Chapter 10 of
HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
By John Bermont. Internet edition.
A page from
with photographer and author
You are not Lewis and Clark. Somebody has been there before,
marked the trail, and left an account. Get a copy.
GUIDE BOOKS FOR TRAVELERS
To see Europe through a window on somebody's tour bus is so
ridiculous that it should be unimaginable, except that it happens.
Let me assure the meek and timid that Europe is at least as
civilized as the USA, and more so in many respects. You don't need a
jungle guide to show you around.
The logical approach to budget travel is to travel independently, on your own.
Get some guide books and study up a little. Then you can go where and when
and how it pleases you. Like the Momas and Papas
song from the 60s "go where you want to go, do what you want to do."
Here is a rundown on many guide books and other publications that empower you to do just that.
This Year's Crop
Travelers face a significant challenge in finding the right
information from among the hundreds of guide books listing hotels,
restaurants, and sights to see in Europe. Bookstores are loaded
with books titled Europe, Ireland, France, Holland, Germany, and etc.,
followed by this year's date and either the author's or
publisher's name in the title. How do you know which to choose?
The traditional Frommer's, Fielding's, and Fodor's of travel
publishing have been going strong for decades. They have been
joined by editions from many other authors and publishers over the
past 30 years. Many European publishers, e.g. Baedeker and
Michelin, have been going for over a century. Generally they are the best
guide books, though these books are not as well known in the USA.
Pounds of Fluff
Guide books provide information on the sights to see museums,
castles, ancient artifacts, and natural wonders. Most
also include listings of hotels and restaurants. Some provide
information on other subjects of interest to travelers, e.g., local
transportation, night life, and significant events during
the year. Costs of hotels and other services are sometimes
included, but these figures are usually off because most books are
written a year before the date on the cover. Many books with a date
on the cover are in bookstores in late summer — more than four months
before the year on the cover actually
starts. They were researched, if at all, during the previous winter and spring.
When purchasing travel guides, keep the rule of pack
light in mind. Many travel writers aspire to be novelists. Writers
often include plenty of extraneous information — for example, the
name of the "charming" owner of the "marvelous" hotel. Patronizing
exaggerations, possibly written under the influence of a free
bottle of wine or a free room, will lead you astray. The best known
guide books are the worst on this score. A major publisher once asked me to be
a researcher for one of their books. The pay was minimal and the expense budget
was even less. I was expected to negotiate with hotels for better prices. You know what that
means. The offer fell through.
If you are going to
visit only one or two countries then do not buy one of the really
fat "Europe" books. Buy a guide(s) that is specific for the
country, region, or city you will visit. These will be easier to
carry and will be far more detailed on the places of interest to
Kudos and Knocks
The first edition of How To Europe (1982) included an
"Annotated Bibliography" appendix with a short review of some 110
travel titles. In the second edition (1985-1987) more than 140 travel books
were reviewed. Nowadays there is at least an order of magnitude
more titles. At one point in the late 1980s a book
was published which consisted entirely of travel book reviews. The author
has probably given up in frustration with the tsunami of books now
coming out every year.
I have used a number of guide books in my travels and herewith offer a critique
of most of the better known books. My library has well over 1,000 books
on Europe. My comments here focus on the section
of each book which covers the Netherlands, a.k.a Holland, and more
specifically Haarlem. I know it very well since I've lived in Haarlem
for about four years in various stints since 1975 and visit frequently.
Some people might consider this examination of coverage of Haarlem as
too narrow a focus. I think not. Haarlem is a popular day trip for Amsterdam visitors, and
is actually a less expensive and more pleasant base for discovering Holland.
Holland is a small country with excellent and well marked public transportation. Most of the
people are fluent in English so there is no communications
barrier. If a writer can't get it right on this country (s)he has no
business being in the travel book authoring business. Sometimes
they don't get it right. Sometimes you even wonder if the writer actually
went there as you'll see in some of the hoi polloi examples below.
Don't waste your money and good humor on incompetent writers, no matter how famous
the name on the cover.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Herewith is a paragraph or a few on specific guide books,
authors, and/or publishers giving a general description of the
guide book and/or a critique. I haven't written a guide book so
I can be objective in judging many of those available from the
consumer's point of view. The books described here are those you
are likely to find in your library or local bookstore.
My favorite source is Amazon.com. The advertising column on
the right has links to a small sample of books available.
The Michelin Tire Company of France has been publishing road
maps for a century. More about their maps later. They also publish
their annual "Red" guides to hotels and restaurants, and their
"Green" guides to the sights and sites with updates every 5 years or so.
Michelin has logically chosen to publish two books, one with the
frequently changing information on hotels and restaurants and one
with the fixed site information.
Michelin Red: For guide books describing where to sleep
and eat, the Michelin Red Guides are excellent. Annual updates are
published for France, Germany, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands,
Luxembourg), Great Britain and Ireland, and other countries.
Instructions for using the guides are printed in French and in
English and in the language(s) of the country covered in the book.
The books are set up as a directory, alphabetical by city, so it is
a snap to find what you are looking for. Addresses, phone numbers, and fax
numbers are given. Locations are indicated by grid coordinates
which are keyed to adjacent maps for many cities. Icons indicate
which credit cards are accepted, if off-street parking is provided,
or if the establishment has a particularly pleasant ambiance.
Michelin Red books are published in the spring of the year on the cover so the price information
is more accurate than hoi polloi guides (see below) which start showing up in the
bookstores in the summer of the year before the date on the cover. You know that
must be stale information, especially for anything to do with prices.
The Michelin Red Guide Benelux lists hotels and restaurants in every
city and village. The hotel selection for Haarlem lists only two
hotels within the city, two of the more upscale establishments. It
rates each of them as two star, with five stars as tops. The hotels
themselves say they are four star. Backpackers would feel a little
out of place in the lobbies in either case. But Michelin does include less
expensive rooms in nearby villages. The restaurant selection is
much wider, listing 15 eateries from one spoon to three spoons,
pizzerias to coat and tie type places. Having eaten in several of
those listed I think that their selection is very representative
of the city.
Michelin Green: For guide books describing what to see and
when the Michelin Green Guides are superb. These books are
convenient to carry and are crammed with maps, sketches, historical
background, data, and general commentary on the countries covered.
There is nothing even in tenth place behind these books.
The Michelin Green Guide Netherlands includes a generous
few pages on Haarlem. Paragraphs describing the monuments and
sights are coded to an excellent map of the city center
pinpointing each place.
Probably everything worth seeing is described, including some of
the hangings at the Frans Hals Museum.
One of the
most interesting sights in Europe, in my opinion as an
engineer, is the "Cruquius Expo." Michelin is probably the only book
which describes it and shows you how to get there. The Cruquius is
one of three huge steam engines built around 1850 to pump the water
out of the Haarlemmermeer (Lake Haarlem). When you land at Amsterdam's Schiphol
Airport you are in the middle of this former lake, now a polder, about 15 feet
below sea level.
Michelin books rate five stars in my book.
Michelin also has a beautiful web site with maps, hotels,
restaurants, and listings of sights to see on line. See the
"Maps and Time Zones"
section of enjoy-europe.com.
A very good travel series is published by
Fodor's. In addition to descriptions of the things to see, these
guides recommend selected hotels and restaurants which you will
find comfortable and enjoyable. Rather than put in specific prices,
this series wisely indicates the general cost of things by $, $$,
and $$$ signs. They don't need to update this kind of data every
year. Hotels and restaurants listed are usually between two and
four star quality. Budget travelers see below.
