Questions, Tips & Advice for All Tours - ASK HERE


#121

Hey Coggo
I’m going on the European Getaway tour in June and was wondering if you could tell me which of the optional extras you did were your favorites and which ones you think you could pass?
Thanks!


#122

Hi Guys,

The thread go deleted for some reason and just got put back up. I’ll try to get to your questions later today.

Cheers

Coggo


#123

Hi BonnieNZ,

  1. I found the Clink Hostel to be really good. Free breakfasts, I had a twin share room which was fine and the toilets/showers were really clean. They have a really good computer room and lounge as well. I was really happy with staying there. I’ve heard that if you stay in one of the big 8-12 people dorms it can be a bit annoying with people coming and going at random times. Overall I would highly recommend it as they put notices up about the upcoming tours in the lobby and it’s pretty central to most things you would want to see.

  2. How much money to take can but a case by case basis. If you are planning on doing a heap of shopping and use cabs all the time then it can be quite expensive. Topdeck suggests you budget for $60-70 a day. Some days like the drive days you might only spend $10 and other days you might spend over. I would recommend estimating for about $50-$70 per day. Some places like France, Switzerland and UK may be a bit more expensive than others whereas places like Greece are really cheap. There are a lot of provided meals which end up saving you a lot of money and one of my biggest tips is to not spend money at service stations on the drive days. Buying snack and food at service stations are over priced and will probably end up costing you $500+ by the end of the trip if you aren’t careful. It’s good to make a budget for your trip of about $50 a day and then also include any optional activities you might want to do. That way you have a general idea of what you might need and should be able to plan ahead. I took more money than I needed and ended up with about $1,500 left over but it was good to have the extra cash just in case. Also if you are a big drinker then account for that in your budget. I think in one of my previous posts in this thread I go into more detail.

  3. Thanks eljohnston for answering this question.

  4. My must see things in London were; Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Crown Jewels, Harrods, London Bridge/Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Abbey Road crossing (I’m a Beatles fan), St Paul’s Cathedral, British Museum, Madam Tussaud’s. I’m sure there is plenty more which I have forgotten but those are the ones I remember. I used the hop on and hop off buses and they were brilliant. You can get a pass which goes for a couple of days and they will take you to most of the main attractions. Everything else you can just catch the tube or walk to.

  5. The coaches don’t have wifi but the majority of the places you will stay will have some sort of wifi. It isn’t always the best wifi but you should be able to send a couple of emails and Skype some people.


#124

I’m glad I could help Holly. If you have any questions closer to your departure date i’ll try to answer them :slight_smile:


#125

Hi Mario,

After looking at the European Getaway optional activities the ones which I have personally done and would recommend are as follows:

  • Paris Cabaret: Was fun and would recommend checking it out. It was a fun night and the entertainers were pretty awesome.
  • Paris bike tour: I had sooo much fun on the Paris bike tour. It was a great way to see the city and you covered a lot of ground. Make sure to take photo’s when you stop.
  • Jungfrau Excursion: Definitely recommend this. Such an amazing place and the view going up and down is also awesome. You can easily spend the majority of a day up there.
  • Skydiving: I loved the skydiving as well. I couldn’t think of a more amazingly scenic place to do my first ever jump.
  • Vatican tour: This was really interesting and worth it to have a look around the vatican.
  • Gondola ride: Heaps of fun and hopefully you get a chatty gondolier.
  • Third Reich walking tour: I really enjoyed this and learnt a heap about the Third Reich. Definitely worth it.
  • Pub Crawl: The pub crawl was fun but isn’t for everyone. You go with a massive group of locals and other travelers so it can be a bit overwhelming and packed.
  • Canal Cruise: Definitely do this. It’s a great way to have a last hurrah with everyone on your trip and is heaps of fun.
  • Sex show: Was pretty funny and would recommend it. Beware if you are in the front two rows like myself!

I haven’t done any of the Austrian optional activities but I’ve heard that the canyon jumping and paragliding is awesome. I’ve also heard that the bike tour is heaps of fun and you see some amazing things but I can’t really give you a review of any Austrian optionals. If anyone else reading this has done these maybe they could comment and let you know.

