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Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door

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You can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling through Europe, including how to:

- Plan your itinerary and maximize your time
- Pack light-and right
- Find good-value hotels and restaurants
- Travel smoothly by train, bus, car, and plane
- Avoid crowds and tourist scams
- Hurdle the language barrier
- Understand cultural differences and connect with locals
- Save money while enjoying the trip of a lifetime

After 30 years of exploring Europe, Rick considers this travel skills handbook his life's work. He shares his favorite off-the-beaten-path towns, trails, and natural wonders. With this guidebook, you'll experience the culture like a local, spend less money, and have more fun.

808 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1982

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About the author

Rick Steves

554 books455 followers
Richard "Rick" Steves is an American author and television personality on European travel. He is the host of a public television series, and a public radio travel show, and the author of many travel guidebooks and autobiographies.

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5 stars
2,615 (48%)
4 stars
1,901 (34%)
3 stars
750 (13%)
2 stars
109 (2%)
1 star
64 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 204 reviews
Profile Image for Noël.
41 reviews
June 20, 2016
Can't afford to travel, so I enjoyed reading this in time for summer... and watching others' vacation pics on my FB feed. I find that Steves' books are excellently satisfying for this armchair tourist, and this one was no exception.
Profile Image for Leslie Rock.
75 reviews35 followers
April 23, 2013
I chose this book for my informational text in my reading writing odyssey because this is one of my favorite travel books! Rick Steve uses an informal and friendly approach with his readers to invite them in and show them what will make their trip the best experience they can have. This book was recommended to me when I was planning my trip to Europe and I remember thinking how clever it was to write a travel book with a personality. People who read these books are adventure seekers and they need an exciting adventure-seeking book to accompany them.
Steves uses the craft of mood and tone in his writing to excite and interest his readers. At times he is very humorous and other times very passionate. Throughout the whole book he is friendly and conversational so that his readers feel as if they are having a conversation with their close friend. I would love to use this book in my classroom for many different lessons. It would be a wonderful book to use passages from to show students how to write an instructional piece without losing their sense of humor or personality.

"I'm the matchmaker, and you and the travel bug are about to get intimate. By traveling vicariously with me through these chapters, you'll get a peek at my favorite places. And, just as important, by internalizing this lifetime of magic travel moments, you'll develop a knack for finding your own."
Profile Image for Dioscita.
372 reviews4 followers
January 5, 2008
It's a bit unfair of me to be rating this edition when it's not the one I read and counted on while traveling abroad, yet Steves was so helpful for me who is phobic about being an Ugly American that I had to add him to my list. Read him before you go.
Profile Image for Daniela.
20 reviews9 followers
August 4, 2010
I have to say this is by far the best book I have read when it comes to trip planning. With the decline of the American dollar, a trip to Europe can seem a little intimidating, especially to young travelers or people on a tight budget. Rick Steves provides great tips and insights on how to find affordable accomodations and transportation in this guide, as well as cheap ways to enjoy sightseeing in Europe. After reading this book, Europe seems a lot more accessible to me, even in these rough economic times. A MUST for anyone planning a trip to Europe, especially if you are considering a multi-destination trip!
Profile Image for Donna.
20 reviews
January 28, 2009
Traveling the Rick Steves way is not for everyone. If you enjoy (and insist upon) room service, concierges, and other amenities of American-style hotels, you won't like traveling this way.

This is about traveling like a European... staying in small locally-owned and run inns, guesthouses, and even private homes. It is much less expensive and much more authentic than staying at the Best Western.

This book introduces Rick Steves style of traveling like a temporary European. He also has separate guidebooks for specific areas (France, Germany/Austria, etc.) which provide the details of where to stay, where to eat, etc.

Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,617 reviews25 followers
October 23, 2018
I admit it: I have picked up the book simply for the title. The back door innuendo seemed interesting. This seems to be something different from the regular Hotel and Restaurant Index kind of book. That is a plus. That I started reading it and it became boring. Sure, it's nice to know that there are alternatives to the expensive accommodation in Europe. But than in turns into another "how alternative I can be" with tips like:

> I go for safe, central, friendly, local-style hotels, shunning swimming pools, people in uniforms, and transplanted American niceties.

And I thought it will stop there. But it doesn't.

> Consider a renovated jail in Ljubljana (Hostel Celica, $30 for a bunk in a 12-bed dorm) or a summer-only circus tent in Munich ($10 per foam mattress).

That is downright exotic.

And just like the Index sort of guides, this one is already dated:

> Staying in locals’ houses is interesting and affordable, whether through pay-for-stay arrangements like Airbnb, home exchanges, or organizations that emphasize intercultural exchange such as Couchsurfing and Servas.

Couchsurfing is already hard to get a place and most hosts are fussy, some are down right unpleasant by starting with a how much they enjoy avoiding the corporate and business side than complaining the guest never took them out to a nice restaurant. Servas is dated and unpractical. More, it was built around the Esperanto language. So if you don't care about it, it's even less useful. And AirBnB (different capitalization) has some alternatives, especially in Europe.

At the end, I just felt cheated. Like in the above examples the book is just a decent structured book of trivia picked from all over the net. Did the author really stay in a renovated jail or he just read the blog post of a minor journalist who just found out about it on TripAdvisor?
Profile Image for Kate .
236 reviews92 followers
September 24, 2011
I haven't been to Europe in over 10 years, and this was a really helpful guide to the practical things one needs to know: advice on money, accomodations, travel within Europe and trip planning, as well as some good ideas on where to go.

I wish I had read this before I had booked a flight and hotels; there is a lot of information here on how to save money on accomodations and flights. I'm glad I read the book before I packed - I've scaled down my luggage for a two week trip to a single carryon back pack.

Rick Steves' travel series is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Fred Landis.
5 reviews1 follower
June 16, 2011
Rick Steves is a French caricature of Americans.He has no style,no class,never had an idea in his life,after a career visting Europe he understands less about the subject that I did when I was ten,but he occupies space.
Oscar Wild's description of a cynic is a person who knows the price of everything but the value of none.By this description Rick Steves is a cynic.He tells people how to save money on a pointless trip because he has not give a clue why they should go.
The default position during PBS fundraising is Rick Steves.PBS loves Rick Steves because like Steve they pretend to cultural uplift while delivering innofensive,politicaly correct pablum.
If you go to the Rick Steves web site travel forums,the first 20 posts will be better than this book.For example,on the posts you learn that your best chance of being robbed in Europe is by gangs of Gypsy kids in Rome.This is the plain truth.There is no force on Earth that will get Rick Steves to admit that Gypsy Kids are waiting to rob you in Rome.
Europeans used to object to package tourists carrying Frommers's Europe on $50/day.Frommer is a sophisticate compared to Steves.
Profile Image for Terri Lynn.
997 reviews
March 6, 2014
This is a book mostly telling you in a rather pompous way at times how you should act while traveling in Europe. He goes into detail about why staying in a cheap dump where you may be sleeping on an air mattress on the floor after climbing 6 flights of stairs and having no air conditioning no matter how hot it is is so superior (to him) than sleeping in luxury and comfort. He even takes up for those loud German schoolkids who regularly make people miserable in hostels and other cheap dumps (saying they might be underprivileged as if that is an excuse for disturbing people's sleep).

