EF Tours - still horrible.

Old Feb 25th, 2022, 04:41 PM
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EF Tours - still horrible.

This is a terrible company. Just don't use them. I have spent $10,000 for two kids/student trips and I can't get the most basic customer support from them.

Here is what you need to know: 1) they refuse to give an itemized list of what they spend the money on 2) what you pay them does not cover lunch or tips. Your travelers have to cover that. 3) They pretend that you can extend your student's trip. And you can. But guess what? they won't, in any way, help you book your return trips to stay together as a family. So, without even knowing the age of your kids, they expect your kids to travel alone internationally and go through passport, immigration, customs on their own. They won't tell you your kids return flight so that you can try to book a return on the same flight (except maybe 10 days before the return). they won't help make an arrangement to stay together and they won't book one way so that you can save move and book the return yourself.


Then, you can't get through on the phone. They have horrible people on the chat, like actually rude.

Just don't do it. It isn't worth the hassle these people have created. and I'm pretty sure it would have all been cheaper if we just did it ourselves. Our only hope now is that our kids have a great time with their class.

I trusted that their school had picked out a good company. But now I'm looking them up and I see terrible reviews everywhere. I feel foolish. I shouldn't have trusted the school. A quick google search would have shown me the horrors of this company. So many complaints.
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Old Feb 25th, 2022, 06:39 PM
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I am sorry your experience so far is negative. I question your use of the word “still.” Had you a bad experience in the past?

I do think your expectations are unrealistic and some of your statements are unfair. There are pros and cons and I could give you plenty of both, but the company tour descriptions (if you read them) state right up front how many meals (breakfast, lunch, etc.) are included. It is not sprung on you as a surprise. I just spent five minutes on their website. It is very clear. Tips tips to the bus driver and tour guide are never included and that used to be clearly disclosed in their materials to the school and lead teachers. If they failed to share that with you, that is on them, not the tour company.

As to a detailed expense list, probably not even possible. When you go to a restaurant, do you ask for a breakdown of the cost of the chicken, pasta, sauces, bread, laundry of napkin, etc? No, you have a price for the meal. Same with the tour. The company is paying for flights, checked luggage, busses, drivers, guides, rooms, meals, reps, offices, etc. They may contract with a given hotel for 25 rooms two days a week for ten weeks. They get a total fee, not per person.

A really huge expense must be insurance. Making sure thousands of underage kids are safe while traveling far from home is serious stuff.

Many years ago, I traveled with EF and many teachers use them. They are a cheap, basic product, tour company. They are NOT a custom tour company or travel agency. They are not geared to making individual itineraries, flights, etc. If their product fits your needs and price, you buy it, but do not expect EF to function as a travel agent. Of course, they can’t book costly one-way flights. Any add ons are fixed cost and scheduled by the company. It is very clear.

Participants are informed ahead of time about what is included and what is not. Surely the lead teacher or school gave participants the brochure and information about the tour. As a matter of fact, parents would have had some forms to sign in order to join the tour. They may not have the option anymore, but there used to be an option for getting your own flights and joining only the land part of the tour. It had to be one or the other, not one way going and another returning. The company books blocks of tickets, not individual tickets. It books blocks of rooms.

When I did this type of thing, eons ago, some parents always wanted changes to the itinerary or dates to begin and end the tour, etc. I had to say, “This is the tour.” No changes. You can decide if it works for you. Teachers or schools can create a customized tour for a group, but the entire group buys that tour, no individual changes.

There were other things I did not like about EF, but I had the same issues with other student companies. Hotels that were not central or I did not like, and food that was not good. Unfortunately, many hotels cannot or do not wish to accommodate a bus load of students, so choices are limited. The same is true with restaurants.

There was always one problem for me and it was not with the company, but with the fact that teachers and schools promoted the trips with the basic cost of the tour - exactly what is paid to the tour company, but students and parents do not think about how much the whole trip will cost. However, there are many things like this that we understand and accept. Most all tours, cruises, etc. are priced at basic costs, but with many extras. Tips are rarely included.

Regardless of the pros and cons of the tour (and there are certainly cons to a tour like this, by EF and others), the fact is, all the sights are the same in Venice, Rome, etc. that people on more expensive tours see. The students get a wonderful exposure to some of the highlights of the country or countries they visit. Please do not let the negative relationship with the company put a damper on the excitement of Europe for your teens. They will have crazy great memories.
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Old Feb 25th, 2022, 07:29 PM
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Sassafrass, your answer above is a great reminder of why I always enjoy reading your posts.
Measured, non judgemental, helpful info.
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Old Feb 25th, 2022, 09:09 PM
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Sassafrass . . . Keep your post on 'auto-copy/pastel' We get one of these "EF is horrible" threads 2 or 3 times a year -- almost always posted by one-time wonders -- and your post should be a sticky LOL

Meeka110: If you are still around, as Sassafrass points out, several of your gripes are unreasonable. EF definitely isn't luxury travel but they do fill a popular niche. No budget tour company (student focused or not) allows customized travel dates/flights. And I've never seen a tour brochure (student focused or not) that provides meals other than those clearly listed. Same with tips. I just think you didn't do your homework.

