Please sign in to post.

Fitting in the PCR test (tour requirement) two days prior to the B-of-Turkey

Greetings Forum Friends,

I'm just wondering how those of you who are doing an RS tour plan to fit in the required (for tour) PCR test. We were planning on arriving in Istanbul several days early, because the tour seems a little short on the city. I guess we have to decide whether we keep this plan, and get tested in Turkey two days prior to the tour start (the terms say two days, not 48 hours, which I think is important). Alternatively, don't arrive early - get tested on morning of departure (test Saturday morning, arrive in Istanbul Sunday, tour starts Monday).

As I said we wanted to arrive early, and head to Greece after the tour ends. Maybe we should just arrive on the Sunday and backtrack to Istanbul, leaving Greece for another trip entirely.

For those of you on any of the RS tours, have you decided your plan for the PCR test?

Posted by
6802 posts

Andrea, where are you seeing this requirement?

Posted by
1364 posts

Stan, I found it under "Tour member expectations" when I log into my tour account.

And upon review this is the wording:

"Be able to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 48 hours of the the first day of your tour."

Posted by
6802 posts

Thanks. I see it now (for a different tour) - did not notice before. Yes that presents some difficulties in planning. May be a show stopper.

Posted by
1331 posts

Call the RS office and ask them. Also, from all that I have read Covid tests are much easier to get overseas than in the US. You might actually be better off getting to Istanbul early and getting a test there.

Posted by
1364 posts

Bob, anywhere is easier to get a test than Ontario! But I'm not sure what calling the RS office can do for me. Its up to me how I plan - whether to delay departure and get one here, or go early and get it there. I just wanted to see what other tour people were thinking on it.

Posted by
6 posts

Wish this language would have been included in the Covid waiver and/or pledge documents.

Posted by
50 posts

Glad I saw this post - I see the same thing in my tour account - I wonder when this requirement was added. My COVID-19 Health & Safety Pledge signed on October 28 makes no mention of the negative PCR test - only the vaccine requirement. I have all the emails sent by RS office and there is no mention of the PCR test requirement. I am contacting the tour office to ask about this requirement. Will follow up on what I hear.

Our Sicily tour starts on April 3 - we arrive late in the evening of April 1 - so meeting this requirement may be tricky.

Denise

Posted by
22 posts

I, too, had not noticed this before now. But the wording is vague - "within 48 hours of the first day of your tour." I take this to mean the test could also be taken within 48 hours after the start of the tour, which kind of defeats the purpose.

I think it would be great if RSE arranged for everyone to be tested on the first tour day at the initial meeting. Just a thought.

Posted by
400 posts

I wonder what the company considers to be the significance of the fact that this is listed under "Tour Member Expectations," instead of under "Covid 19 Health and Safety Pledge." Or instead of being set forth in the Tour Conditions" paragraph that begins with "Traveling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic . . . " "Pledges" and "conditions" certainly have a different connotation than "expectations."

Other "Tour Member Expectations" include such matters as: each traveler will be able to walk 2 to 8 miles per day, will be able to stand and walk for up to 4 hours, will bring one main piece of luggage plus one smaller day pack or shoulder bag and must handle his/her own luggage, must understand that sometimes there is bathroom sharing, and should embrace and participate in the No Grumps policy. In my opinion, this list of expectations has always been all about shaping the clientele of a RS tour and it is not the proper place to insert a requirement for a covid test within 48 hours of the first day of the tour.

If the company is presently thinking that it will have each traveler present a negative covid test report, the sample having been taken no more than 48 hours before the day the tour starts, I would love to have them acknowledge that this protocol is flexible and will change as circumstances change. What may be a reasonable requirement today could look completely unreasonable next August.

The problem, as the original poster points out, is that travelers who are planning to arrive in Europe a couple of days prior to the start of the tour, to get over jet lag (always promoted by the tour company to be a good idea) now have to factor in the availability and cost of another covid test on top of the one they had to take to board the plane. And while a rapid antigen test may have been okay for boarding, depending on the destination, this new one apparently must be a PCR test.

If it's going to be a requirement, it needs to be more transparent, and the language "within 48 hours of the first day of your tour" needs some work. As someone else has pointed out, a test 48 hours after the tour starts arguably would comply. And if the intention is that you can't show up at the welcome meeting without this negative test in hand, is the company going to accept only tests done within the 48 hours immediately preceding the welcome meeting? The day started at midnight, so is any test done on the prior two calendar days okay, regardless of time of day? This stuff needs to be made crystal clear.

Posted by
3714 posts

Thanks for pointing this out, Andrea. I, too, would have expected to be more aggressively notified about this requirement and I also was planning to arrive in Dublin on July 21, 3-4 days prior to the start of the Best of Ireland in 14 Days tour I'm on.

I'm visualizing a situation where I have to get a test to get on the plane, get one when I arrive and get one just before the tour. So far I've had 3 PCR tests, all of which had to be done 4 days in advance of medical procedures so that the results would be available in time for the procedures. PCR tests are creepy. Maybe by the summer faster PCR tests will be easier to get than they are now, but I'd really rather have more shots.