Fodor's Europe is
nicely organized. Chapters cover individual countries and each
gives a good introduction, including a map with north arrow and
distance scale. The sights are well covered. The page
discussing Haarlem is right on. This is one of the few guide books
which mentions the Café Brinkmann, one of the best situated
Café Brinkmann serves good food, including a great burger and
fries, though the service is even slower than the typical Dutch
slow service. If you are sitting on the terrace overlooking the
Grote Markt on a busy day, order your second beverage when your
first one arrives. I've been a patron for decades.
Fodor's book on Holland titled The Netherlands, Belgium,
Luxembourg goes into far more detail on the Low Countries. If you
are planning a visit to this area only, skip the Europe book and
get this one, even though it doesn't mention the Café
Brinkmann but now you know anyway. It does include a trio of good
restaurants and two of the better hotels, neither of which are
mentioned in most of the other books. One of these is the Hotel
Lion d'Or which is also recommended by Michelin. The Lion d'Or is
a long established hotel designed for business travelers, and is
only a stone's throw from the train station. Fodor's books do not
include a map of Haarlem so pick one up at the tourist office.
Fodor's employs good writers. This series is arguably the best
written of any on the American market and a pleasure to read.
You're on the right road with Fodor's.
The first thing you notice with Lonely Planet's
Europe on a Shoestring is that it has no date on the cover. That's a good sign.
Geared to the budget traveler vis-à-vis eats and sleeps,
this series of books also contains good advice on sights to see and
things to do for everyone.
This book appears to be independently written it is not a
knock-off from another guide as so many seem to be. Thus you get a fresh perspective on
the lay of the land, and you won't be breathing the exhaust fumes
of other travelers using the hoi polloi guide books
with nearly identical hotel and restaurant listings.
I've been using this guide book in my travels around Europe
for at least the past five years and it hasn't let me down.
I give Europe on a Shoestring an
extra star because it mentions one of my favorite cafes in
Amsterdam, the Hoppe. The Hoppe is especially active after office
hours till mid evening. I have met many locals there but never a tourist.
Each chapter begins with a map and general introduction to the
country at hand. Major cities are illustrated with good maps keyed
to excellent tables listing eats, sleeps, museums, laundromats, and
all manner of other establishments of interest to the traveler,
especially the younger traveler on a tight budget. Lonely Planet
probably covers more countries and cities in more detail in one
book than any other guide. The appendices include weather data and
essential phrases for many languages.
Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring is unquestionably
the best of the budget guide books, and one of the best for any budget.
This book is encyclopaedic. To top it off it has a spine
ribbon for marking your page.
Unfortunately Lonely Planet started publishing a book in 2010 with a somewhat similar title, Discover
Europe: Experience the Best of Europe. I received an email from a reader complaining that
the Lonely Planet book I recommend had no mention of Portugal. That was a surprise. I went to the local bookstore
and found the culprit. Sure enough, the Discover Europe book has no mention of Portugal.
Actually this disaster with the pretty pictures has no mention of over half of the countries
of Europe. It is just about as bad as another "best of Europe" book discussed in the Hoi Polloi
Baedeker is almost synonymous with travel guide book. This
publisher has been at it for going on two centuries, and does it
right. This brief review covers the Baedeker Netherlands book, edition 2000.
The first thing you notice about Baedeker is the display of
color photographs. I was thumbing through and getting slightly
homesick with all those beautiful images of The Netherlands. Then
I was pleasantly surprised to find a photo of the Gravenstenen
Brug, an old counter-weighted lift bridge right in front of the
house I lived in when I first moved to Holland. Check it out on
page 209 for a "Typical view of Haarlem," according to Baedeker.
Actually it's not very typical since old bridges like this are hard
to find these days. See chapter 1,
What's It All About?, for a different view. The oft photographed Magere Brug, a.k.a. the
"Skinny Bridge," in Amsterdam is very similar.
The book also includes a photo of the magnificent Basilica (the
other Sint Bavokerk in Haarlem), a decent city map, the floor plan
of the Frans Hals Museum, and details on many other things never
reported on by most travel guide writers. Baedeker might be
criticized by some for having no hotel or restaurant listings. It's
a guide to the sights, and what a good one.
Eyewitness Travel Guides
This series is published by Dorling Kindersley, abbreviated DK,
in London. DK publishes guides to a number of countries in addition
to one book on Europe which is commented on here, the First
American Edition 2001 revised and reprinted 2010.
DK's Eyewitness Europe covers a number of countries in
individual chapters. All of former Western Europe is covered,
plus Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary. Each
chapter begins with a brief article on the history and culture, and
an overview map of the country. Main features of this book are the
selection of outstanding photos and the excellent maps of major
Considering the chapter on Holland I have just a few complaints.
It left out Maastricht, certainly a slight to this fun loving
capital of Limburg, the southernmost province of The Netherlands.
On Haarlem, it left out the Tylers Museum, the oldest in Holland,
but did include the Amsterdamse Poort which is omitted from most
books. The Amsterdamse Poort is the only remaining piece of the
14th century city walls. As you stand inside this miniature
fortress you can just picture the city's defenders shooting their
arrows through the slits. It seems to me that this place should be
preserved as a national monument but it is simply used as an everyday
walk through for residents on the east side of Haarlem.
DK's annotated selection of hotels and restaurants is set aside in a
section at the end of each chapter. The selection is not very
large but it includes establishments in all price ranges.
THE HOI POLLOI
There are hundreds if not thousands of other guide books
available. Spend a few hours at a good bookstore or at your library
thumbing, reading, and comparing before you buy. In fact, you might
borrow several older editions from your library to get a feel for
the coverage before buying a current edition.
Some of these books were written by people who very obviously did not
go to the places they write about. Most readers won't know that until they
get to Europe with a book of errors and bull. Examples of many
uh-ohs are described below. Also, the same few restaurants and
hotels show up in several of the books. In general these are the
places to avoid. It looks like anyone could write a European guide book
from their bedroom in Kansas City by plagiarizing the other books.
How do you know which author or publisher to trust? That's a
good question, especially if you haven't been to Europe yet.
It's a fact that many travel writers are provided
with free meals and free rooms in exchange for whatever compliments the writer can
give them in print. The writers rarely reveal this. Michelin and Lonely Planet
send out anonymous researchers to avoid the conflict of interest. Their researchers
actually pay for their own dinners and rooms so they have the privilege of speaking
candidly and objectively. Me too. Here goes.
People usually associate travel guide book with Frommer's Europe
on $5 a Day, now much higher.
There are some problems with this book. The 2000 edition of
Frommer's Europe From $60 a Day stated "Haarlem is only an hour
away from Amsterdam by train, and one leaves every hour from
Centraal Station." By 2002 Frommer's Europe From $70 a Day had
reduced the time to 20 minutes, but still only one train per hour.
Another Frommer's book, Europe 2002, says that there is a train every
half hour. What's going on? Actually there are six trains an hour
from A'dam to Haarlem, taking from 15 to 18 minutes each. Did the
writers really go to Haarlem? Look back at Frommer's Europe on $20
a Day published in 1982. This one says that the train from
Amsterdam to Haarlem leaves "every 15 minutes" and takes "15
minutes for the trip." That is much closer to the facts of 2002
than either of the current books. The good old days were the days when the
cover said "by Arthur Frommer."
Another issue with this book is the disingenuous title. On page 2
the writer says that the price on the cover is for
"accommodation and meals only" (emphasis Frommer's). When
you add in the cost of a trans-Atlantic ticket and a rail pass or
rental car the $70 goes up by at least 100%. Then you still have to
pay for entrance fees, postcards, film, afternoon espresso, evening
beverages, and 20 or so other items. See chapter 2,
On Budget in Europe: Travel Costs. When you add it all up your cost will be at
least double the figure on the cover. Frommer's would have been
better off to keep the original title of Europe on $5 a Day as a
trademark. Then we would just recognize it as a budget guide book,
and the mamma of them all.
