Tour Department Contact Information
Rick Steves Europe
130 4th Ave N
Edmonds, WA 98020
Monday–Saturday: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.–8 p.m.
Deciding on a Tour
When is the best time to go to Europe?
Each season has trade-offs. As a rule of thumb, Europe's regional weather matches up with North America like this: South of the Alps, think Southern California. North of the Alps, weather is similar to the lower Midwest. The British Isles and Scandinavia are more like the Pacific Northwest.
Summer: May through September, expect bright sunny days, long balmy evenings and a feeling of festiveness wherever you go. As a result, Europe's most popular sights can get crowded — but our tour guides are experts at avoiding crowds and helping you get the most out of every day.
Shoulder Season: From March through early May and October through November, you can enjoy milder weather, fewer crowds — and often cheaper airfare.
Off-Season: Even with chilly winter weather, Europe's cities offer the same great indoor attractions December through February (galleries, museums, restaurants) and sometimes discounted airfare.
Are flights included in my tour price?
Our tour prices do not include airfare. Because many of our tour members prefer to spend some extra time in Europe before or after our tours, or use their air miles, we leave the airfare arrangements completely up to you. (We are not a travel agency and cannot book airfare but we can recommend a travel agent if you need one.) See also Traveling to and within Europe below.
How do I know if your style of touring is right for me?
Watch our Rick Steves' Europe: The Tour Experience video online or order the free DVD. This 45-minute video — filmed on an actual tour — thoroughly explains our travel style and what tour members can expect.
How physically active are your tours?
All our tours are active, requiring lots of walking (up to eight miles throughout a day), staying on your feet for up to four hours inside museums and outdoors in all types of weather, and even more stair climbing. Carrying luggage: You must be able to carry all of your own luggage, sometimes up a minimum of three flights of stairs or more. On some days, the tour bus may not be able to pull directly in front of a hotel, so be prepared to walk up to 15 minutes with your luggage. In a few cases, we may leave the tour bus and use public transportation to reach our hotel. Before you travel: No matter what your age, get in shape before you leave. Walk at least an hour every day and hike up lots of stairs. For specifics: See the Activity Level page under each of our European Tours. In addition, on each itinerary page you will find daily walking expectations.
Are there any age restrictions for tour members?
Teenagers are welcome on all Rick Steves tours. Anyone under age 18 must travel and room with at least one parent/guardian. Our tours are educational (heavy on art, history, architecture, etc.) which some teens find borrring, so it helps for parents to prep them ahead of time.
Teens and Pre-teens (ages 8+): We offer two kinds of tours that are especially popular with families: Our Family Best of Europe in 14 Days tour is educational and includes kid-friendly group activities (swimming, hiking, etc.) along with some flexibility for families during unstructured time. This tour has a discounted price for kids 17 and under. For details, see our Family Best of Europe Tour Q&A. Our "un-guided" My Way® Tours are also family-friendly. While not specifically designed for kids, My Way tours give parents the freedom to decide on each day's sightseeing priorities and pace. Our tour staff is happy to help you find the best match for your family's needs. Call us at 425-608-4217.
May I smoke on tour?
All Rick Steves tours are no-smoking tours. Unless you are on fire, you will never be allowed to smoke on the bus or in your hotel room at any time, or anywhere indoors where other tour members are present. At the same time, keep in mind that we cannot always isolate smoke-sensitive tour members from the many locals who light up.
What's included with my tour?
See the What's Included page under the specific tour that interests you. Browse our European tours.
Do you guarantee tour prices?
Yes. Your price for the tour departure you've selected is guaranteed the moment we receive your deposit.
Should I purchase trip cancellation insurance?
We recommend tour members buy additional trip insurance. While we include courtesy tour cancellation/interruption protection with each of our tours, this does not cover airfare, medical costs, or other non-tour expenses and penalties you could incur. For complete details, read our Tour Cancellation/Interruption Protection and our Tour Conditions prior to joining your tour.
Signing Up for a Tour
How do I sign up for a tour?
On the web page of the tour you've selected, click on the departure date you want, and follow the instructions through our secure website. If you don't want to pay your deposit online, you may call us within three business days to provide your credit card details. (Your deposit payment is required to confirm a reservation). If you prefer to pay by check, you can print a tour application and sign up by mail or fax. We cannot accept credit card information via email. Please be sure to read our Tour Cancellation/Interruption Protection and our Tour Conditions for complete details regarding tour deposits, payments and refunds.
How do I know if there are enough seats left on a tour?