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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 03:30 AM
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Great advice above. Plus it is worth mentioning, don't shout at me, that tips in Europe are not mandatory. They are not even culturally 'mandatory'. I often go weeks on end Europe without even leaving the change in a bill. So your kids really don't need to as the staff they meet will be at worse on local state minimum.
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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 09:45 AM
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Well said Sassafrass. While I empathize with the OP, I'm sure their teens will have a wonderful trip. My 2 daughters both did EFT tours in high school and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Sassafrass

There was always one problem for me and it was not with the company, but with the fact that teachers and schools promoted the trips with the basic cost of the tour - exactly what is paid to the tour company, but students and parents do not think about how much the whole trip will cost. re priced at basic costs, but with many extras. Tips are rarely included.
Sassafrass, you gave a fair answer. The problems relate to a) traveling in a group as opposed to as a couple or small family (the latter of course has flexibility the group would not) and b) the category of tour, i.e. any basic tour company would offer a similar experience.

I think part of the problem is that tours, and basic tours in particular, are often the first kind of travel people try - but ironically it helps to know something about travel to know what to expect, to be prepared for just how basic a 'basic' tour really is. I agree that teachers should state the bad news up front, that the price you see will not be the price you end up paying, this is not an 'all inclusive.'

To the OP - I am sorry it was a letdown, that said, what you got was still an important experience for you. Sometimes the experience is as much about learning to travel, as the sites themselves.

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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Sassafrass . . . Keep your post on 'auto-copy/pastel' We get one of these "EF is horrible" threads 2 or 3 times a year -- almost always posted by one-time wonders -- and your post should be a sticky LOL
Don't know where the 'l' came from -- didn't mean light color/colour . . . 'auto-copy/pastel paste' but you got the idea.
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Old Feb 28th, 2022, 10:10 AM
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"Still" refers to the numerous negative reviews of this company all over the internet.

I'm sorry, but I never saw or received anything "right up front" that explained about meals or tips. And so, I was posting that people should be aware of that. Good for you that you found it right away. I did not. Nor was it provided by the school, who is arranging/promoting using EF Tours for a group school trip. This trip has been planned for more than 2 years (delayed because of the pandemic) and we received information about tips a week ago. So again, good for you. But that wasn't our experience.

I spent 10K on a trip for two students. I do expect to get a fairly detailed list of where the money is spent. I'm not asking for details down the cost of a single meal. But I think it is fine to ask for the basic list. Comparing 10K to a chicken dinner is not the same. But, that said, at a restaurant, I do get a menu with a detailed list of what is in a meal and I could do the math on meal. It's a bit different for a trip like this.

The brochure you speak of has little to no information. It is a marketing piece about the wonders of international travel.

You're correct, "do not expect EF to function as a travel agent" and that is mainly the point of my post. They appear to let one make extended arrangements. But that just isn't real. They advertise that you can make change. They advertise that you can extend the trip. What they don't explain is that children cannot return with parents. That seems like some basic important information.

I'm super hopeful that our kids will have a great time. They have no idea the crap we're going through with EF or to come home together. But I can't recommend EF Tours. And I highly recommend that anyone considering this company please read all the reviews. Do your homework. I wish I had done more.
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Old Feb 28th, 2022, 10:59 AM
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I'm really sorry . . . but anyone shelling out $10,000 (!) for just about anything should do a good deal (like LOTS) of homework first.
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Old Feb 28th, 2022, 11:13 AM
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Thanks. That is super helpful. I really appreciate that comment. The internet is so neat. I hope you talk to your kids that way too.

It's so cool to let people know that they are dumb or made a mistake.

In case it wasn't totally clear by my post...I totally made a mistake. You can demean and condescend me any way you like.

But I'll repeat this information for others that are actually considering using this company and aren't just here to be mean or rude.

1) do your research. Don't just trust that the school has done it. 2) read all the reviews. This company has a huge amount of negative reviews. 3) you cannot make any real special arrangements. So the best thing to do is to just have your kids/students go on the tour and do not try meeting up with them or extending the trip.


Last edited by Meeka110; Feb 28th, 2022 at 11:17 AM.
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Old Feb 28th, 2022, 11:26 AM
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How is this not getting through...

They advertise that you can make special arrangements and that you can extend the travel time to meet up with your kids.
then when you try to do it, they tell you they can't book you together or make any arrangements to do that.

