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Confessions of a European tourguide, Part I

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Confessions of a European tourguide, Part I

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Confessions of a European tourguide, Part I

a tourguide in traditional garb
I've mentioned before that I used to plan tours for a company that provided tours all over Europe, mostly for Americans.  In those two years, I learned a lot about the European tour industry I'd like to share.  Knowledge is power and maybe by going through these comments, you can better understand why your tour is the way it is...or why it isn't....or even head off any tour disaster before it happens.

  • Tourguides don't get paid SQUAT....period....we all do it for the love of travel!  I managed about 30 tourguides and ALL of them did it because they loved it and also wanted to show others what they loved.
  • Going back to the first point, this is why many tourguides get kickbacks from the stores they take you to.  They'll either get a percentage of what you all buy, a set amount of money or goods to take home for free.  This is all done very discreetly of course.  Don't begrudge them this, and if you don't want to buy, then don't feel obligated.  It's just a nice perk in our job.
  • Please pay attention when the tourguide gives you your marching orders on what is going on.  Many tourists just do not want to take any responsibility for themselves or their children.  I know it's not you I'm talking about....but just keep in mind, you are an ambassador of sorts for all Americans.  You're going to make it or break it for the rest of us.  Be pleasant and follow directions.  I also played tourguide and not just tour manager myself, and I could write a book on what happened along the way.  I've searched for a few lost children, a lost adult who had passed out under a hotelbed, talked a drunk guest off the roof of a 10 story hotel, questioned busriders on a disappearing camera when it was just us on board, and I once had to bail one of my charges out of a Spanish jaill!  That is just the tip of the iceberg of course.  Please give us a break and enjoy the tour, making it pleasant for everyone.
  • Please don't tell the busdriver to go faster or to skip a break.  Believe it or not, each busdriver has a little disc thing that goes into the dash of the bus.  This measures their speed, time driven and a few other bits of data.  European rules are VERY strict as to how many hours a driver spends non-stop driving, when his breaks are, etc.  They regularly have to show their "books".  The fines are so hefty for not following the rules, no bus company will risk it.  I'd like to go faster too....not gonna happen.
  • When the tourguide directs you to a potty break....please go ahead and relish in it.  Get it done even if you don't have to go.  We are always amazed when we need to interrupt a walking tour, because someone has to tinkle (emergencies are okay obviously).
  • When the bus toilet is full, it is full.  The owner of the bus company I worked with used to joke that only Americans can fill up his bus toilets as fast as they do.  This can be a real problem for those longer express (overnight on the bus) trips.....no toilet emptying is scheduled as it is too time consuming and expensive.  Why do they get full so fast?  Because we drink a lot more than Europeans do throughout the day.  That is why we expect you to get off the bus when we do take a break for the driver....use the opportunity...don't be lazy and sleep thru the stop or use the bus bathroom because you don't want to walk the 50 feet to the reststop or restaurant.  I saw it all the time and always tried to be nice as pie in coercing folks off that bus.
  • Which brings us to the next point.  The bus driver should not be leaving the bus unlocked.  When we stop for a rest stop, please vacate the bus, so the driver can also take a break (they like to smoke rather than anything else it seems) and then lock up.
Stay tuned for Part II...I have many more tips on the subject of course.  I can honestly say that European tourist bureaus, mom and pop operations, restaurants, venues and such....are more than helpful and really do want to show their visitors why you should come back for a return visit.  So, let me plug the tourist bureaus before I end this.  I always visit the tourist bureau website before my own personal travel.  Many will send kits, brochures, catalogs and free stuff or just answer any questions you may have.  I have never seen a more friendly and accommodating industry, at least here in Europe.  I've had people all over, bend over backwards to help make our tours a success!  One of these days I'll have to mention my favorites......there is just so much to see and experience in Europe beyond our beautiful cities and festivals!

Do you have any tour stories to share?

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always wondered about that kickback thing. Now I know. I bet you have some hilarious stories to share! Please do!

March 2, 2011 at 8:58 AM  
Anonymous susanna said...

First, ppl tell the busdriver to speed up? Wow. That's very, um, odd.
Regardless of where you are in the world, or what nationality you are, you should respect your host country. Even more so if your nationality might have a rep as being loud and obnoxious.

March 6, 2011 at 3:35 PM  

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