He tends here to all of the travel skills you need to know about before heading off and then spends the rest of the book talking about specific cities and countries. Read it for the interesting information but always remember- never stay anywhere he recommends unless you feel like you need to suffer.
Profile Image for Anna.
750 reviews
October 10, 2013
This is a great travel resource, especially if you're a European travel novice. Rick covers all the topics you have questions about and topics you didn't know you had questions about. After reading Europe Through the Back Door we felt prepared to travel smart. Rick's advice really did make our trip go smoother. Thanks to Rick Steves for providing such a thorough, practical, up-to-date guide.
Profile Image for Tracy.
30 reviews
December 22, 2011
I read the 2010 version. For anyone going to Europe for the first time or looking to book a trip on their own but may have taken smaller trips with one home base city or guided tours in the past, this book provides a good overview and a lot of background information. I thought it was a helpful read before going more in depth with my planning.
72 reviews
March 8, 2016
Every year, I read the latest update of Europe Through the Back Door. Although a well seasoned traveler, I always find some new tidbit to take with me on travels.

This is an excellent book for basic European travel skills for the novice.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
501 reviews
December 19, 2020
Excellent travel tips and fairly in-depth, from what to pack, how to get from place to place, what to look for in a place to eat, aspects where you can economize if you're on a tight budget, and tips on specific countries. Definitely take a look before traveling to Europe.
Profile Image for David.
118 reviews
June 5, 2022
The original edition is a stone cold classic. Packed full of practical information and written with an infectious love of travel, this is the one that started it all.
Profile Image for Carolyn Page.
1,435 reviews29 followers
September 14, 2020
An excellent volume of travel advice and recommendations, vividly illustrated by Rick Steve's anecdotes and examples. Highly recommend, my favorite travel book I've read so far. Updated and current, striking the right balance in between the importance of both efficiency and finding local experiences.
Profile Image for Rachael.
116 reviews
January 24, 2017
I'm counting this as a book read, even though I skimmed some chunks of it and hence wouldn't usually count it as read. I'm moving to Germany soon and have been trying to read some guidebooks on Europe and/or Germany. This one caught my eye because it was the only 2017 edition of a Europe guidebook in my library's very small Europe travel section.

I've heard good things about Rick Steves recently; this is my first book of his (I've already checked out his Germany guidebook and plan to read that next), and I was impressed. Although he regularly recommends his own books, shows, apps, etc. to help out travelers, he also gives a lengthy rundown of different brands of guidebooks in the beginning of the book, encouraging people to check out whatever books work for them.

And this is technically a guidebook, but not really, which is maybe why I was able to read so much of it (instead of skimming over to the stuff that interests me). It's part guidebook, part travel memoir, and part travel advice book (does that count as a guidebook?). It was really useful, but also felt really personal, which is why it worked so well for me.

Somewhere between the first half and the first two-thirds of the book are just his travel advice. The entire book (the "back door" concept) is based around how to travel easily and cheaply in Europe and get the most bang for your buck. It's not really about "budget travel," but rather, about smart travel: where to stay, what food to get, how to behave--just how to maximize your experience to get the most experience and least hassle. He gives extensive advice in the first part of the book on lodging, food, transportation, budget and money, etc. Some of it is terrifying and some of it is really useful. He is pretty clear about what he thinks are the best options for things, and will back up his opinions with reasons (for example: he recommends staying in hostels to meet fellow travelers, or to stay in B&Bs if possible for the personal experience that is usually cheaper than a huge hotel).

The second half/last third of the book goes through every country in Europe with his thoughts on each. Once again, this is not a guidebook; he gives brief notes on traveling in each country, how to sight-see, and so on. He does not (usually) give recommendations for specific restaurants, lodging, or locations to see (that is for the other guidebooks), but gives broader recommendations for what cities to stay in and what local sights or experiences he thinks travelers should take in. He gives some recommendations for specific tourist spots (i.e. get there early and/or reserve a ticket ahead of time), but most of what he says about each country includes overviews of the country and its people, what the food is like, and what the cities are like.

