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betheltours

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who can go on your trips?

Please note that we only provide travel and accommodation services for large groups to supplement their visit to Bethel. We do not currently sell direct to individuals.

If you are the organiser of a large group, you are welcome to include anyone in your group that is associated with the truth and approved locally for the purpose of the trip by those taking responsibility. If any non-baptised, interested persons are approved to join the trip, they should be aware that the trips are non-smoking throughout.

The rest of the information on this page relates to those travelling as part of a large group and does not apply to individuals or small groups. If you would like information on arranging a family visit to London, the Britain branch office and the British Museum, please email info@betheltours.org and we can supply you with a useful information sheet. We will have more of this useful information readily available on our new website soon.

How safe is it in London?

We believe that these trips are the very safest way to travel. You are supervised at all times, and in company with many other trustworthy people. The coach is attended or locked at all times and is parked well out of the city overnight. There is a reminder on each Personal Itinerary to be vigilant about unattended baggage at any venue. The coach drivers are all highly professional with their own assigned coach, and experienced in London driving.

How should we dress for the trip?

For much of your time on the coach, at the hotel and around London, we suggest that you dress “smart casual” with no visible slogans on clothes. We suggest no jeans, t-shirts, leather jackets or trainers, but this is not a strict requirement. We require that you wear no ripped, faded or customised jeans, no excessively oversized clothing, no overly tight clothing. We want you to feel comfortable, appropriate to the weather, yet neat and respectable.

At the British Museum and at Bethel, you should dress more smartly. You should wear meeting/ministry-like attire. We are aware that you have a long journey before arriving at the British Museum which may be uncomfortable in very formal clothing. Open collars for brothers and smart trousers for sisters are permissible at the Museum. They are not permissible at Bethel.

Use the information sheet provided by Bethel as a general guide to appropriate dress both when visiting Bethel for a tour, and during leisure time. You can download a copy from betheltours.org/dress.pdf.

Can I meet brothers I know at Bethel?

Yes. Often they can be asked to meet you at the reception desk at Bethel. Also, at the initial planning stage of your trip, it may be possible to include the cost of some Bethel guests at dinner at the hotel. Also, depending on the number of available seats, it may be possible for some Bethelites to join us for the Sunday in a tour of London.

Can someone in a wheelchair manage the trip?

Yes. We sometimes have a wheelchair available on advance request. Also, at most venues we can borrow without charge several wheelchairs (Bethel, and the 4 main museums where you can pre-book them too; also they have portable canvas stools). If required, we can hire a specialist wheelchair-lift coach although this adds significantly to the cost. Note that wheelchairs are NOT available to borrow at Covent Garden, Harrods, the boat, Greenwich, or the hotel. All venues are wheelchair-friendly (ramps) though.

If you need an extra-width coach seat, you can pay extra for using 2 seats, usually £45. If you are not very mobile, its probably best to sit at the front of the coach or near the middle exit door (please advise us at time of booking). Click here to see photos of the Disabled Rooms in the Ramada hotel which are available on request, subject to availability.

Who has to wear seat belts?

The coach company has to announce that seat belts are provided and tell you to wear them, if over 14 yrs of age. There is no enforcement for those aged under 14 years.

The following is based on text from Government website:

Seated passengers aged 14 years and above must use seat belts where they are fitted in all coaches. Children up to 13 years should use the belt provided.

An official announcement by the vehicle operator must be made when the passenger joins the bus or within a reasonable time of his doing so.

An "official announcement" means one by the driver, by a conductor or courier or by a group leader of any passengers on the vehicle.

There is nothing in law to prevent additional child seats/restraints being used if they fit in a bus or coach. However, these vehicles may only have lap belts and most child seats/restraints need lap and diagonal belts in order to be secured. In addition, the seats in these vehicles may be the wrong proportions for child seats/restraints.

Do [child] seat belts and child restraints have to be worn?

It is important that the seat belts or child restraints which have been fitted are worn. Children should wear a seat belt not only for their own safety, but the safety of others in the vehicle. Parents should actively encourage their children to wear a seat belt. When supervising a trip, parents, teachers and supervisors, should try and ensure that the restraints are worn. A single seat belt must not be used by more than one child, nor should a belt be placed around a child who is on an adults lap.

In the rear seats of coaches and larger minibuses there is no statutory requirement for children to wear a seat belt or child restraint, but they should always be actively encouraged to wear them, when they are available.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

A £30 fixed penalty notice. If a case goes to court, the maximum fine is £500. Penalty points are not applicable. In 2004, there were some 200,000 fixed penalties issued by the police and about 5000 cases went to court.

Is the hotel Single Supplement for both nights?

Yes; the quoted cost is for the featured number of nights. Usually this is now £70 as a total for the 2 nights. This charge is made because hotel prices are based on 2 people sharing the space and facilities of a room.

Are family rooms available?

All the hotels we use offer 3- or 4-person occupancy in their rooms, which can be much more cost-effective for families. Without this option, some families would have to split into multiple rooms at a higher cost. However, the rooms themselves are the same as most twin rooms, containing 2 x queen-size beds. The vast majority of hotels will not be able to offer 3 or 4 separate beds in a room so you will need to consider the sleeping arrangements in determining which room type to choose. A travel cot can usually be added to any room to accommodate very young children.

What if I have special food needs?

The inclusive lunch(es) can be varied for special needs; be sure to give us plenty of written notice (minimum 2 weeks before trip). Usually there are plenty of 'spare' lunch items including fruit and yoghurt which may also suit your needs without further action. Or you may have to purchase your own. The hotel dinners can be varied by your arranging directly with the chef upon arrival.

How often do we stop on the journey?

