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In 2006 my friend and I travelled around Europe visiting Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands in one month. This book was our Bible!
It gives excellent information on getting there, getting around, suggested routes, how much things cost, staying safe, where to go, when to go there etc. For each city it tells you general information about the place - the language, currency, weather etc, then places to stay, getting around, history of the place. It gives reviews of hostels and tourist attractions, infomation on what extreme sports or alternative attractions are available. It tells you all about the local cuisine, where to eat and how much it is likely to cost. Each city section provides you with a city map.
At that back of the book there is a phrase book for most of the languages used in the countries mentioned, we found this very useful as it's important and part of the backbacking experience to try to speak the language to the locals.
This book was very useful, but it's important for backbackers not to plan their trip from this book to the letter... leave a few days free, as you never know who you might meet whilst travelling, I know on a few occasions we met other travellers who had been somewhere amazing, and as we had left some time free we were able to visit these wonderful places too!
Summary: A bumper pack of a guide to all countries in Europe, recommended to budget traveller, especially young backpackers "doing" Europe for the first time.
Europe on a Shoestring comes from the vast stable of Lonely Planet's travel guides and is very much aimed at the budget end of the market. Comparable to its nearest competitor, Let's Go Europe, it's a one-volume backpacker bible which attempts to provide the overview of a whole continent, every single country and the main destinations in each of the countries.
According to what was undoubtedly a careful research of the demographic characteristics of the budget traveller market, Europe on a Shoestring's model reader is not only travelling on the cheap, but is also definitely childless, in their 20's and quite possibly one that embarks on the journey for the first time (in fact I can't even imagine a first time traveller needing to be told to take their mobile phone or a power adapter). This target readership mostly affects the accommodation choices and attention paid to clubbing and night-life opportunities and is not really a problem, but shoestring travellers from more mature or family demographics should take note: for example apartments or private rooms often work out better as a family option than hostels that charge per bed.
As a whole, the guide is probably slightly more suitable for visitors from outside Europe itself, as some of its content (especially general sections) would be unnecessary for most people from here (and that includes Brits and Irish). On the other hand, most books covering Europe as a whole are like that and thus a British traveller just has to take all the useful information with the sprinkling of the redundant.
This is more noticeable in the general introductory sections, but even those can offer some interest to most travellers planning "doing Europe", including nice collections of highlights and "best of" which will appeal to all with a list obsession as well as suggestions of several itineraries and a good introduction to history, geography and cultures. The end part contains a very basic guide to languages of Europe, with pronunciation guides and selection of the absolutely basic phrases.
One of the big virtues of "Europe on a Shoestring" is how it manages to fit a lot of genuinely informative, useful and illuminating data into relatively small space.
The body of the book consists of individual country sections, arranged alphabetically and all organised in the same format. The format is excellent for a country-hopping purposes that "Europe on a Shoestring" supports. Each country section starts with a map and "fast facts" such as area, population, budget, language, money, a map, a few travel hints and a suggestion for a "roaming" itinerary. What follows is a basic information about what the country is like, a concise basics of history, culture and environment, info on travel in, out and within the country as well as suggestions for further reading and occasional factoid and anecdote snippets. This is all done rather well: "Europe on a Shoestring" has been written by a team of authors, of which most cover just one country, occasionally related few, and it shows. The text and the information content have a fluency and confidence that just a good knowledge of a place can bring, and for the most they also read well. Yes, a lot of it is stereotypical, but then Europeans have been living up to the stereotypes for several centuries.
A selection of places to cover is an issue with any paper guide, as it's impossible to include everything worth seeing in such a volume. "Europe on a Shoestring" includes the major obvious destinations (the capital and most visited places). In the country sections I used or had a good look at, it did seem to me that for example in Italy a disproportionate amount of space was given to Rome and some other worthy places were not included at all, but one can always dispute the selection and the amount of space devoted to each destination and does a respectable job of this thankless task.
Oft described as the backpacker's bible, Europe on a Shoestring has gained something of a cult following. Its pages are filled with information on where to stay, what to do and probably more usefully, what not to do. At 1284 pages there is a lot to gain from this book, but it isn't without its faults.
