Photos: A European tour

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  1. Venice, Italy

    Gondolas line the bank near Venice's grand canal with the San Giorgio Maggiore church in the background. (Peter Deilmann Cruises via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rome, Italy

    The Colosseum is one of the best-known attractions in all of Italy, and is the largest elliptical amphitheater built in the Roman empire. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. London, England

    The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower, located along the River Thames, are seen at dusk from Westminster Bridge. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Berlin, Germany

    Tourists take pictures of themselves at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The memorial, designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman and inaugurated in May 2005, is made up of more than 2,700 concrete steles that form a curved landscape in the heart of Germany's capital. (Barbara Sax / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Granada, Spain

    The Alhambra palace in Granada, although one of 21 finalists, missed out on being named one of the new seven wonders of the world. (Jose Luis Roca / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paris, France

    This bird's-eye view of Paris at dusk, with the Eiffel Tower and L'Hotel des Invalides prominent, show why the capital's nickname is the "City of Light." (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lindos, Greece

    The ancient town of Lindos is famous for its Acropolis, which stands on a 380-foot-high hill overlooking Lindos and the Aegean Sea and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Eyeswideopen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Dublin, Ireland

    People walk past The Temple Bar, which should not be confused with its neighborhood, also called Temple Bar, in central Dublin. Ireland's capital has been voted one of the top 25 cities of the world to live in. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lisbon, Portugal

    Belém Tower was built in the early 16th century as a ceremonial gateway to the city, and to serve as a defense at the mouth of the Tagus River. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sebastiano Scattolin / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Barcelona, Spain

    Columns and arches of the Sagrada Familia rise high in this Roman Catholic church, which has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Florence, Italy

    A woman looks over Florence from the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the city's cathedral church began in 1296 and finished in 1462. (Guido Cozzi / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. County Mayo, Ireland

    Ashford Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and sits on 350 acres of manicured gardens and land, now ranks among the finest hotels in Ireland. About a two-hour drive from Dublin, the castle has played host to myriad high-profile events, including actor Pierce Brosnan's wedding. (Tourism Ireland via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kaag, Netherlands

    A cyclist pedals along rows of tulips near the village of Kaag, outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Dutch often use cycling to get around, and Amsterdam is considered one of the most bike-friendly large cities in the world. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Amsterdam, Netherlands

    A tourist smokes at a coffeeshop "de Dampkring," or "Atmosphere," where a part of the "Ocean's Twelve" movie was filmed, in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city is famous for its nightlife, cultural activities and red-light district. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Stockholm, Sweden

    Boats line up on the shoreline in Stockholm, the capital and largest city in Sweden. The city is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Krakow, Poland

    The Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Krakow, Poland, is one of the most well-known tourist spots in the city and noted for its gothic, medieval architecture. However, most people come to Krakow because of its proximity to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi's concentration camps, which is now a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. (Jon Hicks / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nice, France

    Hundreds of people enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Nice on the French Riviera. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Brussels, Belgium

    The Grand Place in the heart of Old Town in Brussels, Belguim, is marked by many 17th-century buildings and flower markets. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Greek islands

    Oia, on the island of Santorini, Greece, is on a clifftop village filled with white structures and gorgeous sunsets. Santorini offers seaside tavernas, cliffside paths, black volcanic rocks and of course, sunshine and the Aegean Sea. (Saundra Virtanen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pamplona, Spain

    Revelers hold up their red scarves during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain. The annual festival is best known for its daily running of the bulls. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Prague, Czech Republic

    The buildings in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, are constructed in many architectural styles from Romanesque to gothic to art nouveau and modern. (Michal Cizek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tourists stand in the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik, Iceland. The Blue Lagoon's waters come from natural hot water springs flowing through rocks of lava. Many also believe the mineral-rich waters may have health benefits. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. St. Petersburg, Russia

    The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is seen on the bank of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Dmitry Lovetsky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 3/13/2008 2:43:19 PM ET 2008-03-13T18:43:19

When is a dollar not worth its weight in gold? When you're measuring in pounds.

British pounds, that is.

Last year, the pound reached an exchange rate of $2 against the American dollar for the first time since September 1992, and it's been hovering near that lofty benchmark ever since. Meanwhile, the surging euro isn't far behind; in February 2008, it hit a record high of $1.50.

