Traveling with EF College Break FULL Experience +Review +411

Like many of you who are considering taking a trip with EF College Break– you probably saw a friend who did it, or their ad simply popped up on your Facebook feed and after picturing yourself on a foreign adventure; you’ve already decided you’re doing it or you’ve decided to dig a little deeper.

Around 380 days ago I was in your exact same shoes. I knew I wanted to travel the world and because I was on a budget and going at this alone I figured EFCB was the best way.

Fast forward to today, I am currently suffering from jet-lag since I just came back home two days ago from one of the best trips of my life. I signed myself up for the London, Paris, Barcelona trip with an additional three day excursion to Ireland.

So, you may be wondering- how was it traveling through EF College Break’s program, did you love it or did you hate it? Would you do it again? How was it traveling on your own? Did you make lifelong friends? And was it worth your money?

I’ll tell you right now that whether I would have traveled with EFCB or not, this experience was an unforgettable adventure- the tiny things that may have not been ordinarily my first choice truly didn’t matter because I was traveling the world and I was doing it in ways that were out of my comfort zone. And I believe everyone’s experience is based on the type of person they are and their outlook on life.

Some people can complain that the accommodation wasn’t the best, or that they didn’t have enough time to do the things they wanted to-which I agree with, but regardless of all those things I would do it all over again and not regret one single penny.

So to make things easier I’ll break it down into categories for you; to read and to analyze. Please remember my job isn’t to convince you travel through EFCB or through some other method.  Everything you’ll read is based on my personal experience and what was talked about with fellow travelers.

ACCOMMODATION

If you don’t know this already then you should know that traveling with EFCB means that you’ll be sleeping most of the time in hostels and with two to six roommates at a time.

The first hostel we stayed at was the Astor Hyde Park Hostel in London. I’ll tell you right now that the area this hostel was in was one of the fanciest areas in London. The neighborhood is rich, clean and safe . You’re also walking distance from Hyde Park and two subway stations, making it an easy point to get from place to place.

However, I would never stay at this hostel at my own accord nor would I recommended it to anybody else.  Luckily, I was one of the few girls that only had to share with three other girls which meant we had two extra beds in our room and just a tad bit more space. Nevertheless, this place was not my favorite. Our room was on the fourth floor and there was no elevator, so lugging our suitcases up and down the stairs was no fun. We never received new towels which meant we had to use the same towel each night. And when I approached the help desk to let them know they only gave us two towels for four girls, it was a process just to get the additional towels.

Now because I knew we were staying in a hostel I didn’t expect the fancy amenities that are usually offered, but I was shocked that there wasn’t at least one tiny bottle of hand wash or body soap. And to make matters worst the sink was probably the size of my foot.  And as for the breakfast, I would suggest that if you’re a breakfast person (like me), to wake up extra early and get your own meal before heading out on a group excursion. If not, prepare yourself for toast and washing your own dishes. Also, keep an eye out on toilet paper because it won’t get refilled fast and chances are your phone will stop charging throughout the night because the electricity kept going out.  Tip: Sleep in the bottom bunk.

The next place we stayed at was the IBIS La Villette in Paris, this place was like heaven for us after the nightmare that was Astor Hyde. Here I only had to share with one girl and we got fresh new towels every morning, a working elevator and hand soap. Granted this was a hotel and not a hostel , I do wish every place selected by EFCB was like this one.

The last place we stayed at was the Twenty Tu Hostel in Barcelona. This place was better than the hostel in London but not better than the hotel in Paris. Because this was  an Eco-friendly hostel there were certain things one had to get used to. For example, the water in the shower would go off every 17 seconds to conserve water, the lights in the bathroom would also go off every couple of seconds and room lighting went off at midnight. Although, what bugged me the worst was the weak WiFi signal. And as for the towel situation, each new towel costed €2. And again you needed to provide your own hand soap and wash your own dishes. The max amount of persons per room here was four.

 

TRAVELING SOLO VS. BRINGING A FRIEND

If you’re worried about going solo and having to make new friends, I would say don’t be. Most people went solo and the second I arrived and met the group everyone was excited and for the most part talkative. For me personally, I am not used to being surrounded by so many people and having girls all around me but it was exciting to meet new people , be outside my comfort zone and learn about each others lives.

By the end of the tour, everybody already had a group of people they would hang out with. Our group was about 28 people and I would say it broke off into like four groups.Chances are whoever you’re hanging out with in the first city will be the group you mostly stick with.

