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Frequently Asked Questions

1. General Information

Why travel by train?

Traveling by rail is a great way to experience the world. On a train you can get up and stretch your legs, visit the buffet car for refreshments, or simply sit back in your comfortable, reserved seat and enjoy the spectacular, ever-changing scenery as you speed to your destination. By rail you can experience sights that cannot be seen any other way: from panoramic coastal routes to a journey through majestic Alpine scenery or along spectacular gorges, the train provides the ideal viewpoint.

If you haven't ventured into Europe by rail before, you will be pleasantly surprised by how little time it takes to reach your destination. Travelers arriving at St Pancras International are whisked through check-in and can be relaxing in their seats on board Eurostar within half an hour. The journey to Paris now takes just over two hours and the journey to Brussels just under two hours.

When is the best time to go?

It depends entirely on your destination, and what sort of weather you like. If you prefer to avoid the hottest part of the year, then try not to travel in July and August - though northern Europe is generally cooler than southern Europe. The Alps also tend to stay a little cooler over the summer, thanks to their altitude. On the other hand, the closer to the main summer season you go, the better the chances of getting some sun! If you are traveling to countries in the Southern Hemisphere, don't forget that the period from February to April is their fall, and September to November is spring.

Many of our winter tours are to countries with colder climates. Naturally we can't guarantee snow, but our Tour Advisors will help you choose a departure date to suit you - whether you want to see beautiful winter scenery under a blanket of snow, or meadows full of colorful springtime flowers.

Are they tours for rail enthusiasts?

Our customers book with us because they appreciate the comfort and relaxation of traveling by train and look upon the journey as part of their vacation, rather than because they are rail enthusiasts. Our tours attract customers with a wide range of interests and they are not designed specifically for enthusiasts, however as many of the destinations included in our tours are selected for their excellent railroad connections and excursions, rail enthusiasts will find much to interest them.

On occasions travel is on Sundays or public tours - can I expect extended journey times and disruption as in the UK?

No. Other than in the UK, principal trains throughout the world run to the same schedules every day of the week. The infrastructure in place ensures that engineering works, including major renewals and upgrading, generally have little impact on train running.

2. About us

How many people go on one of your tours?

The maximum number varies from tour to tour, but it is usually between 35 to 45 people. The majority of our tours travel with a full complement and it is very rare that we have to cancel due to lack of numbers.  However, on occasions it is necessary for us to cancel tours due to low numbers. As a general rule, the minimum number of passengers required to operate a tour is 15 and we will always contact our customers in good time should it be necessary to cancel or make an amendment to the scheduled program. For our small group tours the maximum number of people is 20.

What are the excursions like?

Excursions are included in the price of your vacation. They are designed to give a balance of cultural, historical and social interest and to give you insight into the areas we visit. We try to use trains for excursions, however we sometimes utilise coaches or boats to get to places of interest. Where coaches are used, these are of high quality and aim to keep coach journeys to a maximum of two hours between stops. On most excursions, in addition to your Tour Manager, we are accompanied by a local guide to impact specialist knowledge of the sights being visited. Some excursions are to off-the-beaten-track destinations that simply would not be stumbled upon without this local knowledge.

Do we have to join in?

Traveling on a Great Rail Journeys vacation, you will never feel "herded", and customers sometimes break away from the group to explore independently. There is plenty of flexibility within the itineraries and options to dine and explore independently. Many of our excursions will feature free time at a destination, to explore it at your own pace. There are also those who prefer to forego a particular excursion to relax at the hotel - it is your vacation after all.

Your Tour Manager is there to provide help when you need it or to discreetly 'disappear' when you don't. The program of activity is comprehensive, but not compulsory - it is very easy to opt in or out as one pleases. There is time to yourself and freedom to indulge your own interests.

What's the dress code?

Wear what you are comfortable in and what is appropriate for the tour, remembering that the more outfits you bring the heavier your cases will be! Customers generally find a sturdy pair of shoes they are able to walk in is useful - particularly for tours including sightseeing and guided walking tours. Other suggestions include a waterproof jacket, umbrella, sunglasses and 'layers' so you are able to dress for the weather, whether that be sun, snow or both! Where more formal wear is required (e.g. gala dinners on the river cruises), we will inform you of this in your vacation documentation - generally this will entail a shirt and tie for men and equivalent for ladies.

Overall it is important to dress for the weather in your destination, so check weather reports before you travel.

What facilities will my hotel have?

Our hotels are carefully selected to provide keen value for money, a warm welcome with high quality service and comfortable rooms, all in convenient locations with amenities close at hand.

