Your Thrifty Travel Tips: 2005
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.?
Morgan: check these pages for rail fares from Prague to other cities: railtrains.com, raileurope.com, or alleuroperail.com.
Click on "Fares and Schedules".
There are other pages which will give you bus fares also, but busses in E Europe are very slow.
RENO, NV USA Mon 12/26/2005
A friend and I are going to Prague for 10 days in mid March, we are on a tight budget (we are in College), and we are hoping for ideas of good hostels as well as cheap ways to travel from Prague to other places like Vienna or Krakow. What is the cheapest form of transportation, and how much does it cost to get to other cities? Thank you
Chicago, IL USA Tue 12/13/2005
My wife and I like the Guest Houses and Bed and Breakfast's. We'll find a local grocery store and purchase enough food for the ammount of time we are spending in the area. This saved us quite a bit of money in Italy and Germany the last time we were there.
Chicago, IL USA Wed 11/02/2005
apartment vs hotel room
We have saved a lot of money renting apartments in Florence, Paris and Vienna and having breakfast and a few other meals at "home". However, I love to shop and cook regionally. We have our main meal out at lunch when the more upscale restaurants offer smaller portions and greater savings. It's also great to have more room to spread out in. Our lovely apartment in Florence was E600 for a week and E400 in Vienna. If you have 3 or 4 people that can put you way ahead!
Springfield, va USA Wed 10/26/2005
How to save while driving around Europe
Two of us traveled from Amsterdam to Monte Carlo and back to the Netherlands throught the Alps over a two week period this past September. We spent about $2500, including rental car and gas and stayed in nice two or three star hotels every night. Here are the secrets to not spending money. Shop for cheap hotels in each city before you leave. Even if you don't reserve a room, you know where the cheapest hotels are at. Carry a list with addresses and map printouts with you. Stay outside of a city if possible, these hotels are the cheapest and many times cleanest. Many are also not on the internet. As far as breakfast and lunch, shop at the local groceries. They are always close by, just ask a local. We had our coffee and pastries in France for about 2.50 Euro each. Great dinners ranged from 10-20 Euro. The best and cheapest 5 course meals in France can be found in the middle of nowhere in a little 2 star country hotel. Skipping a full dinner every few nights helped save as well. Fast food or sandwiches proved to be a big money saver. Plan to stay in an area for 2 days or more minimum, this saves on gas which ran us about 45 Euro for each full day of driving. Travel on toll roads if you need to make time, plus it saves alot on gas mileage. Our car and fuel costs equaled two Eurail passes for the same time period. If there are two or more of you rent a car. This also allowed us to see the REAL Europe and avoid expensive city centers for food and lodging. Most European drivers are far safer and aware than most of us Americans. Just follow their habits. Last but not least... splurge on the things you really want to do. We blew 120 Euro for the gondola ride from Chamonix across the glacier to Italy. It was well worth it. These are once in a lifetime experiences for many American travelers.
Cary, NC, NC USA Tue 10/11/2005
Stay out of the Farmacia
Avoid the pharmacies if you can. Bring these goods with you or purchase at chains and supermarkets, malls, flea markets etc. The pharmacy is like a high priced Doctor's office.
Verona, NJ USA Tue 10/04/2005
I saved a lot of money by buying all my food from stands or making sandwiches from grocery stores. Food at restaurants were at the very least double from what I spent, and I never went hungry from it. For breakfast I always go to a bakery and buy enough for a snack later on in the day.
The number one money saver tip I have is to buy a very sturdy water bottle (I bought mine at Target) and fill up whenever you can. It was quite hot in Italy and we were always thirsty. The water saved us a ton of money. I also bought those new "crystal light on the go" (lipton also has something similar now) which is a little tube of powder that you dump in your bottle and shake up. Whenver I needed something w/ a little flavor I put one of those in, tasted great, in fact it made warm water taste yummy!
USA Fri 09/16/2005
Budget Hotel in Paris
One way to find budget hotels is to walk around in the different areas and look for neighborhood hotels. Another way is to look for tips here on the Graffiti Wall. I found the name of the Eden Hotel at 110 Blomet, 75015 Paris, here. Their phone is 01-48-28-13-95. (There is at least one other hotel in Paris with the same name.) It is family-run and very French, a little English is spoken by the manager. The people staying there seemed to be business people. My large double room with bathroom (shower and toilet) was up 2-3 flights of stairs. Decor was a little odd, but all was clean and comfortable. Breakfast was 5 Eu, as I recall, and I paid 35 Eu per night for the room. I had a window over the street and enjoyed looking out at the passing scene.
