Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions with river cruising

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Money, Tipping and Shopping
Q. Are all credit cards accepted on all legs of the tour?
A.
  • Most credit cards charge a fee (about 3%) for currency exchange, which means that every time you use your credit card, you add this fee to the price of goods and services. Check with your credit card company before you go to see what their policy is. It may be worthwhile to take more than one type of credit card as not all types of credit cards are accepted.
  • Before travelling ensure your credit cards are valid for at least 30 days after the completion of the tour.
  • Due to increasing credit card fraud worldwide, be prepared to show identification (i.e. your passport) when making a transaction with your credit card. We recommend that you have a pin number for your credit cards, as many businesses now only accept payment with a pin.
  • Ask your credit card company for the emergency number (suitable for international access) to report loss.
  • Some shops and restaurants require a minimum purchase amount when using them.
  • It is recommended you contact your bank before leaving Canada to advise that you will be using your credit card overseas and to check that you can withdraw cash on your card abroad.

Europe:

MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards are accepted in all countries in major shops, restaurants and hotels as well as to settle your shipboard account.

Asia:

  • Vietnam and Cambodia – Most international credit cards (such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa) are accepted in most locations including all hotels, in major stores and restaurants. However, for incidentals, small vendors, markets and local stores you will need local currency.
Q. Are ATMs readily available?
A.

Yes, using a debit or credit card is becoming a popular method of obtaining money whilst travelling. In most cases, you pay only your usual bank fee rather than a commission, although this may vary depending on your bank’s policy. Generally, you will get the best available exchange rate as well. Be sure to check with your bank before departing to activate your card and don’t forget to bring your pin number. We suggest however that you don’t rely on ATM’s for all your spending money, as machines may be unreliable. The best idea is to take a mix of cards and travellers cheques so that you are always covered.

Asia:

  • Vietnam and Cambodia – Except in large cities, ATMs may not always be conveniently located. There is generally a service fee for using ATMs (approximately 3%).
  • Myanmar (Burma) – Credit cards are not accepted in Myanmar and there are no ATMs. You will only be able to use the cash that you bring with you into the country. Please be aware of this and ensure that you have enough cash on you for the duration of your tour.
Q. Are there any taxes on shopping?
A. Many countries have a national sales tax (called VAT) that is levied on most goods and services. In some cases and with the proper documentation from the point-of-purchase, it is possible to have a portion of this tax refunded to you on items taken out of a country in unused condition. Depending upon flight schedules and timing, it may be possible to receive a refund by applying at the airport kiosk before departure.
Q. Can I take travelers checks or pre-paid travel money cards?
A.

Unless otherwise stated – Yes.

  • Travelers checks are easily obtained from your bank. You will find it an advantage to have your travelers checks in a currency that is easily exchanged to US Dollars.
  • Remember to make a separate note of all the numbers and denominations of your travelers checks as well as an emergency contact phone number (suitable for international access, not those starting with 0800) in case of loss or theft.
  • It is worth carrying some checks in small denominations as it may be difficult to cash larger cheques in hotels and shops. Travelers checks can be changed at your hotel and some local banks. Many banks charge a set rate, so it could be worth your while cashing more money, less often. Banks usually offer a better rate of exchange than hotels, restaurants and large shops.
  • Please note that travelers checks are becoming harder to cash while credit and ATM cards are becoming more readily available and there are also the options of money cards pre-loaded with foreign currency. Scenic cruise ships are unable to accept Cash Passports, Travelex Cards or similar as they do not have a function to refund on these cards.

Asia:

Yes. You can also purchase prepaid travel money cards.

Q. Does Scenic cover tips
A.

Yes, Scenic has pre-paid certain tips and gratuities for you, including all drivers, local guides, porters (1 piece of luggage only), and meals included in your tour.

Please note: Tipping is NOT included for meals, drinks, taxis and transfers that are not included as part of the tour (including Asian stopovers). As a guide for taxis, tip 10-15% of the fare on the meter. We recommend you pre-negotiate taxi fares to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the journey. In restaurants and bars, tip 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.

