Sicily's best tours, shore excursions, personal travel booked online.

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FAQ about Us & Our Tours


How does this reservation site work?
What if there's a problem using the site or my reservation?
Who are you? Tell me about your company.
What are the purchase conditions?
How much is a euro () worth?
Which hotels do you use?
What's "high" and "low" season?
Is Best of Sicily a tour operator?
Who are your tour participants?
Is there much walking in these tours? What's the level of physical activity?
Do you provide testimonials or references?
Are all fees included in the price of the tours?
What about tips (gratuities) to guides and drivers?
What are "optional exursions" and how are they planned and priced?
How many participants are there in each group?
Is there personalized service when I book a tour over the internet?
What's the difference between you and my local travel agent?
Can you plan a customized tour for my group?
Are the tours guided?
What's the quality like?
Are these "low budget" or "mass market" tours?
How are these tours really different from others?
Are airfare and transportation from the airport included?
You don't book flights. How can I find one?
Why are there no departures in August?
Can I deviate from the tour to visit a place off the itinerary?
How can I extend my stay before or after the tour?
Do you offer food and wine tours? Or cooking classes?
What if I'm reluctant to purchase a tour over the internet?
Tour prices seem to vary widely. What's your profit?
What's the difference between a tour operator and a travel agent?

How does this reservation site work?
It's simple, and similar to other reservation sites. Select the tour or other service that interests you, then the date and other details like the number of people in your group (for whom you'll be reserving). The entire process takes just a few steps, concluding with payment using a credit card on our secure server. Then, usually on the next business day, you'll receive an email confirming your reservation. We're available to answer questions. Yes, it's possible to reserve directly online without sacrificing personal service to technology!

What if there's a problem with the site or my reservation?
Simply contact us by email, fax or phone. That's what we're here for. If you phone us, please remember the time difference from wherever you're calling, for example an hour from London and six hours from New York.

Who are you? Tell me about your company.
Based in Palermo (Sicily's regional capital and largest city), Tradizione Turismo is a service of Chat & Tour S.r.l., a tour operator registered and licensed as such in Italy and a member of IATA (International Air Transport Association), ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) and other professional organisations. The services described on this site are offered in cooperation with Best of Sicily, Sicily's most popular online travel guide (in fact, Sicily's most widely read English-language publication, with two million readers annually). Read more about us on another page.

What are the purchase conditions?
Visit our purchase conditions page for details.

How much is a euro worth?
Consult our favorite currency converter for current exchange rates. The euro () is the official currency of Italy, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, France and several other countries of the European Union.

Which hotels do you use?
Hotels are rated at least 4-star by the Italian Tourism Board, being selected for their ambience, service and convenient location. Some are rated 5-star. Often overlooked by tour operators, convenient hotel location makes it easier to reach shopping and dining. While hotels are listed for each tour, the hotels actually selected for your tour may vary depending on the season, the number of participants and availability. In other words, there are occasional (rare) substitutions. In Italy, incidentally, the differences between hotel rankings are often subtle and do not always reflect lodging quality but rather things like the size of the hotel's restaurant or its season of operation.

What's "high" and "low" season?
This refers to prices based on the volume of tourism activity. Except for the Sicily-Malta tour, this does not usually affect our special rates. Departure dates are indicated in the tour's summary.

Is Best of Sicily a tour operator?
Best of Sicily is the most popular online travel guide for Sicily. While Best of Sicily promotes these tours, they're actually offered by Tradizione Turismo of Palermo, Italy.

Who are your tour participants?
Our scheduled tours are purchased by clients from around the world, rather than from a single country or community --though we also plan tours for specific groups. By nature, most of our clients enjoy contact with others, including participants from different countries. It's one of the things that makes our tours different from those sold by most travel agents. The tour language is English.

Is there much walking in these tours? What's the level of physical activity?
These tours are fairly active and feature at least "moderate" walking along stairs or over uneven surfaces. These are not hiking tours but the amount of walking, while not excessive, is substantial, and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Though suitable to most people, these tours really are not appropriate for anybody whose walking ability is significantly restricted or challenged by a physical condition (chronic back pain, a leg or hip injury, etc.), or who requires the aid of a device for support to facilitate walking. Many of the places visited are full of steps or sloping pavement surfaces (Taormina and Erice are hilltop towns having cobble-stone streets, closed to traffic, and few actual sidewalks). In some cases motor vehicles simply are not allowed to transport participants to areas (such as archeological sites or medieval streets) frequented by visitors, so a certain amount of walking is necessary. Ramps and elevators (lifts) are the exception rather than the rule, and facilities for wheelchairs are limited. We understand that our observations may discourage some from joining our tours, but we would be misleading you if we did not bring these realities to your attention.