USA Wed 09/07/2005
To Swan-cheap b&b in Paris
Swan-What's the name of that hotel in Paris you stayed at that was 36 euros last year? Thanks!
USA Tue 09/06/2005
Cheap phone cards
If you are going on a longer trip to Europe and expect to be calling home from time to time, I strongly recommend that you check out www.nobelcom.com. I used their Worldwide phone card religiously while traveling across Europe for 2 months. The cost per minute changes depending on which contry you are in, but is generally 5-10 cents per minute.
Minnesota USA Mon 09/05/2005
There is a fundamental difference in philosophy here. As a single traveler in my mid-20s, my primary interest in traveling anywhere is going to clubs, drinking, and meeting girls. So yes, the price of a drink in any given location is a significant factor in determining the appeal of that place to me. When I travel, I stay in hostels, meet other young travelers, and head out for a night out on the town. Given my limited budget, I can have a better time doing that in Eastern Europe, where a drink costs a couple of bucks, the hostels are much cheaper, and the people (particularly girls) seem more friendly to Americans. I can also eat a delicious meal somewhere in Budapest for about $15 - the kind of meal that would cost $60+ in Paris. If I take a girl out in Budapest, I can spend $40-$50 and show her a good time. If I do that in Paris (not that I've even tried, since it's so expensive), it would probably cost no less than $200 for a dinner and drinks afterward, not to mention a show, for which I would probably have to mortgage everything I own. If I was married, or if I didn't drink or go out to clubs at night, I would probably embrace your perspective. Until then, I will continue to prefer Eastern Europe.
USA Sun 09/04/2005
swan, these are all good ideas. one way around the coffee/tea thing is to buy a cheap electric emersion heater that allows you to boil water in your room. you can make the coffee yourself. i also think that the person that paid all the money for a shot of JD was probabally not really thinking...did he bother to ask how much a shot would be? personally, europe can be very cheap if you do it that way. i was in europe 4 weeks last year and spent $2200 including air fares (SFO->rome then ryanair milan->paris and paris ->sfo) the best rule for money is this: spend when you have to, save when you can.
san francisco, USA Thu 09/01/2005
I agree about eating from grocerey stores and bakeries. My wife and I always buy our breakfast (fruit, cheese and pastry or bread) at the nearest shop.
For lunch we find a supermarket nearby and buy lunch meat and rolls. Sometimes cheese again and fruit again.
We spend our big bucks on dinner at a nice restaurant. We always shop for that meal by reading the menu posted at the front door of every restaurant.
We can decide what we want to order and how much it will cost before we go inside. Often we buy a big meal and split it.
FRESNO, USA Thu 09/01/2005
Paris can be done on a budget. Eat less and do your eating from grocery stores and bakeries. Wine is cheap by the bottle, as little as 2 euro for 4-5 glasses. Drink it in your room or other place at your lodging. Transportation is less expensive if you buy a pass for a week or month. Lodging can be more reasonable if you shop around, compare listings in travel books, and be willing to locate in a neighborhood away from tourism. (I stayed in a small family-run hotel for about 36 euro per night last year, two minutes from the metro and close to stores; It was walking distance to the rue Cler area and the Eiffel Tower.) If I decide to stay for a month next year, I will look for a long-term rental at 900-100 euro per month. The French rail system has lower rates for non rush-hour travel, so traveling outside the City need not be too expensive. Paris is the most walker-friendly big city that I know of. Walking is free--just be sure you have good shoes. English language newspapers and magazines are expensive. So I guess I could save money if I learned to read French and bought the much less expensive French papers. Coffee is expensive to buy by-the-cup. I could decrease my reliance on caffeine or find a way to make my own coffee. I'd like to read money-saving suggestions for Paris from other readers of the Graffiti Wall.
USA Thu 09/01/2005
I visit and stay in Paris for several months at a time and don't need a large amount of money to do it. I save a huge amount without even trying simply because I don't drink soda pop or alcohol of any kind. I don't like pop and it is so unhealthy with "empty" calories full of sugar (and it really doesn't quench thirst). I'm allergic to alcohol and so do not worry about having wine or a drink. I see nothing wrong with enjoying a drink or a glass of wine, however; to me, if having a "good time" revolves around a shot of Jack Daniels, stay home. That way you aren't inflicting yourself on others. Besides, if that is how you choose to spend your money, don't complain about the prices!