We immediately update the number of seats available with each new tour booking, transfer or cancellation. If you see a tour date marked Sign Up! on our website, there are six or more seats remaining. A departure listed as Filling Fast has less than six seats remaining — and there is a chance it could fill while you are in the sign-up process (if this happens, we will call you promptly to discuss our waitlist and alternate tour dates). If you wish to double-check a departure's "Filling Fast" status, call us at 425-608-4217. See also What does it mean to be on a waitlist below.
What does it mean to be on a waitlist?
A Waitlist departure date means there are no seats available unless/until another person cancels. You can get on a waitlist for up to three tours via our website without making a deposit (we highly recommend this, and there is no risk to you). We receive cancellations and transfers for a variety of reasons throughout the year — and we sometimes add new departures close to waitlisted dates. In these situations we call people on waitlists to discuss their options. Although cancellations can happen at any time, they most often occur within 60 days of the tour start date, when the final tour payment is due. We do not recommend that people book flights while they are still on a waitlist.
Can I transfer a reservation from one tour to another?
Usually yes. If you are signed up for a tour and, more than 60 days before its departure, you want to transfer to a different departure (such as a waitlisted tour that's become available), you can do so with no penalty by calling the Tour Department. If you transfer to a different tour itinerary the tour price effective on the date we confirm your transfer will be applied.
How should my tour payments be made?
We require just two payments for tours: your initial $400 deposit, followed by the remaining balance in a single payment due at least 60 days before your tour's departure date. We accept MasterCard, Visa and American Express (please do not email credit card information). We also accept personal checks, bank drafts or money orders made payable to "Rick Steves' Europe" in US dollars (personal checks must be written on a US bank account). If you sign up for a tour within 60 days of its departure, the entire amount must be paid at that time, and the deposit portion is non-refundable.
Do you have Tour Gift Certificates?
We offer Gift Certificates that can be issued for any dollar amount and applied to a tour deposit ($400 pp) or final payment for any Rick Steves' tour.
Gift Certificates are available by phone, fax or mail and can be purchased with a personal check, bank draft or credit card (Visa, Mastercard or American Express). They can also be purchased in-person at our Travel Center in Edmonds, WA. Gift Certificates purchased by phone, fax or mail will be shipped by USPS first class mail — free of charge — and generally arrive within 5-7 business days. (Canada orders please allow 7-10 days.) You will receive an email confirmation when the certificate has been mailed.
How do I order and redeem a Tour Gift Certificate?
Phone: Call Customer Service at 425-608-4220 during regular business hours Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We'll need your name, billing and mailing addresses, phone number, email address, credit card number with expiration date and recipient's name.
Fax or Mail: Print our handy Gift Certificate order form and mail or fax it along with your payment information. Fax to 425-771-0833 or Mail to:
Rick Steves' Tours
Attn: Customer Service
P.O. Box 2009
Edmonds, WA 98020
To redeem a Gift Certificate for a tour, the recipient can print a tour application from our website and mail it with the certificate or present it to the Tour Department at our Travel Center. (At this time, redemption cannot be done online or by fax, sorry.) Gift Certificates need to be redeemed in full at the time of purchase.
Gift Certificates cannot be used as payment for the purchase of other Rick Steves' Gift Certificates or Gift Cards nor are they redeemable for cash or credit to your credit card account.
For additional questions regarding redeeming a Gift Certificate for a Rick Steves' tour, please contact our Tour Department at 425-608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I get my Tour Alum discount?
By traveling with us! If you've ever taken a Rick Steves' tour, you can discount $50 per tour you've taken prior to the calendar year of the tour you're booking. Your Tour Alum discount is cumulative (a veteran of five tours can save $250 on his or her next Rick Steves tour). When you book your tour on our website, you'll find a place to list the year and country of each tour you have taken with us prior to the calendar year of the tour you're booking. Your discount will be noted on your written confirmation letter and will automatically be deducted from your final tour balance. A Tour Alum discount may be used on one tour per calendar year and is not transferable to another person.
How does the cash payment discount work?
We happily accept credit cards, but if you pay your final tour balance with a check, you'll save another 2.5% (to spare you the math, your tour invoice will list both balance amounts).
The exact amount of your 2.5% discount will appear in your tour invoice, based on the tour price minus your deposit, single supplement (if applicable) and any other discounts. Review the tour invoice enclosed in your confirmation letter, so you'll have plenty of time to decide which payment method works best for you. Personal checks must be in U.S. dollars drawn from a U.S. bank account. For security reasons, we cannot accept credit card payments via email. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for complete payment specifics.
