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The Tour Guide FAQ

There are a few questions we get asked a lot as a guide, so I thought I’d write a little bit to quell that curiosity. Some of these are personal to me, but a lot of them will be accurate for guides across Europe.

How long have been a guide?

This is my second year with Busabout, I started training in April 2016 and haven’t looked back once.

Is it hard to be a guide?

It can be challenging at times, there are some long days (and some long nights) but overall we do it because we enjoy it. If I didn’t find it rewarding I think I’d stop being a guide

Does it pay well?

It pays enough, we don’t become guides for the money that’s for sure. There’s plenty better ways to earn lots more money, but we do it for the love of travel, and the rewarding nature of the job. If you guys are happy, then I’m happy, and that’s not many jobs that can be so pleasant so often.

Do you get loads of freebies?

Nope, Busabout provides us with accommodation, the rest is on us. I’m sure some guides are good at flirting and getting things for free, and there are occasions when we get to join you on excursions, but mostly we pay our own way.

Do you love it?

Yes – 100%

What’s your favourite tour?

Each guide has their own favourites for various reasons, for me though I love the HOHO Coach Network. I love the structure of it, meeting people, passing on information and setting them up to have a great time, then leaving them to it. It’s best once you’ve been going a week or so and you have some days off – your passengers catch back up and you can chat about the amazing experiences they’ve had. However Greece allows us to get to know our customers so much better, the 11 day tour means we can really get to know everyone and make some good friends. Each tour has its own benefits.

Should I be a tour guide?

If you want, then absolutely. I have worked in a lot of sectors, and tourism is by far the best, and being a guide is my favourite job of them all. It’s a rigorous training process, and I put in more effort to become a guide than I ever did for anything else, including my degree!

Does it get lonely?

Sometimes yes, it can be hard when you’re constantly meeting new people and struggling to make a strong bond, but that’s where your colleagues come into play. The drivers on the loops are in the same situation, and all the guides are happy to pick up the phone and have a chat if it’s what you need. You might be on your own, but with the Busabout team you’re never alone.

Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend

Some guides do, and they make it work out there on the road. Personally I don’t, I’m a big fan of tinder! When I get days off I try to connect with some of the locals and get some time away from work. It may not be a very orthodox approach to exploring a city, but it’s been amazing for finding secret bars and restaurants I couldn’t have any other way.

Where’s your favourite place?

In Europe, I love Slovenia and think Lake Bled is one of the most amazing places in the world. I can’t recommend it enough.

Do you miss home?

Rarely to be honest, I have moved around so much over the last 10 years that I don’t have anywhere that really feels like home. I do miss English sausages, Cornish pasties and roast dinners though, along with my close friends and my family of course. The thing I crave most often though is pretty nerdy – I miss video games!

 

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Bled, Slovenia

IMG_20160525_135358522Why Bled?

A little pre-season time off gave me a chance to explore one of the new East Loop daystops, something I’m very glad to have done.

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Staying with Jani and his family at Jazz Bled Hostel is an absolute pleasure, they are so welcoming and friendly it makes you feel right at home from the moment you arrive. The hostel is clean and tidy with an excellent kitchen and even a playstation if the weather turns sour. Luckily for me though, we had gorgeous sun for the whole of the trip.

IMG_20160524_120839125The first day we took a trip over to Vintgar Gorge, a beautiful canyon cut through the hills by centuries of water flowing from the Julian alps. It’s only 4EUR entry, and it’s easy to get a shuttle from the town, so well worth the trip. The path winds through the gorge on wooden walkways, which don’t spoil the view at all, in fact they provide some pretty cool photo opportunities, there’s chances to get down to water level as well, and taste the fresh mountain water. The river itself is a series of pools, waterfalls and rapids, each turn providing a fresh view, and another unmissable snap. On the way back you can head through the gorge again, or venture along some of the lesser tracked paths through the triglav national park. Navigation isn’t so simple, but all paths lead back home

Back in Bled the lake has plenty to explore, you can take a boat over to the church on the island for 14EUR per person. This is no motor boat, but one of the locals rowing the traditional boats across, which is quite a distance depending which end you jump on at. The church is an extra 6EUR to enter, but isn’t that special, however the bell tower is included in the price, and the views from the top are pretty spectacular. Don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t climb it though, the view from the island in every direction is awesome.

