by Rick Steves

Tourists generally don't get mugged, but they do get their pockets picked and their purses snatched, so wear a money belt.  Everyone should wear his or her own. You'll save money by not losing it.  For comfort, carry only the essential documents and cards: passport, plane ticket, ATM/credit cards, and extra cash (anything that would be a time-consuming and expensive hassle to replace -- here's a guide). London teems with highly-skilled pickpockets.  Thieves target Americans not because they're mean but because they're smart.  They know we're the ones with the good stuff in our purses and wallets.  Assume beggars are pickpockets.  Be wary of commotions in crowds and fake police who ask to see your wallet.  When you know the scams, they're almost entertaining. 

Use ATMs rather than travelers checks.  You'll get your cash cheaper and faster.  While ATMs give the best possible rates, they do come with transaction fees.  Minimize these fees by making fewer and larger withdrawals.  Store the cash safely in your money belt.

Avoid touristy restaurants with "we speak English" signs and multi-lingual menus.  Those that are filled with locals serve better food for less money.  I look for a short and handwritten menu in the local language only.  Go with the daily specials.

Eat with the season.  Germans go crazy for the white asparagus.  Italians lap up the porcini mushrooms.  and Spaniards gobble their snails -- but only when waiters announce that they're fresh today.  You'll get more taste for less money throughout Europe by ordering what's in season.

Adapt to European tastes.  Cultural chameleons drink tea in England, beer in Prague, red wine in France, and white wine on the Rhine.  They eat fish in Portugal and reindeer in Norway.  Going with the local specialties gets you the best quality and service for the best price.

Every country has early bird and "Blue Plate" specials.  Know the lingo, learn your options, and you can dine well with savvy locals anywhere in Europe for under $10.

To save money in restaurants, couples can order a side salad and split an entree.  To save more, request tap water instead of mineral water, drink the house wine, and skip desserts.

Don't overtip.  Only Americans tip 15 to 20 percent in Europe.  We even tip when it's already included or not expected.  Ask locals (who are customers rather than employees of a restaurant) for advice.

Picnics save money.  $10 buys a fine picnic lunch for two anywhere in Europe.  Stock your hotel room with drinks and munchies upon arrival.  You can pass train rides enjoyably over a picnic meal.  Many grocery stores have elegant deli sessions.  Know the metric system for buying produce.

Take advantage of department stores anywhere in Europe for cheap folk art, souvenirs, and postcards.  Local shoppers eat cheaply at department store cafeterias and restaurants.  Savvy travelers can too.

Students, families, and seniors should ask for discounts.  But be warned:  because the USA doesn't reciprocate, many countries don't give their standard senior citizen discounts to Americans.

Pay with local cash, not credit cards.  While credit cards get you a good exchange rate, many places offering Europe's best deals -- from craft shops to bed & breakfasts -- accept only cash.  But if you do use a credit card, stick with one that won't charge an additional 1% conversion fee atop the normal conversion fees, which is a common practice.

In any transaction, understand all fees and expenses.  Ask to have bills itemized.  Assume you'll be short-changed.  Always ask how much.  Do your own arithmetic and don't let the cashier rush you.  Smile but be savvy.  You'll save lots of money.