book already, but it’s beautifully designed in a real-time way, so you just
turn it on and you rarely have to pause, and then you can just relax, you
need to read and look up, but I’m right in your ear the whole time, and we’re
walking together through St. Peter’s Basilica. If you like my style of
teaching it absolutely free, its simple, you don’t need the book or anything,
you just download Rick Steves Audio Europe, and it’ll be, I hope, a real boon
to your sightseeing. Again, there’s forty or more of these tours covering all the
major sites in Europe; London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, you’ve got the tours with that app. You need to decide early on, are you gonna take a tour, or are
you gonna go on your own? the most common reason Americans have for taking
tours is because they don’t think they can do it on their own. Anybody smart enough to be streaming
right now, or here in this theater, has what it takes intellectually to make it around Europe
without being spoon fed by a guide. You’re smart enough. Now there are
reasons to take a tour, good reasons to take a tour. A tour is efficient, and a tour
can be be economic. You’re talking people into sharing a big vehicle. People ask me
how do I make any money in my tour company, it’s the biggest part of our
business. We make a lot of money on our tours, we took twenty thousand people
on 800 tours this last year and people ask me how do you make any money? When they
try to add it up it seems like about the same cost as going on your own, and I
remind them if I can talk 25 people into sharing one vehicle, right there, compared to the cost of renting vehicles
and so on, or getting a train pass, is more than enough profit for me. If everything
else is a wash, the tour is good business for me and a great value for our
travelers, assuming we can accomplish more in one day, with the help of a guide
in a bus, than you could do on your own. That’s the rationale for taking the tour, you
got a guide, you got a bus, all the ducks are in a row, you’ve got reservations to
the complicated sites, and so on. If it’s done well it can be a very good
deal. The big money, if you’re a tour operator,
is in those last 25 people on the bus that we don’t have. Fifty people on a 50 seat bus, wow. We have 25 people on a 50 seat bus. You see, the standard,
impossibly cheap tours in Europe are fifty people on a 50 seat bus. Now
that’s economic, that can be efficient, but remember they don’t make any money
off of you on the beginning price, they’re going to make their money by
selling you stuff over the course of your tour, and you gotta be ready for that
because as consumers you just got to be realistic, it’s not that cheap. They’re
going to park you outside of town, why? Hotels are cheaper outside of town, they’re all
cookie-cutter, Days Inn, predictable, everything works, they got air con, and
elevators, there’s less complaints, and, you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere so
you have to pay 50 bucks to take the bus tour into town tonight. Fifty people
times $50 is $2,500 of gravy for the guide and the tour company. That’s good
business, that’s what makes their world go round. read the fine print on your standard
budget tour bus brochure. It says you’re gonna sleep in the Florence area. that could be halfway to Bologna. I like to
stay right downtown. I’m not worried in my tour company that people are gonna, like,
not take our tours because they already paid for the tours, its included you see,
in the tour cost. So, understand when you’re shopping around for a tour the
built in financial concerns of the company, and do remember you cannot take
fifty people into a cute pub and experience a cute pub. You’re going
through Europe with fifty people seeing cultural cliques on stage, with a company
that didn’t make a fair profit off you in the start, and they’re gonna work very
cleverly to sell you sightseeing, and take you shopping for kickbacks, and then
angle for tips when it’s all over. As a tour operator I know what it’s like,
I mean I know just where to park the bus in Lucerne for Swiss clock shopping. You
get $50 and a bottle of champagne as soon as you park your bus there. 45
minutes later, after everybody’s done their Swiss clock shopping, they’re back on the
bus, the tour guide goes back into the back room office and gets 15% of whatever went
into the till during that period. That’s enough to corrupt a normal tour
company, and you’ve got to, as consumers, understand what you’re getting
into when you take a big bus tour. And you gotta remember, when you take a
big bus tour, again, you’re going to be doing things in a mass tourism kind of way. These people here are in Tangier. They went over with a big bus tour from Spain,
they got one in their life in Africa, and they’re all having lunch together.
Here you are, your only meal in your life in Africa, and its lunch with a bunch of
people from New Jersey and Florida. Now you do have your boy George belly dancer
which is kind of fun, but its a crass example of the local culture, very very
touristic, and then you got people that are just worried about not getting
ripped off and not getting diarrhea and they want to buy their carpet, get back
onto their boat safely. It’s a whole different approach to travel, and you see
them in Morocco, I see them and it’s just, you just shake your head. They go through
the town looking like you know a bunch of nervous kangaroos with their bags on their
bellies like this, kind of like this, and all I can think is “self-imposed hostage
crisis,” alright. You really can do it on your own if you want to, but you do have that option
taking a big bus tour. I will remind you, the good thing about a standard, big,
impossibly cheap, bus tour, think of it as a bus pass that comes with hotels. Impossibly cheap, it’s the cheapest way for an adult that doesn’t want to do hitchhiking, and youth hostels, and
picnics, to have a normal tour. Enjoy the bus, enjoy the forgettable, no-stress,
standard American-style hotels, skip out of lunch even if its included, do your own
thing, equip yourself with a guidebook, freeloading on the structure of a trip
provided by a tour company that makes its money by selling you stuff once