IMG_20160524_175213186_HDRLastly we chose to climb up to the castle, a good uphill walk of about 15-20mins depending on how fit you are. The views from inside are again great, but if you want avoid the 10EUR charge (the castle itself won’t blow your mind – but the view from the cafe might) head around to the right of the building. There’s an iron fence here that you can follow until you see a path on your left – climbing this will give you the best views that I found of the lake and the island. If you climb a little higher you’ll find the old secret entrance, although these days it’s locked tight – no sneaking in. You must be careful if you do decide to try this out though, once you leave the iron fence there’s no protection so watch your footing.

Day two we decided to explore the rest of the Triglav National Park – the 3glav Adventures tour wasn’t running, but we used their itinerary and built our own trip – although to add canyoning and rafting into our day would have really made it incredible.

IMG_20160525_111841305_HDRStarting the day we drove around to the north side of the park, entering from Kranjska Gora and starting the winding road up to the pass. Soon after was the first stop Jasna lake, not huge, but the calm water meant you could get an excellent photo with a reflection of the snow capped mountains in the distance.IMG_20160525_115412501From here the road winds alpine style up the pass, and with each corner another jaw dropping view. Stop 2 had a little more history, a wooden church built in a russian style – dedicated to the Russian prisoners of war who built the road, and died in the process. While it’s only small, it’s a poignant reminder of how the road came to be, and the life style of the people in the region before they were connected. On the way up there are plenty more places to stop and take a photo, or have some lunch, little restaurants are dotted about, or you can take a picnic. If you’re doing it with 3glav, then lunch is sorted for you.

IMG_20160525_142200704The top of the Vrsic pass offers even more views, down into the valley on both side of the saddle. and from there it’s back to the alpine road, hairpin corners and all. The next and possibly my favourite stop was nearing the bottom of the valley, the source of the Soca river. it’s a 15min rocky climb up to the waterfall which is pretty impressive by itself, but dare to climb the via ferata (be careful if you do), you will be rewarded with where the river simply appears from under a rock. A sheer rock face, with a glowing green pool at the bottom, which quickly flows down to the waterfall just below. The water here is sweet with minerals, and having a taste is a must, but really all you’ll want to do (once you’ve got your snaps) is just sit on the side and relax, marvelling at how awesome nature can be.

IMG_20160525_153847477_HDRFrom here the road chills out a bit, running along the bottom of the valley, next to the turquoise grey Soca river, there’s still plenty of chances for pics here especially at the Boka falls – another short rocky climb up the side of the valley, this time however it’s not possible to get close to the source as this waterfall is over 100m high, coming from an underground network and straight out of the side of a cliff. The viewing platform is enough however, providing a wonderful view of the intense waterfall.

IMG_20160525_170039578Our penultimate stop is another contender for my favourite, the Kozjak Waterfall is an easy and relatively flat walk, about 20mins from the carpark. There are sections of walkway that have been built to provide access to the final grotto, a dark and brooding place filled with the spray coming off the powerful falls. It is here I decided that going for a swim would be a good idea… after wading through the river to the pool my feet were already numb with cold and I was shivering, but after some ‘encouragement’ from my fellow travellers I had the quickest dip of my life. My breath was short, my muscles tense and every part of my brain was telling that this was a bad idea. Thankfully the warm slovenia sun soon dried me off and warmed me up. I’d recommend it only to the brave (or stupid).