This is verbatim from the expectations on my tour account:

"Be able to present an authentic COVID-19 vaccination certificate (such as a CDC issued vaccine card or equivalent) with the final dose including booster having been given at least 14 days prior to your tour departure date.

Be able to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour.

Agree to follow all safety precautions and health directives set by your guide, RSE, or local officials to help safeguard your health and wellbeing as well as that of your fellow tour members, RSE staff, and RSE tour partners. These precautions may include but not be limited to the following:

•Maintaining proper social distancing.

•Use of face masks (covering your nose and mouth).

•Regular temperature checks.

•Proper handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer.

•Quarantining if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 (or other contagious illness), and/or being seen by a health professional as a condition of  continuing on  with the tour."

Posted by
50 posts

Just received an email response from Rick Steves:

Thanks for the email Denise. In order to mitigate as much as possible the risk of spreading COVID within the tour group we are asking tour members on our February and March tours to present a negative COVID test taken with the 48 hours before the start of the tour. I don’t know if we will still require it for April and later departures. We will definitely let you know in the email we’ll send a couple of months prior to the start of your tour.

For people flying in and starting the tour right away the test presented to board their flight should still be within the 48 hour window, but people arriving a few days early for the tour will need to take another test. Tests are accessible all over Europe, and your hotel will be able to direct you to the nearest testing site. I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Posted by
254 posts

Also. Omicron! So you can have a negative PCR test 2 days prior and still be at your most infectious at that welcome meeting. I agree a (RS provided) antigen test at check in would make sense. Then tour members know that at least that evening, everyone is starting out negative (or, at least not at enough of a viral load yet to show positive).

Posted by
1364 posts

Thanks Denise for updating us. My tour is in September, but has the same language. I suppose its a form that was populated to all tour members, not just certain dates. Since there is no certainty at all about anything anymore, I think it would be prudent for all tour members to either test at home on departure day (North American departures) and arrive only the day before, or test at destination, which really means leaving at least four days ahead (e.g., my tour starts on a Monday. I'd have to leave on Thursday, arrive Friday, test Saturday [because it would be a risk to assume one would have time on arrival day to get to a test location, and a risk to assume 24 hour turn around if you test the day before]).

Posted by
16 posts

I am sorry, I understand the concern for the safety of all tour members, and recognize we will likely all be safer with this requirement, but this needed to be communicated in a far more direct manner -- I literally just found out about it because I follow this forum. I think e-mails should have been directly to tour participants

Posted by
50 posts

I completely agree "cfkt60". The tour office confirmed it is a requirement - yet my "COVID Health & Safety Pledge" only requires the vaccine and there was no email notification of this new test requirement. Requirements have been pretty transparent until now (email communication and website updates) - not feeling this latest item provided the same transparency. I too would have reconsidered cancelling prior to 12/31 (still considering it - and just write off the deposit). I already have to test before flying - then fly all the way to Palermo (3 separate flights) and then test again - if you test positive - you no longer can participate in tour which was the most of the reason for going... With Omicron, it is even more of a crapshoot because of how contagious it is. I have a decision to make before final payment is due in 3 weeks.

Posted by
177 posts

We are departing on March 3rd and will have a few days prior to the beginning of the March 7th "Athens and the Heart of Greece" RS tour. Like many of you I only became aware of this test requirement because of the forum. An email would have been preferable to a sentence buried in "trip expectations." We are already wrangling with the timing of our Covid tests for entry into Greece; since we must connect to a true international airport we have extra travel hours. I can appreciate the need for an additional test, but it seems that a rapid antigen test would suffice as travelers will have already been tested for entry into Greece. Rapid antigen tests are used for screening purposes at schools and other venues and are also enough to re-enter the USA. PCRs are usually follow-ups to positive antigen tests.

Posted by
1585 posts

I’m concerned about a PCR remaining positive for several weeks to months after recovery. Those individuals only need a letter from their PCP stating their recovery. So, why not just an antigen test the day of the start of the tour to see if one is contagious? We are going in days early for the Portugal tour and then transfer to Barcelona for the 8 day Barcelona Madrid tour with a few days in between the two tours. One more hassle multiplied by 5 for the number of tests we will need.
I’m all for testing but why not antigen testing once in Europe?

Posted by
38 posts

For our earliest 2022 tour departures (February, March and possibly additional months), we've made the decision to require negative COVID tests due to the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant. This requirement may change as COVID surges come and go but for our first departures of 2022, we'll require each tour member show proof of a negative test result received within 48-hours before the start of their tour. Your test can be administered before you depart from home or upon arrival in Europe. Testing sites in Europe are widely available at airports, train stations, and local pharmacies. The staff at your first hotel can also assist you with nearby testing locations.

Posted by
177 posts

Keith, when were you going to tell us about this? And we are still talking about a PCR, not an antigen test?