Do you provide testimonials or references?
We frequently review client satisfaction --based on questionnaires completed following each tour-- to maintain quality, and a few remarks are included on our comments page

Are all costs included in the price of the tours?
Fees and other costs are included as indicated in the description of the tour. All breakfasts are included. Otherwise, some, but not all, meals are included, and some include beer and wine, or soft drinks. Where these beverages are not included, you can order them yourself. Beverages are sometimes included (it's usually easiest for individuals to order these according to taste). Gratuities (tips) to guides/escorts are not included (see the following question). In some tours entrance fees at archeological sites are included. Optional excursion costs are not included (see below). The summary of each tour explains precisely what is (and isn't) included.

What about tips for guides and/or drivers?
This is customary but never obligatory. As a very general rule, for escort-guides we might suggest a minimum of four euros per day per person for a 7-day tour, slightly more if the group is very small (5 participants or less). The tip to a driver normally would be slightly less. If the guide is also the driver, the four-euro suggestion would apply. Any tipping should be done at the very end of a complete tour, rather than day-by-day. While we're on the subject of tipping, please note that about 10% is customary in restaurants, and about one euro per person for porterage of bags (or 50 cents per bag) at hotels.

What are optional excursions and how are these planned and priced?
Though the practice is rare on our tours, your guide or driver may occasionally offer you the possibility of planning or joining an excursion that is not included in the itinerary or cost of the tour. On a free day, for example, an excursion from Taormina to Mount Etna might be offerred if this is not already included in your itinerary. The cost of such an excursion is paid directly to the guide, escort or driver organizing it.

How many participants are there in each group?
Group size varies according to season. For most tours we guarantee a departure even with as few as two participants. Our groups never have more than twenty-five participants, and they're usually from various countries. Most participants prefer to be part of a smaller group. In fact, the relatively small group size is one of the advantages of our tours. (When we have a large number of participants, we divide a potentially large tour into two or three smaller groups.)

Is there personalized service when I book a tour over the internet?
There is when you reserve it with us. When you reserve your tour or excursion, we'll acknowledge your email and confirm your service, providing any other information. Of course, we're always here to answer any of your questions. This is not simply an automated online service but a company operated by experienced travel professionals. We can also book hotels days before or after the tour if you wish to extend your stay. It's the "real deal," not a "virtual" agency.

What's the difference between you and my local travel agent?
We're Sicily specialists based "on site" here in Sicily, we offer frequent departures, and in most cases our prices are more affordable than those of comparable tours offered at "retail" by a travel agent outside Italy. Our tours are not a "re-sale" product connected to an expensive advertising campaign, nor are they a generic "package" sold (or re-sold) by a mass tourism company. Instead, you're buying the tour directly from a registered tour operator and travel agent who oversees every detail of your tour directly. (In other words, the kind of company that actually organize the various tours promoted by your local travel agent and by numerous firms which market tours.) You can reserve your place as little as thirty (30) days before the beginning of the tour. That's an option few local travel agents can beat --except for those selling mass market tours having more than thirty participants. Unlike a travel agent thousands of miles away from Sicily, we can address specific needs, whether it's getting ballet tickets at Palermo's opera house or finding you a driver for a special excursion on an extra day following the tour. The best travel agents provide useful, personalized services, but there's really no substitute for being present where the tours actually take place.

Can you create a customized tour for my group?
Yes! Contact uswith your requirements and we'll provide you with a quote. This service is available to travel agents or to anybody who wants to organize a group tour. Best of all, your customized tour may not cost any more than one of our regular scheduled tours.

Are the tours guided?
Each tour is escorted by an English-speaking tour escort. The complexites of Italian labor law have created several confusing and overlapping "official" categories of "guides" including licensed guides authorized to lecture (in foreign languages) at archeological sites in particular regions of Italy, specialized (but usually monolingual) guides employed locally at specific historical sites, tour escorts who accompany groups around Italy, and so forth. Our approach attempts to simplify this. If your group has only 2 or 3 participants you'll have a driver/guide. Larger groups have a minibus driver plus an escort. Certain excursions require specialized guides --for example the geologists who operate jeep excursions on Mount Etna-- and we occasionally use the services of licensed or local guides. It's really a question of having the most practical, efficient solution for each situation.

What's the quality like?
It's exceptional, at this price or any price. Consider that certain tours very similar to ours are sold for as much as twice these prices, while many travel agents sell "luxury" tours which, in fact, are nearly identical to ours --usually costing more than twice as much. You may find a few tours of Sicily priced for less, but we've ensured that our features, though affordable, are of high quality. The restaurants, for example, are superior to the typical "tourist" offerings, and the escorts and other personnel are selected for their exceptional professionalism. (This, in itself, distinguishes our services.) The planning is efficient, too, with lodging in just three or four hotels instead of numerous check-ins, and few stretches of travel lasting more than ninety minutes. These tours offer certain features typical of more expensive tours, such as small group size. (Unless you enjoy being part of a big crowd, smaller is better.) Each tour has its own particular features which make it a unique experience. Our entire approach to providing you with the best possible service sets these tours apart from others. This reflects a "young" attitude rather than the "conventional" generic mentality of mass-market tour operators who pack 50 people on a bus with a mediocre "guide." It's our special emphasis on quality that is often lacking in competitors' Sicily tours.