IMG_20160525_164614955_HDRThe last stop of the day was another lake; Bohinj. Larger than Bled, and equally as pleasant to the eye, the town has plenty to do, but we stuck with dinner, enjoying some proper Slovenia schnitzel and chevapchichi before heading home to get a well earned rest.

Busabout

Well I’ve been rather busy lately.

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I decided a while ago to apply for a few positions as a guide as I wasn’t overly satisfied with my work at Flight Centre. I wanted to get back to the source of the travel, to be truly involved in making peoples holidays, talking to the people having fun, not just booking their flights. Of all of the positions I applied for, it was Busabout that I wanted most (although a position in Africa was pretty tempting as well). The Hop-on Hop-off style is how I would want to travel Europe, with a guide to help out, but no restrictions time wise. With so many cities visited in so many countries, it allows you see the best of Europe, and gives you the tools to see the rest of it as well. Plus the coach gives people a chance to meet new friends, much more sociable than the trains.

I got through the interview process with a hastily written presentation on Barcelona FC, and wowed them with my one on one, which meant I got invited to join the 7 week training trip – visiting every city on their loops, through 14 countries in Europe. So I handed in my notice, packed up all my things and hit the road again.

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It was a gruelling 7 weeks of coaches almost every day, rushing around cities to find out as much as we could, bike tours, pub crawls, cooking classes, boat trips and much much more. There were some late nights, some stressful situations but I felt it was all manageable, they tested me, but I never felt like I would fail. Once I got into a routine of having everything prepared a day before, I could hop up and give a talk on cities and countries I’d never even been to. It was a lot of fun in fact, meeting so many like minded people, learning huge amounts about European history and every city on our network. Now I’m sure all my friends will complain about the constant barrage of facts.

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Then as the end was in sight, they told me I’d be flying off to Greece for an extra 10 days of training on the Greek Island Hopper adventure product. While I was craving some rest, I jumped at the chance to educate myself in Greek gods, mythology, and how to avoid sun burn when it’s 40+ everyday. As we experienced the product I learnt how much fun it would be, parties every other night and some beautiful islands to explore.

I am now happy to say that I am employed by Busabout as a European Guide, and have started with my first sector just two days ago – Munich to Paris with just 10 passengers. Tomorrow I will be hitting the road with many more, heading to Amsterdam. Time to brush up on my Dutch history.

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I have to thank all of the trainers who helped me prepare for this, pushing me to my limits, making sure I’m ready for silly questions, difficult questions, and everything else they can throw at me. Here’s to a wonderful summer in Europe.

Tignes (again) with Wasteland Ski winter 15/16

So I was fortunate to get sent back over to Tignes this December to Head Rep for Wasteland Ski

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IMG_20151210_143850After 3 weeks in the resort last year, Tignes became one of my favourite resorts in Europe, I got to know the parks, the runs, the bars and even a couple of secret spots ‘off piste’, so when I got my request to work the resort for a week this winter I was very happy. I’ve got a lot less free time this year, so to be heading to one of the largest ski areas was something to look forward to.

It was also to be my first time as a proper Head Rep. I’d done it for SCUK (Snowboard Club UK) a group of 100+ adults or various ages, but they stayed in a nice hotel, and didn’t need supervision every night, so once they were all there, it was a very simple week indeed. I’d also been Zone Manager for BUSC Main Event in Tignes, but with so many support staff, I found the week pretty simple, and didn’t have too much hassle at all. So heading out with a good friend, and one of the great new BUSC team to be the ‘bosses’ for a team of 7 reps and about 250 students, I certainly anticipated a bit more of a challenge.

IMG_20151215_130101And a challenge was an understatement! Within less than 12 hours we’d lost a rep and had to send him home, which meant all the preparations we’d done were for nothing as we rushed to prepare for arrivals. But prepared we were, and within 12 hours of the students arriving we had two more missing people, some minor injuries, a couple of rooms with no water and a handful of other complaints and issues. Certainly it looked like we wouldn’t be getting much sleep that week! I think the earliest night was 3am, and the latest lie-in 9am, although I blame myself for the early starts, most mornings anyway. I had come to the mountains to ride, and ride I would do.

