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On the Road with Rick Steves Tours

As Rick Steves' Europe starts up its tour program again, we'll be reporting every Friday about what we're learning "on the road" as the pandemic becomes endemic and we "keep on travelin'."

Week 25: August 5, 2022

Tours happily completed: 592
Tours currently on the road: 20
Travelers currently on tour: 494
Travelers testing positive this week: 18 (3.6%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • August is a slower period for our tours, with many of the warmer destinations on summer hiatus. The Covid positive numbers increased slightly this week to 3.6%. We have about double that number of people leaving their tour early as family members who have not tested positive generally opt to stay with their loved one. Travel partners of someone who tests positive, also qualify for our Covid refund policy (even if they test negative).
  • While about 75% of Europeans are fully vaccinated (as well as 100% of our guides and tour members), the new variants can spread even to those who are vaccinated. We continue to embrace challenges and have successfully navigated tours for the first half of our season. However, we expect our tour-related COVID challenges to continue through the end of 2022.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • If someone on tour tests Covid positive, they're obliged to follow local protocol for quarantining, and cannot rejoin the tour. The additional expenses (accommodations, travel change fees, food, etc.) can be covered by Travel Insurance, which is highly recommended.
  • While the vast majority (over 90% of our travelers) are not impacted by a positive test, we're focused on minimizing that number and helping those that do have to leave their tour. Believing that eating as a group indoors or in poorly ventilated dining rooms may be needlessly risky, we're working to make meals safer for our upcoming groups. And to support any traveler who needs to leave the tour because of a positive test, we're dedicating more staff to help these travelers with finding accommodations, changing flights, and dealing with their travel insurance company.

What Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"The tour was a wonderful introduction to Europe for our kids. Our guides Ragen and Jesus are a great team, and we appreciate how helpful they were in making sure our COVID-anxious son felt comfortable in group settings. I was hesitant about the 2 longer bus days but they turned out very manageable with plenty of diversions. We especially enjoyed the hotels in St. Fargeau and Wengen due to their kid-friendly outdoor spaces. We are already planning our next Rick Steves Tour!"
— Anne, Best of Family Europe Tour Member

"My overall experience was outstanding. I base this on our fantastic tour guide, William, our fun and friendly group of travelers, our wonderful guides in every city and town and the quality and balance of rich cultural experiences. The group dinners and hotel locations were also amazing. I had not been out of the US for three years, so I was eager for this tour. Be warned that there is much walking and stair climbing, so be in good physical shape so you can stay happy and healthy."
— Summer, Best of Spain Tour Member

"This was our 3rd Rick Steve’s tour, and first with Covid somewhat behind us. A “wow” moment to me was around our 3rd or 4th day, when the group jelled and everyone felt very comfortable sharing with each other, taking free time with others, having lunch or dinner with different tour members or couples, sharing funny or interesting experiences, and expanding our knowledge of others as we traveled together. I realized that we were experiencing and sharing travel again — a great feeling!"
—John, Best of Munich, Salzburg & Vienna Tour Member

"Our first Rick Steves' experience was WONDERFUL! We had a great group of people to travel with. I love how the tours are set up with walking tours, education, but also down time or time to do what we want. We were able to see things that we would not have been able to see on our own. We loved the quaint hotels in great locations to walk to things. Our guides were great and so knowledgeable, patient, and helpful. It was a great experience!"
— Karen, Best of Belgium and Holland Tour Member

Week 24: July 29, 2022

Tours happily completed: 572
Tours currently on the road: 29
Travelers currently on tour: 717
Travelers testing positive this week: 17 (2.4%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • The heat wave across Europe continues with highs reaching 104F in some areas. Our guides are proactively keeping tour members cool by adjusting outdoor walking tours to the mornings, touring venues in the afternoons, and hydrating as often as possible.
  • Our Covid positive numbers decreased slightly this week to 2.4%. We have about double that number of people leaving their tour early as family members who have not tested positive generally opt to stay with their loved one. Travel partners of someone who tests positive, also qualify for our Covid refund policy (even if they test negative).
  • While about 75% of Europeans are fully vaccinated (as well as 100% of our guides and tour members), the new variants can spread even to those who are vaccinated. We continue to embrace challenges and have successfully navigated tours for the first half of our season. However, we expect our tour-related COVID challenges to continue through the end of 2022.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • If someone on tour tests Covid positive, they're obliged to follow local protocol for quarantining, and cannot rejoin the tour. The additional expenses (accommodations, travel change fees, food, etc.) can be covered by Travel Insurance, which is highly recommended.
  • While the vast majority (over 90% of our travelers) are not impacted by a positive test, we're focused on minimizing that number and helping those that do have to leave their tour. Believing that eating as a group indoors or in poorly ventilated dining rooms may be needlessly risky, we're working to make meals safer for our upcoming groups. And to support any traveler who needs to leave the tour because of a positive test, we're dedicating more staff to help these travelers with finding accommodations, changing flights, and dealing with their travel insurance company.

What Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"This was the greatest trip (Ireland) ever! My fellow passengers were wonderful; we all got along so great. Our tour guide, Lolly, was the best. I think if she wanted to take me on a tour of a dog pound, I'd go with her. Her storytelling, history lessons and enthusiasm cannot be equaled. And our bus driver, Paul, was wonderful. He was very skilled and calm and so lovely. It was difficult to travel during this time of COVID, but Lolly did her best to keep us safe."
— Paulette, Best of Ireland tour member

"We only got to do half of our tour because we got COVID and had to leave the tour, but the half that we did do was wonderful, and we were fully refunded right away for the part we couldn’t do."
— Chip, Best of Europe tour member

"Wonderful tour! Veronique was our fantastic tour manager on our “My Way” tour! Our bus driver Luc also was great! We loved the bus tour to the Loire Valley castles, the picnic under the Pont du Gard, and especially the trip to Chamonix and the Alps! Veronique did a great job of keeping us together and safe despite Covid."
— Kathy, My Way France tour member

"We really enjoyed being with other families with children the same ages as ours. Our guides Ben and Andrea were excellent. They worked hard to ensure we had a fantastic vacation despite challenges with the heat, Covid, some tour tickets (and probably other things that I was never even aware of)."
— Anna, Best of Family Europe tour member

Week 23: July 22, 2022

Tours happily completed: 550
Tours currently on the road: 35
Travelers currently on tour: 871
Travelers testing positive this week: 24 (2.8%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • Our Covid positive numbers continue to be in the range of 3-4% overall. In actuality we have about double that number of people leaving their tour early as family members who have not tested positive generally opt to stay with their loved one. Travel partners of someone who tests positive, also qualify for our Covid refund policy (even if they test negative).
  • While about 80% of Europeans are fully vaccinated, the new variants are rampant and spread even to those who are vaccinated. We expect our tour-related COVID challenges to continue through the end of 2022..

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • If someone on tour tests Covid positive, they're obliged to follow local protocol for quarantining, and cannot rejoin the tour. The additional expenses (accommodations, travel change fees, food, etc.) can be covered by Travel Insurance, which is highly recommended.
  • While the vast majority (over 90% of our travelers) are not impacted by a positive test, we're focused on minimizing that number and helping those that do have to leave their tour. Believing that eating as a group indoors or in poorly ventilated dining rooms may be needlessly risky, we're working to make meals safer for our upcoming groups. And to support any traveler who needs to leave the tour because of a positive test, we're dedicating more staff to help these travelers with finding accommodations, changing flights, and dealing with their travel insurance company.

What Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"I have to be honest, I had never heard of (Rick Steves Tours) before my wife started planning our trip, I guess I live in a bubble. I am now so very appreciative that we selected to do your tour and would NOT consider any other tour company period. I felt we were given adequate amounts of time at the sights we visited as a group. I also liked the fact that we were allowed some free time to ourselves. I can’t say enough about our guide, Colleen, very professional, we were fortunate to have her!"
— Jess, Best of Italy tour member

"This was my first Rick Steves tour and my first trip to Europe. RSE was very conscious that we were still in the middle of a pandemic and took precautions to protect guests and guides. As someone who is immunocompromised, I appreciated that all of my fellow travelers and my guides are vaccinated and that RSE has taken these precautions to protect travelers. Thank you to our guide for reminding us to wear our masks"
— Jada, Best of Munich, Salzburg, Vienna tour member

"The tour was amazing with so many places to see. It was well balanced with structured tours and plenty of free time to explore on our own. We had a bump in the road but our guides Vanessa, Stephanie, Ragen and Lisa were awesome. As well as the staff back in the States coordinating. Our driver Massimo took great care of us and was outstanding on winding mountain roads and tight turns. It was a great experience with an amazing Rick Steves team and fellow travelers."
— Lisa, Best of Italy tour member

"This was my first organized group tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Aside from relieving the pressure of planning the itinerary and logistics, it was so wonderful to experience new places with different people and to have companions all seeing things from a different point of view. Our RSE guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept things going smoothly, while our local guides made us feel like we really got the inside scoop. "
— Sarah, Heart of Italy tour member

Week 22: July 15, 2022

Tours happily completed: 532
Tours currently on the road: 31
Travelers currently on tour: 782
Travelers testing positive this week: 37 (4.7%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • Covid cases on tour inched up this week (from 3.0% to 4.7%) likely due to the new variants spreading across Europe and increasing tourist crowds during the summer months. Our cases continue to be relatively mild, but travel plans are still disrupted when positive tour members must leave their tour and isolate according to each countries requirements. 
  • We continue to have a few guides test positive each week. Thankfully the cases have been mild and, we've been able to quickly send in replacements from our seasoned guide team.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • With new Covid variants continuing to pop up, we all need to remember Covid is a reality in Europe. Most countries continue to have quarantine protocols in place and heavy fines can be placed on both traveler and hotel if the isolation restrictions are not followed.
  • Masks can help mitigate spreading the virus, so we continue to require masking on the bus and we strongly encourage it elsewhere, especially indoors. We also continue to require a pre-tour Covid self-test within 24 hours of the tour's first day to limit exposure for the group.

What Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"Although the threat of Covid was so prevalent, we decided to trust that we could be as safe as possible. The tour was fabulous, thanks to Paul Corken (our guide) and Steven (our bus driver). Ireland was a “bucket list” trip for us. We’ve wanted to go for forever and we are glad we did."
— Debra, Best of Ireland tour member

"It was great to be traveling again, and I couldn't have asked for a better guide than Pål, who was also excited to be back on the road leading tours. Scandinavia is such a beautiful part of the world, an engaging mix of natural beauty, cleanliness, organization, kind and easygoing people -- and a lot of fish! Great group also, the usual Rick Steves mix of good spirits, energy, and curiosity."
— Andy, Best of Scandinavia tour member

"I enjoyed the structure of the Rick Steves tour combined with the autonomy of the My Way experience. This was my first trip to Europe and Spain didn’t disappoint. The accommodations were quaint and immersive. James, our tour manager, was deft at navigating post-COVID changes in the cities we visited. He infused knowledge when we were curious and stepped back when we were on our own. I particularly enjoyed the city orientation walks. Our group genuinely enjoyed each other, making lasting memories. "
— Greg, My Way Spain My Way tour member

"As my first big trip since 2019, I really appreciated the ease of doing a tour (not having to research and book all the individual hotels, deciding the route, etc.), the very high quality curation for the stops and activities, and the emphasis on health and safety. I felt so much better with masks required for the group and knowing that a negative test and proof of vaccination had to be shown. "
— Alexandra, Best of Sicily tour member

Week 21: July 8, 2022

Tours happily completed: 498
Tours currently on the road: 43
Travelers currently on tour: 1,025
Travelers testing positive this week: 31 (3.0%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • Covid cases on tour are down this week (from 4.0% to 3.0%).  However, it remains an issue across Europe as they relax previous restrictions and tourist crowds increase during the summer months. Thankfully, those testing positive have had relatively mild cases but their travel plans have been disrupted by having to quarantine according the each countries restrictions. 
  • Several tour guides also tested positive and were replaced by other members of our guide team. Again, thankfully all the cases have been relatively mild.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • The end of the tour has become less stressful for our tour members since the US lifted the re-entry testing requirement on June 12. However, Covid is a reality in Europe and most countries still have protocols in place which by law must be followed. If a tour member contracts Covid during their tour and is required to quarantine, this regulation must be followed, or heavy fines could be placed on both traveler and hotel.
  • We continue to require masking on the bus (and we strongly encourage it elsewhere) and a pre-tour Covid self-test within 24 hours of the tour's first day to mitigate possible exposure for the group.

What Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"We are independent travelers, and we were a bit skeptical about joining a group. But after the first day, we were hooked. Mert, our outstanding guide, expanded our world by making this a very rich experience: he led us through back alleys, introduced us to intriguing locals, and shared in-depth historical, cultural, and personal information about whatever we were experiencing. As I look back, I am amazed at how much was packed into the 13 days. We would do it all over again in a heartbeat!"
— Esther, Best of Turkey tour member

"This was my third Rick Steves tour and it's hard not to make it my favorite. Every experience has provided such a range of new and different elements, that it always seems like it's my first trip to Europe — which it certainly isn't. We tested positive for Covid near the end of the trip — and we didn't have much to endure with it — except 8 extra days in France! Julie was an amazing leader, with a 'just right' style balance between enthusiast, teacher, and logistics expert!"
— James, Best of Eastern France tour member

"This was my 4th tour but 1st Rick Steves tour and I can see why these are the 'gold' standard. Loved the way the guides help the group became a close knit community. Well designed itinerary [and I] appreciated the balance between large cities & small towns. Enjoyed the incorporation of the local guides. Hotels were in outstanding locations, made accessing big cities like Rome and Paris easy & enjoyable. The group meals were well thought out and well organized. Even the rest stops were great!"
— Anne, Best of Europe tour member

"I was dubious about taking a group tour. I usually use Rick Steves books to plan my own travels, but I wondered what it would be like to not have to handle my own logistics and reservations, etc. Every part of our tour was FANTASTIC and I would take another tour in a heartbeat. I loved my whole experience."
— Traci, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour member

Week 20: July 1, 2022

Tours happily completed: 460
Tours currently on the road: 62
Travelers currently on tour: 1,470
Travelers testing positive this week: 61 (4.0%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • We experienced a slight increase in Covid cases this week as Europe continues to relax previous restrictions and tourist crowds increase during the summer months. Thankfully, our cases continue to present with cold-like symptoms that alert travelers and guides.
  • Several tour guides also tested positive and were replaced by other members of our guide team. Again, thankfully all the cases have been relatively mild.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • The end of the tour has become less stressful for our tour members since the US lifted the re-entry testing requirement on June 12. However, Covid is a reality in Europe and most countries still have protocols in place which by law must be followed. If a tour member contracts Covid during their tour and is required to quarantine, this regulation must be followed or heavy fines could be placed on both traveler and hotel.
  • We continue to require masking on the bus (and we strongly encourage it elsewhere) and a pre-tour Covid self-test within 24 hours of the tour's first day to mitigate possible exposure.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"Our tour was amazing, but Covid disrupted our tour group. Our tour guide was the first to test positive and had to leave the tour. Her replacement was awesome, and she jumped right in to complete the tour. That only happened because of the excellent program of Rick Steves."
— Mary, Best of Italy tour member

"A great introduction to a country about which I previously knew nothing. Using the excellent Archeological Museums, we learned about the various tribes that have occupied the region. We saw splendid examples of buildings from Roman times to the present. The murals in the monasteries and churches were remarkable for their state of preservation. But this tour excelled in opportunities to interact with Bulgarians: at a school, a presentation of folk dancing and singing, and in a small village."
— Basil, Best of Bulgaria tour member

"Our guide was firm and unwavering about wearing our masks on the bus — and we appreciated her for it! We felt "covid comfortable" while on the bus and together with our group. She was also a lot of fun and shared so much with us! I would love to take a tour with her again!"
— Joe, Paris & the Heart of France tour member

"We were extremely excited to be able to take the tour, after having our scheduled trip cancelled in 2020 due to Covid. All my expectations were met and even exceeded in many instances. Trier was a pleasant surprise, as I had not been expecting it to be so interesting. All our stops were equally well worth it, with a nice mix of fun, beautiful scenery, fascinating history, and great food and friends. I highly recommend the trip to everyone."
— Bryan, Best of Germany, Austria & Switzerland tour member

Week 19: June 24, 2022

Tours happily completed: 412
Tours currently on the road: 74
Travelers currently on tour: 1,705
Travelers testing positive this week: 49 (2.9%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • Covid cases on tour are holding steady this week. When positive cases occur, thankfully most are asymptomatic or present cold-like symptoms. Steady numbers may be due to the US discontinuing covid re-entry testing and our vigilant safety protocols.
  • We continue to actively monitor the Covid situation and adjust our policies based on the latest CDC guidelines. We continue to require masking on the bus (and we strongly encourage it elsewhere) and a pre-tour Covid self-test within 24 hours of the tour's first day.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • The end of the tour has become less stressful for our tour members since the US lifted the re-entry testing requirement on June 12. However, Covid is a reality in Europe and most countries still have protocols in place which by law must be followed. If a tour member contracts Covid during their tour and is required to quarantine, this regulation must be followed or heavy fines could be placed on both traveler and hotel.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"The scheduling and use of time was outstanding. The information the guides provided was excellent, particularly the nuances given about the people. The comradery developed among the participants added to the experience. Mostly, the hotel and dining selections were great. It would have taken me months to prepare a trip like this and I'm sure I could never have equaled the experience on my own."
— Larry, Best of Italy tour member

"I have to be honest, I had never heard of (Rick Steves Tours) before my wife started planning our trip, I guess I live in a bubble. I am now so very appreciative that we selected to do your tour and would NOT consider any other tour company period. I felt we were given adequate amounts of time at the sights we visited as a group. I also liked the fact that we were allowed some free time to ourselves. I can’t say enough about our guide, very professional, we were fortunate to have her!"
— Jess, Heart of Italy tour member

"The tour was full of fascinating ancient sites made more meaningful by our knowledgeable guide and the local guides who shared all the significance and details of each site, its place in history and mythology, and the genius of those who built the sites. The food was amazing, the tour members so enjoyable, and as always, a nice balance between group and free time. Much attention and care were given in ensuring our health and safety as we travel still in Covid times "
— Sherri, Best of Greece tour member

"This was an amazing Rick Steves' Adventure through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. First of its kind out the European Backdoor since COVID! Our guide did an excellent job leading our tour. She prepared well and then implemented well. She did a great job of listening to the members of the tour group and doing her best to meet their needs. Her communication skills kept us posted and informed, and she did a great job of sharing her knowledge to give us tour group members the best experience we could have."
— Rick, Best of Germany, Austria and Switzerland tour member

Week 18: June 17, 2022

Tours happily completed: 370
Tours currently on the road: 75
Travelers currently on tour: 1,712
Travelers testing positive this week: 49 (2.8%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries


General News

  • Covid cases are down this week from 3.5% (58 people) to 2.8% (49 people), possibly due to the US dropping the Covid test requirement for flying into the US. We're hopefull the downward trend will continue as summer approaches and we're all spending more time outside. When positive cases occur, thankfully most have been cold-like symptoms that alert travelers to take a Covid test and isolate if needed.
  • The US announced last week that re-entery testing requirements have been lifted as of Sunday, June 12. We actively monitor the Covid situation and adjust our policies based on the latest information. Currently, we're continuing to require masking on the bus (and we strongly encourage it elsewhere) and a pre-tour Covid self-test within 24 hours of the tour's first day.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • With re-entry testing lifted for the US, it makes life less stressful for our tour members and independent travelers, however, some countries still have protocols and regulations in place which by law must be followed. If you test positive while traveling and quarantining is required, this policy must be followed or heavy fines could be placed on both the traveler and hotel. We remind all travelers to be mindful of what is required and follow directives.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"We thoroughly enjoyed our Best of Germany tour, and our overall experience was on the way to being outstanding — that is until the COVID bug hit my wife while in Bacharach. I cannot think of a better place to quarantine if one must! My WOW was undoubtedly the way in which our guide Matthias, Rick Steve's staff and Travel Guard took care of our needs during the setback. We are grateful to you all."
— Paul, Best of Germany tour member

"My tour guide Marie was superb. She took the COVID protocols seriously, she provided wonderful historical insight, and even helped me bump-up my French."
— Ryan, Best of Paris tour member

"This was our first tour with Rick Steves', and it was so much more than we expected. The itinerary was full and busy, but we always had time to rest in between stops. Our tour guide Vanessa with her knowledge and personality made this trip to Italy fun and enjoyable. Our bus driver Massimo was an awesome driver and we always felt safe. "
— Richard, Best of Italy tour member

"It is hard to put a value on the luxury of having Rick Steves plan the itinerary, accommodations, travel, almost half the meals, professional tour guides, and resource of a full-time guide for questions. Time is the most valuable resource we had once we were in Germany, and the tour maximized our experience. Priceless."
— Sean, Best of Germany tour member

Week 17: June 10, 2022

Tours happily completed: 324
Tours currently on the road: 74
Travelers currently on tour: 1,676
Travelers testing positive this week: 58 (3.5%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries are now running.


General News

  • Breaking news: The US is expected to end the Covid testing requirement for international passengers flying into the US beginning Sunday, June 12. The CDC will reassess this decision in 90 days. While this will make travel in Europe much easier for Americans, in the interest of keeping our groups safe and healthy RSE will keep the same policies for participating in a tour. We’ll continue to require a negative pre-tour test and masking while on the bus and when social distancing isn’t possible.
  • Covid cases on tour were up this week (2.3% to 3.5%; 39 to 58 people) with a portion of the bump attributed to several tours with multiple (5-7) cases. The majority of positive cases continue to occur when people who are asymptomatic take the required test before returning to the US.
  • We also had several guides test positive before or during their tours. While not always easy in peak season, our team found solutions to continue the tours with the least disruption possible. One group ended up meeting four different guides throughout their nine-day journey!

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Due to increasing Covid cases throughout Europe and on our tours, we require pre-tour testing in our endeavor to help keep our tour groups healthy. Within 24 hours of the tours start, tour members must self-test and present a negative test result to their guide before the welcome meeting. At that time, the guides also verify that everyone in the group is fully vaccinated and boosted. This way we know our tours start with a healthy group.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"This was our first travel out of the country since November 2019. We had originally scheduled this trip for September 2020 so were so excited as May 2022 arrived and the trip was still on. Covid was still a factor. But we were willing to do whatever it took! Even with the inconvenience of the mask requirement on our flights, having to wear the masks in our group meetings and in museums, it was so great to be back in Europe. The required Covid test for reentry to the US was easily done."
— Joan, Best of South Italy tour member

"We waited three long years for a green light to keep on traveling with Rick Steves! We were excited about this itinerary. It was so fun to meet our guide, Tara, and our tour group members. The sweetest thing was seeing how happy all the vendors and other RS tour guides were to see us since we were the first GAS tour since COVID. We found some wonderful friends on the tour, too...and we fell in love again with Germany, Austria, and Switzerland!"
— Tanya, Best of Germany, Austria & Switzerland tour member

"We had a great time on this tour! I was a bit skeptical at first because I have never been to Europe nor been on a tour like this. My skepticism quickly vanished once I met my wonderful tour family and guide. This tour gave me the confidence to venture off on my own and feed my travel bug. Some of the activities we did, I would have never done on my own. From the food to the sites, this tour was an amazing life experience."
— Miguel, Best of Europe tour member

Week 16: June 3, 2022

Tours happily completed: 274
Tours currently on the road: 77
Travelers currently on tour: 1,695
Travelers testing positive this week: 39 (2.3%)
Itineraries in gear: All 46 itineraries are now running.


General News

  • Our Covid numbers are slightly lower than last week (44 cases to 39; 2.4% to 2.3%). The trend continues of most positive cases coming at the end of tours, when a pre-flight testing is required for entry into the US. If a traveler tests positive, they cannot fly back to the US and must abide by local quarantine rules until they test negative.
  • There were a couple Covid-related guide issues that required some scheduling acrobatics. Thankfully, and as usual, the collective team pitched in and our back-up guides reported for duty, with the tours proceeding as otherwise planned.
  • In a sign that travel is returning to a pre-Covid “normal,” guides are reporting that crowds are abundant in many places and smart planning (including reservations) is a must. On tour, we’re benefiting from the research of our guidebook team members, who have been busy learning the latest details and tips.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Due to increasing Covid cases throughout Europe and on our tours, we have reinstated our pre-tour testing requirement in our endeavor to keep our tours safe and healthy. Within 24 hours of the tours start, tour members must self-test and present a negative test result to their guide before the welcome meeting. At that time, the guides also verify that everyone in the group is fully vaccinated and boosted. This way we know our tours start with a healthy group.
  • Covid Testing Centers are becoming scarce in some countries. Make sure to plan ahead and book appointments at testing facilities if required. On tour, our guides are helping to facilitate this.
  • Guides are discovering that websites for venues are not always updating their Covid regulations and changes which in turn makes them unreliable at times. On tour, guides are minimizing this inconvenience. If traveling on your own, we recommend calling for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"This was my first tour ever & I couldn't have been happier with the experience! I was very impressed with how quickly the Rick Steves organization pivoted when our guide became ill — the tour seamlessly continued with a new guide quickly joining us. The information & orientation walks offered by the guides were much appreciated & the optional activities & dinners they arranged were outstanding. Travel by train & coach was a snap, & hotels were mostly excellent. Can't wait to do another tour!"
— Dana, My Way Spain tour member

"I tested positive for Covid on day five of the tour. My husband and I stopped our touring experience in Kardamyli, Greece, quarantining in the RS hotel. All in all, it was not a bad place to have to quarantine. Our RS tour guide got me (and several others who also tested positive) a nice doctor who came in person to check us out. She was extremely diligent and gave me confidence. I recovered in 5 days and continued on through Greece off the tour."
— Jennifer, Best of Athens & the Heart of Greece tour member

"It was a great tour. Our first international trip since the covid outbreak. The need to test negative in order to get back into the US put a slight damper on the trip, but everyone did their best to stay healthy and it was still great to travel again."
     "Our guide, Sarah was very helpful in providing answers to all of our Italy questions, but also in providing reassurance and information concerning covid restrictions. We had a tour member test positive during the tour and Sarah assured us we would not be abandoned if we tested positive and kept us appraised of the status of our two tour members who stayed behind in Matera."
— Robert, Best of South Italy tour member

"It was exciting to finally be on the road again! And to be the first Rick Steve's tour to Eastern Europe in 3 years. The tour was made all the better by our fantastic and extremely kind guide, Peter. We had a very good group of travelers who meshed well, no grumps, no weirdos. The hotels were very good and always interesting in some way."
— Kathleen, Best of Eastern Europe tour member

Week 15: May 27, 2022

Tours happily completed: 223
Tours currently on the road: 84
Travelers currently on tour: 1,843
Travelers testing positive this week: 44 (2.4%)
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; My Way Italy; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Basque Country of Spain & France; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France; Best of Eastern France; Loire to the South of France; Best of London; Best of South England; Best of Ireland; Heart of Ireland; Best of Scotland; Heart of Scotland; Best of Europe in 21 Days; Best of Europe in 14 Days; Best of Poland; Best of Switzerland; Best of Prague & Budapest; Best of Bulgaria; Best of Eastern Europe


General News

  • This week was our busiest yet with more tours and travelers on the road than at any other point this year. We successfullly completed our first Best of Switzerland tour of the year fulfilling many alpine dreams, and our first tour of Bulgaria got underway for the fortunate travelers exploring this underrated country.
  • Our positive COVID numbers were a bit lower this week — down to 2.4% from 3.1% — despite having over 200 more travelers on the road. The past week's cases were more isolated with many of them being diagnosed at the end of the tour when taking the required test to fly back to the US. COVID positive travelers are required to stay in country until they test negative, meaning a prolonged vacation and additional expense.
  • Several tour guides also tested positive and were replaced by other members of our team. Thankfully all of the cases have been relatively mild with symptoms ranging from nothing to cold- and flu- like.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Due to the increased number of COVID cases throughout Europe and on our tours, we have reinstated the pre-tour testing requirement. Within 24 hours of the tours start, tour members must self-test and present a negative test result to their guide before the Welcome meeting. At that time, the guides also verify that everyone in the group is fully vaccinated and boosted.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"It was great to be traveling again after COVID. Patricia, our tour guide was amazing and fun loving as well as very aware of health and safety protocols. I loved seeing her reconnect with hotel owners after the 2.5 years that she did not travel with Rick Steves."
— Alison, Village Italy tour member

"My husband and I were so excited to finally be on a Rick Steves tour again. Ireland was every bit as beautiful and lush as expected. The Irish people shared their warm hospitality, talents, and humor. The food and drink were delicious, and our accommodations were close to the action and comfortable. Activities were varied, informative, and fun. The weather was even quite pleasant. As usual, we especially enjoyed meeting and interacting with our fellow tour members."
— Carolyn, Heart of Ireland tour member