you’re over there, just buy none of their stuff, and if everybody did that they’d have to charge upfront what the tours really worth. really worth, you follow me there? So that
can be a good deal, that can be a very good deal but many people get onto a bus
and it occurs to them on day two, “we could have done this on our own,” and that’s the big
deal. You can travel on your own if you want to, and that’s what I just love.
Now, with my tour company, it seems contradictory ’cause okay I’m saying you can
do tours without a tour. Yeah, you can do it on your own, but if you want
somebody to do the driving, if you want somebody to organize the hotels, it can
be very efficient. As I mentioned, I led these tours for 25 years, for the
last ten years I’ve been taking them, I know my guides now do a better job than
I ever could their local specialists, I’m the
generalist and every time I take a tour, about day 3 it occurs to me, “yeah I see why
people love these tours,” I’m so relaxed they’re doing the driving, I know there’s
going to be a great hotel tonight, I don’t know exactly what it is but it’s going to be
fine, they’ve got lunch figured out, we’ve got
some sort of activity in the afternoon, it’s a vacation and I’m sharing the cost
of the transportation with 25 people, and I got a great guide. One thing about our
tours is, and I cant really advertise this but I find it’s true, it’s just the
kind of people we attract through the way we advertise our tours really gathers a
fun-loving group of people that you enjoy traveling with. And that’s pretty
important. Remember, the kind of tour you’d choose, the way
they promote their tour shapes the kind of people that take that tour. This is
one of my tours recently, and I just thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the
people on the tour. We’ve got thirty five different itineraries all over Europe,
and you can learn a lot more about that by just checking on our website or
picking up our tour brochure that explains the reality of our tours. But
again, small groups, fun-loving people, and a guide who’s
fully paid up front, and this guide is on your side from beginning to end. I am so
proud of the work our guides do, our customers have a very high level of
expectation and these guides, year after year, exceed those expectations. So, if you’re curious about a bus tour, check out a Rick Steves tour, if you like. A big possibility for
you is cruising. Cruising is a booming part of the travel business in Europe
these days it’s efficient, it’s economic it’s just kind of exciting. Now it’s not my
style of travel, but I’ll tell you I love cruising, I do a lot of it. I’ve written a
guide book, it’s the best selling guidebook for Mediterranean cruising and
we’ve written a companion cruise book for Northern Europe port. And
I’ll just say a few minutes about cruising, the cool thing for a lot of
people about cruising is you move into one hotel and every day you’re in a
different country, and you don’t have to relocate every day, and you travel while you
sleep and you toggle from a standard floating American resort with a bunch of
Americans looking you know just have fun, and putt-putt golf, and drinks, and all
that, nothing wrong with that, that’s a holiday and then when you land, you become a traveler,
and then you get back on the ship and you’re back on your floating resort with a
bunch of Americans again. So, given that that’s what it is, they do it really,
really well. Now when you think of a cruise ship, there’s three thousand tourists on
one of these cruise ships. That’s a remarkable thing, and by my estimate, one
thousand of them are not even travelers, they’re just looking for a floating
alternative to Las Vegas. 1,000 of them are the worst kind of travelers, they don’t
even know where they are they just got a bucket list of things they want to see
before they die, and they better hurry up. Okay, and 1,000 of them are actual
travelers that like the idea of eight hours in the city, and tomorrow eight
hours in the next country, and the next day 8 hours, and the next, they’re well organized when that gang plank hits the shore they’re on their way. Now I was skeptical, but you
know, I just did it myself and they’re very well organized, so my
challenge is to take this the shell, this efficiency, recognize it’s a huge market,
and there’s reasons people want to take a tour, it’s safe, it’s cheap, it’s
efficient, you’re getting– its ADD America. it’s all about ADD these days, our way,
and it’s one day per country. Okay, don’t complain about it, it’s what
they’re asking for, make the most out of that. And I just find that you can be having
breakfast here in Istanbul, like I was, in the top of the ship at eight o’clock, at
nine o’clock the gangplanks down you’re free to go ashore, and by 9:30 you’re on
top of this hill, you’re on top of this hill, in this crowd, and there’s not a hint of
your cruise ship. Fundamentally that’s the exciting thing about cruising in
Europe, if you take the initiative, you can be completely apart of that garish,
mass tourism, American cruise world. You can be in Naples, in Istanbul, in
Barcelona, and the great thing about cruising is, in many cases, the ship parks
right there downtown. So, if you take advantage of the
guidebook and the information, that’s what we’ve worked on very hard is making these
cruise ship books. You get these books and my goal is to let the people that
wanna take the cruise program, function as independent, smart travelers for the
eight hours they have onshore. You can do it, and it can be very very efficient.
Remember, when you when you leave the ship there’s a dividing point. Bus tour is
this way, suckers going on their own that way, alright.
No, independent people and people who opt in for the bus tour. So you go to the
left, you got your buses waiting for you. You go
to the right, and you see a barrier where all the local guides who’ve been
booked by more independent travelers are meeting them. For the cost of four bus tours,
you can get your private guide waiting for you and your friends to take you on your
own around the town. Much better, because those bus tours all have an agenda.
They’re gonna take you shopping, they’re gonna do– the buses in Turkey are
