A word about hotel breakfasts: In the British Isles the price of the room usually includes a full breakfast -- juice, coffee or tea, ham or bacon and eggs and toast. On the Continent, the so-called "Continental" breakfast of coffee or tea and roll or croissant (a starvation diet if you are accustomed to a full American breakfast) may or may not be included in the base price. If it is not, then the same breakfast can usually be duplicated for roughly half the price at a corner cafe.
Ordering a small glass of orange juice can add an extra $2 per person to the bill. Anyone concerned with saving money had better dispense with breakfast eggs for the duration of a European trip, except on occasion in some hotels in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, where a single boiled egg many be included at no extra charge. Certain hotels in Germany also include a platter of cold cuts and cheese as part of their standard breakfast.
That brings us to the problem of where to eat. Dining rooms of even the most modest hotels are generally out of the question, as is any restaurant that qualifies as a renowned place of gastronomy -- except for an occasional splurge. The trick is to eat where the local people do on nonspecial occasions.
In Paris this means neighborhood bistros, in Rome and Venice equally modest trattorias, mesons of Madrid, tavernas in Athens, cervejarias in Lisbon, Ratskeller and traditional beer halls in Germany, wine taverns (Heuriger) in and around Vienna, self-service restaurants in Scandinavia. Many London pubs put out copious noontime spreads of typical pub grub, including sandwiches, steak-and-kidney pie and shepherd's pie.
In a search for a restaurant for dinner, the more crowded the place is with nontourist types the better it is likely to be. Most European restaurants post menus with prices beside their entrances. Inside, look around to see what everyone is ordering. With a little luck, a couple need pay no more than $25-$30 for a satisfying meal along with a carafe of the "house" wine in smaller restaurants in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, and perhaps Holland and Belgium. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland it is possible with a little extra effort. It can be done in the British Isles, but expect no gastronomic fireworks at this level. In Scandinavia the price will get you nourishment and little else.
When it comes to paying the check, remember that 99 percent of the time a 15-percent service charge already has been included in the bill (ask, if it's not obvious). It is not necessary to leave anything beyond this, unless service was extraordinary, in which case leave a small token extra by way of appreciation -- no more than the equivalent of 30 cents.
The same rule applies in cafes, taverns, pubs and the like. In hotels, tip only a bellman carrying luggage: everything else is on the bill.
Cafes invariably have a two-tier price structure, so a cup of coffee or glass of beer at the stand-up bar costs perhaps 75 cents, and $2 or more at a cafe table. In effect, you are paying rent on the table.
For the record, coffee is expensive in Europe, due to a 40 or 50 percent tax on coffee beans. The same is true of all alcoholic drinks. A whiskey or dry martini in a cafe or bar can easily come to four or five dollars. Instead, order the aperitif of the country -- Pastas in France, Campari and soda in Italy, white wine in the German speaking countries, sherry in Spain, white port in Portugal, gin in the Netherlands, ouzo in Greece, aquavit in Scandinavia.
The goal of all of these money-saving ploys is to shave the cost of a stay in a Europe city to as close to $100 a day per couple as possible, including hotel, food, drink and local transportation.
One way to cut down on the price of lunches is to put together a picnic style repast (ham, cheese, loaf of crisp bread, jug of wine, fruit) to be enjoyed on a park bench or in one's room. Snack bars and fast-food chains have spread from one end of Europe to the other. Just about any bar or cafe will make up sandwiches. Don't miss the chance to buy fresh fruit and cheese at open air restaurants.
All this (staying away from the Hiltons and Sheratons, eating in Continental restaurants where waiters may speak little or no English, shopping for food in neighborhood grocery stores) requires a certain effort on the part of visitors, a willingness to try to operate in a foreign language or at least work out of a phrase book.
There is an enormous sense of satisfaction in overcoming one's shyness and natural resistance. So simple a thing as stepping up to a bar -- whether it's in Brussels, Florence or Barcelona -- and ordering a beer or glass of wine, or the more complicated task of putting together a meal from a Portuguese menu, and being understood, adds a whole extra dimension to the foreign experience.
Making contact is what it's all about. And that has next to nothing to do with being shepherded from monument to landmark to museum, all the while remaining in a safe little cocoon with like-minded companions keeping up a nonstop conversation in English from country to country. Even when a tour package you should try to break away from the group for a few hours a day.
An essential part of the adventurous, do-it-yourself approach involves the use of ground transportation. And there's plenty of help along these lines.
From London's Heathrow Airport one can travel by subway direct to Piccadilly Circus and continue on to outlying regions. Brussels has swift express train service between airport and city. So does Frankfurt, Zurich and Paris. The latter also offers a regular airport bus, along with city buses.
Once in the city of your choice, should you take the organized city bus tour for orientation purposes? In the case of Paris or Rome it might be a good idea for a first-time visitor. In such small, easy-to-get-around cities as Berne, Brussels or Copenhagen, it could be a waste of time and money. (City sightseeing tours usually cost between $7.50 and $10.)
London Transport offers a two-hour, 20-mile trip by special city bus (for approximately $3.50) taking in major landmarks and serving as the perfect introduction to this vast, sprawling metropolis. In Vienna there's a Sunday circular tour by streetcar.
By public transportation -- and on foot -- is the way to go after that. Just about every city in Europe offers a money-saving alternative to the single-fare ride. In Paris this is known as the Carnet (car-nay) and is a block of 10 tickets for bus or Metro at substantial saving. In addition, there are special tourist passes for unlimited rides on either bus or subway or a combination of both, for one day, three or four-day periods, or by the week.
London has several such schemes, as does Paris, Vienna, Berne, Berlin and Munich.
Exploring the European metropolis on foot is, in the final analysis, the best way to penetrate the city's essential character. Once again, the effort pays off in extra dividends. Many government tourist offices supply folders with charted, easy-to-follow walking tours.
In many countries in Europe there is often a better exchange rate for travelers' checks than for cash, which may come as a surprise. Shop around from bank to bank, if you have time and if you are planning to cash a substantial sum. Highest rates of all are generally paid at American Express offices for their own traveler's checks, although waiting in line can be a drag. In some cities you will be charged a small conversion fee for cashing dollar checks, though it may be hidden. If the dollar is sagging, it may be wise to buy travelers checks here in the stronger currency of the country you plan to visit, but that will cost you money if the dollar should rise while you are abroad.
Pay for your hotel and shopping with credit cards, if possible, because it may take a month or longer for the charges to arrive back at the billing center in this country. Remember that the exchange rate you are charged will be the rate in effect on the day the charges were received and tabulated by the credit card company.
In Austria, France, Germany and Great Britian it is frequently possible to arrange for a refund of the between 13 and 20 percent Value Added Tax that is included in the price of goods. Various schemes exist in different countries for getting this discount mailed to you. On any purchase of over $50 it's worth checking out. (No refunds are given on; purchases in Italy.)
Try to travel light. Porters and taxis do not fit into the budget. The less you have to carry, the happier you will be.