Notices

EF Tours -- A good choice?

Old Jul 7th, 2013, 07:23 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 2
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
EF Tours -- A good choice?

So I am now booked on a trip with 20 others from my High School (we were invited on this trip because our history department saw us as most mature and able to appreciate the trip) on a trip to Central Europe with EF Tours. We will be visiting Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria over the course of 14 days. As someone who loves to travel, I would like to have peace of mind that this will be a worthwhile experience, however, based on some of the reviews I've read of the company I no longer have confidence that it will be. First and foremost, a major concern I have is the quality of the food. One of the main reasons TO travel, in my opinion, is to enjoy a gastronomical experience. As I've been told by the teacher leading this trip, breakfast and dinner are provided by EF and we basically have no choice of what we eat. This by itself is a bit discouraging, because I have a very mature taste for my age, so I feel that the company will provide third-rate food that doesn't really represent an authentic meal from whatever country we're in. I even read somewhere that they served French fries when one group was in France -- what the heck! I was, however, able to take respite in the supposed fact that we'll be able to venture out on our own for lunch, which I assume to be true given that it has been stated by both EF and the teacher who's leading this trip. Also, I have heard horror stories about air travel with EF. We will be flying out of Washington Dulles, a major east coast hub. I have a feeling, though, that we'll probably either connect through Heathrow or De Gaulle in Paris. I am very well traveled, however I have never done it with a group like this and I'm afraid I'll be disappointed. If anyone could offer some insight (preferably detailed) into those two concerns, as well as add their overall impressions with other aspects of the trip, that would be extremely helpful. Thanks!
rjwtraveler is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 08:38 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 33,844
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You can search this forum for the negative reviews on EF and other low end student tour companies. Basically, EF and Explorica are the lowest, CHA and Passports are middle of the road and ACIS and NETC are the better/higher-end student tour companies.

With EF, somethings depend on when you travel. If a bit offseason, quality of hotels/food might be a little better. For breakfast, some type of bread and juice (may be something like Tang at some places) and coffee. Some hotels you might get a bit more (yogurt, maybe cheese or hardboiled egg). Dinner will be geared towards teenagers with french fries at many meals (or some other potato). Chicken/pork and maybe a veggie. Most teenagers will still be hungry and need to buy extra food. Usually drinks are not included except water. Soft drinks are never included and are expensive.

As for lunch on your own, often you are traveling and the bus will stop somewhere (restaurant/cafeteria) in the middle of nowhere so you won't have a choice. Otherwise, you will lunch in a touristy area and they will tell you to be back in one hour or so. Some teachers will not allow students to go off on their own so you will have to eat where the group eats unless you have a parent traveling with you.

EF sometimes takes students to restaurants they think they want to go such as Hard Rock as an included meal. The food is prearranged (hamburger/fries) and you usually can't order off the menu.

>>>we were invited on this trip because our history department saw us as most mature and able to appreciate the trip
kybourbon is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 08:57 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 33,844
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
>>>We will be visiting Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria over the course of 14 days.
kybourbon is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 09:04 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,859
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
You might start your research here: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ever-again.cfm

Is it the Treasures of Central Europe tour? Because if so, as I said on the Travel Tips board, it is far too fast-paced. You will spend a lot of time on the bus.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 09:26 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 67,203
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
>>I even read somewhere that they served French fries when one group was in France -- what the heck!
janisj is online now  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 10:10 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,285
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
1. The hotels are nearly always outside the center of town.If I remember correctly-the hotels are not revealed until shortly before the trip!
2.Having to go back to the hotel for dinner is a pain because it interrupts your activities and then it's late to try to find your way back to town on your own.
3. As someone mentioned,because of all the countries/cities,you will be spending many hours on the bus!
4.The food in all the countries will be similar.These hotels do go the cheap route and try to "please" what they think American students will enjoy.I do remember being appalled by the amount of food that was not eten by my students!
5. Be prepared to wait around for students to be accounted when it's time to regroup, board the bus etc!
6.Take something interesting to do on the bus!Books, music etc
chapla is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 10:35 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Not sure why you think serving fries in France is odd - they are a staple in casual meals - with steak or roast chicken - in basic cafes.

