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Old Mar 12th, 2007, 07:59 PM
  #41  
 
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You get what you pay for so if you want a nice student tour company with excellent guides, good hotels in the cities (not 20 miles out), use ACIS or NETC. For a good company, choose CHA or Passports. If you want budget low-end, choose EF or Explorica.

Many times the people defending budget companies are the ones that aren't paying.
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Old Mar 13th, 2007, 02:18 PM
  #42  
 
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NETC and ACIS' tours are consistently $400-$500 more than EF's tours. This can make the difference over whether or not some of these kids/families get to ever see Europe.

All of the student tour companies use the same hotels and restaurants, some are in the city, some are outside. As stated previously, many central city hotels won't even take student groups because they don't have enough rooms to accomodate 50 people in high season, or they just choose to cater to adult or business travels who are willing to pay hundreds per night.
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Old Mar 26th, 2007, 09:03 AM
  #43  
MaureenB
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My son just returned from a Costa Rica tour with EF. They had a great time, no complaints at all about EF. The tour bus was brand new and very comfortable, the tour guides were helpful, the accomodations were good, etc.. They traveled over an 8 day time-frame, and stayed in four hotels:
Country Inn, 506.239.2272 www.countryinns.com/herediacr

Hotel Lavas Tacotal, 506.460.9998 www.tacotal.com

Suerre-Guapiles, 506.710.7552

Hotel Punta Cocles, 506.750.0117

They toured the jungle, saw two beaches, did a zip-line tour, etc. It was exactly what we expected it to be. About 60 kids went, and 10 adults, all from his high school.

The only complaint I have doesn't relate to EF. I just found two charges for about $42 on my credit card statement, both from the same day and time. He'd used a hotel's phone to call home, because the $10 phone card he'd purchased wouldn't work. He had no idea the minimum charge would be $40 per connection! He hung up when he heard the answering machine, to save money. But he called both our home and my cell phone. Jeez, louise! His understanding was that it would be the 'cheapest' way to call home. Good thing we told him not to call often! For $84 all we got was about a 20 second message on one phone.
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Old Mar 26th, 2007, 08:43 PM
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Since $42 per call is highway robbery, it's easy to understand why he might not have expected it. The actual cost of international calls from anywhere in Western Europe these days is a few cents per minute (the telecoms mark that up by several hundred percent, but still nowhere near $42).
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 07:24 AM
  #45  
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Anthony, I'm thinking of contesting the charges with Visa. It's a debit card, though, so I don't know if we have less protection than with a credit card.

I asked my son what signage was at the phone. He said it was a phone in the lobby which was marked for international calls, but didn't have any cost information. Of course, there may have been some fine print that he didn't read. I think if the rate is a minimum of $40 and five minutes' time, it should be printed and displayed for callers to see easily.

I called the company that billed us, and the man explained their fees, which is still highway robbery. They can charge whatever they want, but they need to post the prices clearly, I think. They gave me a total $17 credit back, for both calls combined. Big deal, non?

I'm not sure how much time I'll spend on it, but I'll call Visa and ask them. Thanks for the encouragement.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2007, 08:36 PM
  #46  
 
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Thank you MaureenB. I had not heard of EF Tours before my daughter brought home material on the agency and the trip her teachers were planning. I have been very nervous about sending my 17 year old daughter to Costa Rica (they leave on April 4th!), but I do feel better now since the hotels you listed are the same ones her group will be using. I do think she will do fine as she has always been great about traveling in Mexico. Plus, she is now bilingual.

I will warn her of the phone situation and to advise her buddies, too.

I am providing her with some cash and a debit card. Did your son have trouble getting cash or using it while he was there?

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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:55 AM
  #47  
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Susan, my son's trip was even more fun than we'd expected. They had a very good time. Saw white-faced monkeys, poisonous snakes, beautifully colored frogs, etc. The beaches were beautiful, with the bluest water our son has ever seen.

Some kids pushed the envelope on the freedom they were given at night. The drinking age is 14 there, and we parents signed a release whether or not our 18 year olds had our permission to drink. Some kids got drunk the first night, and teachers pulled their evening privileges.

Also, there are many, many local kids on the street trying to sell drugs to the American students. Warn your daughter about them. My son said sometimes a very young kid would approach them, and request them to follow him to his home so he could get the drugs. I can only imagine what could have happened to gullible and naive students (with cash in their pockets) who did that.

He was carrying his ATM/debit card and had no problem getting cash and making purchases. He probably spent $250 in the two weeks, on drinks and snacks, soccer shirts, a machete (!!!), a wall hanging, etc. And he purchased one extra ATV tour for $60. One kid brought travelers' checks, which were hard to cash and use.

One incident was on the beach, where five boys stupidly left their backpacks unattended (not my son, thankfully). Guess what-- someone took the packs with their cash, iPods and wallets. The tour guide spent a lot of time trying to find the thief, who hides in the forest, but to no avail.

I hope your daughter has a good time. I'm glad I posted about the phone scam, so she'll know about it. I talked to Visa and there's no recourse for us, because the hotel can probably produce a sign somewhere that lists the fees.

I see she's leaving today. She'll have a blast.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:58 AM
  #48  
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Oops-- I thought today was the 4th.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 08:08 AM
  #49  
 
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Fri Apr 6th
Hi MaureenB--Thanks for the reply. I think my daughter will be very cautious, more so than most. I am hoping that the adults in our group are looking out for situations that you described.

She left Wed morning with a 2 hour flight delay in Dallas/Ft. Worth. Our parent group was told that we could view the days activities on Tourlink--but after several phone calls, I found out that it is not available in Costa Rica (only in Europe). I have had one call from her, and I anticipate that she will call only if she really needs to. I did tell her to communicate via email by using any available internet cafes when she saw the opportunity. My husband was there a couple of years ago and said that she should be able to find one or two along the way.