One thing Steves really pushes in this book is the idea that you are traveling to have a new experience, not to experience typically American things but in another country. He encourages people to meet new people, strike up conversations, go exploring, check out slightly-less-popular tourist destinations, hiring guides, trying new food, etc. And that was what I really appreciated about this book: not a guidebook listing every possible sight I could want to see, but a book listing personal experiences with European countries and how to navigate them. Highly recommended, and I intend to dig into some of his other stuff (books, apps, shows) soon.
Profile Image for angela.
102 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2023
bits of the book feel kinda dated/analog, and rick steves definitely has some white boomer energy. raised my eyebrows a bit at the fact he’s still a monoglot after years of traveling + that he’ll slowly tell hotel receptionists that his name is ricardo or luigi (depending on country) so they’ll remember him lmao. was still worth skimming to make sure i didn’t forget anything major/to get a general sense of what traveling in europe might be like though
89 reviews
December 30, 2017
Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door teaches a person how to be a traveler rather than a tourist. I read an earlier version of this guide in 2008 and was glad I took the time to read a more recent version before my upcoming trip to Europe. Steves gives extensive advice on how to use today's technology to your benefit in Europe, including a plethora of helpful internet resources. I have already downloaded several of the free audio walking tours from his website for my trip. The book discusses pretty much every concern a traveler might have from disabilities, traveling with kids, emergencies, packing, politics, terrorism, and so one. He even discusses ways to force oneself to be an extrovert to make better connections and have more interesting experiences. This guidebook should be used in conjunction with Rick Steves' location specific guidebooks as it does not have the maps and detailed information that his other books provide. Anyone who reads this book before traveling to Europe will have a better trip because of it.
Profile Image for Katelyn.
121 reviews107 followers
June 15, 2016
While this book offers little new or earth-shattering information to those who have visited Europe, it's an EXCELLENT resource for anyone planning their first European trip. The first half of the book focuses on logistics, and covers literally everything from how to get to Europe and how much to budget, to what to do should an emergency arise during the trip. The second half of the book breaks down each of the countries, and focuses on top places to see, suggested time to spend at each place, top cultural experiences, and fun little anecdotes from the author's previous travels. While I had little use for the first half of the book, the second half proved useful in planning my future European travels. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is considering traveling Europe, and needs a good place to start.
Profile Image for Theacrob.
241 reviews18 followers
July 2, 2016
There is some insightful advice in this book, such as use the toilet on the train rather than at the station (you'll probably have to pay at the station), but there is also some bunk advice, such as second class train cars are preferable (the logic being they are more lively) and to force yourself to be an extrovert. I would have liked more specific advice about local buses and trains (where you you buy the ticket-- kiosk or driver?), areas to avoid (specific streets/districts), and where to buy travel laundry soap. Logistics, I guess. His remembrances of cities and towns are interesting but not all that useful to someone who is already on the road and wants a quick rundown on the next country on the itinerary.

Read LONG before you leave or even start planning to leave if you want to make the most out of this book.
Profile Image for Ron.
396 reviews2 followers
March 15, 2012
Pro - Steves demystifies Europe for the reader, dispensing TONS of practical advice for the first time European traveler. He tries to mix in the historical Europe with the continent as it is today, and does a good job with it. Although he has some well known favourite places (Rothenburg, Germany, Bruges, the Oslo-Bergen train ride etc.) he covers a good portion of Europe and offers his own opinions on various places.

Con - Sadly, Steves has recently felt the need to inject his liberal political opinions into his travel guides. It takes away from an otherwise good series of books. Regardless of liberal or conservative I find that the pettiness of partisan American politics is unwelcome in this setting.
101 reviews
August 6, 2015
Love, love, love this book. Rick Steves covers a lot of travel aspects for a conscientious traveler in this entertaining textbook of travel tips. Covering packing tips, flights, hotels, money tips and solo travel, he is thorough, brutally honest and funny. It is a book for those who are patient enough to be educated before traveling, and it's not for you if you're looking for a quick fix "what to do in Europe" book. There is a section on major cities at the end (excerpts from his guide books) from which you can judge if his style suits you or not.

