Why Book a 14 day Overland Adventure Around Europe by Coach?

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Why would anyone want to travel more than 10,000 kilometres, visit 10 different countries and sit on their butt for long periods of time on a coach?

Ahem, we did!

We thought it was a bit of a cop-out really, because normally we’re of the fairly adventurous independent traveling kind.

But we were wrong, it wasn’t a cop-out and it required heaps of energy but most of all having done it we realise that it trumped anything we could have booked ourselves for the time and budget we had available.

Why only 14 days?

For us it was due to time constraints.

But the thing is before we knew it, we had a long list of European countries we wanted to visit in the reasonably short time-frame of leave we had available.

Overland adventure around Europe, Rhine Valley, Jo Castro

Let the research begin!

So living in WesternAustralia, off I went to the Perth Travel Expo to do some research.

There I came across companies offering tours for young people keen for lots of adrenalin adventures and heaps of partying with some culture thrown in, and tours for older people which by comparison seemed a little too five-star, or too sedate for us.

On the travel company side, nothing I discovered quite fitted our criteria.

Some tours were too long and visited too many places, others didn’t tick the places we wanted to see and some were out of our price range.

Not finding exactly what we were after we then looked at booking everything ourselves. A nightmare weekend of planning and logistics followed and we realised we couldn’t afford what we’d dreamt up, nor were the tight travel timings likely to work like clockwork as would be needed.

At some stage I think Dave may have called me, “Princess” and not in a nice way.

What we wanted

We wanted a trip catering to different age groups that went to most of the places we had on our European bucket list.

We wanted the accent to be on culture, some adventure, fun and a little nightlife – we didn’t want an “all fall down” all-out partying shenanigans (been there done that).

And because our dates once booked would be inflexible we needed to know that the tour company offered guaranteed departures.

Expat Explore

In my online search I stumbled upon a tour company called Expat Explore, funnily enough started by an expat South African, and as we’ve lived in South Africa for many years this piqued my interest.

We were pleasantly surprised by the great value for money Expat Explore offered and we were also surprised by the standard of accommodation (2 or 3 star hotels) – none of which ever included dorms, or crazy booze filled parties happening in the adjoining bedrooms.

Flavour of Europe

We booked on the Europe Jewel Tour which gave us a real flavour of Europe visiting 10 of the countries we wanted to visit in 14 days.

Of course, it was a whistle-stop trip, it had to be, but it was fun being on the go all the time and, in many respects, we were offered a veritable smorgasbord of Europe with at least one big WOW a day.

For instance on one day we had breakfast in Prague, lunch in Bratislava and then dinner in Budapest.

Overland adventure around Europe by Coach, Lunchstop in Bratislava, Jo Castro

Mostly we spent just one night in each place, although at a selected few we were able to relax, do our own thing and enjoy a further day at leisure.

It didn’t take long before I was learning to exhale in Europe and enjoying every minute of it.

Fabulous itinerary

The Europe Jewel tour compressed a fabulous itinerary into a short time.

On the outset, this looked impossible but because the itinerary was well thought out and because we generally had orientation tours on arrival at each place, we were able to make the most of each destination.

Even though we arrived in Budapest late in the afternoon and were on the road again early the next morning our tour leader made sure not a minute was wasted.

We dumped our bags in the hotel and went on an organised city tour which included a visit to the castle and a walk around Heroes Square.

Then we had free time and were given detailed instructions on some options, such as where to spend time soaking in Thermal Baths, where to eat a traditional Hungarian dinner and how to travel on the metro, so getting a flavour of being ‘local’.

Overland adventure around Europe by Coach, City Tour, Budapest, Jo Castro

Best time to go

We went in April, and at that time of year, the coach wasn’t full.

Spring in Europe is really pretty, especially with all the tulips and bulbs being out.

However Spring in Europe can also throw up some dodgy weather – our trip to the top of the Jungfrau for instance, far from giving us far-reaching views, gave us a white-out, and in Paris,it rained.

But we had great weather in Prague, Venice, Florence, Budapest and Vienna.

Overland adventure around Europe by Coach, belvedere Palace, Vienna, Jo Castro

Another plus side to out of season is the absence of crowds. July and August would be the worst for crowds.

What we loved about an organised tour

We were taken to the best spots to explore, and there was absolutely no stress involved in getting to them.

On the coach, you get to meet new friends of different nationalities and different age groups.

We had time to read, write, chat or catch up on sleep on the coach. We kept on thinking of the stress of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, and the know-how required for finding our own way across several countries.

All the arrangements – hotels, paperwork, trains, trams, logistics, border crossing formalities – are made for you.

We were also wowed by the number of meals, guided city tours, tram and metro tickets which were included in the overall price of the tour.

14 Days. 10 Countries. 18 Experiences.

In a nutshell: The tour started in London, then we went through France to the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and France.

Not only did we visit a range of places and sights but we were also able to take the time to create some really memorable experiences.