Europe on $20 a Day was getting very stale as far back as the
early 1980s. I regularly used it in the mid-1970s but by 1982 or so
the updating was falling way behind. Frommer's still puts a new
date on the cover every year and boasts about the improvements.
Hard to find those improvements, but the errors sure do pop up. One
of the most experienced travel book publishers in the business
should be able to get it right after all these years. If you use
this book, or one of the other popular budget books, be aware that
thousands of other travelers are using the same book, and trying to
get a room in the same cheap hotels. Good luck.
Let's Go Europe is the Harvard students' project. It looks like they hired
the sophomores for the 2000 edition. It says
"The Netherlands is 6hr. ahead of Greenwich Mean Time." I don't
know their definition of "ahead" but here's a secret for you
Harvard student writers at high noon GMT it's 13:00 (that's 1:00
pm) in Holland, except during "summer time" when it is 14:00 in
Holland at noon GMT. Harvard students have fixed the error in 2002
by omitting any mention of the time zone in Holland.
Haarlem is covered in a page, recommending the Carillon hotel and the Stayokay HI
hostel, and two eateries. The 2009 edition reports that "trains depart from Amsterdam
every few minutes." Duh? Looks like another author who didn't check the departure
board. You can pretty much ignore this book so I won't
waste more space on them, and don't waste your money and good
times. Get a better book from among those mentioned above.
The maps are an exception. Inside the front and back covers,
Let's Go Europe has great color maps of many major cities and metro
systems. It is one of the best collections of maps I have seen in
any guide book. Buy a used edition and tear out the maps for your
trip. One of the Paris maps even shows the petite street I lived
on, the 100 yard long rue de Trois Portes.
Best of Europe by Rick Steves has no mention of Greece,
Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Poland,
and many other countries, and leaves out significant cities in the
countries he pretends to cover. There are
about four dozen countries in Europe but Steves mentions only 10 in
the 2011 edition. Duh?
His chapter on Holland is mostly Amsterdam but includes 13 pages on Haarlem.
That's it. Nothing at all on The Hague, Maastricht, Utrecht, or Delft. This is certainly a skewed
selection of the "best," even though Haarlem is a charming city. As mentioned
above, Haarlem has been my home town in Europe for over 30 years.
I love it but there are scores of other cities and villages to see. Buyers of
Steves' book are likely to be disappointed by his omissions, if they ever
find out about them. In previous editions Steves included Rotterdam.
Why he ever put this crime ridden industrial port city in a "Best of Europe" book is
at least suspect and certainly stupid. Rotterdam was reduced to dust by the
German Luftwaffe in May 1940 and then rebuilt after the war in Dutch mayhem architecture.
Much of the Amsterdam and Haarlem material is simply
reworded from his Europe 1997 book.
Steves says that he spends 100 days a year in Europe and that
his book is therefore the most up to date available. Laugh, unless
you already paid for this paste-up. The 100 days are probably
consumed in leading his package bus tours (how's that for a guy who
preaches independent travel) or in producing his TV shows that
he donates to PBS to publicize himself. How do I know that? He told me.
Infomercials on commercial cable TV are paid advertisements. Steves
gets his commercials broadcast for free on taxpayer supported public TV.
Steves' hotel selections are basically the same as those
in most of the other hoi polloi guides. He has added a few hotels to the 2011
edition. These are for hotels which give a discount just for mentioning the guru's name
when you show up. The hotel gives a discount and gets mentioned
in the book. Is this payola? Kickback?
My tip for travelers — every hotel in Europe will give you a discount
or an upgrade if you ask for it and if they have a room available.
I have been offered 50% off the "rack rate" at hotels throughout Europe and across
the price range. Haarlem has a number of B&Bs but Steves mentions only the same one he has
been touting for years.
Steve's restaurant selections are a joke. I wish I could put it more kindly.
Thankfully he has not "discovered" my favorite place in Haarlem, nor my
favorites in Amsterdam.
His nightlife section is very general and very thin for both Haarlem and Amsterdam.
I think his researchers got second hand information because the only cafe that is named
is one of the deadest in town. Steves calls it "the hot spot."
Maybe his researchers don't drink beer. One of his "four basic zones" in Haarlem
is nothing but a single modern bar, not a classic "brown bar" that distinguishes
the Netherlands. He missed several other traditional "zones" in Haarlem.
Steves mentioned the "Lover's Train" service between Amsterdam
and Haarlem in his 2002 book and said of it: "a misnamed private
train that runs hrly." His 2003, 2004, and 2005
books had exactly the same wording in them. It is evident
Steves is slinging it with his assurances that his book is the most up to
date available. Anybody can make a mistake but Rick lies.
Actually he misnamed the train himself and it
hasn't run in this century. The real name was "Lovers Rail."
Service stopped in September 1999. I was living in Haarlem at the time and used this train
once in a while. Steves'
1999 book did not mention the "Lovers Rail" even though it had been
in operation since 1996. The train came and went before he knew it, and he still
recommended it six years after it went out of business!
He finally removed the misinformation about the "Lovers Rail" in his 2006 book.
The 2007 edition of Rick's book could have cost the innocent reader a lot of money and
embarrassment. On page 1190 Steves writes:
"Remember, you can use strippenkaart on any train that travels within the Netherlands."
That is an inexcusably wrong statement. The Strippenkaart was valid
only on buses, trams, and the metro throughout Holland, plus in-city portions
of the NS rail system in a few metropolitan areas, e.g. Amsterdam Centraal to
Amsterdam Sloterdijk. Strippenkaart was not valid on "any train
that travels within the Netherlands" as he claims. If you are found without a valid
train ticket on any train the conductor is required to collect full fare
plus a fine of 35 euros from you, on the spot. That's about $50. Ouch! And the chance that you will
be caught by an efficient Dutch conductor is about 100%. The identical false
statement is on page 966 of his 2008 edition. Ouch again. I guess that Rick has been reading my website
because he has corrected these errors in the 2010 edition.
[Note: As of 2012 a new system
called OV-chipkaart has replaced the Strippenkaart throughout the country.]
By the way, the exact same false statement about using Strippenkaarten on trains is in his book
"Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels 2007," along with virtually all of the other
pages from "Best of Europe" about Holland, word for word. The academic commnity has a name
for this practice. It is called self-plagiarism and is cause for dismissal from any university
teaching position or an F on your thesis. Rick boasts that he writes and/or
updates 30 books every year. This publicity is solely
to boost his credentials as a travel writer, but self-plagiarism is as unethical as a writer
can get, except maybe for hotel payola.
On September 1, 2010 I received my copy of his 2011 edition. The errors in his Haarlem chapter are mostly still
there from 2010. I won't correct them again. His researchers
can go back and find their mistakes. If they dig a little deeper they will find
some of their many omissions, assuming that this book is the "Best of Europe."
Steves has two maps of Haarlem. Each one has the red light district prominently highlighted and
he says "Wander through a little Red Light District that's as precious as a Barbie doll ..."
Isn't that a sweet pimp for indentured prostitutes? Maybe Steves has been getting free service
from the ladies? I used to live on the edge of this whore district and
was once asked by a Dutchman to help finance import of a plane load of Thai girls to become "sex workers"
in Holland. I declined. White slavery is not my thing.
In previous editions of Best of Europe, Steves
says that most publishers update their guide books only every two to
three years. Then he crows "my research partners and I update it in
person every year." That is fresh horse droppings galore as you can see from the above.
Huckster Steves goes on "If
you're packing an old book, you'll learn the seriousness of your
mistake .. in Europe." Oops, if you're packing a Rick Steves book
you have already learned the seriousness of your mistake by the
foregoing. Maybe he has been reading my website because this bull is no longer
repeated in 2010. In 2010 he said of his guidebook series that "most are annually updated,"
a step back from his earlier claims.
