The Award Winning Leader in Escorted Worldwide Rail Tours

USTOA

01904 734 356

Open 7 Days A Week
Frequently Asked Questions

1. GENERAL INFORMATION

Why travel by train?

Traveling by rail is a great way to experience the UK, the Continent - and further afield. 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 tour, 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.

Do you organize rail tours in the UK?

Yes! We offer a great selection of tours within the UK to destinations such as the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Wales, Yorkshire, the Isle of Man, Norfolk and the south coast.

2. ABOUT OUR TOURS

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.

What are the excursions like?

Excursions are included in the price of your tour. 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 tour, 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 tour 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 difference between a First Class and a Standard Class tour?

"First Class" and "Standard Class" refers to the class of rail travel which you will mainly use. In all other senses, we treat our groups equally. So your standard of hotel, your excursion program and the quality of service you receive from our staff remains the same.

First Class is always more spacious and includes meals and drinks on certain journeys - as noted in the tour itinerary. Whilst slightly less spacious, Standard Class accommodation in Europe is generally still more comfortable than you may be used to in the UK.

What is 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 tour 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 521 936.

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

What about single 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 single travelers, with the remainder being made up of couples, or two (or more) friends traveling together.

What do the Tour Managers do?

Your Tour Manager meets you at St Pancras International, or your airport or UK hotel location, and remains with you throughout your tour. Our Tour Managers have been chosen specifically for their friendliness, organisational skills and willingness to help, which means you can take the time to truly relax, safe in the knowledge that someone else has organised everything from train reservations to hotels and transfers. They are never far away if you need assistance and will provide suggestions for places to go and things to do when there's a free day. Should you wish to explore independently they will fade into the background.

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.

4. MOBILITY AND SUITABILITY

I’m not sure if this is the right tour 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 521 936 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 tour. 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 tour!

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 tour. Please advise us before any booking is made if anyone in your party has a medical condition or disability that may affect your/their tour 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 tour and traveling.

Will I have to carry my luggage?

We try to arrange porterage (where this is available is specified on a per-tour basis), but on occasions, yes, you will and we suggest a suitable case size in Essential Information. Porterage is not always available and so you will usually need to lift your own case onto and off trains, and onto luggage racks within trains. You may also need to carry it some distance between platforms/stations or to hotels. With this in mind, you are best to take one small suitcase and one piece of hand luggage per person. Please note that your Tour Manager cannot provide individual assistance with boarding trains or coaches, or carrying your luggage.

What type of suitcase should we take?

Recommended suitcase dimensions

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 tour - 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 tour, 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 tour price for all new bookings, we guarantee that a price rise will not affect you, if you have already booked your tour. 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 tour 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 tour 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 521 936 to check the availability of your chosen tour.

How do I make a booking?

There are four ways to book a tour:

  1. Directly from this website by clicking on the 'Check Availability' button on your chosen tour page.
  2. By telephoning our Tour Advisors on the number shown with your chosen tour 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.
  3. By telephoning our Tour Advisors to make a provisional booking. We will hold the place(s) on your chosen tour for up to 7 days.
  4. 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 tour, the remaining balance and the date when it has to be paid.

6. MONEY MATTERS

How do I pay my deposit?

If you book online or by telephone, payment is required by debit or credit card. If booking through a Travel Agent, payment is made directly to your Agent. If you are paying by credit card on or before 18th December 2017, a charge of 2% will apply, however no charge will apply to credit card payments made after 18thDecember 2017 (no charge will be applied at any time for payments made by cheque or debit cards).

How do I pay my balance?

The final payment for your tour is due 60 days prior to departure (70 days if you are on a cruising tour). If you have not already made your final payment, here is how you can pay:

  • Call our Customer Services team on 01904 527 105 to pay over the phone using a credit or debit card. If you are paying by credit card on or before 18th December 2017, a charge of 2% will apply, however no charge will apply to credit card payments made after 18thDecember 2017 (no charge will be applied at any time for payments made by cheque or debit cards).
  • Post a cheque to the address shown on the letter received with your preparations booklet, together with the payment counterfoil found at the back of your confirmation of booking
  • Pay by wire transfer, by visiting your branch or going online (instructions can be found on the payment counterfoil found at the back of your confirmation of booking)

Which credit/debit cards do you accept?

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

Credit - Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Is there a charge for using a credit card?

We do not charge for payment with a debit card. However, if you are paying by credit card on or before 18th December 2017, a charge of 2% will apply, however no charge will apply to credit card payments made after 18thDecember 2017 (no charge will be applied at any time for payments made by cheque or debit cards) For more information, please read our Booking Conditions, section 3 "Payment".

May I pay by installments?

You are more than welcome to make regular payments towards your tour 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 TOUR DOCUMENTS

What information will I get before I leave?

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

  • Departure and return times.
  • Information about your tour 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 tour departure point.
  • Details of hotels bookable through us, should you wish to stay the night before or after your tour 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?

Most of our clients hold UK passports: any advice we give will be for UK passport holders. If you hold a passport for another country, or have special circumstances (for example, a criminal record), it is wise to contact the embassy of all countries you will be passing through. Visa requirements can change without us being notified, so we are unable to provide definitive information. Entry requirements for the United States, in particular, have recently been changing quite rapidly.

For British Citizens, a standard 10-year passport is required for all tours and must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date. If your passport expires before this or if your passport is endorsed in any way, it may still be acceptable but you should contact your local passport office or the consulate/embassy of the country/countries you plan to visit or transit through for detailed advice.

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 tour. Please note that entry requirements can change without us being notified, so for the latest information on visa requirements for a particular tour, please call a member of our team on 01904 734 939.

View Shortlist 0