Included were a musical concert in Vienna, a gondola ride in Venice, visiting the main sights of Paris, going to the top of Switzerland on a snowy day on a train, walking around the leaning tower of Pisa before the crowds arrived, and a wonderful guided architectural walk around Prague – just to name a few.

Overland adventure around Europe by Coach, Prague, Jo Castro

Traditional Austrian Lunch in Graz

Another great example of the tour planning was a two-hour stop-over in Austria’s second largest city Graz.

Our driver parked us close to the town centre so that we could take a leisurely stroll (watching out for passing trams of course) and take in the local scene before climbing up the 260 steps to the clock tower.

After walking around the hilltop enclave we took the funicular down the hill and still had time to stop and eat a traditional lunch of spicy stew with dumplings served with vienna sausage, pickles and a fried egg, making our two-hour lunch stop in Graz a truly memorable experience.

As was our whistle-stop lunch break in Nuremberg, which although brief allowed enough time to visit the markets, wander the streets and find out a little about its history.

Overland adventure around Europe by Coach, Lunch stop, Nuremberg, Germany

Brief but interesting experiences

Instead of stopping at a motorway café for breaks and lunches as you might resort to if you were driving on your own, Expat Explore made sure that we took a slight detour to make the most of our stops, and often provided different activities for us too.

For instance, in Amsterdam (an evening canal dinner cruise), The Rhine Valley (a cruise on the Rhine River), Nuremburg (a lunch stop and free time), Bratislava (lunch stop and free time), Ljubljana (a city tour), Florence (a city tour and a taste of Florence), Pisa (early morning walk and a photo stop), and Venice (a city tour in an afternoon).

Overland adventure around Europe by Coach, Venice, Jo Castro

In Vienna, we were whisked off on a city tour as soon as we arrived at the hotel and among other things we were able to get out to take photos of beautiful Belvedere Palace.

Built in the 18th Century as the summer residence for the General Prince Eugen of Savoy (1663 – 1736) I was blown away by the Baroque architecture and the extensive gardens. I knew in the future I’d like to come back and spend much more time in Vienna.

However not all our stops were so brief.

During the trip we had three full days at leisure – one in Prague (One Day in Prague), one in The Swiss Alps, and one in Paris (although at the end of the tour we elected to stay on in Paris instead of returning to finish in London).

I have to say that the coach trip exceeded my expectations in that we visited a large array of places and sights but we also had the time to create some fantastic memories.

It’s given me the overview of the places in Europe I wanted to visit, and now of course – I want to go back!

Would you go on an organised coach tour? Have you been on one? Which countries did you travel to?

Disclaimer: My train trip to the summit of the Jungfrau in Switzerland was complimentary and I received a 30% discount off the Expat Explore Europe Jewel tour.

[ybox_title]Author BIO[/ybox_title]

Jo Castro is a freelance travel writer from Western Australia. When she’s not blogging or running writing workshops, she’s travelling, walking, biking, and exploring restaurants. She’s lived in 11 countries on 4 continents with her husband, a geologist, and two grown up children. You can find her on her blogs Lifestyle Fifty (inspiration and lifestyle) and The ZigaZag Mag (travel, and life in Western Australia) or on Twitter @johannaAcastro. Facebook at Lifestyle Fifty or The ZigaZag Mag and Instagram at Lifestyle Fifty

 

52 thoughts on “Why Book a 14 day Overland Adventure Around Europe by Coach?”

    1. Hey Zoe, Yes it’s a gem if you want to see as much as possible in only a short amount of time. I’m glad we didn’t spend longer in each place this time, although it’s given us some great ideas on where we’d like to spend longer for future trips.

  1. Sounds like a great idea! I myself have been on a bus excursion around Europe several years ago. I think that is a great way to see a lot from Europe for 2 weeks. I like that you visited both Western and Eastern Europe. Beautiful pictures!

    1. Hi Traveolani, Glad you liked the pictures – and Thanks! Yes, getting a taste of Western and Eastern Europe was something we really wanted to do. How was your bus excursion – where did you travel?

      1. Hi Jo! Thanks for your reply. I visited Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. My parents visited Croatia, Slovenia and Italy in May 2014. They loved it but said it was very tiring.
        Your Fairytale Prague picture is really cool – I love it and it makes me want to visit Prague!

  2. Great article, Jo! When you want to see a lot in a limited amount of time I can really see the benefits of having a coach pick you up from right outside your accommodation and drive you straight to the best places with no time wasted. No lugging heavy backpacks several kilometres while following a confusing map, no standing up crammed in like sardines in jam-packed trains, no trying to find accommodation for the night when everything’s booked out – all that would be a huge plus and such a luxury!

    Usually I’m very much a slow and independent traveller wherever I go but lately I’ve been having a change of heart. I think it might be because I’m getting older and am feeling like maybe I took travel a bit too seriously on my first few backpacking trips. Never thought I’d say it but I now really want to do one of those crazy whistle-stop party tours of Europe while I’m still in my twenties, before I have things like kids and bad hangovers to worry about!