provided by the carpet shops for free, you bet they’re gonna go to the carpet shops, you
see. So, understand that sort of nature and remember, at every port in Europe, I don’t know why, but for some reason the tourist boards, like, stick up
for independent travelers and they insist on having a kiosk right there in the
dock to help people who are completely independent. Here’s the bus to Pisa, the
crew members are going to take that bus, and a few the travelers might take it
also. Okay, I wanna talk about what most of you are
gonna be doing on your trip, you’re gonna be traveling by car or train with a
guidebook, being your own guide. And that’s so exciting. Again, I’ve done this
for four months here ever since I was a kid, and the key is to equip yourself
with good information, and expect yourself to travel smart. You need to
plan an itinerary, a smart itinerary. You need guidebooks that are up-to-date. Now
there’s lots of guidebooks, and every guidebook has its own personality and
style, and you know, for the right traveler, my guidebooks work really well, but I’m the
first one to say that for some people, they want a different kind of guide book.
I’m not into shopping, I’m not into gambling, I’m not into nightlife I’m not
into pretentious dining, you know, there’s a lot of people that
want that kind of stuff, and there’s great guidebooks for you. I’m just sort
of an old hippie that’s running around with a backpack still enjoying hitting
the culture, getting out of my comfort zone, making friends, eating well, and
learning. Okay, and that’s sort of my passion, and it comes through in these
guidebooks. These guidebooks are lavishly updated, they are more up-to-date than
anything else in print, and they give you the nitty-gritty so you can put the trip
together. Now there are the big, full guidebooks, about 1,000 pages each, and
that can be expensive and it can be bulky. We’ve been able to produce what we call
snapshots. We’ve covered every country in Europe, but if you don’t wanna buy
Scandinavia you can just buy Norway, and it’s half the bulk, and half the price. Those are called snapshots. The same
information, the same depth, the same up-to-date-ness, but just a part of the
book. Again, a snapshot. Also, one thing that’s been very fun for me, is to
develop the big cities into guidebooks of their own. My frustration when I
first started writing guidebooks was you’d have a great guidebook for a city,
and you’d be in Paris, and you’d go out to Versailles, and then when you get to Versailles you realize “oh, my guidebook doesn’t cover Versailles in a room-to-room
kind of way, I need to now by a guidebook at Versailles,” which costs as much as the
France guidebook its as big as the France guidebook, way more information than I
want, translated from a scholar thirty years ago, so dry if you read out loud
your lips would chap. I don’t want that kind of guide book, but that was the only
option, so what I’ve done over 25 years is developed these tours that we give
our groups, and I put the tour, in the books, so that you can do our tours
without us. And these books, these city books, the
goal of them is to give you everything you need to know eating, sleeping, nitty-gritty, site
seeing, getting there, getting away, at night, shopping, all that kind of stuff,
and, self-guided tours to the great sites, the must-see sites in that town. So, the
philosophy is, you buy this book, you got everything you need for a week in that
city, and they work really really well. I want to remember our guidebooks
originated back in the early eighties as handbooks for my tours. I didn’t write
the guidebooks for the general public, I wrote them as handbooks for the people
who took my bus tours around with me. Time after time people were stealing my
manuals during the break. I thought they’d flip through the manual, like what they see, and take
the tour, they’d flip through the manual, like what they saw, and took the book. I thought, these
books are driving decent people to theft, they should be available for purchase. So
I did the book, and I thought, I’m going to honestly put everything in that book
that I know to do the tour, so people can do my tour without me. The first books
were called France in 22 days, written in 22 days because it was a 22-day tour route, and on day three you did exactly this, and people were drafting behind
our tours. And it’s a great thing, I love it. Now that’s evolved, now we took the 22
day program out of there, but it still has that passion, not for just taking care of
your money, Europe on $5 a day style, but taking care
of your time, France in 22 days style. So, your time is a limited resource just
like your money, and these books today are the best selling guides in the
United States for each country in Europe, because they take care of your time, they
cut to the superlatives, and they take care of your money as well. Okay, so if you like my style, I think they
can be helpful for you. Complete guidebook, Snapshot, or city book. Now, a lot of Americans like to read the New York Times, and a lot of Americans
think that’s just too much print, “I want to read USA Today.” It’s two different
markets. What we produced is the USA Today version, and the New York Times
version of each of our city guide books, and they’re called Pocket Guides. The
little, punchy, colorful Pocket Guide has everything most people need to know, but
about half of the verbiage as the big full guide. But its punchier, it’s more
bullets, it’s more charts, and maps, and colors, and they’re very popular. We’ve
got the option to get the full guide, or the Pocket Guide, and we just are working to handle your
needs so you can put your travel dreams into a smooth, and affordable reality. I
want to stress, we could never do these guides without our local guides in
Europe. We’re hiring guides all the time. I’ve got twenty people from my office
that go over there, and we’ve got guides in every city in Europe that help us out. This
is Peter Poltzman, and Peter took five days, and just went around the
countryside last time I was in Hungary, and we checked out all these little
towns outside of Budapest, and I really am thankful for the work and the help we