It is unfortunate about the drugs & theft for your son's group, but unfortunately, I see that even in more sophisticated areas.

Thanks again.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 10:31 AM
  #50  
MaureenB
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Susan, I hope your daughter has a great time, and that you can report back here.
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Old Jan 31st, 2008, 05:49 PM
  #51  
 
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I went on an EF Tours tour of Italy and Greece in July 2005. I liked the destinations, but not the tour company.

EF has subgroups within a group. On my tour, the only one who got the tickets or any information was the group leader.

I was not given flight information until the afternoon before departure. I was not given hotel information until the day of departure. I was a basketcase. Whenever I called EF, they would not give me information because they said they only gave information to the group leader.

The Italy and Greece tour that I signed up for online was not the one that I went on. They changed the itinerary, and I found out on the way to the airport.

I live five minutes from an airport, and had to drive two hours to fly out of a different airport.

Hotels are not usually in city center. We stayed one hour outside of Rome in a dark, scary place.

Had a piece of hard bread and Tang for breakfast most mornings.

Had a group of 48.

Because our hotels were not in city center, we would leave most mornings around 6 a.m. It was exhausting.

I called home to check my messages when I was on the plane DEPARTING THE UNITED STATES and EF left me a message stating that there were problems with my daughterís room. The flight attendant told us to turn off our cell phones, so I had to wonder for the next 24 hours if we even had a room. We did. What they really wanted was to tell me that I had to pay a supplement for her. I signed up several months in advance, and that was the first that I had heard of that.

We had a wonderful tour guide! My daughter and I really liked him.

The places that we went to were great!

In my opinion, EF Tours would be fine for high school students. It is an inexpensive way to see Europe. For some individuals, that high school trip on an EF tour may be the only time they ever travel to Europe. However, I do not recommend it for paying adults.

I highly recommend Rick Stevesí tours. They are expensive, but worth it in my opinion. www.ricksteves.com
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 11:09 AM
  #52  
 
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Well, EF is not great. They just look for hotels where there are vacancies at a certain price point and that is about all the research they do.

I've taken students on tours with EF and won't ever do it again.

I've since been using Passports and LOVE THEM. They do an excellent job and handle every tour with care and professionalism.

If they ever get reports of a bad hotel, they never use them again.

I love Passports and I have actually become friends with the people in their offices. Wonderful people! Great tours.

IF your son would like to return to Europe and see it well and not have to worry about the quality of the trip..... contact me. I am sure I can recommend something.

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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 11:33 AM
  #53  
 
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And I love EF. Been on 15 tours over the past 10 years. It's the least expensive way for high school kids to go.

I consider my trips a success because I schedule meetings with the kids and parents (on my own time) keeping them up-to-date on what we plan to see and do. I make the parents and kids quite aware of what my rules are and what penalties will be imposed if they want to test me. I also make sure I bring along a contingent of adults who are willing to help me along the way. Sure, we've had disappointmenting accomodations and some awful meals, but it's part of the fun. The disasters are rare occurences and after we get through them they become legends and we laugh about it. I've had kids travel with me over three-four consecutive summers. The key to having a good trip is taking an active role in the preparation and execution. If you just want to sit back and let someone tell you where to go and what to see you are better off with the more expensive tour companies that will lead you by the hand and pamper you.

I will admit that living near NYC helps us avoid the nightmares some of you've experienced with air connections. We almost always get non-stop flights to our first destination.

One last suggestion, make sure you are traveling with kids that have an actual appreciation of where they're going. With my frequent meetings I learn who is truly serious about learning and who wants to get away from Mommy and Daddy. I'm not afraid to tell them "no".
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 11:42 AM
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tourteacher seems to have signed up, revived a thread that has not been active for almost a year, and made his or her first post in praise of another travel company.

Why am I suspicious?
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 11:46 AM
  #55  
yk
 
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Author: Padraig
Date: 11/13/2008, 03:42 pm

tourteacher seems to have signed up, revived a thread that has not been active for almost a year, and made his or her first post in praise of another travel company.

Why am I suspicious?


At least tourteacher didn't post a direct web link to that other company, unlike some "posters" here who shamelessly promote his/her website and/or company.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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Hey, it's still in the top 50 ;-) any lower and I would leave it there!

But searches on EF tours are bound to happen, so I'll add a touch more.

Agree with yk and Padraig that it is very suspicious of advertising.

to quote tourteacher:
f they ever get reports of a bad hotel, they never use them again.

Sounds like a "bad" hotel could happen with that other company, too.

As Otzi writes, keep it all in perspective and you will likely have something to laugh about when you get home.

My DS went on a Europe trip with EF tours. I admit, strongly encouraged, so I could be chaperone!

Loved the trip .. or 95% of it. We stayed at 3 great/very acceptable hotels and one that we would gladly skip if asked for our opinion. Though for all it had the poorest appearing carpet and furniture, it had the Best bathroom of all our hotels.

We stayed only one night (easily would have been a revolt if more than just one) and I made sure I enjoyed two baths in that tub, deep and lots of room for bubbles! (Okay, too much info, eh? LOL) Give the rest of the hotel a makeover and it could be very nice again.

The thing that made our trip great overall, and the thing that you may have almost no control over is your tour director.

I have read enough horror stories of many tour companies to know it could happen with more than just any one of them.

No matter what tour company, get a good tour director and you are going to enjoy the trip.

EF tours allows students to get to go at all, and my opinion is using any tour company does not relinquish your responsibility as traveler to know what to expect and prepare as much as you can.
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