Will Rick really pay for my first passport?
Yes! If you've never been overseas and need to order your first passport to take a Rick Steves tour, Rick will pay for your passport. Simply sign up for a Rick Steves tour by making a $400 deposit, and we'll deduct your $135 passport cost ($110 for minors) from your final tour balance. As soon as possible send us a copy of the receipt for your first-time passport dated within 12 months of your Rick Steves tour departure.
Do you offer discounts for kids?
On our Family Best of Europe in 14 Days tour, seats for kids ages 8 to 17 are priced $200 less than the adults.
How do I save on pre- or post-tour trip advice?
Traveling before or after your tour? Rick's travel consultants are a great resource for assisting you with your pre- or post-tour travel plans. Simply reserve a Rick Steves tour with your $400 deposit and your tour benefits include 50% off our standard rates of $50 per half hour in-person, or $75 for a half hour phone consulting appointment associated with your travel plans for right before and/or after your tour. To schedule a consultation, call our Travel Center at 425-771-8303 ext. 298.
Hotel and Rooming Policies
What are your hotels like?
Rick Steves' tour hotels are often quaint, sometimes creaky, full of two- and three-star personality, and run by Europeans who are also our friends. Many don't have elevators (one more reason to pack light), and many have no (or weak) air conditioning. Private bathrooms are the norm, but on a couple of tours a small chance exists that for one or two nights your bathroom may be down the hall (only if you see it listed under your tour's Activity Level page). If you prefer to stay in four- and five-star hotels, you may be more comfortable with an alternate tour company. Read what our tour members say about our hotels.
What types of rooms are available?
Shared Room for Solo travelers: If you're traveling solo, you don't have to pay the mandatory "single supplement" required by other tour companies. Instead, you can choose to share a room with another tour member of the same gender. When there are multiple solo travelers, we rotate roommates throughout the tour. On our 7-day city tours there is just one hotel, so there is no roommate rotation. If there are only two solo travelers of the same gender, you will room together for the entire tour. Your guide will do his or her best to make the room assignments as fair as possible. If you'd prefer you may guarantee a private room for an additional fee.
Private Room: Because we stay in small, family-owned, centrally located hotels, we can offer only a few single supplement rooms on each tour. While paying extra for the single supplement guarantees you a private room, it does not guarantee you a larger or "nicer" room. European single-bed rooms are generally the smallest and most basic rooms the hotels have to offer. If you want to guarantee a private room on one of our tours, please indicate that when reserving your tour, and pay the single supplement fee at the time you pay your deposit (the cost is listed on your tour's main web page). If a single room is not available, we will contact you immediately.
Couples: Two people traveling together as a couple will usually share a room with one double bed (queen and king-size beds are uncommon in Europe). If you prefer separate beds you may request them, but due to a limited number of twin-bedded rooms, priority is given to solo travelers rooming together.
Two friends traveling together: Two friends or siblings traveling together will be roomed together with two beds in a twin room (some European twin beds share one headboard but they will always have separate sheets).
Triple room: A typical triple room will be one double bed plus a single bed, rollaway or cot. For this reason, we do not recommend triple rooms for three adults.
Families: If you are traveling together with more than one family member, please note that the hotels will make every effort to accommodate your rooming requests and locate your rooms near each other, but occasionally rooms can be on different floors.
Can I request a non-smoking room?
Welcome to Europe, where many European hotels classify "no smoking" rooms as a room that you are not smoking in. This means the previous guest may have smoked in your room and there is an ashtray provided. While this has not been a problem for most of our travelers, those with heightened sensitivity to cigarette smoke should know that we cannot guarantee a smoke-free room. We have a "no smoking" policy on our tours. While we do sometimes have smokers join our tours, they are not allowed to smoke at group events, on the bus or in their room if they are sharing a hotel room with another tour member.
Special hotel needs?
If you have any special needs or requests regarding tour hotel rooms, please contact the Tour Department prior to booking your tour. Email email@example.com or call 425-608-4217.
Getting Ready for Your Tour
What travel documents are required?
Passport yes, visa maybe. Everyone who takes a Rick Steves tour is required to bring a valid passport. Visas are required only for those tour members traveling in Turkey and Russia (see Will I need a visa, below). If you are not an American citizen, you are responsible for checking with your home government to determine any special visa requirements for traveling in Europe. If you plan to drive in Europe before or after your tour, an International Driving Permit is required for Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Poland, and Hungary (get it before your departure, details at www.aaa.com).
