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As some of you know, I recently took one of those Edelweiss tours... and since there has been some discussion of them in the past on this forum, I thought I'd give a review.

This is a REALLY LONG review, and is mainly written for anyone thinking of taking one of these tours, and it addresses many of the questions that I had prior to taking it. Hopefully, if you're thinking of making one of these tours, it will also answer questions you may have.

Background:

I've been attending the seasonal rallies that Backroads magazine puts on for a couple of years now... and this year's summer rally was a trip overseas to do the High Alpine Tour with Edelweiss.

http://www.edelweissbike.com/en/allTours/true/cont/eur/high-alpine-tour.html

Although I'm not a real big fan of being in tour groups... since I've always wanted to ride the Alps, and I've never been to Europe before... I figured this would be the perfect time to go. I'd be riding with friends I knew, plus Edelweiss would take care of all of the logistical details like booking hotels, knowing the good roads, etc.

Planning for the trip began almost a year in advance. The tour was 7-days, and the price covered the rental bike, hotel each night, breakfast & dinner for each touring day (there was 1 rest day), and a few picnic lunches along the way.

In re prices... there is a tier structure based on what bike you choose to ride, and whether you are riding 2-up... a single rider sharing a room... or a single rider wanting your own room.

A word about the rental bike options: Most of the bikes are those of the BMW brand, with a couple of Ducatis & a Suzuki V-Strom thrown in. Although they have other options for their other tours... these are the bikes Edelweiss has determined are the best for the tight, twisting roads in the Alps.

Speaking of the roads... there is also a 1-day "Alps riding course" that they recommend for those who have never ridden there before, at an additional cost.

So basically, the price covers everything logistically except for your plane ticket there & back.

My choices:

I opted to rent one of the larger bikes to haul my fat ass around... a bike that I'm familiar with, since I have one in the garage: A BMW R1200GS.

Although I've taken the various MSF courses, and both the basic & advanced Lee Park Total Control courses... I opted to take the Alps Riding course too. I figured if nothing else, it would give me another riding day on the bike. :)

And finally... since I've been told I snore loudly, and because I work rotating shifts my body clock has no set schedule (which means I may wake up at 3AM and decide I wanna watch TV)... I opted for a single room to myself for the tour.

As such, the price for my tour was $4,380... + an additional $360 for the riding class.

Booking the trip involved a $500 non-refundable deposit against the total due.

Next, I had to buy a plane ticket. Our base hotel was just outside of Munich, Germany... so I began looking for cheap flights from JFK. Knowing most of us riders who would be going on this tour were from the northeast (Backroads is a regional magazine), I looked into getting a group rate. But as some of us were be flying from JFK, some from EWR, and nearly all of us would be flying over on different days to spend time in Germany before the tour began... this wasn't feasible.

Remembering I would have to take ALL of my riding gear with me on the flight (helmet, jacket, rain gear, etc.), I wanted a single, direct flight so there was no chance of my luggage getting lost along the way. After all, if my riding gear wasn't there when the tour began, I would be screwed and the trip would be wasted.

I also knew the flight would be a LONG one: 7 hours there, and 8 ½ hours back. So included in my search were upgrade options to either first or business class, with their wider seats.

I eventually settled on a Lufthansa flight... JFK to Munich. A regular coach ticket was around $1400... business class was $2300... and first class was a whopping $15,000!! Figuring a $900 difference between coach & business class wasn't all that much of a difference, and since the business class seats were almost 4 inches wider AND would almost lay flat (165 degrees)... I opted for a business class ticket.

So I added that to my $4,740 tour & class price... and now the cost was up to a little over $7,000. Yeah... not cheap, I know... but how many times am I ever going to do this, right?

Yes... I could've done it cheaper. I could've got a smaller bike... shared a room... and bought a coach ticket. I could also have skipped the class. If I'd done that, I could've saved almost 2-grand. But this was my one big vacation this year, and I wanted to enjoy it my way.