Winter Haven, FL USA Wed 08/31/2005
Here is my number one money-saving tip: stay out of Paris. 7 Euro for a large coke, and 10 Euro for a shot of Jack Daniels is normal over there. I am single and in my mid-20s, and I had a much better time in Eastern Europe and Spain. I do not think I am coming back to France until I make senior partner or inherit a mid-size oil fortune.
USA Tue 08/23/2005
I recommend studying the language you are going to encounter at a local Community College. You will get to learn the local language and your college id will entitle you to some discounts. I always take my id and frequently have discounted admissions prices (or even free!)
The cost of tuition usually pays for itself.
San Francisco, ca USA Thu 08/18/2005
AAA discount for London Pass
If you're a AAA member and are planning to get a London Pass...you'll get a 10% discount. Check it out -- there is a code available for online checkout.
Of course, I checked a few weeks ago, didn't see one, and then bought a London Pass WITHOUT the discount ;-)
Hopefully, I can save you some $$
Columbus, OH USA Mon 08/15/2005
GOOD ADVICE ON CRUISING PORT STOPS
I read the following advice on booking port tours from cruis ships. I have known this for years, but some of you may not be aware of this method of saving dollars while on tour.
"The essential homework for any cruiser is to find out as much as you can about the ports you'll be visiting. Specifically, you need to study up on the culture, sightseeing attractions, shopping opportunities, and local transportation options.
Doing your homework before you leave will not only increase your enjoyment of each port, it will also decrease your chance of wasting time and being gouged.
I have two specific recommendations. First, avoid the cruise line's shore excursions. Your cruise line will almost surely pitch its own shore excursions for each port-in fact, many cruise lines now try to presell them as part of the cruise package.
Unfortunately, in my experience, many of these shore excursions suffer from two key problems: They're usually overpriced compared with what you can buy on your own, and they usually waste too much time in assembling and herding tour members around, especially with overly long stops at souvenir stores that give kickbacks to the cruise line or sightseeing company.
Instead, where possible, arrange your own shore excursions. Your options might include signing up for a local sightseeing tour after you hit land (for less then the cruise line charges), hiring a local cabdriver to take you around the area, renting a car for a day, using local public transportation, or just walking.
Your choice depends on where you are and what your interests are. On a Mediterranean cruise, for example, most ports enjoy easy access to local public transport.
In the Caribbean, a taxi tour is probably a better bet. In Juneau or Anchorage, think of a rental car first.
Obviously, some options work best for groups of two or more: Four is the ideal number for a rental car, three for a taxi tour (four total with three in the back seat of a car is very unpleasant for more than a few minutes).
Given the cost of shore excursions, pooling what three or four people would otherwise spend will provide significant funding for other, more efficient options.
My second big recommendation is to ignore the port lecturers' shopping recommendations. There's a good chance that any port lecturer's shopping recommendation is a paid commercial announcement rather than good-faith consumer advice."
Read Ed Perkin's entire column at: smartertravel.com/advice/edsenior/advice.php?id=9080
C C DAFA
DALLAS, USA Sat 08/13/2005
Free phone minutes for use in France
I think I have free minutes left on a French phone card. You're welcome to them as long as they last! Dial 30 89 (free). Enter 363 347 01 628, then press #. Enter the number you want to call (with country code) and then press # again. Hope it works!
Oak Park, IL USA Wed 08/10/2005
Saving on Food
With a car you can shop at the local Co-Op and get great food, cases of water etc. at a great price. Great pesto in Tuscany, wonderful cheeses in England and France etc. We generally stay several nights in one spot and get a place with a small kitchen but we've had many a great bedspread picnic in hotel rooms with food from the Co-Op. This is especially useful for a healthy breakfast and a light dinner in. Just take the food in quietly and dispose of it in a streetside trashcan.
San Diego, CA USA Mon 08/08/2005
Saving on Food
I shop at a grocery store for large bottles of soft drinks, packaged cereal, yogurt and cheese. At the produce market I buy whatever appeals, usually fruit. If I have an in-room refrigerator all the better. Some hotels have ice machines so it is possible to make my own iced soft drinks. Sometimes I buy a bottle of wine to have in my room. This stuff is for picnic supplies &/or breakfasts/lunches in my room. I travel in Europe for 1-2 months at a time and could not afford to eat out all the time. I think I get better nutrition this way, too. BTW if my hotel says not to eat in the room, I carry the stuff in without being obvious and toss my trash in the bins on the street so the maid doesn't have to clean up after me.
