Tips/Advice on Top Deck European Tour

Hello,

I just returned home from the 36 day European Pioneer Tour and would love to help out of anyone has any questions. I found this forum extremely helpful when planning and packing for my trip so I’d like to return the favour :slight_smile:

Rae

Hi Rae,

My partner and I are planning on doing the European Pioneer in June 2015. Can you give me a bit of an overview of your trip and what you enjoyed/didn’t enjoy.

Also any tips you can think of for the trip would be handy.

Cheers,

Coggo

Hey Coggo,

I absolutely loved every minute of my trip. I’ve never been to Europe before so this was the perfect way to see Western and Eastern Europe without any hassle.

Weather:
We left in June and the weather throughout the 6 weeks was mostly warm and sunny. I took one light jacket/cardigan which I used a few times and a jumper that I only used in Switzerland. It did rain a few times though so don’t forget your umbrella/rain jacket.

Accommodation:
I did the Euroclub tour which is mostly hostels. On a whole, the accommodation was reasonable. Everywhere we went was clean and the beds were comfortable. Some were quite roomy, others were tiny. The most basic accommodation was in Mykonos where we stayed in permanent tents. The tents were quite large but they only contained 4 beds and a small lockable box for passports and money etc. If you are in a couple, I’m pretty sure Top Deck will do what they can to room you together whenever possible.

Safety:
There were a few times throughout the trip (mostly in the busier places like Paris, Rome etc) that I felt a little worried about being robbed but our tour guide always told us when to be particularly cautious. I had my phone stolen from my bag at the markets in Budapest so I would recommend that you be extremely vigilant when in large crowds.

Bus time:
We spent a lot of time on the bus so if you can’t sleep on the bus, make sure you take some kind of entertainment (although Top Deck do quite a few things to keep you entertained)

Wifi:
If you’re planning on using skype/FaceTime to contact home, I would suggest that you look into a prepaid sim with data included. I relied on the wifi at the hostels and most of the time it was rubbish. A lot of the time you couldn’t even log on, then when you could it was extremely slow.

Optional Activities:
I did all of the Optional Activities on offer, except for the sky-diving. I enjoyed and would recommend all of them except for the Cabaret Show in Paris. About 20 of us attended the show and only 1 person enjoyed it. The rest of us were extremely disappointed. My favourite optional activities were the bike tours.

Essentials:
I would recommend taking gastro-stop/Imodium with you. Our tour group was lucky to miss the gastro bug but we ran into two other Top Deck groups who weren’t so lucky. The cold and flu tablets in Europe don’t seem to do the same job as the ones from Australia so I would also recommend taking a packet of those.

Last but not least, I would definitely recommend packing light. Most of the hostels have lifts but when the whole Top Deck group is trying to use them (40+ ppl) it’s much easier to carry your bag up the stairs. If possible, I would only pack what you can carry up 2-3 flights of stairs (remembering to leave space for souvenirs).

Rae :slight_smile:

Thanks for replying!

I have a couple of other questions:

  1. What was the age range of all the Topdeckers on the tour? I’m going to be 27 and was curious so see what the ages of all the people would be like.

  2. How did the free day’s turn out for Florence and Vienna? I see you only have the one day there for each of those places so does that mean you get there in the morning and see the city and then leave the next day for your next destination? Were you a bit rushed for time?

  3. Was your tour pretty much the same people through out it or did you have a quite a few people leave halfway and other tours join you?

Thanks for answering my questions!

:slight_smile:

Hey Coggo,

I’m more than happy to help. I love reminiscing about my trip :slight_smile:

  1. Most of the people on my tour were in their early 20’s. There were a few in their late 20’s (me included) and a couple of 30 something’s. Everybody got along really well though and nobody (to my knowledge) felt out of place because of their age.

  2. I felt that we had enough time in both Florence and Vienna as I didn’t have a lot on my ‘to see’ list. With Florence, we arrived in the afternoon then had a walking tour with a local guide. Afterwards we had dinner with the tour group then all went out to a karaoke bar (had a fantastic night!). The next day we had enough time to wander around, see a leather demonstration and grab some lunch before heading off to Rome. Vienna on the other hand was a bit rushed as we only had one afternoon/evening there then left early the next morning. If you go to the orchestra in Vienna, the bus leaves at around 6:30pm to take you there so you’ll really only have the afternoon for looking around. It really all depends in what you’re planing to see and do.