In his 2011 Best Of Europe he says "This book is updated every year — but once
you pin Europe down, it wiggles." I'll agree that he updates the date on the cover every
year but 99% of what is between the covers is basically the same year to year. I guess that
his 2012 edition carries on in the same infamy but I didn't waste my money on it this year.
I could go on and on but this is far enough. Steves is
very strong in self-promotion but very light in substance. Do yourself a big
favor and forget Rick Steves.
The Rough Guide to Europe 2002 edition reports that there are
four trains per hour from Amsterdam to Haarlem. My gosh, haven't these
travel writers been there? The hotel, eating, and drinking
establishments are pretty much the same as the other hoi polloi budget books.
There is no map for Haarlem. The Amsterdam map is OK for a general
layout but using it to find anything would be a challenge. The rest
of their material on Holland, and more, can be found in one of the
The Cadogan series includes about 50 guides to countries,
regions, and major cities in Europe. This brief review is focused
on the Holland book, 2000.
The author includes a section on Haarlem but it appears that he
didn't spend much time in the city. He says that most visitors to
Haarlem stay in Amsterdam or Zandvoort, and then lists two hotels
in Haarlem. These, including the aforementioned Carillon, are the
most frequently mentioned in every other guide. The author selects
only a few restaurants and cafés, but these are some of the
better ones. There is no map for Haarlem. The map of Amsterdam is
difficult to follow.
The author has dug up some historical footnotes which make for
interesting reading. But there are better, and worse, guides to
Well, this book can't get it right about the train schedule
between Amsterdam and Haarlem either. "Every half hour or so a
train makes the 20-minute jaunt from Amsterdam," says Europe for
Dummies 1st Edition. They got that dummies part of it right. One
new but not especially popular café is listed. The Carillon
is the only hotel mentioned. If nearly every book is recommending
the same old hotel do you think you are going to find a room
available? If you did would you want to stay in the same place as
every Californian, New Yorker, and Texan who went to Europe this
summer? This is a book you wouldn't want to be seen with.
Summing It Up for the Hoi Polloi
It is obvious that many travel books have some utterly
inexcusable errors. These are among the most popular books. This is really disconcerting. If you are buying
a guide book to plan your dream trip to Europe you expect the book
to be accurate especially with the rudimentary information that
any fool can read from a poster in a train station. If the book is
wrong you are better off with no book.
GUIDES FOR DRIVERS
AA Motoring in Europe
Someone about to begin an automobile vacation in Europe should
begin by reading the AA Motoring In Europe book. This is published
by the Automobile Association, Hampshire, England, the equivalent
of our AAA. Of course, British drive on the wrong side of the road
so what do they know about driving in Europe? Plenty.
Chapter 18 of How To Europe
If you can't get the AA Motoring In Europe book make sure to read chapter 18,
Driving in Europe.
Photos of many of the road signs are included. The all important
Do Not Enter sign is also illustrated in chapter 1,
What's It All About.
Know your European road signs or you may lose your
life, as I almost did. American road signs are not used in Europe, except for
occasional sightings of our red octagon.
Before buying maps, look at several. Make sure that the
information is presented clearly. Make sure you can read the title
block. And make sure it is relatively new.
European maps rarely have a distance bar in the legend. Instead,
the scale is stated on the cover as 1:10,000 for city maps, for
instance, and maybe 1:500,000 for country maps. Here is the metric
system put to good use. Simply multiply a distance measured on the
map by the scale factor to find the actual distance. On a map with
a scale of 1:100,000, one centimeter on the map is one kilometer on
the ground. Here's how you figure that:
There are 100 centimeters per meter,
expressed as 100 cm/m. If this is hard to remember, picture the
fact that there are 100 cents in a dollar.
Multiply the one centimeter by the
scale factor 100,000 to get 100,000 centimeters.
Divide the 100,000 centimeters by 100
cm/m and you get 1,000 meters.
1,000 meters is one kilometer,
abbreviated as 1 km. Bingo.
If that's too much advanced math for you, use the approximations
in the following table:
|Typical Map on which you find this
= 1 kilometer (1 km)
For detailed information on the metric system see chapter 27,
Metric System in Europe:
Travel with Grams, Meters, Liters, and Celsius.
Michelin publishes a large map of Europe, individual country
maps, regional maps, and some city maps. These are among the finest
maps available for travel in Europe. Roads, rails, and ship lines
are indicated. Interesting sights and exceptional cities are
highlighted. Some detailed regional maps, e.g. the yellow
have a scale of about four miles to the inch. These show every
farmhouse and ditch, plus train stations, boulevards, and through
routes in the major cities.
For the big picture in a small format, a great map for making
travel plans is the National Geographic map "Europe."
National Geographic Magazine publishes beautiful maps which
are included in the magazine pretty regularly. Every few years or
so they include an updated map of Europe. The reverse side contains
a wealth of information, which might include population and
language maps, a satellite image, and other information. Those
editions of National Geographic which contain maps indicate
that fact on the spine with the name of the country or region in
red. Garage sales and used book sales in your home town usually
include hundreds of old copies of National Geographic so
shopping is easy and cheap. Make sure that the magazine still has
the map before you pay 10¢ for it. Also be on the lookout for
maps of Italy, Spain, and other countries in old editions of
European Map Makers
Besides Michelin, prominent map makers in Europe are Mair,
Kümmerly+Frey, Hallwag, and Falk. Except through specialized
travel book stores, these maps are not very easily obtained in the
USA. Look in the
TRAVELERS YELLOW PAGES category "Guide Books for Europe" on the
enjoy-europe.com site for sources.
Falk Plans have a variable distance scale, showing the center of
cities larger than the fringes. Some Falk Plans have a special cut
and fold which makes them difficult to use when crossing the cut.
But they fit in your pocket and are very handy.
National Tourist Offices
Pretty decent maps are given away free by many of the official
European government tourist offices in the USA. Look in the
TRAVELERS YELLOW PAGES section
National Tourist Offices for direct URL links to several dozen of these offices.
The Auto Club
The AAA Planning Map Of Europe has seriously deteriorated over
the years. Editions published years ago showed traffic signs,
including the all-important Do Not Enter sign. I can't imagine
why they would erase such critical information. Parts of this map
are so cluttered that it is nearly worthless. AAA should trash it
and start over.
Heavy Duty City Maps
City maps published in Europe are bulky. They often include a
small booklet with a street index and addresses for police,
hospitals, museums, libraries, theaters, camping places, and other
public sites. All of this is in the local language and often in two
to six additional languages. In some cases it's almost as if they
have drawn a map and then written a city guide book around it.
Maps from City Tourist Offices
"Official" maps issued by city tourist offices are not quite so
comprehensive as the ones you can buy in the stores, but they are
easier to stuff in your pocket. Many of these maps list and locate
hotels, museums, and other establishments of interest to the
traveler. Another nice feature is that they are usually free, or at
most only a fraction of the cost of the name brand maps.
It is better to request city tourist information by mail or via
internet web sites prior to going over. Do this a couple of months
prior to departure by writing to the tourist office of the city you
plan to visit. The information is free and you will have time to
study it before arriving in the city. Internet addresses for many
city and regional tourist offices are given in the
TRAVELERS YELLOW PAGES section
City Tourist Offices.
City Public Transit Maps
If the city tourist office levies a charge for their map and you
want a freebee, go to a bus or metro station and request a route
map. These maps are even less detailed but may be all that you
need, especially if you are using the public transports to get
around town. You are doing that, aren't you?
