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Rick Steves Tours - Too Much Bus?

I took my first RS tour in March. I loved it! It was "The Best of Paris," so no bus travel. I'd like to take another one of Rick's tours, but many of them include lengthy (5-8 hour) bus rides. What are your thoughts on that? It sounds like an excessive amount of bus time to me, but I watched his tour video and everyone said that the bus rides were actually kind of fun and pass quickly. Of course, his tour video is an informercial, so I don't think they would show people complaning about it. If you've taken a RS tour that included several, lengthy bus rides, I'd like to hear your opinion. Thanks.

Posted by
5637 posts

In some countries, like Turkey, it's inevitable in order to cover that amount of ground and to see those exact sites, which are spread out geographically. If I am motivated to see a certain place, I could easily tolerate a long bus trip. I actually really enjoyed seeing all the "in between" scenery from the bus, and the frequent (every two hour) stops made it very much bearable.

So, in a nutshell, I think you have to be excited about the itinerary first. Then the bus issue becomes almost secondary (or even moot).

Posted by
150 posts

We did the Best of Ireland tour in May and found the bus travel to be very comfortable and a great way to see the countryside. We stopped along the way on longer trips so anyone who needed to use the rest room could do so (the one on the bus was not an option as far as most of us were concerned). Some people took little naps but I was just mesmerized by watching the scenery. Our guide talked to us often about history and art and music, and would play songs for us from whatever county we were driving through. The bus rides were actually a fun part of the tour.

Posted by
576 posts

We did the Turkey and best of Europe 21 day tours and had bus stops, every two hours or so, at very nice rest stops or a place of interest as part of the tour itinerary. We didn’t have any issues with any of the longer rides. Time on the bus was a lot of fun talking with tour members, watching the beautiful scenery, etc., as we drove along. RS tours are very active so bus time allows for some rest and recuperation!
We are booked on back to back tours in September 2020 and aren’t worried about length of bus rides.

Posted by
2580 posts

I think you need to look at each itinerary for every tour carefully. Some, like Best of Eastern Europe have longer times in the bus. Others, like Paris and the heart of France it is just a few hours every few days. The longest bus day on the tour I was on was 4.5 hours. We didn't drive all that time at once. I think we drove an hour or so and stopped for a sight. Drove another hour and stopped for a 2hour lunch break and village explore. Then we drove another hour or so and arrived at our destination for the rest of the day. It wasn't difficult or tiring.

I do need to add a disclaimer that for years I lived in Idaho where it took hours of driving to go anywhere. One year I commuted 70 miles each way and up a mountain pass. I may be more willing to accept a few hours in a vehicle than someone who has never lived in the West.

Posted by
1383 posts

The RS Turkey Tour had extensive bus time but there’s no other way to cover Turkey efficiently. The buses are large and spacious, people either doze, chat, write in their journals and/or the guide explains and/or takes questions about Turkey. Very interesting tour! The bus is required to stop every 2 hours too. I think you have to make up your mind to accept the bus time - you will enjoy getting to know your traveling companions and learn more about the Turkish culture and customs from the guide.

Posted by
3932 posts

I did the Venice/Florence/Rome tour last year, with only two bus days. Each ride included a lot of input from the guide and a stop every couple of hours. On one we had a long lunch stop at an agroturismo, on the other as I recall we had snacks on the bus. The rides were interesting. It helped that I'd brought a map of Italy so I could follow our route.

I'm sure some of the itineraries involve more bus time, since they're covering a lot more ground. C'est la vie. And 8-hour ride, even with breaks, would be a lot for me. But I liked having 29 people in a 40+ passenger bus, so I had two seats to myself. As with other aspects of RS touring, we were encouraged to be on time for departures, ready to get up and exit when the bus stopped, and otherwise alert to each other and our surroundings.

