A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Eurotourguide

tour guide intro

set the scene young man!

My Dad used to tell me, 'you can learn more traveling 10 miles, than you can reading 10 miles of books' - rubbish, I thought. Not to say my Dad was illiterate, or simply impatient with print on page, he was a traveller, having traversed many bodies of water on-board shipping containers working as an electrician, he was always the one to call out where a famous movie scene was with those resonating scottish words, 'I've been there Jimmy'. Needless to say, growing up, his travels were very influential on me, particularly while watching the Italian Job or Once Were Warriors.

Traveling widens one's perspective, it humbles and demands you to put your own stories into context, it allows you to be absorbed into history and development simultaneously through the use of languages, by enjoying food and music, art and culture, not to mention architecture and design.

In this blog: Tourguide admissions, I'm going to write about my experiences on the road as a Tour guide in Europe - my perception of European countries and peoples, as well as my own passengers who are coming from all over the world and always having a great time. We'll begin with departure day in London where we are bound for Paris, you need to have your passport, luggage and money ready to hit the road, first a drive to Dover, then a ferry crossing to Calais, then straight to Paris.

see you at checkin.

Posted by Eurotourguide 06:00 Comments (0)

the tour begins

departure morning, luggage packed, passport in my pocket, let's do this.

so here I am again, standing with Steve a driver I've just met, we're looking at them, they're looking back, but looking away again too quickly, I can't really lock eye contact long enough to facially intimate that they should all come over to the bus. "I'm going to go tell them all to come over" I say to Steve, "and I'm gonna go with Undies for my introduction of you today ok?", 'You're having a tin bath' is all I get back as I walk over to the group. I say good morning to the 30 or so lost souls who are obviously traveling together on a 12 day tour of Europe but are yet to confirm this with each other despite this one car-park containing one empty coach. I tell them in clear, loud English that we must check all of their names off against the booking departure list I have, get their luggage onto the coach and get on the road, oh.

The group follow me back over and undies gets into the back breaking position of coach luggage loader and looks forward to the 50 or so cases he has to jigsaw pack this morning. I look at the luggage and feel it's weight on my own shoulders, I can see these people are scared, excited, tired and confused, I beam a smile for each person and look for immediate rapport as I mispronounce each of their names horribly.

I have had some ripper passenger names on some of my tours, I had a female passenger called Poorani thong, an awkward moment on the bus mic when one of my passengers from South East Asia introduced herself to the group - "hello errbody my name is Whak Yu" - I try really hard with names but on this first morning I'll be luck to remember 2 or 3.

With everything loaded and everybody ready to go to sleep, It's now my job to deliver the most important talk of the whole tour. In this talk I need to break down the passenger expectations so they feel at the end of it, that they had a great time and enjoyed good value. This is the talk that sets the whole tour up, first impressions of me, the driver, what we're going to see and how we are going to go about seeing it and of course what we'll be eating, and where we'll be partying and what they'll be spending their money on, security, accommodation, dietary requirements and medical information, who has motion sickness? (my favorites, because they always end up sitting behind me) plus much more.

Posted by Eurotourguide 06:01 Comments (0)

First day talk

an important start to any tour of Europe.

"Good morning, do you all speak English??? (.. oh man I am sure half of them don't speak English) ",My name is Jordan"...... (damn that lady is giving me the evils, quick. smile). "I will be your tour guide for the next two weeks (that guy looks like he's going to be a cock), it's really great to see such a lively bunch of people" (these guys look lame..).... This is our driver (undies) his name is Steve but we all call him undies, Steve is giving me a very awkward look, seemingly perplexed that I've given him this inauspicious nickname moments after meeting him, and seeing as he is knocking on the door of 65. A little joke I often play on the driver to help raise morale. Doesn't always work.

It's always nervy at the start, it's 7 am and you are already under the hammer of time, we need to get to Dover to catch the ferry to France,but first we must battle traffic out of London onto the M25 and hope for a smooth run through customs and immigration + check in and hope that no one has not forgotten their passports or visa's (or left them in their luggage underneath). I now have to try and wake them out of their sleep to both smash their dreams and gear them up for a holiday experience of a lifetime.

There is no greater feeling in being a Tourguide, when you are inundated with questions and the answers have already been devulged sometime in the past, or a scenario has come about in which you have already prepared the guests for, there is in contrast no lesser feeling when you've failed to prepare your group effectively and overhear those dreaded words "our guide didn't tell us", it is for this reason that I try to highlight all the most important aspects of the tour in this 15minute all encompassing first day talk.

Key area's I highlight, are brochured guarantees, or mandates for the tour, including sights seen, standard of food and accommodation as well as optional extra excursions, I take time to explain the nature of tour life and how it requires us to be punctual and always open minded and respectful of local customs.

Posted by Eurotourguide 06:02 Comments (0)

Tour realities

excitement gives may to despondence as a systematically break down expectations!

