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London Paris Tour Question

6 May 2012 ronsantos08 asked

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Hi, I am planning on booking this tour but reading reviews online brought me to one question. I wanna know which attractions and places are really included. I mean the entrance and tour inside. I read on one review that when it said "See tower of London" but they didn't go inside. And then the "See Eiffel Tower" meant entrance and tour inside the tower. Please provide a list of places that have the entrance included so I can plan my day and maybe pre-book the places I want to go in. Thanks!

  • 7 May 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    I can answer this as I just did this tour in April ‘12. Talking with others in the tour, we were all unsure ourselves of what was actually included. The first night we went to a bar in Covent Garden. The second day was the optional trip to Stonehenge and Bath; this costs extra. That night, our tour guide offered to bring us to see the Indian section of London with curry houses, but that was just what he decided to offer; you had to pay for your own dinner if you wanted to go. The next day was a day on our own; we got a day pass to the underground, I think. Nothing was included. Note, the British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery are all free so you won’t have to pay for that. I think many of us thought stuff like the tower of london were part of the cost, but it is not. So you either purchased ahead of time, at the hotel (which can provide a discount or front of the line access) or a London tourist card. That night, the west end play (which was Chicago for us) was included. In Paris, the Eiffel tower (you go up at night) and Palace of Versailles (you go inside with a tour guide) was included. The first night was the tower, second day we had the optional bike ride then a day to explore on our own and then the optional excursion to Moulin Rouge (I went, but could have skipped and would be OK). The next day was the included trip to the perfumery (a tourist trap — I learned a little but could have skipped it), then some free time and then the included Palce of Versaille at 1 pm. The next day was a free day and then our tour guide arranged a dinner which we paid on our own if we wanted. So that is it, really not much included so be glad you asked ahead of time. In Paris I suggest looking at the museum pass (suggestion: buy at napolean’s tomb as the line is short) as it is worth it just for the fact that you can skip the line at most places.

  • 7 May 2012 sjaneo said

    sjaneo

    Good review Sasha Im doing this tour in June and I was wondering the same as I have a couple of days in London before the tour – I didnt want to pay to do something I had already paid for in the tour price.

    When you do the bike ride in Paris is it easy enough to do something else? how long does the bike ride last and can you fit in other site seeing/shopping and then meet up with the tour afterwards?

  • 7 May 2012 ronsantos08 said

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    thanks sasha! do you suggest getting to london one or two days before the tour starts to go do touring of my own or the free time on my own allotted within the tour is enough?

  • 8 May 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    @sjaneo: I think the bike ride is about 3 hours. I myself chose not to do it. That morning started with a group photo in front of the Eiffel tower. The place that does the bike tours is nearby and I had the tour guide mark on my map where the place was in case I wanted to meet up with the group afterwards. I was told they would be done by about 1 pm. I didn’t meet up with them because I didn’t pay enough attention to time. Suggestion: go to Napoleon’s tomb / millitary museum. If you look on the map you will see it is pretty easy to walk to from the Eiffel tower. Pay attention to how long the walk takes if you want to go back and meet the group. Start at Napolean’s tomb which is a huge dome. Then go to the attached millitary museum. It is split into 3 sections, each with it’s own entrance. My favorite section was the one on WWI and II. Give yourself a little time to see the Point Alexandre III bridge which is in front of the millitary museum. It’s beautiful and worth a few pictures, for sure. You can choose to walk along the river Seine for one or both of the trips to/from the tower.