Advance Info:

About 2 months before the tour, you will receive a final invoice for the remaining balance due. You can do this in 3 ways:

1) Send them a check to their offices in Austria

2) Direct wire transfer to their bank (they provide the info in the invoice)

3) Provide them a credit card number

While the credit card option seems the easiest... they tell you in advance that they add a 3% fee to process a credit card. I have no idea what that's all about, and I found it pretty annoying. But, it is what it is.

You'll also receive a pre-tour package containing an overview of most of the info you'll need... a guide to the routes you'll be riding... and a map of the area. You'll want to bring this map with you to mark up, as they use an identical map at each morning's briefing to show you the day's route options.

Basically, all you needed for this tour is a passport. You don't need any new immunizations... nor do you need an International Driver's License (but it doesn't hurt to have it).

The Tour:

So the big day actually arrives. Time to fly.

When I bought my ticket, I opted for a Thursday flight. This would put in in Germany a couple of days early to relax, get over the jet-lag, and see some of the area before the class on Sunday.

An advantage of my business class seat afforded me the opportunity to bring 2 large bags for check-in, and 2 carry-on pieces. No worrying about bag fees or overweight fees. Actually I was able to pack everything i needed into a large OGIO roller bag that I had. It has a helmet compartment & lots of room for all of my other gear. For my carry-ons, I brought my laptop computer & the tank-bag from my GS bike that I would use on the rental bike.

Another advantage to buying the business class ticket was a VERY smooth check-in at the airport. I by-passed the long line at the check-in counter, and went right to the first available counter agent. She tagged my bag with a "Priority" sticker, and sent me towards their Senator's Lounge... where I enjoyed various drinks & finger-food for the hour before the flight. (The "Priority" sticker also ensured my bag was one of the first off the plane. NICE!)

Boarding the flight itself was equally painless, as I by-passed the lines, walked directly to the gate, had my boarding pass checked, and found my seat. If things go this smooth on the way back, that extra $900 for the business class ticket is DEFINITELY worth it!!

Arrival in Germany:

The flight was a 'red-eye' that got us into Germany around 9AM. First thing I needed to do was exchange a few Dollars to Euros for the taxi to my hotel in Erding... about 15 miles from the airport. That done, I now proceeded to the customs line. This would have been swift & painless except for the guy 2 places ahead who, evidently the agents weren't quite sure was kosher. And instead of handing him off to a supervisor they held us up scrutinizing his passport for a good 15 minutes.

Finally through customs with my Passport stamped... I found a taxi, showed him the name & address of my hotel on my iPhone, and off we went. Check-in at the host hotel was painless, and I was in my room.

A word about European hotel rooms: If you've never been over there before, be ready for a different experience. The rooms are generally small, are usually NOT air-conditioned, and the beds are like the beds you slept on as a kid. A "single" bed means exactly that. A single bed like an 8-year old would sleep on. A "double" is simply 2 singles pushed together. Unless you're going to be in one of the large American chain hotels like a Marriott or Hilton, there are no queen or king size beds there.

Ok, so back to my hotel room. Since our hotels were all arranged in advance by Edelweiss, I knew going in that I wasn't going to have any choice in the matter. As such, I read the reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor.com before leaving. Since there were a couple of recent "so-so" reviews of this hotel, I wasn't expecting much. However I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. My room was pretty decent size... clean... well equipped with a large flat-screen TV & mini-fridge... and the bathroom was well lit & spacious. So all in all, I was pretty happy with my 'home' for the next 3 days.

Other friends began arriving Friday afternoon... and by 8PM, we had a good group ready for dinner. We had a nice meal in the hotel's restaurant, and then ventured into town for late-nite desert at one of the many outdoor cafes: ice cream!!

We had agreed during dinner to all meet Saturday morning for a train ride into Munich to tour the large BMW museum, and then have lunch. Our hotel was conveniently located just down the block form the train station (the S-Bahn)... and at 9AM we strolled over.

