Frequently Asked Questions
Flexibility within an escorted tour
If my holiday is shown as flying from London, can I fly from a regional airport and join the group at its first overnight stop abroad?
Yes but we would add a note of caution. If either your flight or that of the main group is delayed for whatever reason (e.g. bad weather), you could find yourself at the destination without your group leader or indeed the rest of the group. Therefore we would advise against this option if the itinerary shows the group continuing its journey on the very next day. e.g. Flying to Toronto, then catching a train across Canada. In such an extreme case, you may never catch the group up!
If the brochure holiday involves flying to Europe, can I go by rail and join the group abroad?
We would be very happy to arrange rail tickets and, if required, overnight hotel accommodation en route. Please bear in mind that our holidays which are scheduled to fly are invariably to the further flung parts of Southern or Eastern Europe and therefore the rail journeys are likely to be long and more expensive than a flight.
Can I make my own arrangements to travel from the UK or other country and join the advertised group at the destination?
This is a particularly attractive option for people wishing to join the group from a non-UK country. We would deduct the price of the group’s outward and return travel at cost so that you only pay us for the “ground” arrangements. Please understand that, if you take this option, it is your responsibility to meet up with the group and Ffestiniog Travel cannot be held responsible for any delays or other problems associated with your own travel arrangements.
Can I have an “add-on” to an escorted tour to visit other nearby places or friends and relatives?
Yes although we would prefer you to do this at the end of the tour rather than the beginning in case there are any travel difficulties which prevent you meeting up with the group. We would be happy either to arrange your add-on in its entirety or, if visiting friends and relatives, simply to rearrange your transport home. In some cases this might be more expensive than that paid by the main group if we lose the advantage of group fares.
Can you arrange an upgrade on a flight?
Yes, subject to availability.
On an escorted tour, if I don't fancy the brochure itinerary for that day, can I go off and do my own thing?
Yes of course. All that we ask is that you let the tour leader know in advance so they are not waiting for you.
I like the sound of one of your escorted tours but the departure dates don't suit me this year. Will you run it again?
This varies from tour to tour but we do repeat many of our tours regularly. The majority of our tours can also be offered on a tailor made basis for independent travel.
How much luggage am I allowed to take?
If your holiday includes a flight, we will inform you the details of your baggage allowance with your final itinerary. If you need the details before then, please ask us. However, whether travelling by air or by train, the question you should ask yourself is “how much can I carry?” The answer to this is usually very much less than your baggage allowance. Most of our holidays involve touring and there will be occasions when there is no alternative to carrying your own suitcases. In this context, please also remember that, for couples travelling together, two small suitcases are always easier to handle than one big one.
Are there luggage restrictions on Eurostar similar to the airlines?
There are restrictions but not as severe. Each adult can take up to two medium sized items (85 cms at their maximum length) plus one small item of hand luggage. That’s a lot more than you would want to carry!
Is any baggage handling included in the tour?
Not usually and this is not because we are mean or uncaring! Many of the smaller hotels we use don’t provide a baggage handling service and, in any case, we have consistently found that our customers prefer to handle their own. The problem with hotel baggage handling is that, invariably, the suitcases arrive at your room after you do and, much worse, you are required to pack your bags and leave them outside your room long before you are ready to leave.
Does the tour leader help with baggage handling?
Once again, a straight answer “no” sounds very uncaring but the practicalities of the situation make this impossible. He, or very likely she, has a multitude of duties such as checking what platform the train departs from, finding reserved seats on trains, collecting keys at hotel reception and so on, not to mention the size of the group.
Payment for your holiday
When should I pay the final balance for my holiday?
Our normal guidelines say that we will send you an invoice 12 weeks before travel for payment 10 weeks before travel but occasionally this timetable can slip for a number of reasons. So, if you haven’t had your invoice at 12 weeks, please don’t worry. In these instances we would also be flexible about the 10 week payment deadline. The most important thing we would ask you to understand is that, in the final weeks leading up to the holiday, we are making payments to suppliers on your behalf, most of which are non-refundable. Therefore your commitment during this period is vital.
When do I pay if I make a late booking within 12 weeks of travel?
We will usually ask for full payment at the same time as your booking because we will start paying the suppliers as soon as you book.
Why is there a 2% surcharge for using a credit card?
That’s exactly what the credit card companies charge us and we don’t like it either! If all our customers paid by credit card without charge, it would cost us £40,000 per year and we simply couldn’t afford it. Please remember that you can pay by debit card without surcharge.
