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What do you wish you'd known?
- travel advice
- 844 responses so far
Hi everyone I’m doing the London to Athens plus Greek Island adventurer tour June 1st .It would be really helpful if anyone has any tips or just want to share there experience with me :)
Western Highlights Sep/Oct 2013
I wish I had Known:
1) That my hair dryer had no blow. I totally regret taking one (it was a travel sized one) as it had no air flow, and all the hotels we stayed in had better hair dryers (except vegas)
2) That I did not need all my clothes. I took 4 tops, 2 pants, a skirt, jeans, jacket, cardigan, one going out dress, 2 going out tops, and an outfit for the plane. I ended up not wearing 1 of the pants, the jeans, the jacket. and….
3) To take more going out / dressy clothes. I had jeans and two nice tops, but it was waaaaay to hot for jeans. I ended up buying 3 dresses to wear out at night
4) To take my boloro jacket. I ended up wearing a cardigan out at night (I get cold arms) and then I would have to carry it/hold it in the clubs, it was so awkward.
What I wish that I had done:
1) gone and had pizza and gone to the midget bar in Scottsdale with my tour friend as the clubs were dead. It was neat getting a drink from our tour guide and dancing with mates, but I think pizza and midgets would have been better
2) I wish I had gone down to the water front instead and seen the marine statue of the man kissing the lady as aparently it was really cool. Instead i went to the outdoor mall and wasted time
3) Sea World NOT San Deigo Zoo. I thought the zoo would be really cool, but it sucked, and I missed out on seeing my favourite animal (orca whale)
4) stayed out later and split the cab!!!! 20 buck cab ride, and my room mate came home 10 min later with about 2 other people, i could have gone with them.
5) NOT had a meltdown in vegas….. long story but I woke up way to early when at grand canyon, then was super tired.
6) gone to the major casinos when i had the chance, and not gone to the outlet mall, so not worth it.
Mis. 1) That I had spent less. I spent waaaaaaaaaay to much on stuff that I now don’t want as it just takes up space and is useless. For my next trip, a post card in each place and ONE gift for my friends/family, not 3 or more
2) That I had been brave and taken public transport all the way to the hotel and got 20 bucks off my tour manager
3) that I hadn’t bought a bikini, i didn’t wear it.
ONE MAJOR THING I WISH
i had had a better camera
i had had a smart phone – or had the smarts to get my mates room # so I could contact them when in vegas – i ended up wandering alone.
THINGS THAT I DO NOT REGRET
the long helecopter ride
the jeep ride
making some amazing friends
doing the robot in clubs
teaching my new friends how to ‘sweep the floor’ (dance move) among others
rapping (badly) on the tour bus
drinking like mad in vegas (you can drink all day and all night so why not)
paying for the club manager, we got to go to the roof of rio which was amazing (see not having a good camera though)
Hey guys! This thread is awesome, so much good info. I’ve done the 46 day camping tour in Europe and the Asian Adventure and could probably write a book filled with advice/tips etc, but here’s a few that come to mind …
*Pack vs suitcase: Take a suitcase. There was nowhere on either tour that a suitcase wouldn’t have worked, and the pack was annoying, especially in Europe where I sometimes had to carry it further than I would have liked. It was hot, and carrying a heavy pack on my back was just irritating.
*On that note, pack light. You may think you’ve packed light enough, but you haven’t.
*Hairdryer: I didn’t take one in Europe, because I figured I didn’t need one for camping. I just let my hair dry naturally which worked fine – by the time we went out at night I could usually do something with it. In Asia some hotels had one, some didn’t. I used it when it was there, but didn’t miss it when it wasn’t.
*Straightener: Didn’t take one to Europe, because again, camping. Might have been helpful in Asia to combat humidity-induced frizz issues, but not having it wasn’t the end of the world.
*Make-up: Take a little bit in Europe for places like Monaco or the concert in Vienna, but keep it simple. In Asia, don’t bother – it’s so humid there that it will sweat off your face as soon as you step out of the hotel air-conditioning, and you don’t go anywhere so fancy that you really need it anyway. The only people I saw with fully made up faces were the ladyboys (though admittedly, they did look gorgeous).
