Your Thrifty Travel Tips: 2007
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.?
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Save time & money
If you're tight on $ and time try the late bird at many museums. If you go to the Louvre or Tower of London just the last couple of hours they're open you can save half the price of your ticket. If you've planned well you can still see all of the highlights and it is lesss crowded
Colorado Springs, CO USA Fri 12/28/2007
camping is not
If you are traveling to Italy don't forget about the campgrounds that are just a little bit out of town. They usually provide shuttels and do not imply tent camping. They will save you money and you still get a room and often a pool, restaurant and washing machines. Here is an article about one outside Rome that I can vouch for. http://noambit.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/rome-is-a-busy.html
Arcata, CA USA Thu 12/20/2007
Avoid AAA travellers checks
I haven't used travellers checks in years, but on a recent trip there were circumstances where they were useful. As I had done in the past, I went to AAA where as a member I could get free travellers checks. The problem was that instead of the American Express version AAA used to sell, which are an excellent product, I was given Visa travellers checks, which are garbage. With Amex checks, you could always cash them at the other end for no fee at an Amex office. Not so, the Visa checks. That incurred a 2.5% fee to cash them. It took an hour to find anyone that would even accept them at all (others asked are they Amex and shook their heads when I said ''no''), and they would only give me local currency for them (the Amex office would give the currency on the face - dollars), and since I needed dollars, I had to do two currency conversions to get the dollars I needed, which was a further expense. AAA did a huge disservice to their members by switching from American Express, the cadillac of travellers checks, to Visa, which is a clapped out Yugo of TC's. Shame on AAA!
USA Thu 12/06/2007
BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat)
We bought vacuum sealed tuna and salmon packets with us, the flat nature of it made it easy to carry around. Each day we would buy bread and make sandwiches, it was an inexpensive way to get protein into our diet.
Centreville, VA USA Fri 11/30/2007
Cheapest way to Paris from CDG
The least expensive way to get into Paris from CDG is to take RATP Bus No. 350 or 351. No. 350 terminates at Gare du Nord from where you can take a taxi, metro or another bus to your destination. No. 351 ends at Place de la Nation and then you proceed to your hotel or wherever.
Both buses start at the Terminal 1 RER station and then go to Terminals 2 & 3. The stop I know about for sure is at Door 9 in Terminal 2A.
The fare is 3 tickets, which is less than 5 euros.
Montreal, Canada Tue 11/27/2007
Save Money on Food in London
London dining can be terribly expensive (just like any major world city). So this is what we did. We stayed at the St. Giles Hotel (the west end location) and had their breakfast every morning. It was a full breakfast buffet (complete with meat and potatoes). Very filling! Then we skipped lunch and tried to find a pub around 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon.
Not breaking for lunch saved us money and precious sightseeing time (we were only there for three days).
Then, once we'd decided to pack it in for the night---usually around 11:00pm, we would stop on the way back to the hotel and pick up a very light snack---an ice cream or a small hamburger. There is a Burger King and a McDonald's just around the corner from the hotel.
USA Fri 11/09/2007
Camping - serously!
Rach is right - and in some countries like Holland and Denmark, the "campings" have little cabins so oyu don;t even have to lug a tent. They cost more (maybe around 30 to 40 dollars), but it's a nice luxury...
FL USA Fri 11/09/2007
Making the most out Euros
My wife and I LOVE PARIS and we just spent 15 wonderful days there and I feel the urge to tell someone about them. This is our third trip. Please forgive my eagerness, but we were born in a former French colony and being in Paris gave us the impression of walking through a living history book. Most of what we learned about French history seemed to be waiting for us at each street corner. By the way, do not worry too much about the language because almost everything that is written, and with which you will come in contact in Paris, has the English translation next to it. And most stores have employees who can guide you through a business transaction.
• You cannot go to Paris without consulting at least one Travel Guide book. I used 3 of them: Rick Steve's Paris 2005, DK Eyewitness Travel 2006 (for the greatest bird's-eye view details of some Paris neighborhoods), and Fodor's Paris 2007. I don't know if it is politically correct to mention the other guides in Rick's website, but it is not possible to glean most of the much needed information from any one in particular. Buy them as early as possible. Besides, you can check various graffiti walls on www.dk.com, www.ricksteves.com, www.fodors.com. And I found the Sunday Travel Section of The NY Times to be a very useful source of info and websites.
