Frequently asked questions We hope these questions and answers will help you plan your trip. If you have any other questions, please let us know! Before you book When can I book a tour for 2017? Can I check to see if space is available before I book? Why are tour prices mostly in local currencies? How much do you charge for your service? Is my money safe? Where do I call if I have a question? After you book How long does it take to get confirmation when I book a tour? How much is my deposit? When is the balance due? What if I need to make a change? What if I have to cancel? What if the tour operator cancels? Where do I call if I have a question? About the tours Does "self-guided" mean I'm totally on my own? If I choose a self-guided program, can I ride with other people? What if I'm an individual traveler? Can you find me a roommate? When does my tour start? When does my tour end? Do I need to be an athlete? What if I don't speak the language? What are the hotels like? What's the difference between "Category A" and "Category B?" What are the meals like? How does luggage transport work? What kinds of bikes are available? What comes with the bike rentals? What are the routes like? What if I can't make it to the next town one day, or the weather's really bad? What if my bike breaks down along the way? Before you leave When do I get my tour documents? What's included in my tour packet at the start hotel? Why can't I get the maps and route instructions before I leave home? Are helmets included with bike rentals? What should I pack? Before you book Q: When can I book a tour for 2017? A: Contact us if 2017 dates are not yet listed for the tour you want to book. We often can book your tour for the next season even if the website does not display those dates and prices. Back to the questions. Q. Can I check to see if space is available before I book? A. It depends on each tour company and tour. Some give us real-time reports. With others, we have to inquire. Some require a booking request first. With time differences, availability can change quickly, and tour operators will usually not hold space without a booking request and deposit. Back to the questions. Q. Why are tour prices mostly in local currencies? A. That's how the tour operators charge. We convert the local currency price to US dollars on your confirmation/statement, and your final payment is based on the exchange rate when we receive your final payment. Please note: Any exchange rates or prices in other than local currencies shown on our rate represent the purchase rate for local currencies. Many websites show the mid-point between buy and sell rates for major banks, and rates charged to consumers and small businesses are 3-8% higher. We charge you the purchase rates. Back to the questions. Q. How much do you charge for your service? A. There's a $30 per person booking fee. We waive the booking fee for travelers age 17 and younger. Tour prices are not marked up, though -- the prices on our site are the same as what you'd see on the tour companies' sites and catalogs. If you use a credit card, we do pass along the non-refundable 4% service charge. (There's no charge for paying by check. Clients outside North America often prefer to pay by wire transfer; we will be pleased to provide the details of our receiving account, but there's an additional US$20 charge to offset our bank's fees, and we ask that you add that to your total balance due.) However, we don't charge for international bank transfers to get payments to the tour operators. Back to the questions. Q. Is my money safe? A. Bookings and payments are processed by BikeToursDirect of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a licensed California Seller of Travel (CST 2120437-50). Tour operators and other suppliers are governed by the consumer and financial regulations of their respective nations and/or of the European Union. Most countries require tour operators to put funds in escrow or have a bank guarantee to cover your payments through the end of your trip. These laws protect you in case of insolvency or fraud. BikeToursDirect participates in the BBBOnline Reliability Program. Back to the questions. Q. Where do I call if I have a question? A. For tour planning and information, call our tour advisors at 877-462-2423, ext. 1., or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question about bookings, payments, or tour documents, please contact a Tour Advisor at 1-877-462-2423 or email email@example.com. If you're already on your tour, contact the tour operator (contact information will be in the tour documents we send you before you leave). Back to the questions. After you book Q. How long does it take to get confirmation when I book a tour? A. Some of the local tour companies actually confirm overnight, but please allow at least 3-4 business days for confirmation. In rare cases, it can take 5-7 days. We'll send our confirmation as soon as we receive the tour company's. Back to the questions. Q. How much is my deposit? A. $200 per person per tour, except for a few tours where other requirements are specifically listed. But it's not due until we have confirmation from the tour operator. If your tour leaves within 60 days of booking, full payment is due upon confirmation by the tour operator. Back to the questions. Q. When is the balance due? A. 60 days before your tour starts. If you book within 60 days, the balance is due upon confirmation. Back to the questions. Q. What if I need to make a change? A. Tour operators often assess fees of $75-100 per reservation for even minor changes such as adding a night of lodging, changing hotel category, adding a person or adding bike rentals. Date changes are often treated like cancellations. Please be as sure as possible of your plans when you book. BikeToursDirect reserves the right to charge $25 per change on top of tour operator charges. See terms and conditions. Back