The Rough Guide First-Time Europe 8 Paperback – Feb 1 2010
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Written by the same author as the best-selling Rough Guide First Time Around the World
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I am planning a 10-day trip to Italy and I found the packing, transportation, and pricing information most helpful. The book has comparison charts of the costs of hotels and food in each country, which help you figure out where (in what countries) your money will go the furthest and help you calculate a realistic budget. It also has a whole chapter devoted to packing, with suggestions on what to take (and what to leave behind!) and a sample packing list.
This isn't a book you would take on your trip, but I think it is an invaluable resource before/while planning a trip. I'm just planning my flight and figuring out the rest of my agenda on my own, and this really helped give me an idea of what to expect.
The guide open with invaluable advice about prioritizing your itinerary, the importantance of flexibility in your itinerary, and a reality-check on how long it takes to visit and travel to the hot spots. His budget chapter is not to be missed, along with the finance info scattered throughout the book. Unlike many other authors, the author doesn't use the cop out of saying "prices change and I'd hate to quote you wrong, so I'm going to be intentionally vague." He doesn't quote prices for specific locations, but he lets you know that an insanely cheap hostel is $6, while the most expensive he's seen is $28. This gives the novice travel a reference point to do a reality check on any price a vendor quotes them. He provides realistic, economic, and rock-bottom overall itemized trip budgets up front, so the reader can decide how to scale their travels and expectations.
Other topics covered include a detailed packing list (don't wear brand new shoes!), transportation info to Europe and once inside, accommodations, communications, medical information, safety information, and references to tourist bureaus, airlines, insurance providers, and online resources. The text is supplemented by CasaBianca's own personal narratives and examples of tourists who made mistakes.
One of my favorite sections reads as follows [p. 39]: "You WILL go to and eat at a McDonald's when you are in Europe. If you are an American, yes, I know that you wouldn't be caught dead in one in the States. Yes, I know that you are going to Europe to experience authentic foreign culture, not transplanted American food. Why [will you go]? The bathrooms will be the initial lure. Semi-clean, free, convenient bathrooms with guaranteed toilet paper will be few and far between in some cities. Once you have crossed the threshold...the battle is all but lost...Smells pretty good, and I can get something familiar, in a hurry, and it's not too expensive....' The Golden Arches will triumph in the end."
It does have recommendations about what to see in various places, but it isn't necessarily a book to take with you, especially if backpacking!