Your Thrifty Travel Tips: 2003
In his Thrifty Fifty travel tips, Rick shares his best suggestions for saving money while traveling in Europe: from staying in B&Bs to assembling gourmet picnics. Do you have tips to add to the list? How do you stretch your euros, pounds, kroner, etc.?
Avoid AmEx web site
If you want to do something really stupid, go to the American Express web site and purchase travelers "cheques" or foreign currency. Most people these days only need 100 to 300 dollars worth of TCs as emergency funds in case ATMs are non-functioning. But if you purchase directly from the good folks at AmEx, you'll pay $5.95 extra for shipping and $15.00 extra for handling. That's over 20 percent extra if you only want 100 in "cheques". What a rip off! AAA members get them free, and local banks typically charge 1.5%. I say why bother at all? If you can't find a functioning ATM, just use your backup credit card to make purchases or get cash advances (or with a Visa debit card). Better yet, don't let yourself get to the point where you are totally out of local currency and the ATM doesn't work.
Cheap Drinks in Amsterdam
There's a new chain of "Eurocafés" opening, where you can have a beer, a soft drink, a glass of wine, or even a 'jenever' for -- you guessed it -- a mere one euro. There are three open already (one is near the Leidseplein), and there are plans to open up about a dozen more. Just look for the big signs with the €1 coins on them! Their website is www.eurocafe.nl .
Amsterdam, Netherlands 12/29/03
Volvic bottled water
After I returned from a vacation in the UK last year, I found that Cost Plus World Market sells Volvic water-- for less than I was purchasing it in London!!!
Des Moines, IA USA 12/20/03
budget travel in europe
Check out the travel sections of English newspapers such as the Guardian, the Times, the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Express, epecially the Sunday travel sections. They are full of offers for accomodation of all kinds. Many "quick-break" deals for all over Europe: hotels / b+b's / self-catering apartments or houses. Many English travel companies often advertise last minute bargains here. Also, you can often see airfare sales with airlines such as Easyjet that are advertised only in England. Check out these newspaper's websites frequently before leaving for Europe. Seem to be especially good for off-season and shoulder-season bargains.
minneapolis, mn USA 12/16/03
Thrifty Travel Tips
If you want to save on your trip, try saving yourself. Get in shape. Nothing is sadder than to see out of shape tourists dragging themselves and their luggage through the streets of Vernazza or anywhere else for that matter. It should be priority # 1 that you can walk at least 2 to 3 miles without thinking that you are going to die. Good shoes are a must; if you have to sit down every 200 yards then you're in for a crabby time. Start walking two or three months before you leave. Increase your speed as you begin to feel your stamina increasing. It makes sense that you should be in good enough shape to walk wherever you want to go and not arrive looking like something the cat dragged in. Be your own best friend and get in shape for the time(s) of your life.
Kealakekua, Hawaii USA 12/16/03
Staying in Barcelona (Spain)
Last month, we went to Barcelona on holidays (2 adults and 2 kids). Hotel rates were quite high, but we found a lovely apartment with a superb location. Better than any hotel and cheaper! It was less than 100 euros/day!!!! You can see info and book at: http://barcelonaapartment.8m.net
paris, france 12/15/03
Living with the Local people
Live off the beaten path. Look on easyroomates.com and there you will find cheap accomodation and learn alot about European culture by living with the locals!! Take my word for it, I have lived with the German locals, and you will learn realistically how they live!! Experience life and live off the beaten path!!
Patrick Brian Lee
Bradenton, Fl USA 12/05/03
Paris Museum Pass
Just returned from Paris. Two words made the difference in the trip: Museum Pass! We bought the three day one for thirty euro and skipped every line in sight! The line outside the D'Orsay was thirty minutes alone! Not to mention every museum has an entrance fee of about six to seven euro, so it quickly paid for itself!
FPO, AE USA 12/01/03
Watch out for ATM/credit card exchange fees
To save money on ATM transactions, call your bank before you leave to see if they charge extra for currency exchange. If they do, look for another bank with free checking and no extra charges. One bank charges $5 extra every time there is a currency exchange. Also, call your credit cards. MBNA currently does not charge anything extra beyond the mandatory 1% charged by VISA & MC. Some banks charge an additional 3%! It's a good idea to let your banks know that you will be using your credit cards in other countries. If they do not know, they may put a hold on the card.
Roseland, nj USA 11/24/03
Use public transport and observe currency preferences
I have travelled in western Europe repeatedly, as well as in Asia and other continents, often for work. I have generally resisted organized sightseeing tours which tend to be expensive. I explore on my own using public transportation, whenever possible.
Also, I try to minimize the expensive margins imposed in changing currency by finding out first whether merchants in that country prefer dollars, which they do in many places, especially in Asia, or in countries which have "soft" currency (not generally acceptable in world commerce). Having their currency of choice also puts me in a better negotiating position while shopping for goods and services. In some countries, however, they like their dollars to be crisp and clean, with no smudges and tears, so I make sure that I examine the bills before leaving the bank. (In Asia, I know many of the less developed countries prefer cash to TC, and also cash in higher denominations, like 100.)
Note to Shana, the previous poster: I like your
style of traveling and I am close to your age. Feel free to email me at
WWWalkEarth@aol.com (my computer is unable to unscramble your email).
Albany, NY USA 11/23/03
Seniors saving Money
I'm 67. I stayed in student housing at the University of London in Sept. 2003. There are a number of locations for this housing and it is all cheaper than most hotels. I also stayed at the hostel in Menaggio on Italy's Lake Como. All ages from infant to retirement age were there. It's cheap and handy to ferry transportation. Buy day passes for boat transportation on Lake Como and in Venice, and for the bus/subway in London. I eat in cafeterias in Italy, at Asian delis in Paris, pubs in England and Ireland. Grocery stores also have great stuff for picnics.
Cheapest Airfare Anywhere
My tip is to fly Ryanair, an Irish airline. The website is ryanair.com. For travel within Europe it cannot be beat. We flew from Frankfurt to Barcelona for 30 Euros. We flew from Frankfurt to London for 19 Euros. We flew from Frankfurt to Kerry for 30 Euros. They often have specials on flights out of London for 1.99 Euros each way. You can leave from almost all major cities in Europe.
If Ryanair doesn't have your route, germanwings.com might offer your
destination. These airlines offer deep discounts because they may be located
an hour away from the major city (Rome, Prague, Vienna etc.), but they
usually offer a bus shuttle to take you to your destination. The planes
are similar to Southwest Airlines in the States. No frills or first class
seats, but who cares? If you are traveling with a small pet germanwings.com
allows them too! Good Luck!