(Continued below)
 

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Maybe here's a good time to say a word about the language thing: Not knowing what to expect, I borrowed a friend's Rosetta Stone German language program. I got about ⅔ of the way through the Level One course, which taught me a few phrases... but as it turns out, I really didn't need it. While not everyone over there knows English, enough of them do so that you can make yourself understood. Of course, in my opinion, it helps if you know a few phrases to show them that you at least made an effort... and then they seem ready to bend over backwards to help you out.

Ok, back to Munich. The train ride took about an hour, and then we needed to take a U-Bahn (underground train, or subway) to where we needed to go. Living in the NYC metro area where subways are somewhat filthy & graffiti ridden... I was impressed with the cleanliness of the U-Bahn cars & stations. No graffiti here. Although all of the maps were in German, finding our way wasn't all that hard to do. The hardest part was figuring out which way to go once you found the train-line you needed.

Here in NYC, the subway system is really pretty simple. If you wanna go south, you need a "downtown" train, and you find the platform for it. If you're heading north, you want an "uptown train.

In Munich, it was necessary to know what stop was at the END of the line... as that was the signage on the train. This system would come into play later.

I won't bore you with our day, but a good time was had by all... even our friends who decided to head off to the local Harley dealership to buy their Munich HD shirts!! :)

Sunday: the Alps Riding Class

Ok, I'll say it right up front... this was a waste of my money. If you've taken the Advanced MSF course, or any of the other "advanced" riding courses offered by Lee Parks, Jerry Paladino, etc... then you won't need this.

About the only good thing for me was that we got to take possession of our bikes a day earlier than the others, and get some miles... ummm, kilometers... under our belts in the Bavarian countryside.

Classroom was about an hour discussing the tight roads, "late-apex" turns, etc. Then we got on the bikes and went to a small parking lot to practice figure-8's, riding around a single cone, and a few hard braking exercises.

Although I don't consider myself to be an 'expert rider' by any means... I had to admit that I was surprised at 2 revelations I had out on the parking lot that morning:

1) How well the classes I had already taken prepared me for exercises like this, and...

2) ...how far ahead of the learning curve I was in comparison to the rest of the riders in my group. Or, put another way, how unprepared some of them really were for riding in this environment.

Anyway, after that... we took a nice 100 km ride all through the Bavarian countryside, with the final few miles on the Autobahn where we could open the throttles all the way. :)

Reception Dinner:

That evening was the reception dinner for everyone on the tour. This was preceded by a tour briefing where we met our guides for the trip (3 of them) and our other riders... went over the projected route, discussed highway signs & various road conditions we could expect (this is why the class really wasn't needed), and finally the remaining folks got their bikes.

A word here about the process of signing for your bike. This is pretty important information to know before you go, as they don't tell you this beforehand.

Included in the Edelweiss tour package is standard insurance in the event you destroy the bike... with a pretty high deductible. The amount varies by bike... and in the case of my R1200GS, the standard deductible was $3100. They also offer a lower deductible for a fee. Again, in my case with the R1200GS, I could lower it to an $800 deductible for a fee of $325.

Now to me... this was foolish, and is simply a money-maker for Edelweiss. I called it "deductible insurance", and declined it. For one thing, it doesn't work like a standard insurance thing. The only time this insurance kicks in is if you TOTALLY DESTROY the bike. It is NOT for simple damage caused to the bike. As such, I wasn't going to pay $325 to lower my deductible on the off-chance I'd total the bike.

I was surprised at how many did pay for it though... and I guess it's a decision each must make.

However... be advised... Edelweiss will have you sign a credit-card slip for whatever deductible you choose (and you have to pay for the fee, it you opt for the lower) before they hand you the papers for the bike... with the promise to return it to you at the end of the tour if it's not needed. Again, they don't 'process' the payment slip for the deductible, so it's not charged to your card immediately... but they have you on the hook in advance in case anything happens.