Now in my case, I am used to being alone and wandering off on my own adventure. So I would say if there are certain things you really want to do and can manage being on your own, don’t be afraid to head off exploring. I was able to be on my own in London and Spain and it was truly one of the best ways to get the most out of your sightseeing agenda.

One of the observations I made about people who brought a friend is that they kept to themselves more-somewhat closing the door to forming new friendships.

On the other hand keep in mind that you do get a lot of free time, so if you don’t want to explore cities on your own and you want to do specific things , than I would suggest bringing a friend.

 

TOUR GUIDES PLUS TIPPING 

When it came to tour guides and tipping , I noticed that there was a lot of confusion.  I think part of the reason was that when you’re booking  your trip, you’re under the belief that you are already paying for the tour guides. But I’ll tell you right now that you still have to tip. Not that it’s a big deal, I just wished they would have told us sooner before I believing  everything had already been included in the fee.

Another thing you should know about this is that your tour guide and tour director are two different roles and two different types of tipping.

Throughout your whole tour, you will have one constant person leading you from place to place . They won’t be with you everyday unless you have a group tour or excursion. However, this is the person you should direct your questions to during your trip. This person is known as your tour director. And most people including myself thought that part of the fee included paying for your tour director. However, what goes unsaid until about a week before your trip is that you still have to tip your tour director. Again, most of us are accustomed to tipping here in the U.S. However, tipping is usually up to your discretion based on the service provided or a certain percentage. In this case it is recommended that you give your tour director $3-$5 a day.

Now in each city you visit or excursion you attend, you will have a tour guide. This is the person that will be with you roughly one to three hours and will give you a historic briefing on what it is your looking at.  Personally, I felt all the tour guides we had were exceptional. They all had different personalities and ways of engaging the group, and I learned more from them them than my tour director.  Normally, I would tip them €1 to €3 depending on the excursion and honestly on how many coins I had, so make sure to have some change handy with you.

TRANSPORTATION 

When it comes to transportation; flights, cabs, buses and trains- I have to give EFCB an A+. In terms of how much money I paid, I thought every form of transportation was comfortable and timely.

And when it came to in-city transportation, EFCB made it really easy by providing us with metro cards and city passes to get from one place to another.

 

SPENDING 

The website says to plan on spending $100 a day and to make sure to have cash on you. Depending on where you are going and what kind of spender you are I would say not to worry too much about this. First of all, if you’re traveling to Europe mostly every place accepts visa. When I was in London, I was seriously upset that I took out $300 dollars which converted to £175 , because every place I went to accepted credit cards and on my  last day in London I still had £100 left to spend.  So I essentially blew all my money just to get rid of it.

In Paris and Barcelona, I only took out €100, and used my cards on everything.

However, you should note that my credit card had no foreign transaction fees. So if you’re planning on using your cards make sure you don’t get charged per transaction.

In terms of savings, I would recommend saving as much money as you think you might need. If you’re planning on spending a lot then adjust accordingly.  For 14 days I saved $1,400 and brought along my credit cards for emergencies. I was perfectly fine.

ITINERARY

One of the main reasons that EFCB appealed to me in the first place was the detailed itinerary listed under each excursion. However, you should know that the actual itinerary looks different than it did on paper. On the site it seems as if you won’t have as much free time, but in reality you do have a lot of free time. Especially if you choose not to do the excursions. Make sure you have a list of things you would like to do.

For example, if you’re in a city for three days- they normally have a group tour the first day which is a great way to get a layout of the city.  And the following days are usually free days or excursions.

EXTENDING YOUR TRIP

If time and money are not a worry to you, I would suggest extending your trip, for me personally it was the best decision I made. Just keep in mind that you are in charge of booking your flight to  your chosen destination as well as your hotel. Out of 28 people in my group only four people chose to stay longer or arrive sooner, and the ones that didn’t definitely wished they would have.


EXCURSIONS 

All excursions will be different on each trip. I strongly suggest you look these places up before you sign up for them. If you don’t want to sign up for them, look at it as a whole free day to explore the city your in.  If you go to Paris, I strongly suggest you sign up for the Versailles trip,it was extraordinary, informative and worth it. And if you go to Barcelona, do the beach day and paddle boarding, it was A LOT of fun.

Please note that before your trip your tour director will post additional activity options on the Facebook group page; and will require you to pay them in cash before the trip is over.


