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Drinking on bus?

I’ve been on a number of group trips with another company but just recently went on my first Rick Steves tour. I was very surprised that people drank alcohol all day long (literally-starting In the morning!) on the bus and kept beer in the built in cooler on the bus. I do enjoy alcohol and am not a prude but I thought this was strange. Is this common on these tours?

Posted by
2396 posts

Really! I’ve been on 9 RS tours and have never seen this. What tour where you on? Was this a sub group of friends traveling together?

Posted by
3 posts

Nope, they weren’t friends before the trip. Got to be drinking buddies on it, though! We were in Turkey.

Posted by
66 posts

I've only been on one RS trip so far, the Best of Switzerland. I don't think anyone drank alcohol on the bus at all.

Posted by
938 posts

I've done 6 Rick Steves trips. Some trips have had beer/wine available along with water and soft drinks to buy on the bus, but no, never saw day-long drinking, or really much of any. Not remotely common.

Posted by
5639 posts

Four tours and have not seen this. It would be good for someone on RS staff to comment. Or at least mention this in your review of the tour.

Posted by
2258 posts

I have never experienced this in 11 RS Tours, including Turkey in 2018.

Posted by
34 posts

There was beer, water and soda in the cooler on the RS Best of Germany tour that I took in the summer of 2017. If people drank, they drank responsibly.

Posted by
3103 posts

I didn't see any drinking on the bus for the tour I went on.

I did see an emphasis on drinking on the bus in one of the tour scrapbooks I looked at, "Best of Eastern Europe", and quite honestly it put me off a little.

I don't mind people drinking moderately and meals, etc , but the bus is a long time to be "captive" with people when they lose their inhibitions.

Posted by
1862 posts

Sounds like this might have been unique to your tour group. The most that got enjoyed on the bus during our two RS tours was chocolate or another snacked passed around by a tour member who purchased the bag of candies, etc. and, of course, bottled water. (Ditto for other tours we have been on, except usually the tour guide was providing the snacks on those as inclusions).

Maybe there was a "ring-leader" on the group who just has not given up his/her college days?

I have been known to enjoy an early-morning mimosa when presented to me (by servers in tuxes) for a special occasion (like when we went under the Sydney Harbor Bridge on the (very early) morning of Australia Day on a Silversea ship......but generally I would fall asleep if I even "sipped" alcohol all day (I am not in practice).

But, if your fellow tour members were polite, not obnoxious and kept it all in moderation, it would not bother me.

Posted by
1101 posts

I have been on numerous RS tours and never seen day long drinking. I’ve seen some afternoon beer drinking especially on hot afternoons. Never been obtrusive or an issue. If it becomes problematic then you can always notify your guide. Who may choose to ask the drinkers to tone it down to avoid disrupting others.

Posted by
4501 posts

I’ve taken 8 RS tours; I’ve only been on one RS tour where someone drank on the bus; she was clearly an alcoholic. I shared a room with her for two days and she got up very early in the morning and started drinking then. When you see someone drinking wine straight out of the bottle at 7am and continuing the entire day, it is pretty obvious that they have a problem. This was back before the single supplement and there were 8 or 9 solo women travelers so we rotated roommates every hotel change. This woman did not cause any specific problems (she was quite odd, but relatively quiet), but as far as I know, she did not take a shower the entire two weeks.

I would not say your experience was the norm. I’d agree with you. I would find drinking on the bus a bit strange mainly because a bumpy bus does not seem like a very pleasant place to enjoy a drink.

Posted by
62 posts

I've been on 2 RS tours, and like others mentioned, there was usually a cooler that the driver kept where you could buy beer, water (and maybe even wine, I can't remember), but if anyone bought beer or wine, I didn't see it, nor did I ever see drinking on the bus (other than once when our guide passed around little samples of some sort of Czech liqueur one day on our Berlin/Prague/Vienna tour). I love good wine (I actually carry a cork screw with me on vacation because you just never know when you might need it - and it has come in handy on occasion!), and particularly on vacation where I don't have to think about work, or driving, or other responsibilities of the real world I usually drink wine with both lunch and dinner, but I never drank on the bus or saw anyone else do it. So, I'm thinking your experience was an aberration. However, that said, I don't think it would bother me unless the drinking group was loud and obnoxious, in which case I probably would say something discreetly to the guide.

Posted by
5639 posts

edgar, the coaches have a WC, but one that is smaller and even less comfortable than the one on a budget airliner. They ask you not to use it except in an emergency, because they dont have time to empty the holding tank between stops, and it would be unpleasant for all. Sometimes, the driver uses it to store his stuff. So, you're right, that would be a major disincentive to drinking on the bus.

