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Here's some tips for the Ultimate European tour

19 May 2011 GEM said


Hey guys, I just returned from my UE+Egypt and thought I'd put some tips on here for others yet to go on theirs!
* YOU WILL MISS EVERYONE. It was harder than I thought to say goodbye to my tour mates. After 45 days you get rather attached! We have a facebook page and we have all been keeping in touch on that. Lots of photos have been shared
* Take a travel pillow - not a blow up one, a proper one, it will be used A LOT on the coach
* Take more than one camera battery! During the day I always had a spare in by bag, I ended up usually charging one every night!
* Take an iPod. I didn't take one, it wasn't the end of the world as our tour manager had really great playlists but he also had iPod-oke - if you're late to the coach you had to sing!
* Be prepared to pay for toilets everywhere! You usually won't have to pay if you go into a cafe (and buy something of course) but always expect to (usually around 50 euro cents). In a pub in Amsterdam we had to pay every time - and you pee a lot when you're drinking!
* Things will not always go to plan. None of us got inside the Colosseum - it closed early (just means we have to return to Rome!). Some days (Tuesdays usually) art museums are closed. Some days traffic will hold you up. Some days it will rain (we were lucky we only had 3 rainy days out of 45!) And it seems like most cities in Europe have scaffolding over their landmarks! Contiki can't control these things.
* When ordering your Contiki shirt/hoodie/singlet pay close attention to the measurements, I went a size up and my T-shirt is still pretty short. But the hoodie sizes are closer to the mark. I didn't get a hoodie to begin with but our tour manager managed to get one ordered for me (and a few others) a week or so afterwards and we had to have them posted home for 8.50 euro. Mine took about 3 weeks to arrive (quicker than I thought).
* Get the professional group photos and have everyone sign your folder at the end.
* You WILL get sick of stairs. I'm especially sick of spiral staircases :)
* I took a suitcase, a hand bag and a bigger tote bag for the coach. A backpack would also be handy for mountain biking in Hopfgarten.
* If doing the March departure to attend to ANZAC day - you WILL BE COLD! wear layers and definitely take your sleeping bag. And the walk to the NZ and Oz services isn't as hard as you'd think. I'm not saying it is easy though. About the same as the walk to the "Top of the World' at the Chateau.
* You will more than likely have to use a squatter (toilet) at least once - got through Egypt without having to but had to once in Turkey. Lovely.
* Girls - Take a fake wedding ring to Egypt and have a husband lined up. I took a scarf to cover my blonde hair but only used it in Cairo on the coach when I got a few stares. And it is entirely possible for your 'husband' to be seriously offered camels for you... try to get more than five.
* I budgeted around 50-100 Euro per day and that was fine. I did all the optionals too. I didn't go overboard with shopping though - there is not a lot of time for shopping anyway.
* Be prepared for Theme Parties. There will definitely be a Toga party in Corfu. We also had a P Party at the Chateau, a masqurade party in Rome, a 'Twin' party in Hopfgarten and a red and white party (Swiss colours) in Lauterbrunnen (the themes change though.) Cellotape, safety pins and bright makeup come in handy...
* Watch out for sleazy Italian men.
* The men in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (and those in Egypt for that matter) are very pushy when it comes to trying to get you to buy things in their shops. Be prepared to haggle. And look out for them at the Valley of the Kings, the men all lined up to block us on the way out - you'll get good at side-stepping. The guys around the Eiffel Tower, La Ramblas, Pisa (most tourist places really) are annoying. Girls you'll probably get called 'Lady Gaga', 'Spice Girl', 'Shakira' and 'Pretty Eyes'. DON'T buy anything from these men - it's illegal in most places.
* We were all lucky enough to not get pick-pocketed on tour - but that could have been because we were alert. Keep an eye on your stuff - especially on the Metro and in the busy markets.
* If going to Egypt be prepared for 'King Tuts Butt'/'Tutankhamuns Revenge' - visit your doctor and get something to help. I got a drink vaccine thing. Be careful with the water - no ice, brush your teeth with bottled water and steer clear of fruits and salads that may have been washed in the water.
* Take hand sanitiser.
* Take laundry detergent - you probably will not escape handwashing. On that note, a travel clothesline is a must too.
You will be expected to tip your TM and driver at the end - about 2 Euro per day - I had no problem with this as we had the best in the business in my opinion!