"This was a very enjoyable tour: beautiful countryside, good food & wine, interesting sights. Our guide Arnaud was very informative and fun to travel with and our driver, Philipe, was excellent. We also had a very nice group of fellow travelers to enjoy the trip with. It was so fun getting to France after two years of trying!"
— Melinda, South of France tour member

"My overall experience was outstanding. I base this on our fantastic tour guide, William, our fun and friendly group of travelers, our wonderful guides in every city and towns and the quality and balance of rich cultural experiences. The group dinners and hotel locations were also amazing. I had not been out of the US for three years, so I was eager for this tour. Be warned that there is much walking and stair climbing, so be in good physical shape so you can stay happy and healthy."
— Summer, Best of Spain tour member

Week 14: May 20, 2022

Tours happily completed: 168
Tours currently on the road: 81
Travelers currently on tour: 1,614
Travelers testing positive this week: 51 (3.1%)
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; My Way Italy; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Basque Country of Spain & France; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France; Best of Eastern France; Loire to the South of France; Best of London; Best of South England; Best of Ireland; Heart of Ireland; Best of Scotland; Heart of Scotland; Best of Europe in 21 Days; Best of Europe in 14 Days; Best of Poland


General News

  • The Basque Country, Loire to the South of France, and Scotland tours had their debuts for the year. And the first ever Best of Poland tour was successfully completed! All guides reported that things went relatively smoothly and that travelers to these areas are in for a fun year ahead!
  • Mid-May marks the start of the traditional high season for European travel and this year is no exception. People from around the world are eagerly heading back to the most popular destinations, and crowds are close to the pre-pandemic levels. Smart planning (including taking a tour) is essential to maximizing your time and overall experience.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • This was our toughest week yet for COVID cases and travelers impacted. Over the past week, we had 51 people test positive (3.1% of all on the road). Two tours were hit especially hard, with over half the tour members testing positive and having to quarantine at some point.
  • Several tour guides also tested positive and were replaced by other members of our team. Again, thankfully all the cases have been relatively mild, with symptoms ranging from none to cold- and flu-like.
  • Based on local regulations, in early May we dropped the requirement for tour members to provide a negative COVID test, prior to joining the tour. We maintained the requirement to mask on the bus and continued to strongly suggest masking elsewhere. But because of the increased number of COVID cases throughout Europe and on our tours, we have reinstated the pre-tour negative test requirement. Before the Welcome meeting, guides check this, and verify that everyone in the group is fully vaccinated and boosted.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"Rick Steves' Tours picked up right where they left off pre COVID. An amazing tour with an exceptional guide (Paul) and fantastic local guides. As in the states some things are still closed or have limited hours due to staffing issues, but that didn't diminish the experience. Ireland is a beautiful, scenic country. Locals are excited to see people again & engage in conversation. Paul added wonderful experiences outside the itinerary with local flavor incorporating food, drink, music & dance. "
— Beth, Best of Ireland tour member

"We toured Central and Southern Europe for two weeks. The Rick Steves tour was well organized. The accommodations were terrific and in good locations. Our guide and bus driver had years of experience working for Rick Steves Tours! Their advice helped make touring safe and fun. Our group learned to safely travel on buses, trains and taxis. Our tour included a nice mix of scheduled activities and free time to explore on our own. Following our tour we traveled in England for two weeks on our own!"
— Vicki, Best of Europe tour member

"This was our first Rick Steves' tour and it did not disappoint! Everything went smoothy from start to finish. From our fun and informed travel guide, Daniela to our amazing bus driver, Roberto to the wonderful people and food of Italy. We covered a lot of territory and packed in a full schedule of amazing sites and experiences. Learned much from Daniela and all of the professional guides along the way! I had a wonderful time and am already planning my next Rick Steves' adventure! Thank you!"
— Daniel, Best of Italy tour member

"Tour was amazing. The tour was well put together with a good balance of site seeing and meeting with locals. The tour guide (Apostolos) was outstanding. We were concerned as we re-enter the touring scene; however, everyone (including the locals) was considerate of each other. This was our 9th trip and I think it was the best one to date."
— Myron, Athens & the Heart of Greece tour member

Week 13: May 13, 2022

Tours happily completed: 146
Tours currently on the road: 51
Travelers currently on tour: 1,182
Travelers testing positive this week: 29 (2.4%)
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; My Way Italy; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France; Best of Eastern France; Best of London; Best of South England; Best of Ireland; Heart of Ireland; Best of Europe in 21 Days; Best of Europe in 14 Days


General News

  • The majority of our tours continue to carry on as planned. Tour members, guides, drivers, hoteliers, and other partners are happy we're back and able to experience the joys of Europe and travel!
  • There was a slight rise in the percentage of travelers testing positive last week (2.4%, up from 1.9%). Most groups have been unscathed, while those hit have had one or two people test positive, with most of those cases showing up at the end of the tour when testing to re-enter the US.
  • A couple of tours have seen a more significant impact: A Best of Ireland group had six people test positive and a 14-day Best of Europe group had 10 travelers quarantine at various times during and after the tour.
  • This week we've also had one guide test positive before a tour and two guides who tested positive while on tour. While they couldn't continue with their groups, we had other guides on standby who were able to carry on with very little impact to the tour.
  • While these situations aren't fun, no one has needed medical attention. With everyone being vaccinated and boosted, the cases have either been asymptomatic or involved cold-like symptoms. Patience and flexibility continue to be paramount.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

Each week, we continue to encounter the same types of pandemic bumps. The most important lesson we've learned is that each group member not only needs to be responsible for their own health but also for the collective health of the group. For the best chance of enjoying a healthy tour, we ask our tour members to follow these basic steps:

  • Be up to date on COVID vaccinations and boosters: For each tour member we require proof of original vaccination series (either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of J&J) and all eligible boosters, in accordance with EU entry requirements. Our guides check CDC cards at the welcome meeting on the first day of the tour.
  • Wear a mask: We currently require medical-grade (N95, KN95, KF94) masks on our buses. We also ask tour members to be proactive about wearing a mask in crowded and indoor spaces whether they're with the group or enjoying free time. When travelers test positive, it's a headache. Being diligent about wearing a mask and other basic COVID hygiene is a must for a successful trip.
  • Review our Health & Safety Pledge: All tour members are required to sign our Health & Safety Pledge in order to participate on our tours. Before joining a tour, please review this agreement. Once on tour, challenging any of our health and safety policies is disruptive for the entire group. We remind tour members that our guides are following protocols set in place by our company to ensure the health and safety of the group — and a successful tour for everyone from beginning to end.
  • Listen to your guide: Our guides continue to be vigilant about asking group members to test when not feeling well and wear masks in crowded spaces. As more people are traveling and COVID cases persist, we've asked our guides to continue to enforce mask wearing and social distancing.
  • Be prepared to quarantine: A small percentage of tour members have contracted COVID and needed to quarantine (5–7 days on average). The associated costs (hotel room, food, and flight changes) can get expensive, but these costs may be covered by insurance. We strongly encourage every traveler to consider travel insurance. This has proven to be a worthwhile investment for tour members who have tested positive.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"This was my fourth RS tour and it continued a streak of fantastic adventures in Europe over the last several years. Our tour guide Claudia was ready to go and navigated the COVID-19 requirements and restrictions with ease. I loved Portugal; the people we met were all very happy to see us back visiting their country. The food, if you like seafood, which I do, was fantastic, the group meals were all very good. This is a great tour and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in seeing Portugal."
— Mark, Heart of Portugal tour member

"Our tour guide, Marianna, was the best! She was really in tune with our group and made everyone comfortable on their first trips abroad after the pandemic. The local city guides could not be beat either. I loved the balance of planned activities and free time. Of course the food and scenery couldn't be beat."
— Carol, Heart of Italy tour member

"This was our third Rick Steves tour and it was outstanding, as expected. Other than a positive COVID test the day before the scheduled fly-home day, which resulted in our staying four extra nights until a negative test, the overall experience was amazing and highly educational."
— Anne, Best of Ireland tour member

"The tour guides made the trip! Despite changes in procedures and additional restrictions due to COVID, both Trina and Vanessa handled everything flawlessly and with aplomb. They were gracious and hard working, answering questions, getting information and making the whole trip virtually problem free, easy, and totally enjoyable."
— Camile, Best of Italy tour member

Week 12: May 6, 2022

Tours happily completed: 107
Tours currently on the road: 47
Travelers currently on tour: 1,129
Travelers testing positive this week: 22 (1.9%)
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; My Way Italy; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France; Best of Eastern France; Best of London; Best of South England; Best of Ireland; Heart of Ireland; Best of Europe in 21 Days; Best of Europe in 14 Days


General News

  • The tour season is in full swing with nearly all our itineraries now running. Guides and travelers continue to send similar reports — travel is fairly normal despite COVID precautions and they’re happy to be back enjoying all that Europe offers.
  • COVID restrictions continue to ease but the virus is still present and problematic. While locals mostly carry on as normal, travelers face the reality of quarantine if they test positive. Learn how to mitigate the possibility of catching COVID below.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine tragically continues, and citizens of these two countries continue to flee. The human toll is immense, but it has not significantly impacted travel outside the immediate region. Our first ever Best of Poland tour (with all five guides who will lead the tour this year aboard) is scheduled to start this week.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

Each week, we continue to encounter the same types of pandemic bumps. The most important lesson we’ve learned is that each group member not only needs to be responsible for their own health but also for the collective health of the group. For the best chance of enjoying a healthy tour, we ask our tour members to follow these basic steps:

