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Rick Steves on Guided Tours

Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door

ABOVE: Rick Steves, Europe Through the Back Door guidebook author and TV travel host.

Rick Steves is the American author of the Europe Through the Back Door travel guides and a TV program, Travels With Rick Steves, that appears on PBS and The Travel Channel in the United States. He also has been a tour guide and organizer for two decades, first as a group escort for Cosmos Tours and later with his own Europe Through the Back Door travel company in Edmonds, Washington. (ETBD started off in 1978 with a handful of minibus tours, and today the company offers more than 140 escorted European tours each year.)

In one of his books, Rick Steves' Postcards from Europe, Steves described the scams that are rampant in the the European tour industry. Intrigued by his frankness, I suggested a telephone interview on two related topics: "independent vs. escorted travel" and "choosing a tour company." The following article is an edited transcript of our phone conversation.

Why should a traveler take a group tour instead of using your guidebook?

Our guidebooks are designed for people who want to do our tours without us--who want someone else to do the legwork but would rather travel alone. Our tours follow the same basic itineraries as the guidebooks, but they help travelers get more out of their time. We've already made reservations for the Alhambra, the Uffizi Gallery, and so on. There's no need to stand in line--we march you right up to the front and take you in. With our 20-day tours, you accomplish what it would take you 30 days to accomplish on your own from a sightseeing and travel perspective.

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Photos: © Europe Through the Back Door. Used by permission.