to the questions. Q. What if I have to cancel? A. Cancellation fees vary among tour operators, but you can expect to pay about €100 per person if you cancel 60 or more days before departure, 50% of the tour cost up to four weeks before departure and as much as 100% within a week of departure. Some tours, especially cruises, have more stringent deadlines. BikeToursDirect charges $50 per person on top of tour operator charges. BikeToursDirect strongly encourages the purchase of travel insurance. Cancellations must be made to BikeToursDirect in writing via email, fax or mail. See terms and conditions. Back to the questions. Q. What if the tour operator cancels? A. This happens, although rarely. Some tours are subject to a minimum number of participants (but you'd be notified with a provisional confirmation if your departure hasn't met the minimum number of participants when you book). If a tour operator cancel a tour due to an insufficient number of participants, or any other reason, you'll be refunded any payments you've made up to that time, or you may be able to apply those funds toward another tour. BikeToursDirect will refund your payment within 15 days of when we receive funds from the tour operator. Note that most travel insurance generally doesn't cover cancellation by the tour operator. Back to the questions. Q. Where do I call if I have a question? A. For tour planning and information, or question about bookings, payments or tour documents, call our Tour Advisors at 1-877-462-2423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're already on your tour, contact the tour operator (contact information will be in the tour documents we send you before you leave). Back to the questions. About the tours Q. Does "self-guided" mean I'm totally on my own? A. No. With self-guided tours, the tour operator still organizes the hotel reservations and the luggage transportation from hotel to hotel. The accommodations are usually the same as on guided tours. You often follow the same routes. Back to the questions. Q. If I choose a self-guided program, can I ride with other people? A. Self-guided tours are designed for individuals, not groups. It's possible that other people may be riding on the same tour, but you shouldn't count on it. And, if there are other people, don't take it personally if they want to ride on their own. Maybe they're honeymooners! Back to the questions. Q. What if I'm an individual traveler? Can you find me a roommate? A. We can try, but we can't promise. And if we don't succeed, you'll have to pay the single supplement. You have a much better chance on guided programs than self-guided programs. On tours with daily departures, it's rarely possible. Back to the questions. Q. When does my tour start? A. Most programs start in the afternoon or evening of day 1 with your arrival at your first hotel. You don't ride that day; it's just a time to arrive and relax. The actually cycling begins the next morning. If you're on a guided tour, there's usually a group dinner the first night followed by an orientation. If you've opted for a dinner package, dinner the first evening is generally included. Depending on when your overseas flight arrives, you may want to arrive in the departure city a day earlier. You'll be more relaxed, and you'll have the chance to explore the city on your own. In exceptional cases tours can include rides on the first day, but these are noted in the daily programs. Back to the questions. Q. When does my tour end? A. At the end of the tour, there's usually a final night's lodging included. You arrive by bike the day before, enjoy a relaxed evening, and depart the next morning. Your package typically ends with breakfast on the last day. Or stay extra nights to enjoy the area even more. In exceptional cases tours can include rides on the last day, but these are noted in the daily programs. Back to the questions. Q. Do I need to be an athlete? A. Anyone in reasonable shape should be able to enjoy these tours. Most tours cover about 20-40 miles per day and are designed for travelers who enjoy a leisurely pace. When you read the tour descriptions, pay close attention to terrain and average daily distances. We've also included difficulty levels to help guide you. You should be an experienced cyclist (but not necessarily an expert) to do tours rated 4-5. If you're concerned or it's your first tour, consider doing a tour rated 1-2 (or consider a guided tour with a support vehicle). Back to the questions. Q. What if I don't speak the language? A. English is widely spoken, and gestures are widely understood. Some people like the adventure of being in a foreign country and not knowing the language. If you're a novice traveler or think you may be uncomfortable, consider a guided tour. Back to the questions. Q. What are the hotels like? A. You almost always stay in two-, three-, or four-star hotels or inns, and private bathrooms are a given. Tour operators tend to stay away from chain hotels and larger lodging in favor of smaller, family-owned inns. Many hotels (especially in Europe) cater specifically to bicyclists. Back to the questions. Q. What's the difference between "Category A" and "Category B?" A. Some tours offer a choice of two different hotel categories, as noted in their prices. Category A is generally 3- and 4-star hotels located in a town center. Category B is generally 2- and 3-star hotels that may lie outside of town. Most tour pages list sample hotels to give you an idea of the type of hotel you'd be booked in. Back to the questions. Q. What are the meals like? A. Breakfasts are generally buffets that take your active program into consideration with a variety of low-fat and high-nutrition choices. Lunch is generally on your own, although some groups tours decide to pool funds on some days and enjoy picnics en route. Dinners are usually included with guided tours, and dinner packages ("half pension") are