Asia:

Yes, tips are included for the following:

  • Local guides and coach drivers in each city
  • Meals included on tour
  • Porterage in each hotel
Q. How much foreign money should I bring with me?
A.

Before you leave on your trip, it is a good idea to obtain a small amount of cash in the currency of the country you arrive in. If it is not possible to obtain the currency you require, then it can be purchased at the airport on arrival. Many locations will accept travellers cheques or credit cards. For incidentals and small vendors we recommend getting some local currency.

Asia:

Before you leave on your trip, it is important to try and obtain a small amount of foreign cash for your immediate use on day one of your tour and for use at the airports. Foreign currency can be purchased before you leave at major banks and international airports.

Q. How should I deal with hawkers and retailers
A. You will experience many retailers, hawkers and taxi operators engaging you in conversation to continually offer their services. Be prepared for the need to politely decline these offers, on a regular basis, if they are not required. You may be approached by locals offering to show you interesting features, so be prepared that you will be asked for a tip if you accept their offer.
Q. Is bargaining acceptable practice?
A. Bargaining is not acceptable practice. Packaged goods show the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) right on the package. This includes taxes. Retailers are not supposed to charge more than this. Though this rule is adhered to at most places, at tourist destinations or remote places, you may be charged more.
Q. Is it easy to exchange cash?
A.

Europe:

You can exchange cash or travellers cheques at hotels, banks and exchange bureaus as well as small amounts of currency on board your ship for most local currencies, for a fee.

Asia:

  • Vietnam and Cambodia – You can exchange cash and travellers cheques for local currency at hotels, banks and exchange bureaus. These establishments will charge a fee to exchange travellers cheques; some establishments may also charge a fee to exchange cash. Once you exchange your money in to the local currency, it can be a time consuming process to exchange it back in to Canadian currency before you depart. To do so, you will need all your receipts and the currency declaration form you completed when you arrived into the country. To avoid this, it is suggested that you plan your currency exchanges during your trip in order to have as little as possible remaining at the end of your trip.
Q. Is there any tipping protocol to follow in any of the countries visited?
A.

Europe:

  • Morocco – hotels and restaurants usually include a service charge of 15%, but it is customary to include an additional 5 dirham per person for the waiter. Waiters in proper restaurants are always tipped up to 10% of the bill. At informal cafes, the tip is normally two or three dirham per person. Tip porters 5 dirham per piece of luggage.
  • Spain and Portugal – as a guide for taxis, tip 10– 15% of the fare on the meter. In restaurants and bars, tip 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all. For others such as porters, tip in proportion to the level of services rendered. You should tip doormen and concierges between €2-3.

Asia:

  • Vietnam and Cambodia – The attitude towards tipping in Vietnam and Cambodia is changing rapidly, tips are now frequently offered for services in the tourism industry and in many cases supplement wages for people who work in various customer service areas such as local guides, porters in hotels and coach drivers. However, tipping is still not expected in most restaurants.

If you are uncertain ask your Tour Director or your local guide whether a tip is necessary and how much. Sometimes, small gifts are a good idea when meeting and interacting with the locals.

Q. What hours are most shops open?
A.

Europe:

Stores may close earlier than back home and are usually not open on Sundays (nor Saturday afternoons in some places).

Q. What monetary currency is in use?
A.

Europe:

  • Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain all use the Euro as their currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents. Euro coins differ according to country, but bank notes are of uniform EU design.
  • Hungary’s currency is the forint, which is divided into 100 fillér (please note that fillér coins are no longer in circulation).
  • The Czech Republic’s currency is the koruna (Kc) or crown divided into 100 haler.
  • Morocco’s currency is called the dirham. It is a currency that has a couple of legal restrictions attached to it. You cannot take it abroad and cannot leave Morocco with it. Therefore you will not be able to obtain dirham before you leave on your trip. The best way to obtain Moroccan dirhams is through ATM’s. If you do not have a bank or credit card, the two most popular foreign currencies in Morocco are the US dollar and the Euro.
  • Please note: On your way home from Morocco, you cannot use your remaining dirhams to shop in the tax-free zone. The tax-free shops in Moroccan airports only accept Euros, US dollars and credit cards.