USA Fri 08/05/2005
Save $ in Europe.
A great way to save money when traveling, bring lots of snacks, such as peanuts, patatoe chips, anything that wont melt or go bad after a day or two. This way you wont have to go into a shop and pay 2 Euro for a candy bar.Vut sometimes its fun to try out some of the European chocolate, but so often. Every day before I explore Europe, I fill a water bottel in the hotel room or at a water fountain, you can save lots of money doing this. Another way to save is only buy souveneirs you can fit in your suitcase, dont buy a 80 Euro lamp and pay 50 Euro to ship it. To me, its not worth it. But thats just me.
Tacoma, WA USA Wed 08/03/2005
Saving $$ Using Different Web Browsers
After researching for literally 4 months on our own for the best consolidator fares & hotels in Amsterdam for a 10 day September/October trip, we gave up!! It seemed that if the airfare was cheap enough, the added on taxes would always come to around $300, exactly what the airlines are charging for their regular fares, even before adding on the cost of a decent B&B or hotel .. .. We finally decided to go with a package. I did all my searching using Internet Explorer. We found a package we could live with on Expedia for a total of $2,500, which included round trip airfare from PHL to AMS, 9 days in a 4 star hotel (not in Amsterdam proper, as there is no parking & we need a car to visit family & friends) and we are well past the age of enjoying hostels & 2 stars anymore & already been there/done that) breakfast included, & an unlimited mileage rental car. Just for the heck of it my husband decided to do a search using the Mozilla web browser. He found the exact same package on Expedia for a total of $2,100, all taxes included. We booked the package using the Mozilla web browser and just saved $400. That's about $1,050 per person, round trip airfare, decent hotel, saving $$ on breakfast & the car. We think we got a decent deal. It's definitely worth a try using Mozilla.
DE USA Mon 08/01/2005
Saving money using non-USA websites
In planning our upcoming trip to Europe, we have found that using European travel sites gets us much better rates on the same hotel and the very same air flight. An example is a planned flight from Edinburgh, Scotland to Amsterdam. Via US travel sites, the least expensive was 637 USD per person and the SAME flight using the UK/Ireland Yahoo travel was approx. 450 USD for the TWO of us. Something to consider.
Chicago, IL USA Tue 07/12/2005
Savings for AAA members
Hi - I was researching for my upcoming trip to London and I found some interesting deals for AAA members.
Tower of London - 50% off 2nd adult ticket Hampton Court Palace - 50% off 2nd adult ticket Kensington Palace -50% off 2nd adult ticket Vinopolis - 2 admitted for price of 1
Also discounts for different restaurants (Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood, Navajo Joes, Maxwell's, Palm Court, Stickey Fingers) and tours (London City Pass, Premium, Grey Line)...
Check it out!
Columbus, OH USA Tue 07/12/2005
I copied this from their last travel letter: Look before you buy: Our perennial advice, whether you're booking airfare, accommodations, or car rentals, is to shop around. The airlines and the major online travel agencies have launched price guarantees and new promotions to encourage travelers to book without comparing prices-the opposite of what you should do. ~~~~
Use a price-compare website like BookingBuddy.com, a sister site to SmarterTravel.com, to compare prices on airfare, hotels, vacations, or cars. ~~~~
Don't procrastinate: If you have your heart set on a specific destination during a specific week or two, it's important to book early. All spring, we've recommended booking at least three weeks in advance, and as summer approaches, we still offer the same advice. ~~~~
You can sometimes get a great last-minute airfare or vacation package, but if you've made up your mind about when and where to go, book ahead or risk disappointment.
Stay flexible: That being said, if you stay flexible with dates and even destinations, you can often save more. Sometimes flying on a Wednesday instead of a Friday will save you hundreds of dollars. Or, if you know you want to go to the Caribbean, you might be able to save by heading to Jamaica instead of Anguilla. ~~~~~
Remember to consider all of your options-dates, timing of your flight, different hotel properties-before you book. ~~~~
Avoid holidays: The summer holidays-Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day-are very popular times to travel. So, if you're looking for savings this summer, avoid the holidays. ~~~~
Traveling a week before or after can be a money-saving strategy. If you must travel around the holidays, read our tips for saving on accommodations over holiday weekends.~~~~~
Stay stateside: Hotwire's consumer travel expert Amy Bohutinsky suggests staying domestic this summer. She notes, "Bottom line-if price is your priority, this is not the year to head to Europe, where the dollar will get you much less than it used to." ~~~~
Bohutinsky recommends visiting cities such as Miami and Las Vegas, both of which were recently recommended by SmarterTravel.com editors, and notes that Canada can also be a good bargain. ~~~~
Do your homework: USAToday.com columnist Ben Mutzabaugh recommends that travelers check prices often, as much as once a day before booking. ~~~~
Checking often will give you a good average price to look for, and if the price drops due to a fare sale or even a mistake by the airline, you'll know to grab it right away. ~~~~
However, Mutzabaugh also cautions against working too hard to save a small amount. He says "don't hold out if you're only hoping to save another $25 or so. ~~~~
True, the fare could drop by that amount...or it could go up by $100 or more if the cheapest fares sell out." Be smart by doing prep work before booking, but don't gamble a low fare away.