Posted by
50 posts

Keith: Palermo only has a few locations (that I can find) that administer PCR tests. What happens if I cannot get an appointment/results prior to the tour start date? 48 hours is a very small window and appointments may not be as readily available in smaller cities such as Palermo.

Posted by
177 posts

I found the same for Athens--the airport, a medical center, some laboratories.

Posted by
28 posts

I am very concerned about this development. Our 21 day BOE is not until June but the thought of one of the four of us testing positive with Covid is scary. We would not be able to leave a family member behind and the cost of four tours and four air flights going down the drain is very unsettling. My family is strongly reconsidering the trip. I do not blame RS Tours at all but I am starting to see the reality of Covid for 2022. I had such high hopes. At least we have some time to consider before rushing to cancel.
Thank you all for your input. I do not post much but follow the forum religiously!

Posted by
16 posts

Hi Keith

I will echo what the others said -- the issue (at least to me) is less the requirement than the lack of transparency in communicating it. What happens to all the folks who do depart from the US more than 48 hours in advance of their tour and who have not heard of this? I am planning to contact the hotels I have booked prior to the tour date to ask them how easy/quickly tests and their results can be arranged, but had I not been on this forum, I would not have had a clue.

Posted by
50 posts

MarieM. glad you have time to back out. Many of us are on early tours (Feb-Apr) and we have no ability to get our deposit back because this tour requirement was not communicated prior to the 12/31 deadline to allow us to consider the risks and options... It's frustrating and disappointing... I also understand they are doing this to protect their customers (tour participants) and their business but they also need to inform folks so they can make decisions based on those new conditions without financial penalty. I do understand the risk of a country changing their rules (changing all the time right now) - but this is a considerable change to RSE policy (which is not a government mandate).

Posted by
28 posts

Denise.... You are right. I do want to appear unconcerned about the people who are on the early 2022 tours .Best of luck to all of us signed up with a RS tour.

Marie

Posted by
50 posts

MarieM: I know you weren't unconcerned about early tour situations :) - just pointing it out to the admins/RSE how this change is affecting the early tour people and their ability to assess the risk and take action...

Posted by
3714 posts

I think this question is very important: "What happens to all the folks who do depart from the US more than 48 hours in advance of their tour and who have not heard of this?"

I've been on 5 RS tours so far, and I'd bet money that less than 5% of the people on those tours participate in the forums at all. If the RSE folks do not contact all tour customers directly, ASAP, I'd expect some very unhappy customers.

This is not the high standard of caring and communication I expect from RSE.

Posted by
50 posts

FYI: Latest response to me from RSE Tour Department - Be on the lookout for an email.

I’m so sorry this news caught you by surprise. Our intention was to email the folks on the February and March tours today and tomorrow and then notify the tours departing later via email a couple of months prior to the start of the later departures. In preparation for that email transmission, we updated the Tour Member Expectations document (which is loaded into everyone’s online tour account) and the update made news on the Tour Forum before we had a chance to send out our email. The Tour Member Expectations document has even now been updated to state that testing may be required but that we’ll notify people via email prior to the start of their tours, and we’ve posted the same information on the Forum.

We are trying to be transparent and informative as well as diligent in our efforts to have our tours be as safe as possible. The decision to require testing of our February and March tours was not made until after the December 31st deposit deadline, and we all felt that requiring negative tests was the responsible decision to make, especially for our winter departures.

The logistics of COVID testing in Europe are not as challenging as they are in the United States. Pharmacies, train stations and airports all have testing sites and testing takes minutes. Results can be sent to you electronically so you could be tested in Rome and get your results after having arrived in Palermo.

I hope this helps. We really are doing our best to take care of our customers and safeguard their health as much as possible. I understand that we need to be very thoughtful about communication and our timing and will try harder to coordinate next time. Please let me know if you have further concerns/questions. Now…off to send that email!

Posted by
1364 posts

Well it seems I really kicked it all off! DH says we're going to get "un-toured" by RS over it (lol).

I hope it works out for all of us! We made it to France last October and the testing for return to Canada was easily found, and not overly expensive. For those of us who haven't bought airfare yet, we will just have to keep in mind the possibility of testing and book accordingly.

Posted by
163 posts

You can get a PCR test in Istanbul very easily and in expensively. Your hotel can tell you where to go. The results will be sent to you electronically (email or text). I strongly suggest arriving in Istanbul a few days before the tour starts. Enjoy Istanbul and get on that time zone so you will be ready when the tour begins.

Posted by
2789 posts

We are also planning to arrive early for our Best of Turkey tour. So, I have emailed the Acra Hotel (the next door and partner of Azade Hotel) which is our start hotel for Best of Turkey to ask about the availability of PCR tests near the hotel. I will update this thread when I receive an answer.

Our tour is not until October, and while things may change a thousand times before then, it would be useful for those who are traveling sooner, and it will be useful to help me avoid any last minute surprises if it is still a requirement by then.

