YES, YES, YES!!!! You really can survive very well without a large formal tour. Huge bus tours stop at restaurants that make food for a large number of people quickly. This is not the Italian way. They also can not get you into small mountain towns. The roads are to steep and narrow.
We are firm believers of not taking tours in Europe. Many people say to me that they need a tour for one or more of the following reasons:
- Hard to plan and I am not a planner – Planning today with the internet and smart phones is easy. GPS will prevent you from getting lost.
- I might miss something important – There are great guide books and Apps that will tell you about the top 10-20 things in a city. You can not miss anything important. They will also guide you through museums, castles and churches.
- I don’t speak the language – Large modern cities have many people that cater to tourists and can speak some English. When you speak, speak slowly and use basic English like you where talking to a child. Learn the basics like Hello, Good morning, please, thank you and how much is it.
- I might get lost – As we said use a GPS App on your smart phone to get you around. If you don’t have one, rent one.
- I am afraid to find my way around – This is pure fear … FIGHT IT! You can get around and you will find great things to see, great restaurants to eat at and meet very friendly people.
We help plan trips abroad without tours. There are so many forms of information on the internet today about travel. You have to be aware some are peoples opinions that are not the same as yours. This is true of formal tours as well. They may go to places you don’t care about. They most certainly will go to tourist places to eat (and get kick backs from these places) which are NOT the best food in these countries. Our rules are:
- Don’t eat at tourist restaurants or near tourist attractions. The food is for tourists not locals. Get out with the locals and go to their restaurants. You will be amazed at how good the food is.
- Number 1 & 2 above – trips are not hard to plan. Buy a tour book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. These books show top attractions and top things inside these attractions. You really can not miss anything important. With a map or a smart phone, you can layout where all of the attractions you want to see are. How far apart they are. You can plan what you can do each day. Next decide if you will walk, take a taxi or public transportation. Taxi drivers speak enough english to get by. Buses and Metros are easy to find and travel on. In big cities there usually is a metro stop near every major attraction. There are smart phone apps that determine where you are (GPS) and tell you where nearest metro stop is. They even guide you as you walk. Once at the metro they tell you what train to get on, which direction to go, how many stops to yours and the name of your stop. Once off the train they once again guide your walk to your attraction.
- Number 3 above – English is the universal language, French speak english in Italy, Japanese speak English throughout Europe. Most big cities have people who know enough English to help you. Attractions hire people who speak english as well. We like to learn some words in the country’s language we am visiting. They feel good when we try to speak their language.
- Number 4 & 5 above – You really can’t get lost with a good map or better yet a smart phone. Smart phones are getting cheaper each year. Plans for foreign use are cheaper than ever and at least one company is offering free foreign usage. You really need a data plan so you can use the internet. Many apps require communication with a server on the net. Map apps show you where you are and how to get to another destination like your hotel or the next attraction you want to visit. You never have to be afraid of getting around again.
- Be polite and kind to other people you encounter. You are their guests. They are NOT your servants. If you are friendly and nice most people will return the same to you.
- Exchange your money at banks not airports! Check rates they vary a lot. Use credit cards to get cash or purchase items. They charge a slightly higher exchange rate and most today do not charge extra foreign fees.
Most important is just relax and enjoy your adventure. Eat and enjoy the food, drink the wine, speak to the local people and see the sights. Take plenty of pictures and you will create a memory you will never forget. Most important be romantic, live like a European and enjoy yourself. You can do it!
George & Jo Anne
- Weekend 8: Amsterdam & Brussels (anartstudentinparis.wordpress.com)
- Ready or Not, the Tourists Are Coming (irrawaddy.org)
- Forever a Tourist? (shannonfromspain.wordpress.com)
- Budget Honeymoon Tours in Europe (europegrouptour.wordpress.com)
- 30+ Travel Tips for a Cheaper and Better Travelling Experience! (awardtravelpoints.com)