I hope this helps.


#126

Hi Coggo :slight_smile:
I’m just wondering out about money as in I’m not sure how much is enough to take? I’m away from NZ for 37 days, 2 nights in Dubai. 6 nights in London, then the 20 day topdeck tour then 6 nights in Germany then home. Do you have any idea how much money would be enough? I want to be able to make the most of everything while there, so unsure if if should get a wee loan on top of my savings…
Thanks :slight_smile:
Holly


#127

Hi Holly,

I’ll try and help you with how much money you should take but I want to first of all point out that spending money is different for everybody and I can’t guarantee the figure I give you will be very accurate and may be in fact widely inaccurate. As I think I’ve posted before in this thread I was away from home for about 59 days and I took about $9,000 with me (I had been saving for a couple of years prior to leaving) and I didn’t go anywhere near spending all of that. Excluding flights and accommodation and Topdeck Tour, I think I would have spent around $5,000 give or take another $1,000. So that included optional activities (which was a big chunk of that $5,000), not provided lunches, dinners, snacks, souvenirs, entrance fees for museums/attractions etc, alcohol, any personal transportation fees like buses, trains, taxi’s, tips and other miscellaneous expenses which weren’t prepaid for.

If you break that down it’s about $80AUD a day. As you know topdeck recommend that you allow for about $60-70 a day in spending money while on tour which is pretty accurate however I don’t think I spent that much during the tour. I probably spend on average between $40-50 a day while on tour or maybe lower. This in part is due to my personal spending habits and I only really spend my money on getting into museums/sites and on food which wasn’t included. If you are prone to doing quite a bit of shopping, buying an excessive amount of drinks at night or eating out all the time then you will of course spend more than the recommended amounts.

If you are away for 37 days (minus 2 for flying when you probably won’t spend money) then 35 days you will be away for. Of those 35 days you are on topdeck for 20 days so lets say you spend $60 a day which is $1,200. You then have to add on top of that your optional activities which you should work out which ones might interest you so lets estimate $800 (this could be way over). That brings you up to $2,000. You then have to realise that days you aren’t on tour you will have to buy all your food, transport and entrance fees so maybe allow for $80+ per day (excluding any accommodation costs) depending on what you have planned so that’s $1,200 and brings you up to $3,200. That’s a very rough estimation and it’s always good to add a bit more on just in case.

I want to again point out that this may be very inaccurate as everyone has VERY different spending habits and exchange rates can change and is just a guide for you to work it out yourself. It’s best if you sit down and work though a similar process and think about how much you might spend on each meal during a day and what you might spend on entrance fees/ drinks and make a budget yourself. Also go through your optional activities prior to the trip and work out which ones you might want to do and budget for them. After doing all the above hopefully you should have a general idea of how much you might spend and can budget accordingly. How much were you planning on taking over?

Finally some money saving tips if and budgeting advice I can give you are as follows:

  • Depending on whether you are going to be using a credit card for most purchases or cash be well informed of any fees your cards can charge you. I mostly did big withdrawals from ATM’s that accepted MasterCard’s(which was what my card was) which meant I didn’t get charged nearly any random fees any didn’t get charged a heap of transaction/withdrawal fees.

  • Another tip is if you aren’t rushed for time in places and you are looking for a specific/particular souvenir then it’s always good to do a bit of a shop around. I found some centrally located stores on the main tourist drags can try to rip some tourists off. For example in Barcelona I really wanted a Barcelona soccer jersey and stores on the main strip were selling them for 80-90 Euro and some even seemed poor quality. I went literally one/two blocks over to another store and bought the same jersey for 40 euro and to this day it hasn’t faded or anything so it was a good quality jersey. Be very wary of street vendors trying to rip you off as well but you can also pick up a lot of fun stuff from them as well.

  • I guess the same goes for food. Some restaurants can have some really crazy prices if they are on the main tourist drag and if you go one or two streets over you get the same meal for half the price. Me and a couple of friends always had fun getting off the main drag in a lot of places and finding some small family owned restaurants and got some really great meals for good prices.