  3. About 80-90% of people on my tour were with us from the start to finish. We lost a few in Barcelona, Athens and Mykonos but a few joined in each of those place as well. Our group was always between about 40-45 people.

Rae

Hi Rae, we are also planning to do the same tour next year, can you please tell me how much spending money we should plan for?
i am already planning to set aside money for all the optional activities we want to do while we are on tour, but we still need to plan for spending money each day, this includes entry fee to attractions like colosseum etc, and also meals/food that’s not included in the food fund, as well as transportation on free days, (excluding shopping money/souvenirs) would 70 EURO/$100AUD be enough as spending money per person per day?
on average, how much are lunches/dinners when we have to get our own?
also on the free days, is it difficult to make our own way out to the attractions/sightseeing, taxi/public transport? are the accommodation close by in most cities?
lastly, on the tour days, approximately what time we need to get up and ready by to meet the group to start the bus ride to the next destination?
thank you!
Tracy

i have a few more qns regarding Europe:

Can u please tell me if there are air con in most of the accommodation and is it too hot to sleep at night if we go on this tour June/July next year, would it be crazy hot like some of melbourne summer nights?
also with internet access, is there wifi on the bus? was it at a reasonable cost? speed? and if you know of any other way of accessing the internet (i.e. getting a sim with data or a portable wifi device etc – which company?) or is it in general we can get a reasonable access to the internet through our accommodation at night and cafe/restaurants during the day?
with the free days of sightseeing, do the tour bus still take us out and drop us to the city’s main attractions? or do we need to find our own way to get there?
Lastly, is the water safe to drink in Europe like in Australia? or we need to buy bottled water everywhere we go?

THANK YOU! xx

tracy

Hey Tracey,

I budgeted for $1000 per week for spending money (including optional activities) and that was more than enough for me. I didn’t miss a thing that I wanted to do, I partied a fair bit and I did a lot of souviner shopping (about 9kgs worth) and still had money left over. I didn’t spare any expenses when eating out either. Mostly I found that food/drink was around the same price as in Aus and just like in Aus, there are plenty of cheaper options of you’re running low on money.

The accommodation we stayed at was sometimes a little while away from the centre of town. Most of the time the bus took us into town in the morning and did a pick up run in the afternoon. If that wasn’t the case, then Top Deck gave us bus/train tickets to use to get in and out of town. There was the odd occasion that we had to pay for our own transport but it was generally only a few euro.

On travel days , we generally left between 7-8am. There was the odd occasion that we left earlier or later but never earlier than 6am and never later than 9am. We would usually have our bags to the bus 40 minutes before departure then we would have 30 minutes for breakfast then we’d head off.

Most places had air conditioning but some did not. I never found it too hot to sleep though. The really hot places like Greece Italy did have air conditioning. The biggest problem we found was that there was no ventilation in the bathrooms which could make e rooms very hot and stuffy.

If I had my time over again, I would definitely not rely on the wifi at the accommodation. Half the time it did not work and when it did, it was so slow! Most cafés and bars had wifi but when you’re out sight-seeing and socialising , you don’t want to be wasting your time catching up on emails etc. There is a sim card you can get through Covermore which seemed to be good value. The SIM card itself is free and you just put money onto it to use for phones calls, SMS and Internet. If you google “Covermore sim” it will give you all of the rates and other information.

From memory, we drank the water everywhere except Greece and Albania. Try to buy the water (and snacks) from supermarkets rather that service stations though. It’s a lot cheaper and you don’t have to wait in line for ever.

Hopefully I’ve answered most of your questions. Feel free to ask any others you think of :slight_smile:

Rae

hi Rae,

thanks for all your insightful info! very helpful!
i will be travelling with my husband on the tour, do u know if couples were 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. did anyone on ur tour have things stolen in accommodation? what about pick pocketer on the streets, is it as bad as ppl say in Italy and Paris?

thanks again!!!

