A tour driver’s holiday

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Phil Varley loves to get up into the mountains when he visits Zell am See. ZELL AM SEE KAPRUN TOURISMUS

Alan Payling chats to a few tour drivers to find out what they get up to when they’re away in resort and have to take a rest day and discovers that they don’t sit about – unless it’s in the cinema, on a steam train, on a boat, on a service bus or up in a cable car!

There’s only one thing wrong with working in the holiday trade: you have to work. On coach holidays, while everyone behind them is chatting away, knitting, reading, staring out of the window at the scenery or snoozing, tour drivers have to keep their wits about them and concentrate on the road ahead. When they’re in resort, there are problems with passengers to sort out and the never ending task of keeping the coach clean has to be attended to. Coaches have to be re-fuelled and, occasionally, repairs have to be dealt with – window fitters and air-conditioning engineers being regular visitors to Torbay’s coaching hotels. Drivers also have to find toilet drops if they’ve been away for a while. For those away for weeks on end, six-weekly checks have to be fitted in. Such tasks can involve extra mileage on occasions. In the evening they can relax – unless they’re going to the theatre – if they don’t get roped into calling out the bingo numbers, but even then, they are still away from home. This does have its compensations though. The drivers get waited on hand, foot and finger, being fed twice a day in their hotels.

When they’re out and about on excursions, free food is nearly always available from someone. Have you ever seen a hungry tour driver? That’s what they call an oxymoron. No, it’s not an insult! Many drivers have to take a rest day or two when they’re away on tour. Given the extremely pleasant surroundings that many tour drivers find themselves in, I was interested to discover what they get up to on their free days even though they’re away from home. Do they just relax, sit around the hotel or do they take advantage of their surroundings to make the best of their lot and enjoy themselves? I spoke to a few drivers to find out.[…]

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