get from our local guides, couldn’t do it without them. Whether you’re going to use
a printed guide or a digital guide doesn’t matter, it’s purely a choice. All
of our information is available digitally as well as in print, and how
you like it really is up to you. Now, Europe 101 is the book I wrote after 25
years of leading tours around Europe, understanding what people need to know,
and just as importantly, what they don’t need to know. This is a very fun, and
practical, swing through the story of Europe, from the pyramids to Picasso, designed
with your sightseeing in mind. It’s really important if you want to enjoy
and appreciate the sites, and as you know, museums can ruin a good vacation, they
really can. I know tourists are good for about two hours in the Louvre, and our job as
tour guides and guidebook writers is to cut through the superlatives, and lay out what
is the best of that museum, so you can enjoy it while you still fresh. In the
third book, which is the sort of philosophy book, is the Travel as a
Political Act book, which talks about how we can get out of our comfort zone and
gain an empathy for the other 96% of humanity, and come home with a mindset
where we’re more inclined to build bridges, and less inclined to build walls.
Now these are the three fundamental books. Europe Through the Back Door, that’s the
skills we’re talking about today, Europe 101, the art, and then
Travel as a Political Act, that’s how to broaden your perspective through travel,
and they all work together as a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of travel needs, to
give you those skills, appreciate the culture, and then taking home the very
best souvenir, that broader perspective. For more information, we’ve been filming TV shows like
nobody’s business, and we’ve got an archive of a hundred shows covering all
of Europe, and you can go to our website anytime you like, and just click. There’s
four shows on Ireland, 16 shows on Italy, four shows on Turkey, two shows going
across the Alps, lots of information. Of course I like to
think of them as entertaining and broadcast television, but I also think of
them as a resource. Go to ricksteves.com, go into to the TV section, if you’re
going to Denmark there’s two shows for you. That’s a one hour lesson on
Denmark, and I tell you it really does help to let people know how they should
spend their time. Also, at ricksteves.com, we’ve got this talk, and a whole slew
of other talks I give talks on different countries. I’ve got wonderful guides
giving talks just like this, talks on packing , talks on art, talks on Italy, talks on tech, a lot of very important information beyond the scope
of this class, and they’re all free. Go to the Travel Talk section at ricksteves.com and you can go to school before your trip, and the whole idea is
to learn from our mistakes rather than your own, so you can travel smoother. Very
near and dear to my heart is my three-part art lecture series that is
available at our website, giving you a five-hour swing through the story of Europe
from the Middle Ages until today. Now, when you have that background
information, now you can get down and dirty with your itinerary planning. What
you do, is lay down everything you could, sit down with a travel partner, and just
brainstorm everything you want to do, and how many days you want to spend in each of
those spots. Then, you add it up and you realize, “oh that’s twice as many days as
we have for a vacation,” which is generally the case. Alright, that’s
start, so you take your wish list, and then you go through it with a hard look
at, “what do we really have time for,” and the philosophy here needs to be,
“yes, I know you can spend four days there, but two days will do it.” Just as bad as
going too fast, I think, is going to slow. In each day that you stay in a town,
I think there’s a diminishing curve of returns. Day number four in a great city
is not as good as day number one in a secondary city. If I had three days in
Edinburgh, I could make a strong case. Two days in Edinburgh, and take 45 minutes a
trip to Glasgow, you see. So you’ve got those kind of decisions to wrestle with,
but don’t think that five days in one stop is as good as its trendy to say. All
right, I keep it moving, and I’m the first one to say you can go too fast, but also
you can go to slow. Also don’t try to exhaust Europe of what it has to offer on one trip, you can’t, you’ll always be frustrated. Assume you will return. On this itinerary,
you know, we had seven days in Greece. Its just not gonna happen. Let’s do Greece on
another trip, and focus right in on Greece and do it off season, much smarter, you see. Think about the weather, think about not spending a lot of travel
time getting somewhere in back, think about taking a few night trains,
thinking about paring it down, and now you got your trip into 21 days. You lay it
out on a calendar, and then I like to build a chart like this, just on word,
and it’s a living document, everything I’m working on is in this chart. Guides I’ve made, checklist of things to do, reservations to make, hotels that I wanna
get, hotels that I have booked, keep careful track of it because if you’re
sloppy, and you book a hotel and you forget about it, it’s expensive, you know, they’re
gonna bill you. If you’re sloppy and you didn’t know that you gotta
make a reservation for the Last Supper, you’re gonna get there and be very
frustrated. So here’s where you put all your notes. It’s a lot to keep track of,
and you can do it with your growing file. And then you print that thing out, you
make three copies of it, and one of them is in your pocket all the time so you
can be referring to it. This is one of our– that’s one of our most popular
itineraries, this is the best of Europe in 20 days. That’s the tour I was doing
in my minibus back when I got started, I absolutely love this tour, and I would
take a hard look at that as the core of Europe. It’s a little heavy on Italy, eight days in Italy, ’cause that’s my favorite country. It’s open jaws, starting in Amsterdam and finishing
in Paris, because you should not fly in and out of the same city unless have a
good reason to, it makes no sense at all. It takes extra time and money to get
