European Specials

Iceland

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Iceland is currently one of our most exciting destinations.  Since the start of year-round direct non-stop (7-hour) flights from Vancouver there’s been a huge increase in clients experiencing this amazing place.  Colourful, informal, like no other place you’ve visited …. Iceland is great for a 10-day vacation or a 4-day stop-over enroute to Europe.  For something different, pack your woolies and go in March when the Northern Lights are spectacular.  Bruce has been there and can help you with your arrangements.

Safety in Europe

Of course some areas of Europe are safer than others but there are some general rules of travel that, when observed, will reduce your chances of being involved in something you’ll regret.

1)By being constantly observant of your surroundings, you’ll develop your own built-in radar for spotting potential thieves.  Thieves don’t target tourists randomly, they prey on the easiest targets.  You don’t have to be the most savvy tourist.  You just have to have more smarts than the next guy.  And don’t let anyone crowd you unnecessarily.  With the exception of extremely crowded trains or buses, there is no reason for anyone to invade your personal space.  If it means looking like a bit of a nut case to shout and make a scene to get someone away from you, so be it.  The word “police” is pretty universally understood too, and will back off anyone you suspect is up to no good.  Some people carry a whistle for this same purpose.

2)Avoid crowds where possible, especially demonstrations.

3)Don’t show too many valuables.  Leave your best jewellry at home.  Have a separate wallet (with no I.D. and maybe one credit card) for daily use, and just keep an minimum amount of currency in that.

4)Utilize money pouches, pants with secret pockets, and thief-proof day-bags and purses…ones with slice-resistant material and lockable zippers.

5)Although you may be comfortable using the cheap local transit, if you find yourself in a spot where you don’t feel safe pay the extra few dollars for a taxi-ride home.  And always carry a card with the name of your accommodation in the local language….this will quickly and simply bypass any language barrier between you and the driver.

6)Paris and Barcelona are two of the most beautiful cities in Europe but they’re also two of the worst for thieves and pickpockets.  Even when sitting in a fairly controlled environment like a train station or airport, be aware that if someone snatches your bag on the dead run you probably won’t catch them.  Put your foot through a strap or lock it to a bench leg.

7)In recent years terrorism has curtailed many people’s travel plans.  Be aware that some areas of Europe are more apt than others to experience incidents.  France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and England might be considered the most likely potential targets due to their recent political and military involvements, but that leaves vast areas that have had no problems whatsoever.  And of course the randomness of incidents dictates that, even should you stay a week in Paris, the chances of you being anywhere near an incident is less than your being struck by lightning.  Be aware of risks and stay cautious, but don’t let them curtail your trip of a lifetime.  Safety-wise, your greatest Europe challenge by far is still being a victim of thieves, not terrorists.

Britain

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Even through-out the winter, Britain is served by both charter and scheduled non-stop flights and this competition among airlines has kept airfares relatively low.  Combine this with the fact that the Canadian dollar has held up well against the Pound Sterling (as opposed to recent weakness experienced against other hard currencies) and this makes the U.K. a good deal this year.  And of course we are the Britain experts…we have spent months there over a 40+ year period.  Bruce has stayed in London alone on 19 separate occasions.

What do we do there?

That’s where the experts at Rainbow Country travel come in.  We have visited over 30 countries in Europe alone, and when we visit a country it’s not just a 4-hour excursion off a cruise ship.  We’ve spent time there….lived with the locals.  Why invest in a Europe trip without getting the best advice? 

Call us @ 604-795-6262.

In the meantime here are some suggestions:

1)Ocean cruises.  Generally Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.  Yes, we’ve got a lot of personal experience with these too.  Still a good value, although their advantage has historically been to see ports you wouldn’t necessarily spend time at on your own (such as Tunisia and Egypt).  However, many of these stops have been suspended due to recent problems.  If you’re limited for time or mobility (where a cruise is quite ideal) and satisfied with one day in Rome off a cruise ship, we sell loads of cruises and can get the best deals on yours….but to be honest, we’d rather you spent 4 days in Rome and experience it properly.

2)River cruises.  Generally a splurge money-wise, but there are promotional fares out there.  And of course they are a spectacular and relaxing way to see the Rhine, Danube, Main, Douro, Rhone, Moselle, Seine, Gironde, Po, or the Volga.

3)Coach tours.  So much depends on not only your routing but your inclusions and how fast-paced it is.  Have us look at per diem comparisons for you and we can help you choose the one that’s just right for you.

4)Independent travel.  Combine some pre-arranged, structured touring with doing your own thing.  Instead of 2 weeks’ coach tour of Italy, consider this:  Fly to Rome, spend 5 days in an apartment, join a 4-day tour of the Amalfi coast, take the train to Florence, rent a car and tour Umbria and Tuscany for a week, train to Venice to stay a couple nights and fly home from there.  This is an example of the type of custom-designed vacation we’ll suggest according to what you like to see and do.  Because of our extensive experience there, it’s what we specialize in.  And yes, we make more money off you by just selling you the coach tour, but if you’ll get more out of your vacation by doing it the other way, that’s what we’re going to recommend and arrange.

5)Think outside the box.  Go somewhere different….somewhere rich in culture but where your dollar may go further.  As a whole, Eastern Europe is wonderful value right now.  Some fishing villages in Croatia rarely see tourists and their hilltop villages are less touristy and much less expensive than Tuscany but still very Italian in nature (been there, done that).  Malta is a great combination of historical sights and sunny beaches.  3-week winter stays in Portugal apartments are cheap.  Greece wants your tourist dollar more than ever…it’s a great value right now.  Maybe you’ve never considered joining an adventure tour from Moscow to St. Petersburg (yes we’ve been there too).  With fast trains and inexpensive flights within Europe, combining two unlikely destinations that you’ve always wanted to see is easier than ever….maybe spend 10 days in the Alsace wine country of France and a week in an apartment in the old town of Prague.  With Europe’s great transportation system and our expert advice, it’s all possible.

We are the experts in Europe.  Let us help you arrange your next Europe vacation.  Call us @ 604-795-6262.