FINAL THOUGHTS 

Overall, I am very happy with the outcome of my trip. As of right now I think I would do another trip through the EFCB program, granted I would prefer to do one on my own simply due to accommodation reasons. However, it was a wonderful experience; something I didn’t expect I’d do and I saw it as a great introduction for a beginning solo traveler.

Lastly, I really hope that this blog post helps you all out, and if you have any questions on anything I may have missed or not elaborated on please let me know in the comments below. I am more than happy to share!

Happy and safe travels!

 

 

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Lindsay says:

    Hi, thank you for reviewing your trip. I have some questions: What time did you need to wake up every morning during the trip? Also, what time does the day tend to end? You did not need more than $100 a day for the trip? Does the flight they book for you include complimentary meals? Did your flight arrive very early to the first city?

    Like

    1. Hi Lindsay,

      Thanks for checking out my review. Hope I can answer your questions.

      On days that we didn’t have an excursion, you could wake up any time. If you have an excursion or need to catch a flight or train then you would wake up earlier.

      The day tends to end when you honestly want to. Even though it seems like you have a full schedule, you do get a lot of free time. Some people would also stay late . As for the excursions they would typically end around the evening.

      For spending, I and a lot of people in the group did not spend more that a hundred a day. There were a few days when I spent half of that or less. It really depends on where you go and what you do.

      The flight they booked me did include complimentary meals. I would make sure to eat , because on the first day they have a mini dinner but it’s really just finger foods. So eat when you get the chance . I was starving my first day lol

      And as for my flight. I flew from LA to London, which was 12 hours. Out of everyone I was the furthest and so I arrived last from the entire group at roughly 2:30pm. But they waited for me. Mostly everyone else had shorter flights especially if they came from the east coast.

      Hope this helps. Please do let me know if you have any more questions.

      Enjoy.

      Like

  2. Kaitlin says:

    Wow! This was so informative and interesting, thank you. I was curious about what you packed for traveling. Did you ever have to pay extra for baggage on the flights? How did you do laundry and stuff like that? I was looking at one of the much longer trips so that was a concern for me. Also, when staying at hostels, how did it work for you leaving your bags in the room? Was that ever an issue?

    Like

    1. Hi Kaitlin,

      Thank you so much for reading, glad you got some info!

      So as for packing, I packed fairly light because I knew I was going to be buying stuff. I definetly recommend taking a little bit of everything and the kind of clothing you could wear more than once or mix and match with other stuff. Depending on where you are going I HIGHLY SUGGEST bringing a good coat. Europe was a lot colder than I had expected. Again, this depends on when and where you are going.

      As for washing, I didn’t have to wash anything because I was only there for 2 weeks and I packed stuff i could get away with wearing more than once. However, in the hostels there is a place where you can wash, but I believe you need to have the soap. You can always buy there or at a local market depending on your hostel. One thing I also suggest is bringing a towel or your own or be willing to pay for towels. Because most hostels only give you one towel and clearly it’s not enough depending on your duration.

      Also, I stayed at 3 different hostels and I didn’t have any problems with leaving my luggage there. It was perfectly fine. Some hostels do offer a lock for you as well.

      I hope this helped! Thanks for your questions!

      -Denise S.

      Like

  3. Chaunice says:

    Hi,

    This honestly seems to good to be true. I’ve been reading almost 100 reviews on EFCB and its 50/50 on whether its good or bad. It’ll be my first time traveling alone, like with no friends or family, and I really don’t want this to be a scam or anything like that. So my question is, on a grading scale, what grade would you give your trip and why.

    Like

    1. Hi Chaunice,

      I totally get you. I went alone too, with no friends or family. And you’ll be glad to know it’s not a spam.

      Lots of people do it, so that’s how the site gets discounts with tour companies and hostels.

      My guide was pretty good, what I enjoyed was that we were both guided and also had a lot of free time to explore.

      I would rate my trip about 8-9 out of 10. The only thing I wasn’t too crazy about was my first hostel, and the dinner on the first day.

      Also, if it helps, I just booked another trip through EFCB but this time to Costa Rica.

      Hope this helps. Feel free to ask any other questions you may have.

      Enjoy!

      Like

  4. Maria says:

    Hey. Thanks so much for the info. I’m planning on traveling with EF Next year. My question for you is did you have enough time to shower? How did that work ? I think I’m just gonna rock the ponytail and eyeliner look. But I’m just worried about showering. Like I MUST shower haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, I had plenty of time! Since you’re sharing rooms with multiple girls I suggest asking them if they shower in the morning or night. I also asked them what time they were going to wake up so that I can schedule my bathroom time. I was able to shower daily. Just note that hostels don’t offer the same toiletries as hotels. So check the bathroom the second you get there and find out the towel situation so you can get anything you may need either from the lobby or a nearby store.