Asia:

  • Vietnam – The unit of currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).
  • Cambodia – The unit of currency is the Cambodian Riel (KHR).
Q. What sort of souvenirs can I buy and what should I be aware of?
A. Please go to the Transportation Security Administration website for the most accurate and up to date information on any restrictions on products imported from each country.
Travel and accommodation
Q. What are toilet facilities like?
A.

All toilet facilities are Western style unless otherwise stated.

Asia:

  • Vietnam and Cambodia – Vietnam and in particular Cambodia are still very much developing countries, and toilets in public places are mostly of eastern squat style. However as the countries are changing dramatically there is on occasions the odd western style toilet in a public place.
Q. What level of quality is the booked accommodation?
A.

Europe:

  • Europe’s tourist industry is centuries old and its hotels very often reflect the varied traditions and cultures of each country, so do not expect European hotels to be the same as those back home. You may find hotel rooms are slightly smaller.
  • Most European hotel rooms do not have tea/coffee or ironing facilities in the room.
  • Single rooms in hotels are designed for one bed and as such in some locations, are smaller than twin rooms.
  • Double bed rooms are on request only. We cannot guarantee that clients will receive a double bed at all properties due to limited availability with this configuration.
  • In some cases, clients may be accommodated in twin share rooms
Q. What time can I check-in to my hotel?
A.

If your flight arrives before noon (usually 2pm is check-in time) at the city where your tour starts, the hotel may not have your room available until mid afternoon. We endeavour to ensure that rooms are ready for your arrival times however this is not always possible and is outside our control. Some people use this time to explore the neighbourhood, shop or relax in the hotel public areas. On arrival at your hotel, please check to see if your Tour Director has already posted tour information in the foyer.

  • Vietnam – 2pm
  • Cambodia – 2pm
Q. Who will be escorting the tour?
A.

Your holiday is a special time and our Tour Directors and Cruise Directors make all the difference. From your very first day their warm greetings and professionalism signal the start of a wonderful rapport.

Europe:

For all land tours and cruises that have city extensions in Paris, London or Prague, you will have the services of a Tour Director. Whilst on your cruise you will be taken care of by a Cruise Director. Our Directors have your best interests at heart and will take care of all arrangements for you. Please note that that your city extension or land Tour Director will not join you on the cruise.

Communications
Q. Are internet cafes readily available?
A.

Europe:

Yes, internet cafés are throughout Europe and are a much more cost-effective way of communicating with friends and family than by telephone.

Q. Are there any restrictions on photography?
A.
  • It may not be possible to use your camera or video camera at some sites of interest, or there may be a fee; please ask your Tour Director for further details.
  • Not everyone might appreciate being on your souvenir home video or holiday photo, so please respect the privacy of local people and cruise directors/local guides by asking permission before filming or taking a photograph. This is especially important in holy places and when visiting indigenous people.
  • If someone is giving a public performance then permission is not usually necessary – but if in doubt, ask or refrain.

Please Note: Photography is prohibited in 'restricted' areas such as bridges, dams, ports and airports as well as military installations or security-sensitive places such as police stations.