I first picked up this book when I decided to backpack Europe and found it indespensible, but only really during the planning stage. Prior to reading this book I knew very little about certain parts of Europe and was able to bring myself up to scratch by reading this. The colourful pictures and vivid images created by the various authors' words made me more excited than ever at the prospect of travelling. Using this volume I was able to work out roughly where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go there and what I would do and see when there. It helped me figure out what to pack, what not to pack and what scams to look out for. Unfortunately when I actually was travelling it served as little more than excess weight.
When actually on the road I had access to other travellers, local expertise and in lots of hostels I had access to more detailed country guides. My Europe on a Shoestring served as nothing more than a reference book; a springboard for ideas which I would further develop through other means. It did have uses in that it taught me a few simple phrases for each country that I went to and made me aware of a few cultural practices (such as shaking with a certain hand in one country, nodding to say 'no' in Bulgaria etc.'), and for that it was indispensable, but for the most part it was extra weight and space in my backpack. Given its age it is now also outdated with regards to prices and practices in a few countries, but not by an awful lot.
In conclusion, this book IS indispensable, but only really in the planning stage. It is good for creating ideas which you then further develop through other means and very good at getting you excited about the prospect of travel. However when actually on the European trail you'll always have access to other travellers, books and websites that will ultimately influence your course of action.
This book is The Bible for any traveller out there! It's not the sort of thing that you read cover to cover and then go off travelling, you dip in and out looking up what you need for your current location/idea/wish and pluck the good bits out.
For example I haven't travelled through Europe in a backpacking sense, but I have gone to several different cities and looked up what I need when I need it. I went to Paris for 2 days and this book told me the best hostel for price and location and showed a concise and accurate map of where it was. It then suggested one or two spots for a quick bite as well as some museums and galleries off the beaten track and outside the usual tourist/American invasion.
It is quite large but if I went backpacking it would be the first thing to go in the backpack. You wouldn't want to rely on everything in it 100% as gospel, but take a snippet and use it to point you a vague direction to kickstart each city.
It also has a very handy fixed page marker to pick out your current page and stop you losing it on the move. The inside cover also has plenty of handy conversions km/miles, currency, time zones etc. Also make sure you get a recent edition if buying second hand as older ones which I had did not include the Euro!
This book is indispensible if you are like me - the sort of person who often goes off course into new territory on a wing and a prayer.
It has all the best things to do on a tight budget in Europe, from free museums to detailed reviews on cheap hostels and other things you need.
The book covers all countries in Europe including parts of Russia, Morocco and Turkey. This is both a good thing and a bad thing because first of all, the book is huge and weighs quite a lot. On the other hand it does cover all the major spots in Europe so that you can use it absolutely anywhere. Again though, by trying to cover everything, it is not an expert on anything and if you want to spend more than a few days in any location, you will need to find more detailed information.
For example, there might be 10 pages on Berlin, but if you wanted to go to Kaiserslautern or Wroclaw or Porec or Bologna etc, it would be less useful. For the smaller entries, it gives the basic information that you NEED but not much else. In a way, this is all you need if you are doing a whirlwind tour of Europe without much of a plan.
If you know that you are going to need a book for many countries over different seasons/years - this is the book for you. It will give you the overview of a place. If you wanted to go to one specific country for a month or more though, it would be better to buy a guide book specific to that region. Enjoy.
Lonely Planet guide books are the absolute best. I have used them for various trips and cannot recommend them enough. The relevant lonely planet book is the first thing i buy when planning a trip. It is at this stage that they are perhaps most useful, it will inform you of what visas you will need, how and where to apply for them. Any vaccinnations you should have and what if any medication to take with you. As well as this some tips for what to pack from people who have been there and done the trip youre planning. It is so reassuring to have been forwarned of any potential hiccups before you get there. The style of writing and content leaves you in no doubt that it is written by people who know and care about travel. Should you be struck by a communication problem - the handy phrase guide at the back of the book should be some use too.