Subject: RE: The bus tour experience

It's been interesting reading the various comments on packaged bus tours. Over the years I*ve taken a few packaged tours - Globus (tour of Britain); Cosmos (Athens and a 7 day cruise through Greek Islands, Israel, Turkey and Egypt) and, more recently, a Trafalgar's Cost Saver Tour (Best of Germany and Austria).

Although I prefer to travel independently, package tours are a great way to get a quick introduction to a country and see a lot in a short time. It's also a way to cover a lot of ground for a fraction of what it would cost you if you were to do it on your own.

With Globus, as it's first class all the way, the hotels were very central and had all of the modern amenities, etc. The Cosmos hotels left a bit to be desired though the Cosmos staff themselves were great. Both these trips were taken many years ago. The Trafalgar trip (taken in 1997) was by far the best. I'd been to Europe before and spent the first week roaming about Germany by myself and then took the 2 week tour. The tour director and bus driver were the best. There were 39 of us and it was a super bunch of people with a wide range of ages, nationalities and interests. Most of the hotels were above the standard I would have expected on a 'cost-saver' tour although they were not in the centre of town. You needed public transit to get to the centre.

There are a lot of pros and cons to taking a bus tour. The pros are that you see a lot in a short period of time, the director/guide is right there so you don't have to waste time finding where things are, hotels and a majority of meals are taken care of. If you are the sort of person who wants everything organized for you, then this is an ideal way of travelling. Also, if someone is travelling alone and doesn't feel too comfortable doing it, there is some comfort/security in knowing that they are part of a group and there is usually someone they can chum around with. The main con is that if you really like a place you can't stay longer than the designated time and then you are being whisked off to the next city/town and you are living out of a suitcase every day. Also, on one tour, a lot of people who either hadn't bothered to read the brochure or for whatever reason, assumed that 'optional' tours meant that they were an option (and were already paid for) and part of the overall tour they had booked. Needless to say it was quite a shock for them when they were told they would have to pay for these 'optional' tours!

Personally I prefer to travel independently - decide on a place I want to visit, or revisit, and do an awful lot of research BEFORE I go so that I don't waste time finding out where there is to do, see, where to eat, etc. once I'm there. On the other hand, I've enjoyed the package tours I've been on and, if someone is hesitant about taking one, I would recommend them.