about our tours
are your guides docents?
In Europe a Docent is an academic appointment below professorship. In the US it is more often used in museums to describe guides volunteering for the educational institutions they attend. The majority of our guides hold MA, or Ph.D. degrees, and some are recognized experts in a specific areas of study. They could be authors, educators and even licensed guides, but they are all chosen for their vibrant and animated presentations, bringing each location into historic and relevant detail with personality. We simply refer to our guides as Scholars, because they are dedicated to a life long pursuit of education and teaching. They are not actors or part-time students on summer break who have memorized scripts.
what language are your tours?
Each icon scholar-guide must possess excellent, or native English language abilities. Our group tours are in English only. Our private tours can be provided in a variety of other languages upon request, and language selections vary from city to city, depending on the availability of scholars. The guides who lead our tours have clear and resilient voices and can easily be heard over busy galleries and outdoor locations.
can you skip the lines?
Yes. In most cases our scholar-guides have the authorization to skip lines, with VIP access to museums and monuments that most tours cannot. We can also pre-purchase tickets at special locations on the day of the tour in case guests need to reserve on short notice.
how difficult are the walking tours, and how are they rated?
Most of our tours are easy downhill walking routes, but for locations outside of cities we use luxury vehicles equipped with modern safety features and conveniences like heat and air conditioning. All of our tours are rated easy or moderate when it comes to walking, and we move at a leisurely pace with a lot of insider information along the way. We are careful to avoid major uphill routes, but there are a few small inclines and stairs that cannot be avoided in any city. It’s easy for everyone to keep up and there are several stopping points along the way to take in views, beverage breaks or restrooms when needed. Please consult your physician If you have more questions about the suitability of our walking tours for a specific a medical condition.
Easy = No problems for children, strollers (prams) and adults with few, or no obstacles.
Moderate = A few stairs and inclines, not suitable for guests who require walking assistance.
are the entry ticket fees included in your prices?
It depends on the tour. It is best to read the tour description which will clearly state what is included in the price. Entry fees that do not require advanced payment are due directly to your guide at tour time in cash, using the local currency. Some museums and monuments require an entrance fee for children, others do not. Please read the tour description, or contact us in advance if this is a concern. On occasion there are special exhibitions at museums and monuments which may increase the price of entry that is listed on our web site. Guests are responsible for these small additional increases when this happens. Some private tours require an entrance fee for guides, which will be paid by the guest at tour time, along with the other fees.
how can i use my city, or museum discount card?
Many cities offer discount cards for monuments and restaurants, while museums offer discounted entrance fees and reduced rates for children, students and seniors. Because we do not have access to each guest’s discount card when we pre-purchase tickets to skip the lines, we cannot we cannot guarantee those discounts. We believe the time saved by skipping lines is a better value than the small discount offered by these cards. Whenever it is possible we will do our best to arrange for our guests to use their discount cards.
how do I get a discount on entry ticket fees?
When a discount is possible, our tour descriptions will clearly state the discount prices for each location. We will also include which documents must be presented to receive discounted entry. We suggest that students bring a valid International Student Card, a Student Identity Document, or other documentation stating their registration to a university or institution of higher education. Make sure the expiration date is printed on the document, as magnetic card strips cannot be read by museums. In absence of an acceptable student ID or proof-of-age document, many museums can invalidate our pre purchased discount tickets, and visitors may be asked to purchase a new full-priced ticket without a refund for the invalidated tickets.
can you recommend restaurants?
Yes. However, we prefer not to do this via email or phone. Matching guests with the right restaurant is a subtle art that is best to done by our scholar-guides in person. After they spend some time getting to know the tastes, interests, budgets and dietary preferences of guests they can point best suggest restaurants that are enjoyed by locals who share the same sensibilities. As a matter of fair practice, we have a very strict policy of not allowing our staff to accept commissions from restaurants and shops, as monetary concerns would conflict with our desire to recommend what we truly feel is best for our guests.
can you plan our itinerary?
Yes. Our icon Travel Planning Experts work commission free. This means you have the confidence that we are creating the most reliable and authentic travel experience possible, instead of diverting you to places for monetary incentives. Contact us and we can begin a discussion about your interest, tastes and budget for restaurants, sights or activities. Whether it's art, food, transportation, catering, or something completely off the wall... just send us a list and we will take care of the details, making the most of your adventure. Our basic travel planning service starts at €75 Eur, and you can learn more on our SERVICES page.
to tip or not to tip?
We believe tips should not be considered mandatory, but they should reflect your satisfaction with the service our staff provided. You are welcome to tip your icon scholar at the end of your tour. Many of our scholars are still in school and appreciate the assistance and encouragement.
where do we meet for the tour?
The meeting points available for each tour vary by type and location. A complete description of options are available during the checkout process.
Private tours can usually meet anywhere you like. This could be a public monument where the tour begins, a ship dock, or the lobby of your hotel. Any taxi or private transfer fees to reach the tour starting point are the responsibility of each guest. If your requested meeting point is more than 2 kms, (1.25 miles) from the tour location, there could be additional fees for our guide to reach you.
Group tours meet at public locations near the tour sight. After a reservation is completed online, we will send an email confirmation within 24-hours with all the information, directions, maps and even public transit info to help you meet your guide on the day of your tour.
what times do the tours start?