What that means to U.S. travelers, of course, is that your next trip to Europe could be more expensive than ever before — bad news at a time when the shaky national economy already has many Americans fretting over their finances. But here's some good news: A weak dollar doesn't have to derail your European vacation. We've gathered 25 tips to help you save your pennies (or pounds!) on your next trip to Europe. Got your own suggestions to share? Post them on our message boards!

Trip planning
1. Get rate quotes in U.S. dollars. Long before you travel, when you are booking your hotel, car rental and other non-flight essentials, try to get quotes in U.S. dollars — and pay in U.S. dollars whenever possible. This way there are no surprises when your credit card statement arrives and you find out you paid a lot more than your quick back-of-the-envelope estimate when calculating the exchange rate. With the boom in Web booking, many international hotels now offer guaranteed dollar rates to U.S. travelers; inquire at the time of booking.

2. Find your focus. When planning your European itinerary, consider exploring one region or country in depth rather than bouncing around from place to place. For example, spend a week sightseeing in Florence and taking day trips to nearby towns in Tuscany rather than trying to squeeze Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome into seven or eight days. You'll not only spare yourself hours of sitting in transit, but you'll also save big on transportation expenses such as airfare or pricey train tickets. Learn more about slow travel.

3. Save on museum entrance fees. Many museums offer free admission on certain days or nights of the week or at certain times of the month. (For example, the Louvre is free on the first Sunday of every month, as well as Bastille Day on July 14.) Check ahead of time for free admission at the museums you're interested in, and schedule your visit accordingly.

4. Find free entertainment. Similarly, keep an eye out for free concerts or performances going on in local parks, churches and other public venues. The best place to find these is in the local newspapers or entertainment listings — or simply by stumbling upon them.

5. Purchase a pass. Most major cities offer special discount cards that include discounts or free admission for museums, attractions, tours and public transportation. These can be a great value if the card covers many of the attractions you were already planning to visit, but be sure to evaluate whether it's really worth it — if the card costs $30 and you're only going to use it at one or two museums, it may be better to pay a la carte.

Money management
6. Get cash from ATM's — at a bank. An ATM is your best option for a combination of a fair exchange rate and low surcharges and fees. At an ATM, you'll likely pay a transaction fee from your bank (typically 1 to 2 percent), but you'll also get the favorable interbank exchange rate rather than the higher rates you'll find at typical exchange bureaus. To avoid excessive fees, take out large amounts of cash at a time and store the excess in a money belt or hotel safe. For more tips, see our feature on money safety.

You'll do well to avoid stand-alone, off-brand ATM's of the kind you can find stateside in the back of convenience stores. These typically have the highest transaction fees; use an ATM from a reputable bank instead. (If possible, use your own bank to avoid fees from other institutions. Check your bank's Web site for ATM and branch locations.)

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7. Use your credit card. Many of the benefits of using an ATM card also apply to your credit card, particularly the strong exchange rates. However, keep in mind that many credit card companies charge fees for purchases made in foreign currencies, usually 1 to 2 percent. Choose the right card and you can avoid these fees; Capital One, for example, is one major credit card company that levies no surcharges on foreign transactions. Check with your credit card companies to figure out which card has the lowest fees for foreign purchases, and then use that one for your overseas purchases.

Out on the road, also check the fine print to make sure that your hotel, restaurant or other outfit does not tack on a percentage fee on all credit card transactions to cover authorization fees. For more information, see Money Matters on the Road.

8. Choose your counter wisely. If you absolutely must use a currency exchange counter, skip the airport or train station kiosks where you are almost guaranteed to get the worst rate available. Instead, choose a bank if you can find one. Wherever you are, exchange only enough money to get the job of the moment done (whether it be a cab ride, emergency rations or the purchase of a pinata), and then get thee to an ATM as soon as you can.

9. Fly cash (and coin) light. Wait until you reach your destination before exchanging currency, and spend the bulk of your foreign currency at your destination before you go home. This way, you won't have to pick up and then dump a lot of money at an exchange booth while taking losses both coming and going.

This is especially applicable to the piles of rattling coins you accumulate while traveling; good luck finding a place back home that accepts a bucket of euro tin and Queen Elizabeth heads in your neighborhood. (And remember — those two-pound U.K. coins are worth $4 each!) Spend all your change on the way out, or at least stop at a bank and convert it to bills; you might actually get your money back someday if you do. For more tips, see Foreign Currency.

