Sunday 24 September 2023

Europe Tour with Kesari

The Europe trip was always in our minds as a wishlist but it took more than 10 years to execute. When the right time arrived, my wife and I started planning for the same. There were many questions like should we go on our own or through a tour operator, should it be a customized trip or a group tour etc. We spent a lot of time researching for whatever information available so that we can make a decision. Finally we decided to go on a group tour with Kesari Tours. In this post, I’ll share the information on what to expect in a group tour and how was our experience with Kesari and of course on the places we visited. As far as places are concerned, I’ll try to share more pictures with less description. I hope this will provide enough information for anyone who is looking for a similar tour.

The first thing we wanted to decide was - whether to go on our own or through a tour operator. If we have to go on our own, we have to do a lot of planning - for places, tickets, commute, hotels, restaurants etc. Since we have never been to Europe, everything was new and to add to it - the languages are different. Considering these aspects, we decided to go with a tour operator.

The next decision was - which tour operator. We considered Kesari Tours, SOTC, and a few more. We went through a lot of reviews available on various sites. Of course there were both positive and negative reviews for each of these operators. Out of these, Kesari had more positive feedback. To add to it, my cousin and his wife had gone to Europe through Kesari. They provided detailed and valuable information about Kesari tours and their experience. These helped us in taking a decision to go with Kesari Tours.

Like any other operator, Kesari has a variety of tours - varies on places covered and duration. You need to pick the one suits best. Every tour is published on their website with a complete itinerary. I strongly suggest going through the itinerary to get the feeling of how tight/ free the tour will be. This is an important factor before you decide to choose a tour. I’ll explain further below why this is important. We chose a 12-days package which is called “P7 - Images of Europe economy”. This package covers western parts of Europe.

Kesari takes care of everything. We only need to visit their office a few times and of course visit the visa office twice (one for UK visa and the second time for Schengen visa). Kesari takes care of flight booking, visa appointment, local transport in Europe, monuments tickets, local guide (wherever required), hotels booking, restaurant booking for lunch and dinner, sticking to the time (itinerary) and of course most importantly a tour manager who will be with us all the time.

What to expect

Itinerary - 12 days for Europe means it covers some major places across multiple countries (9-10 countries in our case). As I mentioned before, we went through the itinerary in detail. We also calculated driving distance between cities to understand the amount of road travel. This helped us a lot to get the expectation clear on travel. The tour manager sticks to the itinerary.

This group tour is not for you:

  • If you are looking for a relaxed tour
  • If you are looking for a flexible itinerary
  • If you can’t do a lot of walking (on an average we did 11,500 steps daily with 18,500 steps the highest in Rome)

Timings - Kesari follows what they call the 6-7-8 pattern. Get up at 6 am, breakfast at 7 and then start your day at 8. Normally, we’ll be back to Hotel by 7ish and then have dinner at 8 pm. We do get sufficient time for sleep and that’s very important. We made sure that we get at least 7 hours of sleep, so that we’ll be fresh for next day sight-seeing.

Places - All the places were covered as per itinerary. In a few places, we felt the time given was not sufficient. In other places such as the Leaning tower of Pisa, Colosseum etc we had enough time. Of course, this “enough” time is very subjective. What I consider as enough may not be enough for someone else. In a group tour, this factor needs to be considered. In fact, when we went for a tour in Sikkim, it was a customized tour package exclusively made for us. We had liberty to stay in a particular place for as much time as we wanted. We will not have this luxury in the group tour. Also, we went to Europe in September. It turns out, the crowd in Sep was less compared to months like April, May and June. This also matters. The more crowd, the longer the queue in places like Eiffel Tower etc.

Extra Places - The tour manager provided an option to visit additional places (which were not there in itinerary) with whatever actual cost. We chose the Seine river cruise in Paris, Paris by night and Vatican city.

Shopping - Time was given for shopping in specific places. For instance, we got time in a Cuckoo factory in Germany, Lucerne (Switzerland), Swarovski crystal world in Austria, Venice (Italy), and Rome (Italy). In other places like Pisa and Paris, we had very limited time. Our first preference was sight-seeing and then shopping. So we planned our time accordingly.

Food - We got Indian food for lunch and dinner, so there is no problem here (except that we got maida made roti which was not good to eat continuously for 12 days). However, we get enough to fill up our stomach. As for breakfast, we got English breakfast in London and Continental breakfast in other places which primarily includes bread, croissant, cereals, fruits and coffee. For non-vegetarians, there are a few more options. Only in Switzerland, we got South Indian breakfast because the hotel where we stayed had an Indian restaurant. We also carried MTR ready to eat dishes such as Upma, Avalakki uppittu, Shavige bath, Bisibele bath which were very handy for us when we got bored of eating continental breakfast.

Commute - A bus was arranged to travel in Europe. Only from London to Paris we traveled by Eurostar train and the rest was by bus. The bus driver is called Captain and he/she will help in loading/unloading the luggage from the bus. The roads are very good so you don’t feel tired during road travel. The seats will be allotted on a first come first serve basis, so one needs to sit in the allotted seat only.

Hotels - The hotels booked were good. Every hotel had lifts so as long as you have wheeled luggages you can carry your luggage without much problem. There are no helpers in hotels, so we need to carry our luggages from the bus to the rooms and vice-versa.

Washrooms - The tour manager stopped the bus for loo breaks. He tried to stop wherever we could use toilets for free. In only a few places, we had to pay 1 Euro per head to use the toilet.

Drinking water - We can use hotel tap water for drinking. So we don’t need to worry about drinking water. We just need to carry bottles and fill up wherever possible.

Group - It’s a group tour. In our case, we had 18 families (approx 36 people). As the tour progressed, we got to know each other and we also had some fun activities in the bus.

Tour Manager - An important factor in the trip is the tour manager. He’ll be our guide and caretaker for the entire tour. Luckily we got Mr. Raj Salvi as our tour manager. He’s one of the most experienced people in this field and he managed very well. He talked about the places we are visiting, it’s historical importance, do’s and don’ts during the trip, extra caution to be taken care especially in France and Italy (to be careful from pickpockets), making sure that trip is happening on time, coordinating with hotels and restaurants to ensure food is ready by the time we reach the place, coordinating with bus driver for timely pickup and drop, and a lot more. This is the person who ensures that we have a smooth travel experience.

Complimentary Items - Kesari provides complimentary items for each traveler such as Universal Adaptor, Shoulder bag, passport pouch, cap, stroller, wet issue paper, electric kettle, poncho and snacks hamper. Only adapter and poncho are per family and the rest is for each person. The snacks hamper includes a variety of snacks (sweets, salty and spicy). These snacks come handy when we are traveling from one country to another, or whenever we feel hungry.

Overall we had a wonderful experience with Kesari tours and we thoroughly enjoyed this trip. We cherish this experience for a long time, for sure. We express our sincere thanks to the team Kesari (specifically Ms Steffi from Sales team, Mr Vinod from Visa team and Ms Divya from Airline booking team), and Mr. Raj for his excellent guidance and help during entire trip. Do we prefer Kesari for any future tour? Yes, if we have to go for a group tour!

Photos: To keep this post short, I've shared the pictures in a separate post. Please click here for the pictures.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I go there!