Usually twice. The driver's hours are a factor, also the comfort of the passengers. Normally we will not drive any longer than 2.5 hours, and usually about 2 hours between stops.

Is there a WC on the coach?

Yes, usually (ask us). Best to think of this as 'emergency only' though. We also know where almost all of the WCs are in London (iPhone app), and some are listed or mapped on your personal Itinerary issued on the trip.

Can we take food on the coach?

Usually, yes. But please do not put any potentially greasy bags or food or drinks on the seats. Please also dispose of your own rubbish as the trip goes. The driver reserves the right to prohibit any food or drink.

What ages are classed as 'children'?

This can vary; see what is written at the foot of your local Itinerary. We usually now work with 3 levels of age; up to 2yrs old is totally free but gets no seat on the coach; age 2 -12 is usually at around £43 for up to TWO children sharing a room with 2 adults*; age 12-15 is usually around £63 for our London trips where sharing a room with 2 adult passengers, and be supervised at all times. Some component parts of the tour may use a different age limit, but this has usually been allowed for in the total deal. *a third child in same room may require two interconnecting or adjacent rooms and may cost more; best to contact us via your local coordinator and we can discuss each situation separately, the earlier the better while more options are available.

When do I pay a deposit; is it refundable?

The deposit should be paid immediately upon booking, to secure your place on the trip. If you don't, then the trip is usually offered to other nearby congregations to fill the unbooked places. The deposits may be refunded in full if the places are re-booked, but we reserve the right to retain all or part of it to cover any costs. This is usually worked out the day after returning from the trip. You can also offer your place to someone else if you are unable to go, in which case they can use your deposit.

Supposing I paid more than the usual deposit, and then cancelled?

We advise that all refunds of DEPOSITS should be left until the day after the trip, when we know what happened altogether, to be fair to everybody involved... UNLESS the cancelling passenger (you) can get someone to take their place in which case of course the new person would adopt your deposit for themselves (i.e. they refund it to you). If you paid more than the stipulated deposit then provided you cancelled prior to the advertised deadline (usually 5 weeks prior to the trip) then the excess amount will be given back to you immediately.

If I travel by car, can I use the coach whilst in London?

You would need to pay the normal fare (usually £35 for up to 3 days), as all seats are part of the total sharing of the total cost. Otherwise you can follow the coach and park where you can, but still use the discount rates for all the other aspects of the trip.

Can minors go without their parents?

Any minor would need to be constantly and reliably supervised by an adult nominated to us as responsible for looking after them.

What meals are included?

Two evening meals and two breakfasts are included in the price. Each night at the hotel a 3-course hot buffet dinner is provided usually consisting of the following:

  • Starter: Choice of soup or salad.
  • Main: 1 of 3 main items, either fish, meat or vegetarian, with a selection of other items such as rice, pasta, potatoes and vegetables.
  • Dessert: A choice of desserts of the day.
  • Coffee: Most hotels include complementary coffee.

Each morning at the hotel a hot buffet full English breakfast is provided as well as pastries, cereals, teas and coffees.

No other drinks or meals are included in the price, but time is allowed for lunch stops and refreshments throughout your journey and throughout the weekend.

Is there free Wifi?

All of our current hotels have free wifi. The precise method of access differs from one hotel to another, instructions are usually provided either with your keys or in your rooms. Ask at reception for more information.

How many trips have you done before?

We started doing London Bethel trips in the 1970s, and have increasingly been asked by other congregations to organise similar trips ever since.

Are you backed by the Watchtower Society?

No, we are not directly associated with Watchtower or IBSA. However, the London Bethel are very positive about what we do, especially as it saves a lot of stress for local coordinators who may otherwise try and organise and guide a one-off trip themselves.

Are you linked with Meander Travel?

No, other than using Meander Travel as a preferred supplier of tours in the British Museum and British Library. We have known and respected Meander Travel since their origin.

What IS NOT Included?

This can vary. Among the things not generally included are lunches, drinks and tips for any staff or driver.

Who, how and when should I tip?

It is normal practice to tip anyone who provides a personal service. Often the staff in tourism-related jobs depend on tips for a reasonable living income, as their basic wage is often extremely low. This is true of the hotel catering and housekeeping staff and coach drivers, and the museum guides. The procedure we suggest is to leave the hotel cash (with a note) on your room sideboard, and on the table after each meal. You can give the driver his tip on the return journey. (We also give him a thankyou card with everyone's comments written on, during the final day).

Which hotel do you use?

Currently we use these hotels (all are subject to checking availability for your dates):

3-star Mercure at Watford: Close to Bethel; good rooms; in-house Sebastian Coe swimming pool and gymnasium; excellent dining; several lounge areas near the bar). Click here to see photos of the bed options which are available on request, subject to availability.

3-star Ramada at Hatfield: Close to Bethel; excellent rooms mostly with Japanese power showers; olympic pool and gymnasium across the road; top shopping discount outlet across the road; smaller lounge area & bar. Click here for more.

4-star Crowne Plaza Hotel at Heathrow: close to airport; excellent swimming and gymnasium facility; top class rooms; £21 pppn extra cost. Click here for detail.

4-star Holiday Inn at Elstree: very high quality of rooms, food and service; quite good all round; small pool & jacuzzi. Click here for more.

4-star DeVere on M25: brand new hotel; very classy; no included leisure facilities, but excellent grounds & dining & rooms. Click here for photos.

B&B only, in the city: brand new hotel; very classy; no included leisure facilities, but excellent grounds & dining & rooms. Click here for photos.

Can we come again next year?

Most tour groups now book for next year, on the return journey. There are now over 50 different options you can choose to make your return journeys totally different to your previous ones.