Everything you need to know.....
21 May 2007
So you want to go on Contiki eh? Well, with the right attitude you will have one of the best times of your life. Guaranteed. That experience can be further enhanced if you follow some wise advise on the do’s and don’ts of being a contiki traveller. <BR><BR><BR>1. Thinking of going?<BR><BR>What are you waiting for?!? Hurry up and do it! Seriously though, it can be a bit daunting booking a tour. Especially if you are doing it on your own. You needn’t worry though. A huge majority of contiki travellers go solo. It’s a great way to meet new people and you’ll have couches to crash on all over the world after the tour. If you are concerned about your age eg Am I too young/old? Then you needn’t be. Each tour will have a pretty broad range of people with the average age being around 22-25. Contiki is all about attitude and not at all about your age. <BR><BR><BR>2. What to pack<BR><BR>Ok. So first things first. Lets talk packing. You do not need to race out and buy a backpack specifically for a contiki tour. If you already have one or you are planning on doing some solo travel as well, then great. Otherwise, the bus will deliver you door-to-door between destinations so you can survive with a suitcase. It is worthwhile taking a sleeping bag. You probably won’t need it in France or Italy in the summer but you’ll want it in the swiss alps (unless you’ve got someone else to keep you warm by then…..). It doesn’t need to fit in your luggage so you can just tie it to your pack/case. <BR><BR>Now, what do you need to put in your luggage? Well clothes are a start. Remember, its not a fashion parade. Do not expect your clothes to return in the same state they started out in, so probably best to leave the Prada at home. Up to you. You will need something a bit dressy to get into the casino in Monte Carlo. Jeans won’t cut it. It terms of getting laundry done, there are washing machines at most of the campsites. Just remember to take some laundry tablets. If you are too busy and/or lazy to do it yourself, some of the campsites have a laundry service. It can be a while before you get to one of these sites though. <BR><BR>Here’s a trap for young players….the humble towel. If you like a shower in the morning before getting on the bus (and who doesn’t after a big night), then you will be faced with a quandary. How are you meant to pack a soaking wet towel and not have it infect the rest of your luggage and also be of use that night? Here’s a tip, try taking two smaller, thinner towels. On the morning you are travelling, store your wakeup-shower towel in a plastic bag or isolated pocket of your luggage and dry it out once you get to your next stop. You can then use the second towel for a shower that night. Genius I know. My Nobel prize should be turning up anyday now….. <BR><BR>Electricity. I bet you have stuff that needs it. This too can be an issue for travellers. First up, bring a power adapter for the countries you are going to visit. Secondly though, bring a double-adapter. Powerpoints can be few and far-between and chances are, someone will have gotten there before you. Having a double adapter allows you to share a point at any time. Probably best to write your name on it. Ideas this good are worth stealing…….<BR><BR>Take sunscreen. When you are in France, Italy, Monaco etc forget you have it and leave it in your bag. Europe has the distinct advantage of not sitting directly under the hole in the ozone layer unlike countries like Australia. Therefore you don’t burn to a crisp after 5 minutes outside. Believe me, a few days without a shirt on in the south of France will give you a tan your friends will still be jealous of in 2 months time. The sunscreen only comes into play if you decide to go enjoy the snow on top of the Swiss alps. Reflection is a bugger, it really is. You will walk off that mountain glowing pink without some sunscreen. You have been warned. <BR><BR>Also be aware they do have insects in Europe and many of the cabins do not have flyscreens so a bottle of insect repellent will save you from scratching all day and having people think you have lice. <BR><BR>Money, Money, Money. Before you go, grab some money for each of the local currencies of the major countries you will be spending time in. eg British pounds and Euros. (Personally I wouldn’t worry about Swiss francs until you get there). Get enough to last you a couple of days in each. Then, make sure your cashcard will work overseas (eg is cirrus compatible). Sure travellers cheques are nice and safe, but trying to find somewhere to cash them will waste you a lot of time you could be spending doing fun stuff. <BR><BR>Drugs. Go on…on the popular kids are doing them. Specifically I’d be thinking about taking throat lozenges (after a hard night of singing karaoke), paracetamol/ibuprofen (who says german beer doesn’t give you a headache?), and Imodium (if it happens, you’ll know why). <BR><BR>Finally, take condoms. Its contiki. Even an ugly bugger like you might get lucky. <img src="http://connect.contiki.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif" alt="Wink" width="15" height="15"><!