Wurzburg, Germany 11/18/03
I have traveled to Moscow many times on buisness and have learned little tricks for saving money. For hotel stays of 50 - 75 night in good hotels (Cosmos, Peking, Izmulav), contact the "Intertourist" desk, which is a reservation desk around the corner from the main check-in desk. You will have to do it at least one day ahead of time. Learn the Metro (subway) system, it was built by the same company as London's and Washington DC and is easy to figure out (Paris's Metro is a nightmare). The subway is the fastest and cheapest (30 cents or less per ride) way to get around. Make sure to apply for your visas at least one month ahead of time (and your passport must not expire sooner then six months after your trip).
Houston, Tx USA 10/25/03
Saving on Lodging in Britain
If you really want to save on lodging in Britain, look into "self-catering" accommodations. We spent 10 days in the Yorkshire Dales for $528. We had a 2 bedroom cottage built in 1732 and completely modernized. Things to look for are central heating and are linens and utilities included. We are going back to the UK in March and have rented a flat in London for £40 the night for 4 adults. You can also save on meals by doing as much or as little cooking as you like.
Las Vegas, NV USA 10/23/03
Dump extra money on the way out of a country
When leaving a country/Europe, just before you step on the plane/train, exchange/dump all of your excess Euros/Pounds, etc. into US dollars, or the currency of the next country you're visiting. You get the real exchange rate as they want to keep the "local" currency, and dump the US dollars. Saves you from having the hassle once you return home also.
Round Rock, TX USA 10/23/03
Don't Bother with the International Youth Hostel Card!
Before leaving for Scotland, I purchased an International Youth Hostel Assoc. card (they were $20.00 at the time and I picked it up at my local youth hostel) because I was told you needed one to stay in hostels. I don't know what it's like in other parts of Europe, but in Scotland you don't need one! There is a nice, big selection of independent youth hostels throughout Scotland which have nothing to do with the association and therefore don't take the card. They are around the same price (often cheaper), have later (or no) curfews, and don't close during the day like many of the IYHA ones do. So check into the Independent Youth Hostels. You may be able to save a few bucks and forget the card!
Portland, OR USA 10/17/03
Don't Buy Bottled Water In Scotland
I know everyone worries about getting sick from the water in other countries, but don't worry about it in Scotland! Save money by drinking tap water instead of paying a fortune for bottled water. Scotland has some of the cleanest, safest water in the world. I drank tap water for 2 weeks and felt better than I do drinking water at home! I even drank straight from a stream in the back hills of the highlands (the peat acts as a natural filter).
Portland, OR USA 10/17/03
Bus vs. Tube
My greatest tip for saving money in London is to buy a bus pass instead of a Travelcard (which covers bus and tube). Like most people i was interested in the convenience and speed of the tube, but consider these points: the tube is entirely underground, so you miss out on a lot of the city; the tube is usually full of hot/grumpy/irritated londoners trying to get to/from work, this is sometimes true of the bus, but at least it has windows! Plus because of the way the tube is set up, it is often faster to just take a bus insted of going 2 stops on the tube, changing to a different line, and going 2 more stops. Just take the bus for 10 min.! And finally the bus pass is about half to one third the price of the Travelcard, so the savings can really add up.
Sun City, Ca USA 10/13/03
Saving money in Paris
I just got back from Paris. I'd have stayed forever if I could. Here are my money saving tips.
1) Buy as many museum passes as your trip length allows. I bought 2 5-day passes for my 14 days. Not only is it cheaper than paying as you go, but there a a few hidden bonuses. You don't have to wait in line at the Louvre but have a special entrance. Sometimes, the attendant will allow you to bypass the line at the Musee d'Orsay. Most imporantly, you can go to a museum anytime you like. I got into the habit of hitting the d'Orsay at opening time and then leaving before noon. No crowds then. You can use the pass just to use the bathroom!
2) Buy a weekly Carte Orange pass for the metro.
Instead of hesitating to gad about, I'd take four or five metro rides
in a day. Multiply that by seven days and you really save money. You can
buy it either from a machine or from an attendant. The ticket looks exactly
like the one time metro ticket except it's orange. But, wherever you buy
it, you have to go to the attendant to get the ID card. You will get a
plastic wallet to keep the ID card and ticket in. You need a picture about
the size of a passport picture. I took pictures of myself with my digital
camera and printied them on photo paper. Then I cut them to size. Make
sure you get the ID card since they do occasionally check tickets (I got
stopped once). BTW, never discard your metro ticket until you reach the
street. If you do and get stopped, you will be fined.
Grass Valley, CA USA 10/10/03
First class travel
Re: the 8/6/03 post. Second class service is fine for short trips, but for a long trip I would suggest traveling 1st class for more room. I was in Italy in late May '03, and rode comfortably from Cinque Terre to Rome (5 1/2 hours) in 1st class for just $10 more. The cabins were roomier and air conditioned (unlike 2nd class) and you couldn't smell the smoke. (People tended to smoke even in the non smoking cabins). Save your money on short trips via 2nd class and ride 1st class on longer train rides.
Baltimore, MD USA 10/06/03
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to the UK. We were surprised at how much more expensive things cost in Britain. We thought UK prices would be relative to what we pay in the US. I thought for example, a $5 meal in the US would cost about 3 pounds in Britain. I was wrong. In fact, a comparable meal costs more like 6 pounds ($10). And when exchanging currency in places like train stations or the airport, you don't get the most favorable rate.
An easy way to hedge that exchange loss is to just bring your bank card
and withdraw large amounts of money at a time. Pay the bank fees. I figured
I could have saved about $200 had I not brought any dollars to the UK
and just withdrawn money while there. I am not complaining, just sharing
a learning experience. It was a wonderful trip, esp. loved Edinburgh (and
Scotland in general). Happy travels!
Wash. DC, USA 10/03/03
Car Rental Savings on Insurance
A tip to save the cost of car insurance on a rental in Ireland or anywhere. The Spokane Teacher's Credit Union has a VISA card which will cover collision up to 25,000. at no extra charge if you put your rental charge on their card. We found this saved almost 200.00 when we rented a car for 25 days in Ireland. Also no other VISA will cover driving in Ireland except this one. Check it out!!
Spokane, WA USA 09/20/03
I did not reuse water bottles, because I read the cheap plastic they are made from starts to leach out over time; however, I found the least expensive place to buy water bottles (and soda for my kids) was at the markets where all the locals shop. I'd buy a few at a time and stash them in my hotel room. Also, I wouldn't bring them to restaurants to save money. My daughter tried this and was asked not to drink it while in the restaurant -- it seems Europeans don't take their own water to restaurants -- but then again, I don't know of any American who does either.
