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Backpack & Budget

A Penny for Thoughts on Europe Cheaply

June 09, 1996|LUCY IZON

"Europe on 84 Cents a Day"--it's an attention-catching title, but don't budget your trip by it because it's about a style of travel rather than a monetary amount. Gil White created the title when he wrote the first edition of his how-to-travel-Europe-on-next-to-nothing guide in 1981. The book resulted from a four-month trip, in which, on some days he spent 84 cents, on some days $10, and on some days nothing at all. Says White, "I simply plucked '84 Cents' out of the air to get the point across. . . ."

White's methods for finding free or cheap accommodations, food and transportation are, he claims "fun, creative and legal."

His book teaches travelers to be resourceful. For example, there are more than 25 suggestions for how to find free accommodations.

Some are well known, such as choosing overnight travel by ferry or train to save the cost of a hotel room. He also informs readers about helpful organizations, such as SERVAS, a worldwide organization that people join for a $55 annual fee, and which has members who will host foreigners in their homes for one or two days.

Some suggestions are less obvious, such as staying in monasteries or offering to trade a few hours' work for a hotel staff room.

Not all his methods will suit every budget traveler. White's suggestions for knocking on doors in the countryside, scouting university campuses or asking drivers for accommodations will seem bold and risky to many.

If you're uncomfortable with being so vulnerable, he offers other suggestions.

"Before you leave home, it's a good idea to do a little shaking of the family tree. Some of my most pleasant evenings have been spent with relatives I had never met before, getting to know them. These relatives may in turn tell you about other distant members of your family you can visit, or they may suggest friends of theirs for you to put in your address book."

So this isn't mooching? White doesn't think so. But he warns his readers not to abuse hospitality, and suggests that you should make an effort to repay your hosts by either doing a small chore or leaving a gift.

"Europe on 84 Cents a Day" also includes foreign phrases in 20 languages, practical information on 36 countries and a listing of 3,000 hostels, plus 130 country and city maps. It's available in travel bookstores for $12.95.

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