When/how should I apply for my passport?
This is important. You are required to travel with a valid passport, and provide your passport information to our Tour Department before you fly to Europe. Your passport expiration date must be at least six months after your planned return date — if it isn't or you don't have a passport — apply today.
First-time Passports: You must apply in person at a designated passport facility such as a post office, public library, courthouse or other municipal building (please visit the Passport Facility Search page for your nearest location). For step-by-step instructions and to download a passport application, go to the State Department website. You'll pay $135 and probably wait about 3-6 weeks (5-7 days after you apply, you can check the status of your passport application and its estimated arrival date through the State Department website).
Passports for Minors: Kids under 16 must apply in person with at least one parent present and the other parent's notarized permission. The fee for minors under 16 is $105 for a passport good for five years.
Passport Renewals: You may renew your passport by mail as long as it was issued within the last 15 years (otherwise you must apply in person). Visit the State Department website for instructions on how to renew by mail. The renewal fee is $110.
Standard processing time: For routine applications you'll probably wait about 3-6 weeks (5-7 days after you apply, you can check the status of your passport application and its estimated arrival date through the State Department website at www.travel.state.gov.
Rush processing: If you can't wait 3-6 weeks, tack on an additional $60 rush fee (plus overnight shipping both ways) and you should get your passport by mail within two weeks.
Panic processing: If you can provide proof that you have to leave within two weeks (by showing a purchased plane ticket), you may call to make an in-person appointment at one of 13 regional passport agencies located in major cities throughout the USA (travel.state.gov/passport/) and you will receive your passport during the appointment. To make this appointment, call the National Passport Information Center's automated appointment line at 877-487-2778 (this automated appointment system is open 24 hours).
Will I need a visa?
Turkey and Russia require visas. For US and Canadian citizens, a Turkish visa must be obtained prior to entering the country. Before you fly, get your “e-visa” at www.evisa.gov.tr. The website will take you through a series of application steps (have your passport handy), ending with your credit card payment (currently US $20 for Americans and US $60 for Canadians, MasterCard or Visa only). Once you pay, you will be emailed a link to download and print your e-visa.To apply for a 30-day Russian visa, it usually takes 7-21 business days for standard processing, and will cost between $170-$250 depending upon whether you apply in-person or through a visa servicing center. We do not process visas, but we will send you an email when it is time to apply (currently, Russia will not let you apply for a visa until 60 days before your tour departs). Up-to-date visa information can be found at www.travel.state.gov or www.passportvisasexpress.com and 1-888-596-6028. If you are not an American citizen, you are responsible for checking with your government to determine your visa requirements for traveling in Europe, and obtaining all required travel documents before your tour departs.
Will I need any immunizations?
No shots are currently required for travel in Western Europe, Turkey or Russia. You should, however, check with your doctor to see if you are up-to-date with regular immunizations such as tetanus, hepatitis, tuberculosis, etc.
Can you help me plan my pre- or post-tour travel?
Email or phone the Tour Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-608-4217 with your questions. The Tour Department is full of Rick Steves tour guides who are very well traveled — you're not reaching a call center — and we can usually answer your pre/post-tour travel questions. If you need more extensive assistance (itinerary planning, car rentals or rail passes) we can help you arrange an in-person or by-phone session with a Travel Consultant at our Travel Center in Edmonds, WA. As a tour member, you'll receive a 50% discount off regular consulting fees.
Pre/post-tour hotels:If you're planning to arrive before the tour begins or stay after the tour ends, you should reserve your extra nights' accommodations a few months in advance. Many of the hotels we use are very popular and hotel bargains are snapped up quickly. We suggest you first try the tour hotels. If they're full, try the alternate hotels suggested or recommendations in your Rick Steves guidebook, which you will receive at least two months before your tour begins. If you're not certain how many days you'll stay, guess long — it's easier to cancel a night or two a few weeks in advance than to add on short notice. We recommend booking your hotel reservations via email, rather than making reservations via the web, as these may link to booking agencies which charge non-refundable booking fees. Our tour hotels usually accept reservations by email and we will provide you with your hotel contact information several months prior to your tour. Calling or faxing are other options for reserving a room. To finalize hotel reservations, please call or fax your credit card. (Do not email credit card details.) Virtually all hotels have English-speaking staff who will take your credit card number as a deposit. Reconfirm a few days in advance and call ahead if you'll be arriving after 4 p.m.
How do I telephone to or from Europe?