Cheers

Tracy :slight_smile:

Hey Tracey,

We had one couple on your tour and I think they were able to stay together most of the time. Your Tour Leader will do what they can to accommodate you. If you have a good group, it will make things easier. For example, if there is one double room available, most people wouldn’t mind giving it to you guys.

Most of the accommodation had a bathroom within your room so you only have to share it with the people in your room (usually 4-6 ppl to a room). From memory, the only time we had to walk from our room to the bathroom was in Mykonos and Switzerland.

Most people on my tour brought a lap top or an iPad. Nobody’s got stolen (to my knowledge) and I don’t think anyone had anything stolen from any of the accommodation. On the streets is a different story though. The crowded places are where you are more likely to be robbed/pick pocketed. I had my iPhone stolen from my bag at a market place in Budapest so I would advise taking extra caution when in crowds and try not to carry too much cash on you. Otherwise, I think you’re pretty safe. Paris and Italy did feel a little more unsafe than other places but only because it is so busy around their main tourist attractions.

It’s a really good idea to take some movies to watch. You spend a lot of time on the bus so it’s good to have something to pass the time. I ended up taking a over 2000 photos on this tour so it will be very helpful to be able to transfer your photos onto your lap top. You’re going to have an amazing time. I wish I was going again :frowning:

Rae

thanks Rae, but sorry to hear that you have your phone stolen!! that’s a bummer! did u even know it was stolen? or you discovered it much later? sounds pretty serious when they can steal a phone from your bag without you even knowing!! Eeek!

we are thinking of doing the Britain and Ireland tour (14 days) after the European pioneer tour, do u think it’s crazy to do 2 tours back to back? were you stuffed after the 36 days tour?

Thanks

Tracy :slight_smile:

It was a bummer indeed! I was using my phone a lot to work out currency conversions so I noticed it was gone quite quickly. It was so crowded in the market place and people were bumping into us all the time so it would have been relatively easy for them to unzip the front pocket and take it :frowning: If I had my time again, I wouldn’t have put it in the front pocket.

I don’t think it’s crazy at all to do two tours. Most people on my tour did more traveling either before or after the European Pioneer. My mind set is that you may aswell see everything while your there. My friend and I did 2 weeks in the UK before the tour but we traveled on our own. We spent 5 days in London, 3 days in Edinbrugh, overnight in Belfast, 2 days in Dublin, 1 day in Liverpool and 2 days in Bath then back to London. In hindsight I would probably have preferred to do it in a tour as it was quite stressful working out the best way of don’t things.

We were very tired when we finished our travels but it was totally worth it. The European Pioneer is great because you have 3 days in Mykonos in the middle of the tour to relax and rejuvenate. B-)

Rae

Thanks Rae for all your advice, i will definitely be more cautious with my belongings. hopefully you have got yourself a much better and nicer phone now! will get in touch with you if i have more qns! thanks! =)

Tracy

Yeah, Rae is right light packaging is strongly recommended . And try not to put wallets, expensive devices in outer pockets and partitions to not being robbed, sometimes they cut the bag and take this things out of it(

Do you think it would be wise to bring a small travel blanket for the bus or the hostels? Or is it not really needed? Thanks!

Hi Kimmy J,

I would definitely suggest taking a small blanket. The bus can get very cold especially if you’re sitting down the front. I took a thin blanket (which was more like an over sized scarf) and used it in the bus most days. It also came in very handy when visiting churches and monasteries to cover my legs/shoulders (my sarong came in very handy for this too).

Rae

Hi again Kimmy J,

I just realised you’re from Canada so you may not feel the cold as much as I did. I would still take a blanket though as I’m sure you will use it.

Rae

Rae,
I still like my heat and am not a huge fan of air conditioning so I think I will for sure bring a blanket cause I hate being cold! Thanks for the advice. :slight_smile:

Hey all

I’ve just book a spirt of Europe tour for June next year and will start and finish in London, just wondering where to stay before and after my tour? And also same when in Athens before starting a tour there.

Thanks cobes

Hi Rae,

Thank you so much for all your information, it’s answered so many of my questions already. I was just wondering what the laundry situation was like? Did you get many chances to do washing or did you pack enough to last the whole trip?

Keren