Amsterdam to London via Bruges: Day 49 Topdeck Mega European Tour


Belgium / England / Topdeck Mega European

DAY 49! WE MADE IT! This morning we say goodbye to some of our fellow travellers before we depart Amsterdam and head towards Belgium, we then head back into France to catch the ferry back over the English Channel and end our Topdeck Mega European Tour where it all started in London.


17 June, 2012 – Amsterdam to London

The final day has arrived and we check out of our hotel in central Amsterdam so we can make our final journey back to where we started 49 days ago in London outside the Clink 78 Hostel. We all board the coach which is once again parked around the corner so we need to lug our luggage around there, my friend drops a bottle of vodka on the ground along the way, so that was quite amusing.

We are heading for yet another country, this time Belgium and we are stopping in the small city of Bruges on the way to the ferry in the French town of Calais. We arrive in Bruges in time for lunch and have our last walking tour of the city showing off what makes this small medieval town unique. We are then left on our own to explore and to find somewhere for some lunch, we all split up and go our separate ways, for us Belgium Waffles were the item of choice for lunch, not exactly what you would go for at lunch, by we are in Belgium!

I still had some Euros left over so I decided I would buy some expensive chocolate figuring I was in Belgium, this stuff had to be some of the best you could get. Later on the ferry trip back to England I discover in the fine print “Made in France”, so I was not happy. After our allocated time was up we all met at our meeting spot to make our way back to the coach.

Some more people left the tour here and it was now time to say goodbye to them. We then departed and headed back over the boarder into France for the fourth time and made it to Calais. Our ferry was delayed by a couple of hours as they just found an undetonated bomb in the harbour from World War II… You would have thought after decades of using this place as an everyday harbour that they would have had the whole finding the 60 year old bombs situation under control.

At this point we said goodbye to our driver who had had to put up with us for a good month and a half, she has to take the bus back to Amsterdam where all the coaches are based. We then board the ferry and make the journey back towards the white cliffs of Dover, board another bus which then ships us back to the Clink 78 Hostel in London. Finally… Back in a country where they drive on the correct side of the road and I don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car anymore when crossing the road.

The tour has now officially come to an end, many people left straight away so everyone said their goodbyes, while a hand full of others were staying at the Clink 78 Hostel tonight including us. Most of us were pretty exhausted so not much happened tonight after checking in. I went for a walk down to Euston Station as I wanted to check out if I could leave some stuff at the station while I continued on to Scotland.

It was pretty much off to bed for an early night, while the Topdeck tour may have come to an end now, this European adventure was far from complete with the next portion including an overnight train trip to Edinburgh with a three day Haggis Adventures tour of the Isle of Skye to come.

These past 49 days have been amazing and a journey I will never forget for as long as I live, the Topdeck crew we dealt with throughout the whole journey were above and beyond professional and I cannot praise them enough. I highly recommend this tour if you have plenty of time, for me this was my first trip outside of Australia so it was a perfect way to introduce me to the main sites of Europe, I will be back one day for sure!

NEXT: London to Edinburgh via the Caledonian Sleeper Train

PREVIOUS: Berlin to Amsterdam: Day 47 & 48 Topdeck Mega European Tour


Just your average guy doing his 9 - 5 job as a Senior Payroll Officer by day, writing about his travel adventures and hopefully giving you inspiration and ideas for your next travel adventure here at loneXplorer...

Comments

  1. Hi Dan – I stumbled across your blog when I was googling about reviews of TopDeck and I’ve got to say, it’s been awesome to read a day by day blog of what it’s like on the Tours and the places you see! I’m booked on the European Pioneer with TopDeck leaving on the 9th May – first time and solo traveller all in one so it’s a lil daunting! Any advice you can give me about traveling solo? Also whats the security like on the tour eg is it safe leaving my pack in the bus and at the hostels they book us in? It’s the main thing I’m worried about is leaving my stuff lying around :s. Thanks heaps, Katie 🙂

    • Hi Katie,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      When I travelled on the Mega European I went with a friend so I can’t comment too much on being a solo traveller in this instance, however there were many solo travellers on our trip and after the first day everyone had formed their own little group’s so no one was ever left out.

      Your driver will tell you to never leave anything on the bus, or at least in the seating area as it will get broken into, but if you bought things along the way and wanted them stored our driver had a section under the bus for keeping any belongings that we did not need access too. As for leaving your things at the hostel, for me I judged it on a case by case basis, sometimes you felt like the place was a little dodgy and I made sure not to leave valuable items around, other times it felt perfectly fine.