*Shoes: Some of the girls had issues with heels getting caught in cobblestones in Europe, but mine were more like wedges so they were okay – having said that, some girls just wore flats and those were fine. In Asia I took a pair of flats but only wore them once, most places you can just wear thongs/sandals/flip-flops. For during the day I wish I’d had hiking boots/walking shoes in Europe, because my feet got so sore! Sneakers didn’t cut it with all the walking involved. Thongs/flip-flops will get broken, so be prepared to buy more! I wore sport sandals most of the time in Asia and they were great, especially for things like the Hilltribe visit in Thailand – much sturdier and less slippery than thongs/flip-flops.
*Money: I took a cash passport/travelex card (two cards linked to the same account), my normal ANZ debit card, and my normal credit card. In Europe I kept them all with me. In Asia I took two of them (ie, one travelex and either the debit or credit card) and left the others in my bag at the hotel in case one set was lost/stolen. Had no problems (except with cash passports in Laos – they’re supposed to work all over the world, but some of the ATMs there were from local banks that didn’t recognise them, and when I tried to use them it registered as having the wrong pin number and locked the card. Fixable, but annoying).
Clothes: I learned pretty quickly to give less of a f** about what I looked like – when you’re on a camping tour you just want to be comfortable. Take some nice stuff to wear out at night if you’re going somewhere fancy, but during the day make sure you’re comfortable. Don’t bother trying to keep up with the locals in Paris or Italy – as long as you don’t look like a total slob, they don’t judge travellers too harshly. In Asia, you’ll sweat through all your clothes anyway, and it’s the same for everyone, so you learn to all be gross together :D
*Charging things: On the European tour there were four outlets on the bus for about 45 of us to share :) A few of us had powerboards and shared them around, but that started to overload the outlets after a while, and a few of them stopped working/emitted blue smoke. Also, some people have selfish moments, so you might plug your stuff in to charge, then find later that somebody has unplugged it and put their own stuff in >:( Didn’t happen too often, but annoying when it does. We had an unofficial rule that cameras took first priority, phones were second, and iPods last. Campsites had a few outlets in the bathrooms, but unless you’re willing to stay there while they charge, it’s not very safe.
*Alcohol: Pace yourself. Most nights I had a few drinks, but only a few really huge evenings that resulted in a massive hangover. Fun nights, but climbing the Eiffel Tower/crossing the border from Thailand to Laos would have been more fun without the pounding headache! Drinks were expensive at some of the bars/clubs in Europe, but not all of them – and they were really cheap at supermarkets/campsites, so we did a lot of pre-drinking. Cheap as chips everywhere in Asia. Nobody will judge if you’re a non-drinker or want the occasional night in!
Passport: I took mine everywhere with me on both trips except in Phnom Penh, because our TM said not to (bag snatching is an issue there, and Cambodia is a s*t of a country to have to get a passport replaced in). Left it in my locked bag at the hotel, no problems.
*Leaving stuff on the bus: Nope. Not if it’s anything valuable. Our bus was broken into in Rome and some people lost laptops/phones/passports, which were a pain to replace.
*If you’re going to Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia, gather up as many hotel toiletries/old clothes you don’t want/etc as you can and donate them to the people who live in the lake village :)
*Money purse/bodywallet type things – don’t bother. They’re hot, itchy and irritating, and often they’re so bulky you can see them through clothes anyway. Fairly useless under dresses also. Keep your cards/money as secure as you can, and put an emergency $50 in your bra or something (guys, I guess maybe in your shoe?).
*Backpack/purse/handbag – in Europe I had a small backpack and it was a huge annoyance. Because it was on my back I felt like it wasn’t secure unless it had a lock on it. That was great for safety, but it was so inconvenient fiddling around with a combination lock every time I wanted something. Plus it got filled with unnecessary crap, it was bulky, and like with the big pack, it was too hot having something against my back all the time. I got an anti-theft shoulder bag to take to Asia and it was great – no lock, but a clip that hooks the zip to the side of the bag, so it was much easier to use, but still a deterrent for pickpockets.
*Neck pillow to sleep on the bus – I got an inflatable one so it would take up less space, it was comfortable enough, especially if I put my jacket over it. But on that note – don’t spend all your time sleeping on the bus, because some of the scenery is amazing. I loved seeing the rural parts of Macedonia and the tiny villages in Laos – lots of my tourmates missed out because they were dozing.