Posted by
2789 posts

Here is information about the availability of PCR tests at Istanbul airport:
https://www.istairport.com/en/announcements/istanbul-airport-test-center-is-at-your-service-24-7

(I do hope the hotel knows of a nearer place than the airport, which is 43km away.)

ETA: it appears there are dozens and dozens of places to get COVID tests in Istanbul:
https://hsgm.saglik.gov.tr/tr/haberler/yetkilendirilmis-covi-d-19-tani-laboratuvarlari.html

I did a Google search for PCR tests in Istanbul and found one located less than a km from the Acra Hotel. But the associated website doesn't seem to work, so I'll see what the hotel can tell me.

Posted by
2789 posts

And the answer from the Acra hotel in Istanbul is:

"Thank you for your kind message, we do it at the hotel, nurse comes and take the samples and results comes in same day, so we print and give to you"

Easy peasy. One less thing to worry about!

Posted by
1364 posts

Thanks, CW, that is great news! Our first hotel on the tour is the Acra. How convenient.

Posted by
177 posts

What's the likelihood that testing centers in Athens,Greece will be open for PCR testing on a Sunday?
We are seriously considering forfeiting our deposit and cancelling. We live in a state that has lower vaccination rates and no masking requirements (no pandemic here!). We will get on a domestic flight that has no vaccination requirements. We have been careful to wear masks in public and are vaccinated and boosted in order to have a chance at a return to normal life and would be willing to have additional tests. However, it seems that unless all of society follows the same health guidelines we all share the same risk of contacting Omicron, or any other variant. The tour group will be tested before international flights, vaccinated and boosted, and masked but that isn't enough.
And if someone tests positive on the tour, the entire tour group will have to isolate, even if that person is asymptomatic.
This makes me very sad.

Posted by
177 posts

The BBC has reported this morning that asymptotic persons who test positive with a lateral flow (antigen) test will no longer have to follow up with a PCR test, thus freeing up PCR testing for those who actually have Covid symptoms.
What does this mean for those of you who are going to London in a few weeks?

Posted by
400 posts

I just read the tour terms and conditions to try to determine what will happen if a tour member is denied the ability to participate in a tour due to a positive covid test result from the test taken within 48 hours of the first day. The conditions state that if you cancel a reservation within 1 to 30 days prior to the first day of the tour, and it's due to a "creditable event," you will receive a credit equal to 50% of the original tour price, a credit that expires on 12/31 two years following the year of the original tour date. The list of "creditable events" includes the language that documented illness from covid-19 may be considered a creditable event.

I have a few concerns. If you take the test the day before the tour starts, but don't get results until the first day of the tour, you aren't cancelling within 1 to 30 days prior to the first day of the tour, you're cancelling ON the first day of the tour, and it appears the company would have no obligation to even consider a credit. Also, the use of "may" rather than "will" shows that there is no guarantee here . . . even if you disclose to the company one day in advance that your test was positive and you have to withdraw, there is no language in the conditions that guarantees you a credit.

I think the company needs to clear these things up, addressing the specific question as to what, if any, credit will be given to a tour member whose 48 hour test is positive.

We purchased trip insurance, but to invoke the cancellation coverage, you need to do that prior to trip departure, so instead this would be trip interruption coverage. My policy says that interruption coverage applies if you cannot complete a trip due to sickness, provided that the sickness occurs while you are on the trip, and is examined and treated by a physician prior to the trip interruption, and, as certified by a physician, results in medical restrictions so disabling as to prevent your continued participation in the trip.

I don't for one minute believe that my interruption coverage will help me if I don't comply with each and every term, to the letter. Insurance companies are very literal and claims denial is common if you haven't done each and every thing required. So I would need to seek out a physician to "examine and treat" my illness (even if I am asymptomatic) and the physician would need to give me the certification that is required.

I'm feeling highly anxious about the new requirement and considering canceling my trip while I can still get my deposit back. We're fully vaccinated and boosted and thinking it's likely we'll need to get another booster prior to the trip, which we would do, but what if despite all of that, our test somehow shows a positive? If we are asymptomatic, we are unlikely to be contagious, especially since everyone else on the tour will be vaccinated. But we'd be sent into quarantine. It's too much money to lose. Now, if the company would add, to this new requirement, that a tour member will get a 100% credit if he/she has to withdraw at the very last minute due to a positive result on this required 48 hour test, that would be reassuring. We have friends who once had to withdraw from their RS tour on the first day. They had scheduled a couple of pre-tour days in the first city of the tour. One day before the tour was to start, the husband suffered a bad fall. He hobbled through the rest of the day, hoping things would be better in the morning, but instead the ankle was badly swollen and a visit to the doctor determined that there was a break. The company graciously gave them a 100% credit, though under the terms and conditions, it appeared that a credit was only going to be 50%.

The company has done a lot of things to go above and beyond to make sure that travel can begin again. Requiring a covid test at the last minute, requiring someone to withdraw if it is positive, and giving no guarantee of a credit . . . those are problems for me.