DALLAS, USA Fri 07/08/2005
Book hotel or wait for Euro to fall
Denise, If you are going to book ahead I would book now. Even though the Euro has fallen, hotels probably won't be changing their prices, and if they do, they will be increasing the price, not decreasing. If you book a hotel today for 100 Euro it will still be 100 Euro when you get there. What you need to be concerned about is the exchange rate the day you actually withraw the money from the ATM, or use your credit card. That will determine if you end up paying $110, 115, 120...for the room.
USA Thu 07/07/2005
Convenient Inexpensive Hotel London
The English hotel chain Travel Inn has a wonderfully located hotel next to the London Eye. It's on the back side of the 5 star Marriot. As they cater to British business travelers, it's inexpensive and well run. We stayed for a week and found it easy to get to widely separated parts of London as there are a number of bridges that come close to that area of the Southbank and fan out on the other side. Don't expect any tourist handholding but the rooms were nice and well furnished with decent bathrooms.
Sterling, VA USA Tue 07/05/2005
If you are in Stockholm this summer (2005) there is free entrance to many museums. Consider carefully before buying the Stockholm card. The Stockholm Card brochure that I got at our hotel did not make it clear that approx. 20 museums are free this year and the Stockholm card is NOT NEEDED! I do not think the Stockholm Card is a good bargain! For example, entrance to the Nordic Museum is free without the Stockholm Card
Edgewood, WA USA Mon 07/04/2005
Have Cash in Hand!
As Rick mentions, not too many places will accept a credit card or debit card to pay for purchases if the total bill is less than 20 or 25 Euros. So make sure that you have some cash in hand.
Orlando, FL USA Wed 06/29/2005
Long distance phone cards
I bought an MCI International phone card at Costco for $30 and have been using it to call the UK and Ireland to make plans for my trip in 2 weeks. The rate is $.06/min to the UK and $.08/min to Ireland. You have to call MCI (800-325-0334) to find out the toll free number to call while in the country you're visiting and the rate to call the US from there. The UK to US is $.14/min and Ireland to US is $.25/min. I'm not sure if that's more than if I bought a card there, but the cheap planning calls are fabulous!
Shoreline, WA USA Wed 06/22/2005
I just bought my water at the local supermarket for dirt cheap...like all the other Romans. I don't do street vendors for food or drink.
Knoxville, TN USA Fri 06/17/2005
Tim, The free water I mentioned IS "clean" water! Like I said, we drank it all over Rome... AND it was some of the coldest water we had in all of Italy! Free!
But, if you like throwing a few more euros away there are certainly tons of vendors who are happy to sell the Americans a bottle of waterfor 2-4 euros....(not that you know where their water comes from)
When in Rome...!
Austin, Tx USA Thu 06/16/2005
I saw many of those "free" water fountains and I would just as soon spend a couple of euros and buy a clean bottle of water.
Knoxville, TN USA Tue 06/14/2005
Remember The english breakfast is not included at many hotels and is worth lots in convienece and cost so when comparing costs check the fine print
Bellevue, USA Tue 06/14/2005
Free water in Rome
To avoid buying water bottles over and over while sightseeing in Rome, look for the wonderful free water spouts all over the city and at the many fountains and fill up your water bottle with fresh, cold water for free!
Austin, Tx USA Thu 06/02/2005
FINDING DISCOUNT AIR FARES
I have read so many suggestions about finding discount air fares to Europe that I was impressed with a note I read recently. It said that inventory control managers for the air lines always put extra seats on sale at midnight on certain nights of the week. No way to know which night for each line, but always calling first thing after midnight of each line pays off.