  • I also found that some restaurants would bring out bread and sparkling water to your table right when you sit down and being Australian or a New Zealander you just assume that they are complimentary. Most times they ARE NOT and they will charge you for the bread and sparkling water when you go to pay your bill. We would usually ask for tap water (which was usually free) or just get a soft drink and not touch the bread unless everyone was going to chip in for the bread.

  • Last money tip I guess (and this won’t relate to everybody) but try not to go shopping in every city/place you go to. There were a couple of girls and one guy on my tour who would spend 80% of their time in EVERY city/town we visited shopping for clothes or getting massages/manicures. The ended up filling up their bags really quickly and sending a lot of stuff home via the post which was pretty expensive. Now I’m a big believer in “each to their own” but I couldn’t work out why they would spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets and a tour to just spend most of their time in clothes shops or getting massages. They missed seeing a lot of cool attractions/buildings/museums/culture/architecture (like the Colosseum which was I remember them missing) which is usually the reason you go on a European holiday. If that is your kind of thing then have at it and go shopping but you will also end up spending a lot of money and missing out on a lot of cool things.


#128

Senermirim,

Please don’t post links in this thread which are just advertising your travel company. This thread is for people to help fellow travelers with any questions they have.


#129

Hi,

I would like to know if they would take credit cards for Sky Diving in Swiss Alps. I am worried about bringing so much swiss francs in cash.

Thanks!
Elliot


#130

Hi Elliot,

If I remember correctly you are able to pay for the skydiving by credit card but you might want to double check that with your Tour Leader before you get to Switzerland because their policy’s may have changed over the last year or so. From memory we had to pay an initial deposit in cash to the Tour Leader beforehand for the skydiving and then paid for the rest on our credit cards on the day of the jump (the deposit is deducted from the total cost). It’s definitely worth the money doing the jump. I hope that answered your question.

Cheers

Coggo


#131

Thank you so much for your prompt reply. Another question. What time do the tours normally end if it ends in London.


#132

Hi Elliot,

From what I remember you are suppose to arrive back in London sometime around 6:30pm - 8:30pm. This is VERY dependent on traffic getting from Dover to London so you could be a lot earlier or a lot later. I highly recommend not booking any flights/travel arrangements for that night just because you don’t know what time you will arrive back in London.

Cheers,

Coggo


#133

Hi Coggo,

Just wondering if you have any recommendations on moneycards/debit cards/credit cards to use whilst in Europe. I have heard 28degree card is good but have also heard the citibank plus account is good.

Cheers


#134

Hi Jess,

I took the MasterCard Multi Currency Cash Passport http://www.cashpassport.com/multi/. I loaded up all my spending money on those cards before I left and looking back at my statements now I didn’t get charged any withdrawal fee’s at all while over there as it was partnered with MasterCard. I got my card through Flight Centre and it took 1-2 days to set it all up and have it working which was really handy. They also loaded all my money onto the card for me and I didn’t get charged a cent loading my money onto the cards. They give you two cards in case one gets lost and I think my cards didn’t work on only one really random ATM over there. It worked on every other ATM I used. I didn’t take any credit cards with me.

I also want to note that my Multi currency card was obtained in 2012 so they may have changed the terms and conditions/fees of the card.

My friend took the 28 degrees card and only had trouble in one place but was fine for the rest of the trip and he seemed pretty happy with his card as well.

The main things you want to check for when applying for a card are:

  • What are the withdrawal fees you will be charged from ATM’s overseas?
  • Is there a limit of how many transactions you can make a day/month before they will charge your fees
  • Is there any account keeping fees which will be applied
  • How they work out their conversion costs when exchanging money from currency to currency.

The best thing to do is find the couple that you think are the best, get onto their websites and compare their fees and that should give you an indication of which one is the best. I would recommend the Multi Currency Cash Passport or the 28 Degrees Card as both have no international transaction fees and are affiliated with the majority of banks/ATM’s for Europe. If you don’t understand some of the fees call the company’s and they can give you a good explanation of what the fees are about.

Once again, don’t take my word for gospel as I didn’t spend a great amount of time researching all the cards and I’ll leave that up to you but hopefully I helped you in knowing what to look for.