  • Be up to date on COVID vaccinations and boosters: To participate in an RSE tour, we require proof of original vaccination series (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, one dose of J&J) and all eligible boosters in accordance with EU entry requirements. Our guides check CDC cards at the welcome meeting on the first day of the tour.
  • Wear a mask: We currently require medical grade (N95, KN95, KF94) masks on our buses. We also ask tour members to be proactive about wearing a mask in crowded and indoor spaces whether they’re with the group or enjoying free time. When travelers test positive, it’s a headache. Being diligent about wearing a mask and other basic COVID hygiene is a must for a successful trip.
  • Review our Health & Safety Pledge: All tour members are required to sign our Health & Safety Pledge in order to participate on our tours. Before joining a tour, please review this agreement. Once on tour, challenging any of our health and safety policies is disruptive for the entire group. We remind tour members that our guides are following protocols set in place by our company to ensure the health and safety of the group — and a successful tour for everyone from beginning to end.
  • Listen to your guide: Our guides continue to be vigilant about asking group members to test when not feeling well and wear masks in crowded spaces. As more people are travelling and COVID cases persist, we’ve asked our guides to continue to enforce mask wearing and social distancing.
  • Be prepared to quarantine: A small percentage of tour members have contracted COVID and needed to quarantine (5-7 days on average). The associated costs (hotel room, food, and flight changes) can get expensive, but these costs may be covered by insurance. We strongly encourage every traveler to consider travel insurance. This has proven to be a worthwhile investment for tour members who have tested positive.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"This tour was a very good way to experience Greece for the first time, and especially during COVID. We felt very safe the entire time. The tours were good with really good local guides. But the best part about our tour was our guide, Fillipos, who brought the places we visited to life with great stories and personal insight."
— Charles, Athens & the Heart of Greece tour member

"Ron and I thank you for your help and understanding after my fall that beautiful afternoon near Pitigliano during our Rick Steves Tuscany tour. Although we could not continue with you through to Lucca or on to Spain as planned, we have been able to experience other aspects of Italy and the kindness of strangers in Pitigliano and Orbetello. Most of this is due to the ability and ethos of the Rick Steves organization, of his guides and their local connections, and of fellow travelers. This is what keeps us coming back. If you plan more trips, you can be confident that with RS on your side, even an ugly fall can show you a beautiful landing."
— Leilani and Ron, Best of Tuscany tour members

"On about day eight I called Karin and told her I needed to talk with her. She intuited sufficiently to bring along COVID tests. I knew I did not have COVID symptoms but a mere miserable common cold and took the test — negative. But she was helpful and clear through the moment and clearly knew what she was doing."
— Robert, Best of Sicily tour member

Week 11: April 29, 2022

Week 11: April 29, 2022

Tours happily completed: 83
Tours currently on the road: 66
Travelers currently on tour: 1,457
Travelers testing positive this week: 18 (1.2%)
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; My Way Italy; Village Italy; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France; Best of Eastern France; Best of London; Best of South England; Best of Ireland; Heart of Ireland; Best of Europe in 21 Days; Best of Europe in 14 Days.


General News

  • Several itineraries had their 2022 debut this week: Best of Eastern France, Village Italy, My Way Italy, Best of South England, and Best of Europe in 14 Days. The tour season is almost up to full speed!
  • Our Adriatic tour was recently challenged by a 5.8 earthquake in Bosnia, resulting in the guide smartly revising the itinerary so her group could have a touching moment near the Old Town in Mostar, while keeping group safety the priority. A local guide, Edo, spoke about landslide damage caused by the incident and explained how the locals would start planting trees on land recently devastated by forest fires, as a natural barrier to prevent further landslides. As the group was leaving, an unexpected envelope was given to Edo, and more trees will be planted in the name of the TMs who witnessed that day. It was described as unbelievably beautiful. As the group settled into Mostar and sat together for dinner, they received a call from Rick. Tina conveyed the group's feelings best as "it added a bit of special to an already unique day."

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Our guides continue to be vigilant in asking people to be proactive in the interest of group health: test when not feeling well and wear medical grade masks on our buses. Even though Europe is loosening up restirctions, COVID cases persist and we continue to enforce mask wearing and social distancing.
  • Group awareness and respect is part of our ongoing theme in keeping tours on the road and groups safe and healthy. We ask tour members to wear their mask in crowded and indoor spaces whether they're with the group or enjoying free time, and to embrace the idea that staying healthy individually is key to keeping the group healthy.
  • We remind our tour members that while there's less than a 2 percent chance of contracting COVID while on tour, it can happen and a positive test can be expensive as it results in leaving the tour and/or delaying your flight home in order to quarantine. These costs (hotel room, food, and flight changes) can be covered by insurance, so we strongly recommend tour members consider insurance. Coverage, which can be purchased up until the day of departure, has been a worthwhile investment for tour members who've tested positive.
  • Although quarantine and isolation requirements vary by location, we're finding that most often the delay in returning to the US is at least 10 days. For example: If a person tests positive and isolates for five days, they must test negative on the fifth day to re-enter the US. If they continue to test positive, the CDC mandates they complete a minimum total of 10 days in quarantine before they can obtain a recovery letter signed by a doctor which allows them to re-enter the US.
  • Tour members are required to agree to our Health & Safety Pledge, COVID Liability Waiver, and company COVID policies to participate on our tours. We remind tour members that our guides are following protocols set in place by our company to ensure the health and safety of the group and a successful tour for everyone from beginning to end. That's why, so far, 98.8 percent of the travelers who've joined us in 2022 have had no COVID-related problems.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"I have looked forward to this tour since Covid cancelled my 2020 tour. It was everything I hoped for — great guide and local guides, well planned and lots to see and learn."
— Anne Marie, Best of Sicily tour member

"Navigating Covid was a challenge but doable. Love the mask requirement on bus. We wore our masks in every indoor setting and public transportation with exception of breakfast or the group meals. We ate outdoors except for group meals and masked up inside shops."
— Michael, Heart of Belgium & Holland tour member

"This was our first guided tour, but I hope it will not be our last. We were very impressed with our tour guide, Helen (who was endlessly informative and entertaining), the level of organization (especially given the two-year hiatus between tours, with many former businesses no longer in existence), and the flexible attitude of our fellow travelers. The group dinners were fun, we learned a lot, and remarked on how quiet our hotel rooms were (old buildings are the best)."
— Paula, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour member

Week 10: April 22, 2022

Tours happily completed: 65
Tours currently on the road: 57
Travelers currently on tour: 1,026
Travelers testing positive this week: 14 (1.37%)
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France; Best of London; Best of Ireland; Heart of Ireland; Best of Europe in 21 Days


General News

  • The first of our flagship itinerary, Best of Europe in 21 days is underway with veteran guide Dimi and apprentice Matti leading the group from Amsterdam, down to Rome and back up to Paris.  Regardless of how experienced, we like our guides to crosstrain throughout our tour program, so they have a familiarity and understanding of how all Rick Steves tours work. One of our long-time drivers, Richard from Heidebloem, was ecstatic to be back on the road, doing what he loves best — taking care of our travelers and his bus. This lucky tour group is in for a great experience!
  • Our Ireland program also started this week with departures of both the 8-day Heart of Ireland and the 14-day Best of Ireland tours full of happy tour members enjoying the spectacular coastlines, glorious scenery, historical sites, and music-filled pubs of the Emerald Isle.
  • When traveling, whether in a group or on your own, challenges inevitably arise. With patience, flexibility, and a positive attitude, they often make for the best adventures and memories! On a recent Spain tour, one day started cold and rainy with a road closure en route to the next stop. Then (surprise!) it snowed 5 inches! Facing these conditions, our guide Javier went into proactive mode asking for advice from a police officer and the bus was allowed access to an alternative route to the Valley of the Fallen. This gave Javier the opportunity to provide a “bonus” tour and introduction to the Spanish Civil War and the site blanketed in a winter wonderland of snow. Javier said it was one of his most surreal days ever (5 inches of snow in April? Very unexpected). Our tour members later warmed up at our tour hotel and enjoyed a paella feast.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • As preventative measures, our guides continue to be vigilant in asking people to test when not feeling well and require medical grade (N95, KN95, KF94) masks on our buses. Due to increases in positive cases in Europe, guides are raising the bar when it comes to wearing masks and social distancing. Group awareness and respect is part of our ongoing theme in keeping tours viable and tour members healthy. We ask tour members to be proactive about wearing a mask in crowded and indoor spaces whether they're with the group or enjoying free time. Even if the locals aren't so diligent, a responsibility of traveling as part of a group is taking care of our collective health. When travelers test positive, it can be a headache. It's well worth being diligent about wearing a mask and other basic COVID hygiene.
  • It's important to be aware of the reality of contracting COVID while traveling. It can be very expensive for tour members to quarantine because of a positive test result. These costs (hotel room, food, and flight changes) can be covered by insurance, so we strongly encourage every traveler to consider travel insurance. Remember coverage can be purchased up until the day of departure. This has proven to be a worthwhile investment for tour members who have tested positive.
  • Tour members are required to agree to our Health & Safety Pledge, COVID Liability Waiver, and company COVID policies to participate on our tours. Once on tour, challenging any of our safety requests or agreements can lead to disruption for the entire group. We remind tour members that our guides are following protocols set in place by our company to ensure the health and safety of the group and a great tour for everyone from beginning to end.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"This was the trip of a lifetime. We had never taken a tour before and honestly only signed up for a tour this time because we were nervous about the Covid complexities, but were amazed how much richness and depth the guides brought to our trip. Our tour guide was amazing, so skilled and caring, and so much fun! The local guides taught us so much about the history and culture of the places we visited. Absolutely everything about the trip exceeded expectations."
— Roberta, Heart of Italy tour member