Bus, tram, and metro stops usually have a map of the routes for lines making that stop,
plus neighborhood maps. If you get lost these are very handy.
City Map Challenges
Using maps in Europe isn't exactly like it is at home. When
looking for a street address, have patience. Here are some
In some French cities the buildings are numbered, but not all
store fronts get a different number. One building may occupy a
whole block and each store will have the same street address.
In Amsterdam, there is just no correspondence between the addresses on
opposite sides of the canals. If you are looking for an odd
numbered address, you'd better be on the odd numbered side of the
In Geneva I found odd and even numbers on the same side of the street.
In map street indexes in Germany,
remember the interchangeability of umlaut ä,
ü with ae,
and ue, respectively. The street index may put
ajax, and then again, it might not. There are alphabet
aberrations in other European countries also, as you'll see in chapter 26,
Languages, Numbers, Alphabets:
Encounter The Tower of Babel in Europe
When looking for a street in Greece, you'll be confronted by the
dual alphabet problem. The city maps I could find only had the
Latin alphabet. This is no problem in Athens where the street signs
are in both alphabets. But outside Athens, usually only the Greek
alphabet is to be found on the street and road signs.
The maps I found in Kiev show the street names and public places
using the western alphabet. The street signs are only in Cyrillic so
good luck finding anything.
There are two generic types of translating books to help us
through the foreign languages of Europe. You can use the small
phrase books specifically designed for travelers. And/or you can
use a paperback pocket-size dual language dictionary. I like to
carry one of each. The phrase books sometimes include a dictionary,
though it is barely adequate. A real dictionary, pocket size, is much better.
Reading menus will be your most frequent need for a translating
helper. My favorites are the pocket size books published by
Berlitz. Most of the languages of Europe are covered in a long
series of books. The books include many common phrases, but also
contain a great deal of other information. For example the Berlitz
Swedish for Travelers includes phrases for greetings, directions,
menus, shopping, and other situations. It also includes the common
road signs, essential for driving in Europe. An oversight in the
Berlitz publications is that the pronunciation guide is given for
the British accent and not for the American. But you can survive
with it. Simply point to the phrase in the book if all else fails.
Berlitz publishes titles for the individual languages of western
Europe, plus their Eastern European Phrase Book. A typical title is
the Berlitz French Phrase Book and Dictionary. Put Berlitz in your
pocket unless you know the local language.
Barron's Educational Series publishes excellent phrase books for
many languages. Typical titles are French at a Glance and German at
a Glance. Because they are published in the USA the pronunciation
guide is keyed to the American accent. These books also include a
tremendous amount of basic information and a mini dictionary as do
the Berlitz books, plus a few maps.
Except in England and most of Ireland you will probably need some form
of translating dictionary. A good reason to carry a Foreign/English
& English/Foreign dictionary is that you will often get into
conversations with foreigners who are nearly fluent but don't know
the English word for, say, smuggler. The dictionary helps to keep
the conversation going. If you are out shopping it's also handy.
But if you are on one of those tours where you are stuffed into
a bus with 20 or 50 other bovine Americans you'll never talk to a
European so you won't need a dictionary. Pity, you went to Europe
to look through a bus window.
Dictionaries for a few popular languages are available in the
USA. If you are going to Italy, France, Germany, Austria, or
Switzerland you should have little trouble in finding a pocket
dictionary in a large bookstore at home. For other languages you
will probably need to go on line and order a book by mail.
Irregular Verbs and Sexual Nouns
Pocket-size translating dictionaries are very helpful. However
many words on signs and posters are not in these books. Conjugated
forms of verbs are not usually included, and the most common verbs
are the most irregular, giving no hint to the root. English is
similar, e.g., the verb to be becomes am, are,
is, were, was and others depending on case,
number, and tense.
Nouns are generally easy to find, though not always easy to use.
Many foreign languages assign a gender to each noun, masculine or
feminine, and some use neuter. French, Dutch, and some other
languages use special feminine endings to denote female persons.
Adjectives may have different endings depending on gender, number,
and on the function of the noun. Thus, in the extreme case, German
has 16 potential versions of the simple pronoun the,
starting with der, die, das for subject
singular masculine, feminine, neuter, and die for all
subject plurals. Not all forms are unique. It can get confusing,
Greek dictionaries present a couple of problems for the user
that you won't appreciate until you try to use the things. The
Greek, as opposed to the Latin, alphabet is used in all of them of
course. Entries may be in lower case letters. Most signs in Greece
are in upper case letters, which are something else again. Then you
have to know the order of the alphabet in order to find a word in
there. Would you expect z
to come before i in a dictionary?
Fortunately, learning the phonic Greek alphabet is not
especially difficult, and pronunciation is feasible after that.
Double fortunately, so many people in Athens speak English that you
don't have to worry about any of this. But outside Athens you can
find as many people who speak English as you would find speaking
Greek in Kansas.
Turn it up a notch in Ukraine and Bulgaria. Talk about
alphabets! These folks have a couple that are similar to Greek, but
different. The Bulgarian alphabet was invented by a couple of
monks, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who are consequently national
heroes. Bulgaria is probably the only country which so honors its
Much more on the subject of alphabets can be found later in chapter 26,
Languages, Numbers, Alphabets.
Rail travelers will find a schedule of all arrivals and
departures posted at each station. This is OK as far as it goes,
but most travelers need more.
Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable
For EurailPass travelers, your own copy of train schedules is
invaluable. The best available is the
Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable.
This baby takes a bit of practice to use, but the
average traveler will learn quickly. The front of the book has a
page of operating instructions to get you familiar with using it.
With the maps and schedules in this timetable, you can plan
connections and detours at your leisure and be independent. Thomas
Cook also publishes large fold out maps of the rails of Europe,
Rail Map Europe and
Rail Map of Britain & Ireland.
Having a copy of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable eliminates the need to wait in line
for a bureaucrat at a train station to get you on the right train,
which they don't always do very effectively. Rail information offices are normally jammed with
a long line waiting. Sometimes the office
is not open when you need it. If you are planning tight
connections ask the conductor on board your train for advice. They are always
very helpful and more accurate than agents in the train station information
Another advantage of carrying the timetable is that
pulling it out of your bag usually finds you with new friends
wanting to take a look at the schedule or asking about the next
train to Dijon.
Train numbers shown in the European Rail Timetable are
not always the same as the official train number, so don't use
these numbers to get you on the right train. Use departure time and
destination as a guide and always check the information on the
departure platform. Platforms for scheduled trains can be changed
at the last minute if a train is running behind schedule.
fail to study the legend in the front of the European Rail Timetable
and the small print notes following each schedule.
There is a
city index in the front of the book, along with city maps showing
the various train stations in those cities with more than one
station or dock, and a wealth of other information. The European Rail Timetable
is published quarterly and monthly, but the only major differences in
train service are between summer (June through September) and the
rest of the year.
A timetable definitely worth bringing with you (it's free to those who
purchase a EurailPass) is the Eurail Timetable.
This timetable has a great rail map of Europe and schedules of trains between major
cities. It is
very easy to use and makes a handy supplement to the Thoms Cook European Rail Timetable,
which is not so easy to use because it is so comprehensive. The booklet also has some
valuable information for train travelers in the front. The Eurail Timetable comes
with your EurailPass and is also available at any Eurail Aid Office in Europe.
These offices are indicated on the Eurail Map which comes with your
National Railroad Timetables
All of the national railroads of Europe publish timetables of
various sorts. Some are tables showing all the trains between two
cities, as in the French Horaire which can be picked up at
train stations at no cost. Notes regarding fare supplements, days
when the train does not run, and other special conditions are in
French, and you'd better read those notes.