We indicate the official star rating and provide a short description of each hotel on the 'Hotels' tab found on our tour pages. The hotel description details its location and facilities to help you decide if the hotel is suitable for your needs. Most hotel bedrooms on Great Rail Journeys are equipped with a private bathroom, telephone and color television, with the exception of certain specialty accommodation such as safari lodges. Many hotels also offer hairdryers, minibars, safes, tea and coffee making facilities and so on and where these are available, they will be detailed in the 'Hotels' section. If you have any further questions about the hotel included on your tour, please do not hesitate to telephone us on 01904 734 154.

Full details about the facilities available at all of our hotels will be forwarded to you with your vacation documentation.

What about solo travelers?

Great Rail Journeys tours are very suitable for people who are traveling on their own. The convivial nature of a group environment means there is always someone to share experiences with, should you choose to.

Typically up to 15% of the travelers on a group can be solo travelers, with the remainder being made up of couples, or two (or more) friends traveling together.

3. Special requirements

What do you do about special requests for diets or rooms?

Any requests for special diets or room allocations must be requested at the time of booking. We pass rooming and dietary requirements on to the relevant hoteliers and suppliers, who will do their best to help. Please advise our staff as early as possible when booking.

What about other special requests?

We do our best to provide a tour that will suit your individual needs. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our Tour Advisors to discuss any special requirements you may have.

Can I make this a surprise vacation for someone?

We will be happy to help you arrange a surprise vacation! Please note that we are not able to send out your documents in plain envelopes, so if you live at the same address as the person you wish to surprise, please supply us with an alternative address so that the Great Rail Journeys envelopes don't give the game away! Any requests of this nature should be made at the time of booking. Do make sure to give us a telephone number which it is "safe" to call, and remember to let us know when the secret is out!

4. Mobility and suitability

I'm not sure if this is the right vacation for me

Please read the section Essential Information advising you of what to expect on your journey and do not hesitate to contact our office on  01904 734 154 if you have any further questions.

We are conscious that our tours are not suitable for everyone, not only in terms of personal taste but in the ability to cope with the demands of a particular vacation. Although our tours are designed to be conducted at a leisurely pace, they can also be physically demanding. Typical issues include guided walking tours, the lack of a lift in a particular hotel, altitude, climatic conditions and so on. We want to ensure that all our customers have an enjoyable vacation!

We have a Mobility team within the office who will be happy to provide guidance about our tours and answer any further questions you may have about a specific vacation. Please advise us before any booking is made if anyone in your party has a medical condition or disability that may affect your/their vacation arrangements or if there are any health or fitness concerns which may affect your/their ability to cope with a tour. Please also remember to advise us of any changes to mobility or fitness levels between booking your vacation and traveling.

What type of suitcase should we take?

As porterage is not included on all of our tours, you will need to carry your own case on and off trains, and find somewhere to stow it once on board. With that in mind, we suggest the following dimensions as ideal: 61cm x 38cm x 23cm - (24" x 15" x 9"), weighing about 34lb/15kg. This may seem quite small, especially for longer tours, so here are some packing tips:

  • If you are traveling with a companion, take a smaller suitcase each rather than a larger one between you. It is easier to find space on a luggage rack for two small cases than one large one.
  • Suitcases with wheels are very, very useful.
  • Remember that many of our hotels offer laundry service - perhaps you can take fewer clothes and have them cleaned.
  • Most hotels have irons available, so don't worry about clothes being folded a few times.
  • With some exceptions (eg. river cruises where more formal attire is expected), you may wear what you are comfortable with at all times.
  • If you intend to purchase souvenirs, ensure to leave space in your suitcase for them.

Do you accept children on your tours?

Of course - though we feel it only fair to make it known that our clientele is generally drawn from a more mature age group and children may not necessarily enjoy the long train journeys and the types of activity that we organize. If you are unsure, please discuss your requirements with a member of our staff.

Is there an upper age limit?

No. What is important is not your age but your ability to manage the tour. If you have read Essential Information and you think you would be able to manage the tour, we will be glad to have you on board. Can you beat our current champion of 97 years old?

5. Making your booking

When do I need to book?

Each tour has a set number of departures with a limited group size. Many tours fill quickly so it is always advisable to book early to get your preferred choice of dates. We do not offer late booking discounts so there is no benefit in delaying booking your vacation - in fact many of our tours come with an early booking discount. A deposit is needed to fully reserve any of our tours.

Once you have booked and paid us the appropriate deposit for your vacation, we guarantee that you will not be surcharged. This means that even if a cost increase is imposed upon us by a supplier - for example due to an increase in fuel costs - and we need to increase the vacation price for all new bookings, we guarantee that a price rise will not affect you, if you have already booked your vacation. Conversely, if a price drops after you've booked, we'll pass on the difference to you. It really does pay to book early.

I've seen a vacation I like: How do I find out what space is available?

This website is constantly updated with booking availability and additional departure dates - click on 'Check Availability' on your chosen vacation for a list of departure dates and an indication as to whether there are spaces still available. Alternatively, you can contact one of our Tour Advisors on 01904 734 154 to check the availability of your chosen vacation.

