Know Before You Go: Hike Europe: The Alps | EF Ultimate Break
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Hike Europe: The Alps

Know Before You Go

For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.

Covid-19

All travelers wishing to participate on this tour must be fully vaccinated by the time of their departure.  Fully vaccinated is defined as 2 weeks after receiving the last recommended vaccine dose for 2-dose vaccines and 4 four weeks after receiving the single-dose vaccine (J&J).

If you will not meet this requirement, please call us at 1-800-766-2645 to reschedule your tour. If you will be fully vaccinated, please confirm vaccination status via your checklist in your online account. Please note that checklist item will appear at 45 days prior to departure and can log into your account here:

Pre- tour
In addition to the safety precautions arranged for your tour, we want to stress your role in both your own and other travelers’ safety. As such we are requiring all travelers certify to comply with the requirements laid out in our COVID Safe Traveler Agreement . Requirements such as, but not limited to:

  • Being fully vaccinated by the time of my departure. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last recommended dose of vaccine (4 weeks for J&J).
  • Agreeing to take all reasonable efforts to minimize their exposure to COVID-19 within the two weeks prior to the tour’s departure. If made aware that they have been in close contact (as defined as within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) with a person diagnosed within COVID-19 within 14 days of the tour’s departure date, they will notify EF Ultimate Break immediately.
  • Following all local regulations, restrictions and advisories related to COVID-19 for the tour. Travelers also agree to follow all rules, requests and requirements from their Tour Director or EF Ultimate Break staff for the health and well-being of themselves, their fellow travelers, and any suppliers.

Your COVID Safe Traveler Agreement will be released in your online account 14 days prior to departure and must be completed 72 hours prior to your tour’s departure to Europe.

Entering Switzerland: All travelers are responsible for completing the Health Declaration Form 48 hours before arriving in Switzerland, and carrying it with you.

On-tour
While on the road, you will be required to follow all local COVID safety regulations and requirements in Europe which currently include:

  • Face masks must be worn while in public in all indoor and outdoor settings except when eating, performing a water activity, while alone or in a private home; the use of masks is mandatory on all forms of transportation, including your tour bus.
  • Restaurant capacity may be limited, and many restaurants will require that groups are seated at separate tables, even in a private space.

In addition, we ask that while on tour you limit interactions to those within the group and refrain from meeting up with anyone outside the group.

Should any traveler be diagnosed with COVID-19 while on the Tour, the person diagnosed with COVID-19 will be required to isolate and the remainder of the tour group will be required to quarantine on-tour AND test for COVID-19, in accordance with local guidelines.

2021 Quarantine Coverage
If a traveler is either diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to quarantine on account of COVID-19 while on tour in 2021, EF will provide or arrange for the following, consistent with local requirements, at no additional expense to the traveler throughout the duration of any on-tour quarantine period:

  • Lodging and meals
  • EF representatives available to support the traveler and coordinate with local authorities on their behalf where necessary
  • Assistance connecting with local health care providers*
  • Translation services
  • Communication between the traveler and the traveler’s family back home
  • EF-arranged flights home, based on existing itinerary, once the traveler is cleared to return

*Travelers are responsible for their own medical costs; we highly encourage travelers to confirm their current health insurance includes coverage while traveling domestically or internationally or purchase trip protection that includes medical coverage through EF or another provider.

Returning from tour
In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control requirements to re-enter the United States, all travelers, must take a mandatory COVID-19 test (either PCR or antigen viral test) OR have documented proof of recovery from a medical professional, within 72 hours prior to their return flight to the US.

While EF Ultimate Break will assist travelers in scheduling with local testing facilities, you will be responsible for covering the cost of the COVID-19 test. We recommend budgeting $100.