      I guess the main thing is to always carry your money and passport on you at all times (even though I on a lot of occasions left my passport in my bag at the hostel, this wouldn’t be advised). Your Topdeck leader will take care of everything from checking you into the hostels and included meals, they check everyone in as a group and then allocate you a room to go to. On the bus a rooming list will come around and you sign up with the people you want to room with, rooms range from 2 people to 6 people at the most.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you need to know more…

      Thanks

  2. Hey – that’s helped a lot, thank you 🙂
    One last question which may seem silly but I’ve emailed Topdeck and haven’t gotten a response on it…. do the hostels have towels or do you have to hire them there? I know it seems silly haha but otherwise I’ll get one of those microfibre towels to take away – it’s the lil things! Thanks 🙂

    • As a general rule no, you will need to bring your own with you. Having said that there are some depending where you go where you can hire them, but it is much easier just to bring your own. I had one with tme the whole time, as soon as you get to your next place hang it out to dry.

  3. Jennifer Says: June 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Hi Dan – your blog is amazing, and very detailed. It was great to read what to expect on a topdeck tour. Question : Do people party every night ? I love to have a good time, but figured if I’m spending a whole lot of money on the trip itself, I rather be rested for it. I’ve read in some forums that these ‘non partiers’ are usually the ‘outcast’ etc.. Is it true ? Were there parties every single night ?
    Thanks

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for your kind words. No people don’t party every night. Most nights yes something will happen but it does not mean you have to always go along. Personally I only really went out at the beginning of the trip and then it got a bit too much for me half way through, even if it meant doing things alone at night I would wonder a city and take photos, or if there are other people who didn’t feel like partying we would go out as a group and just chill out, it is totally up to you.

      As for being an outcast that really depends on the type of people on the trip with you. If you get along with everyone during the day there is no reason why you would be an outcast because you didn’t go out at night. It is true what you hear when people discuss Contiki vs Topdeck, Topdeck isn’t as full on party wise compared to Contiki, it will also depend on your tour leader as well, they will set the tone of the whole trip, so each tour I would imagine would be different, we noticed this in the beginning as there were two other Topdeck groups going to some of the same places at the same time, and they would be a lot more outgoing party wise.

      For me it really got to the point, hang on I’m here to see Europe if I want to party I can do that back home, however I still want to go out occasionally and have a good time too. So don’t feel pressured to do anything you do not want to do, have fun and keep your eye on the goal and that is to experience Europe.

  4. Hi Dan,

    This was such a wonderful blog to come across. There are not very many online blogs of topdeck tours, definitely not detailed! I am booking onto the European Pioneer for Summer 2014 so have been searching for any blogs or reviews I can get my hands on. Was also great from the Aussie perspective! Although your blog was on a different tour, it was still very insightful and interesting to read!

    Thanks.

  5. Hi Dan,

    I also love your blog! Really well written. I’m based in Aus to and looking at doing the tour around September sometime. Just wondering, what sort of bag would you recommend taking? and also, did you find you needed much spending money on the tour?

    Thanks,

    Lauren

    • Hi Lauren, thanks for stopping by.

      Depends what type of packer you are, I packed pretty light and probably had the smallest bag on the tour, others had bags double the size. I also then had a largish backpack, but that’s only because I was carrying an SLR camera with me.

      Spending money, I spent a lot less than I thought I would, when you think about it a lot of the meals are included in the tour, so your money is just going towards the occasional lunch and dinner and snacks on the road, any entrance fees to things you want to see in your free time and then the optional extras on the tour. I found that by the end of the tour I hardly spent anything so I went a little crazy on buying sovoniers at the end, but that was about it.

      Hope that helps.

  6. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your blog! Amazing!
    Following on from the previous comment re: spending money I’m wondering how much approximately I should bring with me on the tour? Top deck suggests 80pound/day (~$125AUD/day) but that seems quite a lot to me. I was going to try to spend as little as possible (only pay entrance fees, cheapest possible lunches, a couple of optional extras, hardly any souvenirs).

    Cheers!

    • Hi Anna,

      Thanks for stopping by, hope you gained some insight into what to expect.

      It’s a really hard question to answer, AUD$125 a day is A LOT of money and I really don’t think anyone would spend that large amount unless you are going out every night partying and drinking until the early hours of the morning, then you might be inclined to spend that amount of money. If we are talking basic everyday spend their would be no reason to spend more that AUD$50 a day, and even then if the day includes all meals that might be a bit high too considering things in general in Europe are way cheaper than in Australia.