"Our trip to Turkey with our guide, Yaren, was the experience of a lifetime. After ten RS tours, we really thought that we had seen the best of the best. Yaren's enthusiasm, knowledge, preparation, and genuine dedication to the care of her travelers was the best we have ever experienced within this or any other travel company. Having a resource that could speak to us on a variety of different levels about history, archaeology, art, religion, and the development of the Republic was great."
— Raeford, Best of Turkey tour member

"Our guide always brought the history together for you as you traveled through the sites. Was fun and shared her love of Greece and its culture. Totally enjoyed “bus talks.” Maria was very helpful when decisions had to be made with Covid exposures. I know it was also difficult for her to have to leave members behind. She made sure we were taken care of."
— Ruth, Best of Greece tour member

"From my perspective, Karin handled the Covid incident extremely well and professional. She shared equal concern for both the impacted Covid tour member and the rest of the tour group. Between Karin and folks following her guidance, no one else was impacted and the tour proceeded just fine. Kudos to everyone involved."
— Robert, Best of Sicily tour member

"Nina was an enthusiastic and very empathetic guide. She worked constantly behind the scenes to make sure in advance that each day came off as smoothly as possible. The local guides were all very good to excellent. Overall we had an excellent time as we always do with RS tours."
— John, Heart of Belgium & Holland tour member

Week 9: April 15, 2022

Week 9: April 15, 2022

Tours happily completed: 50
Tours currently on the road: 25
Travelers currently on tour: 524
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of the Adriatic; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Best of Tuscany; Best of South Italy; Best of Sicily; Best of Venice, Florence & Rome; Best of Italy; Heart of Italy; Best of Rome; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland; Best of Paris; Paris & the Heart of France


General News

  • This week's list of 16 Rick Steves itineraries currently on the road includes the debut of our new Best of Tuscany tour, the first-ever departure for this itinerary, after many years of planning. It was all set to launch in 2020 with eight sold out departures but never ran due to the pandemic. In the fall of 2019, a group of guides who will lead the tour this year along with the office staff who support it, did a trial run, and are now thrilled to get it underway. It was definitely worth the wait! Look for more details next week as we report on the completion of this exciting new tour.
  • Tours continue to run as scheduled and mostly as planned. While we've had several travelers who've tested positive for COVID, none have resulted in any illness that required medical attention. Thankfully, as we require all our tour members and guides to be fully vaccinated and boosted, cases have been mild to asymptomatic.
  • Countries continue to update and relax their COVID protocols with many moving forward as if the most serious part of the pandemic is over. In general, Europe has higher vaccination rates which allows them to be more relaxed than the US. While masking mandates are slowly lifting in Europe, on our tours we require masking on buses and strongly encourage masking indoors and in crowds, for the protection of all. A negative test is still required within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the US which can ground anyone who tests positive, even if asymptomatic. Our policies are intended to protect the group and for all to enjoy a worry-free trip.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • With Europe further easing COVID restrictions and the number of tour members increasing, we've seen a slight increase in our group members testing positive, most often as they test for their return to the US. Thankfully, all who've tested positive have been asymptomatic or have had mild symptoms with no need for medical attention. However, testing positive means they must quarantine in accordance with the specific country's regulations (usually about five days but may be longer if positive tests persist). In total, we've had about 40 cases among the 1000+ travelers that have completed our tours, so far. In other words, about 4 percent of our travelers (one out of 25) have tested positive resulting in quarantines and delayed homecomings.
  • Our guides continue to be vigilant in asking people to test when not feeling well and to wear masks on the bus and when indoors. Because of the positive tests, guides are raising the bar when it comes to mask wearing and social distancing.
  • One lesson we've learned: having to delay your return home because of a positive test can be expensive (room and food for the days you're in quarantine and changing your flight return date). As these costs can be covered by insurance, we strongly encourage every traveler to consider travel insurance. Remember travel insurance can be purchased up until the day of departure. This has proven to be a worthwhile investment for tour members who have tested positive.

A shout out and praise to our European superheroes of the week!

  • In Greece, Panos Angelo at the Hotel Panorama in Monemvasia, along with Greece guide Maria and office staff, assisted in helping a group of COVID-positive travelers with accommodation, food, and post-quarantine transportation back to Athens. (In this case, seven people tested positive on one of our Greece tours and two travel partners stayed with them.) Rumor has it they made the most of their extended vacation, enjoying food, wine, and outdoor (masked) walks. They have been forever dubbed the "Covidteers"!
  • In Sicily, Giacomo at the Hotel Romano House in Catania, was instrumental in helping a quarantined tour member navigate Italian regulations and get home after her isolation period was complete. It's because of our friends in Europe that we can safely and successfully support our tour members as we navigate the inevitable COVID challenges.
  • To make the most of your tour, mask up and take all precautions recommended by RSE and your guide. While breakthrough cases happen, wearing a mask and taking simple precautions are the surest ways to enjoy your trip and return home as planned!

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"Just finished my first Heart of Belgium and Holland tour. We had snow, heavy rain, icy winds, hail, and some sun, but the group was incredibly resilient. Much respect to the tour members who were very flexible and complied with all the mask wearing rules!"
— Nico, Heart of Belgium & Holland tour guide

"I just finished my third tour of the season, and I am on a constant wave of happiness and gratitude to be able to do again what I love. Coming back to the cities and places I have not been to for over two years makes my heart beat a little faster and seeing all my friends fills me with immense joy. Finally, we are reunited again. What makes me the happiest is seeing again the smiling faces and teary eyes of our guests, whose travel dreams finally became a reality. Pure joy!"
— Tina, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour guide

"Very informed, personable guide who helped to keep us all safe from COVID. Great cities with so many wonderful sites. Good balance of planned tours and free time. Being an experienced traveler, but not having traveled for several years, I had some anxiety, especially with COVID. Providing expectations about walking and terrain allowed me to prepare in advance and understand the rigors. Although we were tired, who is not when you pack lots of things into a ten-day vacation?"
— Susan, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour member

"The whole tour experience with RSE far exceeded any expectation I may have had. The rooms were relatively large and comfortable, the staff from hotel owners down to the maids were very friendly, welcoming, and helpful. The breakfasts and dinners were excellent. The tour guides were all friendly, knowledgeable, and patient with all our questions. And finally, the combination of guided tours and free time provided a perfect balance to see all we came to see!"
— Martin, Heart of Italy tour member

Week 8: April 8, 2022

Week 8: April 8, 2022

Tours happily completed: 35
Tours currently on the road: 18
Travelers currently on tour: 414
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of Sicily; Heart of Italy; Best of Turkey; Best of Rome; Venice, Florence & Rome; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland, Best of Paris


General News

  • It was our busiest week yet, with over 400 travelers on tour across the continent. Logistically, we're finding that entry into museums, sights, and restuarants hasn't been a problem. All our travelers are required to be vaccinated and boosted and the CDC vaccination card qualifies for the local equivalent, which provides easy access to venues. Travel is back and getting ever closer to normal!

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Travel is indeed getting closer to normal but COVID cases continue to pop up with about 15 cases amid 400 travelers. The most common incidence is when people take the required test before flying back to the US and get a positive result. Thankfully most cases have been asymptomatic or extremely mild. So far, no one has required medical attention.

    The bigger issue is local quarantine requirements. In most countries, there's a five-day quarantine once someone tests positive and that time is spent in a hotel. If asymptomatic, they're allowed to go out but masking is required. As soon as they test negative, or when the five-day quarantine (with no symptoms) is completed, they're allowed to move on and continue their travels. Our policy is that they can't rejoin the tour. However, we remain in contact to ensure they're well taken care of and have what they need to manage their quarantine and safely return home. We also offer a generous COVID refund policy if tour days are missed.

    With the potential for the additional costs of extended hotel stays, food services, and airline change fees, we continue to remind tour members they can purchase travel insurance up until the day of departure.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"I was planning my very first trip to Europe and I had always wanted to go to Paris, France! I had watched Rick Steves for years on PBS and he was always so helpful about European travel tips. I decided to book a tour with his company, and I was not disappointed! We hit everything that I had wanted to hit! We even got free time to go and explore on our own. I stayed on an extra week after the tour to do some more sightseeing and my guide was so helpful in answering any questions I had."
— Erika, Best of Paris tour member

"Wonderful, amazing...met and exceeded past experiences with RS. Appreciate the attention paid to Covid related challenges with traveling again. The smaller tour size made things more comfortable in post-Covid times. Alfio excelled in knowledge and ability to share his country."
— Diane, Best of Sicily tour member

"After very difficult years we are back! 12 days In Portugal! Cheers to life!"
— Claudia, Best of Portugal tour guide

Week 7: April 1, 2022

Tours happily completed: 25
Tours currently on the road: 20
Travelers currently on tour: 359
Itineraries in gear: Athens & the Heart of Greece; Best of Sicily; Heart of Italy; Best of Turkey; Best of Rome; Venice, Florence & Rome; Heart of Portugal; Best of Spain; Best of Barcelona & Madrid; Heart of Belgium & Holland, Best of Paris


General News

  • Seven more tours are in the books for the 2022 tour season bringing the total completed to 25. That's two and half times as many that ran in all of 2020! And we're just getting started. This week the Best of Spain and Heart of Belgium & Holland tours made their debuts for the season. While Italy, Greece, and Turkey continue with a variety of itineraries and departures in motion. Generally mild weather makes those destinations favorites during this time of year. Our guides are absolutely thrilled to be back on the road with their Rick Steves tour groups.
  • We continue to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine and the impact on the neighboring countries. While we don't have any tours currently operating in the area, we've been getting reports from our local guides, keeping us appraised of the situation. Budapest native George Farkas shared this comment from private clients he recently explored his beautiful city with: "We did have concerns about traveling to the region given what we hear about the conflict and refugees. We found the tourist areas of Budapest orderly, clean, and quite easy to navigate by public transportation. Everything was quite normal! We enjoyed our visit and our tours with you!" Our first Eastern European tours get underway next month and are scheduled to run as normal. There's still space available on some departures for intrepid travelers interested in exploring this fascinating part of Europe (offering a closer-yet-still-safe encounter with history).