To call Europe from the US: Dial 011 + destination country code + area code without the initial zero + local number.
Exceptions: France, Switzerland and Italy do not use area codes, just local numbers. To call France or Switzerland from the US, drop the initial zero; to call Italy, keep the zero (for example, to call the Aberdeen Hotel in Rome from the US, you'd dial 011-39-06-482-3920).
Country phone codes: Austria 43; Belgium 32; Britain 44; Canada 1; Czech Rep. 420; Denmark 45; Estonia 372; Finland 358; France 33; Germany 49; Gibraltar 350; Greece 30; Ireland 353; Italy 39; Netherlands 31; Norway 47; Portugal 351; Spain 34; Sweden 46; Switzerland 41; Turkey 90; United States 1
If you plan to call home a lot from Europe, use local phone cards (purchased in each country at post offices, corner tobacco shops, or newsstands), and dial direct. This will save you money and hassles. These cards come with a toll-free access number and a PIN code with a fixed value that is deducted as you talk. The back of the card often contains basic instructions in English on how to make calls.
If you require a cell phone in Europe, you may find some helpful tips in Rick's article Mobile Phones in Europe.
Packing and Luggage
What should I pack?
It is important to pack light, as you will be responsible for carrying all of your stuff all of the time. On all of our 7-day tours, packing light is helpful, but not critical, as you will not change hotels during the tour. Pack versatile, comfortable clothing that you can layer for warmth or coolness. Expect some rain regardless of the time of year. Most European churches require respectful dress (shoulders and knees covered for both men and women). In mosques, women are expected to cover their heads with scarves, and everyone must remove their shoes. On days that we visit these sites, your guide will warn you to dress accordingly. Many find that a light pair of pants they can pull out of their daypack and slip on, or pants with zip-on/off legs, provide an easy, quick cover-up. Women could also pull on a light, non-wrinkle skirt over shorts and use a scarf to cover their head and shoulders. For more ideas on what to bring, check out Rick's packing tips.
Does my luggage have to measure exactly 9 x 21 x 14 inches?
Pretty close. These dimensions reflect the typical bag size many airlines allow you to carry on. If you plan to check your luggage, don't panic if your bag is a little bit larger. The main point is that you are able to comfortably handle all your luggage by yourself at all times during the tour, and be able to carry it up lots of stairs. Our online Travel Store sells carry-on-friendly rolling luggage, backpacks, day packs and travel accessories that are perfect for use on our tours.
Should I carry-on or check my luggage?
When you can carry your luggage on the plane, it's less likely to get lost, damaged or stolen. You don't have to worry about it and when you arrive, you can leave the airport immediately. Most airlines limit your carry-on size and weight; check with your carrier for specific requirements. If you do check your bag, make sure you keep certain essentials with you on board the plane: all valuables such as money, passport, debit/credit cards, etc. (which should be in your moneybelt); all medications; glasses and contact lenses; camera, etc. It's also a good idea to carry your toiletries kit (liquids must be in 3 oz. containers and fit within a quart-size bag if you bring your bag on the plane) and a change of clothes in case your checked bag is delayed. Finally, don't forget to label your bag inside and out with your name as well as the name, address, and phone of your first hotel.
Traveling to and Within Europe
Do you sell airfare, train tickets, or make hotel reservations?
We are not a travel agency, so we don't make bookings. Arranging your flights and any additional transportation or hotel accommodations is your responsibility.
When should I fly to Europe and back?
Check your written confirmation carefully for the day your tour begins and ends. You must depart for Europe at least one day in advance of the day your tour begins in order to arrive in time for the "Day 1" tour meeting (see your specific tour itinerary for the time). We recommend that you book flights several months before your departure date — much earlier if you want to use frequent flyer miles. Don't delay making an airline reservation because of pre-tour hotel arrangements — flights fill quickly!
How do I get to the start of the tour?
To help you get to the first hotel, your tour packet will include easy-to-follow instructions, as well as the hotel contact information. We'll explain the best transportation options, from easy/expensive to cheap/complicated. When you arrive at the hotel, a sign in the lobby will tell you where and when (between 2 and 6 p.m.) we will meet on Day 1.
Where can I learn more about the places we'll visit?
Those who prepare get more out of their tour. For starters, visit the Explore Europe section of our website. This includes information by country and place with recommended clips from Rick's TV and radio shows, movies, novels, non-fiction and music. For pre-tour travel skills and to review some of Rick's favorite destinations, we suggest reading Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door book. For more general background reading, we recommend Rick's Europe 101: History & Art for the Traveler. You can also download the free Rick Steves Audio Europe app, which includes dozens of self-guided audio tours and hundreds of tracks from his radio show (also available as podcasts).