back your starting point. Go open jaws, and then fashion that into
something that makes sense to you. And if you’ll look at here, you’ll notice there’s
only two one night stands. One night stands are inefficient, I would rather
have a long day in order to have two nights in a row, and then a long day. Your second night in a town really is a
joy, because you’re already established, you know the ropes, and it’s not so
frantic about, “where I am.” So, you minimize your one night stands. What’s the trip gonna cost ya? Well, you’ve got to just kind of go through and figure your flight, you gotta figure your room and board,
ground transportation, and sightseeing. Room and board varies if you’re one, two,
three, or four people, because the more people you put in the room, the cheaper
it gets. One person in a hotel room, very expensive. This is based on two people in a hotel
room, $150 a night for your hotel including breakfast would be 75 bucks
per person, and $15 for lunch, if you get a lunch down here for $15 that’s
satisfying to you, you can get a lunch anywhere in Europe for $15, and then
you’re going to splash out for a nicer dinner, and when it comes to
transportation it depends if you’re gonna take a car or a train, but you need to
kind of sort that out before your trip. Remember, there are a lot of tourists in
Europe, everybody’s trying to get you to go to different places, and you’ve got to
be careful, as tourists, when you come into town, to recognize that all of the
heavily promoted things are heavily promoted, not out of the love of travel
and art, but out of the love of your money. Okay, in the hotel lobby you’ll see little
brochures. That’s paid to be there. At the Tourist Information Office, even the
Tourist Information Office, it’s corrupted by, you know, paid display. So,
you’ll see these highly promoted things but generally they’re gimmicks, and you
need some reasonable source that lets you sort beyond that, and know what you
want to do. And do remember any time you go around Europe you can choose to go to
the tourist places, or you can choose to hangout where there are no tourists.
Europe is very, very crowded in the very, very popular places, but I was just in
South England for two weeks and I saw forty Americans the whole time. It was
remarkable how lonely and desolate it was, it was beautiful. I was just in the south
coast of Greece the Peloponnesian Peninsula, it was just me, and my
beautiful oranges, and those lovely sunsets. You can leave the tourists quite
easily, you can find yourself all alone at your own private little
version of Stonehenge, and I like that. Even though it’s not his grandiose as
Stonehenge, there’s more magic here I can promise you that. And there’s a hundred of
these for every touristy Stonehenge surrounded by tour buses, and port-a-loos, and barbed wire, and blow horns, okay. That’s your challenge, off-season, or
peak-season, or shoulder-season, there’s pros and cons. Remember, in Europe, the
most grueling thing about European travel is the heat and the crowds in the summer. if you’re wondering, “can we do this,” steer away from the summer. It’s very hot
and very crowded in the Mediterranean. My pattern, and I’ve done this for thirty years, April and May in the Mediterranean, I go
home in June. July and August, north of the Alps, okay. Scandinavia and Britain, I want
peak of peak. Long days, good weather, and I want some action. There’s really not
many crowds in Scandinavia or Britain, and I’d rather have the parks full of
people and there to be lots of activities. If you go off-season in Scandinavia, it’s
gonna be dark, it’s going to be gloomy, and the open-air sites are gonna be
desolate, alright, July and August. When you think about peak-season, and shoulder-season, and off-season, there is a little golden, you know, Goldilocks time in the
middle called shoulder-season, it’s one big bell-shaped curve. I really like May and
September/October, that’s very nice. Here I am on the beach in the Riviera,
it’s too cold to swim but there’s plenty of space, there’s nice sunshine and it’s
before the summer break, July and August, and that makes a lot of
sense. Again, you can go off-season, that’s the easiest time, if you’re wondering, “can
we do this,” just bundle up. I love the idea of a road trip off-season if you’re wondering, “is this
too grueling physically for me.” Europe is crowded with people who live
there, and it’s crowded with all of us who hustle in every summer, and to be
honest, most travelers have the same things in mind. You know if you’re
going to London, or you’re going to Paris, you’re gonna go out to Versailles and you’re gonna
make a beeline for that Hall of Mirrors, it’s a mob scene all day long. If you go to
Rome, you want to go to the Vatican Museum. Look at this crowd in the Vatican
Museum. I want to remind you, there are emerging economies, India and China, and
now there’s a lot of poor people in those countries, but man there are
a hundred million people that have money to go to Europe, and when they go to Europe, they got a handful of things in mind, They’ve got as
sophisticated an approach to Europe as I would have goin’ to China, or as I would
have goin’ to India. You know from a far distance with a very different culture
you, just want to see the famous marquee sites. Consequently there’s ten sites in
Europe that are just overwhelmed by emerging economy travelers and you’ve
got a choice, “am I gonna deal with that or am I gonna steer clear?” Probably you’re gonna deal with it, but you want
to be very careful about dealing with it smartly, you’re gonna go through the Rafael rooms in the Vatican Museum with this kind of
a crowd all day long. There’s no way around it, so don’t complain about it,
just be thankful a lot of people are able to travel, be thankful that there’s this
stability so they can, and be thankful that you’re able to shuffle through that,
enjoy the Rafael, and then go do something without a lot of tourists, because
there’s a lot of alternatives. Remember, when you see a long line, those people
are not waiting to get into that site, those people are waiting to buy a ticket to
get into that site, and good travelers know there are alternatives to getting a
