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What do you wish you'd known?
- travel advice
- 844 responses so far
Hi Leana – I’m thinking of taking a hand bag for the day and maybe have a calico bag in it in case I pick some stuff up while shopping. I’ve been told that bag snatchers are aplenty so I really want something that I can hang across my body instead of just over my shoulder. I don’t think I want to take a backpack on the excursions, but will definitely be keeping one. I know this handbag issue is quite a headache. For the night I’m just going to take a small toiletries bag. I think even a plastic bag will do, doesn’t have to be cool. Which trip are you doing? I’m doing European Experience on 16 Sep.
Hey guys. I went on the European Whirl from July 21 to August 7, 2011. I found this discussion very helpful before I went, so I thought I’d contribute with my thoughts from my three weeks on a Contiki tour.
I was in the US for six weeks prior to Contiki and budgeted accordingly. However, I should have flown into London a day earlier than I did. I left NYC at 8am on the 20th, but didn’t get to London and through customs until 9.30pm, meaning I missed the group meeting. Although many others missed this meeting and that it is only brief, I would have liked to have met a few tour mates during drinks at the London Pub prior to the morning’s departure. Make sure your suitcase (bag that goes under the bus) weighs no more than 20kg. Weight restrictions are enforced and I had to put a few items in my carry on backpack.
ON THE COACH: Yes, some of the journeys can be quite long, but by law the coach must stop every 2.5 hours for 45 minutes, so you can be guaranteed of a break for food/toilets. The coach was quite comfortable, I was able to sleep most of the time, I used my iPod plenty and it was a good chance to speak to/get to know your fellow tour mates. Our tour only had 37 people (most have about 45) so there were spare seats. Don’t be afraid to get up and go sit down next to someone you don’t yet know and have a conversation. They won’t bite and remember, they’re there for the same reason as you are! There are six power outlets (Euro plug) on each coach. I don’t think there was a time when I wasn’t able to charge my devices. Also before the tour, put together a cool iPod playlist to play at some point of the tour; there is an iPod cord into the bus stereo so everyone can play their music.
ACCOMMODATION: Our tour included a good mix of hotels, hostels and Contiki camp sites. Despite a couple of the places being quite warm (Italy), it’s never unbearably hot. I took a sleeping bag as recommended which did come in handy, but if you really don’t want to take one, don’t. You can go without it if you must. Some of the accommodations are a distance from the city centres so be prepared to get a cab back from a night out, share with others and the fare is quite affordable. Most places you will stay will be either close to a convenience store or have basic items for sale on site if needed.
FOOD: The supplied food was not five star quality, but Contiki never claims it to be. All the breakfasts were quite fine and the dinners were also good. If you’re lucky, you can even have seconds at times. I found that all of the optional dinners were quite enjoyable. Again, you’re not going to five star restaurants, so don’t expect that standard of food. Plus, the optional dinners are a great chance to dine with your tour mates and have a laugh about the day’s happenings and plan for the night ahead.
OPTIONALS: Almost everyone on tour did all the optionals available, with the exception of one or two here and there. Personally, I did them all and don’t regret a thing. Yeah sure, some of them could be done slightly cheaper not through Contiki, but it’s all part of the tour and doing it together with the crew. Refusing to pay 20 Euro for a river cruise with the group because you can do the same for 15 Euro by yourself wouldn’t be very enjoyable one thinks. In my experience, the only optional that I wouldn’t have bothered with had I have known about it was the ‘Eye Spy’ in Berlin. It was a very short, boring tour by an American guy which finished with a couple of beers at a bar; not worth the 20 Euros I don’t think.
CLOTHING & SHOES: I was quite happy with the clothing I took and was never without anything I needed. I took two pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, four t-shirts, four singlets, one hoody, two collared dress shirts, plenty of underwear and socks, one pair of tracksuit pants, one spray/rain jacket, one pair of runners, two pairs of Havaianas and one pair of leather dress shoes. I also had with me a pair of Skins (sports compression tights) which were great to wear under my trackies when at the snow in the Swiss Alps.