Posted by
400 posts

Actually, for anyone who just read my prior rambling post, I have a new thought. If a tour member has a positive covid test, perhaps they should not "withdraw" but require the company to kick them off of the tour. Isn't this then the equivalent of the company canceling a tour, which invokes the 100% refund obligation under the terms and conditions? The company didn't cancel the tour altogether, but for that traveler, it did so. Hmmm . . .

Posted by
50 posts

Vickie: Thank you fo the succienct posts. In regard to your last thought, there is language in your COVID-19 Health & Safety Pledge that protects them in the event of a positive test. It says:

***Agree to follow all safety precautions and health directives set by your guide, RSE, or local officials to help safeguard your health and wellbeing as well as that of your fellow tour members, RSE staff, and RSE tour partners. These precautions may *include but not be limited to** the following:
Maintaining proper social distancing.
Use of face masks (covering your nose and mouth).
Regular temperature checks.
Proper handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer.
Quarantining if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 (or other contagious illness), and/or being seen by a health professional as a condition of  continuing on  with the tour.****

Posted by
424 posts

My tour isn't until September, so I don't know the hoops I'll have to jump through at that time, but I do understand why RS Tours is requiring this. I think the breakdown here is the way it's been (or not been) communicated to us. We can see now why Rick has said that he didn't want to start his variety of tours until he could do a Rick Steves tour the Rick Steves way. For my peace of mind on a tour, I am happy to have everyone tested right before the start of the tour. Better than two days later having it passed around. Though that is always a possibility waiting to happen too. Travel at this point of time is going to be one of those things where you have to be super flexible and actually realize that at the very last minute or even during a tour, this could happen to me. That being said, I sure hope we all get to travel to Europe this year and have an enjoyable time. It's the getting there that's hard!

Posted by
1331 posts

One thing that has been forgotten in this discussion is if anyone tests positive just before the tour that person has been prevented from possibly infecting the 20 other tour members. The financial results for them would be as bad as for the person that tested positive. The results could even be worse in that they may have to be hospitalized. The person that tested positive also may become visibly sick in a few days and would have had to leave the tour anyway.

Posted by
1585 posts

People post that we need a PCR within 48 hours but this is what is written in the expectations.

Be able to present a negative COVID-19 viral test (PCR or antigen) taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour depending on your tour start date. We will notify you by email about specific testing requirements two months prior to the start of your tour.

It’s too bad the emails didn’t go out to tour members first but do you really want to be a positive asymptomatic carrier? I wouldn’t. And yes, you can infect vaccinated individuals and some could become very ill while others might not have any symptoms.
I know that antigen tests are easily obtained in Europe. I don’t know if PCRs are or not but I don’t have any issue with getting antigen testing.

Posted by
50 posts

Diane: The original verbiage in tour accounts specified PCR tests - they changed it last night.

Posted by
6802 posts

". . . Diane: The original verbiage in tour accounts specified PCR tests - they changed it last night . . . "

And that makes a big difference. Despite much talk, it still pretty difficult to get a PCR result in 24 hours or less, here in my large metro area, and even then, not reliably.

Posted by
1585 posts

Thanks Stan and Denise. I didn’t read it until today. I thought that the PCR would be used to confirm a positive antigen. I’m glad our trips aren’t until the fall. I do feel for the early tour members and know their frustrations are real.

Posted by
1097 posts

I know this was traumatic for a lot of people with upcoming tours and a bit unfortunate that the information was found on the website before the emails were sent out.

However, there is a silver lining, I think.

It is extremely important for anyone traveling to understand the risks they are taking.

I am confident that this wasn't the intent, but it almost sounds like several posters would rather be positive on the tour and nobody know than to get "caught" and miss their tour. Please think about it. If one of your tour mates is infected, you would not want that person on your tour. It is correct to have a testing requirement before the start of the tour specifically for the people going early. Early arrivals will be doing touristy things and have the potential of being exposed.

Traveling now, especially touring, is risky. Please think it through and be ready for something to go wrong.
I traveled internationally in 2021 and plan to do it twice in 2022. It is risky.

Posted by
8851 posts

Will I need a negative COVID-19 test prior to joining a tour?

Yes, due to the Omicron variant we're currently requiring a negative COVID-19 viral test (PCR or antigen) taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour. Because COVID is constantly changing, we'll notify our tour members by email about specific testing requirements two months prior to a tour's departure. Your airline and/or the countries you're visiting may also require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry

From the covid FAQ at the top of the "Travel Forum" page

I see Laura's response clarified 'before the start of the Tour'

Posted by
6802 posts

vandrabrud, clearly the safety of others is a priority. My concern was the ability to get PCR test results within the prescribed window of time. Regardless of what the advertising is, people here in my metro are not getting results within 24 hours - more like 3-5 days. Throw in a holiday or weekend lab closure, and you might already be there. A rapid antigen test with results in 20 minutes is doable, even if less accurate. I'd rather find out before I got on the plane, than over there and off the tour. In fact, they could just require one or more rapid tests during the tour itself.