      Factor in also if you are going to spend money on souvenirs, personally I was worried about cash flow and didn’t buy any until the end of the trip when I realised how little I spent. The biggest optional extra if you are taking a tour through Switzerland will be the train trip up the mountain (but highly worth the cost). You can even go a few days where you spend nothing at all, you will be quite surprised how far your money will go there. Simple things like a bottle of coke would cost about $4.50 in Australia, in Barcelona it was 1.20 euro (AUD$1.77).

      This was my biggest worry when I went over there as I had spent most of my money on the tour and to get there, but in the end I came home with money to spare.

      Hope this helps.

      Thanks, Dan

  7. Jessica Kelly Says: June 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Hi Dan,
    Thank you so much for posting this amazing blog! I have been very undecided about the topdeck tour that I want to go on next year (European Pioneer, 36 days) and I can see that you had an amazing time. Can I ask a few questions about the tour? Did you feel that you had enough time in each country to see everything that you wanted to? Also, I am going by myself, did you find many people on your tour by themselves or were they couples? Just a bit worried about finding other people with the interests that I have and seeing the same sort of things that I want to see. Thanks for any information you can give, Cheers Jess

    • Hi Jess,

      Glad you found the info here useful!

      The main purpose for me going on the 49 day tour was to see as much as I could with the time I had, I had never left Australia before so I wanted to see bits and pieces and then I could return one day to the places I wanted to see more. I’ve already started to do this in that I visited Istanbul and Gallipoli on the 49 day tour and then returned a year later to do the Topdeck Turkey Explored tour and I loved that also.

      I did feel that I was able to see everything I wanted to see in all the cities we visited, the only exception really being Paris as there is so much to see and do there that it is on my list of places to return and as I’m sure you read it was really rushed. On this trip I was lucky enough to travel with a friend so it was a little easier for me, however we are pretty independent people and half the time we didn’t even hang out, we were with other people. So you won’t have trouble at all mixing with people because remember, just like you there will be other solo travellers on the trip you want to do along with couples and small groups travelling together. I travelled solo last year to Turkey on a Topdeck Tour and really enjoyed my time and met people which enabled me to spend time with them even after the tour finished.

      I was hesitant about doing this tour but I decided stuff it I’m going to go it and I haven’t looked back since so I say go for it!

      Another thing also if you do end up going, before you leave head over to tourradar.com and look for your tour and that departure date (if it’s not there you can create it) and then you can chat to others on your tour before you have met. You can also download it as an iPhone app called Tourradar meet (I also wrote an article on the site about it too).

      Hope that all helps, let me know if you have anymore questions and I’ll be happy to answer them.

      Thanks

      Dan

      • Jessica Kelly Says: July 1, 2014 at 11:57 am

        Hi Dan,
        Thank you so much for your informative reply. You have put my mind at ease about getting to see everything and travelling solo. I have never been to Europe before so I am a bit nervous about meeting people and making friends with people who want to see and do the same things as me. Can I also just ask… The extra activities… Do you miss out on anything on the tour if you do the extra activites and also did you find that most people on the tour did do them? Thanks heaps, Jess.

        • Hi Jess,

          No you won’t miss out on anything. If you choose not to do an optional activity then you just have free time to do what you like. Most people do the optionals while a small group of people don’t. The ones people don’t participate in the most would have to be skydiving in the Swiss Aps due to the cost and the sex show in Amsterdam.

          There’s never any pressure to do optional activities if you don’t want to.

          Thanks

          Dan

  8. Tracy Williams Says: August 4, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    hi Dan, thanks for your insightful blog! it’s awesome! we are thinking of doing the 36 days european pioneer tour next year, and i have a few qns maybe u can help me with?
    Can u please tell me if there are air con in most of the accommodation and is it too hot to sleep at night if we go on this tour June/July next year, would it be crazy hot like some of melbourne summer nights?
    also with internet access, is there wifi on the bus? was it at a reasonable cost? speed? and if you know of any other way of accessing the internet (i.e. getting a sim with data or a portable wifi device etc – which company?) or is it in general we can get a reasonable access to the internet through our accommodation at night and cafe/restaurants during the day?
    with the free days of sightseeing, do the tour bus still take us out and drop us to the city’s main attractions? or do we need to find our own way to get there?
    Lastly, is the water safe to drink in Europe like in Australia? or we need to buy bottled water everywhere we go?
    thanks
    Tracy