Seattle, wa USA 09/20/03
[Editor's note: The warning that plastic bottles "leach" dangerous chemicals may be an urban myth, according to www.snopes.com/toxins/bottles.asp. A more real danger is that reused bottles that are not properly washed can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which could then make you ill.]
Flying dirt cheap
I just booked a flight from Brussels to Venice for a total of 11.99 euro! I checked the list of budget airlines in ETTB and found this flight on Ryanair. I will also be flying from Rome to Athens via Europebyair for $99. I have limited time in Europe and wanted to see Paris, Venice-Florence-Rome and the Greek Isles so this worked out really well for me! So my advice would be to check out all the air sites to compare to the train or car.
Hollywood, Fl USA 09/10/03
no fee for getting foreign money
I was told by the teller at my bank (Washington Mutual) that when you want cash with your debit card to go into a bank and ask for a cash advance with your debit card and there is no fee.
Shoreline, wa USA 09/03/03
credit card usage in Europe
My wife and I used a credit card for practically everything-except to buy some jewelry in Venice. Cash talks!! We have two credit cards- one charges 3%- (1% Visa and 2% just for being Citibank) The other passes along the 1% Visa fee-and nothing else. Our recommendation- check out the policy of your credit card company-it can really save you money- if you charge practically everything, the 2% is real money!!
TX USA 09/01/03
ISIC Cards & Hostel Memberships
I'm sorry to hear that some people have had bad experiences with the ISIC student ID card, I've had no problems at all. In Germany I got an awesome price for train tickets.
About the post from Oct 02 who had to buy an additional "sticker," I think they must mean buying a stamp to stay in a members-only hostel. That's the AYH/HI hostel card, not ISIC. Youth hostel cards can be bought in two ways: you can either pay 15 dollars for 1 year "membership", or pay as you go, around 3 dollars per stamp each night. When you accumulate 6 stamps (1 stamp per night), you are considered a member-at-large for 12 months.
Anyway, I like some hostels, but I've also had bad experiences, like in Köln, Germany, there was a european junior soccer tournament, all the kids opened the doors and screamed, shook the bunks, Italian, French and German soccer players singing their own team song, god! that was the worst night ever. Also in Ludwisburg (near Stuttgart) the hostel's architecture was terrible, plain concrete.
One of the best experiences is going to Köln's cathedral on Holy Thursday. I'm not Catholic, but that cathedral is awesome.
Düsseldorf is a city worth seeing. The mall at Kö alle is great, but very expensive, actually don't sleep in the city... just take a few hours look.
Berlin is a controversial city, I love it, others
hate it. It's not drab or grey anymore. The city has been through a lot,
and now it's just wonderful to see how it's becoming a nice, cosmopolitan
metropolis. And if you are into castles, don't miss Potsdam.
Veracruz Mexico/Berlin Germany, 08/24/03
Bring a reserve of traveler's checks while in Italy. We were offered a 20% discount for travelers checks or cash at a jewelry store in Florence.
San Francisco, CA USA 08/23/03
The opera in Vienna is world famous and can be cheap. Standing room or Stehplatz are the cheapest tickets, but are only available the day of the show around 5:30 for a 7pm show. You will need to wait in line for more popular operas, or during the toursit season, but during the off-season or for more obscure operas the wait ins't so mandatory. It's a mad dash up the stairs to the standing room area, but that's part of the fun. Bring a scarf or similar article to tie around the banister to mark your spot, that way you can go to the bathroom and not lose you space. A scarf is indisputable so long as an usher sees that you have earned that spot legitimately - go get a beer before the show starts.
You can also purchase tickets on the day of the
show that cost the same as the cheapest seats in the house. They go on
sale after patrons (usually season ticket holders have not shown for the
performance). You might get stuck behind a pole, or be seated in the front
row... all one price. Dress appropratley for these seats - if you are
seated in the front you'll feel out of place in a polo and slacks. Read
a synopsis before you go, or borrow one from someone next to you at the
show - it makes all the love and death make sense. It's a bit of extra
woork but you can see an opera some pay $500 for for about $4. For more
info on show times: www.staatsoper.at (they have info in english too!)
Fort Collins, CO USA 08/20/03
Under the 7/7/03 listing "Trains vs Planes" the writer notes how cheap
(relatively) some air travel is. It is a good point. In France, Air France
is currently taking you from Marseille to Paris for about 56USD, if you
are age 65, but about 316USD if you are younger. However Easy Jet will fly
you into Orly, from Marseilles, for 5.7 Euros (yes, this is no misprint)
or about $25 USD when all the taxes, etc, are included. On the TGV train,
it's about $95 USD plus supplement. As to finding your way around French
airports, I typed in "airports in France" ("French airports" did not work)and
got links to all airports in the country, including layout diagrams, airline
links, maps, routes, etc.
Chgo, IL USA 08/19/03
Before going to Europe, call each credit card company to see if they
charge a fee for using the card in Europe. Most say they don't but when
you ask about the exchange rate, they say that there is an automatic % added
to the transaction. To me, that's a fee! One of my cards had a 3% fee and
the other had no fee. You can guess which one I used for all my purchases!
CA USA 08/18/03
Why buy special water bottles? Save individual bottles (juice, water, etc.) at home, pack them in luggage, empty. Take one through airport security, fill it in restroom or at water fountain. On plane you won't have to keep bothering flight attendants for more water, but they will fill your little bottle. Fill others at destination. Keep refilling as needed. Take a full bottle to restaurant. Who really wants to spend extra money on a beverage when food is already overpriced? Throw away all but one before heading home.
TX USA 08/15/03
Renting a car in France is easy and inexpensive. I used Nova rentaCar
(based in Ireland). They use Europcar. Pick up and drop locations are MANY.
The rate for this Sept 2003 is 23.6 Euro per day unlimited miles, and most
insurance. The booking agents are VERY helpful and give a quick e mail response.
I used them three years ago and had NO unexpected charges or complications.
Walnut Creek, CA USA 08/07/03
Transport in and to London
When traveling to London from the Gatwick airport, if you can wait until after 0930, you can receive discounts on the Gatwick Express into London Victoria Station. It's not advertised but is known by the people who travel to London often. As an airline employee who travels to London monthly, I buy my travel card (for the buses and the tube) at Victoria Station at the London Transport information counter. It's called a day rover and it's cheaper too after 0930. I am going to London this week again and I will let you know of any other deals I can find!!
