Rick Steves conducting guidebook research in Bern, Switzerland.

Rick Steves’ Europe

Rick Steves knows Europe. In fact, he is a walking, talking European encyclopedia. If it’s a European experience, chance are he’s “been there, done that.”

Perhaps most widely known to the general public for his popular PBS travel show, Rick Steves’ Europe, which takes viewers on an intimate journey through some of the world’s most historic cities. He also produces a best-selling series of guidebooks and is the author of Travel as a Political Act. Steves is dedicated to providing all Americans with access to travel information and has made extensive resources available for free on the Rick Steves’ Europe website, via the Rick Steves Audio Europe app and in Rick Steves Classroom Europe, a searchable database of short, teachable video clips. A notorious light packer, Steves offers valuable packing advice for those planning a trip to Europe or elsewhere.

In addition, he is the founder and owner of Rick Steves’ Europe, a travel business with a tour program that brings more than 30,000 people to Europe annually. Steves works closely with several advocacy groups and donates to a variety of nonprofits such as Bread for the World. He has also provided $8 million in funding to build two new neighborhood centers in his community and has donated a 24-unit apartment building for homeless women and their children to his local YWCA. He resides and works in his hometown of Edmonds, Washington.

Steves at Cambridge University’s Trinity College in Cambridge, England.

Rick Steves’ Europe

Steves recently spoke about European travel.

From safety and economic standpoints, is now a good time for Americans to travel to Europe?

Except for two years of pandemic, I’ve spent 100 days a year exploring Europe every year since the mid 1970s. And for me, if I were to graph safety and economy over the decades, it would be about a straight line. Back when travelers in my generation were poor students, Europe was cheap, yet no easier to afford than today. Statistically, Europe is always safer than staying home in the USA. That’s simply a fact. If you care about the well-being of your children, from a violent crime or terrorism point of view, you’ll take them to Europe tomorrow. As for economy, the dollar rises and falls against European currencies and I just crank up the budget focus when our dollar is down (alternatives to hotels and restaurants are always there for people needing to save money). This year, with the dollar nearly at par with the euro, Americans are finding prices are pretty good.

What cost-saving tips can you offer travelers, including airfares, accommodations, dining and travel throughout Europe?

For me there are two keys. First, equip yourself with good information and expect yourself to travel smart. Second, travel as a temporary local. Stay in cozy local-style mom & pop accommodations (family-run guest houses, B&Bs, small simple hotels). Eat in low rent places that are thriving with a local clientele. My trick for choosing a good restaurant is to find a place with a small, hand-written menu that’s only in one language. That means they are catering to savvy locals, serving what’s seasonal and fresh in the market and cooking up what they can sell at a good price and still be profitable. If it’s got that kind of menu on the door, in a low rent location and filled with happy locals, it’s got to be a winner. For international trips, I pay the extra fee to have a professional travel agent find me the best value (which isn’t necessarily the cheapest) ticket.

Which regions of Europe are most budget friendly?

If I told you Portugal was cheap this year but your travel dreams were taking you to Scotland, then Scotland is your best value. The best deals are found by traveling smartly in countries that you really are excited to experience. Having said that, the general rule of thumb for Europe: prices are better as you go south and east. Ireland, Britain and Scandinavia are most expensive. Spain, Greece and Turkey are cheaper. But a smart traveler can enjoy Scandinavia at near Spanish prices if necessary and still have a wonderful time. Remember when considering “budget tricks” that, along with your money, your time is a limited and precious resource. Use your time smartly.

Rick Steves during his radio show, Travel with Rick Steves.

Rick Steves’ Europe


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