Friday, January 1, 2021

Europe Through the Back Door by Rick Steves


Reviewed by Jeanne


So, after the pandemic is over, are you looking to take a trip overseas?  If you’re traveling to Europe for the first time the library may just have the book for you.  Europe Through the Back Door:  The Travel Skills Handbook is just as billed, a wonderful guide for planning your trip on a budget.  This is a terrific overview about what to pack, how to travel, how to book rooms, where to eat, and where to shop.  He discusses the pros and cons of buying a multi-national train pass and when it’s best to shop online and when to purchase a pass just before you board. 

This is a little gem of a book.  I’ve been lucky enough to travel abroad once or twice, and I was a nervous wreck trying to decide what to pack and what to plan to buy later.  Steves offers advice on how many and what kind of clothes to pack, the best types of materials to buy for easy washing and drying, what sort of electronics and accessories might be needed, and what identification to have handy.  I would have worried much less had I perused this book beforehand.

I also really appreciated the sections on how to travel within a country, whether to take a taxi or the subway, whether to rent a car, or take a train.  Tour groups are another possibility, but also just engaging a local guide for yourself and your family.

The “back door” part of the book refers to his many tips on how to have a great time on a budget.  Many people wait to go until they have enough money to do it up right, so to speak, but Steves feels that folks should just go ahead and enjoy and not wait for that mythical “perfect time.” To that end, he discusses when to splurge and how to economize; fun things that don’t cost a lot; and how to make the most of your time and energy.  However, this isn’t the cheapskate tour.  It’s more a matter of explaining choices and letting the traveler decide what is more important.

Another thing that Steves emphasizes is to go beyond all the tourist places to see how the people really live.  One tip I found intriguing was to go down a side street and look for the cafes with a TV on.  Odds are this is a place that caters to locals, not tourists. 

He also discusses safety, health, and special considerations—traveling with children or how to travel as a senior citizen, for example.

The last section of the book is devoted to individual countries, with a few pages devoted to each and covering the major attractions and lesser known delights. 

If you’re planning a trip or just want to get some ideas of how to start, this is a fine resource.

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