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.
Travel Documents & Tour Preparation
- 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.
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.
Get the EF Ultimate Break app: Your trip's group will be able to connect on the app before you meet IRL. Don't miss out! Meet other travelers, get updates from your Tour Director, see flights and accommodations, and more. If you're having trouble, give us a call at 617-619-1411.
Complete you pre-tour checklist: this can be found in your account.
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 at EF will help facilitate any testing requirements while on tour, however it is the travelers responsibility to pay for these tests and it is our recommendation that you budget roughly 150 USD total. Please note that non-boosted travelers may be required to do additional testing to enter places such as restaurants, and/or major attractions.
Remember that you know your spending habits best and not everyone’s spending habits are the same. These recommendations are based on a traveler who says yes to any and all activities while on tour
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.
- 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)
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.
- 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
- 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! Also, though you can opt out of the hike for the day, it's very difficult to do so after it has already begun.
Depending on local weather conditions, seasons and trail closures, the activities and sequence of your included walks may change.
- Lavaux Vineyard Hike - 7 miles / 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 - 2 miles / 2 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 - 4 miles / 5 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) - 6+ miles / 8+ 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!
- Aiguilles Rouges - 4 miles / 3 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
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 through the EF Ultimate Break app, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is an important reason to make sure you have the EF Ultimate Break app!
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.
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 617-619-1411, 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
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.