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • As the number of tours and travelers on the road increase, inevitably so have the incidences of COVID among the tour members. We've had fewer than 10 positive cases among over 500 travelers and never more than 2 on any tour. As all of the participants are fully vaccinated and boosted, the cases have been mild to asymptomatic and no doctor or hospital visits have been required.
  • Per our COVID protocol, if a tour member tests positive, they cannot continue with the tour and must abide by local regulations. The guides, hotel, and home office work together to help make that transition go smoothly and ensure the tour members are well supported. The biggest impact is that some countries still require a quarantine period (about 5 days) to minimize the chance of the virus spreading. While the risk of contacting COVID while traveling is low, and countries are rapidly easing their restrictions, it's very helpful to have travel insurance in case the unexpected happens.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"It was so great to be back traveling! Sicily is an amazing place, worth more than one trip. The hotels and included meals were great, and the sights and activities fascinating. We had a small group — only 12 people — and it was a very compatible, friendly and fun group. I was traveling solo and, by the final day, had shared meals with everyone. Alfio is an exceptional guide — knowledgeable, organized, warm, friendly, with a good sense of humor."
— Esther, Best of Sicily tour member

"This was my first group tour and of course first Rick Steves tour. Our tour guide Nina was great. I felt confident in her hands. Everything was organized, her suggestions were excellent, and everything seemed to go smoothly. From tickets and entry into sightseeing venues, timing, local guides, transportation, and group meals."
— Felice, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour member

"Our guide Helen was fantastic. She shared her knowledge of Spain and was very helpful and made the complete trip fun and exciting. Helen and all the local guides were knowledgeable and shared their passion for their city and the sites of their city. The tour was designed to allow for free time to explore the cities on our own, which was very nice. All the restaurants, the hotels, and planned activities were excellent. I would highly recommend this tour."
— Dennis, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour members

Week 6: March 25, 2022

Tours happily completed: 18
Tours currently on the road: 9
Travelers currently on tour: 165
Itineraries in gear: Greece; Sicily; Heart of Italy; Best of Turkey; Best of Istanbul; Venice, Florence & Rome; Heart of Portugal


General News

  • Last week six more tours were successfully completed, and things continue to go well. Now the tour season is really ramping up and this is our busiest week yet! Several tours (Heart of Italy, Best of Turkey and Istanbul, and the Heart of Portugal) had their debuts for the year. Savvy travelers have found that this a great time of year to travel, with a combination of fewer crowds and mild weather (a small storm in Greece aside).

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • After 15 tours, we finally had our first incidence of COVID within the group. Due to our high standards and protocol, our guide immediately isolated the tour member, worked with our tour hotel, and contacted the RSE home office for further support. The remaining tour members tested negative. We celebrated happy post-tour travel plans for most and wished others a safe return to their family and friends. Our recovering TM continues to be well cared for while waiting for their five-day quarantine to end. We have no doubt that vigilance of our guide and group limited the spread and kept our TMs healthy and safe. It was also a good reminder to strongly consider buying travel insurance for any trips during this time.
  • A couple of other times, TMs had a positive COVID test but thankfully it was the result of a sensitive test, rather than an active case. In addition to being fully vaccinated, they'd also recovered from COVID several months prior and their bodies still carried a high enough viral load to trigger a positive test. This was quickly resolved by calling their family doctor, having a virtual assessment, and receiving a COVID Recovery Certification for their flight home.
  • We've had several tour members report that they had trouble with the automated airline check-in systems not recognizing a valid booster date, which has led to a rejected verification. Thankfully, the situation was easily resolved by calling the airline and speaking to a specialist. The moral continues to be — be prepared and be patient.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"Overall, my favorite wow experience was meeting remarkable people, both those who were on our tour, and the wonderful, kind, caring and friendly citizens of Spain. We were members of the inaugural tour, following two years of pandemic, and we were greeted by our local guides, wait staff, housekeepers, musicians on the streets of Madrid, and fellow human beings as if we were royalty. Muy bueno!"
— Mary, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour member

"It was so great to be back on the road again with RS! I loved the hotels and to be transported effortlessly from one town to another was the perfect vacation. Alfio did a great job of creating a fun and positive atmosphere."
— James, Best of Sicily tour member

"I was extremely impressed with Nina who was our guide on the Venice, Florence, and Rome tour. Due to covid restrictions some of the planned group tours were not possible. She and the extended RS team quickly came up with other activities. I never felt like I missed out on anything."
— Jan, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour members

"Due to the time of the year and Europe just coming out of covid there were fewer crowds and less visitors overall. This lack of heavy crowds and our ability to see so many of the sights without being packed into areas made for a great experience! Don't know if we could ever experience these sights the same again."
— Roney, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour members

Week 5: March 18, 2022

Tours happily completed: 12
Tours on the road: 6
Travelers on tour: 97
Itineraries in gear: Greece; Sicily; Rome; Barcelona & Madrid; Venice, Florence & Rome


General News

  • Restrictions continue to ease across Europe, although there are varying requirements in each country. We prepare our tour members for the latest conditions and continually evaluate and update our protocol. Our goal is to keep all our travelers (and team) healthy, so we continue to enforce our established COVID requirements, regardless of the local situation.
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not impacted any tours that are currently running. Our Eastern European guides, from bordering countries, report there has been great support for the refugees fleeing Ukraine, but otherwise travel conditions and life remain relatively normal. They're helping to support the ongoing humanitarian crisis by housing refugees and working at welcome centers. Our thoughts and well wishes continue to be with the Ukranian people and others directly effected by the invasion.
  • Rick arrives in Europe this week to work on updating guidebooks and filming for upcoming television shows. Rick's co-author Cameron Hewitt has been on the ground for the last few weeks updating guidebooks for London and Rome. Like all our travelers, they're fully vaccinated, have their CDC cards (and a photo-copied backup), and before departing made sure they knew if a negative test was needed for their arrival country (British Air to London, not needed). They also checked about passenger locator forms and found they were no longer needed for London. Rick's thankful for the great guiding done by our wonderful team of guides and thrilled that so many of our travelers are finally enjoying the European trip of their dreams...on a Rick Steves tour bus! (And he's still enjoying telephoning guides and groups when he can during their welcome dinners in Europe.)

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • No pandemic bumps to report this week. Although, we did run into some stormy weather while our Greece tour was on the island of Hydra. To ensure our group would have plenty of time to get to their post-tour flights, guides Filippos and Iris with support from the home office, arranged for the group to get off the island a day early in case the ferry service was disrupted. Although this resulted in a small itinerary change, the group was able to enjoy an extra day in Athens and not worry about missing their flights home.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying This Week

"My wife and I took our 3 adult children and daughter in-law on this trip and all of us had a wonderful time. The tour guide Tom was excellent. Knowledgeable and funny! Adjustments due to Covid i.e. a little more outside stuff and avoiding the tube during peak hours were well coordinated and not an issue. Several of us were very familiar with London and for others a first time visit and this trip worked for all."
— Thomas, Best of London tour member

"What an incredible vacation! As always, the Rick Steves Group delivered! Our tour guide (Tom) was the best! After 28 months of being in "limbo" due to the Virus issues, Rick and his team totally delivered! I am already planning my next trip! Many thanks to Tom and your team!!"
— Ken, Best of London tour member

"It was great! Donald was a great guide and the group of people we had on this journey was outstanding! I am so glad we were one of the first groups to venture out and get reconnected with Italy and Europe."
— Xanic, Best of Venice, Florence & Rome tour members

"RSE had everything covered and thought out for us…smoothing the post-Covid way for us and still leaving us plenty of room to explore on our own. The pace and itinerary were just right for our first visit to Sicily."
— Kristin, Best of Sicily tour members

"This was a bucket list trip for me and my first tour experience. My husband and I prided ourselves on not being "tour people" but we have seen the light! Traveling is work but this tour experience made it feel more like a vacation since all the planning and research was done for us and the efficiency on tour made the trip a breeze. Our fabulous guide Nina was icing on the cake. She was fun, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. I wanted to learn about Sicily, not just visit it. Nina made that happen."
— Jeanne, Best of Sicily tour members

Week 4: March 11, 2022

Week 4: March 11, 2022

Tours happily completed: 9
Tours on the road: 4
Travelers on tour: 71
Itineraries in gear: Greece; Sicily; Barcelona & Madrid; Venice, Florence & Rome


General News

  • Our Greek guides Filippos and Iris returned to tour, almost exactly two years after having their previous tour interrupted at the onset of the pandemic. A pleasant surprise awaited them at the welcome meeting, when two travelers from the 2020 tour were back to finish what they started. That’s perseverance!
  • Restrictions continue to ease across Europe, although there are varying requirements in each country. We prepare our tour members for the latest conditions and continually evaluate and update our protocol. Our goal is to keep all our travelers (and team) healthy, so we continue to enforce our established COVID requirements, regardless of the local situation.
  • Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….in Greece? Indeed, our Greek guide Filippos reported that "Storm Filippos" (yes, that is the name meteorologists have dubbed it) has brought unseasonably low temperatures and snowy conditions. Our ever-supportive staff at Rick Steves' Europe, along with Filippos and Iris, have back-up plans ready and waiting if needed. Most importantly, this is not stopping our hearty, flexible tour members from having fun! We are hoping to see Greek snowmen and snowball fights ensue.
  • Our Turkish guide team recently held their annual guide summit in preparation for the upcoming season. They gathered for several days in Istanbul to discuss the itineraries, updated COVID protocols, and share ideas on great guiding. On the heels of a special Best of Turkey tour, only for Rick Steves guides, they're ready and ecstatic to welcome travelers back to Turkey and to share their dynamic and fascinating country. The fortunate RS guides on that tour last November raved that it was the trip of lifetime! Regular tours begin later this month and there a few seats still available and waiting for adventurous travelers.
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not impacted any tours that are currently  running. Our Eastern European guides, from bordering countries, report that there has been great support for the refugees fleeing Ukraine, but otherwise travel conditions and life remain relatively normal.
  • Rick is flying to Europe next week. Like all our travelers, he is fully-vaccinated, has his CDC card (and a photo-copied backup), made sure he knew if a negative test was needed for the country he is flying into (British Air to London, not needed), and will fill out the passenger locator form before heading out to the airport (as required by BA). He's thankful for the great guiding done by our wonderful team of guides and thrilled that so many of our travelers are finally enjoying the European trip of their dreams ... on a Rick Steves tour bus! (And he's still enjoying telephoning guides and groups when he can during their welcome dinners in Europe.)