10. Don't be afraid to haggle. We wouldn't recommend trying this at Harrod's or other department stores, but there are still plenty of places in Europe where bargaining is acceptable. Outdoor markets and street vendor stalls are good places to try your haggling skills.

Transportation
11. Cut out the car. Most of us know that a rental car isn't really necessary (and in fact can be a hindrance) when visiting a major city — but many European nations have such comprehensive networks of trains and local buses that you may not even need a car to visit the countryside. Public transportation is available to many small towns and rural tourist attractions, which will save you not only the price of your rental but also the cost of gas (Europeans pay two or three times as much per gallon as Americans do). If you truly are headed out into the middle of nowhere for a day or two, plan to keep your rental for only as long as you need it rather than for your entire stay.

12. ... And the cab: Most European airports are served by trains, buses or other public shuttles that will take you downtown and back for a fraction of the cost of a cab. (Make it easier on yourself by packing light since you may have to schlep your own luggage.) Similarly, it's much cheaper to get around town via public transportation or, better yet, by walking from place to place. If you think you'll be relying heavily on a subway or bus system, a single- or multi-day pass could be a good buy.

13. Consider a rail pass. Whether you're concentrating on a single country or traveling all over the Continent, there may be a Eurail pass that will save you money. Before purchasing a pass, carefully plan out how many train trips you will take and calculate the total cost of point-to-point tickets at RailEurope.com. Keep in mind that short trips are relatively inexpensive — so if you're going to be sticking to a very small area, a pass may not be worth the cost.

14. Overnight it. If you're planning a lengthy train journey, consider traveling on an overnight train — that way you won't waste valuable daylight hours in transit, and you'll save on the cost of a night's lodging as well. Learn more about European train travel.

Meals
15. Go grocery. Stock up on bottled water, fruit and snacks at grocery stores rather than tourist shops — you'll pay what the locals pay and often get a wider selection too.

16. Learn to love lunch. Instead of eating a pricey multi-course dinner, make lunch your big meal of the day. Often you can enjoy similar dishes for half the price.

17. Don't overtip. Americans are used to tipping 15 to 20 percent in restaurants, but in most European nations, 10 percent is the norm unless the service was truly extraordinary. Check first to see whether a service charge has already been added to your bill — if so, you usually don't need to leave anything additional. For country-specific tipping information, refer to a good guidebook or ask at the local tourist office.

18. Save on breakfast. If breakfast is included in your hotel's nightly rate, then be sure to take advantage of it. But if it's not, skip the overpriced room service — you can almost certainly find a much cheaper croissant and cup of coffee at the cafe down the street. Ask your hotel's concierge or front desk about what's nearby.

19. Be wise about wine. If you're dining out, order the house wine; you'll save money, and in places like France and Italy, you may be surprised at how good it is. Want a drink out on your hotel balcony? Pick up a bottle at the local liquor store and bring it back to your room for an affordable taste of luxury.

20. Choose wisely. To find authentic and affordable food, skip the restaurants with the tourist-friendly English-language menus out front and seek out places where you see plenty of locals. Don't hesitate to ask your hotel concierge to recommend affordable restaurants in the area.

21. Follow the locals' lead for cheap eats. Eat the plentiful pizza in Italy, grab a quick baguette sandwich in France or nosh on takeaway curry in London.

Lodging
22. Consider a rental. Choosing a vacation rental instead of a standard hotel has several cost advantages. Renting an apartment or house often gives you more space for less money (so it's a particularly economical option if you're traveling with a group or family), and having kitchen facilities means you can cook for yourself rather than spending a lot on overpriced restaurant meals.

23. Don't count out hostels. Many travelers steer clear of hostels, thinking that they're just for 20-something backpackers who don't mind sleeping 10 to a room. However, you may not know that many hostels also offer private rooms, some with private bathrooms as well. They may not be luxurious, but if you're looking for a clean, basic room at a low price, it's worth checking out the hostel scene.

24. Look at location. To get a lower hotel rate, consider staying outside the city center. As long as you're located somewhere near a public transit line, it will still be pretty convenient — and you could save big bucks.

25. Read more. Don't miss these tips for finding unique, affordable lodging in Europe from our very own Traveler's Ed.

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