While on Tour
How can I receive messages from home?
The best way to get news from home is to bring your smart phone or iPad, kept in "airplane mode." This way you can check email without being dinged by expensive data charges. About three weeks before your tour departs, we'll email you a list with contact information for each tour hotel. You can leave copies of this with family and friends so they can contact you if necessary. Although the hotels may have fax machines and email, please do not rely on them for receiving personal messages.
What will the meals be like on my tour?
You'll eat like a local. Hotel breakfasts vary widely from country to country (generally smaller and simpler south of the Alps). The included dinners on your tour will be typical of the region, interesting, and of good quality. Local beer and wine will be optional at group meals, and at your own expense.
Can I get special meals for my dietary restrictions?
Not always. While we cannot take responsibility for tour members with special dietary needs or allergies, vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions usually manage fine with a little flexibility and willingness to supplement meals at their own expense as needed. Please discuss your dietary needs and restrictions with your guide at the beginning of the tour so he or she can assist you with group meals when possible.
How will I do laundry on my tour?
Every few days. Your guide will give you tips on when and where you can do laundry. Europe has plenty of Laundromats, but you won't always have plenty of time. Some hotels offer laundry service, though you will pay more for the convenience.
Can I mail packages home?
As a rule, we don't recommend this. Packages mailed from Europe can take six weeks or longer to arrive and postage can be quite expensive. Save money and hassles: bring an empty bag and carry your purchases home. Our Hide-Away Tote Bag is perfect for this (and doubles as a handy on-the-road laundry bag).
Will I have to pay duty on purchases made in Europe?
Not likely if you are not a big shopper. Each US resident is allowed to return from Europe with $800 worth of duty-free goods. For more information, see the travel section at the US Customs website.
Will I need to know the language of the countries I'm visiting?
Just a little bit helps. While it's not necessary to be fluent, it is nice to master a few basic courtesies such as "Please," "Thank you" and "Where is the toilet?" Your guide will encourage and help with this. In addition, many of our tours include a Rick Steves phrase book and dictionary. You will also find a page of helpful phrases in each of Rick's guidebooks.
How much money will I spend?
Our fully-guided tours include all group sightseeing admissions, all breakfasts, half of your dinners, plus all guide and driver tips (see each tour's "What's Included" for details). For your beverages at group dinners, meals on your own, snacks, souvenirs, and free-time transportation and entrance fees, plan to spend between $50 and $100 per day.
On My Way℠ Tours, you will be responsible for the cost of all your lunches, dinners, drinks, admissions, sightseeing, and non-group transportation. Be sure to plan and budget accordingly.
How will I use ATM/credit cards?
To pay for things which are not included with your tour (see above), you'll need to have access to money — and it's important to have a second source of cash if one method doesn't work. We recommend bringing at least one credit card plus a debit card.
Debit cards: Using a debit card is like writing a personal check: the money is withdrawn from your checking account. Your debit card allows you to get cash in local currency from European ATMs at a rate close to the excellent interbank/wholesale exchange rate. To use your card in Europe, it should have a MasterCard or VISA symbol. Most European ATMs will not allow you to withdraw funds from savings accounts or transfer funds from savings to checking. Make sure you have sufficient funds in your checking account before you leave.
Credit cards: A VISA or MasterCard credit card also offers excellent exchange rates, as well as important fraud protection. Use your credit card for hotels, meals, souvenirs, and other major expenses. While many credit cards can also be used for "cash advances" at ATMs, the steep interest rate and fees you pay make this an option for emergencies only. Ask your credit card company for your credit card PIN (they won't tell you the number over the phone so allow plenty of time for it to be mailed); about their international transaction fees (range from 1-4%); and daily limits. Ask which European banks are affiliates — using these banks can reduce ATM service charges. Let your bank and credit card companies know that you plan to use your debit or credit cards overseas, so they do not freeze your cards because they detect "unusual spending patterns" when they see transactions in Europe.
Chip-and-PIN hassles: Most American credit cards use magnetic strips which are "swiped" to make a purchase. Many European cards instead rely on an embedded microchip which is used along with a PIN, similar to a debit card. When you charge a purchase where a human is present — a shop, hotel, restaurant or ticket window — that person should be able to process either type of card. So will an ATM. However, many automated payment machines — at train stations, metro stations, luggage lockers and bike-rental kiosks — will reject an American-style, magnetic-strip card. If this happens to you, don't assume there is a problem with your card or your account! You can usually find an alternative — paying with cash, typing in your credit card's PIN, or paying with your credit card at a staffed ticket window.
