In a couple weeks my first RS tour, Best of Turkey, begins. I've traveled quite a bit, but none as part of a tour group. I'm curious about the nitty gritty of the "traveling" part of these tours, i.e. on the bus. I'm not even sure what to ask; any details would be appreciated!
I have taken 8 tours with 5 having bus days. I think the bus is a great part of the fun of the trip. You travel on a full sized bus so you get your own seat. People move around and everyone gets a seat in the front. The time on the bus is often used to learn the history of where you are, language lessons etc.. On one tour it became a time to sample chocolate we all passed around the bus. it is also time for naps, reading, journaling and talking to your fellow travelers. Some guides play music from the area you are traveling in.
The buses are always clean and the drivers are as much a part of the tour as the guide. The buses stop every 2 hours so the driver and passengers can get a break.
When you arrive at your stop for the night you are dropped off at your hotel, or in some cases as close as you can get to your hotel (the stop in the middle of the block and offload everyone as fast as possible is always an adventure). When you arrive at the hotel you are give your room assignments and are given time to settle in before you venture out. When you leave a stop you take your luggage to the bus it is loaded you get on and off you go.
Have a wonderful trip!!!
Here is a link to a Rick Steves Tour Experience, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkDOQ5c1axc. Video and interviews with the folks on tour & the tour guides.
Barbara, is there a toilet on the bus?
Most full sized tour buses in Europe have a toilet on board - for emergencies only. Stopping every couple of hours should eliminate 99% of 'emergencies'.
I think that particular tour will have many hours on the bus due to distances covered. I took a Village Turkey tour back in 2011 (no longer offered) and I would not expect a bathroom on the bus (the bus was very modern and nice but there was no bathroom on it that I can recall, or it was highly discouraged to use it if there was one - Turkey is not part of the EU so their regulations may be different). There will be plenty of breaks along the trip though. Given that our group was so small and the capacity of the bus (< 20 people for a 40 seat bus), there is plenty of room to spread out, sleep, and relax. Everyone had two seats to themselves, pretty much.
Other than the bus, the folks on my tour were very friendly and bonded quickly. I did not get the single supplement so I "rotated" roommates. It turned out to be no problem at all. Our group had no "grumps" and was very well-traveled (but took the tour because Turkey was seen as more foreign or exotic, due to lack of better terms). I do not take tours in general, but was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was. The age distribution was largely north of 55, with the exception of me and perhaps one other person (and one of the guides) - but all were great travel companions. Oddly, the tour was mostly female, lots of single females and hardly any couples or males - but this is not representative of all tours (depends a lot on the season you're going).
Yes there was a toilet on all the buses we had. However, it was for emergencies only. Our drivers were required to stop every 2 hours so we stopped at auto grills and rest stops. Wow are they something. Not like any here in the states that I have seen.
So you will get breaks quite often. That said, we did have people use the bathroom on the bus once or twice.
I did this tour this past fall and I don't remember there being a toilet onboard. If there was one, it would have to have been at the back door (side door really). I went out that door a lot and just don't remember one. I did have to have the bus stop once as I really needed to use a bathroom. It was a gas station in the middle of nowhere. It was really old and dingy looking but it was clean.
The bus ride was wonderful with lots to see along each route taken. The rest stops every two hours were at very nice places with fantastic food! I hope you enjoy this tour like we did! It was fantastic!
I have been on quite a few tours, over 10. Yes, there is a toilet on the bus. Yes, it is usually suggested not to use it, and if so, only in an emergency. And, yes, the toilet has been used on each of my tours. Edit: I have not taken the Best of Turkey.
Not only is the bus roomy, there are usually beverages one may purchase on the bus; water, beer, wine.
The driver will either stay with the bus or lock the doors during all stops. Therefore, you may leave personal items on the bus. They will be safe. For overnight stops, I would suggest not leaving your belongings on the bus. You may not sit in the same seat the next day, or you might need something from your day bag. If you shop, you can ask the driver to keep your purchases in deep storage, no need to retrieve them until last day bus is used.
You will need to carry your own bag to and from the bus. Sometimes, the bus will need to park/stop a distance from the hotel. The driver will load and unload the bags.
I've been on 22 tours and I mostly agree with the above comments. However, while most buses have toilets (always for emergencies only), not all of ours have. The stops are frequent and I'm sure any guide would be sympathetic to special needs.
@Sean writes: I can't help but note one aspect of RS tours that may be new to you...
Ah, Sean, take it down! You're ruining one part of the first nite meeting for first-timers ;-)
I thought about it and you are right. That should be a surprise. Thank you for pointing out my indiscretion. :-0
I've only done a few bus trips, and tipping the driver was considered appropriate if not compulsory. Guides too. Policies may vary depending on the operator.
On a RS tour (I have taken several, as well as others with different companies) there is no tipping allowed for drivers or guides. At most, I have seen tour members provide them with a small token gift. So don't worry about tipping anyone (this will be in the information provided by RS.) As to the travel part, people have already said most of what I would. I can add: 1) buses are comfy and the drivers (I've had) are good, 2) you can sleep, chat, listen to lectures etc on the bus so time passes quickly, 3) they stop frequently, often for rest breaks (some of which are quite interesting) or unexpected sites (perhaps a quick photo op) and 4) I've enjoyed the travel parts because for the mostly part, the RS group members have been very fun people.
Thanks so much everyone for your replies! This gives me a good sense of what to expect. So excited!
Reading Nancy's reply. Wow 22 trips. Pretty soon RS will be paying you to take a trip with your past trip discounts!