MY HOT TIPS:
- Make sure you have a power plug adapter and a power board with multiple outlets. I had my phone, hand-held digital camera, DSLR camera and netbook to charge, so when you can charge them all at once, it’s handy!
- Snap heaps of photos, not just of the scenery/buildings, but of the people you’re with. They’re a much better souvenir than an Eiffel Tower key ring or an I LOVE ROMA t-shirt.
- Take hand sanitiser gel/wipes for when you can’t wash your hands.
- Plenty of memory cards if you don’t plan on taking a netbook/iPad. I took a netbook and a 1TB portable hard drive and it was very handy. Every day on the bus I uploaded all my photos into a folder for each of the places we visited.
- Having some pain/gastro/antibiotic medication and a small first aid kit in your luggage can and will come in handy.
- Start getting to know people ASAP and avoid sticking with the same group all the time. I made it a personal goal to find out (and remember) the names, home countries and occupations of everyone on my tour. Everyone has at least one thing in common, so find out what it is and run with it.
- Get someone to set up a Facebook group for your tour. Keep it closed so only people in the group can see its content. It’s great to be able to share the ‘private’ photos/videos and memories from the tour, as well as staying in contact with everyone.
- Enter the name/address/phone number of the places you stay if you plan on going out for a big night. It’s easier to show a taxi driver where you need to go rather than trying to explain it (they don’t all speak English!).
- All the optionals need to be paid for in Euros to your Tour Manager at once, so make sure you hit an ATM/cash machine within the first couple of days and get the amount needed.
- At least try to speak the some of the language of the country you’re in. Even if it’s a greeting, please or thank you. It can be the difference between a shopkeeper/waitress giving you good service or ignoring you…and it’s handy knowledge to have for the future.
- Have fun and remember, the tour doesn’t last forever, only a few weeks. Meet as many people as possible, don’t hold back from doing something you usually wouldn’t, buy something or do something because you want to (don’t worry about money!) and keep an open mind. In Europe, it’s not wrong, it’s just different.
- Make sure you stay the night in London when the tour ends. Everyone can hit the London Pub, have a few drinks and say their farewells.
I know it’s long, but I hope the above tips can help a few of you out. If anyone has questions or queries, I’m happy to help, so don’t hesitate to ask!
wow, great tips here :)
i’m doing the european adventurer sept 1-oct 9…….any weather/packing advice from people who have been around europe during this time? its getting to be time to pack and i’m still not sure how to plan for the weather!! any advice would be great!
I’m glad I:
*packed WAY less than I thought I needed, I still didn’t wear a lot of my clothes I had packed
*stayed @ the Royal National the night before the tour started and got as much sleep as possible. Even though the tour departure meetings aren’t until later in the day, arriving that day can be hell. I got as much sleep as I could the night before the meeting because I figured I wouldn’t sleep much on the tour and I was right!
*packed downy wrinkle release. EVERYONE on the tour borrowed it nearly every night, it’s amazing stuff!
*immediately opened up and starting chatting with everyone at the departure meeting. A large group of us went out immediately after and drank for hours, then were close the entire trip
*packed advil! Each morning I was handing it out at breakfast. I also packed pepto, tylenol sinus, etc. I was glad I did, it came in handy for everyone!
*DRAMAMINE! I get naseous incredibly easy so it was great for the boat ride and cable car rides in Switzerland. Plus those who suffered hangovers appreciated it on the bus rides!
*didn’t miss a thing even though I got hella sick 3 days into the tour with swine flu. I fought through it and kept going, toured every day and went out every night but 1.
*packed a portable/battery operated ipod charger that I got from 5Below. Yes there are outlets on the bus but only a few and there’s usually a LONG wait for them.
*packed an inflatable pillow and small blanket. It was summer but the tour bus got COLD. I threw them away the last day.
I wish I hadn’t:
*wasted my time in Paris shopping. Seriously, SEE THE SIGHTS! Don’t waste ALL day shopping. Big mistake
*gone to the ER in Rome. Waste of time and taxi fare.
*forgotten a flashlight. They come in handy when trying to navigate your way back to the hotel in wee hours of the morning
*forgotten a hoodie (sweatshirt). It can get cold in the evenings and on the bus.