At stations in
Holland, you can pick up a small booklet called Intercity:
Belangrijkste Treinverbindingen in Nederland (Important Train
Connections in The Netherlands). Notes are in Dutch, and you'd
better read those notes. A complete schedule of all Dutch trains
can be purchased at many stations for a nominal cost. Explanation
of the symbols is in English, but those dangerous footnotes are in
The DB (German Rail) publishes a booklet titled
Städteverbindungen (City Connections) showing
timetables for selected major city routes. On named trains in
Germany the conductor passes out a guide to the train named Ihr
Zug-Begleiter. This shows arrival and departure times and
trains connecting from each stop. The symbol translation table is
in German and in English.
There is plenty of other literature
put out by the various national railroads of Europe showing
schedules, routes, and special deals. Virtually all of it is in the local
language. So unless you can read it you will not know that a train
might only run on weekdays, but on Friday only goes halfway, and on
Tuesday and Thursday it starts an hour earlier.
Chapter 17 of How To Europe
There is much more about trains in chapter 17,
Trains in Europe:
A Traveler's Rail Primer.
Over the years I've traveled the
rails from the north of Norway to southern Portugal and to the eastern end
of the Ukraine. Traveling by train is a great way to see Europe.
National Geographic Traveler
National Geographic magazine has arguably the best travel
photography published and has an article on a European destination
in virtually every issue. It's companion,
National Geographic Traveler, is also extremely valuable for travel
planning. There is usually one article on Europe in every issue,
supplemented with sidebars providing information on travel
arrangements and sources for further information.
Condé Nast Traveler
Condé Nast Traveler is one of the best of the travel magazines available
at most magazine racks. It's a monthly and regularly features
articles on Europe. It also has very good information on general
travel topics, e.g. credit cards, jet lag, and other news bits.
Another of my favorites is Transitions Abroad,
a bi-monthly targeting the university oriented audience with
extensive information on study abroad programs, working overseas,
and general travel information.
International Travel News
Saving the best for nearly last,
International Travel News is unquestionably the one
journal every traveler should read. The ITN is a monthly and
features extensive letters, articles, and photos by the readers,
probably the most traveled group of any journal's readership in the
world. You'll get more first-hand, inside, and upright information
about every place on the planet than you'll find anyplace else on
Weekend Travel Sections in Major Newspapers
Major metrolopitan newspapers feature
a large travel section on Sunday. You usually see a full color picture of a
tropical beach on page one. Inside there is usually one article
on a European destination, along with scores of adverts for airfares,
package deals, hotels, and other travel services. The articles are there
to support the advertising so they rarely mention an overcast day, much less
anything seriously wrong with any of the destinations written about.
AUTHORS NOT TO MISS
Georgia Hesse and Ed Buryn
There are very few books by people who have traveled and who
know how to write about it. Two that stand out are:
Going My Way by Georgia Hesse (1975, Chronicle Books, San Francisco), and
Vagabonding In Europe And North Africa by Ed Buryn (1971, 1973,
The Bookworks, Berkeley). What these timeless books have in common and what
most books do not have is personal experience, an honest straightforward
presentation, and a wealth of information in a small volume. While
I take issue with a few points in each book, I strongly recommend
both to every traveler.
Ernest Hemingway and Peter Mayle
These are two of my favorite authors because of the way they
write and what they write about. Ernest Hemingway's
A Moveable Feast recounts some of his life in Paris decades ago.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle describes his life in the south
of France more recently.
These are two first hand accounts of living in Europe that will
entertain and enlighten every traveler. Both authors have a number
of other books of interest to those who love faraway places and
Bookstores, libraries, tourist offices, commercial travel
businesses, and our own federal government all provide information
of value to travelers. Much of the best and most important
information is absolutely free.
Regular bookstores in your home town usually have a section with
this year's selection of travel guides. Certain publishers seem to
hog much of the shelf space. The local outlet of a national chain
has reduced its inventory to only four publishers of Europe guide
books. The regional manager told me that these are the best sellers
and corporate headquarters has scratched the others off the list.
Unfortunately, the best guide books were among those scratched off
and the hoi polloi is about all that is offered. Hype sells.
Travel books are sorted alphabetically by country or by
continent or whatever, depending on the store manager. A few
Michelin books are often placed on a nearby rack, if they are
stocked at all. There is sometimes a haphazard assemblage of
foreign maps in the vicinity of the travel books. The foreign
language dictionaries and phrase books are usually in the reference
section of the store. Rail timetables are nowhere to be found.
Used Guide Books
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris hasn't moved for eight centuries and the
Coliseum has been parked at the same place in Rome for two thousand years. No
additional monuments have been discovered in decades. Why do you
need a new guide book with this year's date on the cover? You don't.
These "updated" guide books are usually reprints of old material in
a new cover. The purpose of a new cover date is simply to sell more books,
the primary goal of the travel guide book industry. The most popular
books are the most prone to this scam. See the section titled the Hoi Polloi
above for examples.
Used books are sold at used book stores, on-line with
specialists like Alibris, on-line with Amazon.com and others, at
garage sales, church rummage sales, library used book sales,
Salvation Army stores, AAUW used book sales, and other events.
Travel Book Specialists
There are a few bookstores which specialize in information and
supplies for travelers. The current editions of Michelin, Berlitz,
AA publications, and European maps, may be ordered from a number of
mail order travel bookstores. These stores also carry many other
My favorite source of books, except for used book sales, is Amazon.com.
Amazon.com seems to have just about eveything and provides
fast reliable shipping. My green advertising column on the right has many links to
good travel books at Amazon.com.
European Book Stores
Bookstores in Europe are convenient sources for dictionaries,
maps, and for other locally published guides to hotels and
restaurants. European department stores usually have a large, well
stocked travel bookstore. When traveling light, you might consider
packing only the literature for the first country on your
itinerary. On entering a country, buy a pocket translating
dictionary and anything else that you couldn't get for free from
the city tourist office. Now and then, as the load on your back
increases, mail home the materials you don't need any longer. See
Shipping Your Treasures Home from Europe for intelligence on using the post
offices in Europe.
European Rail Timetable
This monthly schedule of the trains throughout Europe, discussed above, is
published in England and is not easily purchased in the USA. In the past I
have ordered my European Rail Timetable direct through the Thomas
Cook Publications web site. It was delivered in less than two weeks
at a cost, including postage, less than the American price. The
American distributor never responded to an email.
I have included a link to this timetable in the right hand column for
advertisements. Amazon.com can get this out to you in less time.
Once over there, Thomas Cook and Wagon-Lits offices in France,
Germany, and England are good sources for the Timetable. I bought
a current copy in Paris for half of the United States list price.
I've also bought it in Frankfurt at the Wagon-Lits office,
ordered it from the publisher when I lived in Geneva, Switzerland,
and bought a copy when I was in London, April 2009. This book will save
you headaches and time if you are traveling the rails anywhere in Europe.
A good public library will have most of the popular travel
guide books, though they will probably be two to ten years old. No
matter. See the comments on used books above. For my last trip I checked
out a couple of books and brought them with me. My library allows a month.
914 in the Dewey Decimal System
Books on Europe are in classification 914 of the Dewey Decimal
System. Check them out and make notes on subjects of interest. For
instance, if you want to visit all the ship museums, or wine
festivals, or war memorials, research the literature and compose
your personal guide book. Save yourself $20 or $50 and benefit from
using a half dozen guides rather than one. Writing down the information
you need will burn it into your memory.
In addition to guide books, you will find dozens of other books
and references to Europe and specific countries. Start with the
encyclopedias, and then go to the book and magazine shelves and
reference files. Look for history books, geography, art, and other
specific subjects. Personal travelogues in dusty covers can be
fascinating and informative. The more you know about the places you
are going to visit, the more you will enjoy them.