People often book a coach tour of Europe seemingly oblivious of the fact that there are many kilometers separating these cities we go to and are slightly perturbed when I announce that today's drive from London to Paris will take around 8 hours including a ferry crossing, I would take this opportunity to tell guests that as a result of these driving distances, we will be leaving for each new destination at very early o clock, meaning very standard breakfast will almost always be around 7am.

I tell my passengers that the toilet on the coach is very much, just for emergencies and in no way able to accept jobbies, nevertheless, on several occasions I have been in the process of helping the driver clean the coach or drop the toilet, when an unbridled scream is thundered by the driver who steadily follows it up with rigorous profanity at the discovery of a massive turd in the carsi ,just as bad is counting everyone up to confirm we can leave a rest stop, only to be met down the isle with someone popping out of the bus loo having failed to use the entire rest stop for it's designed purpose.

In Europe, there aren't really that many public toilets that can accommodate 50 people at once, such places do exist and remain mythological among tour-guides forever encumbered with pee needing pax. I tell pax that all of them would need to master the art of ordering coffee or a beverage to go, asking to use the wc in the local language, using the cafe WC and returning and paying at the same moment drink is ready - paying to pee is common practice in most cities in Europe, fees paid go a long way to keep people in this unpleasant job happy to keep the droplets at bay.

By now I'm on a role, so I move on to the next tour reality, Thieves Gypsies and Con bastards.

Posted by Eurotourguide 06:03 Comments (0)

Thieves, Gypsies and Con Artist bastardo's

personal security is tantamount to a successful trip in my view.

Personal security is paramount, over the years, I have consoled many irate and upset passengers over money lost, or camera's misplaced etc. I always remind pax to keep their valuables safe and their wits about them when in heavily congested tourist zones. Something to be wary of in our very first destination in Paris is the Senegalese pinky twine hustlers, who use, string and vocal bombardment to cheat you out of a few euro's. They reside in the gardens of Paris' famous Mont Matre, where christian Martyr St Denis had his head chopped off, and soon after, picked it up, washed it in a nearby stream and footed it back to his own holy consecrated ground to die.

The hustlers can see you coming, making the distinction between locals and tourista's easily, the dumbfounded expressions smacked all over faces new to the glorious site of Sacre Couer are a dead give away. Honing in on you like a sea bird diving for small fish, you are sucked into the gypsy vortex, you now need to awkwardly and incessantly remove yourself from this rip off tractor beam by shaking your head furiously to acknowledge the presence of this scammer, yet remain calm enough to not be offensive. once out of the hustlers grip you have the return trip back down the hill to look forward to.

Another trick some of the Roma do, is to approach you wielding a gold ring suggesting they picked it up after you dropped it back there near the entrance to the Louvre, after taking the ring and inspecting it, you are stuck to like curry on a silk shirt until you offer the meritorious gypo suitable restitution in the form of Euro poo change.

The main tourist sites are of course the main stomping ground of Europe's hustlers and gypsies, touts selling genuine fake watches or Armali sunnies blanket and suffocate all the most popular coach parks in Touristy area's. A lot of them from West Africa and a lot of them fluent in many languages, I pay gypsy tax once a tour, where I concede and give a beggar a euro to leave me alone on the train, once it's been paid, I feel suitably comfortable in telling other beggars to leave me alone.

"watch out for each other" - I would be saying, taking the opportunity at this time of my overbearing security spiel to steal a chance at pulling on some heart strings, "we are going to become like a family over this next two weeks and need to look after one another". It is true that there is safety in numbers and would recommend a tour for young single travelers as the security aspect offers much piece of mind.

"Don't leave all your money in your luggage and use safes in our hotels", I've had money stolen from my passengers, wallets lost, passports left at hotels or bars, but by far and away, the worst thing that can happen is for the tour guide to lose his or her bag. i worked for a company in which the entire tour fund was given to the guide in cash before the tour departed, on a 3 week tour of Europe, you'd be expected to take away around 5 thousand euro's, on a longer tour, as much as ten grand.

A friend of mine was doing the morning count up of all her passengers, getting ready to depart Rome for Venice, as she made her way towards the back of the bus, 2 passengers jumped on the bus, sat in the front seat for a couple of minutes and spoke to the driver, they proceeded to jump off when my mate returned to tell the driver that everyone was accounted for and they could leave, as the bus pulled out of the car park, she asked the driver who the two were who jumped on and he told her he thought they were part of the group, in one fell panicked swoop she realized before even checking that her bag had been swiped.

Her bag had been under the front seat and fingered by the scum, five thousand euro's were in that bag, not including personal monies and commissions she had earned as well as personal / company credit cards, her passport and drivers license were also in there, I had to meet her in Venice as our tours were running parallel and give her as much of my own tour money as I could, it really was an unenviable situation to be in as I knew our insurance would only cover her a maximum of one thousand euros and she would be working the rest of the season to pay off the stolen money.

"So keep fifty euro's safe in your bag, use your money belt, say no thank you in the local language to regional gypsies and have each others backs! With that, let's talk a little bit about your travel budget for this tour and Europe.

Posted by Eurotourguide 06:04 Comments (0)

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