    • Hi Tracy,

      Most of the accommodation has air conditioning and being too hot or cold was never an issue with the exception of one hotel in Budapest we stayed in which was stinking hot, so I wouldn’t worry about this, you won’t have hot Melbourne like nights.
      When I went on this tour there was no wifi on the bus but I believe this has changed now depending on whether you get a newer bus, but from what I’ve heard it can be quite expensive to use the wifi on busses. There is usually free wifi at all the hostels/hotels all you need to do is ask for the password, but if you are looking for a SIM card I have compared some of the global roaming SIM cards HERE, check it out.

      On the free days usually you make your own way around with some exceptions. When they stay at a hotel or hostel which is far from the main city you are provided with a buss or train tickets to use public transport, but usually you’ll find the locations you stay are pretty central to the main city centres. On the first free day in Paris you are dropped off, but if it’s a late departure and you expect to be stuck in traffic try and use the Metro and you’ll get more to see more with your free day.

      Depending on what countries you are visiting the water is quite safe, but you can never be too safe so just stick with bottled water if you’re worried. The Eastern European countries are the ones where you’ll need to be more cautious, but remember also that bottled water in Europe is so cheap anyway it’s no where near the ridiculous prices we pay in Australia.

      Hope that helps.

      Thanks

      Dan

  9. THANK YOU Dan, very helpful!!! much appreciated!
    i think we will just stick to our own phones, turn off the data function and use the wifi wherever we can (accommodation, cafes, restaurants etc)
    i already have a 28 deg mastercard and is in the process of applying for a citibank plus debit card.
    apart from the 36 days pioneer tour, we are also thinking of doing the Britain and Ireland 14 days tour after, but we would really love love love to spend some time in Santorini island, it’s too bad that we can’t go there during the European tour, so we are thinking of after doing these 2 tours, we would go back home via a short stop – 4-5 days at Santorini.
    i will be traveling with my husband, so hopefully we can stay together in the same room in most accommodation on the 36 days tour. i know for sure in the 14 days tour we will be in the same room.
    as for spending money… we are planning to set aside money for all the optional activities we want to do while we are on tour, but we still need to plan for spending money each day, this includes entry fee to attractions like colosseum etc, and also meals/food that’s not included in the food fund, as well as transportation on free days, (excluding shopping money/souvenirs) would 70 EURO/$100AUD be enough as spending money per person per day?
    on average, how much are lunches/dinners when we have to get our own?
    we are doing all our research now so in Oct during the europe expo, we can book everything and get the early bird discount. so EXCITED!!

    Thanks,
    Tracy =)

    • Staying in the same room together on tour shouldn’t be a problem, a lot of the time it is twin share accommodation depending on the style of tour and even when you stay in hostels there might be other couples you can share with or with others who don’t mind. I travelled with a friend and we stayed in the same room with a couple ins hostel and hotel a few times.

      On thing I can recommend if you are going to the Colosseum, buy your ticket online before you leave home and print your ticket out. You can then show up anytime and walk past the queues and will possibly save you hours waiting around.

      I would say that $100 per day would be heaps, everything is way cheaper there and you will struggle to spend that between the both of you a day, so if you can budget that much then great and you’ll be able to have a lot left over at the end of your trip especially for the UK which can be expensive.

      If you read the itinerary on the Topdeck website it will tell you when lunch and dinner is included so this will help you budget, you’ll find a lot of lunches are included on the days that you are travelling.

      Out of interest what Europe Expo is on in October? I’m also currently planning a trip to Europe for next year also and was waiting for the expo that usually is on in February.

      • hi Dan, here is the link to the europe expo: http://www.travelexpo.net.au/discover-europe
        =)

        can you please tell me should i also book the Eiffel Tower tickets (to get to the top) before we leave? also we actually want to see Moulin Rouge Cabaret in Paris.. is it possible, should we book it ourselves before hand?

        one more thing, with take cash around Europe, should i take out more cash in London before the tour starts and then exchange the money as i get around each country or should i take money out of the ATM in each country so it’ll already be in the right currency?

        Ta 🙂

        • You can book tickets online for the Eiffel Tower, it’s to take the lift all the way up. There is always a massive line, I bought a ticket by lining up and taking the stairs and it didn’t take long and it’s more fun taking the stairs. The Moulin Rouge is apparently booked out weeks or months in advance so you will be wise to do this, but also keep in mind a Cabernet show is one of the Topdeck optional extras while in Paris.

