Frommer's Europe from $70 a Day 2002by Reid Bramblett, Richard Jones, Joseph S. Lieber, Herbert Bailey Livesey
Frommer's is the name you can trust for great travel bargains. Our acclaimed $-a-Day series is not for backpackers who want to rough it, but for travelers with taste, who've outgrown their student lifestyle and demand comfortable accommodations and good, authentic meals at a reasonable price. Each guide is loaded with detailed listings for mom-and-pop motels, B&Bs, comfortable guesthouses, good-value bistros, and ethnic restaurants. You'll find a bargain-hunter's shopping guide, affordable fun after dark, and complete sightseeing coverage, including the best things to do for free (or almost).
Our expert authors have already gone everywhere you might go--they've done the legwork for you, and they're not afraid to tell it like it is, saving you time and money. Every Frommer's $-a-Day Guide is up-to-date, with dozens of color maps and exact prices for every single expense, so you can accurately plan each day's budget. Frommer's knows that.affordable travel doesn't have to mean making sacrifices. It's about having fun and getting a great deal!
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2 Frommer's Money-Saving Strategies
Getting the Best Deal on Accommodations Most tourist offices, some travel agents, and often hotel reservation booths at airports or train stations can provide listings of B&Bs, inns, rooms for rent in homes, farmhouses, and small hotels where a couple might spend only $40 to $70 for a double. Besides the more traditional options below, creative travel alternatives where lodging costs nothing or next to nothing include home exchanges and educational vacations (see "Educational Vacations" in chapter 2).
BRINGING THE RATES DOWNKeep prices low by traveling off-season and off the beaten track. In cities, seek out local, not touristy, neighborhoods or those frequented largely by students. Small family-run B&Bs, inns, and pensioni tend to be cheaper-not to mention friendlier-than larger hotels. Although you'll find more and more properties in Europe sporting the familiar names of American chains, they're almost always standardized business hotels with rates two to four times higher than what the same chain charges in the States.
Getting a good rate at any hotel is an exercise in trade-offs. You can get lower prices by looking for hotels away from the town center or opting for a smaller room, one without a private bathroom, or one without a TV or other amenities. Ask to see several rooms-they often try to move the most expensive or least appealing ones first, so let them know you're a smart shopper who will stay only in a room you approve of and that's a fair price. Politely negotiate the rates, especially off-season, and if you sense the hotel has plenty of empty rooms-you might pay around 25% less. Always ask about discounts for stays of 3 or more days, for stays over the weekend, or for students or seniors.
If you haven't reserved a room before leaving home, call around to a few hotels before you begin visiting them to gauge how full the city's inns seem to be. If there are plenty of extra rooms, you've got more bargaining leverage. If one proprietor isn't easily persuaded to give you a worthwhile deal, try elsewhere. If, however, hotels in town seem booked, bed down in the first reasonable place and hope for better bargaining luck next time. Pick your top few choices from the reviews in this book before you hit town (perhaps on the train ride in); when you arrive, head to the pay phones in the train station to call around looking for an available room (or head to the room reservations desk if there is one). This way you might secure the last room in town while the next guy, who plans to search on foot, is still struggling to get his luggage onto a public bus outside.
A Note on Special Rates
In a couple of chapters you'll see that some hotels offer special rates "for Frommer's readers." We don't solicit these rates or offer anything (like a guaranteed rosy write-up) in return, but hoteliers sometimes offer them, and we're only too happy to accept on your behalf! The hotel owners request you please make it clear on booking or arrival (or both) that you're a Frommer's reader to avoid confusion about those special rates. Note that the actual rates might have changed by the time you plan your trip, but the hotels will still offer our readers a discount.
OVERNIGHT TRAINSOne of the great European deals is the sleeping couchette, where for only about $20 (second class) you get a reserved bunk for the night in a shared sleeping compartment (sometimes for two, but usually for four to six people). When you wake up, you've gotten where you're going without wasting your daylight hours on a train, plus you've saved yourself a night's hotel charges. You can sleep for free by taking your chances on finding an empty sitting couchette, where the two rows of seats facing each other pull out and slide down to make a flat bed. However, know that the doors don't lock, and since you have no reservation, anyone has the right to barge in and join you.
PACKAGE TOURSAirlines and tour operators offer package tours that, unlike fully escorted guided tours, book only air transportation and hotels and leave the sightseeing up to you. It's a good mix of the joys and freedom of independent travel at the (sometimes) cut rates of a tour. See "Taking a Tour" in chapter 2 for more details.