*Sleeping bag – you do need one for the camping tour, but you can buy them fairly cheaply from Contiki and they don’t count towards your luggage weight (and they don’t actually have to go in your bag). You can also donate them back to Contiki in London at the end and they give them to the homeless :)
*Do all the optionals, you never know if you’ll get another chance, and they’re all pretty awesome :) I usually do everything except bike tours (a Haley on two wheels is a Haley with a broken bone) and there’s been very few things I haven’t loved. The dinner in Amsterdam was only okay, the food was nothing special and we all hung out in London the next night anyway – but everything else, on both tours, absolutely rocked.
*Tours usually have lots of other optional activities not listed on the itinerary – these are organised by TMs who do it just to be awesome :)
*Re tipping the TM, they recommend about 3 euros/dollars per day, but on the 46 day tour we had a TM, a driver and a chef – so as much as I thought they were all amazing and deserved a great tip, I couldn’t afford to give them all $150 euros each. They won’t expect an extravagant amount, just tip what you can/what you think is fair. Lots of people are almost broke by the end anyway!
*Don’t worry if you’re a solo traveller, on both my tours it was about 50/50. Roughly half were with friends/partners, the rest were all solo, you make friends on the first night anyway :) Also, don’t worry that you’ll be the oldest on the tour – both my tours had a variety of ages, and nobody really cares how old you are. One thing I worried about a little bit was being the “fat girl” – I’m not exactly tiny, and I was a little concerned that I’d be travelling with a group of judgemental people who would make me uncomforable, but nothing could be further from the truth :) Everyone was very cool, and extrememely friendly!
*Laptop – I wouldn’t take one. In Europe a few people had them (this was in 2010 before smartphones were everywhere), but they were constantly worried about them getting lost/stolen/broken, and they were a pain to lug around. They came in handy at a few sites where there were only a couple of computers for everyone to share because it meant they didn’t have to wait, but they still had to pay for the wi-fi, and most of the time we were too busy to be online anyway. In Asia everyone just used their phones – wi-fi was free at every hotel (though the signal wasn’t very strong in some of them).
*Camera – I just have a little point-and-shoot digital, because I’m not much of a photographer and I tend to get too wrapped up in whatever I’m doing to want to spend much time snapping pictures – but everyone is different. Some people on my tours had huge cameras with tripods and stuff, so if that works for you go for it. I normally left my camera behind on nights out because I didn’t want to break/lose it, and I knew I wasn’t going to use it – you’ll all share pics on facebook afterwards anyway, so whatever you don’t have photos of, someone else will, and you’ll have some awesome shots of things they’ve missed.
*Learn a few words in the native language (both my TMs were great about providing language sheets for us). Even if you make a complete balls-up of it, locals will appreciate the effort :)
*Get any vaccinations that are recommended before you go. In Asia I took malaria tablets, as did most of my travel mates, but our TM said that most Contiki staff don’t bother with them and they’ve always been fine -she suggested that if they tablets make us feel sick, we should stop taking them. Mine didn’t have any side effects though, so I took them, but lots of people didn’t and they were okay.
*TMs will let you know which countries you can drink tap water in. Bottled water is cheap everywhere, but even in countries where you can’t drink tap water, I still brushed my teeth with it and had no issues.
*Paris public transport is piss easy to use – and I’m one of those people who usually can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag. Even hungover and on my own I had no problems with it, and contrary to popular stereotypes, French people are super polite and helpful with semi-clueless travellers anyway :)
*On the camping tours, you have to work, so sign up for a job quickly if you don’t want to be stuck on the kitchen bitch/dish hand roster :)
*Italians have no need for road rules, and WILL bump into you at busy intersections if they feel like it. If you want some semblance of respect from them, slam your hand down on their car and swear at them in their own language :)
I have a million more things I could add, but this post is already super-long – feel free to ask any questions! I’d also love some advice on the Grand Southern if anybody has anything specific to that tour? :D
hello i am doing the Wild Western on 02/09/14 and just wondering if anyone had any tips or good places to visit? also i’m from Australia and wondering how anyone with an Australian Drivers Licence went getting into bars and places? thanks!
Any advice on the European explorer incl cruise would be great! I am going in august!
What to pack?
What you wouldn’t pack?