  3. Ha Ha Bonny! Yes, absolutely … I think the best time for crazy whistle stop partying tours of Europe are while you’re still in your twenties! There’s plenty of time for more sedate culture vulture tours later. I did one such trip in my twenties, and in fact I met my husband on that crazy trip – maybe the attraction was due to the tequila 😉 … er so watch out 😉 I like how you say you’ve done some more ‘serious backpacking’ first though because I think the best travel memories should ultimately be about experiencing new cultures and getting to know people of different nationalities.

  4. you just provide all awesome places in one article. i love this because of your information. I never visit Europe but after seen all pictures i think Europe is awesome in winter. 🙂

  5. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    I would absolutely consider a guided tour, particularly if the itinerary was a little slower. I tend to like something about everywhere and don’t like to move on too soon. This looks like a great way to visit Europe for the first time. Now you know where you’d like to return in more depth.

    1. Hi Betsy, absolutely. This kind of tour is great for when you can’t decide where you want to go, and then you can decide where you’d like to go back for some slow-travel.

      1. Wow great insight to tour vs free and easy. I have booked a 14 day Europe trip and was wondering if it is a bad choice. But I do agree that having th coach pick us right from the hotel is good so we don’t have to squeeze in trains..

  6. I like how you say you’ve done some more ‘serious backpacking’ first though because I think the best travel memories should ultimately be about experiencing new cultures and getting to know people of different nationalities.

    1. Venice is gorgeous Karimunjawa isn’t it? So many different facets to it – somewhere I’d love to go back to and discover in more depth – as well as the nearby islands. Hope you get back to explore more of Europe one day 🙂

  7. I’ve never considered an organized coach tour, but there are some definite pros from your article. It sounds like a great way to get an overview of a large area and come back to explore your favorites later on your own.

  8. I’ve never taken a coach tour, afraid it would be too rushed and crazy. It sounds like a good way, though, to see a lot in a short period of time without worry about transportation and lodging.

    1. Yes Donna, it’s great if you’re up for a bit of hecticness but not for people wanting slow travel. We were worried to begin with but loved it by day 2! Not having to worry about travel details left much more time to enjoy the moments.

  9. I think a packaged tour is great for the reasons you well point out. Mostly, you don’t have to do any of the stressful arrangements, and you are whisked here and there. I think they are great for a first-time intro to a place. But once I’ve been, I much prefer to spend more time in fewer places. When you decide to visit Ireland, you might want to go on your own and follow my own fabulous itinerary which came about through endless hours of research, http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Way-Beyond/Travel-Articles/Abroad/Ireland-Itinerary/ireland-itinerary.html

    1. Exactomondo Gypseynesters! Driving around Paris is not for the fainthearted – in fact I don’t know how our coach driver didn’t have a nervous breakdown going around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris!

  10. What gorgeous photos depicting your trip. It sounds like just the type of trip I would love to take! And to the countries I would be interested in seeing as well! How Exciting!

  11. Thanks so much for the information. I have been on one bus tour in Italy about 3 years ago and it was so much fun. I did wish I had more free time in some places but at least I now know where I would love to visit again.

  12. Great post! I really enjoy people taking the time to acutally write something that is relevant. I was supposed to go to Bratislava last year but got sick 2 days before
    and had to stay home 🙁 but as much as I love Europe, I love the Carribbean just a little more. My paradise on earth is definitely Aruba. (I run the blog http://res-till.nu/aruba for this)

  13. I did a quick trip like this last summer with Intrepid & didn’t enjoy it. Not sure if it was the guide (who didn’t seem to know how to control the group OR unite us) or if it just wasn’t long enough in each place. Berlin –> Venice, 7 countries in 14 days. I thought it would be a great experience but it wasn’t ..!!

    – Jennifer

  14. My fiancé and I really want to do a trip to Europe for our Honeymoon. While I have been to Europe before, Mediterranean cruise that included Spain, France and Italy he has not. So I want a great first time experience for him while still seeing new things for myself. This tour sounds amazing as there are many places that I didn’t see or briefly saw prior. We really wanted to include Ireland as well. I visited on a bus tour in 2005 but again my fiancé hasn’t. Do you have any suggestions that might include that? We are really tight on the amount of days because we are thinking a destination wedding in the Caribbean so we really can’t afford to take anymore than 3wks total. Thanks, Beth

  15. this is wonderful information. Recently i want to plane to go Europe and after see all the pictures as below i am very excited. So thank you so much for sharing very useful information.

  16. I loved all this mentioned places. I never visit Europe site country after seen this article, I am planing to visit all the beautiful places in Europe.

  17. I never visited europe in my life, but after reading this wonderful article. i’m planning to visit this vacation. Will love to know about more good places to visit.

  18. Hey Johanna,

    I’m from India i just cam here from google, you just provide all awesome European places in one article. i love this because of your information. I never visit Europe but after seen all pictures I’m interested to visit Europe in winter.

    Thanks.

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