     


Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • We continue to wear KN95 masks when on the bus and enclosed areas, however, when outside or uncrowded locations, it hasn't been necessary to wear masks. Restaurants continue to space tables at a safe distance for our tour members. Not only does this keep our groups healthy by balancing Rick Steves expectations and local regulations, but opens the door for thriving social bonding and mixing with the locals.
  • We've learned that while some testing sites, labs, or pharmacies in a city or around the hotel may be closed on Sunday, others remain open and accessible. Our ever savvy, friendly hotel staff have been able to direct tour members to nearby facilities, in order to complete their pre-tour COVID testing. This requirement for all Rick Steves Tours maintains our commitment to traveling wisely, and replacing traveler anxiety with fun- filled memories.
  • Some travelers continue to forget that we require a negative COVID test, taken within 48 hours of the tour start date. Thankfully, these are easy to get from local pharmacies (located near tour hotels; takes about 30 minutes, costs around $25). Our guides are leaving notices at the hotel, so everyone remembers before attending the welcome meeting. We're confirming vaccination status and a negative test for all tour members before the meeting gets underway. Knowing we’re all set; the fun part of the tour begins!

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying

"Outstanding and amazing. I've never done a group tour before and wasn't sure I'd like it, but it's well worth it. All of the guides were personable and well informed. The tours and logistics were well planned and seamless. It was the right mix of guided bits and time on my own. I liked meeting the other people on the tour — they were experienced travelers, and I learned a lot from them also, and they were people I might not have chance to meet at home."
— Kathleen, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour member

"With COVID such a challenge to travel, I so appreciated your valuable updates on what we needed to do and what we could expect abroad. And I'm thrilled to be able to say I was on one of the first Rick Steves Europe tours after the pandemic. Yay!!"
— Linda, Best of Paris tour member

"Staff was very good about responding and helping with any pre-tour questions and preparations. It was very nice to have a backup and knowledgeable staff at hand regarding all the changing Covid climates."
— Carrie, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour members

"We were one of the first tours to travel in the pandemic, so we all were learning. The group was wonderful, the tour guide was great, and the experiences were fantastic."
— Richard, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour members

Week 3: March 4, 2022

Tours happily completed: 8
Tours on the road: 1
Travelers on tour: 9
Itineraries in gear: Sicily


General News

  • Our first multi-city bus tour (Sicily) was just successfully completed. Traveling on our private coach allowed for plenty of room to spread out. The group wore masks as we require in all indoor situations. And everyone enjoyed a healthy trip!
  • Restrictions continue to ease across Europe, although there are varying requirements in each country. We prepare our tour members for the latest conditions and continually evaluate and update our protocol. Our goal is to keep all our travelers (and team) healthy, so we continue to enforce our established COVID requirements, regardless of the local situation.
  • Entering restaurants and sites continues to be easy. As we're all fully vaccinated and boosted, we can just flash our American CDC card, which also qualifies us for the local equivalent.
  • Hoteliers, restauranteurs, local guides, and other long-time collaborators have been ecstatic to welcome travelers back.
  • In a sign that life is returning to normal, our Paris group encountered a public transportation strike. As usual, our guide found an alternative solution and all worked out well. Vive la France!

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Several travelers have forgotten we require a negative COVID test, taken within 48 hours of the tour start date. Thankfully, tests are easy to get from local pharmacies (located near tour hotels; takes about 30 minutes, costs around $25). Our guides are leaving notices at the hotel, so everyone is reminded before attending the welcome meeting. We confirm vaccination status and a negative test result for all tour members, before the meeting gets underway. Knowing we're all set, the fun part of the tour begins!

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying

"It was a great feeling being on one of the first Rick Steves' tours in nearly two years! We had a great group of travelers paired with a fantastic guide. This was my third Rick Steves' tour, and it has made me look forward to planning my fourth one hopefully in the near future."
— Rebecca, Best of Paris tour member

"We were apprehensive about traveling during the pandemic, but things worked out. We were tested before the tour started, so we knew that everyone in our group was safe. Also, Spain has a higher percentage of people vaccinated than the US. Everyone was masked up indoors, so we felt comfortable wherever we went."
— Terry, Best of Barcelona & Madrid tour member

"My husband and I agreed long ago that we would join one of the very first RSE tours when they became available again, and that's what we did. We just finished the February 20 Best of Rome in 7 Days tour. In a way we felt like pioneers navigating the COVID requirements of the airlines, our Rick Steves tour, and for entering Italy and returning to the US. It was a fabulous, fun, and educational week and we were extremely happy to be traveling again. We felt perfectly safe moving about Rome. Each of us followed the city's rules about showing our CDC cards and wearing masks when required. The trip was easy, fun, and if you can, KEEP ON TRAVELING!"
— Vicky and Tom, Best of Rome tour members

Week 2: February 25, 2022

Tours happily completed: 4
Tours on the road: 4
Travelers on tour: 69
Itineraries in gear: Venice, Florence & Rome, Sicily, London, Rome


General News

  • Entering restaurants and sites has been easier than anticipated. As we're all fully vaccinated, we can just flash our American CDC card.
  • Even with outside mask mandates lifted in Italy, many locals continue to wear them. It's more out of the norm to not wear masks. Our groups are wearing masks when on the bus and when inside (except when eating/drinking or in their hotel rooms).
  • All travelers have been required to show a negative COVID test before flying back to the US and they've found these are easy to get from local pharmacies (located near tour hotels, takes about 30 minutes, costs around $25).
  • Hoteliers, restauranteurs, local guides and other long-time collaborators have been ecstatic to welcome travelers back!
  • Rick continues to telephone groups to wish them well at their welcome dinner.

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • The only COVID-related issues have to do with different degrees of enforcement for proof of vaccination. While a few travelers have had some confusion with their booster dates, ultimately, everyone has been able to get into all the sites and activities, as planned.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying

"It is a blessing to have a vacation here in Italy surrounded with beauty and with our talented tour guide, Tina, who is helping us a lot. We feel very safe during this trip. We also enjoy our time together with our new tour friends."
— Iacinta and Ryan Nielsen, Venice, Florence & Rome tour members

"We are so happy to visit Europe with Rick Steves Best of Venice, Florence, & Rome tour. In these uncertain times we are so happy to say everything has felt very safe and we are having the time of our lives! Plus having an awesome tour guide that is very informed with the 'new normal' has been a major help for any insecurities we may have had. Get out there and travel! You won't regret it!""
— Nick and Kristen Crook, Venice, Florence & Rome tour members

"Italy has lifted restrictions, but a lot of groups are wearing masks. They are required in the Colosseum, even though it is outdoors. Even when outside, individuals are about 50/50 with masks."
— Karin Kibby, Venice, Florence & Rome guide

"Fantastic to be back on the road amongst way more travelers than I anticipated!"
— Patrick Vidal, Paris guide

Week 1: February 18, 2022

Tours on the road: 5
Travelers on tour: 66
Itineraries in gear: Barcelona & Madrid, Paris, Venice, Florence & Rome


General News

  • Rick phoned guides during welcome dinners to virtually clink glasses with "the vanguard" tours.
  • All museums are admitting groups as planned (if fully vaccinated and wearing masks).
  • Tours are running as expected. Crowds are low and tour members ar happy to be in Europe!

Pandemic Bumps — Lessons Learned

  • Airlines are carefully checking vaccination status. You may be denied entry into some countries if you can't prove the full series of vaccines and boosters.
  • Getting tested upon arrival is easy and quick. Tour hotels know the nearest testing locations, usually a nearby pharmacy and tests cost about $20. ​
  • Countries are enforcing their COVID policies to different degrees. France has some of the strictest requirements but having a CDC card with required vaccines and boosters makes for smooth sailing.
  • Travelling with a smartphone is helpful. Some countries prefer an app with a QR code that verifies vaccination status (easily obtainable at pharmacies).
  • Bottom line: If you're fully vaccinated and boosted, it's easy to follow the required procedures once you're in country.

What Guides and Tour Members Are Saying

"This has been a very emotional tour for me too. I have been crying because of happiness couple of times already and I am sure it is not over with the tears yet. It is so nice to be back doing what we love. I still want to pinch myself at times that it is not just a dream."
— Tina, Venice, Florence & Rome guide

"Getting into Spain was easy. Just fill everything out online and breeze on through."
— Carly, Barcelona & Madrid tour member

"Having a great time in Barcelona. I had a Covid test here and it was very easy."
— Julie, Barcelona & Madrid tour member