Traveling with a Guided Bus Tour for your First Trip to Europe: The Pros and Cons
There are many companies offering guided bus tours through Europe each with many itineraries to choose from and for varying prices. For a first trip to Europe, traveling with a guided bus tour rather than trying to piece it together yourself can really be the way to go. These kind of tours, however, are not without their disadvantages. I personally have been on two bus tours of Europe (the first with Globus and the second with Cosmos) and am going to discuss some of the pros and cons of traveling this way if you are planning your first trip to Europe.
Some things to consider...
Bus tours of Europe include your transportation for all points of the tour. If your tour starts in Calais, France and ends in Amsterdam, Holland, your bus will be there with you from beginning to end.
- Pros: You won't have to worry about how to get to your next destination and if it's your first time in Europe, this can be a huge stress saver. Just hop on the bus - no real knowledge or planning required!
- Cons: If it turns out that you really enjoy a place like Lucerne, Switzerland (my favorite spot in Europe) and want to stay longer, you won't be able to because your bus group is ready to move onto the next destination and can't wait for you.
All of your hotels are booked by the tour bus company.
- Pros: You don't have to worry about where you're going to sleep at night. A reputable tour company will make sure to put you up only in safe locations. And if you go with one of the higher class tours like Globus, the accommodations are often booked in prime locations so you're right admist the action and can hit the town right before bedtime.
- Cons: You don't have any say over where you'll be resting your head at night. Also, if you go with one of the more budget tours such as Cosmos, accommodations are often booked in less than ideal locations. This means that if you want to hit the town right before bedtime that you will have to find your own transportation in. You may find this to be less than convenient and not good on the budget if you're an hour away from where you really want to be.
Professional tour guide included:
The same professional tour guide travels with your group from beginning to end. He or she uses a microphone inside the bus to make commentary about the history and culture of the areas you're driving through. How much commentary you get depends on how chatty your tour guide is. There's still lots of time for sleep on the bus.
- Pros: You can learn a lot from these guides - stuff, you wouldn't learn if you went alone. They look after you to some degree (they don't babysit you) and are available to answer questions you may have about the sites you're seeing.
- Cons: If you're unlucky enough to get a tour guide that gets on your nerves, you're stuck with him or her for the duration of your tour. If you choose a reputable tour group though, chances are you will end up with a good guide but there's no guarantees.
Travel with people from around the world:
There will be people on your tour group from various parts of the world. On my first tour, the majority of the 30 or so people in my group were from the United States with a few Canadians and a few Australians. On my second guided tour of Europe the majority of people were from Australia and New Zealand, a couple from the UK and only a few from the United States and Canada.
- Pros: You can meet some interesting people who can experience the same sites as you are, often for the first time. It can be interesting to discuss these things with other people and hear about their view points. At the end of most tours, everyone exchanges e-mails to keep in touch and to share photos.
- Cons: There's a chance that you won't like some of the people in your group. Obviously, not everyone always gets along! If this happens, you are stuck with them for your whole trip. In my experiences, most people get along though. As long as everyone keeps an open mind, it should work out fine!
Some meals included:
On most guided bus tours, all breakfasts are included and are usually buffet-style at the hotel. Most lunches are not included and you're usually on your own here. Depending on the tour, about half or more of your dinners are included. You can find out for sure which meals are included in your tour before you leave (check your itinerary or ask your travel agent for help). It can help to know upfront for budgeting reasons how many extra meals will have to come out of your pocket.
- Pros: It's convenient to have some of your meals included and means that you can spend more of your time exploring Europe rather than trying to find a spot to eat. It also helps with the budget because you know up front that a lot of your meals are already included.
- Cons: Let's be honest here - a lot of the meals you're provided with on these tours just are not that good especially at breakfast time which is often a piece of hard bread and coffee. Also, if you're one of those people who really enjoy the dining experience, you'd probably prefer choosing your own restaurants and have more control.
Well, there you have it - a few good things and a few bad things about traveling by guided bus tour for your first trip to Europe. Overall, I think that you can't beat the experience of escorted travel by bus through Europe and more often than not, one can save money by doing it this way not to mention the headaches of planning your trip.
Please comment below if you have ever been on a guided bus tour of Europe or if you're planning to go on one. I'd love to hear from you!
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