Posted by
7 posts

I called the office and was told that an antigen test was acceptable.. I am planning on bringing some Emed/binaxNow from home. I used them for testing before my flights to and from Rome last November, and they worked great! That is if I still go. My Paris tour is at the end of March, but the Covid stress is making this less and less like a fun vacation.

https://www.emed.com/products/covid-at-home-testkit-six-pack

Posted by
5536 posts

I have been on two cruises during Covid and all require vaccination records and a negative Covid test within two days before departure. I’ve used the Binax test successfully both times with the results being emailed to me within minutes. This requirement for testing is a good thing and any responsible group travel operator will require it.

I’m unsure if the upset in this thread is because of the requirements or because people felt there was a communication break down? Expect requirements for testing and expect requirements to change over time. Travel during a pandemic does involve some risks both physically and financially. It also requires flexibility.

Posted by
177 posts

At the risk of making someone's head explode I have one more question. I the test required 48 hours before the "meet and greet" or before the first day of actual touring?

Posted by
200 posts

Musicmoll1, LOL. I’d guess that it’s before the orientation meeting (followed by a group dinner) on the first night, but you should check with the RS office to be sure.

Posted by
400 posts

I can fully understand the company's desire to make sure that everyone who starts the tour is covid-free, but the 48 hour test is only going to provide assurances for the first day or two of the trip. Someone who tests negative may do so simply because his/her exposure was too recent to incubate the virus. Someone who didn't have covid prior to the start of the tour may pick it up during a free time activity on day two of the tour. Are we going to see a new rule for testing every 2, 3 or 4 days? Does it make ANY sense to have a pre-tour test requirement and not also a during-the-tour test requirement??

My concern is all about financial loss. What will we get back if this happens to us? If the answer is no refund, and at best a 50% credit, then I think we will cancel our trip.

Posted by
200 posts

Vickie, you make some excellent points. I’m definitely concerned about the risk of losing all or much of the money which I’ve paid for the tour (including single supplement). Not to mention the additional cost of my stay in a quarantine hotel and the higher cost of rebooking my return-to-US flight on short notice if I needed to quarantine due to my exposure to COVID via tour activities.

Posted by
5536 posts

Vicki, read through your tour documents. Right now it is clear that should you contract Covid (or other medical emergency) the guide will help you contact the 1-800 number that provides advice and help with arrangements. You would be responsible for any costs of those arrangements and would not be eligible for any refund from RS tours. This is why they are stressing having trip interruption insurance.

I am fine with testing prior to a tour or during a tour if symptoms or close contact. I am willing to do what it takes to get out there again. If you don’t feel comfortable with the plans or financial risk, I understand. Everyone must choose their own comfort level.

Posted by
400 posts

Carol, as I explained in a prior post, we have insurance but this may not be a recoverable loss. We didn't buy the cancel-for-any-reason insurance upgrade for this trip, and now it's too late to do so. The agent that I always use for trip insurance has told me that if you want the CFAR upgrade, you have to buy the policy within a short window after the first payment of any kind, and that payment was made 8 months ago, when we put down the deposit. Even though the deposit was refundable at that time, the timing of it triggered our deadline to get CFAR insurance. We did buy regular travel insurance that permits us to get costs reimbursed if we cancel or interrupt a trip for a covered reason. The terms and conditions of a trip interruption claim might not be able to be met. In my case, the policy requires that I've been examined and treated by a physician prior to the trip interruption. If I ask a doctor in Europe to treat me for asymptomatic covid, I might be laughed at. With no symptoms, there's nothing to treat. With no treatment, a condition of the insurance policy isn't met. Insurance companies are very literal. They'll stick with the policy language.

Posted by
1 posts

I too was blind sided by the 48 hour testing requirement. We are arriving in Portugal 3 days before the tour starts and had planned to tour a bit before the tour. Now we have to schedule another test which really complicates the planning. I am ready to cancel. I understand the need to be super cautious but if thing are that tenacious, RS needs to cancel the tour.

Posted by
5536 posts

Are you kidding me? I am so surprised at the backlash here. Testing before travel is the norm for group travel during a pandemic. It is the responsible thing to do. I would be upset if they weren’t requiring testing.

If you are planning on arriving several days early it is not a problem to get a test in most of Europe. In addition, you can bring a Binax proctored test kit with you for ease and take 20 minutes at your hotel to test.

I do have an idea for RS tours. Drop the money belt from the tour kit and replace it with the Binax test. It will be more useful for more people.

Posted by
177 posts

We ordered Binax tests yesterday--along with more N95 masks. Has anyone from RS said that Binax tests would be acceptable? It seems that if they are acceptable to return to the US they would be acceptable to test tour participants.

And, I think the uproar had more to do with the way the information about the testing requirement was disseminated than the requirement itself. Those of us with tours in February and March have been exhausted with the daily changes in protocols brought on by Omicron. The changes have added an additional layer of uncertainty and have almost eliminated travel spontaneity while requiring an ability to alter plans quickly--a sort of schizophrenia.

