Cheap Sleeps Europe

by Katie Wood

Published by Robson Books

352 pages, 2005

Buy it online



Bunking With the Best

Reviewed by Cherie Thiessen


Hands up, those who remember Frommer's Europe on $5 a day. That edition was published, as well you may guess, many moons ago. At the back of that edition, I kid you not, was a section labeled "sub budget." That was the section we worked out of on our first trip abroad. Europe on $3.50/day.

Cheap Sleeps Europe has brought back memories, reminding me of that first travel book and those first heady European experiences: sleeping rough in Amsterdam when we couldn't find cheap enough digs, taking the trains at night in order to save on a room, booking into hostels and missions early in the day to get some sleep before it got noisy.

What's good about Cheap Sleeps Europe is that all of it is like that sub budget section in Frommers, expanded and with lots of advice to help keep you safe. Wood alerts you to trouble spots in different areas, gives tips as to the safest places to sleep rough when you just can't avoid it, and begins every chapter with a very useful section on how to get to these places using local transportation.

First published in 1992 and with 19 more editions out since then, author Wood appears to be managing very well in a cutthroat specialty market with lots of competition from Frommers, Lonely Planet and so many others. However, while they run the gamut from luxury to budget options, Cheap Sleeps sticks to its mandate: solely providing information for those determined to travel Europe on a shoestring.

Cheap Sleeps Europe isn't corpulent. That's a good thing since cheap sleepers aren't going to be taking taxis and hailing red caps to carry their overweight luggage. Readers need a book that is slender enough to fit into the handy front pocket of their target audience's knapsacks.

Despite its unassuming size, Cheap Sleeps Europe manages to cover 31 countries and over 10,000 accommodations. Not surprisingly, however, some countries seem to get short shrift. For example, Sweden, Portugal and -- perhaps less surprisingly -- Slovakia and Slovenia rate only a few pages each. Many of the main cities in these countries and some others have no accommodation listings at all. Nevertheless, the book boasts a great resource section and there are so many addresses, Web sites and e-mail addresses given that the traveler will be able to do a lot of advance planning and checking on her own, thus obtaining the information lacking in the book before setting out.

Expect to find details of accommodation agencies, tourist offices, youth hostels and other important addresses. What you won't find is information on cheap food, free attractions or cut rate travel. This book features accommodation only, hence the Sleeps part of the title.

From hotels to hostels, pensions to private rooms in homes, from farmhouse accommodation to halls, from hiking huts and campsites to bed and breakfasts and youth hostels, Wood really ranges in her search for good, clean and respectable digs. The places she writes about, she assures us, are not grotty or disreputable or risky. They're not seedy down-at-heel dives. Good to know that it still is possible to ferret out finds in cities like Paris and London, with a little help from a friend. I only wish I could check out every recommended cheap sleep personally before recommending this book. | September 2005


Cherie Thiessen has been a scriptwriter, playwright, creative writing instructor and -- for the past 10 years -- a travel writer and book reviewer. She was the review columnist for Focus on Women Magazine for eight years and has also written numerous reviews for magazines including Monday Magazine, Pacific Yachting, Cottage Magazine, The Driftwood News, Linnear Reflections and Douglas College's Event Magazine.