Posted by: travelrat | April 15, 2021

Coach Trip

‘You can travel quickly:

You can travel comfortably:

You can travel cheaply.

PICK ANY TWO!

                                                (Sign outside travel agency)

Whether you live in Europe or you are just visiting, an inexpensive way to “see around” is to sign up for a coach tour. The idea of being carted around from city to city, cooped up with a horde of ‘coach potatoes’ does not usually make me go into raptures.  However, it is not too horrendous an experience if the tour chosen is one with a definite destination, where you stay for a few days. Those sad if today is Friday, this must be Salzburg cattle-droves are not the way to go!

Excursions from the destination are often included in the price. However, what many people fail to realise is that they are not compulsory! So, if trailing gang-handed around cathedrals and castles with 49 other people is not to your taste, there is nothing to stop you from ‘jumping ship’ and doing your own thing. Do not ask your guide or courier for recommendations, though. S/he will probably suggest that you join the excursion! Go, instead, to the local Tourist Information Office, and enquire there.

Take plenty to read on the journey, because there is unlikely to be much to see on the way. It is just like flying, only slower! One European motorway is pretty well like any other, as are refreshment stops, usually at motorway service areas. If an overnight stop en route is necessary on a longer journey, the kind of hotel chosen will usually just be satisfactory, and will hardly be the subject of many postcards home.

However, an overnight stop, even in a cheap, anonymous French motel, is a far better proposition than the overnight trip which some of the cheaper tours offer. A friend once told me about her nightmare trip to Italy.

‘I was sitting next to this fat old man, who took up three quarters of the seat, stank of cheap after-shave and stale tobacco, and snored and drooled all night’ she told me ‘Next year’ she added ‘I’m going to leave him at home!’

You might ask how the tour companies can offer holidays at such a low price, and you may well get part of the answer at meal-times at the destination hotel. This is the one of the down-sides … quite often, they will tell you that dinner will be served at 7 p.m. prompt and it is not negotiable. The meal will most probably be a set menu, and, while not too bad, is often rather ordinary, with portions too small for most of us.

That is because the price will have been mercilessly haggled between the hotel and the tour operator, so as to offer the most attractive price possible to the customer. The hotel, therefore, is working to a very tight budget.

For a similar reason, if you are travelling alone, single supplements are often just on the legal side of larceny. I can see the point of this in the case of single occupancy of a twin or double room, but I do take exception to paying extra for a room in the garret, in which I need to lie on the bed to change my trousers! Travelling with a partner, or like-minded friend will not only be cheaper, but will give you a bit of elbow-room, too.

If budget is not a problem, and a bed-and-breakfast option is on offer, I would go for that … but I would not expect too much for breakfast. Taking other meals elsewhere … or even paying the standard price in the hotel restaurant … enables you to eat what you want, when you want it. There’s a better chance of trying authentic local cuisine, too.

So, why go on a coach tour if you are going to opt out of most of the package? I look at it this way. When travelling in Europe, I’d suggest fly if you want to get there quickly. If you just want to get there, take the train, or a regular long-distance bus. But, to get there cheaply and have more money to spend at the destination, be prepared to put up with some discomfort and inconvenience on a coach tour.


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