Hi, my husband and I are interested in the Eastern Europe tour but the number of long days on a bus concerns us. There are two 7 hour bus days, one 8 hour day, one 5 hour day and other shorter days. Has anyone taken this tour? Are these nonstop driving for 7 hours or are there interesting stops along the way? The tour description does not mention this. I am okay for a 4 hour drive with no stops but many longer than that may get a bit draining - and that's not how I want to spend my days. I do agree with others that a tour may be the easiest way though to get around the Eastern bloc countries so may be willing to try it this once (we usually go on our own trips and have had good luck with that).
Snack/potty break every 2 hours on the tours I have been on
To add on to Joe's reply. There are laws in Europe that limit the amount of time drivers can drive the bus during the day, both for the length of the day as well as the time allotted to drive before a stop is required. Generally, most laws require stops every 2 - 2 1/2 hours. On some days, you may have a small town to visit for a lunch-type stop. On other days, it will just be a rest stop on the highway. However, the rest stop facilities in many European countries are often much more sophisticated than here in the U.S. (although I haven't done the Eastern European tour yet, so I can't comment specifically on those stops/facilities)
Have fun! I've been wanting to do this tour for a while, but the dates haven't worked out for me yet.
That is good to know. Thanks for the quick reply.
Marsha, I took this tour two years ago and it remains my favorite. You are going to love it. I have to say, the time on the bus never seemed long to me. As mentioned above, there are stops every two hours for toilet breaks, snack purchasing, coffee or water purchasing etc. If the drive occurs during lunchtime, you will stop for that also, some could be a picnic lunch or a special place. While on the bus your guide will explain/describe where you are going, and provide helpful hints and tips to get you started at your new destination. You'll even get language lessons and learn a song or two! It was always fun and interesting. There were always snacks and water on the bus as well. Some people slept, some wrote in their journals, some visited with other tour members and some read their tour book. If you can survive the flight to Europe, these long bus days will be a breeze.
I appreciate so much hearing from you! Thank you for that information. That will help in our decision to book.
I’ve been on six RS Tours and while all were fantastic, the Eastern Europe trip may well be my favorite. I echo Lisa’s feelings that the bus time didn’t seem too long. Our tour guide used it give us thumbnail country histories that really filled in big gaps I had in understanding the region. One of my favorites was his telling how as a kid he went to Communist Pioneer Camp and what that meant to him as a kid and how he looks back on it as an adult. We had plenty of stops (plus there’s a restroom on the bus). In addition, there’s lots of extra seats on the bus so there’s plenty of room to get comfortable. In short, don’t let the bus time have you missing one of the best trips of your life! My other tip would be to arrive early in Prague to get over jet lag and really have time to explore a fantastic city that was was undamaged in both world wars. Enjoy!
That’s very helpful. Thanks so much. My husband and I have always done our own trips - driving through Germany, France and Great Britain (though often using RS itineraries). We have loved our own pacing though and we’re a bit concerned about having to lose that control in a bus. Sounds like It isn’t a big problem. I appreciate the responses.
Hubby and I have been on 7 RS tours. This is one of our top 2. I was concerned about the bus time also, but had learned from other tours about the 2 hour limit for drivers in Europe.
I remember some stops for lunch where we had all brought picnic food to share. There was one stop in a very small village
that was so much fun. We were the only non residents in the town square and ate at a small cafe. The proprietor knew that we didn't have all afternoon so he suggested certain things for lunch. I had the best sausages I have ever eaten! He took pictures of the group for us and it was a fun time.
Etelka, the guide, is a trained schoolteacher who speaks multiple languages. We learned first hand from her how it was growing up under communism. It was the most interesting RS tour that we have taken. I would love to travel with her again.
Please let us know what you decide and then a trip report would be fun to read!
We were on this tour in June. I agree with the other posters that it is an excellent, eye-opening tour, and that the bus time -- while substantial -- isn't bad. Our guide also used the time to tell stories, share fascinating history, etc. The bus itself is comfortable. Stops are frequent, and although the wonderful autogrilles found in Germany and Italy are not the rule on this tour, facilities were always clean and you could always at least purchase a snack. A number of brief sightseeing stops also broke up the rides.
My bigger concern for Marsha, given the fact that she mentions she and her husband like to travel at their own pace, is that many people (myself included) felt there wasn't enough time spent at the two major cities (Krakow and Budapest) at the center of the tour. These stops may feel rushed to her. I know I wished I had at least one full day more in each city. If she signs up for the tour, I would echo the advice to arrive in Prague several days early. She might also want to plan on either staying a few extra days in the Bled/Ljubljana area, or even arranging transportation back to Krakow or Budapest, spending a few days, and then flying home from there.
I think it would be extremely hard to cover all the territory on this tour on your own. I was very glad to leave the driving to our professional driver (especially some of the windy, hilly roads)!
Great tips, Ruth! Thanks so much.
Thanks, Mimi. We are about sold on booking this trip.
Hi Marsha, I'd like to comment on Ruth's comments regarding her concern for you being use to traveling on your own and that the time in Krakow and Budapest may seem short to you. I also have traveled many, many times on my own, either solo or with friends/family using trains and other forms of public transportation. The Eastern Europe tour was my very first tour ever and I too had some apprehension about having to following someone else's time line. To be honest, there are pros and cons to each form of travel and you just learn to enjoy both. For the tour, it was quite nice having someone else figure out all the logistics, getting you from place to place, hotel rooms already taken care of, tickets for sites purchased and handed out and being able to cut through the long lines. In short, it was a bit like being pampered. The downside is, of course, following a structured day. However, I know that I saw and did so much more on this tour than I would ever have on my own, simply because I would have never known about some of the places we visited. So while your time in some of the bigger cities may not be what you want, you will at least get a feel for them and decide if you want to return and explore more on your own. Also, you get the better part of most afternoons on your own and with some advance planning on your part, you can really pack a lot in and see sites that are not covered as part of the tour. For instance, while in Budapest a group of us visited the Szechenyi baths and it was a wonderful experiance. Go!
Wow! I so appreciate you taking the time and laying that out for me like that. My husband and I were just having that pros and cons discussion too this evening. What you said is very helpful and makes a lot of sense. It definitely makes me feel More positive about it.
I wanted to thank Marsha for posting this. My wife and I along with a group of friends will be on this tour next June. This will be our third RS tour having completed the Villages of Italy last year and Best of Scandinavia this year. I too had some concerns with the bus ride time but I do know how the guides take up much of that time covering history, local culture and music, such that I am not worried. I see RS extended the tour by 1 day to add an extra night in Krakow so folks don't get rushed at Auschwitz-Birkenau tour. I also talked with a couple of folks at our local San Francisco Bay Areas RS meetings. They both had very high praises for this tour and did not feel the bus rides were an issue. Looking forward to having a great time next year in eastern Europe.