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Some advice before you go

9 Jun 2007 Nora said

Nora
Just completed this tour (May 27-June 8) and there are a few things I learned that might make your trip more enjoyable:

Select the shuttle option that Contiki provides. Reason? The hotel is located far away from the airport and center of town. If you don't Contiki's estimate for the train and cab is low. The train is 11 euros and the cab ride cost me 40 from the train station (51 euros total=about 68 dollars). In addition, I was almost ripped off by "cab drivers" who stand outside the train station and offer rides to unsuspecting tourists. Several people in my group paid 70-100 euros to these scam artists not knowing they weren't real taxi drivers.

The optional excursion dinners are not worth it. Almost everyone signed up for the first one in Sorrento (including myself) and only 5 were signed up for the second so it was cancelled. The food was not good and the location stuffy (imagine a wedding reception hall). Also, it was held at a place called the "Tourist Club" so the only locals were the waitstaff. Not exactly experiencing Italy in my opinion. Advice: go somewhere local and have better food for less.

Optional excursion: The boat trip on Lake Garda was worth it. Very beautiful lake and the alternative is sitting on the bus since it is while you're traveling between cities.

Optional excursion: The boat trip around Capri is overpriced. Contiki has it for 19 euros and there were no boat trips on the island for more than 12. The Contiki boat trip was cancelled due to weather and by the afternoon it had cleared up. We got a regular boat trip from one of the outfits there and it was well worth it. A nice way to spend an hour.

Optional excursion: The gondola ride in Venice is very nice but I think also overpriced when you go through Contiki. In my travel guide book it said that the rides typically cost between 60-100 euros depending on the time of day and we each paid 21 (6 people per boat). I had already selected to do it through Contiki so I did not confirm the boat prices.

I would not recommend the "group photo" that Contiki offers due to the fact that only a few people in our group signed up for it and they were forced to sit together on the boats instead of being able to pick their own group. Venice is one of the last cities, so most people already have their friends who they want to sit with picked out.

In Venice our guide had the group meet back at 10pm (the hotel is 1-1.5 hours outside of town and requires taking a ferry and train). If you don't want to stay that long it's not a big deal to take the ferry to the train station (6 euros) and the train back (2.20 euros). This is what me and another girl did and I'm glad since we got back at 8:30pm instead of 11:30pm and had time to relax.

When in Rome there are several buses that do a round about the city stopping at the various tourist attractions. This is good if you're tired of walking and want to take in the sights first. It cost 16 euros for an all day ticket and you can get on and of at your leisure. The entire loop took about an hour and also has a commentary about the history. You can get tickets on the bus at any of the stops.

One person in our group got her wallet stolen out of her backpack while on the bus in Rome so watch your stuff and either lock it or have it in front of you at all times. We had to take the metro into Rome the last day during rush hour and everyone was crammed in so it's not hard to see how stuff like that can happen (keep a copy of your passport and all credit cards at the hotel).

Bring rain gear just in case. It rained almost the whole trip and most people had only shorts and warm weather gear. There is A LOT of traveling by bus so bring reading material or iPod or both. Overall it was a decent trip. A lot of traveling in between cities though so be prepared.
  • 13 Jun 2007 robynblueeyes said

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    Hi Nora and Natka1,

    Just a few quick questions.

    How were the hotels? I know not to expect 5 star hotels…but just curious.

    Roughly how much money did you both spend per day?

    Thanks.

    I have exactly 39 days to go!!!

    Robyn

  • 13 Jun 2007 Ginam650 said

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    Hi all. I just returned from this tour not too long ago as well (May 6-18) We really lucked out on the weather, because it was beautiful the entire time.

    I think the optional excursions are good, for the most part. We had a full coach of 50 so all the options were held except the group photo in Florence, and I signed up for all of them excpet the Rome tour at the end. Here is my view on them:
    Capri boat ride: I enojoyed the cruise, it was relaxing, but a bit long. The blue grotto is towards the end of the cruise so it’s worth it.

    Lake Garda: Eh, it was fun but by that point we had been on a few boats already. It was pretty though.

    Florence: The Space Disco was basically all Contiki people, until 1am then the locals came in. It was a fun experience I guess. The optional dinner in Florence was really fun but then again it all depends on how well you get along with the other people in the group. We all had a great time and I would say everyone but maybe 10 did that dinner. I was so happy I did.

    Venice optional dinner was really good, but way too much food. I had signed up for the goldola ride but ended up missing it because I got lost…but the others said it was a fun experience.

    There are other things that we do when we get to the city’s but you don’t have to go like Leonardo’s leather making in Florence, glass making and lace demonstration in Venice. That took up like 1 1/2 hours which I wish I skipped out on. The walking tour in Florence was interesting.