About the alumni discount on RS Tours, I believe there is a maximum discount. I seem to remember $500 per year, if I'm not mistaken. Still, Nancy must have benefitted from that every year for quite a while now. I know that whenever Rick speaks publicly about his company and tours, he is always proud of the very high level of return travelers, now about 40 to 50 percent each year.
LA - RS did tell us once that we sent his kids through college😊.
Larry - We haven't hit a maximum discount so far. At this point, it's almost silly not to go on a tour each year. Number 23 (My Way Italy) coming up this fall.
Denverite - Be warned - This is what can happen when you start going on his tours! Enjoy!!!
^ ^ ^ Yes, what Nancy said. They don't tell you about the tour addiction in the literature! I'm not up to 22...yet!
Wow, Nancy. 22 tours! That is impressive! What amazing memories you must have. I'm looking forward to reading about number 23! Thanks for sharing all of your great insights!
I have found that the traveling part of the tour is often the time people bond with others. There is not much to do but talk and exchange stories. On a recent My Way tour, our first few days, we barely knew our other participants since we did nothing together. But, a half day ride on the bus and we were already sharing ideas. At the end of our second bus ride we were planning group activities at our next destination. Oh, It was also a good time to sleep.
Is there Wi-Fi on the RS Tour buses? Would love to be able to research and refresh my knowledge about our next destination while traveling on the bus there, maybe do some last minute planning. And, are there electrical plugs located in the bus seating area for keeping devices charged up in preparation for the next destination? If so, what plug/converter should I plan for? I'm on the BOE21 tour departing Jul 17 if the answers are tour-specific. (I'm a forum newbie, so if I should be posting this elsewhere, let me know) Thx, M.
Welcome to the forum. This probably would have been better as a separate post so people would specifically know you have a different question than the OP. I've taken 6 RS tours and have 2 coming up this year. The buses are all different, for example, some have rest rooms and some do not. I don't think any of the buses I have been on (for RS or other companies) have had charging ports. A couple of times guides have attempted to set up mobile WiFi hotspots on the bus but they were inconsistent.....I would not count on it. You will almost always have access to WiFi at your hotel. One thing strongly recommended to "brush up" on upcoming sights is to cut up your guide book. While some people just bring the whole book, many people take a razor blade and extract only the sections for where the tour is going. The bus is a good time to read, although your tour guide will often be giving talks over the bus PA. Many guide books are also available in e-formats as well. However, I doubt you will get lots of good WiFi on the bus.
My experience has been the same as Ray's. No wifi or ports on any of my 7 tour buses including the 21BOE in 2014. Others have reported that their buses have had WIFI but I would count on none and then be nicely surprised if yours does. This is a fabulous tour. I still think about it every. single. day.
Regarding wifi on the bus, we did have it on the Best of Spain tour we took in September of 2015 and it worked very well. No ports though.
Nancy - I think I was at the reunion meeting where he told a couple that had taken nearly 20 RS tours that "You've sent my kids through college". :-)
The bus is the place were the tour groups often come together. You are all in one place for a few hours, there are not a lot of distractions or things to do, so you talk (and sleep, read, etc.). While I don't like all day bus rides I realize that they do have advantages at times.
I just wanted to add that RS tours are not like regular "big bus" tours. I took my first tour in 2007 based on the recommendation of a co-worker. My first 4 trips were solo and I felt totally comfortable doing a RS tour by myself. The other tour members were very nice and never made me feel like an outsider.
After that I did 2 tours with my friend who vowed never to take a tour. He was immediately converted and we're signed up for our third tour together this year (Switzerland).
I hope you report back and share your experiences/observations of your first RS tour!
I was hesitant to do a group tour, especially via bus! However, my concerns were soon dispelled. My husband and I travel all over the world, often for months at a time. We started our world travels with seven or eight Rick Steves tours and still use Rick's travel books for European travel and purchase all his DVDs. My overall impression of Rick Steves tour groups is that they tend to be very friendly and easy-going. During our Rick Steves days, there was a contract saying there would be no grumps, no smoking and no perfume. There are no name tags or visible signs of status (unlike some tour companies that include badges indicating your level of experience with the company). In Europe, your bus driver is required (by law) to stop every two hours. Rest stops are usually at locations with decent bathrooms and often with refreshments available for purchase. Rick Steves tour guides have a good way of making everyone feel welcome right from the start. There is typically an initial group meeting, followed by some kind of an orientation walk or introduction to the public transportation system, then a group dinner. We enjoyed all our Rick Steves tours. You can plan on great guides, good food and lots of wonderful experiences. Bon Voyage!
It's nice to know that perfume isn't allowed on the tours. I have been hesitant to take a
Rick Steve's tour because my husband cannot handle perfume or cologne smell. Any smell will set off his asthma and he won't be able to stop coughing. Usually we can walk away from the smell if we are in a restaurant or other area, however, he wouldn't be able to get away from the smells in the close quarters of a bus.
Well, now I need to check out some tours! Woohoo!
Pilgrim, I may have missed this, but I've never seen or read any mention of a "no perfume" rule on any of the tours I've been on. I think it would be a great idea, but you should probably check with the office before committing to a tour.
Nancy, thanks for the note. My comment was based on Patrice's comment above where there's a Rick Steve's contract about no grumps, no smoking, no perfume, etc. I'm on my iPad so I can't use the quote feature.
I'll definitely contact the office before I book any tours to find out their perfume policy. Thanks :)
No perfume? Really? Like Nancy above, I've been on nearly 20 tours and have never seen (noticed?) that stipulation. Grumps, no; smoking, no (caveat: not allowed in any group situation but I have had smokers on a few of my tours) but I have not seen mention of "no perfume allowed". Patrice or Pilgrim, please let us know when/where you find that statement. I think it's a great idea, too!