Travel Documents & Tour Preparation

Travel Documents:

  • Passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date.
  • Visa: No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen. For citizens of other counties please check with the consulate in your area to verify the Visa entry requirements.
  • Travel Insurance: While Travel Insurance is not required, we strongly encourage all travelers to obtain coverage before departure. Check out cost-effective Travel Protection, designed to meet the needs of EF travelers here.

Tour Preparation:

  • Talk with your doctor: It is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
  • Travelling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director kno w of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals.
  • Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan for your mobile device so you can stay connected while on the road. Free Wi-Fi may be available, but it won’t be everywhere nor as strong as we are used to. Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
  • Join the Facebook group: Your trip’s private Facebook group will open roughly 60 days prior to departure; This is how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. You’ll receive an email inviting you to join. If you’re having trouble joining, give us a call at 800-766-2645.
  • Complete you pre-tour checklist: this can be found in your account.

Safety Abroad

Staying Healthy while Traveling

There’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:

  • Sleep: Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon siesta, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Stay hydrated: It’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially on days with physically demanding hikes!
  • Be Prepared: We recommend bringing a small first aid kit including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
  • Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
    • Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
    • What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
    • Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.

Safety while Abroad

With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:

  • Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
  • Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
  • Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
  • Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
  • At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi and always have cash on hand.
  • Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411.

Money & Tipping

We recommend budgeting 80-100 USD per day (in local currency - more details below) for meals, gratuities, shopping, and free time activities. For this trip, that means about $900-$1100 total, but you know your spending habits best. Read on for more must-knows about money and tipping on your trip:

  • Currencies used: Euro (€), Swiss Franc (CHf)
  • When exchanging money for this trip, better rates are usually found overseas, but it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive.
  • You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks, but be wary of fees.
  • Let your bank and credit card companies know your travel plans ahead of time to avoid potential complications while abroad.

Tipping:

  • Tour Director: $48 - $72 at the end of the trip
  • Local guides: $1-$2 at the end of each experience
  • Taxis: Round up to the nearest dollar
  • Restaurants: 10-15% (check your bill that gratuity isn't already included)

Packing

Your airline ticket includes one checked bag but note that years of customer feedback tells us that the lighter you pack, the better. We recommend bringing one hiking backpack (approximately 20 liters is a great size), and one smaller suitcase or duffel bag approximately 22” x 14” x 9”. See more packing tips below.

Electronics: We recommend a universal adapter; the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com) for this trip.

Packing Suggestions:

  • 1 jacket (light/rain jacket if June – August, thicker/waterproof jacket for all other months)
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Waterproof shoes
  • 1-2 pairs jeans / shorts
  • 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
  • 1 nicer outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
  • Underwear and socks
  • Toiletries, medicine
  • Phone or camera
  • Passport
  • Debit / Credit cards and cash
  • Adapter / Converter – type “G” (three square prongs), or universal

Hiking Packing Suggestions:

  • One hiking backpack, approximately 20 liters is best
  • Hiking boots with non-slip sole and ankle support. You should try to break in your boots for 2-3 weeks before the tour to avoid blisters or any discomfort
  • Active-wear clothes; quick-drying, non-cotton material
  • Long pants; quick-drying, non-denim or cotton material
  • Hat & gloves (wool is ideal for hiking)
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Hat/Bandana (sweat resistant)
  • Water bottle with 2-liter capacity
  • Moleskin and bandaids for blisters
  • Soft lunch box to keep lunch cold (optional)
  • Telescoping hiking poles (optional)
  • Personal medicine
  • Towel for swimming and whitewater rafting (we recommend the Microfiber Towel found on Amazon - $20)

Note: With changes in weather on hikes, we recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered to accommodate varying temperatures, as well as a light jacket or rainwear.

Physical Prep & Hikes

This is a physically demanding tour; there are hikes or extended walks almost every day and most hikes will start in the morning and end in the evening. On some days, you should be prepared to hike upwards of 9 hours, taking into consideration different terrains and altitude adjustments.