ticket right there, you can get one of those museum passes, or in the case of the
Colosseum, Italy is now selling combo tickets. If you go to the Coliseum,
they’ve already charged as much as they can for the Coliseum but they’ve got
this gimmick where they make you buy a ticket to the Palatine Hill nearby, in
order to see the Coliseum, so it’s a combo ticket, it costs a lot more. The good news
is, there’s never a line at the Palatine Hill. It’s a hundred yards away, you walk
right up to the tourist desk, you buy your ticket, and then you walk past all
of these people straight to the turnstile and you go in, and you enjoy the
Coliseum. When you go to the Eiffel Tower, you’re gonna find long lines waiting to
get up that elevator. Now I have a good guidebook, and I used it, and it said you’d
better get a reservation or you’re gonna spend a lot of time in line. So I went
online, I got the reservation, I’m not good with this online stuff but it’s
just follow the prompts, and it works, and when I got there I had the inconvenience
of going through that empty little entryway, and walking zig-zagging through
all those empty stanchions. And I thought, “how silly, I’m walking half a mile just
to get to the front of the line,” and I got up to the front and they said, “oh
you’ve got a reservation, please come this way,” and they crowded me in front of
everybody, and they put me directly onto the elevator. I went up, I had a great time, I
came back down, and I walked that whole line looking at everybody in that line,
and it occurred to me, not one of them had the Rick Steves Paris guidebook. There’s two IQs of European travelers,
those who wait in lines, and those who don’t wait in line. If you’re waiting in
line, frankly, you’re messing up, and you’re
doing your loved ones a disservice, if nothing else. Be aggressive about
avoiding those lines. I never wait in lines, you can get around the lines,
that’s my passion in my research, is to help my travelers, with my books, not wait
in line. A lot of people just think, “I’m going to Disneyland, I’ll wait two hours for
this site.” No you don’t need to do that. There are ways around those lines. In
many cases, you can call or email and get an appointment. This is Mad Ludwig’s
castle in Bavaria, two hours south of Munich. Many people drive from Munich down to Mad Ludwig’s castle, they go to the ticket office, and there’s this little sign that says, “sorry all the
tickets are allotted for today, come back tomorrow.” That’s catastrophic. You can
drive down and go to will call and pick up your appointments. Here I’ve got
tickets to both castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, and I get an
English tour, and it’s very, very efficient, it’s just good travel. Remember,
a lot of sites these days require reservations. If you want to go to the
Alhambra, you gotta get a reservation. If you want to go to the Last Supper, you
gotta get a reservation. If you want to go to the Borghese Gallery, you gotta get
a reservation. So, guide books will tell you which sites require reservations, and
which sites offer reservations, and it’s crazy not to get reservations, In a lot
of cases, I would say if reservations are available, it means ’cause there’s a lot of
crowds. Even if it’s not required, you’re wise to get a reservation. I came into
Rome one time, just seeing what it was like without reservations. It was just
horrible. I didn’t get into anything that I wanted to get into, you know, the Colosseum– it’s just really frustrating, so get on the ball when it comes to these
reservations. This is the Pantheon here. I stay about a week, about a block away
from the Pantheon, and in the middle of the day I like to drop in, just ’cause it’s
it’s a human traffic jam under that great dome. But I drop in early in the
morning and late at night, and I am literally the only person in the Pantheon.
A little kid comes chasin’ his dog into the place, and you know, a couple of
pensioners are dropping in to marvel at it early and late, but in the middle of
the day, that’s the packed scene. Remember, 10 til’ 4, it’s really
crowded ’cause that’s when the groups can come in from cruise ships and from
outlying hotels. Cruise crowds are a big deal. This is the Acropolis, and when you
think of a cruise ship, 3,000 people on the cruise ship, five cruise ships
docking, everybody’s making a beeline for the Acropolis. That’s a mob scene, it’s a
rush hour. Why would you, if you’re not on a cruise ship, put yourself in the middle
of that cruise rush? Go there early, or go there late. Here, I’m going to the
Acropolis at five o’clock in the afternoon. I still have a couple of hours,
it’s cooler, shadows are nice, the colors are warmer, and so on, and look at
the situation. Everybody is rushing out, nobody is going in. I’ll be the last guy
on the Acropolis. I’ll be the guy who their guard blows his whistle at when
it’s time to get down, and those are beautiful moments that no cruise traveler
gets to enjoy. Stay right downtown, in Venice. The groups are coming in from
their cruise ships, or from cheaper hotels in the mainland. Spend a few extra bucks, stay downtown, be
out early, be out late. You need to take the initiative to get around those
crowds these days, and it’s more important than ever that you look at
places that simply have no tourism. Ninety percent of Europe really has no
tourism to speak of, and it is just as Europe as the rest of it, it’s just not as
famous and glitzy. Find yourself in a little town where there’s no tourism, no
Tourist Information Office, see four cute guys sitting on a bench and ask them to
scoot over. Join them, join them. This is the magic of European travel, I’ve been
saying this all my life, and it really is a delightful way to travel. You need to sit
on that bench, and watch the world go by. We’ve got lots of practical skills to
share, I’ve talked just about your planning, and remember, that’s just the
beginning. There’s much more for you to grab that information, and turn your travel
dreams into smooth and affordable reality. Thank you. If you’ve enjoyed this video, you’ll find
lots more at ricksteves.com and on my Rick Steves YouTube channel. Happy
travels, and thanks for joining us.