We are trying to embrace the new normal and get on with our retirement plans. As lifelong travelers it has been difficult, but with the help of a reputable travel brand like RS, and conscientious tour members, we'll be able to travel safely.

Posted by
21317 posts

I'm an independent traveler and no expert on the contract language for tours or travel insurance. I wonder whether folks whose planned RS tours are still fully-refundable and who now wish they had bought cancel-for-any-reason insurance could cancel and immediately re-book their tours. If the desired tour doesn't have a waiting list, would that create an opportunity to buy a CFAR policy? (I understand that CFAR policies only pay off at 50% or 75%, but having such a policy would probably make some folks more comfortable.)

Posted by
1097 posts

I agree with Carol now retired.

I don't understand why this comes as a surprise to some of you. If this minor addition to your travel plans is causing such a ruckus, I think there are a lot of folks that didn't think things through enough. I would recommend cancelling your trip.

Traveling, especially now, comes with inconvenient requirements and increased risk.

Posted by
22 posts

Speaking for myself, I think it comes down to a matter of control. I'm a planner so this news is something else I need to work into my plan. Not insurmountable, but does require knowing the logistics of what, where, and when.

I fully agree with the requirement but I was surprised at how it was communicated. Things are fluid and we need to be flexible. Good communication is key. I admire the way Rick has worked with both his customers and his employees, and I believe he is trying to do the best he can for us. Testing before the start of a tour is an appropriate step to keep us safe. I just would have liked to see it in an email from RSE rather than find out on the travel forum.

I have travelled many times with RSE and I eagerly await the chance to do so again (fingers crossed that will be this April)

COVID took so much away from everyone and society is raw. We all need to be extra kind and patient with each other.

Posted by
87 posts

I disagree with this new testing requirement because it adds a last minute point of uncertainty without enhancing the safety of the tour. All tour members will have fully paid for the tour and most will have already flown to Europe before the test results are known. A positive result, even without symptoms, puts the tour member at great financial loss and in travel hell. There is little health value to a single test right before the tour if no further testing is done during the tour. Also, everyone on the tour will be vaccinated, so risk is reduced even if a tour member is unknowingly contagious. Rick has said that he will not restart tours until they can be operated in the RS style that we all know and expect. This should not include Covid tests, travel in a bubble, or masking. I have taken 5 RS tours in the past and have 3 tours booked this year, but will likely cancel if pre tour testing is required.

Posted by
87 posts

Just received 2022 Tour Update email from Rick. No mention of pre tour testing requirement. Hope this issue is now resolved.

Posted by
5536 posts

I very much doubt there has been the last word from the tour office. The Covid situation is too fluid to think that things might not change. I would be very surprised if pre-trip testing is not required.

Posted by
1097 posts

From the email

Those specifics will be in flux in the coming months. But, I expect some version of this will be the new normal for quite some time to come. And, in the event we find it necessary to cancel a tour departure because of COVID, we will promptly refund all payments and deposits. We so appreciate your patience flexibility, and support.

I really think that all tour goers should expect to be tested pre-tour and even during the tour if it makes sense to do so. Tour goers will be much happier if they are prepared for this ahead of time. I don't think it is unreasonable that they don't know for sure what the protocol will be. Things are in flux. I agree that another test increases the likelihood that one will test positive. If you test positive, you should not be on a tour. It is risky.

I truly believe that if you cannot afford to lose some of the cost of your tour, this isn't a good time to go.

Do you think that all of the cost risk belongs to the tour operator?

Posted by
87 posts

I am willing to bear the financial risk of changing governmental travel and health rules which neither I nor Rick control. However, if RS or other tour operators change their tour conditions, including health and safety protocols, after I have paid my money, then I expect the option to cancel with a full refund. Frankly, I expect Rick to announce any new rules before final payment is due so those affected can cancel if desired.

Posted by
14 posts

What if I test positive and asymptomatic 48 hours before the meet and greet ? I understand I could not join the tour but should I at least get a tour credit for future travel if not refundable? It would be comforting to have an answer to this question. Will it be a creditable event?

Posted by
1076 posts

Re: Testing positive right before the start of the tour.

I guess the only way to address this would be to have purchased travel insurance covering interruption for any reason - IFAR. This type of coverage is often marketed to students doing semester abroad programs. The catch is that you have to purchase this coverage right around the time you make your first payment for a trip. Furthermore, typical IFAR insurance only covers 75% of your losses. IFAR coverage would be part of a comprehensive travel insurance plan which would also cover such items as cancellations, delays, medical and evacuation. The cost of such a plan would be around 10-12% of the covered trip costs.

Disclosure: I am not an expert on travel insurance, having never used it on 11 trips to Europe.

We had signed up for two RS tours in 2022: Munich, Salzburg & Vienna (May) and Best of England (September), and have cancelled the May tour. The deposit refund deadline for the September tour is May 9th. We were sad and disappointed to cancel the first tour, but also relieved.