And...you note that you get 2-3 of these "horrible EF Tour" post a year...it's actually a lot more. Especially if you look at all the places people are complaining about this company. There is a real issue with this company.

It must be fun to be super self-important and arrogant about this and somehow everyone should magically know-how education tour groups work and what's included. but, we don't. And honestly, what is the point of either of your posts except to tell me I should have known better? how does that help anyone except you to feel self important?

So, for those that are here to get some real information:
1) do your research about EF Tours and do not trust only the information coming from the school
2) ask a million questions. none of their real terms are posted on the website but they do have PDF's that can be found with searching or asking
3) read all the reviews on places like yelp, TripAdvisor, better business etc.
4) do not expect to really get to extend the trip without considerable expense. It's just easier to not do it
5) they have terrible customer support. they don't have enough staff so phone waits are hours and hours long, chat waits are also hours long. And email takes 3-5 business days.
6) as per usual, pay no attention to people on the internet that have too much time on their hands and nothing better to do except to be mean and tell people how wrong they are or defend companies they don't even work for (or wait, maybe they do work for them? who knows. trolls).
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Old Feb 28th, 2022, 02:44 PM
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This is long. Read or not.
It is truly unfortunate that your school did not communicate with you. That is mostly where your problem was and I hope you addressed the issues with them.
1. I want to tell you that I do not work for any company and have never worked for a tour company of any sort. I do not think any of the other people who responded do either.
2. I dislike tours, all tours, especially bus tours with a lot of people. I dislike the inherent structures of tours, set times for meet ups, tours, meals, hotels I did not choose, etc. I really dislike traveling with people I did not choose.
3. OTOH, using a tour company is just about the only way to travel with a group of students. No teacher in their right mind would take on the legal and physical responsibility of planning, booking plane and bus travel, drivers, hotels, guides, restaurants, securing tickets to museums and making sure kids are in their rooms at night for a group of students in another country. I traveled with other companies as well as EF. At the time, EF was ranked low, but was also cheapest and what my students could afford.
4. It is clear that your school (or the teachers involved) failed in communicating with you. Sometimes these trips are done through the school. Usually, however, they are organized by teachers who may do it individually or have school authorization. If they have school authorization, they can have meetings at school, etc. As individuals, all contact is outside of school. Someone had to be the leader for your studentsí group. They were supposed to be your contact point.
5. These tour companies deal with the group leaders (teachers or school rep). They are not set up to deal with individual students. Think about it. There are several of these companies, a half dozen big ones. They take hundreds of thousands of students all over the world. Just in my one small HS, during Spring Break, there would be a half dozen teachers, a half dozen parents and two to three hundred kids on trips to Spain, Italy, France, etc. In Summer, there would be more on longer trips to Greece or Italy that included planes, busses, trains, ferries, The Galapagos Islands, multiple countries, etc. There is no way on earth that these companies could work with each student or their parents. Students and parents are supposed to be working with the teacher or school rep.
6. The teacher does a lot of work before and on the trip. In return, they get free travel, so part of your money goes to pay for that. It may seem like a great deal, and can be fun, but I found the stress of 24/7 responsibility for teens in another country to be tough and though parents and students were begging me to do it, I stopped.

None of the above is to denigrate the OP. I agree with you. It is a lot of money! Nobody wants to spend unwisely. We all, usually many times during our lives, trust others in making decisions that sometimes go great and sometimes do not. Do all the research you want. Sometimes it is no oneís fault. Things happen. People miss problems with houses, cars, travel. If it is not life and death, we shake it off, learn from it, enjoy what we can.
It is also good sometimes to figure out where and how things went wrong, being careful to be honest in our assessment of that.

These issues are unfairly attributed to EF.
I am not defending EF or any tour company, but the OP is going after the wrong party.
1. If the OP did not receive brochures or information, that was the responsibility of the school or teacher and should have been directed to them. I know for a fact that those things are made available by the company.
2. Things are not hidden. Information is available on their website, about a five minute search, stating what is included on every single trip/itinerary.
3. A very long, detailed contract is signed by parents, stating possible changes of itinerary, flights, hotels, groups, rights, etc. Unless a school or teacher contracts for a more expensive, private group, the company puts small groups together.
4. The company does not advertise that they will accommodate parents travel arrangements. They often do not have tickets completely booked until a few days before the trip, so there is no way to do that. They canít tell you when, because they do not know. I had a trip that had to be changed because another group completely canceled. I had a choice of canceling or joining several different groups on different tours at different times to different countries, and had to make the decision quickly. Fortunately, the parents of my students trusted my judgement and let me make the choice. This was important because the company could not possibly start discussing all the options with each set of parents. That was my job!
5. They will extend trips, but it is expensive because they are losing the benefit of their group bookings, and it must be done at the time you contract for the tour, not later. If parents wish to travel with their students, they may if they sign up at the same time or if there is still room on the tour.

