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The real european experience
I recently finished the European experience. The trip was not what I expected for the amount of money spent. I thought there would be time to kill at the important sights, but instead we were very much rushed at them and spent time in less important places. For instance, in Monaco, we only had about 2 hours, which included 45 minutes to eat and about an hour at the Monte Carlo casino. But then at the Beaujolais wine region we did nothing for 2 days. The only thing you could do was drink, but since I do not party a lot, I just sat in my room. Speaking of the rooms, do not try to make this a romantic trip by any means. We mostly had 4 people to a room, and I was rarely only with my mate. The rooms reminded me of smaller dorm rooms with no air conditioning. Also make sure to check for bed bugs. I thought they attacked me, but then I met up with the rest of the group and other people had it way worse. Definitely, bring some kind of ointment for bug bites and bug repellant for Venice.
Also, some advice: Budget in about 1,000 USD for extra excursions. If you do not do most of the excursions (if not all), you will be left out and be very bored. The hotels are in the countryside secluded from everything. If you do not do the extra optional activities you will be left waiting at these secluded hotels waiting for the rest of the group to get back about 2 hours later or more. Do not pay or sign up in advance for the excursions. You will not be able to get your money back. They say your have 48 hrs to get your money back, but when we tried to cancel 5 days in advance, the tour manager denied us.
There are also small things you might want to budget for that are not mentioned such as, 3 Euro a ride for public transportation in every major city and .50 to 1.5 euro for the bathroom. Contiki also takes you to places, such as Italian leather demonstration, glass blowing and beer stein tour, so be ready to spend money on souvenirs.
The driver was exceptional; this person really was able to maneuver well. The only thing that sucks is the driving days because you cannot sleep more that 2-3 hrs at a time because the driver has to take a 45 minute break at those times. Also, sometimes the coach would drop you off and not pick you up. Or other times leave you. One time I was 10 minutes early waiting to catch the coach and apparently it was parked down some random alleyway. So be prepared to take a taxi.
FOOD: to say this lightly- the food was awful. If you like pork, this could be for you. Contiki feeds you pork like no other. One day, we had grilled ham and cheese for breakfast, a cold cut ham sandwich for lunch, and barbecue pork ribs (very fatty) for dinner. If you have any food allergies be on your guard the entire trip, even if you warn the kitchen about your specific food allergies. One of our fellow travelers on the trip was allergic to peaches and notified every kitchen we ate at of her food allergies. At one of the sites, they used peaches in the food and served it to her anyways. She had a violent allergic reaction and her throat began to close up as a result. If I can say listen to one thing, DO NOT GO TO THE OPTIONAL DINNERS. Not only are they expensive, they are not good, especially the Italian dinner. The restaurant was supposed to have the best pasta in the world (Negative). This place was very bland, and honestly had nothing on a box of shells and cheese. The next day we found a restaurant on our own, which tasted better, and it was about half as expensive as the optional dinner the night before. If you want to see pictures, let me know. My advice is to bring granola bars to last you 20 days because food is extremely expensive. My mate and I spent 30 euro a meal for the two of us. At the restaurants, water its self was 4-8 euro for a bottle.
Also, I don’t know about you but when I spend money on service (such as a vacation) I don’t expect to do work. Contiki has something called “cookies and dishies”. Just like it sounds; Cookies help cook the food and dishies help wash and pick up peoples used dishes. I am all about helping if its not forced and this is enforced. I just had to cut lettuce and slice bread (about 50) when I did it, but it’s the principal. Some people had to serve everyone one by one, so I guess I got it easy.
This trip was not for me because I wanted to see the historical sights, but if you want to go on a country hop (analogous to a bar hop), and party this would be an amazing trip for you. But, be aware alcohol is very expensive at the places they take you. One bar, was 5 euro for a beer. This is outrageous in my book. But one great thing, is that the people on our coach were amazing. The nicest people I have ever met☺
Note: Also bring a jacket, it was mostly cold except for Italy.
- 10 responses so far
how much spending money did u take? im doing this tour junee15th 2012
I have just done this tour (September 2011) and although everyone has their opinions i thought yours was a bit unfair towards Contiki. You would have read the itinary and saw that there was only 1-2 days in each city. I thught this was enough as i still saw all the major attractions i wanted to see. I didn’t do alot of shopping but i would still allow 100 Euro a day (Excluding Optionals). This is what i budgeted. I did go over this by a bit but if i wanted something i bought it! I wasn’t going to go home regreting not buying something! I had the most amazing time. I’m not a big drinker or anything but i still stayed out at night and partied with everyone.