So in my case, I had to sign for another $3100 on my Visa card before the trip began. (As promised, they handed the unprocessed slip back to me at the end of the tour, as I didn't total my bike)

Just good info to know ahead of time, as this isn't explained in their literature.

Anyway... the bikes all came with saddlebags, top case (trunk), and a tank bag... so we had plenty of room to stow our rain gear & any cold weather layers we wanted to bring along.

After inspecting & signing for your bike... you could then make any modifications on it you wanted. In my case, I brought along a Gerbings battery connection to install... along with a pair of handlebar risers, grip puppies, & a cramp buster / throttle rocker from my bike at home.

The Tour:

Breakfast each morning is included with the tour price, and is provided by the hotel. This is a typical “european continental” breakfast with assorted meats, cheeses, breads, yogurts, and fruits. Don’t expect an omelet, oatmeal, grits, or bacon & eggs... or you will be terribly disappointed.

After breakfast, luggage is taken care of and the morning briefing begins. The tour is assigned 3 local guides who are responsible for getting you around and taking care of your needs. 2 of them will lead rides everyday, while one drives the chase vehicle. The chase vehicle carries our luggage, some tools & spare parts, and an extra bike or 2 in case there are any issues with the rental bikes.

A word about luggage:

Luggage handling is one of the nice perks of the tour... in that you don’t have to carry it around with you. Every morning, you simply bring your bag(s) downstairs to the lobby, where it is loaded into the chase vehicle. When you arrive at your hotel room in the evening, your luggage is already upstairs in your room waiting for you. VERY NICE!!

At 8:30 every morning the guides give the morning briefing. There, they have the master map available for view, and will give you a little history on the area you’ll be riding in.

There are 2 different routes each day. Route 1 is normally the shorter one (175 km average), and has a number of photo & rest stops incorporated along the way. Route 2 is a little longer (225 km average), and has fewer stops. It’s meant for those who want to RIDE!!. Both routes usually begin along the same route, and then split up after the first rest/coffee stop.

On our tour, everyone was psyched up and did the longer ride on the first day... then as the week progressed, more & more opted for the shorter route. Though 200 km doesn’t seem like a long ride... the challenging roads will get you tired very quickly.

Kickstands were usually up, and we were on our way by 9AM every day.

The Roads:

The roads ended up being every bit as challenging as I had been told. There are no US DOT rules & guidelines used there for recommended grades or turn radius. The roads are much narrower, the turns much tighter, and the environment much different than what we’re used to. The grades were as steep as 22% on some roads... and the switchbacks are so tight on roads that are so narrow with oncoming traffic that you MUST stay in your lane to avoid becoming a hood ornament for someone else. And, the road conditions were constantly changing depending on the weather & temperature in what part of the high alpine passes we were riding. Ice, snow, gravel, and critters (large & small) were constant factors.

On many of the switchbacks... the grade was so steep, and the turns so tight that it was not unusual to look over your shoulder before the switchback, and see the on-coming traffic only about 100-feet away, but 2-stories above you!!

EDIT: A few things I forgot to mention about the roads:

Reading a map over there take some getting used to. Why? Because the roads are not marked in the way that we use here. 90% of the road signs have no Route number on them... so looking at a map, and planning on riding Route E114 is useless!! You MUST know the name of the next town you are riding to!! That's how all of the the street signs are marked. Remember how I said the same about the train lines above? This is where it comes into play... the street signage is the same.

Another thing very noticeable is the lack of stop signs or traffic lights at intersections. Unless you're in a large city... all of the intersections have traffic circles. And the reason you need to know how to read the street signs (see above), is so you'll know which road to take at the circle!! Standard right-of-way rules apply... the vehicle already in the circle has the right of way.