Posted by
25 posts

I have been reading the replies to Andrea's initial question. I am so sorry to read the stress and anxiety that many responders are feeling right now with this added COVID test requirement and the fears of being positive just before the trip. I also can understand the need for the test with the current COVID situation. The angst that people are feeling are exactly why I am pausing in my travel plans as I also experienced what many are feeling as I went on a relatively short cruise on a small ship to the Northwest passage in early May, 2021. I made the arrangements fresh off my second COVID vaccine and was feeling pretty good. The same thing that is happening for some of the early travelers with RS is what occurred with this cruise a month after paying the final payment. The company announced the requirement for a PCR to be administered no sooner than 96 hours prior to starting the cruise, proof of a negative result could only be presented on paper - no electronic means allowed, arrival 24 hours prior to debarkation, and I had a 2 day journey to get there. That meant that I had to get a PCR done on Tuesday morning at 10 am and no later, results within 24 hours to be printed before I left my home and presented when I got there. There was only one place I could get this test done at the time at a significant expense. I also did an antigen test - which was not allowed for this requirement - for my own peace of mind. If a positive result was found, I would not get a credit for my cost, the CFAR insurance would not cover, and I would need to quarantine. And it was too late to cancel. It was so stressful and put me off travel until this all calms down.

Again, I am so sorry that tour members are going through this. I hope it all works out well - allowing the antigen test is makes it much easier.

Posted by
33 posts

From RS website. Covid guidelines…

“ Will I need a negative COVID-19 test prior to joining a tour?
Yes, due to the Omicron variant we're currently requiring a negative COVID-19 viral test (PCR or antigen) taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour.”

PCR or antigen. We’re bringing tests from home.
I asked RS office if our tests were approved. They said yes.
iHealth Antigen Rapid Test, 2 tests per pack. $17.98. Amazon.

Think of the testing requirement as an incentive; be safe, wear your mask, try to dine in well ventilated cafes, don’t stand next to someone singing loudly and forcefully!

Posted by
400 posts

Grostmanburrill, it looks like the tests you ordered are completely do-it-yourself tests, with no ability to register online and set up a time to have the administration of the test observed. Those kind aren't allowed for travel, i.e., boarding an international flight that has a covid test requirement. Did the RS office know this was the test you were talking about bringing for your 48 hour pre-tour test, when they told you it would be okay? Are they going to proctor the self-tests themselves, just prior to the welcome meeting? Or just rely on their members to self-report that they took a test and got a negative result? If you got any feedback from them on those things, please share.

Posted by
33 posts

Good point Andrea. How will I show them proof? A plastic tray with nose residue and negative line?
This is what I’ll do. Breathe. And wait a month to hear latest guidelines.
We leave for Italy 3/14.

Posted by
8851 posts

Will I need a negative COVID-19 test prior to joining a tour?

Yes, due to the Omicron variant we're currently requiring a negative COVID-19 viral test (PCR or antigen) taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour. Because COVID is constantly changing, we'll notify our tour members by email about specific testing requirements two months prior to a tour's departure. Your airline and/or the countries you're visiting may also require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

From the FAQ at the very top of the RS main page

Posted by
46 posts

Due to the many options available, this requirement isn't a deal breaker for me. Rick Steves and Team want to encourage traveling again, and doing it safely. It seems to me they will understand and make allowances if needed - plus, so much could change in the next few weeks. Two weeks before the tour starts, write to your hotel and inquire about tests done nearby. If not available or convenient, I plan to bring a home antigen test to the first day's meet and greet. Take the test in front of tour guide. Show negative result. Done! "Within 48 hours" means not more than 48 hours from the start of the tour. Can be a quick-result antigen done 15 min before the tour starts, I figure.

Posted by
1364 posts

We can't get tests in Ontario to bring along, so if they are still required for our tour we'll have to get one at destination. No big deal - we did it in France last October for our return to Canada. Especially since a previous poster already did the legwork for my destination!

Posted by
5265 posts

My tour isn't till May, but it's very disturbing to learn about this test requirement from the forum. Also disturbing to see that RSE was ready to require a PCR test with a turnaround under 48 hours, which I think would be difficult to obtain anywhere, including in Europe. Broadening the requirement to include the antigen test is a common-sense move.

Like Andrea, I'm arriving several days early so any RS-required test would have to be done in Europe. I have two questions about this for RSE: (1) What does "taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour" mean? If the tour starts at 5:00 on Thursday, does this mean the test had to be taken no earlier than 5:00 Tuesday? Or does it mean Tuesday morning or later? (2) If I bring a non-proctored home test kit with me, will the guide let me take the test in the hotel just before 5:00 so he/she can verify the result?

I fully understand the need to keep everyone as safe as possible and how fluid the situation is. But I'm disappointed in the clumsy rollout of this RSE policy. It's not consistent with the clarity and openness I've experienced with this good company.

Posted by
1097 posts

@Dick,

RS doesn't know yet what the requirements for your tour will be. They will let you know. Things are changing rapidly.