• The first thing I do is to find out what we would like to see in Paris and earmark the sights, including Rick's walks, and the other sights in the travel guides. And, whenever I find a potentially useful website, I write it in my notebook and in the "Favorites" column of the Internet Explorer main page. I travel with my notebook. Ex.: Go to www.google.com/maps, type in Paris and you can have satellite maps with pictures and street names of any area of the city. Zoom in a particular area, see and print where you will be walking before you go.
• Then I go online at www.ratp.fr, which is the Paris Métro website (trains and buses). I type the departing address, or metro station, on one side and the arriving address, or metro station, on the other. And the search engine retrieves and displays the station from which we leave, the line to use, the direction in which the line goes, where to change train(s), and at which station to exit. Very clearly and simply presented. I can also print the return schedule indicating the metro station at the end of the walk, or close to any sight, which takes us right back to our hotel. The printouts are 4x6 index cards. I tape them in the travel book(s), on the page of the walk or sight. P.S. You can print destinations to and from every sight in and around Paris, such as Versailles, Chantilly, Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, etc. Do not be one of those adventurous but lost souls trying to figure out which way to go, or where to get off, as the train is pulling in, or out of, the station. The philosophy behind traveling to another country/culture includes perhaps the joy of experimentation, but losing 2 or 3 hours per day looking for a specific sight does not compute efficiently. Remember: You have to go home in a few days. And a great vacation just might be the sum of what you see.
• Check www.tsa.gov to find out what you can bring back to the USA.
• A word about airline tickets. I deal directly with the airline carrier itself instead of going through those so-called "discount agents." For one thing, since they purchase their seats from the airlines, they always link you back to the carrier and it is the same price. Why talk to angels when I can deal directly with God! Ha! Ha! I booked our flight about six months in advance, in this case American Airlines (www.aa.com), and I kept my eyes on them for months. And every day, or so, I checked online for any change in the price. And sure enough, it changed three times from March to August; I saved $215 from price reduction per ticket. And no hassle from American Airlines. They just credited my credit card.
• We never use a taxi to reach our hotel/apartment from the airport. We always reserve the Yellow Van Shuttle through the hotel. Good service. Good price: 32 Euros for two; usually there is another couple sharing the van. Plenty of room for your luggage. A.C. No extra charge. You can also reserve it online at www.yellowvanshuttle.com. Upon reservation they provide an e-mail that explains in English how to contact them from the airport (800 number) before you collect your luggage upon arrival. Usually a 20/30-minute wait.
• Use the bicycles at the "Vélib" stations (www.velib.paris.fr), a city program that provides bicycles for interested riders. There will be 1451 stations with 20,600 bicycles by the end of the year 2007. The city expects to have a Vélib station every 300 meters. Just a credit card. Instructions are also in English. Read them carefully!
• Money: You can buy a few Euros from your bank, but we picked up our first Euros at Charles de Gaulle Airport. At the arrival area, go to the first level (one flight down) and you will find a post office. At the entrance of this p-o. (do not go inside), you will find an ATM with English language. This money can be used for your taxi fare and small purchases. By the way, I printed and laminated at Staples a Euro/Dollar Pocket-sized Converter from www.gocurrency.com. It only fluctuates a few cents during your vacation. Use it if needed.
• One week before departure, call your bank(s) and the credit card companies and tell them that you will be out of the country. Find out your available credit, your PIN number (or create one), transaction fee (if any), the Apr % (which helps you decide what card to use), and the toll-free # in case you need to contact them (often it is not the same # on the back of the card). Add an international calling card from your telephone company after you ask them to detail how to make a call from Paris. put a sticker on the card and write down the instructions.
• The first day in Paris we bought a Carte Orange for one week from the nearest metro station (www.ratp.fr). It saves you beaucoup of Euros. Don't leave your hotel room/apartment without it! You may use it every 8 minutes on trains or buses. Have a couple of passport photos made before leaving home. Do not forget to place your picture on the card.