I hope this helps.

Coggo


#135

If anyone has completed the European Pioneer trip it would be good if you could give me a bit of an overview of what you thought of the trip including what you enjoyed/didn’t enjoy.


#136

Hi Coggo,

I’m just doing the short 10 day eastern europe winter express tour in december and was just wondering if you had any experience with just how cold it is in each place and what clothing would be appropriate? Also what were the average ages of most people I’m only 18 and will be by myself and don’t really want to be down the bottom of the age bracket too much haha.

Thanks,
Luke.


#137

Hi Luke,

If you are planning to heading to Eastern Europe in winter I’m assuming it will be quite cold (possibility of snow?).

Clothing wise I would recommend the following:

  • First of all, layers. When visiting Europe in winter shops, restaurants and museums are usually well heated and as soon as you enter you will be quite warm. Wear clothes on top that are easy to remove, or if you have a super warm coat then you can wear a couple of light layers underneath. Layers also mean that if some days aren’t as cold as others you can just shed some layers and put them in your bag.

  • Thermals. Thermals are awesome for layering and reduce the amount of other clothes you will need to wear and pack because you will only have limited space in your bag and jumpers take up a lot of room. Thermals really help keep your body temperature in so it’s a great idea to invest in a good pair of thermals.

  • Beanie and scarves are also handy as you would be surprised how much heat you lose through your head and from the neck of your jumpers. They are also small items so are easy to carry around if they aren’t needed.

  • Waterproof shoes or boots are pretty important because the rain, snow, ice and mush will soak a normal pair of shoes pretty quickly and having cold feet all day isn’t fun. It also takes shoes ages to dry in winter which can be really annoying. Also a pair of warm socks helps as well, preferably a pair of quick dry socks in case they do get wet.

  • Lastly and maybe the most important, a warm, waterproof coat with a hood is a super important item. A coat which breaks the wind and is waterproof can be a lifesaver on those days where it’s misty rain or pouring with rain. It keeps everything underneath dry and blocks out most of the chill factor of the wind. They can usually be pretty expensive but are definitely worth the price especially if you get stuck in the middle of a city when it starts pouring with rain.

With the age spread of people on the tour there should be quite a few people around your age as your trip is in the holiday period for uni/school people. There could be older people on your tour however because the youngest age is 18 for a Topdeck tour don’t be surprised if you are one of the younger people on the tour. There will probably be quite a few early 20 people on the trip. To be honest though the age difference doesn’t make that much of a difference though. I was 25 when I went on my tour and had some good mates who were 18/19 on the tour.

The above is just suggestions of what to take and you should also have a read of the information Topdeck sends you. They usually have a list of suggested items to pack which can be useful. Hopefully this gives your a general idea of what to pack.

If you have any other questions just let me know.

Cheers,

Coggo


#138

hi Coggo,

my husband and i are planning to do the 36 days European Pioneer next June/July, i have asked a few qns in the other thread with Rae, didn’t realised that you have a thread as well and just read through all the advice/info you have written, so informative and great explanations! thanks!

we are thinking of flying with Emirates via Dubai and into London, have a couple of days in London before doing the 36 days pioneer tour and then have a fews days break and do the 14 days Britain and Ireland tour. we also would like to see Santorini island but since the pioneer tour doesn’t go there, we are thinking of going back to Melbourne via Athens and do a 4 days stopover to relax a bit on Santorini island before heading home. do u have any extra advice on the itinerary we have here? do u think it’s crazy to do 2 tours back to back?

i have found this link re mobile internet: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-data-roaming#feelathome

do u have any plan on what you would do with mobile data when u go back to Europe next year? use free wifi at the accommodation at night or get a sim before the tour?

i have also did lots of other research and online reading re credit cards/debit cards while travelling overseas. i have used my 28 degrees mastercard (credit card) while travelling to USA last year and it was great, the conversion rate was very good, much better than many other credit cards, AND it doesn’t charge a transaction/withdrawal fee each time i use the card. as for a debit card (using my own money) - i am in the process of applying for a citibank plus debit card which i learned that it doesn’t charge any fee to withdraw money out at ATMs, and again the conversion rate is good.

