frequently asked questions
Q) I do not speak French (Greek/Spanish/ Italian etc). Does this matter?
A). No, I speak fluent French and so does my driver in France, Philippe (who is French). Di Mayfield who leads our tours to Italy, Greece and Spain speaks a little Italian and our Italian driver Leonardo speaks a little English. In Greece or Spain or in other foreign countries I always employ a local incoming tour company so that we are prepared for any eventuality, good or not so good.
Q). Are there any hidden costs?
A). Anything not included in the tour price is specified in the tour description. This usually includes lunches, some evening meals, obligatory travel insurance, film (if you are not digital), film processing, and personal expenses. Sometimes, the cost of the taxi between the airport and the hotel is an extra cost. Sometime because of flight arrangements and wishing to get over jet-lag, some clients stay an extra night or arrive a day earlier. The cost of the hotel for these nights is an extra cost. Also, if you feel like tipping Philippe or Leonardo or any other driver/guide that may have been of help to you, this is also extra cost.
Q). Will I suffer from jet-lag?
A) Yes, most probably if you are flying from America. People flying to Europe from the U.S.A. West Coast suffer from jet lag more than East coasters but everyone will get it. Symptoms include sleeplessness at night, being tired during the afternoon, having a "fuzzy" head, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate or remember anything. This often results in losing or breaking equipment, falling asleep in the bus, or not being able to enjoy the first few days of the tour. To remedy this, seasoned clients try to arrive a day or two (or three) before the tour begins. This is a good idea if you can afford the time and money. Otherwise there are several jet-lag remedies that are sold by comapnies such as Magellan's which are well worth trying.
Q). Why do I need travel insurance? I have never gotten travel insurance before.
A). Travel insurance is fairly inexpensive depending on what package you get. I am always amazed at how travelers will take off for distant lands without covering themselves for illness, accident, death, physical repatriation, loss of passport, money, bags etc. Imagine if you step off the sidewalk in Athens or Florence and you are swept into the next world by a bus. What am I supposed to do with your remains if you do not have travel insurance? Generally your current USA insurance policies do not cover you for this eventuality and I would probably have to leave you by the side of the road. Check with your home-owner's policy to see if your luggage and equipment is covered for loss or damage while traveling abroad.
See the links page for Travel Insurance company web-sites.
Q).How much foreign currency/travelers checks should I bring?
A). Most people do not like traveling with large amounts of currency and bring travelers checks. These can be a hassle to exchange if we are traveling in remote areas especially if they are in US dollar denominations. You will probably need a minimum of $40 worth of local currency a day (on the days when your evening meal is paid for).. On the days when you buy your own evening meal you will need a minimum of $70 worth of local currency. Add on some extra for personal items you may need like bottled water and delicious French chocolate - the best in the world by the way - or an Italian ice cream. We have evolved a great system of not running out of cash which involves one member of the group picking up the total lunch tab with a credit card when he/she needs cash, and then getting reimbursed (in cash) from the rest of the group. That way, all cash stays within the group and is recycled. Major credit cards are accepted in most places especially VISA. American Express is rarely accepted. If you have a four digit PIN number you can withdraw cash from bank ATMs everywhere and get probably the best exchange rate possible. The dollar has been losing ground steadily against European currencies so expect to pay more for everything than you did three or four years ago.
Q). I still shoot film. How many rolls of film should I bring?
A). There is no one answer to this apart from "none" if you are shooting digital. It depends on many variables such as your experience as a photographer (beginners usually shoot more), whether you bracket a lot, whether you take in-camera dupes, what the weather is like etc. Generally clients shoot between 25 and 60 rolls.
Q). Can I get my film developed during the tour?
A). Probably not unless you are shooting print film and we are staying near a big town or city.. Even so, film processing is very expensive in Europe, and, depending where you are, the quality can be unreliable.
Q). What will the weather be like?
A). Impossible to say. It depends on the season and where we are. The weather is very changeable all over Europe due to the influence of the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream. Be prepared for all types of weather except snow storms. Pack layers. Bring a light weight waterproof jacket/poncho and a pair of water-proof shoes as well as a traveling umbrella. Bring sunblock. Greece in May will definately be hotter than Ireland in July!
Q). Can you drink the water?
A). Unless you have very delicate stomach, the water is safe in most European countries. Many Europeans drink bottled water not because tap water isn't safe but because they think bottled water has more healthy minerals. However you may be sensitive to foreign microbes in the water or food just as a foreign tourist to America may be sensitive to microbes that do not bother Americans at all.
Q). My husband/wife is not a photographer but would like to come along. Is this possible and is there a reduction in cost for a non-photographing spouse?
A). As a general rule I try to gently discourage photographers from bringing non-shooting spouses along with them mainly because a photo tour can get very boring for someone who is not interested in photography. If the tour is to a place like the Riviera, Paris or Tuscany and there is lots for non-photographers to do then it is generally OK, but when we go to remote regions where there is nothing but landscapes and lost villages, spouses will get impatient. There is no reduction for spouses as hotels, transportation, food, guides etc. all cost the same.
Q). I have heard that French/Italian/Greek/Spanish/English people do not like Americans. Is this true?
A). Absolutely NOT! While many people in Europe disagree with current American foreign policy this does not translate into a dislike of Americans. In fact wherever we have been the French (or Italian or Spanish or Greek or English) people we have met have been invariably charming, welcoming, friendly and polite.