A few posts I go I talked about the places I traveled to with the tour company EF Ultimate Break. Now I want to talk about the company and my overall experience traveling with them. EF Ultimate Break is a tour company for people ages 18-29. They pride themselves on affordability and being the best way for young people to travel. I first found EF Ultimate Break on an Instagram ad. I looked at their profile but dismissed it as just a company for partying. Then I got the travel bug again and looked into EF a little more. I researched the company, its trips, and their reviews (the majority were favorable and from people who had traveled with them more than once). I was really interested in the Budapest, Vienna, and Prague trip. It sounded amazing. After a recommendation from a friend of a friend (who had traveled with EF) I decided to book it.
The prices of the company are reasonable. They provide and arrange everything including flights, accommodation, tours, and extra experiences. (I will get into more detail about those later.) The only meals they provide are breakfast (at the hostels) so you are on your own for lunch and dinner with the exception of the welcome mixer and farewell dinner. Although the tour guides did give us recommendations of places to eat wherever we traveled. My tour guide was very into coffee and also gave us good coffee recommendations. The price of the trip was about $3300 for 10 days. This included flights, accommodation, tours, one extra excursion, public transportation cards, and travel insurance (which you can purchase via their website.) This did not include the extra excursions (concert, extra tours, dinner show, etc.), lunch and dinner, tips, and spending money). They recommend budgeting yourself $100 dollars a day for spending money but that depends on where you go, how much you shop (I shop a lot so my budget was a bit higher on some days), and any extra travel expenses. They also give a discount on your trip if you book your own flights but this is mainly for people who do some extra traveling (before or after the trip.) But after some research I realized it would be about the same price whether or not I booked flights through EF, so I let them book my flights. Overall, I spent around $4000 on this trip. This can vary by person and trip length but seemed very reasonable compared to other tours.
Before we departed we joined a Facebook group for announcements and so all of the travelers could get to know each other a little bit and our tour guides before we met in person. There was also an assigned travel associate that worked for EF that we could contact with any questions we had. Before we left we were asked to download the app, What’s app, to create a group chat for announcements and to communicate easier. We were also told in advance about any additional excursions we could purchase. They provided a specific airport meetup in Europe and provided transportation to and from the airports. The night we arrived we met in our hostel’s lobby and then left for a restaurant where we were treated to a welcome mixer (drinks and appetizers) to get to know each other. I wish we had done more of an introduction/icebreaker but that all depends on the tour guide and I still got to know everyone.
The accommodations were a lot nicer than I was expecting (for hostels.) You can be put in a room from anywhere from 2- 6 people from the group, depending on the group size and accommodations. You can request your room size but if you want single or double rooms it’s an extra fee. You can also request to room with certain people if you are traveling with friends or a significant other. I shared a room first with four girls and then 3 of the girls from that same room for the rest of the trip. Our rooms pretty much consisted of bunk beds with one or two single beds and their own bathrooms. The rooms were simple, spacious, and clean. Not five star but, they’re hostels. The hostels were safe and in good areas and you could not enter them unless you had a key. I wasn’t too fond of the breakfast spreads they put out but mainly because they were different from what I was used to (like who puts out a salad bar for breakfast?). However, I find that happens at many of the hostels or residences I have stayed at in Europe.
Our tour guides, two men from Eastern Europe, were great. It was great to have local guides. The one thing about tours is that your guides sometimes aren’t local to the area. From what I heard from other travelers who had been on other EF trips, you can get a tour guide who was born in that country (like an Irish born showing you Ireland) or one who isn’t local, like a scottish person showing you Italy. I liked that on this trip our tour guides were local because they showed us their city, their favorite places, and added personal anecdotes. Our main tour guide always made sure to communicate with us and would always message us our daily schedule in advance. They were super chill, funny, very knowledgeable about each city, and gave us great reccomendatoins. They also hired extra temporary tour guides for each city tour and for specific locations.
I would say that the tour was structured, but not too much. We did have a schedule of tours and had to leave at certain times, but there was always free time and options not to go on certain excursions (although you did have to be on the bus at a certain time unless you wanted to be left behind in a different country). We also had free days where we did not have a schedule and could visit whatever attractions we wanted with recommendations from the tour guides (he sent us a list in advance for each city.) After the specific, scheduled tours were over we had some free time. Sometimes we explored as a group sometimes we didn’t. For example, after a tour in Prague our tour guides took us to a beer garden. This was optional but we all went anyway since we had all become good friends by then. After this, we went to lunch but some people decided to go off and do their own thing which was ok. We also had the option to pay extra for certain excursions and some people did do that. Everyone decided to go to the thermal spa in Budapest and me and some other girls decided to stay later and not go back with everyone else (we did make it back ok). And, only about half of the group decided to go to the concert in Vienna. We also did go out on our own (to bars, clubs, etc.) a few times after dinner and took tours which were not included and our own personal choice. But our tour guide always pointed us in the right direction, gave us tips, and reminded us to stay safe. I would say this trip was just the right balance of structure and free time.
I now want to talk about the friends I made. The company and tour guide told me I would make lifelong friends on this trip but I laughed it off. How was I going to make lifelong friends in 10 days? I was also a little worried after looking at everyone’s facebook profiles. Everyone seemed to be so much older than me. They were all in their mid to late 20s (I’m in my early 20s) with full time jobs and were basically full on adulting. There was only one other girl who was in her early 20s and still in school. I also thought I wouldn’t fit in since I was one of the few from the East coast. Also, usually I am somewhat overdressed for everything, but it seemed even more so on this trip (even though I did bring fairly casual clothes), but it was not an issue. I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. I met some amazing people from all over the country, I became really close with everyone especially the girls in my room (the two other youngest girls.) We seemed to be interested in visiting the same sights so often went sightseeing together. This group was small (about 18 people total) and I got to know everyone really well. Everyone was really nice and fun. I was able to go out at night and have a great time while knowing there were people looking out for me. Another bright side is that I had people to help me take photos and not have to rely on selfies! A lot of girls were really nice about helping me out! I think the tour guide was right. I did make lifelong friends and I hope to visit them or they can possibly visit me. Our tour guides even said we were one of their favorite groups and if these guides are on any other tour, I’m definitely booking it. We were all sad to leave each other and still keep in contact and have our group chat to this day. We are even talking about booking another together. New Years in the Galapagos? Summer in Morocco? Yes, please!
After going on this trio I realized EF Ultimate break is not just for partying. Although some trips might be as my tour guide informed me (like the Greek Islands trip which he described as “spring break on steroids”.) I did go out but not at the expense of sightseeing. One of my fellow travelers informed me that went she went to Scotland with EF, there were some 18 year olds that took very much advantage of the younger drinking age and ended up not going on a trip to the Highlands because they were hungover. That is one of the main attractions in Scotland so you don’t want to miss it because you are “too hungover.” These trips are great if you want to travel on your own or leave the country for the first time and are on a budget. Although it does take a certain level of maturity as you are traveling in a foreign country on your own, tour group or not. This is also a great way to travel with friends as they do have special requests for friends traveling together. Overall, I had a great experience with EF Ultimate Break. I would definitely travel with them again and recommend it to others. Hopefully I have inspired you to travel!