    @ronsantos08 : Yes. I went to London one day earlier and was happy I did. So the tour started on Saturday at 6 pm and I was in London by Friday afternoon. That day I walked over to the British Museum which is litterally like 3 blocks from the Imperial Hotel and worth spending the afternoon. After the museum it was only like 5:30 so I walked down the street the hotel is on and you can get to the Thames in about 20 minutes if you want a sneak preview of what is in store. The next morning, I walked down that route again and then headed left, past St Pauls Cathedral and onto the Millenium footbridge which leads to the Tate Modern. I thought St Pauls was included, if I had known, I would have gone to St Pauls first. After the museum, I walked over to a monument called “The Monument”, it is a huge tower that if I could do it again I would skip (too many stairs). I then went to the free National Gallery before heading to the hotel. So you could see I did quite a bit before the tour even started. You only get one day in London, 1 and a half if your flight arrives early enough, and I don’t think that is enough. If you chose to go to Stonehenge / Bath (only 1 person did not go) that will take one day, so you don’t have much time in London, otherwise.

    Let me give ya’ll (I live in the Southern USA so that means “all of you”) a few tips:

    London: The crown jewels are really something else! They are located in the Tower of London and the line gets ridiculous so go there first thing! We did and there was no line; by the time we got out — huge line! St Pauls opens at 8:30 and the nearby Tower of London at like 9, so easy to combine the two. If you only have time to visit one church, I would suggest Westminster Abbey over St Pauls. The London Eye is cool, but it’s something you could skip really. It takes about 30 minutes to do the revolution btw. Tate Modern and National Gallery were cool but if you are low on time, you can skip. The one museum you must see is the British Museum (and free and by the hotel so no excuse). It’s a tourist trap for sure but I loved the London M&M store, located near the West End… it is so cute and a great place for souvenirs! Try to pay for Westminster Abbey by cash as it’s a much shorter line. If you are going to be there for several days before consider the London Pass; I didn’t get one but someone else did and she thought it was worth it. Oh and let me offer a huge timesaver: if you buy the tour over the phone they should offer a 10 pound metro pass that takes you from Heathrow to the train station by the hotel…. definitely buy that instead of at the airport metro station. The line is ridiculous and you will thank me. If the pass wasn’t offered to you I would call contiki. Probably saved me at least half an hour of standing in a ridiculous line.

    Paris: I did the extension so I stayed an extra 2 days and I thought that was a good decision. Otherwise you will have about a day and a half to explore the city as the trip to the Palace of Versaille will take half a day. Like I said above, if you are going to be there for extra time, definitely get the Paris Museum Pass (2, 4, or 6 day) and I suggest buying it at the military museum (no line). If you lack time, skip walking up and down the Champ Elysee — it’s like fifth avenue in NY, lots of high end stores, and connects the Arc de Triomphe with the area of the Lourve. If you don’t have the time, you can take the metro station by the Arc de Triomphe to your next destination. If you do have the time here are a few highlights of that street (I walked up and down twice while I was in Paris): you might want to go to the Louis Vuitton store if you are into that kind of stuff (I skipped this), if you are female it might be worth going to the Abercrombie and Fitch store –- not to buy anything but because what you will see when you walk inside might be good for some giggles -- and I am not going to spoil it; you will not see the store from the street but instead a golden gate with a line outside and security in the form of guys with Abercombie and Fitch sweatshearts. If you are into cars at all, all of the French manufacturers have display rooms on this street – not to sell cars but to show off. The highlight for me was Renault which is showcasing their new car, Twizzy. The Citroen showroom was also cool. The Disney Paris store sells a very cute bag for 3.99 euro that makes for a great souvenier or beach bag. There’s a yummy pizza place that I went to with outside seating just to say I ate on the Champ Elysee. In the Lourve, well you need to see everything of course. But if you are limited in time you will have to see the Mona Lisa just because people will ask you, same for the Venus de Milo. Also make sure you see a room called the Apollo room –- it’s beautiful beyond words, trust me. I think it is in the Shelly wing (there are 3 wings). Napolean’s apartment is there as well and cool if you can find it. There is a hidden downstairs entrance to the Lourve which the tour guide suggested but it ended up with a huge line so I wouldn’t suggest it myself. If you have the museum pass then you can skip all the lines and enter through the pyramid and walk right in. The Musee d’ Orsay is OK, but I think it is safe to skip. The Pantheon is over by the Latin Quarter and a bit out of the way but if you have the time you should see it — one of my highlights; it is a shrine to the most famous french people. The Luxembourg gardens weren’t that interesting so I think it is safe to skip. The modern art museum, Centre Pompideau is pretty fun if you have got the time (make sure to check out the fountain outside). Bascillica Sacre Couer is a must do but far away from everything else. It is open like 6 am to 11 pm so fit it in if you can. Go to Sainte Germain by Notre Dame if you are there for some extra days.