IMG_20151215_130136Most days I’d complete a couple of laps before joining with the reps to explore the mountains, get the typical selfies and group photos. We even had a sprinkling of powder, so to make the most of that one of our crew let her snowboard lose, and we got to adventure into the unknown to find it. Some lovely slash turns and rock hopping and even a cheeky little cliff drop to get out of some tight spots made the riding varied and exciting. I got plenty of time to ride through both the Tignes and Val D’isere parks, both of which while incomplete were big enough for me. I certainly got more comfortable riding the mid-line and might have tidied my ugly 3’s up a little. Grab for the week was the Stalefish. I think what I really like about the rideable area in Tignes is the pure variety, and the options from every point on the piste map. There’s always a couple of choices if not more from the main chairs, and whether you want something fun and easy, or to beat your speed record there chance is right there.

Weather wise it felt more like spring riding than December, with warm days and blue skies for most of the week. A little cloud which brought us just enough snow to freshen the runs didn’t cause a white-out. Not great for the resort for the rest of the season, but for us there that week we couldn’t ask for better conditions.

IMG_20151216_111558The nightlife is still great fun, although a little limited for options compared to somewhere like Val Thorens. The usual favourite Saloon and old faithful Dropzone provide different vibes but good fun until it’s time to head to the clubs – which I find hard to differentiate really, it’s club tunes and house, it’s dark and a bit smelly but get the right group in and before you know it, you’re raving with a lot of semi-naked people.

The student groups, (with a couple exceptions) were great fun, and the committees certainly helped throughout the week, there’s plenty of opportunities for them to be a huge time sink for the head reps, but on the whole they were pretty chilled out and happy with the week. I’d be happy to work with them again, if they’d have me!

Benjamin Duff

@Versestravel

Another apologetic post

So recently I’ve been rather caught up in re-building real life. It’s going rather well, working at the Flight Centre selling travel again, living in Brighton and enjoying a nice new space to live in.

It’s very nice to be more settled again, and being able to do the odd little things you can’t while traveling. Unpacking sure was a nice feeling. I have my guitars and comic books out, and it’s amazing how little stuff I really have, certainly not enough to fill the drawers, wardrobe and bookshelf in my room.

Work is going along fairly well, it’s not as fun as PeterPans and it’s definitely a lot more work. The systems are much more complicated and the customers aren’t as fun, I miss teasing people about being scared to do a bungy jump, and putting together amazing packages to squeeze the best out of Australia and NZ. The customers are mostly price-beaters looking for the best deal, but it’s not something we can really offer, especially with our own internal fees to pay, it’s hard to save anyone any money at all. That said, when it comes to planning a great trip for people who want something a bit special, or are too busy to look into it themselves we can really do something good.

I want to sell people amazing trips to awesome places, but it seems that the public are so suspicious they will always look elsewhere. One of my colleagues thought we should be more honest about what we do – We charge a little extra, but we do all the work for you! It’s that simple.

Anyway, I will be sure to start writing more again now I’m a bit more settled. I need to finish off all the countries I’ve done so far, Cambodia is on the way!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Cambodia Pt1: Siem Reap

As always, the bus through from 4000 Islands in Laos down through half of Cambodia is pretty horrendous, definitely in the top ten of worst trips. We won’t bore you with the details, it’s always the same story. But arriving was a rather more pleasant experience. Continue reading Cambodia Pt1: Siem Reap

Another Update

I have now moved to Hurstpierpoint, near Brighton, which means great access to the sussex downs and some incredible countryside, while still having easy access into London and Brighton. We’re working on some more reviews of UK cities and then we’ll get started on Cambodia and the South East Asian saga again.

Thank you for your patience and hope you’ll enjoy the new batch