    There was a group of us that wanted to go to the Uffuzi museum so when we were in Capri we found an internet cafe and got tickets, which in the end saved us a lot of time because the lines were so long.

    The hotels were Ok. They definitely could have been worse. I would say the best hotel was the Holiday Inn Express in Milan…Sooooo nice, the worst was the last 2 nights in Rome at the Roma Park Hotel. The beds are super hard and the rooms are super small. Also, all of the hotels are located outside of the city center which kind of sucked, but we shared taxis and it usually costs about 2-5E each, so not too bad if you want to go out. The Prime Roma Cassia Hotel is the farthest from the city. We took a bus to the train station then hopped on the metro to get to the center. You can also take a taxi but they can definitely rip you off, so be careful.

    Overall we had an awesome group. Natalie was out TM and she was great. Our bus driver Pino was awesome as well. Before I left for this trip I read the boards and everyone kept saying that the trip is what you make of it…and that is so true. Our group was lucky and we all(yes all 50 of us) got along really well.

    Have fun, and bring comfortable walking shoes.

  • 5 Jul 2007 ljtena said

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    how many nights do you get to go out to the discos or bars? i feel like all in all its just touring and i want to party out there.

    lupita

  • 5 Jul 2007 ljtena said

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    thanks!

    lupita

  • 17 Jul 2007 kelbel106 said

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    I found that I spend more money then I expected to. The optional things i found were a good time. The dinner in Tuscany was everyone favorite because of the piano man that plays for you. If you go please bring tip money for him and make him play meatloaf or queen. He did both for us and lets just say he completed our lives!!! If you can bring some sort of water shoe or flip flops to keep in your bag for the beaches. If you are planning on swimming in the sea or at lake garda it hurts really really bad to walk on those rocks. Also expect to pay at least 10 euros on other transportation. At capri the shuttle and buses cost 7 euro for the day. In other places it may be more or less. I wish i would have known about about making the tickets in advance too. Milan is way fun and the dumo is worth going to the top because you walk around it. There are only 200 stairs. I do not like stairs and that was not to bad for me and it saves you 2 euros. Have fun and go out and have a great time.

  • 18 Jul 2007 Loogie said

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    Hey Everyone,
    I’m NOT going on your trip but i’ve travelled with Contiki and would like to offer some advice:
    If you plan on taking a credit card to Europe, you may want to call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be travelling so they don’t think the card has been stolen and cut you off.

    Another thing I recommend is carrying your cash in a money belt, I find it safer.

    When you pack, throw some clothing into your carry-on to ligten the weight of the suitcase and in case your luggage gets lost. Leave room for souveneirs & carry with you an extra copy of your pasport and hotel address list.

    In terms of weight of luggage, it’s the airlines that are more strict than Contiki. Each airline has their own weight threshold & will only be too glad to charge you extra for going over. You can find out the limit/rules by going on the airline’s website.


    Feel free to ask me anything else.

    Brian (from New York)
    brij75@yahoo.com

    Southern Ireland ‘97
    Grand Explorer ’00
    Rainbow Nation ’01 (no longer offered by Contiki)
    Beaches & Reefs ’02-’03

  • 28 Jul 2007 Kat said

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    I went on the same trip as Ginam650

    I did all the optional dinners (except for venice i think), and you know what they were all beautiful! sorrento was lovely, overlooking the coast!

    If you are not into boats – dont select the optional trips on boats as there seemed to be a lot of boat trips – although the Blue Grotto is not to be missed – just the way you get into it was an experience!

    Florence – the disco, yep lots of different contiki groups. but hey it has alcohol, music and a dancefloor.

    Wished i missed the glass-blowing and lace demo’s glass blowing would have been interesting but unless you are in there first up or really tall you wont see anything! lace – boring as hell!!!

    Florence Leather making demo – unless your into leather dont recommend it, teh guy giving the demo even said that Professionals even sometimes cant tell the diff between fake and real leather so yeah use that time to buy more gold!!!

    Walking tours – make sure you are close to the guide at all times otherwise you cant hear anything!

    Hotels, yeah they were fine. Just be careful how much you pack as even though they do have lifts apparently sometimes they dont work! and for one in florence if that happended it would have sucked as there were a lot of stairs.

    oh and Breakfasts arent wat you expect, best piece of advice DONT have expectations. And you make your trip what you want it to be!

    Like gina said Nat our TM was fantastic and Pino – gosh i wish i could drive like him!

    I got my gondola ride photo – we actually got to pick who we wanted in the gondola so you were with people you wanted to be with.

    Oh and i flew in a day early and it was worth it as i got to see everything in Rome that I wanted to and spend more time at each place. Check you itinery and the opening times of the vatican because the days we were in rome it was closed, but because i got there a day early i was able to go, but a lot of people missed out on that.

    Katrina
    simply italy May 6-18

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