    It was great reliving my trips for you. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

  • 8 May 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    –- sorry duplicate post -

  • 8 May 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    Oh and if anyone wants to see photos: Paris: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3380288080331.140886.1663310905&type=3&l=325c06508a and London: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3379667544818.140879.1663310905&type=3&l=daffedc027

  • 8 May 2012 ronsantos08 said

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    thank you sasha for all these information! i’ts nice to know all these details before booking the trip!

  • 8 May 2012 mel said

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    Hey ronsantos08 and sjaneo, thanks for the questions. Sasha, thanks for the information. It gives some insight on what to expect. If you have any advice you could give to someone that’s never been Europe, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • 9 May 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    Yep, no problem. I’ve been to Lisbon, Madrid, Ireland, as well as London & Paris and these are my suggestions:
    1. Always know the tipping customs for each country. In most of the countries that I have been to, the custom is not to tip or just round up to the nearest Euro. Just look it up online ahead of time. In France it is not required to tip the waiter. I never ate out at a restaurant in London, so I’m not sure.
    2. Understand how the VAT (value added tax) works. I am a bit confused myself. Basically, if you are not a citizen and buy over a certain amount at a store, some stores will give you a receipt to get back the VAT. At the airport you put the reciepts in an envelope and there are kiosks where you drop off the envelope and you will get money back on your credit card. I did this in Ireland where I got those receipts, but didn’t see anything in France. Google beforehand, especially if you are planning to make any big purchases.
    3. The cheapest way to do currency exchange is to use an ATM. Your ATM card should have a VISA logo. Depending on your bank, it may have a program where you don’t pay fees if you use another member bank in a foreign country. Bank of America has such a program with other international banks. When using your ATM card you may pay a flat fee per transaction (my bank, Regions, charges $5). Airport kiosks and western unions are more expensive and less convenient.
    4. Capital One credit cards are the only ones I know that do not charge an extra fee for currency exchange. So that is what I always use. Discover Card will be pretty useless though I think they announced a program where they will be accepted internationally, check on this (but don’t bother if you have Capital One).
    5. Most European credit cards use a chip and pin system where the card has an embedded chip and you slide the chip or insert the card half-way and then enter a pin. American cards do not have this, but can often be accepted. If there is a machine where you partially enter your card (enough for the chip to be read) look to see if there is a place to swipe instead. When I went to Madrid the metro only could accept cards with a pin so I was able to use my ATM because I had a pin to enter in the PIN screen.
    6. Remember: the ground floor for Europeans is the first floor for Americans. The first floor for Europeans is the second floor for Americans. It can be confusing at first.
    7. Bring a pen on the plane as you will have to fill out a customs form. Make sure you have with you on the plane the name, address, phone number of where you will be staying.
    8. In some countries (ex. Spain, Portugal) restaurants may put appetizers on the table; they are not free so if you don’t want them just decline.
    9. You will need a travel adapter, but I have never needed to use a travel converter. Most electronic devices (phones, laptops, cameras) can handle outlets in Europe provided you have the right adapter. Btw, in some countries, Spain comes to mind, they do not have a ground. The ground is the circular ‘thingy’ between the two prongs that you would have in an American plug. A little bit more risky, but I would just not have the ground plugged in.
    10. Always make a copy of your passport and have it somewhere. The hotels we stayed at did not have safes in the room, so I used my money belt ($10 at walmart) and put my passport there and brought it with me (easy when you are wearing a coat and sweater). My copy I kept in my locked luggage.
    11. You are supposed to register with the embassy ahead of time to inform them that you will be out there in case there is some emergency. Half the time, I forget to do this.
    12. Pickpocketing is an art form apparently. Especially in crowded areas like the Eiffel tower and in front of the Mona Lisa. So watch out for gypsies, pickpockets, etc. Always have your purse in front of you, yada, yada, yada.
    13. Don’t forget to tell your bank and credit card company that you are about to travel overseas. They will need to know the countries and dates. Despite this, if you make a very big purchase your account will probably get flagged. This happened to me in London; Contiki had a special on groupon and I purchased the tour. I got flagged immediately and got an email from Capital One asking me to confirm the purchase.
    14. Use Skype to call home. Free if the other person has skype. A few cents per minute if calling to a phone number. You can even set it up so the caller id shows your phone number. Both the London and Paris hotels that I stayed at had Wi Fi.

