International Travel

Final/Required Travel Documents A valid passport is required for all international travel. Please be certain your passport is signed and will not expire at least 6 months before your return to theUSA. In case your passport is lost, it is very difficult to replace, therefore it should be stored along with your other travel documents (passport, airline tickets and money) in a safe place. We recommend purchasing a fanny bag that will be with you at all times. At certain times the tour guide or the hotel may collect your passport and tickets from you. This is a normal procedure and they will be returned to you. Upon return, please check that all documents belong to you. We recommend making copies of your passport, tickets and day-by-day itinerary, to leave at home with a close friend or relative and taking a copy with you. Keep it separate from your original, just in case they are lost.  When you receive your final documents check them very carefully. Your names should be as they appear on the passport. Check that the dates are correct and that you have a valid (American) passport, along with your airline ticket or electronic ticket number, and a day-by-day itinerary listing all the hotels. You must be at the airport at least three hours before departure for an international flight. Do not pack your passport and your airline ticket in your luggage, as you will need them to check in. All penalties or expenses associated with incorrect, lost or stolen documents are the responsibility of the passenger.

Insurance Travel Protection Insurance is recommended and sometimes required and we work with proven reputable companies. You will always receive a group reference number, phone numbers and contact information before you depart.

Travel Information For general information regarding the countries you will be visiting, call the National Tourist Office of each country you are visiting, or access their web sites online. They will mail you general information including maps, but allow at least four weeks for the information to arrive. A visit to a good local bookstore will also provide you with books about the places you will be visiting. Background information and a good sense of geography will go a long way in making your trip more meaningful.

Currency We recommend you make large purchases with your credit card and bring your ATM/Debit card with you.  The card can be used to extract local currency at ATM machines found in most European countries. Keep in mind that you must know your account number and Pin number to use them. Most places accept Visa, Master Card and American Express. All other credit cards should be left at home as well as personal checks. We recommend you call your credit card company prior to departure and set up procedure for cash advance while abroad. In case you are short on cash, getting an advance will be very helpful. Also inquire about foreign currency conversion charges that individual credit card companies’ may have. These charges can add up, so you may want to shop around for a card with no charges.

Yes some people exchange U.S. dollars for foreign currency before leaving the country. It’s is our experience that you get better rates overseas. You will have plenty of opportunity to exchange money upon arrival at your destination, from the airport, hotels, and other multiple convenient locations. It is very simple to exchange money and can be done on a daily basis. We recommend you exchange only as much as you need that day. Most large purchases should be paid by credit cards, which provide you with a better exchange rate and protection in case of damage, loss or theft. The EURO is now the common Western European currency (except for Great Britain). Switzerland uses the Franc but also the Euro, so both are ok. Banks and Post Offices are usually the best place to exchange money or an ATM machine.  Hotels collect a large commission and tend to be the most expensive.

Theft proof travel DO NOT take very expensive jewelry or cameras unless they are with you at all times. Never store your valuables in suitcases you check in. Money belts and fanny pouches are recommended, as thieves and pickpockets are abundant and trained to easily recognize tourists. Always keep your luggage with you. Be careful where you put your purse and how you carry it, as they can easily be snatched away. DO NOT leave your purse on the floor or the chair next to you. It should be kept in your lap. We are not responsible for items stolen, lost or left on the bus or the plane.

Electricity abroad Most of the world operates on220v (Great Britain 240 v). You will need a converter and an adapter for your electrical appliances. Dual voltage appliances are designed for both II0v and 220v and we recommend purchasing them. However you will still need a wall adapter. (Radio Shack has a complete international travel kit, with converters and adopters for every international destination). Most hotels have hair dryers in the room, although not all do, so you may wish to invest in purchasing a small travel hair dryer. Europe has a different DVD system than USA, so be careful when purchasing DVD’s. European DVD’s will not work on US TV sets, only on computers. Label your chargers before you leave for easy identification, and carry them in your carry-on luggage.

Phone calls International calls and faxes from the hotel are very expensive. It is more economical to call collect, or purchase a calling card. The hotels will then charge only a service fee. Many US cell phones (GSM international system) can be used overseas, T-Mobile and AT&T especially. Call your phone company to verify availability of service and rates. We recommend buying calling cards as they are the most economical way to call home. Make sure you purchase international calling cards that are good in the countries that we are traveling. Each country has a different calling card system, and they need to be purchased locally. If you own a Blackberry or I-Phone check international rates and advantages before you leave home because they tend to have special/different rates or roaming packages. Skype is also a favorite way for many to make calls from their computer.

Special Diets or Medical Conditions We need to know about any special diet or medical requirements you have before we receive your final payment. We will do our best to accommodate special meal requirements if we are told of them on time. lf you are diabetic, please plan your meals very carefully and bring along snacks as the meal time may not always be on schedule.

