After travelling Europe and working as a tour leader for Expat Explore, Ananda decided to spend the rest of her life doing what she loves: working in travel. She is currently the manager of our Customer Service & Sales team and together they tackle all the travel questions and concerns guests might have. In short, she’s the good listener on the other side of the line with an answer for every question you throw at her! We’ve asked her about the most common questions that cross her desk. Here’s what she had to say…
There is an Asian proverb that reads, “It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times’’. Humans are nomads, explorers in body and soul, but very few of us respond to this urge to travel and explore as often as we ought to. And by travel I don’t necessarily mean crossing borders, but merely moving from one place to another to experience something for the very first time. Tour leading in Europe made me very conscious about just how challenging travel can be for some people. It costs hard-earned cash and asks of you to open up your mind; it really pulls you out of your comfort zone.
In my position as Customer Service Manager it’s my job to help people make these travel experiences a reality. We listen to travellers’ travel dreams, ambitions and plans and then help them book the perfect tour. After this, we support them as they prepare for the trip. If we’re lucky, there’s a post-trip call when they tell us all about what they’ve experienced, how travelling changed them and transformed their views of the world!
But as much as travelling is a romantic experience, it’s something that begs a fair amount of preparation – something that can completely make or break the travel experience. And it’s not only currencies, walking shoes and travel insurance; there’s a lot to think about when you set out on an international tour. My team members are the voices on the other side of the line that help you through this process and provide all the pre-travel information you might need leading up to your tour. We answer thousands of travel questions every week and know where the stumbling blocks are, from visa applications, to budgeting and how to pack when it’s your first time out on the road.
If you’re thinking about travelling to Europe, here are some of the questions and concerns you should definitely take note of…
How can I figure out what tour is best for me?
Make a list of the cities you absolutely dream of seeing and then a second list of cities that would be nice to see. Find some tours that include most of these destinations and match these with the time you have available. Remember, if this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, you should absolutely stretch your time to a maximum.
Can you guys book my flight?
Since we are a tour operator and not a travel agency, we do not have a license and are therefore not authorised to book flights for our passengers. We suggest you use flight comparison sites to find the best deal to suit your travel time and our tours.
If you plan to go on tour with us in the next 3 months, reserve your flight first. There’s always a chance that you won’t find your ideal flight time, price or airline when booking too close to the departure date. Have your tour dates in mind, check the tours on our website and then book your tour with us as soon as your flights are in place. Remember our tours sell out fast, so make very sure we have availability before paying for your flights. Please check your flight times a couple of days before your tour starts. Changes and delays can affect your transfers and you need to communicate that to our team. We can advise you on new pick-up locations, if necessary.
Talk to me about my Visa Application.
I find that of all the administrative travel requirements, people are most anxious about their visa applications. As stated in our FAQs, some nationalities can travel freely over borders, where others require permission to enter. We share all the information we have on hand and we are able to point travellers in the right direction, but we can’t necessarily provide all the complete, up-to-date visa information you need to get your application sorted. There are changes in visa requirements all the time.
The important thing here is to allow yourself plenty of time. The visa application process might be more strenuous that you thought, take up a lot of time and then delay your trip. At the very least, start 4 -8 weeks before you intend to travel. Even if it doesn’t take that long, sorting your visa in good time will allow you to relax and enjoy the build-up to your trip!
Start by doing your research and approaching the embassy or consulate in your area. It’s obvious, I know, but remember that you need a valid passport or travel document to apply for a visa. Some countries also require a validity of 6 months remaining on your passport. Your tour, as ‘reason for entering the country’, also has to be paid in full by the time you apply for your visa. You will need trip details like travel destinations, duration of your stay, addresses of accommodation etc. We supply you with all of this, as well as the support documentation. Visit our visa page or refer to the visa section of your pre-travel tour information package. Again, make sure you leave a processing window of least 4-8 weeks for this before your tour departs.
I’m packing for my trip and my bag is way over 20kg! Please help!
It’s important that your main piece of luggage does not weigh more than 20kg (44lBs). With 45+ people travelling with us, we have to limit the weight of luggage due to space limitations and more importantly, to comply with certain rules for road safety.
I always tell people that they should remember that Europe has washing machines. Yes, it’s a bit of a headache to make sure you have enough to wear for 2-3 weeks in Europe, especially when you can’t predict the weather. But on longer tours you will definitely have a free day here and there and you can wash a bundle of clothes at the nearest laundromat! All our tours travel through major cities – places with laundromats, shopping malls and hotel services. You’ll not have difficulty finding a laundromat and if you do, your tour leader can help.
But as much as travelling is a romantic experience, it’s something that begs a fair amount of preparation – something that can completely make or break the travel experience.
How many hours will we spend on the road?
Europe is an enormous continent, as much as it is beautiful and breathtaking. We offer regional and multi-country tours of Europe and this can sometimes mean some long hours on the road. People should prepare for this and make smart use of the time they spend on the coach – like meeting new people, for instance. You’re on a road trip with people that live on the other side of the world! I mean, how often does one get the opportunity to chat to someone from New Zealand, Nepal or even Denmark?
Also, you’re driving through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, drink in the scenery – it’s a million dollar view from the comfort of your seat. And we know it’s no time to sleep, but if you manage to get some shut-eye that’s also great! You will be out and about for every moment you are not on that coach. I also tell passengers to keep a diary while they are out on the road. A tour of Europe is filled with so many highlights and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you forget the smaller details. Recording these special moments in some way or another (you can thank me later)!
How much spending money do I need per day?
It depends. Your trip can be as affordable or expensive as you want it to be. We have included experiences on our tours that you don’t have to pay for and you can also choose to join a variety of optional excursions, depending on the tour you join. We serve breakfasts and some dinners on tour (this is highlighted on our itineraries and is also listed in the pre-travel information pack). If you’re happy with something simple like a sandwich or croissant for lunch, a pizza for dinner and a few snacks along the way, 30-40 Euros should be fine. This is roughly what a budget-conscious traveller will spend per day, but please remember this excludes souvenirs, entrance fees and public transport. The tour leaders will have all the information on pricing and locations so you can manage your own budget.
What’s important to remember before I head out on tour?
Expat Explore works with an amazing, competent and diverse team. Each and every one of us are committed to making sure you are completely prepared for what awaits you on the other side of the world. If we get our way, you will have an unforgettable journey with us from the moment you book till the moment you arrive safely at home.
If you have any questions about travelling to Europe, airport transfers, booking a trip or simply the weather in Europe, phone and meet someone on our team. We’d love to hear from you!