What does ATOL/ABTOT protection give me when booking with you?
In accordance with 'The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992', all passengers booking with Ffestiniog Travel are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all monies paid to us, including repatriation if required, arising from cancellation or curtailment of your travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Ffestiniog Railway Holdings Ltd T/A Ffestiniog Travel. Please refer to Clause 14 of the Booking Conditions for more information.
Is travel insurance included in the cost of the holiday?
No and this is partly because costs for cover vary hugely depending on personal circumstances and partly because the insurance business nowadays is very heavily regulated (following the many scandals associated with the mis-selling of personal insurance in recent years). We are not insurance specialists and therefore haven’t the training or expertise to advise on the best insurance for you. However we can introduce you to a company that has.
Can you arrange my travel insurance for me?
We are not licensed to sell or able to give advice about travel insurance.
Do you make provision for people with special diet requirements?
Yes, provided that we know in advance. There is a space on the booking form for diet requests.
What meals are included in my holiday?
This varies from holiday to holiday but, in the case of escorted holidays, these are detailed in the brochure and on the web site. Customers on unescorted (Signature) holidays are advised at quotation stage.
Many of the brochure escorted holidays don’t include evening meals. Why is this?
Customers have such widely differing tastes on what they want to eat and where they want to eat it. For some, an evening meal in a well appointed restaurant with wine and all the trimmings is an important part of their holiday experience. Others prefer “plain and simple”. We believe that an element of choice is important. However it is useful to note that evening meals are usually provided where there might otherwise be a difficulty e.g. planned late arrivals at hotels, centres where there is little or no choice of restaurants or centres where there might be a serious language difficulty.
Trains and Tickets
Are trains abroad similar to the UK?
This would need a whole book to answer but, in very general terms, trains are larger because the UK has a very restricted loading gauge (size of tunnels etc.). This is useful in that there is usually more room abroad for luggage but, on the other hand, if the station platform is low, you need to “climb” into the train! In terms of quality, most trains in Western Europe are at least as good as their UK equivalent and sometimes better. Eastern European trains are often older and sometimes “second hand”. Long distance trains in USA and Canada are well appointed with lounges, dining cars and bars as well as regular seating.
What is the difference between a sleeping car and a couchette?
This question is sometimes asked by unescorted customers planning their own European holidays. It refers to the sleeping accommodation on overnight trains. A sleeper is a private compartment with one or more sleeping berths and a “solid” wall between compartment and corridor outside. In other words it is private. It has a wash hand-basin but may not have an en-suite WC. A couchette is a four or six seat compartment where the seats turn into berths for the overnight journey and the passenger is provided with a blanket and pillow. There is no privacy.
If my holiday includes a rail pass, what does this entitle me to do?
This very much depends on the type of pass but details will be spelled out in your final itinerary and, in the case of escorted holidays, by your tour leader. Within Europe, the most common types of pass used are InterRail and the Swiss Pass. InterRail covers rail travel on state railways (including franchised private operators in Germany) in one country or, in the case of the Global InterRail, throughout Europe. Fast train supplements are not included except in Germany and nor are seat reservations which are often compulsory. These supplements are included for any travel we provide as part of the itinerary on both escorted and unescorted (Signature) holidays but you need to be aware of this for your travel on free days. The Swiss Pass is more comprehensive and, in addition to the trains, also includes most lake steamers, post buses and even most city buses and trams. It also allows generous discounts on cable cars and suchlike. Once again there are a few supplements which are not included, notably for Glacier and Bernina Expresses and those post buses which cover the highest alpine routes in the summer season.
For your escorted itineraries, is travel always by the quickest and most direct route?
It all depends! Whilst we endeavour to keep changes of train to a minimum, particularly when luggage is being carried, there are occasions when cross country journeys by scenic routes necessitate one or more changes. In these cases, your tour leader will guide you to the relevant platforms and advise how long there is for a change. It is of course important that you are on the correct platform in good time for the onward connection as the train will not wait for you!
Do you sell FIP (UK Rail Staff) rail tickets or take this into consideration when I book a tour?
Our European Rail Department will be happy to give you a quotation for your rail travel with FIP discount. Please give us a ring or send us an email. For customers purchasing rail tickets only please visit our website 'My Rail Trip' for more information about rail travel. We will always do our best to accommodate your FIP discount on tours, although there are times when the group fares we use may mean there is no further discount.