Are these "low budget" or "mass market" tours?
No!!!
If you search, you'll find many cheaper tours with larger group sizes and rather inconvenient itineraries, typically sold under creative names such as "Golden Endless Pleasures of Sicily Tour," or something simpler but equally enticing --fantasy, treasures, jolly, carousel, delight, charm (the list of descriptive names seems endless). In purchasing any tour, it's always best to compare features. For example, some offer meals that exclude all beverages (even water!) from the price. Others (such as those which feature Sicily as part of a general tour of southern Italy) entail hours and hours of tiresome travel time between cities. Our tours represent a different approach because they may be purchased directly from the organizing agency, and they are the only tours of Sicily promoted by Sicily's most widely-read international publication (this website), based on readers' real-life preferences rather than on what a tour operator guesses that clients prefer.

How are these tours really different from others?
Realistically, it's simple enough to compare basic features, but there's just so much that can be conveyed with charts, descriptions and figures. The real difference is that a team of seasoned Sicily-based travel experts has met the challenge of developing a satisfying travel experience at an affordable price in a market where impersonal "mass tourism" --not attention to detail-- is the norm. In other words, the people behind the tour are as important as the places you visit and the hotels you stay in.

Are airfare and transportation from the airport included in the tour price?
Airfare is not included, but transportation from the airport is included in some tours. See the summary for details.

You don't sell flights. How can I find one?
For flights to Palermo and Catania, visit Best of Sicily's airline page (with links to airline sites).

Why are there few departures in August?
Because it's the most chaotic month in Italy, when Italians go on vacation en masse, and northern Europeans flock to Italy. In August, you can expect delayed flights, long lines and crowds everywhere --particularly in favorite spots like Taormina. Worse, the middle of the month (Ferragosto) finds many shops and even restaurants in less popular localities closed. Here in Sicily, August is endlessly sunny but unbearably hot, too. As the vacation (holiday) season and heat actually begin in late July, we do not schedule most tours from late July through August, though some are offered during that period.

Can I deviate from the tour to visit a place off the itinerary?
We generally encourage you, instead of cancelling a particular sight or stop and then catching up to the group further along the itinerary, to plan an extension of your stay in Sicily for a day or two following the tour. (See the following question.) We can arrange transportation to a specific sight or locality you'd like to visit.

How can I extend my stay before or after the tour?
It's easy to book a hotel through us or another site, where flights, car rentals and other services are also available. Nowadays, many visitors prefer at least some degree of independent travel, often with an escorted visit such as our tours for a portion of their trip. When carefully planned, the two services complement each other very well.

Do you offer food and wine tours? Or cooking classes??
Our tours offer plenty of opportunity to sample Sicilian cuisine and wines, and some include cooking demonstrations. Contact us for details.

What if I'm reluctant to purchase a tour (or other travel service) over the internet?
Millions of people do so with confidence every day. We would like to encourage everybody to take advantage of what the Web has to offer, but if you are truly reluctant to purchase a travel service from a company advertised on the internet you would probably be more comfortable working directly with a local travel agent. There's nothing wrong with that; travel agents are hard-working people who provide a valuable service. Some of our tours are sold by travel agents, but we're the only Sicily-based company that offers tours directly to you at a competitive price.

Tour prices seem to vary widely. What's your profit?
A good question that few agents and operators would answer. First, let's consider this "trade secret" generally. For reselling a scheduled "mass market" (or package) tour, your local travel agent probably earns the industry standard commission of 10 percent, but slightly more (as much as 20 percent!) if they plan the tour themself with a foreign-based tour operator such as those who sell the tours similar to ours. (In reality, very few local travel agents in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia or elsewhere actually plan their own tours; most purchase these from an intermediary agent.) Nowadays few airlines pay any commissions at all, so selling flights is not profitable for most travel agents. In 2006 the Italian-based companies that sell our Sicily tours earned an average 9 percent profit. This means that if you pay much less than these prices you're not getting comparable quality. If you pay much more, you're probably paying for something other than quality.

What's the difference between a tour operator and a travel agent?
Today, when there are various kinds of travel service sellers, the distinctions are often blurred or may even overlap. Speaking generally, a tour operator organizes a tour and sells it to local travel agents (who sell it to you), while a receptive agent handles logistics "on site" (in Sicily in our case). The internet has changed much of this because "virtual" travel agents (perhaps lacking large offices or full-time staff) now flourish. Meanwhile, some larger tour operators sell their tours (typically at low cost, perhaps including airfare, with 40 or 50 people stuffed into a large bus) directly to the public. It is fair to describe us (Chat & Tour/Tradizione Turismo) as a tour operator and receptive agent who ensures the personalized service you would expect from a travel agent.

 

 

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