Going on a group tour is a fun and economical way of visiting European cities. Discovering a new place together with your friends is often unforgettable and can enrich or sometimes break friendship. It’s also a nice way of meeting other people and make new acquaintances.
There are many tour companies arranging group tours but most of the time, you will end up in a very big group of tourists that can lessen the fun and discovery. Operators tend to cram so many activities in a strict schedule which can limit the excitement of exploring a new place.
Independent tour operator Pieter “Pedro” van Overbeeke had been arranging group tours for tourists for several years now. Since being married to a Filipina entails a regular flow of Filipino visitors, Overbeeke has been accompanying their guests to different tourist sights in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. What started as a way of entertaining friends and relatives now becomes a regular gig for him. Majority of his clients are Filipinos but he also does tours for foreign clients in partnership with several bed and breakfast accommodations in Amsterdam. He speaks fluent Dutch, Tagalog, English, French and German, making it easier for him to communicate with his guests as well as the locals.
Overbeeke suggests three tips on how to get the maximum out of your group tours:
1. The more, the merrier. Arranging a tour for a group of four will save you a lot of money of money especially on accommodations and transportations but a group of six would be ideal. Overbeeke hires a mini-van for transportation, especially going to other countries like Belgium and Germany to save on travel time and ticket prices. A group of six can comfortably fill up a mini-van and the costs of renting it would be much cheaper.
When it comes to overnight accommodations, the price of a double or a triple room and a single room does not differ significantly so the more people that can share in the accommodation can reduce the cost of travelling.
Overbeeke estimates that for a group of four people coming from Amsterdam, doing a day trip in Brussels or Bruges, Belgium, a budget of €80 per person, including the transportation and the tour guide.
2. Know your schedule and book well in advance. Airfare, train tickets and even hotels charges less when you book in advance, eight weeks before your travel date in particular. Also be on the lookout for early bird promos of airline companies or hotels. You can do this by subscribing in a newsletter or websites that regularly send sale alerts.
Knowing your schedule will also help you in planning for activities which may be free of charge or discounted in the place that you are visiting, for example entrance fees in museums or parks. Museums sometimes offer free entrances on the first or last friday of the month or particular days when there is a festivity going on.
Visiting a place during a festival also offers a lot of perks like free tasting and free drinks during food and wine festivals. Do your research and reduce your costs by planning in advance.
3. Hire a local guide. Hiring a local tour guide will make your visit more efficient and memorable. By having someone with a local knowledge, you will be able to know more about a certain place and will make you appreciate your travel more. It also helps to hire a guide who speaks multiple languages.
Although many Europeans speak English, you get a warmer reception when you have a guide who speaks the language of the country you are visiting.
Tour guide/operator Pieter van Overbeeke or more popularly known as Pedro Pinduko in the Filipino community may be reached via email agentpedro44@ gmail.com or mobile number +31610716363.
This article was first published in the 2nd edition of The Filipino Expat Magazine. CLICK to read the online edition.