Posted by
2118 posts

Sara, by law in most or all of Europe, the bus drivers are required to get a break every two hours, so, as others have said, the trip is broken up basically into two hour segments. The breaks might involve stops at a town or site along the way; or a stop for lunch, either a special group lunch or maybe an “on your own” lunch at a highway rest area restaurant, sometimes very good, sometime mediocre; or at least a stretch, snack, or pit stop. So, there are not long stretches on the bus. The one thing I have found, especially in Turkey where the distances are the greatest, is that a lot of bus ravel in a day means a very late afternoon or early evening arrival at the new destination and hotel, and thus a rushed time to check and settle in, then hustle off to dinner, meaning very little time to informally wander through your new town. And, time to wander can be high point of a tour.
And yes, the buses have seats for 50 and usually carry up to 28 passengers or so. I have taken 11 RS Tours, only one with no bus travel, and have not yet needed to share a bus seat.

Posted by
736 posts

I was sure I would hate the bus parts, but it really hasn't been bad at all.

The bus travel on the tours I've done is really the only way to cover the areas visited, and they are made as painless as possible. There are usually nice big breaks including sightseeing on the longer stretches, and frequent toilet/leg stretching stops otherwise.

Since the busses are only half-full, you can make yourself pretty comfortable. A portion of bus time is usually used for passing on information about the areas visited, and usually a portion is "quiet time".

I appreciate that the amount of bus time is noted in the itinerary.

Posted by
2784 posts

What are your concerns about the bus ride?

On every RS tour, the bus always stops at least every 2 hours, sometimes more often, at nice places. Sometimes those places are some of the sights that are part of the tour (like Hadrian's wall on the England tour) and sometime just a rest stop to give everyone a chance to get off the bus, grab a quick drink or snack, and do whatever else is needed. The stops are mandated by EU law for the benefit of the drivers. Never are the rides a non-stop run of the total time noted in the itinerary.

Also, the buses are not very full. A lot of the tours you will have 2 seats for yourself. The bus is comfortable and many supply various drinks at a reasonable price if you don't get a chance at a stop to get something.

Posted by
545 posts

I'm not being paid to be in the commercial so you can trust me ;-)

Like the others said, the bus will stop every 2 hours or so for a rest stop. On the itinerary for the trips you're considering they will describe each day so you can see the plan. Often on a longer bus days there is a stop somewhere along the way to visit a site and have lunch; it isn't like you step onto the bus at 9am and feel locked inside until 5pm. A lot of people nap for a while on the longer rides. In fact sometimes it almost seems to go by too quick; there were a few rides of 4-5 hours where I planned on relaxing to music a bit, reading a book, a short nap, and before I knew it we were 30 min out and the guide was announcing room assignments and what we'd be doing after arrival.

Posted by
699 posts

We have done Greece and GAS so far and didn't find the bus time to be a problem. Stops as others have mentioned are every 2 hours or so, your guide will most likely use it as an opportunity to discuss history etc... with you, and of course, naps. We are doing Turkey in 2020 and was worried about the bus time but others who have been on it assured me it would be fine.

Posted by
105 posts

You have hit on one of the variables to consider when choosing your next RST. I have taken both city (Paris, London) as well as multi-destination/lengthier tours (South Italy, Loire to South France, Sicily) and those that are kind of 'in between' (Venice/Florence/Rome, Barcelona & Madrid) and appreciate the pacing and structure of each type. Being driven (in my experience in always newer and spotless coaches) with more than twice as much seating as riders by an experienced and often charming/personable driver (who is generally included in group meals on the tour) is a very comfortable and leisurely way to see what is passing by the window. Rest stops/food stops/activity stops are incorporated and well managed and it is super convenient to have beverages available (water, soda, in some cases beer) on board at a more than reasonable price. Many times our guide has used some of the bus time for further details on points of interest, language lessons, cultural discussions and playing music. Tour members will choose to sleep, read, eat, chat, play games while on the bus. I enjoy equally the value of staying put in a city and feeling however briefly and temporarily as if a local and, the variety of a multiple-stops tour covering much more ground in the country/countries visited. For me, the bus time and driver are part of the highlights of tours that include them.