TX USA Mon 05/30/2005
London Visitor Travelcard
Make sure if you buy a London Visitor Travelcard prior to going to Europe that you have received the correct item. Three years ago I bought two cards online, one 7 day and one 3 day, and did not discover until I was on a bus that they had sent me the wrong one! It should say on it Visitor - mine didn't, and since I didn't have their photo ID, I had to pay ?1 to stay on the bus. I was furious, and repeated e-mails to the company were ignored. I tried calling a number that came with the cards but there was never an answer. The cards came from a seller in Ireland. I still used the cards and just prayed that no one would ask to look at them for the rest of the trip, as this was only my 4th day in town.
MD USA Sun 05/29/2005
Since I am a woman of more than a "certain age", I am not easy with the intricacies of the internet, but I like to use it. I find a small internet access so I can ask for help easily. In Granada, Spain the Locutorio Olympia was one that fit my needs.
Mary Ann Gonzales
Seattle, WA USA Sun 05/22/2005
Point-to-point train tickets-buy in Europe
It may be cheaper to purchase point-to-point train tickets in Europe. E.G. Last month, we traveled from Brugge to Lille & purchased tickets at the station for 13.80euros ($17.98). Buying ahead of time via RailEurope would have cost us $36.00.
Seattle, WA USA Wed 05/11/2005
London by Tube or Bus!
Remember that the London Travelcards for the Tube are also valid on buses. The London bus system seems intimidating, but if you look closely at bus stop signs, you'll see that they list all of the upcoming stops for all of the lines that stop at that point. If you have a good map, you'll be able to figure out easily which bus goes where you need to go.
CA USA Mon 05/09/2005
Finding budget airfares in Europe
Everybody knows about Ryanair by now, but there are dozens of other budget airlines (also known as LCCs or Low Cost Carriers) in Europe. This site gives you a quick and easy way to find out which budget airline links the cities you are looking for, and will then link you directly to that airline. It has worked well for me. Hope it does for you too! http://www.whichbudget.com/
OH USA Tue 05/03/2005
I spent a good while travelling latin america and made money out of it by starting an import/export business (the legal kind, rather than coke dealing). It was fun and rewarding, and I'm sad that I'm probably going to have to try to sell the business and move back to the UK after the old "unforseen events".Rupert, RG@iqueno.com
Lima at the moment, Lima Peru Wed 04/27/2005
Rent a Cell
A lot of American cells won't work in Europe and even if you have a dual or triband phone roaming charges are horrendus. Found a website where they rent you the phones or sell you one with prepaid cards. Prices seem reasonable and will be using it when we go to Austria in June. If you can't live without a phone check www.CellularAbroad.com
Tucson, AZ USA Sun 04/17/2005
Just got back from three weeks in central Europe. There's about a Euro and a half left on a telephone card I picked up in Belgium.
If anyone wants to use it dial 0800-45675-078-155675 from a pay phone in Europe and type in this code: 171 635 774 652
USA Tue 04/05/2005
Cheap Phone Calls
Greetings,I just recently returned from Eastern Europe, including a month in Prague, and discovered Voice over Internet Protocol phones in most of the Internet caffes. Due to human error (i.e forgotten mobile on top of a payphone in a German train station), I was without a cell phone for the majority of my trip. For example, in Prague, internet caffes would charge anywhere from 4.5Kc (exchange rate: 25Kc to the Dollar) to 15Kc per minute to call the U.S. Not quite as convienient as a mobile, but certainly more economical.
Edmonds, WA USA Tue 03/29/2005
I just returned from five-week ( winter) visit to Italy.
In the last R.S. guide I read, Travellers cheques were still being recommended. I found them to be completely impractical, and, in the end , relied on ATMs which, fortunately, seem to be on every street corner and mainly functional, or used credit cards, which were left with a credit balance prior to my departure .
The banks we encountered asked for 7 Euro per cheque, i.e. not per transaction, for the privilege of exchange. Stores either refused them or said they would have to charge extra,..for an item clearly marked with price! and although I had read that Post Offices would take them, the one time I tried met with refusal. True, that was in a small village and the employee was not a 'regular', but still,...
We were able to pay a couple of hotel bills with the cheques, but were unable to cash extras there, as the staff claimed they did not keep enough money on hand.
I read that Thomas Cook offices would cash the cheques without charge, but could not find an office, anywhere in Firenze or the Val d'Orcia area.
This leaves me hoping my bank back home will convert them back to Canadian $$$ without commission! And next time, I'll take just cash and cards.
Also would recommend having some Euro coins,..rest rooms, toll charges, postcards and stamps, cappucino,..lots of places where large bills are unwelcome!