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    A

    Tripadvisor is useful to find places and see roughly what they are like. Tripadvisor is more "curated" than this video gives them credit for. Even if some of them are fake you get a good overall idea.
    Pro tip: USA peeps are always more picky so take their reviews with a grain of salt.

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    Jen Shea

    I love Rick Steeves… but must say that I always use Trip Advisor when I am looking for a good place and I have never been disappointed.

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    K Cotton

    Thank you for taking the time to do this video. Perhaps I overlooked how you decided to be on the other side of touring as well as providing useful information to the public? There's so many ppl who have useful info that they think is useless or pointless or even foolish to share!

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    Kalyan K. Das

    Welcome to the digital world of 2017: Download the App 'Google Trips' which is all you'll need with other supporting apps as your guide. So I don't think buying these Books are really necessary when you have all the information on your phone but the Rick Steves audio tour app should be a helpful one.

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    Joseph Compnotta

    Hi Steve , THANKS for your video's on here and on public tv . You inspired us to take a trip to Europe back in May 17' . We landed in Dublin and picked up our reserved RV which was actually like a a mini van w/ a fold down bed fridg and cooking gear for use outside . BUT we saw all of the western side of Ireland along the coast up to Galway then back to Dublin , then we took the Ulysses over to the UK to explore but the exchange into pounds was crazy high so we went to see Goring where George Micheal lived until his death and then on to the chunnel over to Calais . The whole time not having a phone because the purchase on sims cards did not work and the GPS unit that came w/ the rv as well work sometimes which caused us to fuss at each other and then we would realize we are fussing in Europe ! and would laugh and calm down and find out way . We made it the Amsterdam over to Cologne back down to France all the while seeing gorgeous country side cause I purposely stated off the main roads in order to meet locals that weren't use to seeing a bunch of rude tourist . We had a wonderful 3 weeks and I drove over 3,000 KM . The driving part was great considering I'm a X truck driver of 15 yrs . But we had our hangups like being asked why we didn't have a visa stamp from the countries we had been to ? French police asked that before boarding the Oscar Wilde ferry back to Ireland . I kept all receipts each place and country we bought something so we would have a paper trail it wasn't a big issue from them they just seemed amazed we did all that traveling w/o getting or needing visa's So our passports only have 2 visa stamps
    Ireland and France . lol