Posted by
3444 posts

I have been on several RS tours. Each one where we had a bus dedicated to the tour had a built in cooler on it and the cooler was always filled with a variety of drinks for sale at very reasonable prices -- water, sodas, and yes beer and wine. Tour members were not allowed to put their own drinks into the coolers. People drank what they wanted at whatever time of day they wanted it. I didn't really even notice who drank what. And yes, on a couple days I may have had beer before lunch.

This all day drinking: was it where those drinking got a beer and then sipped on it calmly and quietly until the next stop? Or was it more of a bucket brigade stream of people constantly running to the cooler and consuming all the beer as fast as they could? This is a vacation for the tour members after all, maybe some people consider a vacation a time to drink.

And if anyone had "lost their inhibitions" because of the alcohol, they would have quickly disappeared from the tour. Most people can drink alcohol and not turn into raving lunatics.

Posted by
31216 posts

"Do the RS coaches have on-board WCs?"

Yes, there is a WC on the bus (usually in the rear stairwell) but it's VERY small and they "discourage" tour members from using it unless absolutely necessary (since the driver then has to clean them). The bus stops at rest stops about every two hours so I've never seen anyone use the bus WC.

I vaguely recall that on at least one of my tours, beer was provided in the cooler at the front of the bus, along with bottled water. I don't remember too many people drinking the beer so it was very low key.

Posted by
14225 posts

Actually beer is pretty common in Turkey and not hard to find. Coffee drinkers may have had more of a problem on the tour (and maybe drink beer to compensate?). Turks drink very little coffee, usually just one after dinner. They drink small glasses of strong tea all day long. My tour spent 3 nights in a wonderful hotel that did not serve coffee at breakfast.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone! Sounds like it happens on some tours but not others. Ours wasn’t an out of control situation or anything but it was kind of odd for those of us not participating on the bus. There were also ample opportunities to drink at meals and happy hour and I participated in those occasions. I was just so surprised as I had not seen day-long drinking on other group tours.

BTW alcohol in Turkey seemed pretty widely available most places, unlike other Muslim countries I’ve visited. There was one particularly religious city where it was more difficult.

Posted by
1683 posts

Cr-I would love a full trip report on this tour! It is an RS tour we are considering and there are not many TR’s on this particular tour at all. Sounds like it was, ah, interesting!

Posted by
1101 posts

BTW, while you are discouraged from using the bus WC unless it’s an emergency, it’s generally not an issue. The bus stops periodically so that everyone can stretch their legs, buy snacks or coffee and use the restroom. The last I heard bus drivers are strictly regulated by the EU. They are electronically monitored as to hours they drive and have mandatory breaks.

Posted by
218 posts

5 RS tours and never seen drinking on the bus and the bus coolers only had water and soft drinks in it. I’m slightly shocked to hear what you experienced!

Posted by
826 posts

A few folks have alluded to this in their responses, but not sure every reader will have noticed: the bus driver provides the drinks, usually in a cooler at the front of the bus. Tour members may help themselves and record what they take on a tally kept by the cooler. At the end of the tour, tour members pay up. Other than RS tours using the particular buses they do, availability of drinks on the bus is not a feature of the tour. I have taken 10 tours and believe I remember beer being available in the cooler on some, but I never really paid attention since water was all I was interested in.

Side note re travelling with corkscrews: I don't any more, though I have purchased cheap ones in supermarkets. But not having a corkscrew with me one trip led to a memento I cherish. I had just arrived in Padua and was worn out. It was Sunday evening, and I neglected to think of wine in the train station supermarket. While strolling round the hotel vicinity, I noticed a small store across from the Basilica of St. Anthony. I went in and found a cute little gift shop that also sold some wine. The woman working there and I communicated pretty much with sign language. I wanted a bottle of wine but had no corkscrew. She offered to open the bottle for me. Upon doing so, we could not get the cork back in the bottle! Problem solved by buying the cutest little cork stopper with a picture of the Basilica on it. For awhile there, it was like a Monty Python skit. But that cork stopper travels with me each trip now. It is part of my travel stash - one of the must-haves.

Posted by
467 posts

I think there's a degree to which the amount and type of drinking depends on the tour (and perhaps the guide). On our BOE21 tour, there were a lot of families with teens. Other than wine served at some of the dinners (and people free to order and pay for their own drinks at dinner) there wasn't a lot of drinking. (more of a focus on gelato. ;)

On our Best of Eastern Europe tour there was a much greater focus on alcohol. Our tour guide introduced us to specialty spirits in many of the countries we visited, and took the lead in providing us with tastes of many different liquors -- both on the bus and during happy hours. I would say we had some kind of alcohol experience more days than not. Having said that, it was never an issue. Our group was happy to experience a taste of whatever was being shared, but no one got drunk. I am not much of a drinker, and felt completely comfortable either trying something; requesting the smallest possible taste of something; or sticking with sparkling water.