Apart from that,..a great time, and great country to visit!!!
Summerland, B.C. Canada Tue 03/22/2005
European City Cards
Just stumbled across something called a City Card. They look like they might be a good deal. The Viena one is E 6.95 and good for 72 hours. Free transportation and discounts. Looks like most cities have one. Web site:http://www.europeancitycards.com
Portland, Or USA Tue 03/22/2005
Park & Ride
If you feel the need to drive in UK can I suggest just one thing when visiting major towns and cities?Avoid the nightmare that is the traffic, one way systems, jams, and finding parking and head straight for the following:PARK AND RIDE (Many UK towns and cities operate them and they are usually well signposted on approach to the city/town)Usually located a few miles from the centre these very large parking areas come complete with regular return bus services and a parking space at a fraction of the cost of inner city parking: Examples: Chester ?1.30 return on the bus for adults..Children free.. (run every 10 mins and drop off/ pick up at city centre) This charge INCLUDES FREE parking all day at the large parking area. Otherwise expect to pay about ?5+ approx for 4 hours parking in Chester City Centre if you don't take up the offer of P&R!I have made good use of these at Southport,Birmingham, Oxford, Brighton, York, Shrewsbury and Chester and saved literally ????'sHave Fun!
Liverpool UK, UK Sat 03/19/2005
Inexpensive UK Mobile service
Rick mentioned on the KCTS EBTBD Marathon this week how to save dinero on phone service in Yurp, recommending a T-Mobile phone. I found a great way to save $$ & have cell/mobile service: I had real issues w/T-Mobile & had a GRM compatible phone(Nokia 3390) hanging around that I was never going to use again in this life. I talked to a person at T-Mobile who said I neeedn't have the phone unlocked if I used T-Mobile in the UK. I bought an identical phone on Ebay for my travelling companion, & on EbayUK bought 2 Sim Cards, which included 2 10.00GBP topup cards, for 15.00GBP for the 2. When the Sim Cards got to the US, I installed the Sim Cards in the phones, which immediately became active, along with 2 UK phone/voicemail #'s. I entered all my contact numbers into the directories on the phones, & I mailed copies of the top-up cards to a pal in London, who used them to top-up both phone #'s before we got to the UK. When we walked into the Meeting Place at Heathrow, we turned on our phones, there was a greeting tone, & voila! Instant service! It was great calling my friend to tell him we were in London, & doing Rick's thing of ringing home while Big Ben is tolling is a snap. Don't forget that in the UK, headset use while driving isn't just a good idea, it's the law.
Anacortes, Wa USA Sat 03/19/2005
A good way to travel around central London is a day pass. For just under 5 pounds you have unlimited use of the tubes as well the bus. They can be purchased at the ticket counter at the underground station. You have the flexibility to move quickly (underground) or enjoy the sights while riding the top of a double decker. We used ours so much that the magnetic strip wore off. We took it back to the ticket counter and they replaced it with no problem.
Amityville, NY USA Tue 03/15/2005
ECONOMY TRAVEL IN ENGLAND
I copied this from virtualtourist.com.Note the last sentence about ATMs:Everybody?s needs, requirements, tastes and standards are different. These budget guides are what I think is fairly reasonable for any visitor arriving in 2005. If you stay in downtown London or any major city you will pay more. If you base yourself just outside major cities and tourist areas your costs will be considerably less. England is an expensive place to visit. The minimum expenses, if you're camping, or hostelling, using public transport, buying picnic food and eating in pubs, supermarkets and caf?s, would be in the region of ?40?50 a day. Couples staying at budget B&Bs, eating at modest restaurants and visiting a fair number of tourist attractions are looking at around ?70?80 each per day, and if you're renting a car, staying in B&Bs or moderate hotels and eating well, plan on at least ?100 each per day. Single rooms may be hard to find because some hoteliers regard them as unprofitable. They tend to be smaller and less well equipped or attractively sited than larger rooms. This is something I don?t agree with however, single travellers should plan on spending around 75 percent of what a couple would spend; they generally cost more than half a double. Credit cards are very handy as a backup source of funds, and can be used either in ATMs or over the counter. Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club are accepted in most hotels, shops and restaurants in England. They're less useful in some rural areas. Smaller shops and some B&Bs will often accept cash only. You may also be able to make withdrawals, in larger cities, using your debit card. Your bank's international department should be able to advise on this. Make sure you have a personal identification number (PIN) that's designed to work overseas. The big thing here is to punch your own PIN number into a machine for your purchases You'll find ATMs at most large supermarkets, train stations, motorway service areas, some petrol (gas) stations and even in some pubs and shops.