a frequent option with self-guided tours. Expect either a fixed menu or a few choices. If you have any allergies, restrictions or strong preferences, please let us know as far in advance as possible. Back to the questions. Q. How does luggage transport work? A. Both guided and self-guided tours include luggage transport from hotel to hotel, unless otherwise noted. Leave your suitcases in a designated area, and you'll find them in your next hotel when you arrive (usually by 4 p.m.). In general, one suitcase up to 50 pounds and one small carry-on are allowed. Back to the questions. Q. What kinds of bikes are available? A. This varies from tour company to tour company and often from tour to tour, and we try to list specific information on each tour page. Although many European tour participants prefer 7-speed bikes with back-pedals, Americans usually opt for 21-speed hybrid bikes built for touring (and comfort). We assume you want the 21-speed, unless you tell us otherwise, subject to availability. In most cases, the handlebars are upright, pedals flat and seats wide. The wider tires are more forgiving on the occasional gravel or dirt surface and on cobblestone streets. Many tour operators usually retire their entire fleets at least once every two years to keep their bikes in top condition. Electrically assisted bikes (e-bikes) are becoming more widely available, and are specifically mentioned in the tour listings. Tandems, child trailers and tag-alongs (also called slip-streamers or third wheels) are also sometimes available. Again, please see each tour for available equipment, or contact one of our tour advisors. Back to the questions. Q. What comes with the bike rentals? A. Panniers (saddlebags) are usually provided, but don't count on water bottles, cages, or helmets. If you'd like to swap out seats or pedals, please let us know in advance, and we'll make the request. You should bring your own tools and be prepared to do this on your own, especially with self-guided tours. Back to the questions. Q. What are the routes like? A. You usually travel along paved bicycle paths or lightly traveled back roads through the countryside or from village to village. Routes are selected for their charm and beauty as well as for their cultural and historical importance. Especially in southern European countries, tours often switch to meadow and forest paths or side roads. During some stretches and entering and leaving cities, short distances on roads with traffic are unavoidable. Back to the questions. Q. What if I can't make it to the next town one day, or the weather's really bad? A. Guided tours almost always include a support van to help you all or part of the way. On self-guided tours, it's your responsibility to get from the start to end hotels each day. In many cases, trains, buses, or even ships may be an option on days when you don't feel like riding. Make sure to keep the tour company's service hotline number in case you need advice along the way. Back to the questions. Q. What if my bike breaks down along the way? A. On guided tours, the guide will make the necessary repairs. On self-guided programs, you should be prepared to make basic repairs – like fixing flats. If there's a difficult repair, you may have to call the tour operator's emergency service number or go to a repair shop in the nearest town. Let the tour operator know, and you'll get reimbursed for repair costs. If necessary, you'll receive a new bike. Since many tours are in the countryside, you may wish to rent a cell phone or get your home cell phone activated for international travel. More on phones >. Back to the questions. Before you leave Q. When do I get my tour documents? A. You receive tour documents, including your hotel list and information on how to get to your starting town and hotel, tour operator contacts, packing tips, and other helpful information, about 2-3 weeks before your tour. Please note that these items are supplied by the local tour company – we do our best to get the information to you well in advance of your tour, but we're entirely dependent on the local company to get the information to us. You get packets with maps, route instructions, and sightseeing information at your start hotel. Back to the questions. Q. What's included in my tour packet at the start hotel? A. Your tour packet includes maps, route instructions, and sightseeing information. Some clients have found that tour materials for certain routes offered by our overseas tour operator partners were somewhat lacking and often with limited materials in English (sometimes English-language materials just don't exist). We encourage you to do some homework up front. Your local bookstore can supply you with guidebooks, maps, and other information. Let us know if you need help. Back to the questions. Q. Why can't I get the maps and route instructions before I leave home? A. While many higher-priced tour companies may send you these materials in advance, the local overseas bike tour companies try to keep their prices low – and therefore they must keep their overhead low. Materials are bulky and heavy and can often cost as much as $50 to mail – a major cost when a tour itself may cost only $500-700. They would also need to print two sets in case you didn't bring the first with you from home. Back to the questions. Q. Are helmets included with bike rentals? A. Generally not – unless it is specifically stated in the tour information (which is rare). Many tour companies feel that it's unsafe to rent a rental helmet, since it may not fit precisely and…well…even the strongest dose of disinfectant won't guarantee hygienic surfaces. Even if helmets are provided, we encourage you to bring your own (for a more sure fit). Never ride without a helmet! Back to the questions. Q. What should I pack? A. See our packing tips and suggested packing list for general guidelines and pointers. Back to the questions.