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Here's some tips for the Ultimate European tour

19 May 2011 GEM said

GEM

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? :)

  • 25 Nov 2011 Eliza said

    Default_avatar

    So so Helpful!

  • 25 Nov 2011 Eliza said

    Default_avatar

    So so helpful!!!

  • 27 Dec 2011 Jamie said

    Jamie

    Hi Gem,
    Whats the deal with bedding & sleeping bags on this tour?
    I’m doing this tour but the Greek islands option in June, I know it says to bring a sleeping bag, but then I see in comments/discussions that say you don’t really need/won’t use a sleeping bag.

  • 27 Dec 2011 GEM said

    GEM

    Hi Jamie – sorry it’s been a while now so I’ll try and remember best I can! At the Contiki places (The Chateau, Antibes, Venice, Florence, Rome, Hopfgarten and Lauterbrunnen) you require a sleeping bag. I can’t remember if Munich and Vienna needed them too, they were dorm room/backpacker style accommodation. You won’t need one in Paris, Corfu, Athens, Kavala, Istanbul, Sofia, Belgrade, Budapest, Rhine Valley… and I really can’t remember Barcelona and Amsterdam – I can remember the rooms but not what was on the beds (I know they were bunks though.) Egypt we didn’t take them – I can’t tell you if the Greek Islanders did or not. Because you’re going in June some people might not take a sleeping bag because it will be quite warm (if you were departing in March you’d need one)- there is always the option of a sleeping bag liner – a lot smaller and lighter (and most rooms will have a blanket.)

  • 23 Jan 2012 Jamie said

    Jamie

    Thanks, you’ve been a great help!

  • 5 May 2012 Briony said

    Briony

    Hey Gem, I can’t thank you enough for this insight! I will be departing late August for UE + Egypt. I was wondering if you could give me a rough estimate of how much you spent on entries, optional extras, nights out and general spending money? Thanks heaps! PS. I had a good laugh at your comment about trading women for camels :)

  • 6 May 2012 GEM said

    GEM

    Hi Briony, I did all of the optionals but I can’t remember how much that cost exactly – it was worth it though. (You also pay for them in cash as well, we got given an envelope with our amount owing on it after we had selected the options from a list.) I didn’t spend too much on nights out (I made the most of the free wine on the optional dinners!) but all in all I took a travel card with NZ$7000 on it (I think at the time it worked out to around 4000 Euro) and came back with NZ$1000! Gutted – wish I had bought more stuff!!
    Haha and yes it is really possible to get offered camels, I’m grateful our TM didn’t sell me, he was still negotiating when I got onto the coach. (apparantly I have a nice, strong body, good for work and sex… Eeewww)

  • 19 Dec 2012 Madeleine said

    Madeleine

    this is amazing!! thank you so much!!!!

  • 22 May 2013 NMayhew said

    NMayhew

    Hi Gem, I know it was awhile ago now but I am doing this tour +G.Islands in August this year and have just a few questions.
    In regards to choosing the optionals, do you choose them on the day that you do them or when you get to that country do you work out the next few days etc etc How does this work?

    Also, in regards to the Turkish Bathes, what do you wear basically haha The people on my tour have been discussing this and trying to work out whether you are completely naked or whether you choose to wear a bra and undies etc haha

    Oh and is there times where you jump straight off the bus into sightseeing before going to your accommodation? If so, what happens with the coach bag? Do you have to take this with your or did your TM let you leave it on the bus?

    Sorry for so many questions; I’m just too keen!!!

    Thanks for all the tips!!!!!! xo

  • 22 May 2013 GEM said

    GEM

    Hi NMayhew! Yeah, I arrived home over two years ago now :( (Still think about it all the time though)
    Optionals: We were given a list of all optionals early on in the tour and we selected which ones we’d like to do. We were then given an envelope and told the total cost. We put cash in the envelope and handed it back to our Tour Manager.
    Turkish Baths: They will give you a pair of black undies to wear and that is it (you get a towel after the scrub but before the massage (if you choose to have one)). All us girls went topless, after touring for so long together you’re pretty comfortable with each other. But you can wear a bikini top if you like though.
    The last question: Your bags can stay on the coach (our Driver hated it being called a bus LOL) – most of the time while you’re sight-seeing the Tour Driver will stay with the coach, maybe wash it, maybe get more fuel. If they do leave the coach it will be locked up safe.
    **Remember it’s been over two years now so these answers are just from what I can vaguely remember – but I’m 95% sure they’re correct :)
    Have an awesome time, it’s an amazing experience :)

  • 23 May 2013 NMayhew said

    NMayhew

    Hey Gem,

    That’s all good, just wanted a rough idea.
    That clears up a few things :-)

    I’ll remember it’s a coach not a bus ;-) hehe

    THANK-YOU!!!!!!

  • 31 May 2013 Keirra said

    Keirra

    Hi Gem
    I’m not doing the tour you did, doing Euro Contrasts but just wondered about your point about keeping a travel journal.
    How did you find time to keep it up to date?? I can’t normally write/read on the bus as i get a bit sick so hopefully will still be able to keep up to date.
    Also, How/When did you write down what you took photos of??? Such a good idea, but again don’t know if I will get the time?

  • 3 Jun 2013 GEM said

    GEM

    Hi Keirra, most of my journal was written on the coach and sometimes at night if we were having a quite one. I didn’t write in it every day, maybe every second or third. Regarding photos, I basically wrote down where I went and what I saw while I remembered, that way you can put two and two together when flicking back through photos.

  • 20 Jul 2014 Garousse said

    Garousse

    Great post!

    Just wanted to ask about the Paris dinner and show?
    From what I’ve read in forums so far – the bus picks u up at 4pm so go to the hotel to get ready for the night.
    Do u remember what time the dinner started and then what time the show started?
    I booked a ticket for the Eiffel Tower in advance but I had to get it for 3.30pm so il miss the bus to the hotel.
    Was thinking I could just meet everyone at the dinner?
    Thanks in advance!

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