And yes, since you will be on a super budget tour you should assume your meals will be basic and probably not very typical of the country. I can sympathize with your frustration - but not sure you have any other option at this point. Not sure how old you are - but in a year or two (assuming you save your money) you will be able to go on your own - arranging the tour as you want and eating all local foods.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 10:49 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 14,700
Likes: 0
Received 20 Likes on 3 Posts
I answered your post on Travel Tips where hou first posted. About my granddaughter's experience with EF.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 11:47 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,322
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well at this point I think you need to adjust your expectations and make the best of it! I went on 2 EF trips with my daughters when they were in HS, going to Spain, Italy, France and a bit of Germany and Austria. And I agree that one of the main delights of travel can be the food. This was about 15 years ago and the food provided by the EF contracted establishments was dismal, and rarely local cuisine.

Now let me say, that the countries you will be visiting IMO are not among the European countries that have the cuisines that really appeal to me. So I'd look at this as a chance to see the major sights in those countries and try to find some snacks or lunches to supplement the dreary offerings. Gelato can sometimes be found beyond the boarders of Italy! It may be that you never choose to return to this part of Europe in your future travels but you will at least have gotten some idea of the region. You are young! you will go again, hopefully many many times to countries like Italy, France and Spain where you can glory in the local cuisine while having some fond memories of your trip with your high school friends and the sad meals that were a part of it. I hope it turns out to be a good experience for you!
suec1 is online now  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 01:38 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,859
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Hmm. I've eaten some very good food in those countries. I don't have a sweet tooth, but I can't imagine anyone dissing the Austrian cakes, and then there are absolutely delicious open-faced small sandwiches in Austria and Hungary, before you even get started on "proper" food. Salads are a challenge, I agree, but the protein can be very good. And there are newer-style restaurants in the major cities with plenty of variety.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jul 8th, 2013, 01:09 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 895
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I do not know how much students pay for those trips but what EF pays to local restaurants and hotels, is rediculously low. Food and accomodation offered is good value for money for the price buisiness get, still every year EF tries to pay even lower rates. I will only mention that in Greece, many restaurant are paied right now 4 EURO!!!!!! per person/per dinner. Note that 2 pitta gyros may cost more than this..... You get what kind of food restaurants are able to provide......
mariha2912 is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 06:46 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 6
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Im supposed to be heading to ireland with EF tours as a graduation present andn because of some comments iv read im terrified to go
liz17 is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 06:57 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 761
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It is all "You get what you pay for."

One of the downsides of most group travel is all the meals are in mediocre restaurants to save money. Look, if they charged for fancy restaurants, the price of the tour would go up and then fewer would go. Even on high end tours you do not get what I would call gourmet meals every night. Most gourmet restaurants are simply not set up for groups, so you go where it is possible (parking, enough tables, adequate toilets, etc.). The same goes for the hotels. It depends on your market. Kids are the low end of the tour business. They don't care about gourmet and, if you are accompanying them on such a tour, mediocre kid food is what you will get. Remember, the tour is for the kids in the group and not for the adults.

On all student tours, the itinerary is fast moving. You may want to spend more time in a place but they don't. And the scenario with the clubbing at night does happen. Then they all sleep on the bus the next day while you are moving from one place to another.

The kids on these tours never complain. The complaints are all from the chaperones (said as someone who has been a tour director for various student tour companies but never personally worked for EF (although I know people who do).

No matter what student tour company you use, the experience is similar. When the adults complain, I always reply that the tour is for the kids. Just don't go along if you are concerned about what I have said. If I had a dollar for every complaint from a teacher/chaperone. . . .
lauren_s_kahn is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 07:00 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 761
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
By the way, a lot of french fries are served in France and eaten by French people. You get steak with french fries, mussels with french fries, etc. Student food does tend to be what kids like to eat even in the US--hamburgers, pizza, spaghetti, chicken fingers--and a lot of buffets containing the same items.

I have done adult tours where we go to buffet restaurants for dinner--such as the Golden Corral--in the US. It is all about keeping the price of the tour within reason.
lauren_s_kahn is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 09:17 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 8,372
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
RJWtraveler: well-written post. And wise beyond your years: most teens think their generation knows most about everything; it's only natural. I credit you for knowing enough to reach out to older folks with the info you need.