* Keep a travel journal - make sure you keep it up to date too - Coach days are great for that. I also wrote down what I took photos of - at the end you probably won't remember what you took photos of at the start. - Also, I wish I had taken photos of the rooms/hotels etc. I can remember each and every one but don't have all the photos to go with what's in my head. Take photos of every Day Sheet too - they come in VERY handy both during and after the tour.
* You'll get the Contiki Cough. Simple as that. I had cold and flu pills, multi-vitamins, throat lozenges and all sorts and I got the cough in PARIS! I still have it now a month and a half later. I only felt under the weather for a few days, it's just the cough that hangs around. Towards the end of the tour one of the guys did have to go to hospital though - so take it easy every now and again and look after yourself. Have a night off once in a while.
* There will be people of different ages, backgrounds and different personalities. We were very lucky we managed to go 45 days with little drama.
* We had 41 on tour - 30 girls and 11 guys. There were 30 Aussies, 4 Kiwis, 3 Koreans, 2 Canadians, 1 American and 1 South African. 23 went to Egypt and 18 went to the Greek Islands.
* CLOTHES: Don't pack too much crap. You have to carry it! I only took clothes I wear all the time at home. Take a few dressy tops and a dress (although you may not wear it much it's good when you want to really dress up). I wore jeans out, sometimes I wished I had something that fell between a dress and jeans, like a pair of dress pants or leggings. Don't just take long pants and short shorts - you have to cover your knees in Egypt and in most churches etc - take a knee length skirt or 3/4 pants. Also remember you have to cover your shoulders in these places too.
* SHOES: I took heels, I feel more dressed up in them - but if you're not good in heels they won't be the best on cobblestones, some others took wedges. I had a pair of skechers I wore when we did a lot of walking, I also had jandals (thongs/flip flops) and a pair of ballet flats to wear out when I didn't want to wear heels. I also had a cheap pair of sneakers for Jungfrau and walking on ANZAC day. But the right sort of walking shoe could be used for that too.
* You do not need to be done up to the nines every day. Most days I didn't even use my make up, other days maybe just lipstick and mascara. Save it for the big nights out.
* Be prepared for some crap, tiny showers and hard beds... but also be prepared for comfy beds and awesome showers - Bulgaria had a great shower! The accommodation varies but I can't think of a bad place off the top of my head - just don't expect 5 star, it is a Concept tour after all, you're only there to sleep. - Actually, I thought of maybe the worst place: there was a nappy in our bathroom bin in Cairo... and also used soap in the basin... and I'm still not sure the sheets had been changed... but those were easily fixed.
* The included meals won't be spectacular, they're not bad though - we had Moussaka in Corfu though that was delicious. Breakfasts consist of: bread rolls, ham, cheese, salami etc, cornflakes, maybe museli, sometimes yoghurt, toast with jams and sometimes nutella. In some places you'll get hot food as well - In Hopfgarten we had bacon and eggs which was great! And in Luxor there was a guy that made your omlette while you wait.
* In Amsterdam we were told by our TM to only eat half a brownie to begin with, if nothing happened after an hour, eat the other half. At the Grasshopper they sold brownies by the half for 7.50 Euro.
* On your Day sheet for Amsterdam it may possibly say Dutch Cultural Evening - this means Live Sex Show. It is exactly that. Go to it, it's a fun night, but some people may get freaked out :) If you end up on stage with a few others and a stripper, try and be the first to eat the banana... unless you WANT to go last...
* At the Tuscan and Greek optional dinners you will get A LOT of food. Take advantage of the included wine at all the optional meals too. And the buffet on the Nile and Danube cruises are great, you'll probably want lots of vegies by then.
* On that note - do all the optionals. Some might not be what you thought but at least you went out and tried them. I even did paragliding which scared the crap out of me.
* Expect to pay 19 Euro for a Mojito in Monaco!
* Make an effort to get to know people at the start of the tour. I was a bit slower and only in the second half (after Egypt) did I branch out a bit more.
* Afterwards you'll miss the Day sheets, the long coach days, your Day song and maybe even your annoying Wake Up song.
Hopefully you have great tourmates like I did and if you get Steve Ellison (TM) or Aidan Hopkins (TD) you'll be in good hands, those guys are fantastic.