Charlotte, NC USA 08/06/03
Have been to Italy and France during the past two years and spending
money on first class train fares is a waste of money! All the trains in
either country are very nice and you are on the train for such short periods
of time that you would not even notice or care about the differences.
Louisville, ky USA 08/06/03
If traveling with teens check this out: Our family of four spent 24
days in France this July 2003. We booked family rooms for 4 in all our hotels.
We discoverd that it would have been cheaper and more comfortable in some
cases to have booked two separate rooms. Our daughters ages 12 & 15 would
have loved to have their own space with separation from their snoring parents.
For example - in Paris our quad was $185. Two rooms would have been $85.
each. For the same money we could have had some space from one another.
We also discoverd the quad rooms were all on the upper levels or in the
back corners of the hotels. Next time I will definitely check both pricing
options when traveling with our teens. Happy traveling - Deb
Mt. Vernon , WA USA 08/04/03
I believe Rick mentions this in his books, but I must reiterate. When
eating in a French restaurant and you want water, ask for "un carafe de
l'eau" rather than a "bouteille de l'eau". The carafe is tap water and is
free, whereas the "bouteille" (bottle) is commercial water such as Evian.
I paid as much as 7 euros for a commercial bottle of water! A liter bottle
of Evian (which is imported from France) doesn't cost that much in the USA!
Lakewood, CO USA 08/04/03
Buying point to point tickets in italy was a good advice which I did
not listen to. I bought a first class rail pass and lo and behold, the trains
going to major cities are 99% eurostar trains which means you need a reservation
11 euros per person. For two people going on a day trip from rome to naples
cost an extra 44 euros!! in addition to the cost of the first class railpass.
The same is true going to Florence/Venice.I spent for 5 days an extra 220
euros for train reservations alone. If you do not have a reservation, the
conductor on the train charges double. Buy point to point tickets!
Pacheco, ca USA 07/28/03
Travel savings in London, Venice, Germany
1. In Venice, the vaporetto is getting expensive! Now costs 5 euros per person (NO family discount) for ONE ride on the Grand Canal! After spending 30 euros for our group of 6 to go just 4 stops, we realized that actually you can walk almost anywhere in Venice.
2. Buy your London visitor Travelcard online from their website (www.ticket-on-line.com)- NO service charge and NO postage. Great value for 3, 4, or 7 day pass good on all London Tube and buses.
3. The Romantic Road bus is now around 70 euros
per person. For our group of 6, this would have been over 400 euros! We
rented a very nice van for a little over 100 euros per day and used it
to visit Neuchwanstein one day (saving train/bus costs) then drove the
Romantic Road at our leisure the next day.
sunnyvale, CA USA 07/26/03
I was just in Belgium and France for two weeks in June and I have but
one recommendation. Take lots of cash in Euros and a credit card. Not nearly
as many places acceped Travelers Checks as I was told. Also, everything
is more expensive in Europe...everything
Cleveland, OH USA 07/16/03
I second the recommendation to try to get the Scandinavian breakfast
buffets, even if you have to pay extra. We never ate lunch in Scandinavia
after eating breakfast about 9 AM.
thrifty travel tips
You can buy the ISIC card at an STA travel office in Europe for 10 Euros, I bought mine in Paris. I spent a month travelling and was asked to see it quite a few times to recieve the student rate. A cheap way to stay and travel like real Europeans is camping. We camped throughout western Europe- most facilities were very nice with showers and hot water, but sometimes you have to pay extra. We bought a little stove and cooked most of our dinners. It saved a lot of money, we bought fresh food at markets and grocery stores and ate very well. As vegetariens cooking our own food allowed more options. We did not have a car and only used public transportation, which was always available but challenging to figure out a few times. In Prague we rented an apartment for 22 Euros a night. It was very nice, large bed, shower, toilet, and kitchen. We also went to see a beautiful opera, La Traviatta, for a 100 czech kr. (under $4) by buying standing room. The shows are never sold out and we got to sit in good seats.
Marquette, MI USA 07/15/03
Travel bargains at thrift stores
A couple of years ago, I picked up a very nice, almost new Eagle Creek convertible carryon/backpack for a song at the local Audobon Society rummage sale. Today I went thrift store shopping and there was an almost new, this year's model, of the same convertible bag, priced at $5. In a similar vein, Nalgene bottles appear regularly, with an average price of 50 cents. (The squarish made-in-Austria water bottles are about the same, but the tiny fill top makes them less useful for traveling, I think). Why buy new and pay retail when a little time spent thrifting can produce such savings and support a charity? One tip if you donate things like travel gear; take off all baggage tags, make sure compartments are completely empty. The donor didn't and I now know far too much about him-including his name,address and SS#!!!
Tucson, Az USA 07/14/03
Digital Cameras and batteries
If you have the option of shutting off the LCD display on the back of your digital camera, do so. The LCD will eat through your batteries faster than you can imagine. I have a Canon Powershot A20 and if I use the LCD display, I get about half the battery life I do with it turned off. Moral of the story is, less money on batteries and having to carry less batteries is thrifty.
Beaverton, or USA 07/14/03
Train vs. Plane
It sounds crazy but if you need to get from one city to another, compare train prices to flight prices. On almost all of my transfers, the plane was a lot cheaper! Also, make sure that you are getting the regular menu and not the tourist menu. The prices are usually different. Some restaurants will put appetizers on the table before you order them. It's not like bread in America, which is free. If you decide to eat the appetizeres, you will see them on you bill, even the bread and butter. Ask for tap water instead of bottled water which can cost from 3 to 6 Euros. Buy wine at a supermarket instead of a wine shop. The same exact bottle will almost always be much cheaper. The same goes for coffee by the pound and cheese. Always ask for the student discount and never ever take your eyes off of the taxi meter!
Ridgefeild, CT USA 07/07/03
Sitting vs. Standing in Italy: The Cost
Just returned from a wonderful 12 day in stay in Italy. I would like to share a quickly learned lesson that I didn't see mentioned in the book. When you eat or drink at a cafe or bar, there can often be two different prices depending on whether you sit at a table or stand at the bar. For example, the bar across the street from our hotel in Florence charged $.95 Euros for a cappucino if you drank it standing at the bar and $3.00 Euro's if you wanted to sit at the table and drink. This appeared to be true at most well traveled areas, such as Siena, Rome and Florence. Traveling with three families, that at times numbered as many as 15, we quickly learned to appreciate the Italian art of standing at the counter for our morning coffee and croissant.