Make copies: Before your trip, photocopy all of your cards (front and back). Ask your bank for a phone number you can call collect from outside the US in case you have a problem (800 numbers generally do not work outside the US, so ask for one with a "real" area code).
Travelers checks: We no longer recommend them. If you are ever short on funds with no ATM nearby, a $200 emergency cash reserve "deep-stored" in your moneybelt will work better.
Are tips covered in my tour cost?
Your tour includes all guide and driver tips. Please do not tip beyond this. Your guide will tip for everyone at group meals. When you are out on your own, it is customary to round-up, or add a euro or two, rather than tip a certain percentage.
Do I need to worry about pickpockets?
In Europe, tourists are rarely mugged but pickpockets are common. Be careful on all public transportation and in crowds. Watch for distraction tactics such as dropped coins, "accidental" spills, overly friendly children, or locals asking you for directions! Thieves thrive on fresh-off-the-plane tourists. Keep your hands on your bags, sling your day bag across the front and wear that moneybelt!
What type of currency will I use on my tour?
We operate tours in the following countries and we've listed their currencies below. You can easily get the local currency (euros, pounds, etc.) from an airport ATM as soon as you arrive at your tour destination in Europe. If you'd like to get a small supply ($100 per person) of the local currency before you leave home, ask your bank, auto club or Thomas Cook (locations at www.thomascook.com). To check exchange rates (they do fluctuate) visit www.oanda.com. For more advice about money matters, see Rick's money tips.
Czech Rep: Koruna
Euro and Swiss Franc
Euro and Swiss Franc
Euro and British Pound
Family Best of Europe Tour FAQ
How do I handle passports for my kids?
Like adults, each child traveling to Europe needs to have a current passport. You can carry your children's passports for them. An older, more independent teen should carry his or own passport, tucked inside a moneybelt.
If I am a single parent or grandparent, will I need to bring special documents?
Yes! In addition to his or her passport, any child under age 18 who is not accompanied by both parents must bring a notarized letter, signed by both parents, allowing the child to be taken out of the USA and also allowing the adult traveling with the child to seek any necessary medical care. The letter should include the child's legal name and date of birth as shown on his or her passport, plus dates and countries of travel. For details, call the US State Department at 888-407-4747.
What is the age range of kids on this tour?
We welcome children ages 8 and older on our Family Best of Europe in 14 Days tour, so you can expect a mix of teens and pre-teens. For this itinerary, children under age 18 receive a $200 discount.
Will adults and kids have separate activities?
No. On this "family tour" we encourage families to participate in activities together. Your guides will not separate adults and kids into separate activities.
How will museums and lectures be made kid-friendly?
You will visit many of the same places that are featured on our regular version of this tour. However, the museum visits and lectures will be made shorter and livelier to better match kids' interests and attention spans. This will give your family some free time to focus on a particular part of a museum, or to relax at the museum cafe or gift shop.
Will we be allowed to opt-out of sightseeing?
Yes, although please be sure to tell your guide in advance, so they can help you make your alternate plans, and we don't send out a search party to find you!
How will free-time activities be handled?
Your guide, tour assistant and guidebook are great resources for free-time options. Occasionally your guide may "lead" an optional activity for those who want to tag along. When this happens, at least one parent is expected to accompany their children at all times. Your guide and tour assistant are not babysitters.
What kinds of activities are not included?
You should plan on paying out-of-pocket for your family's transportation and admissions during free time (such as a fee to swim at a public pool, bike rentals, optional museum or gallery admissions, lift tickets for optional hikes, and taxis if you want to avoid walking). You may also find that you'll need to supplement our group meals if your children have special food or beverage requests.
How should our kids dress?
Many churches in Europe do not allow adults or children to wear clothing that reveals bare shoulders or knees. But for general sightseeing, shorts and short-sleeve tops are fine. We discourage women and girls from wearing low-neck and bare-midriff tops — they attract unwanted attention from local men.
What is the role of the tour assistant?
Both the guide and tour assistant will be available to help you with any questions or problems you may have during the tour. Generally speaking, your lead guide will be more the "teacher" and "leader" and the assistant will be your first resource for assistance, free-time suggestions and dealing with day-to-day situations that arise.