As such... many of the riders in our group simply had a list of the name of the towns we'd pass through on top of their maps in the tank bag. Then you simply went from town.. to town... to town.

(continued below...)
 

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Rest Day:

After our 2nd riding day, our tour included a rest day in Bolzano, Italy. Bolzano is located in the Dolomite area... and Edelweiss offered a short route through the area for those so inclined to ride. Those who didn’t want to ride could either spend the day in Bolzano, or take a 2-hour train ride for a day-trip down to Venice. I don’t think any of our group opted for the latter... but it was split about half & half on riding and enjoying the day in Bolzano.

Riding Gear:

This was one of my concerns before leaving home: what to pack? A check of the average temperatures in the area called for lows in the 40's... highs in the 80s. Plus, I knew we were going to be riding in valleys AND on top of high alpine passes with snow on them. How do I pack for that?? Do I bring my leather jacket for the cold... or my mesh jacket for the heat? I sure didn't wanna pack both!

After getting some email advise from friends... I opted to only take my mesh jacket, with it's rain liner AND my Gerbing's heated liner. The options for riding pants are pretty slim-to-nonexistent for us fat guys... so I brought along 2 pair of Draggin' Jeans for my riding pants, with a pair of rain overpants. And I included a pair of 3-finger over-gloves in my rain kit for use over my regular gloves, if needed.

Weather:

We lucked out in the weather dept. The forecast before I got there was steady rain for the first 4 days of our tour... and I was getting kinda bummed out knowing visibility would be horrible for taking pictures & seeing the scenery. But as it turns out... while we began the first day with our rain gear on in a bit of a drizzle, the day turned out to be pretty good. Our ride up the Grossglockner was just about completely shrouded in fog so thick we could barely see 10 feet in front of our bikes... but after we got on top of the ridge, it was clear skies with just a few white puffys on the backside!!

And good weather stayed with us the remainder of the tour right up until our last day riding from Warth, Austria back into our base hotel outside of Munich. It rained on us the entire way back, and pretty much killed our views of King Ludwig’s castles. But I sure can’t complain about 1 bad day out of 7!!

Temperatures were as forcasted... but varied widely throughout the day. Many of us kept our Gerbing liners on all day, and simply turned the heat on when/if we needed it.

The Other Tour Hotels:

While I spoke about the base hotel, I haven't said much about the others. In a nutshell, all of the hotels were good. Some better than others, but all good. They were clean... the clerks were friendly & helpful... and there just isn't too much bad to say that wouldn't sound like nit-picking.

Our hotel in Bolzano was a very old hotel, having been in continuous use since the middle ages!! Of course, it's been renovated and partially rebuilt a few times due to wars... but I thought that was pretty impressive.

Our hotel in Lienz, Austria had a beautiful heated roof-top pool, with a glass atrium all around. When you turned the lights out, you had a gorgeous view of all of the high alpine peaks all around you... dotted with homes, and lined with waterfalls & snow caps.

The most modern & 'posh' hotel we had was in Pontresnia, Switzerland... but it also had the smallest rooms.

Conclusion & Final Thoughts:

Overall, this tour was GREAT!! Oh sure, I had a few minor complaints... but I always do when I’m not riding by myself. For instance... I would loved to have had a better seat on the bike. We ALL complained about the stock seats... and a custom seat maker could make big bucks providing 1-day service at our first hotel stop. And, as I said previously... I’m not a big fan of riding in large groups. The ‘conga line’ thing of 12-to-15 bikes in a line isn’t for me... especially with riders I don’t know really well.

Would I do it again? I’d tour with Edelweiss again in an area I wasn’t familiar with... but not back to the Alps. Now that I know how to get around there, can read & follow the maps, and know that I can make myself understood there... I’d love to go back sometime on my own. Having never been to Europe before, letting Edelweiss take care of all of the logistics was great. And if I ever get the time to do the South Africa or Andalusia tour in Spain, I’d gladly sign on for another round with them.