I met Rick Steves at a travel show in LA, and he came off a little "markety", but I'm forgiving because I guess one goes to these conferences with a mind prepared for a target audience who is there to buy vacations.
Profile Image for Tama.
416 reviews
July 28, 2014
Read this book in preparation to traveling to Europe. It was a good "prep" book that helped us plan for 2 weeks of travel in Europe. The MOST helpful advice was probably about packing. Used his advice to pack what we really needed and not what we may need. I read the electronic version which had links to other areas of the book. Those were useful to get to specific information, but in the electronic world, it was hard to get back to your original location in the book. Learned to use an electronic bookmark so I could search bookmarks and return to the original location. The hyperlinks often provided resources I was not previously familiar with. For instance, I didn't know about the Rick Steves app where we could download walking tours.
Profile Image for Cheryl Campbell.
102 reviews3 followers
August 20, 2018
While I was a frequent traveler 10-30 years ago, things have changed. I gathered a lot of good notes from this book. Things as varied as how to download offline city maps, using an inexpensive SIM chip, buying quick-dry cloth washcloths for countries that don't usually have them, suggestions to buy tickets to save time standing in LONG lines (even if it costs more), loading a VPN, using Google Earth to "walk down your street" before actually booking your B&B or guest house, and so forth. Great ideas!

I put together a multipage check list before heading off to Budapest soon, so I am appreciative of this book's great advice. It is good even for seasoned travelers, if their travels are a bit dated.
440 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2019
I finished this a few days ago and somehow never marked it read. Oops.

This was an incredibly comprehensive travel guide. Like if you’re actually going to Europe, get this (just get the most recent edition of it). It had advice on everything from planning your itinerary, how to travel from place to place once you’re there, what to pack, where to stay and eat, and a ton of other stuff you might not have even thought of. I will admit that I skipped over a lot of the basic travel info because I was getting bored, but the last third or so is a more detailed guide of sites to go see while in each country or region and I really enjoyed that. It was part travel memoir, part history lesson, part love letter to Europe. If you ever watched the TV show and liked it, you’ll enjoy this section.
Profile Image for Melissa.
6 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2009
Rick Steve's books are great. Great tips on where to eat, sleep, sight see. We have planned both of our trips to Europe using his books!

He has trip plans for the number of days you plan to stay - for every attraction he tells you how long you should expect it to take. He tells you exactly where the highlights of a museum are located so you can skip the stuff you don't want to see. Around every attraction, he lists a perfect place to grab lunch or a cup of coffee. He suggests great places to stay that are in local neighborhoods vs. tourist areas - they are usually cheaper and you get to experience a more local setting.
January 4, 2019
I dunno of it's bias or not but I love all thongs Rick Steves. He delivers wonderful and concise travel suggestions and tips with a jovial dad like quality. I read this because I love Europe, I love traveling, and I want to sharpen those skills and become a savvy traveler within a budget that I can afford. I want to approach the world as my own backyard and the people within it as friends who's needs I care about and learn the needs of others as well as those of my own. Rick gives all of those things voice. A lovely start for inspiring travelers or experienced travelers wanting to sharpen thier skills.
Profile Image for Shannon.
277 reviews11 followers
October 14, 2008
Plucked this off the donation cart at my library and am enjoying every page. I'll have to get the 2008 version and compare. Steve's advice is practical and useful if not always realistic such as his view that makeup and pajamas are "optional"! Nice section on packing light even though he totally plugs the shopping section on his webpage. Still it made me take a look and he offers some nice travel accessories and bags for sale through the site. Also helpful is the section on overrated tourist sites and itineraries.
Profile Image for Sara.
30 reviews22 followers
January 12, 2012
Part 1 of this book is really great for people who are going to be travelling to Europe for the first time. I learned quite a bit and now feeling more confident about going to Europe solo. The only thing I didn't like about this book is Rick Steves' idea of "cheap" travelling is rather pricey. Wouldn't recommend this book to those looking to stay at hostel and do a budget trip.
Part 2 of the book has some really interesting cities that people should check out that aren't high on everyone's tourist list but still very much worth seeing. Added a couple of these places to my list.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 204 reviews

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