RENTINGImagine living for a week in a studio apartment in London for $500 to $600 or in a cottage in France for $450 to $600. If you rent a room, an apartment, a cottage, or a farmhouse, you can live life like a European, if only for a few days or weeks. In cities, you can often broker rental rooms and apartments through the tourist office or a private accommodations service in the train station. Rooms for rent usually offer great rates (much cheaper than a hotel) even for the single traveler staying just 1 night, although some might require a minimum stay of a few nights. Apartments start making economic sense when you have three or more people and are staying in town for a week or longer.
Renting villas, cottages, farmhouses, and the like is a much trickier business, with a wide range of rates-and of quality. It can be a downright budget option (usually, again, for groups of three or four renting for a few weeks), or it can be a hedonistic splurge on an overpriced historic castle. Shop around. Contact local tourist offices before leaving home; they might have lists or catalogs of available properties. Or read through travel magazines and newspaper supplements for ads.
Or you can try Barclay International ([tel] 800/854-6636; www.barclayweb.com), which for more than 30 years has represented about 6, properties across Europe, many off the beaten path. Book as early as possible.
HOSTELSOne of the least expensive ways to keep a roof over your head and meet other travelers is staying in hostels. Although only those in Bavaria still enforce an under-26 age limit, hostels are primarily student stomping grounds. In fact, in summer especially, they fill up early each morning, often with high school and college students partying their way through Europe.
Hostels charge around $10 to $35 per night for what's usually a bunk in a dormlike room (often sex-segregated) that sleeps anywhere from 4 to 50 people or more. There are lockers for your bags, and you often must bring your own sleep-sack (basically a sheet folded in half and sewn up the side) or buy one on site. For many, you need an HI membership card (see below); at some, the card is required for you to stay there, at others it gets you a discount, and at some hostels the card doesn't matter at all.
There's usually a lockout from morning to mid-afternoon and a curfew of around 10 pm to 1 am-which can seriously cramp your evening plans, especially since many hostels are at the edge of town, meaning you have to finish dinner rather early to catch that long bus or metro ride back out. Membership in Hostelling International/American Youth Hostels (HI-AYH), 733 15th St. NW, Suite 840, Washington, DC 2 5 ([tel] 202/783-6161; www.hiayh.org), an affiliate of the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYH), is free for those 17 and under, $25 per year for people 18 to 54, and $15 for those 55 and older. HI sells the International Guide-Europe 2001, for $13.95.
Getting the Best Deal on Dining
Some hotels include dinner or breakfast in their rates or offer them as extras. For dinner, this is sometimes a fine meal at a good price, but you can almost always eat just as cheaply-and find considerably more variety-by dining at local restaurants. Hotel breakfasts-with the exception of the cholesterol-laden minifeasts of the British Isles-are invariably overpriced. A "continental breakfast" means a roll with jam and coffee or tea, occasionally with some sliced ham, cheese, or fruit to justify the $4 to $15 price. Some hotels include breakfast in the rates, but if there's any way you can get out of paying for it, do so. You can pick up the same food at the corner cafe or bar for $2 to $4.
When it comes to choosing your restaurant, a local bistro, trattoria, taverna, or pub is not only cheaper than a fancier restaurant but also offers you the opportunity to rub elbows with Europeans. Ask locals you meet for recommendations of places they like, not places they think you as a visitor would like. Pick restaurants that are packed with locals, not those abandoned or filled only with tourists; if the folks in the neighborhood stay away, there's usually a good reason. At any restaurant, the house table wine will usually be just fine, if not excellent, and cheap. Similarly, beer is plentiful, cheap, and excellent in central and eastern countries (Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, and so on). The fixed-price menu (or tourist menu) is a budget option that gets you a semi- to full meal at a cheaper price-but a much more limited selection-than if you ordered each dish from the full menu. The best deals include wine (a glass or quarter carafe) or beer, coffee, and dessert along with a choice for first and second courses.
If you love fine food but not huge bills, consider patronizing top restaurants at lunch. Outstanding places may serve the same or similar dishes at both meals, but with lunch prices two thirds to one half of dinner prices. Plus, lunch reservations are easier to come by. In Britain and Ireland, indulge in afternoon tea, in Spain do a tapas bar crawl, and in Italy nibble during the evening passeggiata (stroll)-all inexpensive popular customs that'll cut your appetite for a huge meal later. Wherever you eat, be sure to check the menu and ask your waiter to see if a service charge is automatically included; don't tip twice by accident. In the bars and cafes of many European countries, the price on any item consumed while standing at the bar is lower (sometimes by as much as half) than the price you'd pay sitting at a table and three times lower than the price charged at the outdoor tables.
If your day is filled with sightseeing, lunch can be as quick as local cheeses and salamis, ripe fruit, a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a bottle of wine or mineral water eaten on the steps of the cathedral, on a park bench, or in your hotel room. Picnic ingredients in Europe, from outdoor markets and tiny neighborhood shops, are ultrafresh and so cheap you usually won't spend more than $5 to $10 per person.