Posted by
680 posts

Hi. I look at the length of bus rides myself, and I have done 10 tours. I suppose my default thought is that bus time means less tour time. Maybe, but two things: one, in some cases, the length of time cannot be avoided: getting from the Dolomites to Bavaria in MyWay Alpine would take that time no matter if I drove (probably much longer in that case!) or took a train. I have looked. It just takes a bit of time, and so far, I have been happy with the tour itineraries - meaning I would not really want to give something up. That said, customers do give feedback. Originally there was a MyWay GAS, but several folks spoke up, me included, to ask if more of an alpine focus would reduce bus time and still offer an enjoyable, more cohesive tour. GAS has also been cut in half to form the MSV tour. A plus for me since I work and would prefer shorter vacations. Now I wouldn't mind the first half of GAS combined with more of Colmar, Black Forest and Switz! Listen up RS peeps.

Two: as others have mentioned, the time on the bus can mean different things for different folks. Buses are roomy and make frequent pit stops. In fact, I almost always gravitate to the same seat (does not seem to be anyone else's first choice). It is truly down time. I used to take a gazillion photos from the bus but am pretty much over that (until the next time). You can catch up on the next location or chat with a new friend. On the longer rides, say that one from the Dolomites to Bavaria, there may be pit stops as well as lunch breaks. We made an unexpected side-trip to the Zugspitze with time to go to the top in a comfortable, unrushed way.

One thing I don't care for, and I have not substantiated this with any guides, are the times like when we made a stop at something like a minuscule chocolate factory in Switz. We knew we were close to our destination, but probably the hotel was not ready to receive us. That is, IMO, a detractor. But, all-in-all, the bus is not too bad, and since someone else is driving, I can look out the window.

Cheers.

Posted by
768 posts

Before we took the South of Italy tour in May, I was concerned about the bus time and potty breaks. No worry. We stopped every 1 1/2 hours for potties, food and to stretch our legs. Longest bus day was Rome to Vieste, about 4 hours after a stop to tour Hadrian's Palace. Because even slightly curvey roads and my stomach seldom get along, my new best friend on the road was Dramamine but that was me and not the quality of the roads or bus.

Posted by
7114 posts

I'll just add my reply to the group as well. I've done a bunch of tours including the 21 Best of Europe. I vowed I would not nap on the bus on that trip because there was so much to see. Well...long trip, some longish bus rides and yes, I came to appreciate a down day and yes, I recharged by napping on the bus! I just hope to heck I didn't snore, hahahaha!!!!

I loved the stops on the Autoroutes. Surprisingly good food and fun to see what local travelers look for in their stops!

Posted by
145 posts

I can understand the frustration of too much bus time. Yes, they're comfortable and stop every 2 hours, but they eat up a lot of time.

Consider a 14 day tour. Day 14 is basically nothing, and Day 1 starts between 3-5pm so the day is a half day at best. You've already lost 1.5-2 days right there. Now add 28-35 hours of bus like some tours do (GAS, Adriatic, BoE 14/21, Scandinavia, etc.), that's another day lost as well.

Posted by
3363 posts

Like Pam (again!) I love the Autostops. Some of them, especially in Italy, have surprisingly good food. And often there are sections with foodstuffs to take with you, not only candy and chips, but cheeses, sausages, breads, and beer and wine. And fun toys and souvenirs to check out.

I don't sleep on the bus, but on a very active tour, I do often appreciate the rest time. I tend to watch the scenery, or catch up on guidebook reading. It's also a time to chat informally with the other folks on the tour.

In general, the rowdy ones take over the back of the bus, so you can choose your seat to fit your mood on any given day.

What I don't like (and this might start a new war) is the level of air conditioning. On our last tour, the bus was kept so cold that about 1/3 of the group were pulling out jackets and sweaters. When people finally complained (or the guide noticed us all turning blue) the a/c would be turned off completely - so of course the bus got too warm for most people. Perhaps there was no middle setting, it seemed like we were always at one extreme or another.

I always pack something warm just for the bus. And often throw on one of my DH's heavier shirts, as well.

Posted by
693 posts

Jane- are you calling me one of those back of the bus rowdy ones! Lol! I really quite enjoy the bus rides. Love the auto stops as others have said. I tend to look at the scenery, read or quick nap if I am tired. But true , I can be rowdy sometimes if I am not ill! As per our last tour. DH and I like to back of bus. He can generally spread out!

Kim

Posted by
7114 posts

Hahaha Jane and Kim!! I alternate between the cool kids in the back and the front where you can eavesdrop on the guide-driver conversations!!