Pittsburgh, Pa USA 07/02/03
Pictures, cards, travel
Come to Europe with 4-5 small headshot pictures of yourself (I just got reprints of a picture and cut my head out). It's a lot cheaper than the 4 euros the automatic picture machines charge. These pictures can be used if you need to make ID cards to qualify for special discounts. Like the Paris Orange Metro card, many cities will sell a week or month long transportation pass. All you need is a picture for the card. This is a little dishonest, but beg, borrow or forge a student card if you're young and don't have your own. Students can often get into attractions at a 60% discount. I don't like cheating the system, but for a young person visiting Europe, it may be the only way that they could see the sights (10 euros is quite a hefty price to see a museum or church) I have gotten through Europe with only my Canadian university card. I have an ISIC card, but never had to use it. As long as your name, date and institution are on it, it should be accepted. Museums and the like are used to foreign students. Consider using local travel agencies in Europe to book side trips. Many agencies have deals with other countries and offer all-inclusive deals. They're worth checking out. In France, the student travel company is OTU (related to Travel Cuts) and has great deals for students.
Strasbourg, France 06/27/03
Great--and cheap!--digital camera
I bought a digital camera from Wal-Mart--Vivitar, 3.3 mgp--for just over $150. Best bargain! I took over 300 pictures on one card at the best resolution setting. I kept waiting for the thing to tell me I was running out of space. A camera shop in Oban, Scotland, saved my photos on a CDR for about 5 pounds as I forgot my cable and wasn't going to encounter a cyber cafe soon. My pictures were fantastic! One plus is that the camera takes AA batteries--easier to replace, but bring many of your own, because it really went through them, and they were expensive in the UK.
STL, MO USA 06/14/03
How I saved mulah
My partner and I just got back from a 2 week trip in Italy. A Nalgene waterbottle was handy and a big saver with all the public water fountains at hand. A big bottle of water can cost you 3 euros! yikes. Instead of packing our days with many sights in the big city, we'd limit our visit to one per day to spend more time to savor the museums. We stayed at Campogaio Santafortunata, a campsite in Sorrento for a couple of nights. A private cabin for 2 costs around 26 euros per night, comfortable and clean, and, the restaurant at the campsite is very yummy and cheap! We stayed 5 nights in Riomaggiore and cooked for 4 nights. We bought fresh groceries from the market for around 10 euros per dinner plus breakfast for both of us and just as good as the restaurants; I was quite elated that food from my hand could taste just as good as mama across the street. In Firenze, we bought food at a deli and wine in a grocery store, and had a picnic in the Boboli garden with a wonderful view. We were the 2 happiest campers there high on food and wine :) Then we'd splurge in local off the path restaurants not listed in any guidebooks. For the 2 of us for 2 weeks we spent less than 1900 euros, not including shoes and wine to take home :) We took our time to savor life on this trip and had lots of fun. It should not cost much to have comfort and wonderful experiences.
Seattle, WA USA 06/11/03
Here are a few ways we saved money on a three person trip from Rome to London, mainly on trains: Take a camelback or similar water system. Except for Rome and a few other places with fountains, it seems you're always looking for water. Eat at the pubs in London. We found a place near Leicester Square, just off the main drag, where they sold pub meals two for one. Pack a picnic for the train. Get your Euros at an ATM. Avoid airports, they always seem to be expensive. At the Gatwick Express ticket counter at the airport, you can get three round trips to Victoria Station for the price of 2. Don't eat on the main squares, unless you really crave the scenery. Usually there's a tourist cafe, very reasonable, just a block or two away. Many of the London Museums -- Brit Museum, National Gallery are free, Maritime Museum and Observatory in Greenwich are free. Use Rick's book to see where you can get in free an hour before closing. Buy point to point tickets in Italy rather than rail passes. In Germany, check for some great deals (21 E for all-weekend travel on regional trains for up to 5 people)
Grapevine, TX USA 06/08/03
Get a Museumkaart
Hope the next edition of Rick's otherwise-great book prominently mentions to get a Museumkaart in the Netherlands- for only 30 euros each, it gets you into many, many of the country's best museums for free for a year. I didn't discover its availability until after I'd already paid 7-9 euros each for the first 3 museums... I have 3 left if anyone wants to contact me. Also, I heartily recommend seeing Gent (not Antwerp, though) and staying in Gent at the Hotel Castel, www.hotelcastel.be. Lame breakfast but the quietest and cleanest hotel room we've ever been in.
New York, NY USA 06/01/03
Buying water from teenagers near monuments.
Am sure this has been offered previously, but: I would like to comment on Gail's buying water at monuments comment next below. My teenage son tells me he supplemented his pocket money on his first European solo trip, by watching the French teens rummage through the trash, recover the empty plastic water bottles, fill the bottles at water fountains, spigots, and even in fountains, and sell the water to the tourists for 1 Euro each. I believe you can counter this by removing the cap carefully from water offered, and making certain the bottle-cap seal is intact. Zorzanello Castro Valley, CA
Castro Valley, CA USA 05/29/03
While in Paris (and probably any Euro city with safe water), order a CARAFE of water with your meal instead of the expensive bottled water or other beverages. The waiter may be a little snooty but, hey, you've bought the sandwich! I purchased a sandwich for 5.50 euros at a little cafe bistro and then paid 6.00 euros for a glass of tea--INSTANT tea at that! It was tap water from then on! As for bottled water, kids hanging around the major monuments will sell water and soda for 1 euro each- a REAL BARGAIN!!!!
Almere, NL 05/28/03
ISIC cards are indeed a worthwhile investment. They more than pay for themselves when you purchase your plane ticket. Student travel agencies (like STA or Travelcuts) have phenomenal deals on air travel. At least in Canada, the fares at Travelcuts are subsidized by the Canadian government -- meaning you can't find cheaper! These student agencies will only allow you to purchase those fares if you have an ISIC. I find ISIC to be good for "just in case." As in just in case your regular ID is not accepted. Any savings I get above my plane fare I consider to be a bonus! I should also mention that they are cheaper in Canada (I believe $14 CND). BUT if you are a University of Toronto student and you purchase them at the UofT TravelCuts your ISIC is free!! Can't go wrong with free!!! In my experience at various TravelCuts in Canada the ISIC card is given to you on the spot. No need to worry about someone sending it to you -- as someone mentioned was the case with STA in the U.S!
Karen E. Penate
Toronto, ON Canada 05/28/03
Many cities offer "Welcome Cards" that include 3 days of transit with either free admissions or reductions in museums and other sites. We bought them in Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg and Prague. A word of advice: carefully check which places are included against your interests. We found that many places that we really wanted to go to weren't included, and there were a lot of places offered that were of little or no interest to us. In that case, you would be better just to buy a multiple day transit pass and buy individual admissions. This was especially true for us in Berlin and Hamburg. We got more use out of our Prague Pass and Amsterdam cards.