Q. Can I easily obtain batteries and memory cards?
A. Generally, yes unless stated otherwise.
Q. Can I photograph or film in museums?
A. Museums and attractions have differing rules regarding cameras and videos. While some do not allow cameras to be taken in at all, at others a fee or a permit may be required. Your guide will advise of the rules at each particular site and what is required. Please tell your guide if you will require a permit at the time and he/she will purchase a special ticket and advise you accordingly. In many museums, tombs and temples the use of a flash is strictly prohibited.
Q. How do I make telephone calls back to United States?
A. Phoning home from hotels is expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. Ship-to-shore telephone calls can also be extremely expensive. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones. If you decide to make a direct call to United States – always remember to dial the international access code 00 followed by the country code 1 (United States), and your phone number. Local phone cards are available at tobacco stores, kiosks and post offices.
Q. What languages are spoken?
A.

Europe:

  • The Netherlands – Dutch
  • Germany – German
  • Hungary – Hungarian
  • France – French
  • Norway – Norwegian
  • Greece – Greek
  • Turkey – Turkish and English
  • Spain – Spanish
  • Morocco – Arabic, French and English
Safety and Other Information
Q. How do I select my Scenic FreeChoice activities?
A. Scenic Freechoice activities are subject to availability, operational and seasonal factors. All activities can be reserved, subject to availability with the Scenic Tour Director whilst on tour unless otherwise stated. Please note a minimum number of people are required for some activities to operate.
Q. What else should I know about my travel destination?
A.

Europe:

  • Air-conditioning is not yet as popular in Europe as back home and you may not find it everywhere. In some places due to environmental concerns it is strictly regulated.
  • European festive days, especially religious holidays, are quite numerous. On these occasions, particularly in May/June, you may find services in general slightly reduced.
  • Sometimes there is a small charge for public toilets, food and drinks usually cost more and the service may be a little more leisurely than you might expect.
  • Europeans generally dine slightly later than might be your custom and they tend to be less sensitive to issues regarding smoking.
Food and Drinks
Q. Are there any foods that I should avoid?
A.

Avoid eating:

  • Ice creams sold by roadside vendors
  • Undercooked meat
  • Unpeelable fruit or vegetable
  • Re-heated food

Remember to make sure fresh fruit has been washed and wash your hands before and after eating.

Q. Can you accommodate special dietary requirements?
A. Yes. If you have not already advised your travel agent at the time of booking please let your Tour Director know at the start of the tour any special needs or dietary requirements so they can be best accommodated. Remember your favourite food items will not always be available as different cultures may eat very different food to us, especially at breakfast.
Q. Is the water safe to drink?
A.

The tap water is safe to drink in the following travel destinations:

  • Canada
  • Alaska
  • USA
  • Australia
  • Norfolk Island
  • New Zealand

DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER in the following travel destinations:

  • South America
  • Antarctica
  • Egypt
  • Middle East
  • Africa
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia

It is best to not even allow your mouth near tap water, which includes brushing your teeth. Have bottled mineral waters opened in your presence and regard all ice as unsafe. Scenic include bottled water for all touring days, with meals, at your hotel and on board cruises.

Because your travel destination may have high temperatures, humidity and/or altitudes it is essential each day to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee or strong tea, which are diuretics and cause increased water loss. Well-known brands of bottled beverages are generally considered to be safe.

Please Note: It is important in all countries that you stay well hydrated and drink plenty of bottled water. If you are not feeling well at any time please speak to your Scenic Cruise Director who may be able to assist with advice.

Q. What type of food can I expect?
A. Your tours cover an amazing range of cultures and landscapes and the food available en route reflects this diversity, which may be different to what you are normally accustomed to. Your dining experiences are certain to enhance your tour and introduce you to the local region and culture.
Asia:

    Vietnam and Cambodia – Your meals are mainly Asian style dishes served banquet style. Local beers will be the favoured beverage, however some restaurants do offer imported wines. Breakfast in the morning includes a wide range of fruits and a cooked breakfast.
Q. When do I advise my choice for Scenic FreeChoice Dining?
A. Scenic Free Choice Dining is subject to availability and is restricted to limited numbers and dining times. Pre-selection of your preferred dining choice will be required prior to your arrival into each applicable destination. Your Tour Director will do all possible to accommodate your choice; unfortunately this may not always be achievable.