How do I make a booking?

There are four ways to book a vacation:

  • Directly from this website by clicking on the 'View dates & prices' button on your chosen vacation page.
  • By telephoning our Tour Advisors on the number shown with your chosen vacation on the website or on the relevant page in our brochure. Our Tour Advisors will be happy to complete your booking details and take a deposit by card payment over the telephone.
  • By telephoning our Tour Advisors to make a provisional booking. We will hold the place(s) on your chosen vacation for up to 48 hours.
  • We also sell our tours through selected travel agents.

What happens next?

Once you have made your booking and a deposit has been paid, we will forward a Confirmation of Booking to you. Your confirmation will show a breakdown of the accommodation and services booked on the vacation, the remaining balance and the date when it has to be paid.

6. Money matters

Question - Which credit/debit cards do you accept?

Debit - Visa Debit, Maestro (Switch) and MasterCard Debit.

Credit - Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

May I pay by installments?

You are more than welcome to make regular payments towards your vacation cost, providing that the full balance has been received by the balance due date.

What is included?

Our tours include return rail travel with appropriate transfers, hotel accommodation, a number of meals and the services of your Tour Manager. Our tours are rich in content and include city tours, guided visits, excursions, meals, transport, and hotel accommodation. Each Itinerary specifies exactly what is included, so there are no 'hidden' extras. Our experience means that the major sights you would wish to see are included in the package - and in the price.

7. Your vacation documents

What information will I get before I leave?

About 10-12 weeks before your vacation you will receive an 'Update Letter', containing:

  • Departure and return times.
  • Information about your vacation including luggage advice and tips on what to pack.
  • Eurostar terminal guide (if applicable)
  • Details of the UK Rail Tickets we can offer to take you from your local station to the vacation departure point.
  • Details of hotels bookable through us, should you wish to stay the night before or after your vacation in Central London or at your departure location.
  • Details of our recommended luggage delivery scheme 'The Baggage Man'.
  • A reminder about your balance due date.

About 2 weeks before departure, you will receive an itinerary and your final travel documents. Check these immediately and contact us if anything is not clear.

8. Before you go

What currency will I need?

This obviously depends on where you are going. As you may already know, many European countries now use the Euro but this does not apply to all.

Please find a table below highlighting the countries that we visit and the currency they use.

Country

Currency

Country

Currency

Austria

Euro

Monaco

Euro

Australia

Australian Dollar

Mongolia

Tögrög

Belarus

Belarusian Rouble

Morocco*

Moroccan Dirham

Belgium

Euro

Namibia

Namibian dollar

Bhutan

Bhutanese ngultrum

Nepal

Nepalese rupee

Botswana

Pula

Netherlands

Euro

Burma

Burmese kyat

New Zealand     

New Zealand Dollar     

Cambodia

Cambodian Riel

Norway

Norwegian Krone

Canada

Canadian Dollar

Peru

Nuevo Sol

China

Chinese Renminbi

Poland

Zloty

Croatia

Kuna and Croatian Dinar     

Romania

Romanian Leu

Czech Republic     

Czech Koruna

Russia

Russian Rouble

Denmark

Danish Krone

Singapore

Singapore Dollar

Ecuador

US Dollar

Slovakia

Euro

Estonia

Euro

Slovenia

Euro

Finland

Euro

South Africa

South African Rand

France

Euro

Spain

Euro

Germany

Euro

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan rupee

Greece

Euro

Sweden

Swedish Krona

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Dollar

Switzerland

Swiss Franc

Hungary

Forint

Tanzania

Tanzanian shilling

Ireland

Euro

Thailand

Thai Baht

Italy

Euro

Turkey

Turkish Lira

India*

Indian Rupee

Ukraine

Ukrainian Hryvnia

Japan

Japanese Yen

USA

US Dollar

Latvia

Euro

Vietnam

Vietnamese Dong

Luxembourg

Euro

Zambia

Zambian kwacha

Malaysia

Malaysian ringgit

 

 

 

Please note that the countries with an asterisk (*) have closed currencies and local currency cannot be obtained in the UK.  In these circumstances, we would recommend our customers to take sterling which can be exchanged locally.

Although some countries have their own currencies, it can sometimes be better to take a different currency.  For example, US Dollars are much more widely used in Russia than the Rouble and many customers take sterling or Euros to Turkey rather than Turkish Lira.  Please check with one of our Tour Advisors or a local Bureau de Change for up to date information and guidance in good time prior to your departure.

What about Visa and Passport requirements?

This will be dependent on where you are going. It will be your responsibility to apply for any applicable VISAs.

Where a visa is required, we give details of how this visa may be obtained and whether the cost of the visa is included in the cost of the vacation. Please note that entry requirements can change without us being notified.