Any questions? :)

  • Read the responses 34 responses so far
  • 20 May 2011 kristy said


    i cant wait for my trip starting on 3rd july.. but i have a few questions.. how dressy are the females in paris, rome, spain ect. i dont want to feel out of place there. and how many times did you get a chance to go into the clubs?
    what was the novelle eve like? i really want to go to the moulin rouge insted but not sure if it will be worth it.
    what was the average you spent on alcohol? im not a beer drinker at all so was wine and spirits cheap..
    and what was egypt like? do i need to wear long pants to cover up and was it hot
    what things should i miss or are not worth going to ,buying ect
    and how many times did you get to use the internet and check emails, upload photos..
    oh and how cold was it? lol i think thats all the questions i have for now
    and last thing… how did u manage with clothes? did you run out and get some more

  • 21 May 2011 Hannah said


    I did this tour in 09 and Aidan was my driver too. I agree you are definitely in good hands if he’s driving the bus.

  • 22 May 2011 GEM said


    I didn’t really notice how dressed up others were in Paris etc… – don’t wear dressy shoes during the day, there is too much walking involved. I say just wear what you feel comfortable in, I wore what I would normally wear out shopping.

    We didn’t get to go to Nouvelle Eve – I can’t remember why… maybe we were to early in the year or something… we just had our Parisian dinner and then wen’t to O’Sullivans bar, beside Moulin Rouge.

    I didn’t spend much on alcohol but I’m not the biggest drinker, except in an Aussie bar in Vienna near the hostel and the drinks were reasonabley priced there… I really can’t remember what I paid in most places! I think what you’d pay $7 at home for, you’d probably pay 7 Euro for. Prices vary A LOT though, generally things will be cheaper the further east you go. As a wine drinker you will be fine on the Optional dinners :)

    Egypt will be hot. And the shade isn’t much cooler than being in the sun :) We were there mid April and it was between about 30-40 degrees celcius. Don’t bother with full length pants but something down to your knees will be better than flashing your thighs. As you’re going in the middle of summer a knee length skirt might be better than knee length shorts… but take some long shorts to wear on the camel ride (at the Pyramids).

    I don’t suggest missing anything. Give everything a go. And everyone has different tastes so I’d hate to say miss something when you may enjoy it. But the Canal bike ride in Amsterdam was probably my least favourite thing – it takes so long to get anywhere!

    Regarding the internet, if you have an iPhone or something similar you’ll be able to access the internet fine, there is free WiFi in so many places. Most places have computers you can pay to use too, that is what I did and I didn’t feel like I was deprived at all, but you’ll be so busy you won’t want to waste time on the internet usually. Uploading photos may be harder though, unless you have your laptop with you (which some people did have on my tour.)

    You most likely will not get cold – especially in Egypt (goes without saying) and Italy – Italy in April was so hot and I have a friend who went in July and she said it got to 40 in Rome one day! The only place that was cold was London (end of March) and Paris was cooler – but that was end of March too. The wind on Georges boat in Corfu was cold – but that was also early in the season, when you’re there will be the best time.

    I took 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of long shorts, a knee length skirt, togs (swimmers), 2 cardis, a polarfleece, a jacket (not a big one), a dress, 3 dressy tops, 5 casual tops, 1 long-sleeved top and 2 singlets. I did fine with that, but take advantage of all washing opportunities! I came home with an extra skirt and 5 tops – but I didn’t buy them because I needed them :) Also, you will probably not need the jacket, long-sleeved top and polarfleece when you’re going!

    You will have the time of your life :)

  • 23 May 2011 RoXXsta said


    Nice work Gem :D

  • 24 May 2011 GEM said


    Thanks Tara! :) Any tips you want to add??

  • 1 Jun 2011 GEM said


    Thought of another couple of things:

    • Egypt – it’s easier to pay in the local currency than in US dollars (optionals are in US though). You will probably get ripped off everytime you ask someone to convert the price to US from Egyptian Pounds.
    • Greece – the toilet paper doesn’t go in the toilet, it goes in a bin beside it – “It’s not wrong, it’s just different”
    • Turkey – go to a turkish bath, I can’t tell you what the guys side is like but girls, be prepared – you will end up in a large, hot room with lots of other topless ladies lying around on hot marble but as our TM said, ’it’s a cultural tick’. I had a full body scrub, oil massage, facial and pedicure. Your skin feels great afterwards.
  • 8 Jun 2011 KirstenLaurelle said


    Thank you thats awesome!!

  • 8 Jun 2011 Kelli-Sian said


    This has been really helpful thanks a bunch! :) Im actually going on the European Adventurer but a lot of what you have said seems to apply

  • 8 Jun 2011 Kelli-Sian said


    Alos a question… did anyone on your tour have a problem with Bed bugs? This is something that is concerning me a bit haha – will have a sleeping bag anyway but I tend to overheat during the night and can’t handle being in a sleeping bag but im petrified of the thought of bed bugs!