    Could you recommend a phone service we could use during our travels and where should we go once in a country to get a visa stamp just to have one ? thanks Joe

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    Carolina

    Because of you my dad is my own “human encyclopedia” during our travels to Europe. Thank you so much for giving my dad, and now me, all the information needed for making a fun and great trip to Europe! My dad has been watching your shows since the beginning and has read just about all of your guide books.

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    Joe Jacoby

    Great sales pitch – and I mean that in the kindest way – providing the information in guides for those who would prefer to do it on their own doesn't take away from your mainstream business – it complements it. Love your style, and like you, we prefer to travel among the locals, not among the tourists. Our best experiences to date have been on those sojourns where we've opted to try to experience a country's culture by being WITH the locals. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    Anthony Kernich

    Trip planning is just as fun as the trip itself. Its like a big jigsaw puzzle and extremely satisfying to complete.

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    deborahdoesscrap

    I am currently trying to plan what will be my only trip to Europe. I say this because I am not wealthy, I am 64 years old and my health is not great. I have wanted to go to Europe my entire life and for many reasons, I always put if off. Not this time. I am planning on going in September as my daughter will be able to accompany me then. I have watched all the videos, read all the books and frankly, it is all starting to seem too hard and confusing. I looked into taking an organized tour in Italy which is the country that for me seems most challenging. I love the outline of Rick's three city tour of Italy but my problem is the physical demands as outlined in the tour. I appreciate that they have rated the days as regards to degree of difficulty but I am wondering if anyone knows whether there is an option to not walk all the way up the hill if your health does not allow? The tours seem to be pretty jam packed and I am sure that really healthy young people enjoy that but as an older person with health problems it is problematic. If any one has any suggestions of other tours to take that might work for me then I appreciate any and all help. Thank you.
    Deborah

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    Caro Oteiza

    Free walking tours are usually excellent and share the story of the city 🌺. Rough guides are a great source of information, I download them to my iPad.

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    pixalu

    I have written over 50 reviews on TripAdvisor and no one has paid or given me anything. I'm sure there are many people on there with valuable advice that hasn't received anything. I don't share the same view as Rick.

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    Debra L Adams

    Used Rick's tip for buying a ticket for the Colosseum in Rome: Went to Palatine Hill and bought the 2-for ticket (no line, just like Rick said!). Decided to take the time to see Palatine Hill/The Forum right then and there and thoroughly enjoyed it. Returned the next morning to the Colosseum and went straight to the entrance–no waiting. Best tip EVER!!! FYI-the 2-for ticket has to be used in 2 consecutive days. We also went to Rome in early April. Not a lot of crowds and the weather was pleasant. As usual, Rick is right!! (Thanks Rick!)

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    EarlJohn61

    Be warned about the cruise ships…
    If their itinerary says they depart at 3:54pm then they depart at 3:54pm AND YOU HAD BETTER BE ON BOARD!!!
    They will NOT wait for you.
    If you arrive at 3:55pm they are gone… & you now have find your way to the next port of call at ruinous last minute travel rates…
    MUCH safer to be aiming to return to the ship at 2:54 [in this example].

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    Jake

    I planed around how much time I had, and rail routes. I got a three day eurail pass, then I found three cities separated by a day trip on a rail. I planed how many days I wanted in each city plus the time for the train travel itself. I then reserved the trains that needed reservations and proceeded to get Airbnb's near the train stations in those areas.In this way I spent 12 days in Europe and flew into Amsterdam, went to Berlin, then Warsaw, and then Slovenia and flew out of there. With a couple of small hiccups, this plan worked real well and I had a great time. By doing all of this in advance and paying for it all, I was left with just sight-seeing and eating! I suggest getting a Euro-sim for your unlocked phone with lots of data for Google maps.Just do it, go to Europe and give yourself time to do stuff. Don't make that schedule too tight!

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    Ken Lee

    Tripadvisor hotel/lodging reviews are great. NOWHERE else can I find information with regards to availability of an elevator, noise from outside a hotel, whether a taxi can bring you to the hotel entrance etc.

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    Daniel Martinez

    I have over 30000 readers of my reviews on tripadvisor and quite frankly I could give two shites about it. That said I have been a huge fan of RS 15 years before tripadvisor existed. If you want a forum with Faqs on little known need to know tips responded to by "locals" within in the last week on 85% of popular destinations you will be Sol on tripadvisor.

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