Our group tours have starting times that are posted on each tour description page, and we usually arrange for an early morning or afternoon start time, this way our guests can best avoid the mid-day crowds, summer heat, and they have a jump on the lunch rush that most cities experience. For private tours, a start time can be customized, but we suggest a start time in the morning, or after lunch. Our scholar-guides often make appointments in the morning, or afternoon, and scheduling a 3-hour private tour in the middle of the day can be difficult to fulfill. Full-day private tours, (exceeding 4-hours) are more flexible and we can assign guides without an appointment in the afternoon.
booking & payment
how can i pay for my tour?
When proceeding to check-out you will be able to choose your preferred payment method. Guests can pay a deposit for the tours in advance via Master Card, Visa, or PayPal. The balance due is paid directly to the guide in cash on the day of the tour when you meet.
why do i need to reserve in advance with a deposit prepayment?
We require a deposit to guarantee the reservation in the event of a late cancellation or no-show. This is because our small group tours often sell out, and our private scholar-guides have teaching and research schedules to manage around tour appointments. Your credit card will only be charged the security deposit amount, and the balance due is is paid directly to the scholar-guide in cash on the day of the tour when you meet. Credit card payments are NOT accepted at tour time, and must be completed in cash directly to the guide, using the local currency.
what is your cancellation policy?
We understand that travel can be unpredictable and we have a very flexible cancellation policy. We will work with you to reschedule tours, or we can easily issue a complete refund for missed tours due to circumstances beyond your control. All we ask is for the curtsey of a phone call or email at least 24-hours before your guide is dispatched to meet you. For more detailed information on our Cancellation Policy, please read our Terms and Conditions during the reservation checkout process.
is my payment information secure?
why don’t i get a response from my email messages?
We check our email Monday to Friday, and usually over the weekends too and respond within 24-hours in most cases. If you don’t receive an response within 24-hours, please check your Spam or Junk Mail folders, as messages can sometimes get filtered to those folders. You can also try contacting us using a different email account, or call us directly. If we do not answer the phone it is because we are out of the office organizing a tour, or on another line with a guest. Leave your name, city and questions and the best time to reach you, and we will call you back as soon as possible.
why don’t i get a response from my phone messages?
If you leave a voice message on our phone and we do not return your call with in 24-hours, it is likely due to one of the issues below. Please send us an email if you do not hear back.
1. Your voice message was inaudible due to distortion that can sometimes happen on our end from international calls.
2. Your hotel concierge did not leave a voice message with your name, room number or the name of your hotel.
3. Your return phone number could not be reached due rare restrictions that can occur with US and EU carriers, especially with mobile phones.
4. Your tour request arrived with less than 48-hours advance notice, and returning your message was not possible due to high call volumes, or during periods when we are completely booked. This often happens when cruise ships and student groups are visiting.
taxis- how do I keep from getting ripped-off?
There are unofficial taxi drivers hustling for business as soon as you step out of many airports or train stations. We do NOT suggest using these unofficial drivers. There are registered taxis available at the designated taxi stands around the cities and airports where we offer tours. When you get into the cab, simply look at the meter and pay what is on the meter when you arrive at your destination. The driver may apply additional fees on the meter for your luggage, tariffs for airport transfers and this is normal. You should never allow a taxi driver to continue the journey if he has not urned on the meter. If there is a dispute over the fee when you arrive. Simply ask your hotel doorman to assist, they can quickly help resolve any misunderstandings.
is crime a problem?
In contrast to the multitude of warnings by guidebook publishers, in our opinion the cities where we offer tours are safe places. Like any city, there are criminal elements, but that is mostly pick pocketing. It is very rare to hear of muggings, and violent crimes right in the historic city centers where most visitors tour with us. Just remember to use your common sense, money belt, and to keep your bag in front of you at all times. If in doubt ask your hotel concierge if there are areas of the city that should be avoided and at what times.
are all the posts on travel forums real?
Unfortunately many travel and tourism services abuse travel forums by creating extensive on-line profiles with a diverse history of fake posts to mask their true identity. This allows them to pose as travel experts, initiating threads which praise their services, or subtle smear campaigns against competitors. Independent studies, and an article in the International Herald Tribune, (March 2006) suggests that up to 50 percent of the profiles and comments left on the most popular travel message forums are fake, in what is being termed, “ballot box stuffing.”
Some travel forums review each post individually before uploading it, but monitoring these forums is an overwhelming task. We like to respect the integrity of these free forums for travelers which allow the exchange of ideas and comments about their experiences. Real customers who’ve used our services have placed the positive posts appearing about icon. This is why you will only find occasional threads about us in travel forums. We are truly grateful for the world travelers, and frequent contributors in travel forums, who actually take the time to spread the word about what we are doing.
Upon request, we are happy to provide contact information for certified travel agents who use icon for all of their clients. We also encourage our guests to call, or email us immediately if they are dissatisfied with any aspect of their tour experience. We are dedicated to providing absolute customer satisfaction, and we value your suggestions for creating a better experience for guests in the future.
is there a dress code on tours?
We suggest that guests where comfortable athletic shoes, as we do a fair amount of walking and outside the cobblestone streets can be problematic for those in dress shoes. Also, please check the weather conditions before you depart. Bringing an umbrella or rain gear on tour is always better that being wet and cold for hours. Strict dress codes can be enforced when visiting churches and holy sights. Shoulders and knees must be covered, this means no tank tops, no sleeveless dresses, no shorts, mini-skirts. For women, we recommend carrying a large and light scarf with you, as this can easily be draped around your shoulders and provide the leg extra-covering if you wish to have a peek inside a church.