I looked at the EF website, and saw tours similar to what you'll be on. The posts above probably forecast your tour quite well; if you look at it from the teacher/guide's perspective, he/she wouldn't WANT you to stray far from the fold. I say this because a close friend has led perhaps 25 student tours, and has told some horror stories about kids "getting out of the corral". After all, that leader is responsible for all 20 of you, which means that if even 1 person 'acts out', the leader is going to hear about it from 40 parents, and a principal, and maybe a superintendent.

That said; if I were you, and knew breakfast and dinner were 'in the corral', I'd research good places for lunch in the areas where EF allowed for 'walking tours'. Often, that means "follow the guide with the blue umbrella as she talks about the things we're passing". There may be an opportunity to forego the tour, have the gourmet lunch you desire, and rejoin the pack before the bus leaves town.

To do that, you could search this site and others about the towns you'd be visiting. You could also e-mail the tourist information bureau in those towns (early this winter, when they're less busy) and ask the names of good restaurants in their town's center (which is usually where the TI is located).

It might be helpful for you to post your specific itinerary.
tomboy is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 10:08 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 18,200
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Not sure how you are going to get a gourmet meal in under 3 hours?

Looks like a tough call, made up of a lot of bus time.

Still getting to see Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria in 14 days aint bad.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 04:34 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 938
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Liz, don't be afraid.

The fun of student tours is mainly about the people you meet in a strange environment and what you experience together with them.

If you go into it wanting a good experience, you'll remember the magic moment with some cool people from the tour and some great locals in a pub in X.

Or you remember the night when you missed the last bus back to your hotel and spent four hours walking, talking and laughing, just to arrive an hour before your tour bus left again.

You're young, you can deal with some bad food or an uncomfortable bed.

I'm now in my 40's. I get the comfortable hotel and the restaurant which doesn't disappoint. But frag, I'd give an arm and a leg to be in your position again

Some hotels, breakfasts and dinners will probably be cr*p. If you concentrate on what's wrong with your tour, you can make your trip a miserable time. If you ignore the stuff which isn't comfortable but concentrate on the opportunities, you'll have some experiences which make you think like me when I see a young person with a backpack and little money. I think: lucky bastard
Hans is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 05:02 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 842
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Methinks rjwtraveler has left the protection of the Fodor's umbrella. This request for information was his/her only one on the board and we haven't seen a post since the original date (July 7). Nevertheless, I will toss in my 2 cents worth for those who have similar questions.

As stated by others (whose opinions I hold in high regard), EF tends to offer travel packages for lower costs than most group travel companies. Since many travel costs are fixed (air tickets, entry to attractions, coach rental, administrative costs), they must reduce costs in other areas - these might be hotel location (farther from city center and attractions), costs of meals etc.

That being said, EF can and does offer a wonderful travel experience and generally good value for the money. What upsets some travellers is often a pre-supposed romantic or idealized version of what they will be seeing and doing in Europe. In rjw's trip there are many destinations. The group should expect to spend lots of time travelling. But that's ok. The group will see loads of interesting and educational sights. They just won't have extra time to absorb the ambiance. This sort of trip is ideal for many students because it is fast paced (similar to a video game).

I have worked with a number of travel companies (including EF) and found all of them have strengths.

My unasked-for advice ... "Make it fun", "Enjoy all moments away from home".

Good travels.

tC
teacherCanada is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 05:13 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 938
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
And Liz, never forget that you can't force experiences.

I've worked for some time in France and we were invited to team-building events in fancy restaurants with really great food and the question what wine to order with foie gras.

But in the end we bonded during some evenings with steak, fries and beer.
Hans is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 05:23 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The meals will match the prices. If one wants gourmet meals - one wold have to travel in a totally different way at a budget probably 3 times or more the cost of what is a very basic high school trip. (Do realize that prices for everything are likely to be higher in europe than in the US - at least 30% due to the low value of the dollar - and also simply due to higher prices - even in central europe.
nytraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information