Branch out, be yourself, take everything in stride, and expect the unexpected! Don’t stress the stupid things, just relax and enjoy every moment of the trip!
Hey guys not sure if you have seen this link yet but it goes to my travel blog. I did the Ultimate European earlier this year and I have written a day by day account of it. Hope it is helpful http://bit.ly/conlink
Kat I had an inflatable one which was convenient for making really small, but really any small one will work. A lot of people had the beeny type ones and seemed comfortable. I left it on the bus the entire tour. We only had 31 people on our tour so everyone basically always sat in the same seats or the same area.
Loving this forum the advice on here is great!! I’m going with my best friend on the Mediterranean Highlights (Start Madrid) tour leaving May 18-31, 2012. If anyone else is going on that tour we would love to get to know you! Can’t wait, we’re so excited!!!
Oh and can anyone enlighten us on the time for wake-up calls… and the tipping policy in Europe…
Thank You (:
I just returned (literally last night) from the Spotlight on Greece + 3 day Greek Island tour. When I was flying from the US my flights were majorly delayed and I missed a connection, when I was rerouted by the airline my luggage got left in Norway and I was without it the 1st 3-4 days of the trip. So I thought I’d add here some of the things I wish I would have done/known. I’ll come back later and add the things that I was glad to have or have done.
–- I’m glad I had a carry on with my medicines and toiletries, but I wish I would have fit 2 full outfits in it rather than just 1. This way I would have had something to swap around for clothes and wouldn’t have had to buy more so immediately.
- Next time I will definitely make sure there are longer layovers between flights both coming and going. I had no idea that that when you arrive in a new country (including coming back to the US) you have to go through customs, get your luggage, check your luggage again, and pass through security again. For this I would not mind a layover of at least 2 hours.
–- Next time flying international I will travel 1 day early no matter where I’m going. I really feel the extra expense will be worth it, so there is less stress starting the tour. On the same note I was really glad that I stayed an extra night in Athens at the end. This was a nice way to end the trip.
- I will not travel without my phone again. For phone calls I got by fine having an international calling card, but there were a lot more free wifi spots than I expected and I would have liked to have had my Blackberry. Plus I really could have used it within the US when my out bound flight was delayed.
Just an add on guys, i was wondering if it is worth taking/using a moneybelt at all, my parents are stressing heaps to me about it .
Nah Beck1986, i wouldnt bother, every time you get money out its pretty obvious, maybe a cash clip though they can be handy cause you can get money out discreetly, but seriously, chances of being robbed are pretty slim, what trip are you doing?
I like a money belt for the big cities. But I keep my daily cash in a wallet the money belt is for excess cash that you tend to end up having on a ling trip.
Thanks, doin the london to athens , but i have about a week and a half before the tour and after so i suppose it will come in handy then (especially when im by myself). have you been on this trip?
Just got back from a 29 day Contiki Contrasts, hopefully my video will give you some idea’s on what you will and wont need.
I wish I knew that when someone breaks into your room in the middle of hte night while you are sleeping and steals your purse with everything in it but your cell phone, contiki does nothing for you, even though you are on a contiki campsite, and they tell you that you are on your own to get to a city with an embassay to get a new passport as contiki doesn’t stop in any cities with one….. thankfully the crew did find my bag with only the electronics and money gone, but still had credit cards and passport…. so end of story, wish i knew to cuddle with my belongings even though I locked the door and hid the bag they still found it.
What do you expect Contiki to do? Inconvenience the whole group to transport you to the nearest embassy??
using travel packs of tissues for when you ran into the moments where you had to pay for the tissues or found that there was none :)
using travel packs of tissues for when you ran into the moments where you had to pay for the tissues or found that there was none :)
such useful tips and hints, I’m doing London Paris + Rome starting 27 December 2011, so excited and want to start packing now!!!
what exactely is the “contiki cough” and the “contiki cold”?
Ahhh, the Contiki cough is damn awefull. I never get sick back home but got the contii cough. its kinda like your whole chest is clogged up…everyone gets it, id say take some antibiotics from your doctor…
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