You should feel comfortable walking or hiking uphill continuously for at least 3 hours, otherwise you risk missing out on hikes or not enjoying the tour as much as you’d like. You can opt out of any hiking day, but we recommend making the most of each hiking opportunity!

Depending on local weather conditions, seasons and trail closures, the activities and sequence of your included walks may change.

  • Lavaux Vineyard Hike - 6-7 miles / 3-4 hours. Starting in St. Saphorin, you’ll make your way uphill and downhill through narroy alleys, winegrowers’ homes, cellars, and trails towards the lake in Lultry where you’ll end with more wine and treats.
  • Montreux - 8 miles / 5-6 hours. Starting at the Station de Jaman you’ll cross into Col de Bonaudon, through Grottes de Naye, Chauc de Naye, and summit at Rochers de Naye. Expect slight altitude gain, plus a train from Montreux to Rocher-de-Nayes
  • Black Lake & Hornlihutt - 5-6 miles / 6 hours. A steep, consistent hike that starts with a train from Taesch to Zermatt, then gondola to Black Lake, you’ll see the chapel of Maria zum Schnee, a popular chapel visited by Matterhorn climbers. From the chapel, you’ll continue to the Hornlihutt, one of Matterhorn’s famed basecamps. On the ascent, prepare for views of even more 4000-meter peaks in the valley.
  • Gran Paradiso (Aosta Valley) - 5 miles / 5 hours. A difficult hike over ascending and challenging terrain, this hike will be sure to test your limits, but reward you with incredible views and feeling of accomplishment!
  • Lac Cormu & Lacs Noir - 6.8 miles / 6 hours. Follow up the challenging Aosta hike with a trail that also offers you swimming in the lakes of Chamonix region. Meet up with a guide to take the La Flegere cable car, and then walk the trail along snowfields, and a picnic stop in Lacs Noirs for incredible views.
  • L’Aiguille du Midi - 4 miles / 4 hours. Your final hike of the trip, L’Aiguille du Midi starts with a train from Chamonix to Montenvers, followed by a hike to Signal Forbes with a glacier overlook. From there, hike to the cable car station and have lunch at the Chalet, finally returning to Chamonix via Cable car (or option to purchase ticket to summit L’Aiguille du Midi via cable car).

You’ll typically stop for lunch during your hikes. Hiking protocol is that everyone in the group waits until the last person arrives at the lunch stop before eating. Think of it like waiting for your family members to all sit down at the dinner table before starting to eat!

Arrival Information & Transportation

Flight Preparation
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. Using your 6-digit reservation code, you can reserve your seat (this is typically available 30 days to 24 hours before departure) and check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, that’s okay, too. Regardless, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.

All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.

  • If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time.
  • If you sleep in and miss your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.

Arriving in Switzerland
Welcome to Switzerland! Once you land, grab your luggage and pass through customs and immigration.

Your Tour Director will communicate on Facebook, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group.

If you have booked your own flight arrangements or have extended your travels before the tour dates, you will need to make your own way to the first hotel. Accommodation details will be available in your online account 30 days prior to departure.

Getting from A to B
Since teleportation hasn’t been invented yet, it takes time to get to each destination. All transfers between cities and islands are via private motor coach can take anywhere between 2-6 hours.

It’s a good idea to download a few movies or shows to watch sans Wi-Fi/ Cellular Data, bring a great book with you to read, or listen to music to pass the time.

Accommodations

On this trip you’ll experience standard rooming unless you purchased a private room upgrade. Standard rooming is in European hotels or boutique hostels and you’ll room with up to five fellow EF Ultimate Break travelers of the same gender per room. What to expect for standard rooming:

  • 4-5 fellow EF Ultimate Break roommates of the same gender
  • Small, boutique hotels and hostels, typically without elevators
  • One private bathroom per room that you’ll share with your roommates
  • Limited WiFi connection
  • Limited air conditioning – AC is popular in the U.S., but not in Europe!