Posted by
14 posts

We've done 4 RS tours (Paris and the HOF, Southern France, London 7 days, and Venice/Florence/Rome) and 3 weeks at Christmas time in Paris on our own. On our first tour our bus driver (privately, not on the PA or as a commercial for the product) extolled the pleasures of Belgian beer (Hi, Phillipe!) and so I often started my day on the bus with a bottle of Hoegarden (hope that's close to the right spelling). One was good, cool and refreshing, finishing about the time we hit our first rest stop.

I don't recall having more than 1 or 2 a day, and certainly not every day, but long bus rides are better sipping a beer. To be clear, I'm a big guy, to get drunk I need to drink at least 3 of those in succession and then one every 15-30 minutes to maintain the level, and that's not why I go on tour.

I did not drink alcohol on the bus on any of the other tours, even though the option was there... that first time I liked the driver, and sat where we could talk, and agreed with him that Belgian beer is good. On the other trips I sat further back to let other people enjoy to view, and read/talked sat quietly /stared out the window instead.

Alex in Hawaii
sipping a beer right now in my tiny island home

Posted by
10344 posts

I think the real question here is: whether the RS organization should encourage, or even require, alcohol consumption on the tours, including on the bus; to facilitate the appreciation of European cultures, of course. Wine in France, beer in....

Posted by
1 posts

This was our third RS trip and the first one where liquor was consumed on the bus. This was is no way a college frat party -this was adults enjoying a “ wee dram “ with coffee and during rest stops. The liquor/snacks were actually provided by members of the tour and our guide . Seeing as we toured a number of distilleries/ breweries- partaking in the local spirits totally made sense . This was just another group activity which we bonded over🍷. By the way, this was my favorite tour and tour group😎

Posted by
743 posts

I was on the same tour with Lisa. Everything she describes is absolutely accurate, especially the part about our wonderful group of travelers!

Edit: And this was, after all, the Best of Scotland tour. You know, the home of whisky!

Posted by
90 posts

Kudos to lisasteel100 and stout fella! DH and I were on the same tour and it was a blast even for us light imbibers. Lots of laughs, singing and learning going on in that bus. Scenery, history, guide, people and cultural experiences were excellent. And to my wonderful tour mates—who knew scotch whisky was so good with dark chocolate and gingerbread? Or that haggis is actually quite tasty?

Posted by
1160 posts

Encouraged or required to drink alcohol on bus or during the tour? My goodness! Just plain silly!

Posted by
64 posts

Diane, I think Kent was making a joke. And as an alum of the Scotland tour mentioned above, it wasn’t a busload of all-day whisky swillers, but folks appreciating a wee dram after an outing and the opportunity to sample a whiskey purchased by fellow passengers. It was not only a cultural experience, but for whisky aficionados, educational as well. And, a bonus I discovered, a little whiskey helps alleviate motion sickness.

I do think the tour guides are good at judging their group and that ours would have suggested we open a bottle in private at the hotel if she felt that ANYONE in the group would be offended. Our group gelled so well and helped make this trip outstanding in every way.

Posted by
3444 posts

I am shocked that people were shocked that alcohol was consumed on the bus.

It wasn't children doing the drinking. It wasn't the bus driver doing the drinking. THAT would shock me and I definitely would never take another tour if that happened!

Posted by
3103 posts

So this topic has pretty much strayed from the original question, "How typical is all day drinking on a Rick Steves Tour".
I think that the answer that best summarizes this, " This may differ from tour to tour, but usually drinking on the bus is an understated affair done by a few individuals while traveling and not a major emphasis or inconvenience."

I was a little suprised by the number of comments from people who 1) felt like It was their vacation so what business would it be of anyone else if they were drinking or 2) could only muster up Sneering or sarcastic comments.

I completely agree that if one's behavior doesn't impact the group in any way, it really doesn't matter. Sometimes it is easy to impact the group more than one is aware of. I have debated back and forth about the Best of Eastern European Tour simply because the scrapbook I saw and some of the comments listed in this very thread. I don't want to be in a position where alcohol becomes the bonding agent of a tour group and I don't fit in. Normally, I just quietly decline and that is the end of it. If I have to keep declining over and over again because somehow it is the "bus culture", that would get old. This is a serious issue for some people. Their questions or concerns should not be discounted or made fun of.

Posted by
1160 posts

Kathy, I think you are right about it being a joke!
I don’t think anyone drank on the bus on any of our tours and there was beer in the cooler.
We had impromptu happy hour a few times before we all headed out for dinner on our own. Group members who participated brought their own drink and several brought drink and nibbles to share!

Even when wine was part of a group meal, I never saw anyone drunk! Non alcoholic drinks were available to non wine drinkers as well.

Posted by
10344 posts

Yes, it was a joke. I forgot to add a smiley.