To the OP, did you take all of your concerns and complaints to the teacher, leader or school? Did they have meetings with you and go through everything? Have you met with other parents in your group? When I was a lead teacher, I met with every single parent to go over rules, contracts, itineraries, expectations regarding hotels, possible changes, deadlines, etc. Perhaps they do this so often, they assume parents know. Please, you are so unhappy with this, make the school aware. Much of this is on their head, their failure to fully inform you.

This is not a defense of EF, just a general observation. Many things come as a package. There may be add ons, but no break down of basics. You were upset about my comparison with a restaurant meal. OK, make it a house. Unless you build it yourself, you do not get a breakdown of how much the plumbing, roof, floors, deck, etc. cost. I may be wrong on this, have not looked, but I doubt that any tour companies like Globus or Trafalgar give a breakdown of basic costs. They do for add ons. I know for sure cruise lines have basic costs for different cabins and add ons, but no breakdown of cost for food, entertainment, etc. These tours are packages. Period. The only way to have a breakdown is to book things on your own or through a travel agent who can do that for you.

If parents can afford family travel, it is probably best to do that. However, if they canít and can send a child, no matter what company, it can be life changing. One of my students who went to Italy with me, returned to study Art in Florence. Another, after seeing Pompeii, became an archeologist, going on digs in many countries. Make sure your students learn some of the language for the country they are touring.
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Old Aug 21st, 2023, 11:59 AM
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Terrible experience.....I would have been better to do tour by myself. Expensive and everyone had their hand out for a tip. Just don't. use them is the best. advice
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Old Aug 21st, 2023, 12:21 PM
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Eileencrowley7333, welcome to Fodors. That's an interesting first post.
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Old Aug 21st, 2023, 12:36 PM
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I do not mince words. I have been traveling. for 50 years to Europe. First time I. have had an issue with a supplier. Difficult from the beginning. Unavailable/did not return phone calls. Hotels were of inferior grade and located a distance from the cities visited and in 4 instances next to rail road tracks. It. was a good tour. for those who drank beer the entire time
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Old Aug 21st, 2023, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by eileencrowley7333
I do not mince words. I have been traveling. for 50 years to Europe. First time I. have had an issue with a supplier. Difficult from the beginning. Unavailable/did not return phone calls. Hotels were of inferior grade and located a distance from the cities visited and in 4 instances next to rail road tracks. It. was a good tour. for those who drank beer the entire time
Welcome to Fodors. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience -- BUT even a minimal search for EF Tours on line on almost any travel site would have alerted you to the grade of hotels and their sometimes problematic locations, customer support issues, etc. Should not have come as a surprise.
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Old Aug 21st, 2023, 01:14 PM
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Plus it is worth mentioning, don't shout at me, that tips in Europe are not mandatory. They are not even culturally 'mandatory'.

The rules vary from country to country. In Hungary, a waiter let us know in a less than friendly voice that the tip was not included. Now the payment is done by credit card and how that is presented determines the tipping practice. In France, just the signature was needed. Elsewhere (Norway and Austria) we were sometimes asked to enter on the portable reader the total we desired to pay (obviously equal to or more than the bill itself), and the final version listed the cost of the percentages we desired to add; zero was an option, but clearly not the norm. But more to the point: tips for cruise and tour personnel are standard. On our tours of Ireland in 1998, our cruise on the Danube in 2016, and on our tour of Tunisia in 2022 (American owner, European based), a tip for the local guide and the bus driver was clearly de rigueur.

As for the OP original post, I assume that the monetary outlay was meant to say that $10,000 should give her more than the basics. Perhaps, but we paid $9000+ (self-arranged transportation plus the tour itself) for two for a 13 day tour of Tunisia where most of the lunches and some evening meals were extra. Our accommodations were undoubtedly better than what a student tour would get, but on the other hand, Tunisia is a less expensive country than most European countries.

Last edited by Michael; Aug 21st, 2023 at 01:38 PM.
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Old Aug 21st, 2023, 01:27 PM
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I am unclear why you commented on this old message thread and took a student tour, Eileencrowley7333, having previously enjoyed 50 years of travel experience in Europe.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2023, 03:51 PM
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EF is not only for student travel, they also have a group for adult travel, EF Go Ahead Tours. We have friends who have taken multiple trips with them, and have been very happy however when I have reviewed the itinerary, inclusions/exclusions, the hotels they choose and the amount of bus transportation, I found them rather overpriced vis-a-vis quality, and definitely not of interest to us, as we far prefer independent travel.
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