      Hope this helps! Thanks for reading!

      Like

  5. Katie says:

    Thanks for this! I’m taking the London, Paris, Amsterdam tour in May. I have one question. Did they pick you up at the airport?

    Like

    1. How exciting!

      London was so super easy to get around! Paris was magical, I highly suggest attending a show at the Moulin Rouge. EF will advise you not to because it’s expensive but it was the best and most memorable part of my time in Paris.

      They do pick you up the airport. Make sure to have a few dollars (pounds) to tip your driver.
      They will give you all that info before your trip.

      Tip: Don’t take out to much cash for London. They accept cards everywhere. Just make sure you don’t get charges any foreign transaction fees.

      Like

  6. Olivia says:

    Thanks for all of the information! So helpful!
    I was just wondering as for transportation back to your hostel or hotel, if you were to all split up, does EF provide transportation back, or will you be expected to find your own transportation back? Also how hard was it to haul around full size luggage? I’m going on the Grand Tour in June and I was thinking about packing light and just bring a carry-on and a small duffel bag.
    Thanks a ton!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Olivia,

      So if you split up from your group, which you will most likely since EFCB gives lots of free time. Depending on the city they will give you like a metro card to get to and back from location to hotel. HOWEVER, if you plan on going to more places chances are you will need to input more money to your card. I had to this in Paris, London and Spain. But overall i think you will be okay.
      Tip: If traveling with a small group make sure you are making mental notes of locations and routes, instead of just trusting one person in the group. And if you feel comfortable to go off on your own, make sure you know the major stops and exactly how to get back to your hotel. I found it super easy to roam alone in both London and Spain (not Paris, due to language barriers.)
      And I took a large luggage bag and my purse. I wasn’t the only one- most of the group took a large suitcase too. It wasn’t a big deal I think. If you’re traveling via airplane from city to city than no biggie. And if you are traveling by train just make sure you’re on top of your stuff. Truthfully, I do not regret taking my giant luggage. lol
      As for packing, if youre not the kind of person who wants to wear multiple outfits then you should be okay packing light. I took like 8 outfits for 14 days, I repeated clothes and even so I regretted not bringing more looks for myself. But it just depends. I suggest bringing clothes that you can easily switch up. And at least one or two dressy outfits for plays/fancy dinners. I only took casual shoes and I regretted that too. Most girls on the trip took wayyyy more than I did. lol

      Either way, hope this helps and enjoy your trip!

      If you have any other questions, I’ve gotcha!

      -Denise S.

      Like

  7. Samantha Nieves says:

    Hey, I was considering taking a trip through EFCB and I was just curious on how hostel living was? I’m the type of girl that straightens my hair and what not and I guess I wanted to know if i could do all of that in a hostel? Also do they give you any type of curfews?

    Like

    1. Hi, thank you for reading. Life in a hostel isn’t too bad. There some changes you have to make but nothing too major.
      I was able to do my hair and makeup comfortably in each hostel I stayed at. The only glitch I had was that my flat iron fried in Paris.
      Other than that everything else was okay.
      Also, I think it depends on your hostel if there’s curfews. But I don’t think I recall any. It’s more just about keeping the noise down.

      Hope this helped, enjoy your trip!

      – Denise

      Like

  8. Alex Panassah says:

    I am planning on doing their Ultimate Euro Trip, but I have one question. Did you have to spend 100 dollars a day or more less per city or place that you visited?

    Like

    1. Hey Alex,

      I hope you have a blast, you will love Europe! So as for your question, I did not have to spend $100/day. However, this does depend on how much you spend on souvenirs, or how many activities you plan on doing. But to be honest I don’t think you will. Just keep track your spendings and you should be fine.

      Hope this helps! Have an AWESOME trip!

      Like

  9. Shelby says:

    Hi I just booked a trip for next year and I just wanted to learn more did you do the standard room plan & what banks would help you with transferring : changing money? Also how early would the excursions start? Did you have to wake up super early everyday? I’m also doing the ultimate Europe trip & don’t know how to pack! But thanks to your article at least I know for sure take a towel!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shelby,

      Thanks for reading my article! I am super excited for you!
      To answer your questions, I did do the standard room plan. It’s not too bad sharing a room with other girls. It also helps you build more friendships. Chances are you’ll share rooms with the same girls.
      The group excursions started around 8am I believe. So you do have to wake up a little early. However, on your free days you can wake up whenever you want. It’s not bad and you get to do more if you wake up early.
      As for packing, I would recommend to take things that you can wear multiple times and something for every occasion. Like a dress for a formal dinner, a bathing suit for beaches, I suggest a pair of cute shoes that go with pretty much anything. it also depends on what month you go. I suggest taking a sweater during the springtime. Summer you should be okay, winter definitely take a coat.