          With cash I would take it out as you need it in each country, you never want to carry too much cash, exchanging it is annoying when the ATM will do it for you and you stop at plenty of places to do this.

  10. thanks for all your help and advice! who knows, we might bump into each other somewhere in Europe! =)

  11. Hi Dan,

    Thank you so much for writing this blog. It has been fantastic to read, especially as I am considering going on the Mega-European tour later this year!
    I am from the UK, and have travelled with Topdeck twice before (East Coast Australia and Darwin – Uluru), so I know first-hand how professional the company is. However, I was wondering if you could answer a few questions about this specific tour?
    Firstly, my friend and I are both 18, and although we both love travelling we’re not really what you would call ‘hard-core partiers’. I found that on the two Australia tours there were loads of different options for how to spend the evenings – is it the same for this tour, and would you recommend it to two girls our age?
    On a similar note, out of curiosity what was the average age of people on the tour when you went?
    How did this 49 day tour compare to the shorter 12 day tour of Turkey you did? Both of my previous tours were 10-11 days, so this would be my first experience of a longer trip.
    Finally, I know it’s not massively important, but what was your luggage allowance for this tour, and did you need to take a big variety of clothing? The Australian tours were so casual that you didn’t really need to bring any evening wear or party clothing, and obviously the weather was pretty hot – is it the same with this tour or not?

    Sorry for so many questions, and thank you for any information you can provide me with!!

    All the best,

    Saxon 🙂

    • Hi Saxon,

      Thanks for stopping by and gold you enjoyed the site.

      From one non hard core partier to another I can assure you there are plenty of things to do. There were even instances where I didn’t want to have a crazy night and would go into the centre of the city on my own just to take photos of it lit up at night. You can do anything you like and at no time I felt pressured to do anything I didn’t want to do.

      There was a large range of ages, the youngest would have been 18 and the oldest 30, on my Turkey tour we even had a 39 year old who was my room mate the whole time so it is a very diverse group of people usually.

      The 49 day was certainly an epic tour, it was long and you get tired by the end of it, but having said that it was really worth it and enabled you to see all the main cities of Europe in the quickest about of time while not breaking the budget and having everything organised for you for more than a month means you can lay back and relax. The 12 day Turkey tour was good for that period of time because it focused on one country, were as the 49 day trip is focussing on a whole continent.

      Luggage is a standard large bag and you can also take a back pack to carry on board. Depending on what type of year you travel you will need a diverse rage of clothing as you experience overcast city days, hot city walking days, the Swiss Alps which are -3 degrees and the beaches of Croatia and Greece, but having said that I had one of the smallest bags on the tour and I did just fine. But then again I’m a guy and I know how busy girls are with there clothes. But as long as you have one of every main item you’ll be fine and maybe something a little formal for going out some nights.

      I defiantly recommend gong on this tour especially if you haven’t been to Europe before, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had.

      Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

      Dan

      • Hi Dan,

        Thank you so much, this advice has been extremely helpful. I think I’m definitely going to go for it! 🙂

        Thanks again, and good luck on all your future adventures!

        Saxon

  12. Hi Dan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful blog and experiences.
    I am planning to join the Mega European tour this coming April.
    I’ve got a few questions.
    1.To get into the Monaco casino, was formal wear needed?
    2. In Belgrade, the whole taxi situation seemed quite scary. Is it ok to ask a local (that understand English) to help me call a taxi?

    Thank you and Have fun to all your future holidays!

    Abi

    • Hi Abi,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      1) One of the gimmicks of heading off to Monaco was that everyone got dressed up. It’s not nessessary so you don’t need to go overboard, however if you plan on going into the main Monte Carlo Casino (I didn’t do this) then you need to get dressed up and make sure you bring your passport along as they scan it. It also cost €5 to enter at the time.

      2) Don’t be scared, things like this can happen anywhere so don’t just think of it as a blight on Belgrade. Having said that, don’t be afraid just be wary of what’s going on around you like you should in any circumstance. Asking a local is a good idea if you are comfortable, this is what happened with me although he offered rather than me needing to ask.

      Have a great time on your Europe trip!

      Dan

  13. Hi Dan,

    The previous posts have answered my questions so far. Thank you for such fantastic and detailed blog. i hope to go on this tour April-May 2016.

    Cheers Liz

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