Which Rick Steves books?

Oct 18th, 2007, 10:15 AM
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Which Rick Steves books?

I am a first time traveller to Europe but have planned other extensive trips. I'll be doing a two week trip in France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

Rick Steves has several books covering Europe--Through the Back Door, Best of Europe, and books covering each country and many cities.

I don't want to buy them all. Which book(s) should I get?

Connie is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:22 AM
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I'm not a big Rick Steves fan so am not familiar with all of those. However, I did browse the one on Switzerland as I went there last summer, and it was okay for info on train transportation and some of the walks. My understanding is the "through the Back Door" books are best for neophyte travelers, as it gives a lot of basic information regarding travel which is going to seem obvious or worst if you are experienced.

Best of Europe books are not usually very comprehensive, as they can't be. IF you are doing four countries in two weeks, you can't be doing much in-depth travel, however, so if those cover the main cities you are going to, they could be sufficient rather than getting one for every country, as I do.

What I really do is look through guidebooks at the book store if I want to buy one -- scanning what they cover and how well I like their layout, index, etc. Usually, I just get them out of my library which is pretty good, and then Xerox the pages for the places I plan to go rather than taking a whole book. If I were going to be in one country for several weeks, I'd probably take a complete book.
Christina is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:37 AM
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The best Rick Steve's book are Frommer's, Fodor's, Loney Planet, and Rough Guide.

His books are extremely limited in thought and and sites.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:42 AM
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get any RS books you want - they won't help you do 4 countries in 2 weeks. If you actually mean 14 days including travel to/from Europe you will only net about 10 or 11 full days for sightseeing/touring.

One day/night getting to Europe. One day not "lost" but definitely slowed getting over the jet lag. One day flying home. And 1/2 - 1 day every time you move from one city/hotel to the next.

I'd cut back to a couple of countries max (one would be even better) and then get a book(s) about them.
janisj is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:44 AM
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<< I am a first time traveller to Europe... doing a two week trip in France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria >>

Gives me pause as to what is your itinerary? Does it only include only a limited bit of France, and likewise Italy? Or is it the much-feared (here on this forum) "ten stops in twelve nights"?

The Rick Steves book on Germany, Switzerland and Austria (which I last looked at 10 years ago, when I bought a copy of it) might be useful to you (it only includes southern and Alpine Germany, not the entire country), but it is quite specific for destinations that Rick likes, and quite dismissive of others... so it depends on where you are headed. It doesn't include any of Alpine France nor the portion of northern Italy that brushes up to the mountains touching the other three countries.

I hope you have only one destination in France (perhaps Nice/the Cote d'Azur?) and no more than one in Italy (Venice, perhaps?). Wherever you're going in those two countries, you need a book (maybe from the library?) for the place you're going to see, and not an entire Rick Steves book.

I worry that the book you're going to need most is how to enjoy the inside of a vehicle.

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:00 AM
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I think four countries in two weeks is way too many. You'll spend all your time going place to place.

I think Europe thru the Backdoor is a great book but more about how to travel and enjoy yourself, than to use as an actual guidebook for planning the specifics.

Honestly I don't buy guidebooks ever, unless for one particular city I have not been to before (Amsterdam, as example Let's Go is good). I plan everything of the internet, then get local tourist information after I arrive.

suze is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:03 AM
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Connie, Another suggestion. In working our your itinerary I'd start thinking in terms of cities or towns rather than entire countries (i.e., Venice and Florence in 5 days). That will help you get a more realistic grip on what you'll be able to do during a 14 day trip.
suze is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:27 AM
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Rick Stevesí books also have thoughts on how to put an itinerary together. His guidebooks are opinionated and there are lots of wonderful places that he doesnít include. But for a first timer, sometimes the other books are so comprehensive that itís hard to pick and choose.

His writing style may be a bit folksy and cuteóand I donít always agree with him. But I think you generally wonít go wrong with his favorites and his information on where to go, how to get around and what to do when youíre there. At this point, having someone tell you what to see and what not to may be a big help.
JEFF_ is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:35 AM
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I am going to dissent here, from all but Suze. I think the Rick Steves book are very helpful to a first-time European traveler. They are not comprehensive guidebooks, and his choices of what to see may not be your choices. But they are excellent "how-to" guides in terms of how to ride the trains, use the phones, choose a place to stay, etc.

The Switzerland book is particularly good. Unlike ten years ago when Rex looked at it, Rick now devotes an entire book just to Switzerland. After four 2-week trips there, I still take a look at it. One thing he does not cover indepth is hiking, however. I see from other posts that you are an avid hiker (having hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back). If hiking is your goal in Switzerland, I can help you with suggetions.

As for France and Italy, the Rick Steves books on those countries are not comprehensive and will only help you if you are following his itinerary. But my boss and his wife used the Italy book for his first trip to Europe and they were very pleased. I don't know anyone who has used the France book, but I know his Paris suggestions come in for a lot of criticism here.