Such as(paraphrased):

Richard (driver) - Hey look at that. Can’t get to the regular stop because of the road construction.

Carlos ( guide) - that’s new from 2 weeks ago. Whadda you think?

Richard - I don’t ever turn around.

Carlos - There’s an exit up there. Ever been that way?

Richard - No but the people that live there must drink coffee and eat.

And yes, Richard and Carlos found us a really cute bakery for our stop!

Posted by
1352 posts

After 5 RS tours, I don’t see time spent on the bus as “lost”. If I were to follow the itinerary on my own, I’d be traveling in some form, whether it’s a train, a plane or a car and that is also “lost” time. When we’ve traveled on our own, we’re “destination oriented”, so we don’t stop along the way. With the bus tours, you’re mingling with other travelers, and they’re usually other Europeans. I also have found some of the best shopping at those autogrills and places we stopped on the Greece tour were really something special.

On our first tour, Heart of Italy, I discovered that busses make me really sick, I am willing to deal with it because I enjoy these tours so much. Dramamine helps.

Posted by
179 posts

Yea for the back of the bus kids!

Time spent on the bus would otherwise be spent driving on your own and arguing with your spouse about the map!

Seriously though I’ve found bus time to be good for the guide to talk about our next stop, history of the region or teach us some language skills.

Posted by
2118 posts

Just another thought related to bus v. no-bus tours: bus time is often a chance for the guide to shine, offering information and their perspective on the country’s or region’s history, culture, art, religion, economy, etc. and to answer questions raised by the group. Sometimes brief language lessons or sharing favorite local music. Often the guides will spend a little time with each traveler or couple to give guidance about planning free time or post-tour plans. I have only taken one no-bus tour, that being London. While our guide was excellent and highly knowledgeable about all those things, we spent minimal time as a group to benefit from all that. I felt that about 75% of his guiding time was really as a chaperone, struggling to lead the group through crowded public transit — getting to and then inside underground stations and trains, public buses, and inter-city trains. Plus, often when we arrived at a major site or museum, he would simply turn us over to a local guide or set us loose to visit on our own. So, my point is, bus time really maximizes the value of the truly excellent RS guides.

Posted by
13316 posts

Based on the responses here, the 3 tours I took were those with the most bus time: Greece, Turkey and MyWay Alpine. I chose all of them because they were places I wanted to see but didn't feel I could do them on my own, mostly because of logistics.

The only tour where the rides seemed very long was the Alpine tour. That was partly because the weather was lousy most of the time so the beautiful Alpine scenery was obscured by low clouds. I don't think I saw one Swiss Alp. Near the end of the trip, one fellow introduced a game that had everyone on the bus engaged for a 2 hour leg. I see they've changed the tour - eliminated Hallstatt - which means less bus time.

The bus times shown on the itinerary are "generous" allowing for delays, so actual times are usually less. Also, the days with longer bus times may include a 2-4 hour stop along the way, so you aren't on the bus for 5-6 hours with nothing but a rest stop. Which tours have more than 6 hours of bus time?

Posted by
1424 posts

We've been on 6 bus tours and never felt it was "too much bus." Always enjoy our guides history lesson, people sharing their goodies bought at the autostop, downtime to read, adding notes to my diary, checking email when we had wifi, watching the scenery, and sitting with the rowdy's in the back of the bus! Interesting, that on our Portugal tour one of the tour members was afraid of heights. Have to say the bus drivers know what their doing. I recall the Amalfi coast! That can be a harrowing experience. On the Greece tour about half of the tour members suffered from motion sickness. Thankfully we were fine. No complaints, it's all good! I think we are going to miss the bus experience & camaraderie on our upcoming self guided tour!