      Hope this helped! And let me know if you have any other questions!

      Enjoy and stay safe!

      Like

  10. Nina says:

    Hi! I love your article. I want to know how was the nightlife during your trip? I really want to explore bars/clubs that the city has to offer, but I’m afraid since I’m traveling solo, i won’t find other people to share that interest.

    Like

    1. Hi Nina,

      I am so happy that you loved the blog! And it’s funny because we both were worried about the similar thing in an opposite way. I am not into nightlife and I was worried that I would be alone since I was also traveling solo. However, after both trips I took with EF I learned that atleast 99% of the group is into nightlife. So you should have plenty of people to go out with. It ended up being more difficult if you’re not into nightlife (like myself). Just make sure that you never walk back to your hotel alone (go in a group of people from the tour…not strangers). Other than that you should be fine. I hope you have a super lovely trip!!!!!

      Hope I answered your question fine. And let me know if you have any other questions.

      -Denise

      Like

  11. Marquita says:

    Hey,
    nice read I do have a few questions. I am going on the Ultimate Europe Trip for 5 weeks in July. Do you have any idea or tips on weather and how and what I should pack? Also I have heard about extreme tipping being required for bus drivers, tour guides, and others. Is this true? Is it really a requirement? I ask not because I mind tipping, but because I think expecting travelers to pay about $10-$20 per day in tips is extreme especially since I will be gone 35 days! Another thing what was your favorite city and why? Any excursions or activities you went on and enjoyed that you could recommend?

    Like

    1. Hi Marquita,

      Thank you so much for reading and I am so excited for you, 5 weeks in Europe is a dream!

      Weather—-

      Depending on which parts your going to I would suggest to always bring a light sweater or jacket. better safe than sorry. But the times I’ve been to Europe in August it was hot. So you may not need a sweater. But again this depends on location, time etc. I suggest once your closer to your trip just to check the forecast ahead of time.

      Tipping—–

      Yes, my first time traveling with EF this kinda took me by surprise. To be honest when it comes to tipping tour guides (the ones you only see once) I suggest like a $1. I believe tipping is up to the person’s disgression. If you really like your tour guide of the day then by all means tip. But I know there were some I wasn’t able to tip mainly because I didn’t have small bills. You will notice some people will tip and others won’t.

      HOWEVER, when it comes to your tour director, I do suggest tipping them at the end of the trip. Especially if they are a good tour director. Again. this is up to your digression. Ex. For my first trip to Europe for 14 days, I tipped $50, my tour director was decent. For my 2nd trip with EF to Costa Rica, I loved my tour director, he was a million times better and more helpful so for 10 days I tipped him $80.

      So because your trip is longer, I do suggest planning on putting some $$ aside for tipping. But I don’t think you should have to tip as much as the EF College Break site recommends you tip. $5-$10 per day is ALOT of money and can add up. So go with what you think is fair. Also, you will notice some people won’t do that and will hardly tip anything which to be honest is not fair since some tour directors do work hard.

      My favorite European country was ITALY. If you are stopping in Italy, I promise you will love it! I’ve been to Italy 3 times and it never disappoints. They have the best food, the most beautiful cities and nicest people. My tip for Italy and any other city, don’t eat at the heavy tourist spots. Eat in the smaller less crowded places, they have the best food.

      If you go to Paris, DO THE MOULIN ROUGE. Your tour director will tell you that it’s too expensive and talk everyone out of doing it because they don;t want you to spend money but it was the HIGHLIGHT of Paris. I don’t regret one penny. And I do suggest if they offer it to do the Versailles excursion. It’s crowded but nice. In Paris, you should also do the Catacombs. It’s creepy awesome.

      If youre stopping in London. do the Tower Bridge and Tower of London.

      If youre stopping in Spain, I suggest going to Sitges to paddleboard if they offer it, and skip the cooking class…. unless you really like to cook. lol

      Hope I helped! Let me know if you have any other questions! Have fun and be safe!

      -Denise

      Like

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