i am planning to book our tours and flights end of sept/early Oct to get the early bird discount, do u remember how much you paid for your flight to Europe with Emirates in 2012?

do u know if couples are able to stay together in most/all accommodation? and if most accommodation have shared bathrooms? (the shared bathroom qns is coz my husband has the habit of going to the toilet maybe 2 times in the night, so it can be a bit annoying if the bathroom is very far from the bedroom).
also did many ppl bring their laptops, do u think it’s safe? we are thinking of bringing it to watch movies etc on the long bus journey and also to transfer photos from SD cards to the laptop.

thanks!

Tracy :slight_smile:


#139

Hi Tracy,

My partner and I are also planning on doing the European Pioneer next June/July as well! You never know we could end up on the same tour haha. Thanks for the kind words, This thread has gotten a lot bigger than I expected and I’m glad that I have been able to help some fellow travellers.

It’s kind of funny that you have nearly said exactly what my partner and I were planning on doing next year. We will also be flying with Emirates into London and having a couple of days in London beforehand to explore and get our body clocks in check before we head off for the tour. We have been contemplating what to do after the tour. We were thinking of either checking out Britain and Ireland or flying over to Croatia and doing the 8 day Croatia sailing tour because we’d love to do some sailing. That would be our little holiday within the holiday before we head home. Santorini would also be amazing to see. All up we are thinking of spending about 8 weeks over there. How long were you planning on being over there?

I don’t think your itinerary is too crazy. You have to realise that you will be quite tired after the European Pioneer but a few days break between that and your next tour should be fine. That should give you enough time to catch up on sleep, wash clothes and pick up any provisions you need before the next trip. I think you should be fine with what you have planned. Just remember that you may get sick at some stage during your first tour and that can take a toll on you. You may not be as energetic for your next tour but the main thing is to take a heap of medication with you in case that happens and always make sure to make the most of your time and keep going! Don’t like a cold make you miss seeing some amazing sights.

In regards to the mobile internet I’m planning on doing what I did last time and just use the free wifi whenever I can get it. From reading your link you would have to buy a “Three Mobile” UK sim over there for you to get the benefits however they also state that “Any calls, texts and data used will come from your UK allowance, although you’ll be charged international rates for contacting foreign numbers”. What I gather from that is if you want to call back home you’ll still be paying their international rates and they don’t state how much that costs. The internet charges also seem quite expensive being $6 for 5MB and then $30 for every 5MB after that. 5MB really isn’t that much data so you would have to be careful. I have never really done too much research on international sim cards however I’m sure there are some good ones out there. If anyone reading this has used something like that then maybe they can chime in and help. My only other issue with that, and my friend had this problem, is he bought a international sim in Australia and it was suppose to work in a lot of European countries. The problem he found was that the a lot of the time he couldn’t find the service provider for the sim card where we were or had really bad reception when he did find it. Like I said above I’m just going to stick with the free wifi and have my data turned off the whole time. I did that last time and I was able to Skype call people from home with relative ease and for free. It also let me send emails, check Facebook and upload some pictures off my phone and that was all I really wanted to do.

With regards to travel cards the 28 degrees MasterCard is great. My friend took that and had no problems. He loaded it up with a heap of money prior to travelling. I used the Multi-currency cash passport and had no problems either. I didn’t get charged any withdrawal fees and had certain currency’s already pre-loaded before the trip so I didn’t have to worry about conversion costs a lot of the time.

We’re also looking at booking our flights once the tour dates come out so around August/September as well. Last time I flew over with Etihad and then flew back with Emirates. Both were good but I preferred Emirates. I think I paid around $1,800 - $1,900 return but I can’t quite remember.

From what I have heard from multiple people is that 95% of the time couples are able to stay together. Most places are 4 person share rooms so you will be sharing with two other people. They try to put the couples together as well but sharing with singles is also fun and a good way to get to know the people on your trip. It’s usually a bathroom between four people but at some places its big shared bathrooms. These shared bathrooms aren’t too far away. There are some places where the couples aren’t able to stay together but it’s only for one or two nights so it’s not a big issue.