--graemlin:;)--><BR><BR><BR>3. On the bus<BR><BR>You will be spending some time on a bus. Most of it you will be attempting to catch up on the sleep you didn’t have the night before. Here’s a few tips. Firstly, its all about the seat positioning. If your tour is full then this is more of an issue. It gets hotter and stuffier up the back of the bus. That said, everyone knows the cool kids sit up the back…..go figure. A small pillow can be a decent idea as well since neither the window nor the shoulder of the person next to you is particularly comfortable. <BR><BR>There will generally always be music playing through the bus speakers. If you fancy yourself a bit of a dj, then program a playlist on your ipod and get your tour manager to give it a spin. Be aware, not everyone may be as into emo rock as you are…..<BR><BR>4. Photography<BR><BR>Take photos. Lots of ‘em. Then take some more. You’ll appreciate them later. If you’re in the digital age (as you well should be) then take plenty of memory with you. A few gigs should do it. If you’re using film, then you’re a weirdo….. Also, having 2-3 camera batteries is invaluable. Having your camera go flat while you’re in the middle of Rome is not cool. <BR><BR>A couple of tips for your photos. <BR>- Take photos of signs. This way you know where you were. <BR>- Take more than one photo of important things. The viewfinder on your camera can be deceptive. What looks like a great shot can actually turn out to be just slightly out of focus. Take a few shots just to be sure. <BR>- Get some photos of yourself. Its nice to prove you were actually there. And it keeps your parents happy. <BR><BR><BR>5. Sightseeing<BR><BR>Contiki makes this really easy for you. They will drop you right where the action is and they’ll give you a map with all the big sights on it. Often they’ll organise a walking tour with a guide to see some of the sites and then after that its generally up to you to see what you want. That said, its worthwhile doing some homework before you go to see if there’s anything else that’s a bit less touristy that you might want to check out. <BR><BR>Make use of public transport as it can get you to a lot more places in a short amount of time. Just be aware that pickpockets tend to hangout in subways. Keep your hand on your bag/wallet and you will be fine. <BR><BR>6. Language<BR><BR>No need to enrol in French classes. You tour manager will give you a run-down of how to say some of the basics (eg hello, please, thankyou) in each of the countries you visit. It’s a good idea to remember them. They will take you a long way….<BR><BR><BR>7. Social Studies<BR><BR>So you’re on a bus with 40 people you don’t know. Chances are you’re going to get on better with some of them than others. That’s just how it goes. The bus will divide up into a bunch of social circles. Don’t be too quick to only hang out with the same 5 people though. Try and get to know everyone. It can take a while for some people to come out of their shell and the people you spend most of your time with on the first couple of days may be very different from the people you end up hanging out with by the end of the tour. <BR><BR>Just remember, its not high-school. Everyone is there for a good time, and regardless of how annoying/quiet/loud/drunk/sober someone is, nobody deserves to be given grief about it or *****ed about. <BR><BR><BR>8. Hooking Up<BR><BR>So you’re at the bar after a long day of seeing the sights and there’s a cute girl/guy on your tour with a really cute accent. You have a few drinks and a few laughs and one thing leads to another. Woohoo for you right!?! Well possibly not. If you were in the heat of the moment and don’t really intend spending the remainder of the tour with the person in question, then this can result in a couple of really awkward days being trapped in a bus with them. Don’t get me wrong, if you only have eyes for him/her and vice versa, then rock on! Contiki has spawned more than a few couples over the years. Just be aware that the inter-bus hookup is fraught with danger. Do so at your own peril…..<BR><BR>Another option for the frisky among you is to hit on people from other tours. Each campsite with generally have multiple tour groups staying each night. Just find out where their next stop is and if its in the opposite direction to you, chances are you’ll never see each other again. A note for guys doing cabin tours, you are instantly more attractive to girls doing camping tours if you have a cabin. Especially if its raining. It’s a fact. <BR><BR><BR>9. Partying<BR><BR>You’ll have plenty of chances to party. Almost all of the contiki campsites have a bar and some of them are among the best party spots on earth. Seriously. You also get plenty of nights out on the town to mix it with the locals throughout the continent. Drinks can be a bit expensive in Europe though. Its often not a bad idea to pick up a bottle or two in town before heading back to camp for a few pre-drinks before the nights activities. <BR><BR>Its important to note, the partying thing is not enforced. If you’ve had a big day, and all you want to do it get some shuteye, then that’s totally up to you. Generally some nights are bigger than others. If you are staying in a city for more than one night, then the night of arrival is generally the best night to par-tay since you don’t have to get up and on the bus the next morning. <BR><BR><BR>Well that’s about it. You’ll have a blast, trust me. Just remember to be open to new things and enjoy every minute of it. <BR><BR>If you have any questions don’t hesitate. <BR><BR>Ciao!<BR><BR>Contiki Pete.