Seattle, WA USA 05/26/03
Early Summer Train travel in France
The SNCF is running a great promotion now just till the middle of july, and from my searching it seems if you travel during the week you can go really far distances for about half the price, also there is no age restriction on this. Just go to www.voyages-sncf.com and on the left hand size it has several links from paris to various places for 25 euro, go in through there and then search your own city combinations, where TGVs dont run CORAIL does and is 5 euro cheaper, mind the times though you have to investigate a whole day by 4 hour blocks to really see if there are tickets or not.
Lille, france 05/18/03
ATMs vs. exchanging dollars
I avoided the Heathrow exchange problem reported in the previous message with simple arithmetic. (I also warned the people standing in line and got dirty looks from within the booth as the victims walked away.) The booth sold pounds at $1.72 and bought at $1.51. Thus, the value of a pound should be the average of these values, $1.615. I wouldn't object to a fair profit for keeping the booth open, maybe a spread of 1% or 2%. No way am I gonna help these guys realize a spread of about 13% (From $1.72, subtract $1.51 and divide by the average of $1.615 = 13%). Why should I buy something for $1.72 or sell it for $1.51 if it is really worth $1.615? Sure enough, banks downtown sold pounds for $1.63. (but I was paying $1.615 at ATM's and even less with credit cards). Even if you are computationally challenged, it is not rocket science to notice that the difference between the Heathrow buy and sell rates is 21 cents for ONE POUND worth less than two bucks. If I were buying dollars for 90 cents and selling them back for $1.11, would you go for it? So why do it with another currency? Most incredible were two booths a few feet apart near Paddington Station. One sold pounds for $1.72, the other for $1.63, and both were busy!
La Crosse, WI USA 05/18/03
ATMs vs. exchanging dollars
I recently returned from my very first trip to the UK, and had a great time. Despite Rick's advice, I took a fair bit of cash with me to change, and did so at Heathrow. The going rate was $1.72 per pound, plus commission. I did start to use ATMs after that. They are certainly everywhere. I found on my return that the exchange rate for my ATM cash was near the "official" rate (about 1.60 per pound), plus I was charged no fees. Next trip, I will take some emergency cash (safely tucked away with cards, passport, train pass in the couldn't do without Rick Steves moneybelt), and head to the ATM shortly after arriving for the cash I need. Another money note, credit card purchases were also about the official exchange rate. Leave your dollars at home!
Bay City, TX USA 05/18/03
ISIC--Some bad advice
Sorry, but the ISIC card is one of the greatest rip-offs in the travel industry. Most places accept a US Student ID for discounts. There are no student discounts on German or Austrian railroads (with some LIMITED exceptions). Don't believe the hype.
PDX, OR USA 04/28/03
For all college students, get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This will get you discounts on tons of stuf! It costs $22, but if you are planning to see a lot of cultural events (ie, museums and theatrical events, etc) you are very apt to save the $22 and then some. The ISIC also saves you a bunch on train tickets in Germany and Austria. For more information, go to www.istc.org/ISIC_Card.asp. Have fun and happy travels!
Cincinnati, OH USA 04/16/03
If you are planning on touring in a rental car you better learn how to drive a manual transmission, otherwise you will pay double. It's really not that hard. Believe me if you need to get somewhere you will figure it out in thirty minutes tops. Plus, everything in the car will let you know when it is time to shift gears. However if this is the case I strongly reccomend starting in rural areas.
IL, USA 04/16/03
Cathedral of Saint Mark
I don't recommend this merely to save money and time, but my wife and I attended the early Mass at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice after which we toured the Cathedral just as the tourists were admitted. The Mass was wonderful!!
TX USA 04/14/03
St. Paul's Admission
Admission to St. Paul's cathedral in London is now included in the list of properties covered by the Great British Heritage Pass. This is a £6 savings for adults and £3 for children.
CO USA 04/10/03
Zig When the Rest of the Crowd Zags
Am I the only person that hates youth hostels? They're crowded, noisy, not very clean, and there always seems to be an overly amorous couple in the next bunk. They aren't exceptionally cheap,either.
I've always had much better luck going outside the major city into some nearby suburb and renting a room in a private home or finding an old guest-house. If you aren't picky about sharing a bathroom, you can easily match the price of a youth hostel, and if you find a roommate to split the costs, you can beat youth hostel prices almost every time. In the largest cities, I find a local discount motel chain (you can find out about them at highway rest stops). They aren't "charming," resembling a Motel 6 more than anything, but they're cheap as dirt, clean, safe and all I do at a hotel is sleep anyway.
I did the math and discovered that renting a car with a manual transmission would be far less expensive and far more liberating than a "second-class Eurailpass." If you can only drive an automatic, the situation changes radically, especially during high tourist season. But if you reserve the car in advance, speak the native tongue, and are willing to drive a stick, you can have the convenience of a car for less money than a crowded, smoky seat on a train. If you have more than two people, even a car with an automatic transmission is usually a better bet than rail passes.
I make jewelry, and beads are wonderful ice breakers when traveling. Before I go anywhere, I make a zillion cheap bracelets, and wear an armful every day, with the aim of giving them all away. I make more friends and find out so much about the way real people live than I ever would following a guided tour. It's also amazing how a few cents worth of beads and elastic thread can help find that "lost reservation," free up a bed in a local hotel, or help someone to understand my horrible French. (I speak several other languages quite well, but my French is at "survival level" at best.)
Although those teeny markets are charming, regular supermarkets usually have more choices and are far cheaper. Buy a cloth bag at the beginning of your trip (all the markets have them), and use it for all your shopping trips.
Remember in the cheap budget range, most lodgings are missing a couple of things that are standard in American motels: washcloths (carry your own in a Ziplock bag), most toiletries (I buy what I want in any discount store at my destination) and a decent reading light (a folding book light can be a lifesaver). A pair of flip-flop sandals from the dollar store prevents foot fungus when using a shared shower facility.
Rick always harps on traveling light, and I agree with him. My travel wardrobe is boring: black skirt/dress, black tee shirts and sweater, black non-wrinkling slacks. (Leave shorts at home - they're inappropriate.) When I arrive at my various destinations, I buy a couple of cheap scarves or necklaces to accessorize and liven up all that black. (The fact that black is great for hiding dirt is a bonus)
Try to visit off-season. The same shopkeeper who will snap if he sees another tourist in August will be your best friend in March. A Baroque church in a small village is often just as lovely as a famous one in a big city.