Not that many people brought laptops with them on the tour but the ones that did had no trouble with them. It should be fairly safe providing that you lock your room every day and don’t take it out into the cities. One of my good friends took hers on our trip and she found it very useful just to put photo’s onto and use the free wifi in the hotels to check Facebook and send some emails back to family and friends. Just remember it is another thing you have to carry around though and it’s a good idea to get a decent padded case for the laptop.

You’ll have to let me know what dates you and your husband are planning on doing the trip when you decide. You seem to have pretty much the same itinerary as partner and I. Have you ever been to Europe before?

I hope I’ve answered your questions. Let me know if you have anything else you want to ask.

Cheers,

Coggo


#140

hi Coggo,

thanks for the detailed email!! it’s great to be able to talk about travelling Europe! it’s so exciting! no we have never travelled Europe! so it will be our first time! we have travelled pretty much all of Asia including india! and last year we have travelled most of USA/Hawaii for one month. this year we did thailand, and the whitsundays, and christmas we are doing tasmania. my sister lives in Scotland so we are hoping to meet up with her in London or Edinburgh. apart from that, we just want to do all of Europe or as much as we can coz we don’t know when we would be able to go again, it’s just too far away (or should i say Melbourne is too far from the rest of the world!!) and a bit expensive! we don’t have any dates yet but we are in the process of applying for leaves at work, and once the 2015 dates are out, we will look at that and decide which tour dates link the 2 tours nicely. according to this year’s dates, i think there are about 2 days gap between the European pioneer and the Britain and Ireland tour. we are applying for about 8 weeks of leave as well, but not on a particular date because it all depends on when my husband’s work think its best for him to take the leave. we are of coz hoping to be early June, or even end of May because i know flights are cheaper then, and not as busy in Europe!

as for the internet, i am happy to use the free wifi too, but i have heard that the free wifi doesn’t have very good connection, very slow and jammed (guess more and more ppl are using the internet). hence we are looking into getting some portable wifi. we don’t need to make calls at all, just internet to whatsapp families and friends. from the link i sent you, i looked at the 2 options:

  1. EE Euro roaming data add-on* - £1/day for 20MB/day,
  2. O2 Travel* - £1.99/day for 50MB/day.
    it doesn’t seem too expensive, and it will work in almost all of the countries on the 2 tours, except for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia. this sim would be purchased in London before the tours (a UK company), it’s not related to any Australia telco companies. i think 20-50MB of data per day is good enough. but i will keep looking and reading in the next 9 months and see if there are any other better or cheaper options out there.

it’s funny that you have mentioned a number of times to bring a waterproof spray jacket on the trip. i have always talked about how good a gore tex jacket is which is so light and thin but it’s completely waterproof and windproof!! i love it! we will definitely be bringing it!

with the 28 degrees mastercard, they have changed the rules recently and they no longer allow you to load it up with your own money and take cash out at ATMs (fees will be charged), so this credit card is only good to use as a credit card overseas, with no conversion fees and no transaction fees. so it’s great to use it to make big purchases overseas, and pay it off when you get home from holidays.

for the above reason, you can’t use the 28 degrees mastercard as a debit card, that’s when the citibank plus debit card comes in handy. it allows you to load it up with your own money and use it overseas as a normal ATM card, it doesn’t charge any fees to load up money, and it doesn’t charge any transaction fee or ATM fee (unless it’s charged by the bank of the ATM being used, but it will be stated on the ATM if this is the case), and the conversion rate is very competitive and it’s calculated on the date of the transaction. and if there is money left over after the holiday, just netbank it back to your normal bank account for free!

is there a fee to apply for a Multi-currency cash passport? and any cost to load money onto it each time? and if there are money left over at the end of the holiday, is there a fee to retrieve the money back?

we are definitely not planning on spending too much money on shopping, we want to bring the least amount of luggage as possible. we are even hoping to bring everything in one suitcase! haha - being hopeful!

have you travelled to dubai before? any thoughts on staying there for a day or two? LOL

Cheers,

Tracy =)