CHICAGO, USA Sun 03/13/2005
Glendalough from Dublin
Instead of paying the 40euro for a bus tour from Dublin to Glandalough, take the DART south to Bray, walk into town and go to McDonalds/former town hall. A bus operated by St. Kevin's bus service picks up at 12:10 and travels directly to Glendelough. It will cost about 3.50 euro for the train and 12.50 euro for the bus, all round trip. Bus departs Glendelough for Bray at 4:30pm; plenty of time to walk, take pictures, have lunch and a pint and reboard.
Chicago, IL USA Fri 03/04/2005
In Paris, Take the Bateaux Bus
Rather than go to the Eiffel Tour, we did go to the Montparnasse Tour and it was cheaper, no lines and we could see the Eiffel Tour. But the best deal was the Bateau Bus. Docks at all of the most toured areas of Paris and instead of taking the expensive Bateau Mouches we got to see Paris from the Seine. We did this for two days and really enjoyed it. We paid about 10 euros for the day but do be aware that it doesn't dock from November until March.
Carmel, CA USA Thu 02/24/2005
Traveling in England
A few tips based on my year studying in England:Getting here: The best website I have found for cheap airfare is www.airlineconsolidator.com. I found round-trip tickets from Minneapolis to London for less than $400. You gotta book pretty far in advance, but you CAN get a great deal. Exchanging money: Do NOT exchange at the airport!!! Ask around and find out where a post office is. You can exchange money at any post office branch with NO commission charge. Watch out for places that *claim* to charge no commission...most of them just give you a really crappy exchange rate and pocket the difference. The post offices are the only truly commission free money exchanges.Getting around: If you are planning on traveling around the country, take a look at www.nationalexpress.com. I go back and forth between Birmingham and London regularly for under ?5. Their busses are more comfortable than most trains I have been on, some even have leather seats!! Also, there is no official national railway in England, so check out www.chilternrailways.co.uk for train info. If you are staying in London, you will fall in love with The Tube. You can get pretty much anywhere in London in no more than 20 minutes. Check out www.thetube.com for weekly tube passes (you can't buy these once you get here, must be advance ordered). Almost all tourist attractions are within zones 1 and 2, so keep that in mind when deciding which pass to purchase.Miscellaneous: Pack lunches. It's amazing how fast little expenditures can add up, especiallly when you have to double everything to account for the heinous exchange rate right now! Also, bring along a refillable water bottle because there are about 4 drinking fountains in the entire country. If you see a "Poundland" (equivalent of an American "Dollar Store) this is a good place to stock up on England's own delicious Cadbury's chocolate! Order tap water in restaurants. You don't get free refills on sodas, so the ?2-3 you will spend on one soft drink is not worth it.That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but feel free to email me with questions, I love to help fellow travelers!!
Birmingham, UK Thu 02/24/2005
For ML in Sunnyvale
What a nice offer! I'm gonna be heading to Europe in about two and a half weeks so I imagine your cards will be used up by then, but what a great idea yours it. I intend to post any leftover minutes when I get back as well! You're the man, ML! (Unless you're a lady!).
N Little Rock, AR USA Sat 02/12/2005
What does DLF stand for?
I do not know what this acronym means.
St. Louis, MO USA Fri 02/11/2005
DLF mensa in venice to right of station is employees cafateria the food is excellent and cheap big meal 6 euros you can even get wine there are signs but due to construction path is along back alley you want back door!! I ate there 4 times in 3 days I also ate in milan and rome all good (rome some time ago) best Calamari I have ever had. I am a cook so know a littlebit about good food E me should you not agree with me about this find. I am told most large stations have a mensa they are open to all.
Bellevue, Wa USA Sat 01/29/2005
Rent Motor Scooters
I want to add to Robert's idea to rent bicycles. We went to a small island of Sifnos in Greece and rented motor scooters for $13 USD a day. We rented two and drove all over the small island and explored every small town and beach. It was much better than taking the bus or taxi.
TX USA Fri 01/21/2005
Free phone calls in Germany and Swiss
I have a bunch of minutes left over on my phone cards I bought in Europe. Feel free to use them :)Germany: 00800 33 44 00 66 (PIN: 227798314)Switzerland: 0800 111 030 (PIN: 174-8944-912)
Sunnyvale, CA USA Tue 01/04/2005