Language tapes, videos, and texts are also available in most
libraries. If you don't know any French, Spanish, or Russian before
you head for their countries, some ear acclimatization beforehand
would be a good part of your preparation. Also, have a good look at chapter 26,
European Languages, Numbers, Alphabets:
Encounter the Tower of Babel in Europe,
for much more about languages.
Major libraries may also have telephone books for selected countries and cities of
Europe. These might help you locate a hotel or restaurant that one
of your friends has told you about. However, using European phone
books is not easy. They're all so different that I won't go into
this in detail.
Libraries, especially university libraries, also carry major
foreign newspapers. These can help you brush up on your French or
German, tell you what's on stage in London this week, or give you
some idea of the price of used cars and apartment rental rates. The
daily newspapers of many large cities can also be found on the Internet.
Do not confuse travel agencies with tourist offices.
Your home town telephone directory lists travel agencies. Their
business is selling tickets for air travel and package tours. For
good personal service, instead of telephone menus and/or internet
radio buttons, see your travel agent. They have some great
Tourist offices are something else.
Official National Tourist Offices
Official tourist offices are maintained in the United States by
each European country to provide information to prospective
tourists. Most countries have tourist information offices in New York City with
additional offices in other major American cities.
Write or phone and request hotel lists, sightseeing information,
and maps. Replies will be forthcoming in days to weeks. The
information is free. All you have to do is ask for it. Most of the
information is surprisingly objective in describing the country and
various customs, but do not expect every day of your journey to be
filled with the clear, sunny skies that you see in the photos.
Most countries also have a web site where you can get voluminous
information. For a full list of current URLs see the category
National Tourist Offices in the
TRAVELERS YELLOW PAGES.
maintain tourist offices in other European capital cities. I was
able to get hotel lists, maps, and tourist information on Ireland when I was
in Paris, on Italy, Portugal, and France in Madrid, on Germany in
Amsterdam, etc. Finding these offices is not always easy because
the local name of each country is usually not the American version,
e.g. Holland is Pays-Bas in French. Check your foreign
language dictionary. Some or all of the literature will be in
languages other than ours, but the city maps and hotel lists are
easy to follow.
The Small Print
The most important information provided by these tourist offices
is generally set aside in several pages of small print in the back
of the full color brochures. This section discusses important items
of legal and cultural concern to visitors, particular to each
country. Typical subjects are: passports, visas, entry
requirements, customs duties, currency, driving laws, alcoholic
beverage laws, shopping, taxes, holidays, tipping, weather, banks,
and addresses for further information.
City Tourist Offices
Almost every city in Europe has a city tourist office. These
offices provide maps, hotel lists, and calendars of events. This
information is free, though there is sometimes a nominal charge for
the better quality maps, and always a charge for t-shirts and for other
"Yeah, I've been there stuff." Even if there is a charge for maps,
it is usually less than the cost of maps and guides in the bookstores. City
tourist offices are normally located in or near the main train
station, the town square, or on a major boulevard. City tourist
offices are also very helpful when you have a misunderstanding with
your hotel The tourist office can act as translator and help you
get the problem straightened out or find another hotel for you.
When picking up maps and guides in the city tourist offices, get
the English version and the local language version. The reason for
this is that the English version will usually have an English
translation of the names of buildings and sights (e.g. "Weigh
House"), but the buildings and sights themselves have only the
local language name on the front door (e.g. Waag
in Holland). With both maps you can figure out what is what. Some
guide maps are in six languages in which case you don't have to get
two of them.
Prior to going, you can also write directly to the city tourist
office of the cities you plan to visit, advise them that you plan
on a holiday there in a month or so, and request a map, a hotel
list, and sightseeing information. Most cities will send you a two
pound packet of full color brochures. Though "tourist office"
usually goes under local language names, e.g. Verkersamt in
Germany, addressing your letter simply to "Tourist Bureau" will
probably land your letter in the right place.
COMMERCIAL TRAVEL BUSINESSES
Railroads, hotels, and other businesses sometimes provide gratis
information to help you travel.
The railroads are to Europe what the
airlines are to the United States. Most of them promote vacation
packages including accommodations and supplemental transportation.
Brochures describing these packages include information helpful to
the free-lance traveler. You can also obtain schedules of major
routes and connections from the railroad information offices for
point to point travel. This service is usually free, though most
railroads charge a fee for their printed schedules.
Metropolitan rail and bus lines issue free route plans and city
maps. Pick them up at bus depots, main train stations, or at city
tourist offices. The bus and tram route maps can be particularly helpful
because bus and tram stops usually have a sign board showing the route
numbers and maps for the routes which stop there. If you get lost,
the route map and any nearby bus stop should get you found.
First class hotels in major cities usually have booklets with
city maps, calendars of events, restaurant lists, etc. A typical
title is This Week In Stockholm. These booklets are freely
available in the better hotels. Even if you're not staying there,
just go in and browse the registration counter and the brochure
rack in the lobby.
There are a number of better quality hotel groups in Europe that
are composed of independently owned and/or chain-managed hotels.
Examples are Golden Tulip, Etap, and Ibis. To obtain a free
directory, ask the national tourist office when you write for
European Department Stores
Even department stores can provide tourists with helpful maps
and information. In Paris, the Galeries Lafayette provides a good
street map and plan of the Metro on the back side of its
perfume advertising flyer. The Stockmann department store in
Helsinki has an excellent free city map and four language guide on
the back of their advertising flyer. Look for others as you travel
and shop through Europe.
The Federal Government publishes a number of pamphlets of value
to travelers. These are primarily concerned with what you are
allowed to bring back into the country, but also concern your
health and safety while overseas. One of these, Know Before You Go,
is a must read before packing your bags. Download it from
the U.S. Customs Service at
Know Before You Go.
THE WORLD WIDE WEB, WWW
The Internet is now the information
source of choice for many people, probably including you because
you've found this web site. There are thousands of web sites dedicated
to travel in Europe, to individual countries, and to individual
The easiest way to locate information is to use a search engine
such as Bing.com, Google.com, or one of the others.
Type a word or phrase
into the little box and hit your return key. Voilà you'll
have thousands, maybe millions, of hits.
is that you'll probably get too many hits unless you narrow your
search to a set of key words. For example, try
something like europe travel independent if you're looking
for sources of information on independent travel in Europe. Typing
just travel europe will give you over a million hits.
Travelers Yellow Pages
In an attempt to bring you the information you need without
wading through those pages and pages on your screen, my
TRAVELERS YELLOW PAGES has links to dozens of pages with information directly
pertinent to travel in Europe. For example, the airline category
includes direct links to the airlines flying to Europe. Other
categories currently on site include discount travel, auto rental,
official national tourist offices, city and regional tourist
offices, and much more. The eclectic sites and personal web pages
give you some unique perspectives on Europe. The guide books page
links you to sources of books and maps for your travels.
If you came to
this chapter 10 without going through the home page, click
How To Europe to access additional chapters free
on line. On my home page
you'll find other essential information, for example,
Prime Travel Data
for many countries of Europe, and more about the weather,
money exchange, and maps. It's all free, quick loading, and easy to use.
No plug-ins required and no pop-ups allowed!
NOTE TO READERS
I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to
Europe that have not been covered well enough in this chapter do not hesitate to write and ask.
My email address is
When you write please include as much detail as possible. There are about 50 countries in Europe.
It will help me answer if you mention the countries and/or cities you plan to visit.
I will reply in a day or two.
Don't forget to scroll through the Table of Contents below. The other 29 chapters of
HOW TO EUROPE
are also available, free to read on line. In addition, the Google search box below can locate specific subjects
in any chapter or page on site.