Don't follow the herd - make your own adventure.
You'll have a better time, save a ton of money and will see more of the
"real Europe" than the thousands of people who watch Europe go by as their
tour bus takes them from purchasing opportunity to purchasing opportunity.
Boston, MA USA 04/01/03
Museum cafes often have supersized sandwiches and enticing desserts, so I buy one of each and share them with my husband. This gives us two lunches for the price of one.
Minneapolis, MN USA 04/01/03
I phoned up the Picadilly Theatre to order tickets for "Ragtime," expecting to pay £42 (best seats) each. They told me I should buy an Upstage Pass for £18 and pay £23 for the same seats, so I did. It's good for the 11 Ambassador Theatres in London. Telephone 020 7369 1789. http://www.theambassadors.com
Cambridge, Cambs UK 03/30/03
Be prepared and save a bundle
Have the right stuff with you and do your homework.
1. I got a great hooded waterproof jacket with zillions of BIG zippered and velcroed pockets to hold maps, books, food, water, umbrella, juice boxes, etc., almost as much as an extra carry-on bag. I wore it on the airplane and everywhere I went, restocking the edibles and drinkables as needed. It was very convenient, and saved a bundle on restaurants.
2. Before you leave, learn about transportation passes, the locations and descriptions of attractions, and the transportation routes that serve them. For example, in London, buy a bus & Tube pass good for a week for 19.60 pounds. Use your pass, and your knowledge from doing your homework, for the following activities and savings:
2. a. Using your Tube pass will save you roughly $150 in cab rides or $40 in "Heathrow Express" fare round trip between airport and hotels in the West End near Hyde Park, more vs. hotels farther east.
2.b. Be your own tour guide up top in front of the double-decker buses, with lots of glass on three sides of you. A tour bus costs 16 pounds and tells you no more and takes you no place that you as a competent tourist cannot learn about on your own. Study Rick's book(s) and grab free bus/tube maps and city maps available everywhere (or buy or download something). At worst, you'll sorta know where you are if you get lost. People will help you get back. You'll soon catch on and it'll be a nice adventure. Search google.com for "London bus route map" to find what you need to add to Rick's London book. Currently, bus no. 15 goes from Paddington to Picadilly, Trafalgar Sq., etc., and connects to lots of other lines. At night, the neon Picadilly signs look especially impressive.
3. For a great freebie, try an early-evening stroll
on the public walkway along the south bank of the Thames, between Tower
Bridge and Parliament. All the famous attractions are wonderfully lit
and reflected in the river. This is a couple of miles, but if a sixtyish
geezer like me can do it, why can't you? However, don't stray into the
neighborhoods south of the river at night. This is a tip from a cabbie;
I didn't try it.
La Crosse, WI USA 03/30/03
If you are a Bank of America customer, there will be no fee for using Global ATM Alliance bank ATM to withdraw money, including BNP Paribas, Barclays...[editors note: Deutsche Bank 24, Scotiabank and Westpac are also in the Alliance]
Just came back from Paris. We bought the weekly Metro pass from
the automatic machine, no picture needed. [Editor's note: Although
the Carte Orange can now be purchased from the Automated machines without
a photo, you still need to have a special (free) ID card made at the ticket
window before use. ]
CA USA 03/25/03
Save on wine for dinner
If you enjoy the local wine, most towns in France and Italy sell wine from casks for extremely low prices. They dispense one or two liters into a plastic bottle you bring (or they'll provide one). We found the "Wine Depot" in St. Remy de Provence (France) and a similar store in Venice. If you need a glass bottle to complete the experience, this tip is not for you. But the locals use it to get an affordable carafe for the evening's dinner.
Re: money changing
There is nothing complicated or difficult about finding and using an ATM in Europe. They are everywhere. It is extremely rare that an ATM eats your card (people just post various scams to warn you--if something doesn't feel right, don't use the machine), or that your card would get demagnetized. If you and your spouse have one card each, you'll be fine. And you could always bring travelers checks in American $ as a back-up. That way, if you don't need them, you can redeposit them in your bank account and not worry about conversion fees. Many people never pay a fee when using an overseas ATM; none of my banks over the last 10 years has ever charged me. But if they do, it's usually a $1 or $2--much less that what you'd pay in conversion and cashing fees with travelers' checks.
I agree with you that travel time is extremely valuable. Using an ATM
takes minutes, and they are available 24 hours a day (many banks in Europe
are only open until early afternoon). At the same time, the majority of
places in Europe will not accept travelers' checks in any currency (other
than big restaurants/hotels/department stores, which most Rick Steves
travelers do not frequent). As you said, you need cash for taxis, local
merchants, etc. This means you'll have to spend a lot of time locating
an AMEX or Thomas Cook office to cash travelers' checks or pay extra at
a bank. ATMs are certainly not the only method, but it should be your
main method (with other methods as backup). I urge you to give it a try,
to save both time and money.
After posting below about obtaining foreign currency before leaving the U.S. and then seeing the editor's note, I read Rick's article about changing money in Europe. It was very informative. Now I'm not knocking the ATM system if that works for you, but the process he described seemed very complicated. I don't want to hassle with finding an ATM, having a spare backup card in case of demagnetization or ATM hunger (if a European ATM machine eats your card will you ever get it back?), worrying about minimums, maximums and number-only keypads etc. I've gotten travelers checks in British pounds sterling at Thomas Cook in my local mall with no fee (Rick says I'll pay a fee to use the foreign ATM). I also never stand in line at a UK bank to exchange them. Since they are already in pounds, I just spend them in stores and hotels like the natives. Of course I realize cash is also needed for smaller stores, rural areas, street vendors and small purchases. The ATM/debit card thing is fine but it's not the only method. For me, my time is just as valuable as money.
Funds for the trip
Save on exchange fees by obtaining foreign currency at home. This is especially convenient if your trip takes you to only one or two countries. Your local bank should be able to order foreign cash and travelers checks in most currencies (inquire well in advance of your departure) at a better exchange rate than currency exchanges at your destination. Plus it saves time on your trip - I'd rather be sightseeing than standing in line waiting to exchange money.
CA USA 03/06/03
[Editor's note: Rick recommends using ATMs in Europe to get local currency at the best possible exchange rate. For more advice about getting cash abroad, see his article on changing money.]