Posted by
84 posts

One thing I don't care for, and I have not substantiated this with any guides, are the times like when we made a stop at something like a minuscule chocolate factory in Switz

I’ll counter that: on our GAS tour the driver and guide encountered an unexpected major delay for road work on the usual large road route and instead of just inching along with all of those cars they took the next exit, meandered along a few local roads and delivered us to Mondsee where we visited the church used for the wedding scenes in The Sound of Music. We had a snack and leg stretch. Not a scheduled stop at all and one of my favorite things! ;)

Posted by
273 posts

I'm wondering what alternative transportation would be better for a 28-person tour group? The bus allows the group to travel together in comfort while the leader is able to communicate with them easily with a minimum of "cat herding". The bus submits to the tour group's schedule. Imagine trying to synchronize a tour group's travel needs to a train schedule being interrupted by striking workers. Of course travel on the "Best of England" tour includes train travel from York to London but I know of an instance where a tour participant was made to stand the entire trip due to overbooking. He and his travel partner were not happy campers. I'd prefer stretching out on the very clean and comfortable bus. The drivers themselves often have much to offer too!

Posted by
680 posts

Hickory, I was referring to having bus time extended in the event a hotel is not ready to receive the group. It is always a roll of the dice whether unscheduled or even scheduled stops are enjoyed or not. And I know there is nothing to be done if the hotel is not ready. Sorry for griping, but it did get under my skin during the event I referenced because we were clearly killing time. Generally, I applaud the creativity shown by both guides and bus drivers.

Posted by
40 posts

I did not mind the bus travel on the Best of Europe 14 day. In our case, the bus was almost brand new and quite comfortable. Certainly the seats were more comfortable than the one on my overseas plane flight! It stops regularly enough for the bathroom and many of the food stops were quite good. There was extra room to spread out and relax. All my life I have been prone to motion sickness, but unlike some previous posters, I did not have any problems with this on the bus. The guide talks along the way to give tips, advice, and history lessons of the places we will visit. A few times the history lesson part got too long winded and I just wanted some quiet time (but this may just be me). Funny that some posters talked about rowdy people at the back of the bus. Although many on our tour tended to be extroverts, we did not have any rowdy behavior on the bus.

Posted by
4487 posts

Debbie, we've done four tours so far and it never occurred to me that those unplanned stops were about killing time for hotel access. I must say that we enjoyed everyone of them.

Posted by
885 posts

We have been on six RS tours including two city tours (Paris and Barcelona/Madrid). I agree with other comments that the bus time is usually enjoyable. Most of the tour guides spend time giving us lessons and language and culture. Sometimes (like after a big lunch with wine) the guide lets us take naps!

The tours we have been on have focused on a region of a country, so the bus time has not been too bad. I

Posted by
39 posts

I have to agree that bus time is not wasted and is broken up really well. On the VFR trip the stops were at a "rest stop" that had an amazing deli and sweet shop. I think almost everyone got some sort of candy and shared. The other was at a winery that we toured during the stop and they provided a wonderful lunch with wine tasting!

On the Ireland tour, which had about 30 hours on the bus when I added it all up, we stopped every few hours to see a sight, have snacks or lunch as we moved around the whole of Ireland. I loved our driver and he was very experienced driving on the narrow in some spots roads. The guide told stories about where we were headed or where we had just been.
On the Barcelona and Madrid tour there was less bus, but still we used that time to learn more about art and history. Plus many of them have wifi and you can check email, post photos or nap as you choose.

Posted by
275 posts

One thing I wish they would do is use the TVs mounted above the seats (most of the buses have had them) to show information about the next destination. Often the guide will give an overview and they should keep that, but they could use the monitors to provide additional info. I do watch the relevant RS shows and other videos I find on YouTube and the like before the trip, but it does seem like the experience would be enhanced by seeing some video when you're actually on the way to a locale.

Posted by
2784 posts

They have added additional stops at and of day on some of the bus rides because there is a delay in reaching the hotel. Whether that is because the hotel is just not ready, or there was some sort of a delay causing our arrival to be just past the 2 hour EU window of driving time. I don't mind these stops as long as it doesn't mean we end up rushing through things to make it to dinner after arrival.

I hope they do NOT use the TVs unless the sound is only through headphones. I would much rather have time to do other things. I do like the guide's talks on the bus, but feel that is enough.

The WiFi availability on the recent bus ride parts of the trip make the time better spent. Can catch up on emails, and whatever else WiFi is good for leaving more free time after arrival at the hotel for the night. This is one of the best additions to the bus time so far.