Our tour guides Allan (from Italy), Ursula (Germany), and Andrea (Austria) were great. They took care of all of our needs... were friendly... and they knew the roads like the back of their hand. They had us riding little roads in some places where it appeared we were actually riding up someone’s driveway, only to end up overlooking some of the most breathtaking vistas I’ve ever seen. And they also set up 3 great picnic lunches for us along the route.

All together we rode through 5 countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, back to Austria, and then back into Germany. I never had to take out my passport once (except at the airport). Euros & credit cards were accepted everywhere except Switzerland... where they would accept Euros, but give back Swiss Francs at a horrible exchange rate.

I lost track of how many different high alpine passes we rode through (at least 30-to-35)... but a few of them are the Grossglockner, Passo del Stelvio, the Abula Pass, and the Bermina Pass. And I have to admint that I loved the little town squares each village seemed to have, where outdoor dining and socializing took place.

So if you get a chance to go on one of these tours... TAKE IT. Yeah, they’re a bit expensive... but sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry about where you’re going each day, or deal with the hotels, or with luggage, etc. Just go along for the ride, and let someone else show you the way to memories that’ll last a lifetime!

My pictures tell the rest of the story... along with photos from others on the tour. We've started our own album on Photobucket, and they'll be more pictures from the others in the coming days. Just search for the profile ALPSTRIP... or click the following link:

http://s1219.photobucket.com/home/ALPSTRIP

:)
 

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Tom....thanks for a most informative write-up on your Edelweiss Tour. I have often wondered about these tours and you have definitely answered lots of my questions. It sounds as if you had a great time and I'm sure the fact that you did this with some of your friends helped. Now to check out your pictures. :thumbup:
 

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Thanks Tom :thumbup:
I followed your trip on Facebook and had some questions and you answered them here.
Which tour are you going to take to celebrate your retirement?
 

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Did the Edelweiss tour in 07. Great time. Did the Grimsel, Furka, St. Gotthard, Susten, Simplon passes - on a Honda Shadow. Was worth every penny. Tour was Munich to Munich. Stops in Heidelberg, Lucern, Warth, Titisee, Obernai, Shafhausen, Speyer. Great bunch of riders.

Did some of it a few weeks ago based out of Andermatt on a borrowed BMW R1200C. Ran into Edelweiss group out of Italy riding Ducatis in Andermatt. Got nailed by fog and rain for two out of eight days.
 

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Great RR and pics, Tom! Thanks for sharing them with us.
 

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Great review Tom. I also took one of those “organized tours” recently. My choice was to go south – as far south as you can ride. We chose to do a dual sport ride with Compass Expeditions on their Patagonia Explorer tour. Of course, the seasons there are reversed, so our ride was in November. I had not done any back road or dirt riding in about 40 years, but it all comes back pretty quick. I don’t want to take away any thunder from your excellent post, but I do want to say that while the roads were fun, the food was great, and the tour guides were excellent, it wouldn’t have been as great had it not been for the people that we got to meet and ride with for almost 3 weeks.
That being said, the one thing I must agree with you on is the standard insurance and the available lower deductible. I chose to buy the lower deductible, but wouldn’t do it again. You’re right about needing to totally destroy the bike for this to kick in. This lower ins covers you on anything past $800, but NOT past incidental damage to the bike. I wound up putting a dent in the wheel while riding on (probably) the hard packed gravel section of Ruta 40. The wheel cost (they say) $1300 (650GS), so I was out the 800. I guess it saved me some money, but the point is, this doesn’t cover incidental dings and dents. Other than that, would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Thanks for sharing your ride.
 

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Excellent write up ATCguy but please don't tell me you didn't go here. Munich's most famous tourist attraction.

Hofbräuhaus - Munich

Hofbräuhaus - Platzl 9, 80331 Munich, Germany
Yep... that's where we had lunch Saturday after strolling through Marienplatz! :)

Here are my friends Ronnie & Renee showing off their beers...