  • 9 May 2012 mel said

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    Sasha, thanks for all the info and advise. It’s greatly appreciated!

  • 10 May 2012 caroxdsouza said

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    These things very important while traveling abroad. Today, one can plan his/ her trip online on the web as from ticket booking to travel insurance buying each thing is possible. And also cheapest and best for you. Like if you want to buy an [url=“http://www.annualtravelinsurance.com/”]annual travel insurance plan[/url] then you can compare on the wen to find the best one for you.

  • 15 May 2012 lterech said

    lterech

    Sasha, Thanks so much for the info! This is all great to know, thanks for sharing.

  • 30 Jun 2012 brittabits said

    brittabits

    Thank you so much for all the information!!! It is invaluable!

    Out of curiosity, what hotel did you stay at in Paris???

  • 2 Jul 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    Hotel ibis – Porte de clichy
    http://www.ibishotel.com/gb/hotel-2189-ibis-paris-berthier-porte-de-clichy/index.shtml

  • 26 Jul 2012 athena143 said

    athena143

    thank you so much sasha for the tips!!! it helped me out ALOT! wish i went on the trip with you =) i will be going on sept 28th-oct 5th for paris and london! cant wait!

  • 12 Sep 2012 chatita said

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    I will be going on the london/paris tour sept 28-oct 5 also (:
    Any suggestions on what i should and shouldnt pack/take??

  • 17 Sep 2012 Mo said

    Mo

    sasha you are an angel. thank you so much for all of the information. I’ll be going to London, Paris and Amsterdam Mar 15-24 and you have helped me feel a little bit less stressed in my trip preparations

  • 19 Sep 2012 Alyce said

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    Hello, me and my partner are looking at booking London, Paris + Amsterdam extension for April next year as it coinsides with out dates before we get on a mediteranean cruise.
    My main concern is if a contiki is really apropriate for a couple?
    And also I can’t find anywhere the accomodation details – i know its Hotel but can anyone help me with names etc so I can google?
    Thanks

  • 19 Sep 2012 Sasha said

    Sasha

    Athena: You must be so excited. I wish I could meet you in Paris! I looooved Paris! And I’m sure you will too! Chatita: I can’t think of any other suggestions. Have fun! Mo: no problem. I’m excited for you. I just came back from my second Contiki: Canada & the Rockies. If you ever decide to do that (awesome trip, by the way) let me know and I’ll give you some ideas of what to pack, etc. Alyce: On both my Contikis there have been couples. I think they all enjoyed it. When it comes time to stay at the hotel let the tour manager know you are a couple so you get assigned to the same room. Maybe mention that during booking (I like to book over the phone). Upon booking you can ask for the hotel information (otherwise you will get it with the welcome packet e-mail or mailing). Contiki uses several hotels. For my London trip we stayed at the Imperial Hotel and for Paris Hotel Ibis Port de Clichy (however we were told Contiki uses a lot of different hotels in Paris).

  • 19 Sep 2012 Alyce said

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    Thanks Sasha, that sure helps – i have a travel agent friend who is going to help me plan it all but so excited had to ask straight away.
    also how many people were in your tour group?

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