European tours guide

The classic European tour is one that encourages you be a traveler, not a tourist. See the famous landmarks by all means, but often the best way to discover Europe is simply by riding the bus, staying in a characterful, family run hotel, or pausing for coffee at a terrace café miles from the nearest tourist attraction.
Organised European tours build in plenty of freedom. You’re not wandering around following a flag, but you do get the benefits of stress-free travel, and time well-spent.
Grand tours through Europe have been enchanting and enlightening visitors for generations, but this continent has never been stuck in the past. On the contrary, major cities are constantly honing their attractions, while people looking to escape into more rural settings find it easier and easier.
Find out more in our European tours guide.

What does an overland tour entail?

An organised European tour is ideal for anyone who wants to get a flavour of several countries quickly, conveniently and cost effectively. These are usually whistlestop itineraries, spending just a few nights in each place, so they are not designed with thorough cultural immersion in mind. That said, with many tours making regular use of public transport, they afford fantastic opportunities for traveling alongside local people as they go about their daily lives, rather than being cocooned away in a huge coach filled with other tourists. You can also add on a few nights at either end of a trip, if you want to explore a city in more depth.
Obviously, there are some classic European destinations that everyone wants to see: Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Venice. Consequently, these cities can be frustratingly crowded, even in low season. But there are itineraries available that will either only briefly pause in these cities, or even miss them out altogether, in favour of taking you to less well-known, less expensive and of course, less busy cities such as Bratislava or Budapest, that have much to recommend a visit.
There are many ways to get around Europe without ever needing to board an internal flight: road, rail, boat, bike. Some tours will provide you with the flexibility of a rail pass to explore on your own terms, some will shepherd you around using a mix of private and public transport, while still others might see you join a guided, small group cycling expedition. The gist of all this is that, when planning a European tour, likely your biggest problem is going to be deciding where to go, and how to travel. You’d best read on then!
Group sizes

Group sizes

The majority of European tours are small group trips, with a handful of tailor made offerings. Group sizes range from around 12 to 20, so don’t be surprised to come away with plenty of new friends of different ages and backgrounds. Lower group sizes also mean that you can stay in more locally owned accommodations, and get to places that a large coach group wouldn’t. This kind of tour is ideal for solo travelers that want a social aspect to their trip and a ‘safety net’. In most cases you will be automatically assigned a dorm or twin room with a member of the same sex, unless you pay a single room supplement.
Who is this kind of trip for?

Who is this kind of trip for?

Anyone and everyone. The European road trip often conjures up images of inter-railing backpackers partying their way around the continent, and of course if that’s the kind of trip you want, there is no shortage of options. But this kind of travel appeals to people from all age groups and backgrounds, including families, simply because of the variety of routes available, and the fact that you can travel in comfort, or rough it a little to save money if you prefer. It’s all about convenience, variety and the freedom to see and do whatever you want, with accommodation provided for you at every stop.

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Transport

Transport

Under the , visa-free cross-border movement is easy between almost all EU countries. Efficient, inexpensive road and rail networks mean that you can get from A to B very quickly without resort to flying. Some tours might involve rail travel only, others may use a range of transport methods. If you are worried about missing connections, a small group trip may be the right option for you, with a tour leader on hand to book tickets and ensure everything runs smoothly.
Accommodation

Accommodation

Trips geared more towards the younger, backpacker demographic will typically make use of multi-bed dorm rooms in hostels, which carry with them their own benefits and drawbacks but are usually very central, perfect for sampling the local nightlife. Other more sedate itineraries see you staying in a combination of small hotels, guesthouses and even the occasional homestay. Depending on your route, you may also take the odd overnight journey, such as by sleeper train, in order to save time.
What to pack

What to pack

Traveling light is essential naturally, as on some vehicles there will be limited space available, and soft-shell, wheeled bags are therefore recommended – remember you will spend time walking between stations and bus stops so you want to be able to move around easily. If visiting Europe in the spring or summer, the weather can be highly unpredictable. Paris in March, for instance, can see four seasons in one day. Strategic packing – lightweight, windproof raincoats, but also flip flops and sun hat – is a valuable skill to possess.
Will there be a guide?

Will there be a guide?

This depends on the type of trip you opt for. Rail-only trips are typically self guided, with accommodation along the route ready for your arrival on a set date. Small group tours are accompanied by a tour leader, who may well have knowledge about the destinations you’re visiting, but who is there to manage logistics, and will not act as a traditional guide. But in some places you may be met by a local guide, there to provide some additional colour to a destination when you take part in an included tour or activity.
Written by Rob Perkins
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