What will the hotels be like?
Our tour hotels will do their best to assign family members to one multi-bed room or to smaller rooms as close together as possible. If you request a triple room, it may include three individual beds, but will most likely include one double bed and one single bed or cot. Twin rooms may include two individual beds, or two separate mattresses and sheets, sharing one bed frame.
Will adults have rooms near their children?
Our tour hotels will try to keep family members as near one another as possible. In some unavoidable cases, the rooms may be on separate floors.
What if my child wants to room with another family — or room alone?
If the parents from both families agree, and complete our "Hotel Rooming Policy" waiver form, this is fine and fun! Kids under age 18 must room with a parent at all times, unless our "Hotel Rooming Policy" waiver has been completed — and they may never be in a room alone. Please let your guides know whenever you want to make changes to rooming plans and they will do their best to accommodate your wishes whenever possible. In any room set-up, parents are responsible for their kids' behavior at all times!
Are there teen-temptations we should worry about?
Teenage drinking in bars and restaurants is not unusual in Europe, where it is considered the parents' responsibility to monitor their kids' choices. With this in mind, please never let your kids wander off without adult supervision.
What will the meals be like?
The meals we eat as a group will be European fare. To accommodate the simpler tastes of kids, where possible, we will try to include things like pizza and pasta. Although we try our best to accommodate the needs of vegetarians and those with food allergies, we will not be able to prepare special meals for picky eaters. Please encourage your kids to experiment with European food as part of their travel experience — and be prepared to supplement meals as needed, at your expense, if your children do not wish to partake in our included group meals.
Tips for Touring with Your Kids
Your European adventure is coming up soon! Traveling on a tour with kids can be a rewarding, memorable experience — for you, your child, and for other members of your tour group. However, kids also bring special concerns to a traveling group. This information is designed to help you avoid problems, better prepare your child, and get more enjoyment out of your group travel experience.
Most importantly, please be aware of your child's whereabouts at all times! No matter how much your child may enjoy spending time with other tour members, your child is your responsibility — never the responsibility of other tour members or our guides. Out of sight, out of mind, does not apply on a Rick Steves tour. We've had children get lost for an hour or two — a traumatic experience for all involved — while their parents "safely" assumed they were under the watchful eye of another tour member or guide. Never assume that someone else is caring for your child without getting permission first, and then check on them frequently.
Europe is less restrictive of nudity and pornography than America. During the course of your trip, you and your kids may stumble upon TV programs and ads (even in hotels where we stay) that could be considered obscene. We cannot control this, so it will be your responsibility to monitor your kids' TV viewing.
Please be aware of the impression your child makes on the rest of the tour group. While kids add a delightful aspect to our tours, a restless kid can be disruptive — especially on long bus rides. An iPod/MP3/CD player for music or recorded books is a good way for a kid to pass the time. Electronic games need to either have earphones or sound that can be turned off. (A tour member sitting near your child might not appreciate the repetitious soundtrack!)
Bring along some cards, games, or reading material that your child has never seen or played with before. The surprise element is great, and if it is new and unfamiliar, the sustained interest factor goes way up.
There are many retail stores around now that specialize in games of all varieties, and the selection of games sized and suited for travel goes way beyond the perennial deck of cards and miniature magnetic chess set.
Have your child keep a journal. You can work together on it, and paste in pictures, paper flags, tickets and museum receipts. Collecting a patch (small, lightweight, packable!) from every place you visit, which can be easily pasted into a scrapbook or sewn onto a school pack, can become a wonderful "souvenir hunt" and a colorful conversation piece.
Group meals often do not include a choice of entrees. Just like the adults, kids on tours are expected to be flexible, and to eat what they are served (extra or alternative food will be at your expense). However, if your child has special dietary needs or food allergies, your guide will provide assistance when possible.
Many kids are shy about getting to know one another. To help break the ice, we encourage your family to sit with other families during group meals.
Knowing your child, you will be able to sense when he or she may not be in the mood for a planned group activity. Don't hesitate to do something independently from the group, but try to give your guides some advance notice (so your guides don't buy too many tickets, the group doesn't wait for you, and in case your absence affects rendezvous plans later on). Your guide and the hotel staff can give you suggestions for local kid-friendly activities — including directions to the nearest toy store or park. Then you and your child can get rid of that excess energy stored up on that long bus ride by throwing around a frisbee you just bought at the toy store!
We hope you find these tips to be helpful. We're looking forward to a great trip together!
More questions? Please call our Tour Department at 425-608-4217.