~ There was only 1 night in Monaco. while it was beautiful there wasn’t much to do other than Gamble and drink 20-30 Euro Cocktails. The dinner in Monaco was about 50 minutes which was more than enough! It was one of the best meals and the service was great! I Guess i’m used to spending $35AUD where i’m from on meals so i thought the food was really cheap.
~ You only got a single room if you were a couple or paid the extra for the Single room. I loved sharing with 2-4 people. It was a great way to get to know your tour mates. We ended up sharing the room for most of the trip. While i went with my sister we ended up sharing different rooms. That was our choice though You got to choose your room mates most of the time.
~ There was only 2 people on our tour who got bitten by bed bugs. I do suggest taking something just in case.
~ The only time we used public transport was in Rome. We walked everywhere else. walking was a great way to see the city. We stayed in a group of about 6.
~ There were strict laws for Bus drivers. You do get a 45 minute service stop but after 2 – 3 hours everyone needed something to eat and a toilet stop. They do not like you using the toilets on the bus unles absolutely necessary. The Bus was always on time and our tour manager had a meeting place for us when we were out to walk us to the bus. If we wanted to tay out longer you had to find your way back to the hotel / cabins. We went out quite a bit. Taxis from the sites are usually only 25 Euro. Make sure there are 4-5 people with you and it doesn’t cost much at all.
~ I heard a bit of bad things about the food with contiki so i wasn’t expecting much. Breakfast is just Toast with spreads, cereals. Sometimes we got an omelete. Dinners wern’t too bad. The ony one i didn’t like was the Rhine Valley. Our tour manager did warn us this wasn’t the best of meals so we all had something big for lunch. i liked the Tuscan meal. The food wasn’t the best but there was so much food and we had a great time. Wasn’t a big fan of the Lemon Cello
~ Cookies and Dishies was a great way to socialize with the Contiki site reps. I only had to do it once. It’s not the best job but you can’t expect the contiki reps to do everything.
~ As for Food Allergies – On day One our Tour manager asked us all if there was any allergies. All the people with Allergies or religous beliefs got individual meals. Sometimes they did have to wait until everyone else had their meals though. I do suggest telling Contiki or your Travel agent prior to leaving so they can be prepared.
~Overall i got to see everything and more on this tour. I would definitely go through Contiki again. Our Tour Manager and Bus Driver were fantastic. They gave us great tips and were really professional. The most i paid for a drink was in Amsterdam. It was 9 Euro for some spirits.
I think this review proves how important it is to do your research BEFORE booking a trip. I’m booked for this trip next August and nothing you’ve mentioned is news to me. All of the information is available on the Contiki website and in the brochures, discussion boards, Facebook, etc. It’s unfortunate that that your trip did not meet your expectations but I don’t think Contiki can be blamed.
I agree with TriniExporer, you should have done some more research prior…. sounds like the concept tour was not the right way to go for you as a couple, you may have been better suited to a time-out style tour, or a longer in depth regional one!
I’ve never heard anything about having to cook and clean up ?! And i’ve read all through the brochure i was given. Also it’s Limoncello. I’ve still got my fingers crossed that this is going to be the best trip ever !
Also, how early did you have to get up each day? And when you say mate do you mean your partner or friend? I’m traveling with my fiance and was led to believe that there will be twin rooms at each stop?
One more thing… Surely when people are off doing the optional stuff you can go off and explore?
What tour are you booked for? The budget tours like European Experience have a mix of twin and quadshare accomodations so unless you’ve paid extra to guarantee twin share thoroughout the tour there will be times when 4 people will share a room. Also quadshare rooms are same sex.
From what I’ve read on the budget tours there will be 1 or 2 days when you’re asked to help cook or clean, mostly at the contiki villages and stopovers, that’s the trade off of a budget tour compared to a superior.
I can’t comment on the optionals question as I haven’t been on this tour as yet but most people seem to do the options to make the most of their time. I doubt there’d be any rule that says you can’t go off on your own but you also have to consider paying for your own transportation to wherever you went off.
I hope this helps…. I believe your trip will be what you make it so if you plan ahead you can have a great time!
I did the European Experience and most of the time the optionals were on the first day at the place we stayed at. Most people do all the optionals but i guess if you don’t want to do them you can go explore. The second day is usualy yours to do whatever you want. Most days the bus left around 8.30 – 9am but breakfast is usually served 1/2 hour before. If your a cookie you need to go into the kitchen 15 minutes before. If you are travelling with your fiance you will generally be given a room to yourself but i would suggest clarifying this with contiki or your travel agents. There was also 1 place where couples wern’t alowed to sleep in the same room. It was all the same sex rooms. I can’t remember where this was though. It was at a hostel/hotel so it wasn’t at a contiki site.
Thanks TriniExplorer and Explorer~1987 for your feedback :). It’s the European Experience I’m going on. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it all works out well :) x
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