And here's Brian Rathjen (Editor: Backroads magazine) with his meal:

 

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Great review of tour

Great review of tour.
 

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Excellent review!!! Wish I had that much spare cash. Wow...

This is so well written, you might consider contributing it to WingWorld.

:thumbup:
 

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Thanks for the review! More raw material for dreams.

Last time we were in Munich (2002), we arrived on the first day of Oktoberfest. It wasn't too crowded yet (except Marionplatz at noon to watch the Glockenspiel) and we managed to miss the mayhem!
 

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Euros & credit cards were accepted everywhere except Switzerland... where they would accept Euros, but give back Swiss Francs at a horrible exchange rate.
Thanks for the detailed report. I'm planning to do this next summer, so your report really helps.

Do they not accept American credit cards in Switzerland?

Were you reminded / encouraged to give tips to your tour guides?

What's the cost of fuel over there and how much do you figure you spent on fuel for the entire trip?
 

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Thanks for the detailed report. I'm planning to do this next summer, so your report really helps.

Do they not accept American credit cards in Switzerland?

Were you reminded / encouraged to give tips to your tour guides?

What's the cost of fuel over there and how much do you figure you spent on fuel for the entire trip?
American Express is accepted less and less. See picture. Fuel is about $10.00 a gallon - see picture. Diesel 10% cheaper than gasoline.

Problem with credit cards is they use more and more chip based cards in Europe that require a pin number and the US cards do not have that. Many gas stations are totally self service and there is no one to over ride the automated pumps. Where there is a store attached to the gas pumps a lot of attendants do not know how to run a US credit card. I have run into this in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Denmark for the last 3 years. Talking to Amex, Visa does not help. They do not intend to adapt the Europe system. I would say half the gas stations are useless to me. Also......the cheapest gas (about 5% cheaper) are outside ALDI and other supermarkets and the ONLY way to pay is by credit card outside.

Prepare to pay 1/2 Euro (75 cents) to pee (unless you can find a McDonald) and soda is cheaper than beer !!!!
 

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Just curious.

Do they or anyone offer tours to less adventurous riders.IE: cruisers with a few twisties ala the caliber of the Dragon's tail??
 

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Nicely written review. Makes me want to go back to Europe!

I have been talking about doing a guided tour ride through Turkey for years. I guess I need to get my a$$ in gear!
 

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Thanks for the detailed report. I'm planning to do this next summer, so your report really helps.

Do they not accept American credit cards in Switzerland?

Were you reminded / encouraged to give tips to your tour guides?

What's the cost of fuel over there and how much do you figure you spent on fuel for the entire trip?
I should have said "Euros" weren't the standard currency in Switzerland, instead of saying they weren't accepted. And our credit cards were accepted.

However, JeffreyJ summed it up pretty well on the credit card thing. We were told to possibly expect some places to not accept our credit cards (because of the chip issue)... but as it turns out, I don't think anyone on our tour had any problems at all. At least, I didn't hear of any. And of course, another issue of credit cards is that most of them will add a surcharge to your bill for having to convert to Euros. I think Capital One is one of the few banks that doesn't... and a couple of the others don't add the surcharge on their premium cards.

In re gas... like he also said, it's about $9-$10/gallon. Not cheap. We fill up the bikes at the end of each day, and we never used more than a tank of gas per day, which was about 5 gallons. But our experience was a tad different than what Jeffery explained. Everywhere we filled up, we weren't allowed to pump our own gas. We filled up, and then went inside to pay. The only time we were told that we'd have to use an automated pump would be in Italy during lunch time... because apparently Italians take a 2-to-3 hour lunch break everyday, and EVERYTHING closes.

As for tipping our tour guides... yes, we took care of them by agreeing to contribute at least 50 Euro per bike into a collection that we gave them when the tour was complete.
 
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