  • 8 Jun 2011 GEM said


    I don’t know if anyone ‘officially’ got bed bugs… a lot of us got bites but I don’t know what they were from. Take some antiseptic cream and something to stop the itching. Also, you could take a sleeping bag liner that you could use when it’s too hot for a sleeping bag :)

  • 10 Jun 2011 Breeya said


    Thanks for all this Gem – very informative! I’m headed on the UE & Egypt at the end of August and absolutely cannot wait. Just wondering if you got the option of the sunrise ballooning in Luxor? A lot of people say its a must do and i know they used to offer it in the past but it isn’t on the current itinerary or list of optionals. Also were there many other ‘unlisted’ optionals other than Amsterdam – not in the same vein (i’m not looking for a sex show in every country!!) but just things that you stumbled across along the way and the tour manager decided you had time for.

    Also cameras – did many people take DSLRs? Or can you quite easily get by with just a good quality compact? I know it depends on the person (i love photos!) and I can think of pros and cons for both but am curious as to the general consensus. Would be hard to sneak photos in the places you’re not allowed with a bulky SLR!

    Thanks again for your tips!

  • 10 Jun 2011 GEM said


    Hi Breeya,

    I don’t think there were many unlisted optionals, there’s Zorbing in Hopfgarten, not sure if that was listed. We never went ballooning. The day in Luxor we spent at Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsuts temple, an alabaster demo and then at Luxor and Karnak temples before heading to Hurghada.

    Four people on our tour took DSLR’s, and three of them took normal cameras as well for the nights out. They’re good for getting great pics, the only downside would be carrying them around.

  • 10 Jun 2011 Hannah said


    Hi Breeya

    I did this trip with Egypt option in 2009 and there was no hot air ballooning. If you are there during Ramadan you may find that the light show at Aswan (I think) is not available even if it’s on your optionals. We had a horse and cart ride and trip to the markets instead. From memory the only unlisted optional was Amsterdam. Other stops may depend on traffic, time and your driver’s hours. European rules are pretty strict about the hours your driver can spend behind the wheel. I wouldn’t suggest sneaking photos, esp in Egypt as you may find yourself cornered by guards and having to delete the photos anyway or paying a fine, worst case scenario is they will confiscate your camera.

  • 2 Sep 2011 Airnz_F/A_21 said


    Wow thanks so much Gem and everyone that’s heaps of info to take on board it so helpful!!
    Cheers Katrina NZ

  • 22 Sep 2011 Rozie Graham said


    Thank you for the awesome advice! Theres some really helpful hints, I’m glad you did all the optionals, thats what we’re planning on doing so good to know its mostly worth it! :)

  • 5 Oct 2011 GEM said


    One more tip – if you’re planning on hand washing, a universal plug might come in handy – so many sinks didn’t have plugs!!

  • 5 Oct 2011 Mel said


    Gem, what do you recommend with money? Cash, card? Is there alot of access to ATM’s?

  • 10 Oct 2011 Morgan said


    I cannot thank you enough for writing all of this! I’m thinking of doing this tour with the Greek Islands option and I have gotten so much out of this post! Thanks Gem!

  • 10 Oct 2011 GEM said


    Mel – I took some cash (in Pounds) for before the tour and changed a bit more into Euros but the main thing I used was a travel card, I loaded it with Euros before I left and then just withdrew a few hundred every few days (or just used the card – just like a credit card. Only downside was I couldn’t always check my balance at ATM’s – some would tell me, others wouldn’t) We changed Euros into US$ in Pisa for Egypt (good rates there) then changed some of the US$ into Egyptian Pounds at Cairo Airport. For places like Turkey, Hungary and Switzerland I changed Euro into the local currency and just carried cash and for Bulgaria and Serbia you’ll hardly need any money at all, I just withdrew some off my travel card at the first ATM I found so I had cash for the service stops. I also had my Credit Card and Eftpos card just in case.

  • 19 Oct 2011 Explorer1307236 said


    Nouvelle Eve was amazing – It was such a laugh and topped off a great end to Paris! I took my ATM card but did get a few fees. My group found that the travel card wouldn’t work in alot of the “Cash Machines” they only worked in ATM’s and sometimes in smaller places they were hard to find.

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