And if bus time is not the option, how do the tour members reach the next destination on the tour? Trains? Drive themselves? Take public Bus? All of these have more negatives than positives. Any public transit forces you to their schedule. It eliminates stops that the tour bus can make that add something to the tour replacing that with standard roadside truck stop style options. On the train ride from York to London (part of the England tour) it is not unusual for the train to be standing room only, not a looked forward to option. Thankfully the ride isn't that long. Driving your own car? I can't think of a bigger cluster. The bus time included on RS tours is kept to the minimum necessary to keep the tour on track and allow coverage of all the sites included.

Posted by
17 posts

I've taken 11 tours and some have had to cover large distances so quite a few total hours on the bus. In general the bus stops no longer than every two hours. The driver has some pretty strict rules about how much driving is allowed. Only once was the bus ride longer and that was due to a big car/truck accident which completely blocked the road in a place that was going to take a long time to sort out. Our bus driver consulted with another bus driver and they backtracked and then took the 'scenic route' out. This was a South Italy tour. We saw a national forest that we wouldn't have seen and lots and lots and lots of olive trees. Unfortunately there was absolutely no place to stop. So when we made it to a rest area near our destination everyone was VERY ready for that pit stop. It was about 3.5 - 4 hours. But unusual.
Most of the guides give talks or language lessons during the rides. People move around and have conversations. A few nap. And generally there is interesting scenery to watch and you get a good view from the bus.
I too worried about the bus time but have learned it's really not bad.

Posted by
145 posts

A long bus trip here and there you can't avoid, but for those tours where there are several long bus rides back to back, I wonder if a 1-nt stop in a cute town along the way would be nice. Side-note: I often find that the best part of many tours are the ones you only get 1 night in (i.e. Hallstatt).

Posted by
11267 posts

I’ve only taken one Rs tour - about ten years ago I took my then 11 yr old daughter on Rs Family Europe in 14 days tour . This tour follows same itinerary as regular 14 day Rs tour but is geared to families - we had 14 kids on our tour of 26 !

You would think the bus time might be a problem, but will all the stops we never felt “ over bussed “ and I for one loved the time to relax , look at scenery, snack , and socialize .

Plenty of stops - often scenic - and even the ones at the Autoroute bus stops were interesting- good places to eat and usually a shop and park like area nearby .

On one of our travel days guide surprised us with a visit to see Otzi the Iceman ! Highlight !

Another time we did lunch on our in a small town - when we rejoined group at appointed time he led us to a tiny medics church where one of the group memebers sang a beautiful hymn to show off the perfect still ancient acoustics

Posted by
53 posts

I haven't found the bus trips overly long on RS tours. However, the Belgium and Netherlands tour seemed to have the least amount of bus time and I really enjoyed that along with longer stays at each hotel, i.e., three nights.

Posted by
1 posts

I just took the 3 week Best if Europe tour. We spent a lot of time on the bus, but it was a great time to rest and build relationships with the rest of the tour members. The only thing the bus lacked was WIFI!!

Posted by
1 posts

The bus portions of Rick Steves tours is really a non-issue. The busses are only about half full and the stops on the longer legs are frequent. Don’t let a long bus ride scare you from an otherwise appealing tour.

Posted by
1 posts

Even the longer rides are broken up by stops. For example, in the southern Italy tour we stopped for considerable time at Hadrian's villa while on our way to Vieste on the Adriatic. We stopped in Alberobello for a long lunch and poking around time while on our way from Vieste to Matera. And we had a wonderful long stop at Pasteum on our way back from the Adriatic to the Amalfi coast. There are no reliable trains to those locations. Since you'd have to drive to those locations anyway, why not take the bus and let someone else do the driving?

Posted by
3 posts

Call me crazy, but I really like the bus portion of the tours. We've been to Scotland, Ireland, England, and Greece. All of our tour guides used some of the bus time to talk about history, music, culture, and other country-related information. Our Scotland Guide was great at playing relaxing local CD's when we needed a nap :-). This is a great time to be learning new information you can apply at the next site you visit. We sometimes take notes and put them in a journal after the trip.