Meals Only those meals specified in the itinerary are included. Most lunches are not included, but the guide will stop for lunch or recommend places to eat. DO NOT purchase food from the street vendors. We recommend drinking only bottled water. If you have a complaint about food, let the guide know immediately so the problem can be corrected. We recommend eating light during the trip and being open to tasting local dishes. It is not appropriate to make a lunch or snack from your meal at the hotels, or to take food and dishes from the dining room. Beverages with meals are generally not included. Please settle all your charges at the hotel reception before departure. Waiters expect to be tipped both at hotels and restaurants. Normal tip is about l0 % if you are satisfied with the meal and service. Check your bill as in some countries such as Italy a service charge is already added to your bill. Do not forget to leave a token of your appreciation to the hotel housekeeping staff.

VAT Tax Refunds- DON’T FORGET V.A.T. tax is a very much like our sales taxes. Different countries have different levels of V.A.T. For a large purchase ask the store for a V.A.T. receipt and form, and ask the guide to explain how you can get the refund back. Pay with a credit card. You must have a specially completed form from the store to claim VAT refund at the airport. Most times the form is completed and dropped at a special booth in the airport after you pass customs. The refund will appear on your credit card several months later. Purchased items must be with you and not packed away in a suitcase.

Getting lost It is of utmost importance to pay close attention to the directions and information given to you by the tour leader and the guides. Stay close to the group and do not wander off on your own without telling someone. When the tour guide is speaking, you should be listening. If you should get lost or separated from the group, stay in one place on your route. The guide will retrace the steps of the group and find you. If they do not appear in thirty minutes take a cab back to the hotel or walk back to the bus. This is why it is important to listen to instructions and stay close to the group. Always carry the name of the hotel where you are staying and phone number, pick up a card from the front desk. Write down you local tour manager’s number as well.

Directions Many trips have been ruined and people dissatisfied because they did not listen to the instructions being given by the tour director and the guides. Please do not talk when they are giving out information and pay close attention to what they are saying. If you are not clear about the information given, ask questions. Private time is always scheduled, so stay with the group during sightseeing. If you will not be with the group at any time, including meals, notify the tour director. It is very important to be on time as per instructions from the guide. Each tour and each day contain a great deal of sightseeing and some must be completed at a certain time. If you are late getting on the bus, everyone loses valuable time and you may miss an important part of the day.

Be a considerate traveler Please remember you are part of a group, and a guest in a foreign country. Respect the group members by not smoking, rotating your seat on the bus on daily basis and being kind and considerate. Complaining will not make you or your travel companions feel better. It will make you miserable, and disliked by other group members. Have a positive, friendly and courteous outlook, and if there is a “real” problem let the guide know. Being in a foreign country and learning to go with the flow is part of the travel experience. Their hotels, food and customs are different than ours, and should be accepted and respected as such. Be on time, and cooperate with the guides and tour leaders. Everyone will have a better trip if participants are considerate of each other and of the country they are visiting.

Taking Pictures Please observe local laws in churches and museums. Most places do not allow picture taking, as flashes are very damaging to the artwork. Learn to use the camera without the flash before you leave the US.

Hot Numbers

  • You may wish to call the following numbers or look up the web sites for information:
  • Department of State-International Travel Conditions 202-647-5225(
  • International Travel Health Information 404-332-4559
  • Passport and visa information 202-641-0518 or Passport or or
  • Airport directories, or
  • Currency Converters,
  • Useful travel information, www.1000
  • Weather
  • Language
  • lf something is missing or damaged, call the USA Customer Response Center at866-289-9673

Tipping Tips are not included in the price of the package but are a very important part of the tour. Please plan them in your budget and put money aside for tips at the start of the tour. Tipping is expected at restaurants, by cab drivers and hotel staff if they have been helpful. We recommend $4.00 per day per person for the bus driver and $4.00 per day per person for the tour director and $2.00 per person for each local city tour guide and $2.00-$3.00 per person per meal for the waiters.  (Only one piece is included in our baggage handling.)

We recommend you bring envelopes with Thank you notes and leave the tips in the envelopes with a short message of thanks for the guide and bus driver. Very important: Tipping shows your appreciation for good service and a job well done.

Adjustments in the itinerary Occasionally due to circumstances beyond our control changes will be necessary in the itinerary, airline or hotels. They are an integral part of traveling and we ask your understanding and cooperation. Most of all, remember that you travel to learn and experience new things. Accommodations, food and customs will be different than at home. You may experience small personal discomfort and inconvenience. Be prepared to “roll with the punches” and if you do this, a great and unforgettable trip lies ahead of you and your travel companions. It’s called “Hanging Loose!” Believe me Murphy’s Law is real, if it can happen it will.