For a check-off punchlist of everything go to The Finale,
Packing List and Last Call: For
Travel in Europe.
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Have a good trip in life,
Note: Italicized notations by the author.
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
The details on driving in Europe may save your life.
Driving in Europe 101
by Curley Bowman
A selection of travel guide books.
Michelin Green Guide Netherlands, 5e
Eyewitness Travel Guides
Michelin produces superior maps for nearly every place in Europe.
Pocket Map and Guide
Eyewitness Travel Guides
Here is a combo dictionary and phrase book for your first trip to France.
French At a Glance
Barron's Educational Series
Larousse Mini Dictionary
Oxford Mini Dictionary
The classic journal of a Brit who moved to southern France.
A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle
During World War II in Nazi occupied Haarlem, Holland a Dutch Christian family risked
everything to save American air men and native Jews. This is a gripping story.
The Hiding Place
by Corrie Ten Boom
Michelin Battle of Normandy Map No.102 [Facsimile, Folded Map]
A Travel Guide to World War II Sites in Italy: Museums, Monuments, and Battlegrounds
The 25 Essential World War II Sites: European Theater: The Ultimate Traveler's Guide to Battlefields, Monuments, and Museums
Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium
The Holocaust Sites of Europe: An Historical Guide
A humorous introduction to Holland.
by Colin White
and Laurie Boucke
A compact guide to the heart of Europe's wine districts.
The Wine Roads of Europe
by Marc and Kim Million
A fascinating peek at a bit of British history.
by Alan Wharam
The story of the first and greatest financial "bubble" in history.
by Mike Dash
Two that will get you started in Italy.
The Last Italian
by William Murray
Under the Tuscan Sun
by Frances Mayes
, , , , , , , ,
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
Weather protection is essential. This is a great lightweight water repellent windbreaker.
Devon & Jones Women's Signature Colorblock Jacket
Look sharp and be comfortable.
Hot Chillys Women's Peach Skins Solid T-Neck Shirt
London Fog Women's Double Breasted Trench Coat
Clarks Women's Wave.Run Slip-On
Tilley Endurables TH9 Women's Hemp Hat
Wear a scarf for comfort and style. Nobody will ever suspect that you are an American.
Very soft houndstooth neck scarf, Kanye West style, different colors available
I wore one similar to this on my early spring trip to London and Dublin.
Leather Bomber Jacket
My "standard" shirt for off-season travel in Europe.
Kingsize Big & Tall Turtleneck Long-Sleeve Cotton Shirt
My favorite T-shirt/undershirt has a pocket for securely carrying passport, cash, and credit cards.
Turfer Tagless ComfortSoft T-Shirt with Pocket
New Casual Grey Herringbone Wool Cap
Weather protection and extra pockets.
SCOTTEVEST Travel Vest for Women
For leg comfort on the plane.
Arriva Travel-Tec Travel Legwear with Smart Compression Technology
Block the light and noise while flying.
Bucky Shades Sleep Mask
Certainly a better pillow than the corporate issue on the plane.
Bucky Fuzzy Wuzzy U Pillow With Snap & Go
To relax and sleep on the plane.
Organic Valerian Root 515mg - 100 - Capsule
Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back.
Delsey Luggage Helium Fusion Light 21 Inches Expandable Carryon
Day luggage for your walkabout.
Travelpro Luggage WalkAbout LITE 4 Deluxe Tote
Here is a convenient travel purse.
Rothco Venturer Travel Portfolio Bag
An RFID blocking wallet protects your passport and credit cards from identity theft in public places.
Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case
Keep your stuff organized.
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set
eBags Small Packing Cubes - 3pc Set
This carry-on liquids kit meets TSA airline rules.
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Custom Travel Bottle Set
The two gallon size is excellent for packing your clothes, but it is hard to find in Europe.
2 gal. clear plastic bags
ZipLoc by SC Johnson
Much stronger than duct tape, and doesn't leave a messy residue. Fixes luggage, serves as
a clothesline, wraps your international mail packages, etc., etc.
1" x 60 yards
3M Company #8957-1
This portable combo door stopper and alarm will give you additional security in your hotel room.
GE 50246 Smart Home
Door Stop Alarm
A bungee cord is very handy for tying your shoulder bag to your roller bag frame.
Crawford-Lehigh 6102 Bungee Stretch Cords Assortment
Walk on cork for all day comfort.
Birkenstock Bali Sandal
Birkenstock Arizona Sandal
Just as comfortable as tennies but look great. I've gone through several pairs over the years.
Make sure that your electrical appliances are 110-220 dual voltage so they will work in Europe.
These appliances require a plug adapter(s), NOT a converter, for the countries you are visiting.
Vagabond Compact Styler
Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer
Conair Flat Iron 2" Ceramic Straightener
Travel Hair Setter
SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage)
Braun Series 1 150 Men's Shaver with Automatic Worldwide Voltage Adjustment
For light sleepers here is an international "white noise" machine. Includes a Continental
Marsona TSCi-330 White Noise Travel Sound Conditioner For both USA and International Use
For coffee or tea in your room, without waiting or paying for room service.
Lewis N. Clark Immersion Heater 120/240V
Starbucks makes the best instant coffee I have found, and these little packets cost only 58¢ each
in the 50 unit sack. That's a bargain in the USA and an absolute steal anyplace in Europe.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee, available in House Blend, Colombia, Italian, and Italian Decaf roasts.
Be on time. Trains and planes don't wait.
Casio Men's G-Shock Ana-Digi Chronograph Sport Watch
Casio Women's BLX100-1 Baby-G Multi-Function Digital Black Resin Sport Watch
Wash in your room basin and save time, trouble, and money.
Woolite Laundry Soap
20 packs, ¼ ounce each
Inflatable clothes hangars help with drip dry clothes washed in your room.
Inflatable Travel & Laundry Hangers Set Of 4 by Whitney Design
You will need one or more of these plug adapters for your appliances and chargers.
For details on electricity see chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe: Travel Voltage Fundamentals
Plug Adapter (doubler)
Universal to Continental Europe "Europlug."
4.0 mm prongs
SIMRAN PLUG ADAPTER
Adapts grounded USA plugs to European "Shucko" plug.
4.8 mm prongs
This is a universal plug adapter for Britain and Ireland.
Universal Grounded Adaptor Plug.
UK and Ireland
This series of "3-Pack" Ceptics brand grounded universal plug adapters is handy if you are carrying multiple
gizmos or if you have travel companions who also need a charge.
Britain and Ireland
This 110-250 volt power surge strip has three universal outlets and an American grounded plug
so it needs a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting. Make sure your gizmos are rated for 110-240 volts.
SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection.
For charging up to six gizmos at a time use this 250 volt universal
power strip. It comes with a grounded Continental plug.
6 Universal Outlets
220/240 Volt 50/60Hz
If your gizmos charge through a USB port this can keep you going. European cars have the same
12 volt system as American cars.
Scosche Dual USB
This transformer rated for 200 watts will power many of your appliances if they are only rated for 120 volts.
Transformer - 200 Watt Non Grounded Heavy Duty
OK, this is the elephant. If you are moving over and taking your electric saw, planer, drill, etc. I recommend it.
Transformer - 1,000 Watt Non Grounded Heavy Duty
Absolutely the best battery for digital cameras which use AA batteries.
AA Lithium Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are expensive but pay for themselves over and over.
This charger is good for worldwide voltage and comes with 4 pre-charged batteries.
It requires a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
Sanyo SEC-MQN064 Eneloop 4 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargable Batteries
with Worldwide 110-240 volt charger
This kit includes a pair of rechargeable batteries with a USB powered charger.
SANYO NEW 1500 eneloop 2-AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries
w/ USB Charger
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