Watching the scenery in a new country is never boring. There's always a small thing that is new (like Ireland still uses glass insulators on their electric poles - haven't seen them in years) and wait....there's a ruin of an old cottage....I wonder who last lived there..... Even cities are interesting. Guides will point out a building, giving a brief history - or you can watch people go about their daily lives, noting how different or similar it is to yours.

Never a dull moment on RS tours.

Posted by
47 posts

I was on the Best of Athens-Greece tour in October 2018 and we had quite a few bus days. However, I never felt that it dragged on. Unfortunately, I always ended up falling asleep and so I missed out on some pretty cool lectures from our tour guide Colin. The buses are very comfortable and not crowded at all. The rest stops we visited in Greece were so awesome (little coffee shops that sold some amazing baked goods) and the autogrills we visited in Italy were incredible. I had some incredible grilled fish (took a chance, I know) on the autostrada between Florence and Rome.

Posted by
5 posts

We have done the 14 day Spain and Greece trips over the past 2 years. We had previously done our touring in Europe (Great Britain, Italy & Paris) on our own using numerous guide books (mostly Rick Steves).
Traveling in Spain & Greece using public transportation is a lot less convenient. We drove ourselves in Great Britain, but my husband had already been there for a couple months and was used to driving their cars and driving on the other side of the road. The driver misses A LOT when you drive yourself! The positive is that you can go on your own schedule, but we also ended up getting to our destinations later in the evening because we didn't always keep on schedule (positives and negatives to that approach). We have also decided that it's a lot less stressful to let them do the driving so that we don't have to figure out how to get from place to place and they keep things on schedule. They have already figured out how much time is usually necessary to see a sight. Sometimes I wish I had a little more time, but it would mean leaving something else out that I am almost always glad that we got to see.
There are stops every two hours on the longer bus days, but they are usually to see something interesting along the way (a family run Saffron business or an organic Olive Oil Press in Spain & Greece). These interesting things were places we would have passed by had we been driving on our own. I can't imagine missing having the fresh trout lunch in the middle of the national park in Greece, or the bakery just before crossing the bridge to the Peloponnese. Or having our guide in Spain read from Don Quixote and then seeing the Windmills in La Mancha. When you drive yourself, you stop to get gas and miss these little treasures. They also screen the places ahead, so you know they are clean!
We needed the nap time on the Greece trip because almost everybody did all of the optional hikes at each destination. Everyone was glad for the "forced" rest. Both of our groups have been awesome and we enjoyed getting to know everyone better on the bus ( like minded, active travelers who are committed to being on time). Everyone had a window seat and it was nice to be able to spread out (unlike the larger tour groups!).
We are getting ready to book the Germany, Austria, Switzerland trip for 2020, and very much looking forward to not driving and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Posted by
47 posts

We did Rick Steves' Berlin-Prague-Vienna last September. The bus was only used between cities and it was fine. You couldn't "call dibs" on any one seat; there was lots to see out the windows; our guide, Jana, was very informative. Overall, it's much more interesting and less stressful than flying between cities.

Posted by
72 posts

I agree with the other posters about the benefits of “some” bus travel.

Actually after taking 6 RS Tours (5 bus and 1 no bus), I find that the bus time gives tour members more time to learn about each other and bond as a group. It may be a coincidence but I found our City of London tour group to be the least connected of all the groups. Perhaps a lack of bus bonding time was a contributing factor.

Posted by
1 posts

When I booked our Best of Europe in 13 days tour I noticed the amount of bus time and was a little worried about that. In actuality the bus became a fun respite from all the activity. The bus gave us a scenic and enjoyable visual of the countryside and was very comfortable. We had a great time hanging out with fellow travelers along the way and the European bus stops are part of the charm. They actually have good food and nice shopping. Since RS tours aren’t set up for shopping time these little road stops let me get some souvenirs on the fly. Have a great trip!

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3 posts

Hello Sara - In May we took 15 day Eastern Europe tour. This itinerary involves several 8 hour bus days as it covers a lot of geography. I'm not sure if there are other good alternatives through those countries. On the Best of Spain trip we did take high speed train from Barcelona to Madrid. On Eastern Europe tour our guide made good use of the bus time with information regarding each place we were visiting and regular samples of vodka :) I did suggest in my RS feedback that a bus upgrade would be good for tours involving long bus days. I could not cross my legs in my seat and felt a little cramped. As others have said, there are regular stops so no worries about bathroom or food breaks. Enjoy your trip!