If you have any questions about your rooming status or want to request a specific roommate, call us at 800-766-2645, or connect with your Tour Director.

Language & Local Life

While it may feel awkward at first, attempting the local language goes a long way when navigating a city and interacting with people. Practice these basic phrases in Italian, Swiss German, and French to get started:

  • Hello = Ciao / Grüezi / Bonjour
  • Goodbye = Ciao / Tschüss / Aurevoir
  • Thank You = Grazie / Merci / Merci
  • Yes = Sì / Ja / Oui
  • No = No / Nein / Non
  • Where is ___? = Dove si trova…? / Wo ist…? / Où est…?
  • Cheers! = Saluti! / Prost! / à ta santé!

Read on for more tips to help you feel like a true local!

  • Italians greet everyone with two kisses—one on each cheek
  • When you cheers or toast, make eye contact—it brings good luck!
  • Unlike the Swiss, Italians tend to be fashionably late
  • Swiss people are more reserved; the less small talk, the better
  • Public intoxication is frowned upon
  • No jaywalking allowed, especially in Switzerland
  • As majestic as they are, avoid approaching the swans in Switzerland
  • Switzerland has an early bedtime, so make the most of your day
  • Public restrooms in Europe sometimes require a small fee – hold on to your coins!
  • Unlike the U.S., everything (hotels, meals, appliances) is smaller. After all, less is more
  • Water is an added cost at restaurants, and you have to choose between still or sparkling
  • People in France tend to speak at a low volume. Out of respect for the culture, be aware of your volume when in public.
  • Feel free to seat yourself in restaurants and don’t be afraid to flag your waiter or waitress over for help
  • French people are more reserved, so don’t be offended if someone doesn’t strike up conversation right away

Food, Drink & Free Time

You’ll sample a variety of local dishes on your trip, but read on for tips, tricks, and delicacies you just must try.

Italy

  • For breakfast, try a sweet pastry and cappuccino instead of the savory continental breakfast you’re used to!
  • Iced coffee begone, espresso is your new friend. You’ll never find a bad espresso in Italy, but order and pay for your espresso at the bar to avoid paying more than the usual 1-2€.
  • Before dinner, try aperitivo—a light meal between lunch and dinner with snacks and wine, or a refreshing spritz like aperol or campari
  • In Italy, dinner doesn’t often begin until after 8 or 9pm. More reason to enjoy aperitivo!
  • Try an after-dinner digestive liquor like limoncello, sambuca, amari, or apertivi.

Switzerland

  • Save your Swiss Francs for a block of frischschokolade—fresh chocolate, a praline, or a truffle for a chocolate foodie experience
  • The Swiss recommend Gruyere, Appenzeller, Emmentaler; world-renowned cheese from all different regions of Switzerland
  • Like Italy, the Swiss start their day with light pastries or cereal, followed by a mid-morning snack of bread or fruit
  • Dinner, or Znacht, starts around 6-7pm and can consist of colder foods like cheese, meats, honey and jam

France:

  • Baguettes: Now is your chance to walk around the streets of Paris with a baguette in hand. YOLO.
  • Steak Frites: Grilled steak with various sauces and fries will hit the spot. Guaranteed!
  • Crepes, Macarons, Chocolat, oh my!: Try a street stand crepe as an afternoon snack, a fun-flavored macaron, or any form of chocolate you can find. It’s all delicious!
  • Champagne: It’s originated in France, after all…
  • Escargot: A.k.a., snails doused in butter and garlic. When in Paris, right?

Free Time
As you prepare to spend time in a new culture, star to think about how you can make the most of your time, and live like a true Irish lad or lass! If you did not purchase an EF Ultimate Break optional excursion and like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time.

  • If you did not purchase one of the optional excursions before the trip, log into your Online Account and you can purchase there, or, talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can enroll you.
  • Note that prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour.

We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.

Bon voyage!

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