Can't say enough about Priceline. Used a site called biddingfortravel.com to gather information and snagged a 4 star London hotel Marriott County hall for $85 a night
new york, ny USA 03/03/03
Metro: Buy a carnet (packet of ten metro tickets); if you'll be in Paris for a week, buy the Carte D'Orange (you'll need a picture which can be taken at the major metro stations)
Museum Pass: Wait to buy it in Paris, otherwise it will be more expensive. You can purchase it at some of the bigger metro stations or at the museum itself. Also, know the days the museums you want to see will be open. For example Musee D'Orsay is closed Mondays, and the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. The Museum card does not cover special exhibits. My favorite places covered by the Museum Card: Musee D'Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Maison De Victor Hugo, and the Louvre.
Markets: Only shop at open-market stalls where they post the price. Get there early so the fresh produce isn't picked over.
From CDG Airport: The cheapest way to get to town is the RER B. The second cheapest is the Air France Bus which drops you off at a choice of three locations.
Free stuff: Picnic spots (Jardins Du Luxembourg, Jardins Des Tuiluries, any sidewalk bench).
Best sights: Notre Dame, view from the top of the
Samaritaine department store (one of the best views of Paris), free fashion
shows at some of the major department stores, sitting on the steps near
Sacre Coeur at dusk and enjoying the atmosphere, walking around and people
Joliet, IL USA 03/02/03
My tip comes from a long (for me) escorted tour I was on from Berlin, through Warsaw, Krakow, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. Though I got an excellent deal on the package, dinners included in it were infrequent and most nights we were left on our own to find dinner. Since I am not a food-oriented tourist (I'd rather sightsee), I packed lots of individually packaged granola bars, cheese crackers, peanut butter crackers, etc. into my carry-on bag. Every night that dinner was not included, I merely ate from my "stash." Since breakfast WAS included in the hotels, I made sure to "fill myself up" with mostly fruit and yogurt which actually held me until my "snack" dinners. I bet I saved hundreds of dollars, considering the price of foreign restaurants (some of them). I also profited from gaining more space in my bag for the non-packable souvenirs I bought. (I like to get keychains to add to my collection and ONE thing that is native to any area I'm visiting.)
OK USA 02/22/03
Museum pass and kids
One more thing about the Paris museum pass. Not only does it get you past the long lines, but children can come with you for free.
Save time when you lose your cards
Leaving your credit card numbers and contact numbers with a trusted family member or friend can save you time and telephone money. I accidentally discovered this when, though faithfully wearing my moneybelt in Europe last summer, things happen and I lost everything but my passport. (Fortunately, other family members with me had their own and it was not a financial hardship) After using valuable sightseeing and relaxing time, and getting so frustrated I was driving my family crazy when I found you couldn't use 800 numbers in Europe. Finally I called my Mom and she did the contacting for me. I was able to totally relax knowing the situation was in good hands.
Tallahassee, FL USA 02/16/03
Ten tips for going cheap
1. Buy your food from a supermarket. Do it for every meal. Buy a picnic and join the crowds in the park. Spoil yourself not by eating in a restaurant, but by buying nice food/wine.
2. Paris: The museum pass is a must-have.
3. Stay the night somewhere that serves breakfast. If you're a big guy like me, ask for seconds. Over the course of a 45 day trip, I was never refused.
4. Don't buy souvenirs. They weigh you down, take up space, and probably look tacky to all of your friends. Take pictures instead. If you have to, buy practical souveniers (e.g. a cooking implement).
5. Make local friends. They can advise you on good deals and are usually more than happy to feed you.
6. Set your standards low. When you're asleep, rooms look the same anyway. Pay enough for a room that lets you get to sleep, you can get to for a reasonable price (and has a kitchen if you need it).
7. Bring a clothesline (I'd advise bringing 2 if you get the kind Rick sells). Bring soap. I thought it would be a pain too, but doing your laundry in your room is effortless and saves you 5-10 euros.
8. Less Swiss. To save money, seriously consider how many days you're staying in Switzerland, especially in the Jungfrau region. It can get very expensive. The views are definitely worth seeing, but the Alps spill over into Austria too.
9. Don't cheat. (Or if you do, be really smart about it). Just when you think you can ride the bus for free, or avoid the conductor on a train, you will get caught. And a 60 euro fine is a lot more expensive than a 1 euro bus ticket.
10. Moneybelt! Your trip will be a heckuva lot
more expensive when your credit cards, ATM cards, and cash get lifted
on a Parisian subway or Roman bus.
Austin, TX USA 01/25/03
Reclaiming the VAT
After several trips to France, I have finally concluded that one never ever gets the Value added Tax back. No matter how carefully you fill out the paperwork, the French bureaucrats have a road block for you. So, freely buy whatever you wish and expect to just pay the tax. Once I realized this reality, my expectations fell into line, and I relaxed at the airport.
san rafael, ca USA 01/24/03
My wife and I have flown roundtrip from Germany to England and Ireland for a super cheap price using Ryanair. We paid 80 some euros for both of us for roundtrip, including taxes. Check out their website at www.ryanair.com. We have also flown roundtrip from Germany to Madrid, Spain using Germanwings. We paid 76 euros for roundtrip for both of us, including taxes. Check out their website at www.germanwings.com.
As expected with low fare airlines, they don't provide free drinks, snacks, and meals. However, they can be purchased onboard. You don't get a seat number. You pick where you want to sit when you get on the plane (some people rush into the plane to get the seat of their choice, but you don't have to, since everyone with a boarding pass will fly). All seats are same. They only have a certain percentage of seats at the lowest price. The earlier you book, the more you save.
I find Germanwings to be better because of ease of transportation from Germany. Their hub is based in Cologne, Germany. Since Germanwings is new, they don't have many flights yet, but the airports they fly into are major airports. Ryanair has been around longer and has a lot more routes than Germanwings, but the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is really out in the middle of nowhere. Some of their other airports may not be close to the city you think you are flying into. Check carefully when you research.
Schweinfurt, Germany 01/18/03
"Full Irish breakfast"
For any who don't know, a full Irish breakfast includes, at a minimum: coffee or tea, juice, fried tomatoes, eggs, bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, several kinds of bread, and cereals. (And Irish muesli is to die for!) After all this, lunch becomes of little more than academic interest! We saved a few euros by always staying in places that included breakfast in the price, and then going light - and cheap - on the midday meal.
IN USA 01/12/03
Travel Gear for Cheap
when i went to australia recently, i found they had great stuff at 'half price' because of the rate of exchange. try www.menda.com.au, it is a travel/backpacking gear website with some things we cant get here, and some that are the same but at nothing near the US price. they have a US$3 flat international shipping rate(!), so dont worry about postage. i got a sleeping bag from there the size of a coffee can, and it came with a free sleep sheet. i love it.