• The same day we "had" to go to the Champs Elysées office (25, Rue des Pyramides / Metro: Pyramides, ligne 7-14 / Open: Mon-Sat 10h-7h, and Sun 11h-7h) (www.fr.parisinfo.com) to buy a Paris Museum Pass because the Eiffel Tower office is no longer selling them. A 6-day pass is invaluable. No kidding. Not only do you save beaucoup, beaucoup of Euros but also you feel like a VIP at all the museums and sights that honor the card. About 80 of them! A Must. And do not forget to write your name and the date you start to use the card on it. Even if you do not go to museums for a day or two during your stay, it is well worth it. Inquire also at www.paris.fr/musees or www.intermusees.com, www.parismuseumpass.com. P.S. We found a tourism office at the departure level of Charles de Gaulle airport as we were leaving Paris. We are not sure if they sell the Museum Pass. Check it out!
Staten Island, NY USA Tue 09/18/2007
Teachers and Student discounts
Take your id cards as many museums and entrances are discounted for you. You must ask it is not always posted. for Chateauxs in Loire valley it is a 2 euro (about $2.75) discount. Not a lot but sure adds up.
walnut Creek , Ca USA Thu 08/23/2007
When doing room search it is often not quickly apparent wheather breakfast is included In London breakfast is $20 each and often not convient . i think it is worth checking
Bellevue Wa, USA Fri 08/17/2007
Thrifty Travel Tips
If there is any risk of a rail strike I suggest using a Visa or Mastercard to charge your rail tickets, despite any surcharge. In April of 2007, I purchased tickets to go from Arles to Nice. Each ticket cost about $45. When we arrived at the station the next day, the trains weren't running and the ticket office was also closed for the strike. We hiked to the other side of the city and took a bus. When I tried to get a refund for the rail tickets in Nice, I was told it could only be done in Arles. I wrote to SCNF, the French rail company, asking for a refund and received a reply telling me 3 different times how much they want to please their customers--but they wouldn't refund my money. If I had paid with a credit card, I could appeal to Visa. As it is, I'm out the money.
Princeton, NJ USA Wed 08/01/2007
dining on the cheap
Many places you stay at, especially those in rick steve's book, have a very good breakfast included in the price. We always eat a very hardy breakfast, snack during the day, buying fruit, have a sandwich, or buy anything else that looks good at low cost during the day and then have a nice dinner usually at local restaurants, many recommended by rick's books- and usually very reasonably priced. In europe, as luck would have it, beer is cheaper than virtually anything else including water and pop, so I always have a very good time at a reasonable price.
USA Sun 07/22/2007
Budget eatin in France
In France, especially Paris, Chinese "delis" are plentiful. At least every couple of days I find a Chinese deli and have a meal which I eat there. There is a wide selection of dishes, which are on displayed and have their names indicatied, so you can have a different assortment of dishes each time. I usually spend 6-10 euros per meal. It's delicious, nutritious, filling, and affordable. Other days I buy a quiche or sandwich for my main meal then have some fresh fruit for dessert. Ok, I often have one of those incredibly yummy pastries or flans for dessert. At the store I usually buy cheese, yogurt, and some kind of crackers or cereal to eat for breakfast in my room. Then I hit the street for an expresso and croissant for breakfast.
Napa, CA USA Sat 07/14/2007
I found eating dreadfully expensive everywhere. Seems the only way to get around it is to buy food out of the supermarkets, small stores off the beaten track, or pastry shops. Then take the food to the nearest park and eat it.
Vallejo, CA USA Thu 07/12/2007
Camping - serously!
I think if Americans knew about this option, they'd all do it. It's super-affordable, super-convenient, and totally different from typical American woods camping. I'm surprised Rick doesn't say more about it.
My husband and I spent our honeymoon camping for 3 weeks in Europe in '05 and had the time of our lives. We didn't "rough it" at all, and we felt we had a true European experience. Here are the reasons it was so great:
- Convenience: there's usually a "camping" (as campgrounds are called) within a few kilometers of any train station, anywhere. Often it's walking distance. A city like Paris or Rome will have 10 or 15 campings a short train ride away or in the city itself. Plus, we traveled through six countries in July, never had a reservation, and always got a spot at the camping of our choice.
- Comfort: Campings look like country clubs or nice city parks. There's no hiking involved -tents go up on flat, grassy lawns. A camping typically has most or all of the amenities of a hotel, including a bar, a restaurant, a grocery store, a swimming pool, very clean bathrooms with hot showers, game rooms, kids' play areas, internet access, laundry facilities, bicycle rental, organized activities, live performances, and frequent bus service to local sites. Some campings even bring you complimentary hot bread in the morning. The only difference from a hotel is that you're in your tent, not a room.
