European Travel Tips
Europe's hospitality industry is centuries old, and its hotels often reflect the varied traditions and standards of their respective countries. While comfortable, do not expect European hotels to be the same as at home. Single rooms in European Hotels are often smaller than in USA hotels. Also, when booking a triple room, the third bed may be a 'rollaway' cot. The room may be the same size as a standard twin room.
Dinners that are included in your tour package are generally table d'hote, or "fixed" menus; on occasion, there may be a choice. Tea, coffee or other beverages are not included except on first class tours and at breakfast. Nor is it custom to serve butter with bread, except at breakfast.
In some European countries, continental breakfast is the norm, consisting of tea/coffee, rolls and butter, jam/marmalade. Hotels may charge extra for a hot or buffet breakfast and fruit juices.
Check out your tour itinerary (under 'what's included') to see the type of breakfasts offered on that particular tour.
Many operators, including Trafalgar, limit passenger baggage to one suitcase and one carry-on per person. The size of luggage is shown in the brochure conditions.
Tour companies often include gratuities and service charges as part of the tour package. On a Trafalgar, Insight or Cosmos Tour, some gratuities are included: Baggage handling, meal service for all meals included, and hotel service for all normal service, but not room service or tips to local guides, the Tour Director and Driver.
Tipping the scale
- Taxi-fare on meter 10-15% Restaurant - total bill 10-15%
- Tour Director US$4.00 per person per day.
- Motorcoach Driver US$2.50 per person per day.
- Local Sightseeing Guide US$1.00
- When Service Charge is included, for service above average a small extra tip is suggested.
Currency can be changed at airports, your hotel, a local bank and at "Bureau de Change" locations throughout Europe. The commission rates can be high, so to make your money go further, use pre-paid cards. Traveler's checks are no longer recommended. While most major banks no longer offer them, you can buy traveler's checks through American Express, VISA, and AAA—however, you could have a tough time finding hotels, banks, and stores that still accept them while traveling.
The majority of larger restaurants, shops, hotels, theatres, etc. in Western Europe, and in many Eastern Europe countries, accept most major credit cards. The bill you sign will be in local currency. This will be converted into your home currency by the credit card company and invoiced in the usual way. You can use American Express, Diner's Club, Visa, and Mastercard to obtain cash abroad from ATMs and banks. Don't forget your PIN number for the ATMs.
Carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against loss or theft in hotels. For added protection, keep a photocopy of your passport in your suitcase. Hotels are sometimes required to hold your passport overnight to comply with local regulations.
It is the law in some European countries to have some form of identification on you.
Almost all hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be high, especially for international calls. It is always cheaper to use public telephones (pay phones) or an international calling service such as AT &T 'USA Direct'. Your tour director will advise you how to use the telephone if you are unsure. Ring late UK/Europe time, it's cheaper. Some countries use prepaid phonecards for a set amount of phone time - no change required and no big bills. Available from tobacconists, phone exchanges and Post Offices. The most convenient way to stay in touch is to use your cell phone. Check with your provider about roaming charges before you travel. You can often buy minutes and data packs in advance to save money or you may have a plan that allows you to 'roam like at home' without further cost.
Tired and travel weary
London hotels have high occupancy rates and check out time is usually by noon. Consequently rooms are rarely available before 1-2pm. Be assured that the hotel staff are well aware that their guests arriving from North America are tired and travel weary, and they will have you settled in your room as soon as possible.
Electrical currents vary in Britain and on the continent of Europe. Most countries in the UK and Europe are 220-240v. Some appliances have dual voltage, but if not, we suggest you carry a converter for your electric shaver, travelling iron and other small appliances. Also, pins, holes and plugs differ everywhere, so buy a universal electrical travel adaptor before you go to prevent accidents and damage to your appliance.
Sharing and caring
Anyone travelling alone, not wishing to pay a single supplement and willing to share, can do so. Trafalgar, Insight and Cosmos will find someone of the same sex to share your room. Should this not be possible you will be alone in the room without having to pay the single room supplement. For your well-being, we operate a strict 'No Smoking' policy for room sharing. Sharing is not possible on certain Eastern Mediterranean tours. See the tour page for details.
Many couples share their umbrella. It means they only keep half dry. Travel with your own fold up umbrella (it's better than a raincoat) and you will never be half wet, you'll be totally dry.
Always brand new
When you begin your tour your fellow passengers have never seen you or your clothes before. Both you and your clothes are totally new to them. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and you will not only be more comfortable you'll be more relaxed.
Faux your own good
Junk jewellery or fabulous fakes travel beautifully. Leave items of great monetary or sentimental value at home where you know they are safe. It means you will be a little more carefree.
We all like our favourite brew in the morning but in Europe you won't always find tea and coffee making facilities in the hotel room. Be prepared. Buy an immersion heater either here or on the Channel Ferry, take a supply of tea bags etc. and your morning can start just as it does at home.
Blow it up
Plastic hangers that inflate are a great boon to travellers. They keep the back separate from the front of your skirt or blouse and it will drip and dry far faster than a conventional wooden/wire coat hanger. The blow up hanger leaves the item wrinkle and snag free.
Some of us wear dentures. If you happen to have a second set, take them along. Should your regular ones break, or you throw them away (as many people have) you can keep smiling, and enjoying your tour.
The buzz word
Wake up calls are always given to passengers when on tour. Should the call not go through, or heavy sleepers not hear it, your own back up alarm clock is a good insurance. One that is lightweight and simple to operate. It's nothing to be alarmed about but Tour Directors adore passengers who are on time.
Keep the corn on the cob
When your shoes look lovely but your feet are killing you, you've made a big mistake. Have on a pair of 'broken in' shoes for daytime walking. This is truly one travel tip that's not corny.
Detectives take tour
Detectives do something you should do every time you check out of your hotel. Open every drawer, look under every bed and behind every door including the bathroom. Returning items forgotten or left behind is virtually impossible and good detectives avoid the problem. Please be a detective.
2 is good for U
For couples, never pack one suitcase for one person and one suitcase for the other person. Split belongings between the two cases. If one case goes astray neither person is left without a change of clothes and necessities. Also, have a credit card or ATM card per person, so if one person loses their wallet or purse, you still have spending power.