Getting the Best Deal on Sightseeing
You've heard that the best things in life are free. Well, some of the best things in sightseeing are too. You can't get much better than strolling through Paris's Luxembourg Gardens or spending an afternoon in London's British Museum. And how about peeking into Rome's many churches or lounging on the Spanish Steps, exploring Barcelona's medieval quarter, hiking the Alps around Salzburg, or relaxing on a St-Tropez beach? Often a city's tourist office offers a free booklet of walking tours so you can explore the city on foot. Also note that Frommer's publishes Memorable Walks in Paris and Memorable Walks in London (both $12.95).
Visit the tourist office and pump them for free information, brochures, and museum lists-everything you need to plan your sightseeing. Find out if some museums offer free entry on a particular day or reduced admission after a certain hour, and go then (but be prepared for crowds-you're not the only one looking to save some money). Keep in mind that many European museums are closed on Monday and open just a half day on Sunday, so check the schedule before you go.
Always inquire about special passes or combination tickets that include reduced admission to several or even all of a city's museums. Sometimes these passes even include reduced public transportation fares.
Meet the Author
About the Authors Reid Bramblett is the author of Frommer's Tuscany & Umbria, Frommer's Northern Italy, and Europe For Dummies, as well as coauthor of Frommer's Italy from $70 a Day. He also helped found guidebookwriters.com (see chapter 2). When not on the road, he splits his time between his native Philadelphia and Columbia, Missouri. Londoner Richard Jones, author of Frommer's Memorable Walks in London, has been devising walking tours of his city since 1982. He has written the books Walking Haunted London and That's Magic, as well as the script for the drama-documentary Shakespeare in London. He has also written and presented drama documentaries about Shakespeare in London (1999) and Jack the Ripper (1997). All four of Joseph S. Lieber's grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century, settling in New York City, where he was born and raised. Mr. Lieber lived in Hungary for several years in the early 1990s. He presently practices law in Boston and is the coauthor of Frommer's Budapest & the Best of Hungary and Frommer's Europe. Christina Shea, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Hungary and subsequently directed Peace Corps language-training programs in Lithuania and Kyrghyzstan. She is the author of the novel Moira's Crossing (St. Martin's Press) and a coauthor of Frommer's Budapast & the Best of Hungary and Frommer's Europe. Herbert Bailey Livesey is a native New Yorker. After an early career as a university administrator, he decided to devote himself to writing full-time. He's the author or coauthor of 10 travel guides (including Frommer's New England, Frommer's Canada, and Frommer's Montréal & Québec City), a novel about deep-sea sportfishing, and several books on education and sociology. His articles have appeared in Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, and Playboy. Sherry Marker's love of Greece began when she majored in classical Greek at Harvard. She has attended the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and studied ancient history at the University of California at Berkeley. Author or coauthor of a number of guides to Greece (such as Frommer's Greece and Frommer's Greek Islands), she has published articles in the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, and Hampshire Life. She's also the coauthor of Frommer's Europe and has written books on a variety of subjects, including a history of London for young adults. Hana Mastrini, a native of the western Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary, became a veteran of the "Velvet Revolution" as a student in Prague in 1989. She began contributing to Frommer's guides while helping her husband, John, better understand his new home in the Czech Republic. George McDonald has lived in Amsterdam and Brussels as a former editor of the Sabena Belgian World Airlines and deputy editor of the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in-flight magazines. He's now a freelance journalist and travel writer and has written extensively about the Netherlands and Belgium for international magazines and guidebooks, such as Frommer's Amsterdam and Frommer's Belgium, Holland & Luxembourg. Mark Meagher, a resident of Boston, is currently pursuing graduate studies in architecture. He's coauthor of Frommer's Ireland, Frommer's Ireland from $60 a Day, Frommer's Portable Dublin, and Frommer's Greece. Haas Mroue is a freelance travel writer who grew up spending summers in the South of France. He lived in Paris while studying at the American University, then returned to the States to graduate from the UCLA Film School. His articles, poems, and short stories have been widely published, and he's coauthor of Frommer's Gay & Lesbian Europe and author of Frommer's Memorable Walks in Paris. He currently divides his time between France and the Olympic Peninsula. Donald Olson is the author of London For Dummies and England For Dummies and a coauthor of Frommer's Gay & Lesbian Europe. He has written travel stories for the New York Times and many other national travel publications. In addition to his travel work, Donald Olson has published five novels and had his plays produced in Europe and the United States. Beth Reiber lived for 4 years in Germany and 3 years in Japan, selling travel articles to the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and many other newspapers. Now residing in Lawrence, Kansas, she's the author of Frommer's Japan, Frommer's Tokyo, and Frommer's Hong Kong and coauthor of Frommer's USA and Frommer's Southeast Asia.
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