- Peace of mind: campings are super-safe. No matter where we stayed, when we went out for the day we'd just leave our stuff zipped up in our tent. Other campers advised us that this was normal. We never lost anything.
- Culture: since Americans don't use the campings, you're surrounded by really friendly Europeans. They're happy to meet an American at a camping. We shared drinks, sang songs and told stories with old guys, teenagers, and families from everywhere you can imagine. We had many of our most "real" experiences at our campings.
- Cost: the best part! We spent 12-18 euro a night!
There are plenty of websites that give you details about European campings. Good campings usually have their own websites, with English text, plenty of pics and online reserving. Google "camping Italy", "camping France" or whatever.
We intent to go to Spain and Portugal for 3 weeks in '08. I'm already psyched about all the beachfront campings we'll be staying in! With a rental car (last time we were on foot), our total lodging costs for 21 days should come to just under $400.
Sorry this isn't more concise - obviously, I'm passionate about the subject. If you want to know more about European camping, e-mail me - I'd love to share what I learned.
NJ USA Sun 07/08/2007
Consider eating at restaurants in airports and train stations. Often, meals and snacks are available inexpensively. I like to eat a burrito at the Mexican restaurant at SFO before leaving for Europe. In London, Paris, and Rome there are inexpensive places to eat in the train stations. At Victoria Station take escalators to the top floor; there is a wide selection of eateries to choose from there.
Napa, USA Sun 07/01/2007
Right -- shopping for food and preparing it in an apartment is not disconnecting from the local culture. This is how most of them live their day to day lives -- you will be blending in. Of course visiting restaurants, cafes, and bars is fun and gives you the opportunity to socialize with locals and tourists, which is fun and rewarding as well.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 06/14/2007
Disconnection, not disconnect
"Disconnect" is not a noun. It's a verb. I think you meant "There is no disconnection..."
I know it's trendy among politicians to abuse this word, but that doesn't make it right.
Tahoe, CA USA Wed 06/13/2007
Disagree about disconnect
We stayed in a flat in London and bought take out food to be eaten at the flat. We had to interact with folks in the grocery, pubs, take out food places. It saves a bundle. Sometimes we ate out, but London is expensive!
USA Sun 04/29/2007
We disagree that you are "disconnected from local culture" when you cook meals in an apartment. There is much contact at small groceries,bakeries and wine shops. We have rented many apts during our 3 trips to Europe and have thoroly enjoyed each experience, while saving TONS!!!
Paul n Sara
USA Sun 04/15/2007
Cooking for yourself in apartments
This is a tip that Rick would almost certainly disapprove of, but is a great way to save money and make a travel memory in the process. If you can find a place that rents out furnished apartments you can cook some of your old meals. My wife and I did this in Siena. Grocery stores sell the same things in Europe that they sell in America (in Germany you can even find an Aldi without looking hard, as the company is German). The reason Rick would not like this is because it disconnects you from the local culture. Restaurants are one of the easiest ways to throw yourself in to the local culture. Picnicking also lets you dine away on a grassy knoll with the rest of the locals doing the same thing. Cooking for yourself will disconnect you from the culture, but you can get 3 to 5 meals for the price of one!
White Bear Lake, MN USA Thu 04/12/2007
I packed boxed milk & juice(non-refrig. kind) and individual cereal for breakfast and snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, granola bars... You'll save a lot of money at the airport/destination. I saved about $100 while travelling to London & Paris.
fremont, CA USA Fri 03/23/2007
We are going to be back there within a few months, so it made sense for us to keep our cards. However, after this trip, we won't be back for another 2-3 years, so we will cash in our cards when we leave.
USA Wed 01/24/2007
Any buddy have change
Read the fine print after 2 years you hAVE TO CALL A NUMBER TO REACTIVATE CARD . NOT CONVIENENT so I just asked for my 20 L unused Pounds back and saved card . I am not trying to be a smart ass . But want to inform as there are many adds saying never expires but to have to make a call upon arrival is not convieent
USA Mon 01/22/2007
Get an Oyster Card!! If you are going to be in London for three or more days, and you plan to travel by tube it really pays to get one of these. It's a 3-pound deposit, but you get that back when you turn in the card. If you plan to go back in the near future, then just keep the card. The money you put on it never expires and you can top it off online!
USA Wed 01/17/2007