What do you mean by “electronic ticket”?
Airlines nowadays don’t issue tickets in the old fashioned sense but store all the details in their computer. We issue you with a sheet of paper which includes all these details and, when you check in, the computer recognises your reference and issues you with a boarding pass.
When I receive my electronic ticket from you before the tour, can I check in on line?
If you are travelling on an unescorted (Signature) holiday, yes. If, however, you are travelling as part of a group on one of our escorted holidays, the seats will have been pre-assigned and, unless we specifically say that you can check in on line, you shouldn’t attempt to do this. The reason is that, if you are one passenger out of a group of, say, ten, the computer has been known to think the other nine aren’t travelling and cancels their seats!
What standard of hotel do you normally use for your holidays?
For escorted holidays in our programme, we would normally use medium sized 3-star hotels but there can be variations to this norm for many reasons. At one extreme, some of our long haul holidays use four or even five star where we feel that these offer the best value available. At the other extreme, we feature several destinations well off the beaten track and therefore must take hotels which are “best available”. However we would always take care to ensure that such places are clean and safe and we always include en-suite facilities as standard. For unescorted (Signature) holidays, the standard of accommodation can be specified by the customer at quotation stage and our only proviso here is that we would refuse to agree to use accommodation which we felt did not satisfy minimum standards.
Do you ever use guest houses, farm house or home-stay accommodation?
Not without making this absolutely clear in our literature and never without checking it out first. Having said that, good home-stay or farm house accommodation is an attractive proposition, especially when it is accompanied by home grown organically produced food and good home cooking. We use such accommodation to great effect in Romania but it has been very carefully vetted and has been adequately converted for tourist use by the addition of en-suite bathrooms.
Are transfers from station / airport to hotel included in the cost of the holiday?
We hesitate to say “yes, always” because, if the hotel is opposite the station or closer than the distance from station to the bus pickup, the answer is clearly “no”. However as a good rule of thumb, we would never on an escorted holiday expect any customer to struggle with luggage to the hotel. Where distances are relatively short and most customers elect to walk, tour leaders are instructed to look after those who would find this difficult. Transfers are not provided for unescorted (Signature) customers except by prior arrangement.
When booking a tailor made trip, can I specify the hotels I wish to use?
Yes of course. We have our own preferred hotels in many locations but if you have a specific request we can look into it for you.
You always refer to the person in charge of your escorted group as the “tour leader” rather than the “tour guide” and your tours as “escorted” rather than “guided”. Is there a difference and, if so, what is it?
The wording is chosen to reflect the fact that the leader’s responsibilities are primarily to look after the well being of the group and to take customers safely and efficiently from A to B. Tour leaders should also be able to give added value to the holiday by helping make the best use of any free time. However they will not give you a running commentary, nor intrude on your privacy and will be happy to melt away if you prefer to do your own thing. In a nutshell, you can have a private holiday within the security of a group. That’s the “Ffestiniog” way of doing things which is perhaps different from some other companies.
Why do I need to fill in a booking form?
We are more than happy to keep your place on option until we receive a completed booking form. The booking form includes the important information required to make the necessary bookings on your behalf, e.g. Passport details, Date of Birth, etc.
What is your average group size?
The average group tour size is 18 people.
When will I receive my travel documents?
We usually send out final packages 2-3 weeks prior to departure.
Are your holidays just for enthusiasts?
No, most of our itineraries are carefully planned to ensure a good balance between rail, sightseeing, culture etc. We do categorise our tours to assist our customers further:
Grand Tours - Designed to appeal to the traveller who wants to explore the world by rail and wishes to combine culture, leisure, convivial company and comfortable accommodation with memorable holidays.
Connoisseur Tours - Designed to appeal to those who have a specific passion for railways.
Do you provide any pre-travel information?
Yes, we always aim to provide a useful information sheet for both our tailor-mades and our escorted tours. This can include information on local currency, weather, what to pack, visa requirements, etc. If there is anything else you would like to know, please do not hesitate to contact us – we will be happy to help.
Will I get through to a person who can help me when I phone? I don't want to talk to a call centre or a computer system.
All calls are answered by a member of our team immediately. Occasionally we may have to ask one of our travel consultants to phone you back so you can be confident you are talking to the person most knowledgeable about your enquiry. We also ensure all customers have a dedicated consultant for the duration of their booking.