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413 posts

We did our first RS tour in May-Loire to the South of France. My main concern before the trip was the amount of time on the bus, sometimes 4-5 hours a day. When I'm on vacation I don't sit still, I'm up at 6 and like to go full throttle until bed time . As it turns out, the bus rides were one of my 'Wow' moments. Our guide Virginie More was outstanding. We learned so much from her about French history, culture, language, politics, education....that time flew by on the bus. I can only hope that Virginie is not the best of the best of the RS guides but just one of many outstanding guides. If so, the bus rides on our next adventure will not be a problem.

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273 posts

Allan, so far in our tour experiences Virginie Moré has been the absolute best we've encountered. As mentioned in this interview she really "gets" Americans.

We are still trying to give other guides a chance to impress us but so far it's been mildly disappointing.

Posted by
15 posts

Hi Sara and fellow travelers!
I’ve taken 15 or so tours with RS over 10+ years, traveling as a single . Some city tours but mostly “Best of...”. The bus travel has been comfortable 90% of the time. There are plenty of seats, several stops, clean windows, and most importantly extraordinarily safe drivers! Routes are almost always scenic; lavender fields, sunflowers, pine forests, alpine passes. Stops are well planned; clean restrooms, beverage and snacks to pickup or a picnic lunch along the way. People are highly encouraged to move around and sit in the back, right, left, front, etc. (human nature being what it is we all tend to stake out our territory). As a single, I truly appreciate having a seat to myself. And it’s been my experience that many couples also appreciate that they can choose to sit together or not...rather than always assuming they will. What I really like are the bus “lectures”...Q&A on the road. Guides offer updates on the destination, conversation on politics / history / current affairs. Listen if you like, or plug into your own soundtrack as the scenery passes. I often use bus time to listen to Rick’s audio guides.
Cheers!

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1 posts

I echo all of the positive comments here and as I embark on my eighth RS tour this fall (Sicily!!) I'm looking forward to all it will offer, including bus time! In my experience, the buses are wonderful -- the bus journeys meld seamlessly into the whole amazing experience. You can spread out on really comfy seats and the drivers are friendly, personable and marvelously skilled. You'll find you look forward to the chance to sightsee, relax, unwind (or not, you rowdy back-bus folks), nap, read, write, listen to your guide's fascinating stories and fascinating bits of information or just rest for a few hours before the next interesting stop.

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1 posts

I did the best of Ireland trip (10 days) and the bus time was fine (don't remember much over 4 hours if anything). There were lots of stops so travel time and tour time was well balanced. The tour was your basic counter-clockwise trip around the whole country, so the next day's destination was not that far away (typically 2 hrs). BUT then I did a best of Germany and it was absolutely excessive. We were on the bus close to 6 hours per day and I don't understand why, the whole country is smaller than California. After the Germany trip, I re-analyzed the bus route and it seemed like they were deliberately criss-crossing the country in order to get their money's worth out of the bus. There is no reason to be on a bus trip for 6 hrs when you are simply going from Munich to Rottenburg (159 miles). Had the best of Germany trip (10 days) taken a similar clockwise or counter clockwise approach to Germany it would have been much more pleasant. My goal is to spend time in the town that we are going to stay in and experience the culture. This is not accomplished if we are held hostage on a bus for 6 hours and don't arrive to our destination town until 4pm or 5pm, after shops have closed. Don't forget, free time in a town and naps are things that people also want to do on a vacation. The Rick Steve's tour guide does not have to entertain us for all 12 hours waking time that we are on the tour. Please consider re-designing the travel route in Germany as there was waaaay too much bus time and not enough "experiencing the culture" on our own time. This was so bad, I actually skipped a bus tour in Erfurt as I just wanted to have a free day, enjoy a local cappuccino, wander around town and take a nap - rather than spend 6 hours on a bus to go see a castle.

PS: I was the youngest person on the bus at age 52.