I'd suggest you take a look at the Switzerland and Italy books. Your local library is likely to have them.
enzian is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:49 AM
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I'm with enzian. I used Rick Steves' Italy book on my first trip to Europe and was very pleased with all the info. We stayed in two great pensiones (pensioni? Can't remember the Italian plural rule when the word ends in "e.") that were recommended in his books, and they were awesome. I also liked his packing tips and some sightseeing recs.
vlcgoddess is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:00 PM
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When I took my first trip to Europe in 2002, I bought a copy of _Europe Through the Back Door_. It was a great resource for giving me the tools and the confidence to travel independently and on a budget. FYI, much of the information in that book is available free, in summary fashion, in the Travel Tips section at www.ricksteves.com. I suggest that you begin by reading the articles in that section. If you want more detailed information, then buy the book. The 2008 edition is now available.

I've also bought a few RS guidebooks. They've been helpful, but I haven't relied on them alone. For a more thorough approach, I recommend Lonely Planet.

Follow Christina's suggestion. Go to a bookstore and thumb through several guidebooks on a particular city/region/country. Do the same at a public library. See which ones you like for style, emphasis, and coverage.
TimS is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:10 PM
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I'm a veteran European traveler but I still find Rick Steves books to be incredibly useful. I don't always agree with his style or opinions, but for the first time traveler they are great because his information is cut and dry, making it easy to understand, and he can offer great advice.

With that being said, my problem with his books is that he only mentions places that he finds worthy, meaning that he leaves out a lot of great places. I would use his books but only in conjunction with other, more thorough country or regional books.

Happy planning!
tcreath is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:27 PM
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I don't care for his maps.
suze is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:31 PM
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I agree that you should focus your trip on one or two countries. If you stick with Switzerland and Austria then you just have on language to deal with. You would also get a good combination of beautiful scenery & charming cities/towns.

We spent 6 nights in Switzerland & 8 nights in Austria with only the RS Germany, Austria & Switzerland 2005 book and never had a dull moment.

Now RS has a Switzerland only book.

I would focus your itinerary and then get guidebooks that specialize on the country(ies) you'll visit.

I disagree that his books are limited on the sites. His books list all the major attractions organized by region. He has information on day trips and do-it-yourself walking tours. He also gives information on local tours that you may want to take.

I've traveled to Paris, London, Germany, Austria & Switzerland with his books and have never run out of things to see/do.

We are currently planning our Xmas trip to Venice, Florence & Rome (16 nights total) and we already know we're not going to have time to see everything.

His books do help you prioritize your sightseeing.
halfapair is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:03 PM
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I did use his Switzerland-only book, and thought that was okay, as I said. I have always viewed his France book and didn't like it at all. Now maybe it's just because I do know a lot more about France, hard to say. I think partly it's because the places I read about in the Switzerland weren't so large, so his walking tour and discussion of Luzern, for example, couldn't go too far wrong. However, in large cities like Paris, his comments or advice can ignore much of the city and just be very different than my opinions or interests. Same in Provence, I don't like a lot of what he says about it.

I do hate his maps, also, though, so even for Switzerland, I also copied sections from other guidebooks from the library so I'd get a decent map. His maps are drawn by a five-year old or something, and he thinks it is cute, I guess.

Christina is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:14 PM
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halfapair, I guess my point is that in the countryside he only lists towns that he consideres "the back door" (even though they certainly aren't due to his books). For instance, his Italy book was almost useless for when we visited Umbria with the exception of Assisi and a small exerpt from a few other towns. He focuses on towns that he loves (examples would be Gimmelwald, Hallstatt, Korcula) but leaves out places (or barely mentions them) that, in his opinion, aren't as great as his favorites. When he finds a town he loves he gives a ton of information on it, but for a complete overview of the entire country I find using a country-specific book to be better.

As I said, I like RS and always buy his books when I'm going to a new area in Europe. I do agree that his maps are ridiculous.

tcreath is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:36 PM
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I like the DK Eyewitness guides.
Momliz is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:46 PM
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I like "If you have two days" "If you have four days" feature in Rick Steve's books. They give me a good idea of what can be realistically accomplished in a certain number of days.
specs is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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I always use a Rick Steves and a Frommers. Rick's books cover a limited number of locations, but I find his books useful for those places.

I agree that you are trying to cover too many places. I'd follow Rick's advice that you should assume to will be back and choose only one country on which to concentrate.

I have found his "Europe through the Back Door" to be quite useful for general information and ideas about independent travel.
Pegontheroad is online now  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:53 PM
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Connie, I think Rick Steves' books are really quite helpful and to the point. We just got back from London/ Cotswold and Paris and I tore off sections of his book as we went out and about each day. They may not give too much detail, but he provides a lot of pertinent information that is easy to find and makes life really easy. His recommendations were on the money and really useful so I would say certainly look at his books on the countries you are interested in. HIs books are really helpful to first timers!
NE is offline  

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