Last Aug 2015, Tep and I went on a Europe trip. We decided to go on a tour since we wanted to make this trip a little relaxing and hassle free. Yup, hassle free from researching and booking hotels, preparing itineraries, walking a lot, getting lost and taking trains. But don’t get me wrong, I like all these hassle activities for a trip, it’s just that we also fancied trying out these so-called tours.
Due to referrals and good reviews by some of the people we know, as well as the research that we have done, we went ahead and booked a tour with Expat Explore. We chose their Eastern Europe Tour, wherein we will get to visit 8 different countries for 10 days. All of the tours that they offer already include hotel bookings, transportation (thru coach), various excursions and some meals. Once you decided to avail their tour, you need to initially pay 10% deposit so they can reserve a slot for you. Then you have to pay the balance atleast one month before the start date of the tour.
The following are the countries that we have visited. For now, I will just give you the list and the number of days we spent on each place because I will be writing about this one by one soon.
- Venice, Italy (1 day)
- Graz and Vienna, Austria (1 day)
- Bratislavia, Slovakia (3 hours)
- Budapest, Hungary (1 day)
- Prague, Czech Republic (2 days, the 2nd day as free day)
- Munich, Rhine Valley and Boppard, Germany (2 days)
- Amsterdam, Netherlands (2 days, the 2nd day as free day)
- Bruges, Belgium (half day)
This particular tour ended in London, where the main office of Expat Explore is located. We ended our trip in Amsterdam instead, and did not join the rest of the group going to Bruges since after this tour, Tep and I will be going to other places.
So, your question probably by now will be: Did you enjoy the tour? Is it worth it compared to do it yourself (DIY) tour? Well, I will answer that through the pros and cons below:
- Planning the tour. As I mentioned earlier, if you opt for a tour, then you don’t have to book your hotel and prepare itineraries because all of these are included on the package that you have paid for. Aside from that, it is also very easy to contact Expat Explore, so if you have questions regarding the tour and booking, you can email them, call or chat with their representatives thru their website.
- Meeting people. You will get to meet people with different nationalities, culture and age. Our group comprises of mostly British, Australian, American and some Asian nationals. We were the only Filipinos on that tour, except for a lady who was with us only during the first day. The age also varies, as there were some who are already on their senior years, while the others are middle aged like us. There were no kids in our tour group that time.
- Hotels. All the hotels that we stayed in were usually 3 or 4 star. They also provide free wifi and buffet breakfast every morning. There were some hotels located within downtown while others were a little far, but the tour company always made sure that there are nearby metro or train stations. Below are pictures of the room on one of the hotels we stayed in.
- Meals. Aside from the daily breakfast that we get from the hotel, there were 5 dinners included on our tour. The reason for this is for us, tourists, to try out the different specialty dishes and beers (yup, most of them are claiming that their beers are the best) for some countries we visited. During our dinner in Rhine Valley, we had a karaoke night, it was really fun as everyone was singing and dancing. Below are some of the meals we had during the tour.
- Tour guide. Our main tour guide was Helen. She’s very informative and helpful, especially if we got questions on how to get around the city during our free time. Aside from her, there were also other tour guides who assisted us on our walking and driving tours to the different cities we visited. The good thing about having a tour guide is you will get to know and be familiar with the history of places you visited, including gossips (hehehe).
- Transportation. The main transportation during our trip was through a coach (bus). It was big and roomy, and it even got a toilet (I didn’t use this since we get a 15 min. stop every two hours of driving, its part of their law for long drives. They will get a penalty once some of the passengers were left inside). We drove from country to country, admiring the views of Eastern Europe. The coach was also used during our tour in the cities. What I like about this was after a tiring, enjoying and exhausting walks, the bus was already there waiting to pick us up.
- Tourist Places and Experiences. We were able to visit the famous tourist places and attractions on the cities we visited. There were some that we have to pay extra for the admission fees, you better check with the Company and your tour guide what’s included on your tour so you won’t be surprised.
- Free Time and Free Days. There were free time and free days given to us. Our tour guide offered us activities during these times, for a fee ofcourse. But if you want to spend it on your own, be sure to plan what you want to do ahead of time, so you can already purchase admission tickets.
- Price. The price we paid for this trip was around $ 1,200 or Php 45,000 to 50,000 per head. You can even get discounts if you book early. I think this is cheaper compared to other tour packages.
- Early call time. There was one time wherein we need to be in the coach at exactly 6:30 am (how to survive that if you’re not a morning person?). But you better follow that, or else all eyes will be on you the whole day. I think the latest call time was around 8:30am.
- Travel time. As I mentioned earlier, we drove through coach. So it takes a lot of time going from one place to another, as compared if you will be taking a train. The longest I think was when we drove from Germany to Netherlands, it took us half day.
- Always in a hurry. Whenever we go to different tourist places, they always give us time to enjoy and take pictures. But most of the time, it is not enough to roam and appreciate these beautiful places. When we were in Vienna, I remembered that we have to run because we wanted to take pictures but due to the fast flow of the walking tour, we were not able to do that.
All in all, I would say that we enjoyed our time on this tour. But if you will ask me if I will recommend this tour, my answer would be a yes and a no. Why yes? Probably for those people on their middle and senior years, as this trip will be convenient for them, based on the pros that I have discussed above. Why no? Because if your are the adventurous type and want to appreciate all these beautiful and amazing places, then this trip is not for you.
So, if you are planning your next trip, be sure to research on all the pros and cons before deciding whether to do it on your own or join a tour.
PS: You can check their website at http://www.expatexplore.com. Please note that air tickets are not included on their tour package.