I’m going with my best mate & we both have never been on contiki before! There is a lot of great/useful info on this post but it’s kind of stressed me as there are ALOT of things I would never have packed or even known (like rarely washing cloths)! I’m sure I’ll be fine but id love to chat with someone who has done this tour at roughly the same time!
Michael – for the most part you’ll be pretty right with your drivers licence, but some places will want your passport. Ask your tour manager as they’ll know for some of the bars/clubs that they recommend or take you to. But if you’re not sure, best to take it just in case. Nothing worse than not being able to get in when everyone else can :)
SarahD – thank you that helps a lot :)
As a first time traveller this discussion has been sooo helpful! A must read for any traveller :)
WOW….I’m so glad I read this, so much information I really wanted to know and don’t have to ask anymore. I’m doing the Western Rocker ( Italy, Switzerland and France) in August. Can’t wait…so excited already. Thank you to everyone that posted their experiences for us future travellers.
This discussion has been invaluable! Thank you to all who have contributed. My best friend and I are going on the Spotlight on Greece plus 3 day Greek Island Cruise in August. Has anyone else been on this tour or is anyone signed up for the same tour in August?
Given that this is only an 8 day tour, I wanted to know if the coach days will still be long and if items such as a travel pillow are still recommended? Also, what was the cruise ship like? Were the cabins very small? I know that on the cruise portion we will be spending the night on the ship and will not get to experience much nightlight on the islands – what were the nights like? Was the “nightclub” on the ship any good?
Any insight anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much.
I am going to split my answer to this in 2 parts
I have done 2 contiki tours so far and doing 2 more by the years end. I did LA to the bay and Euro experience.
-Clothes-Everyone has said pack light and I agree, the last thing you want is to take a whole stack of clothes that you are never going to wear, be strict when packing, think will you actually ever wear this. I found the basic essentials is enough. Old clothes that you can toss out during or at the end of the trip is always a good idea. I often take old pairs of jeans that I can throw out at the end. Dress clothes that can be folded and squished are good but ladies and guys during the day its not a fashion show, think practical and think about where you are such as Italy or Greece where its hot but you might want to enter a church and they have rules about what you can and can’t wear.
–Shoes, high heels are great if you are wanting to look fancy but in many European cities the clubs are on cobbled streets so it becomes unstable to walk on. Take closed in shoes as for walking in, thongs. Might I suggest that if you are going to Venice wear closed in shoes as there was a girl on another tour with us that stepped in water wearing thongs and ended up having something nasty happen to her foot as the water she stepped in had sweage that had come up during the flooding.
–cameras, passport, phones, money I am a photo nut constantly taking photos, photo every spot you go to, take some of you in them! Don’t play around with your camera as you could end up deleting all of your photos as happened to a friend of mine.
Phones take them but get a overseas phone card/sim, the cost less the 50AUD nowadays. DON’T put them in your pocket when finished with them, put them in your bag as phones are gold to thieves, it’ll be gone before you know it. WIFI is so easy to access these days.
Take a little about of cash with you, even of each currency as sometimes cards may not be accepted or in some cities everything closes on a Sunday so having access to money could become a problem. Some places are more expensive than others so budget, don’t go nuts with spending, had people on my last tour that were down to their last 50 bucks and that had to last them for a few more days.
Your passport is something that you should keep hidden and with you, in the back pocket of your bag or somewhere you know its safe. It is such a s*** to get another.
–Health Everybody get sick on tours, the contiki cough starts the moment someone gets a sniffle, take cold and flu drugs with you. Panadol, band aids, hand wipes, tissues are something that I never go without, you may not need them but someone will. Sleep, you don’t need to party every single night, so many people on my tour told me at the end that they can remember the start of the tour and then end everything else is a blur so take it easy. Keep a bottle of water or juice with you at all times, don’t just live of booze
Part 2 to my answer
–TM and driver As I stated before I have done 2 contiki’s before, both times my drive was great, friendly, had a laugh with us, took care of us. TMs on the other hand, my 1st contiki the TM was a right prat, he was the most drunk out of all of us half the time. Couldn’t tell us much about where or what we were doing and was hitting on most of the single girls and was often the 1 disrespecting out people that he didn’t like. My other TM was great, went all out for all of us. Told us everything we needed to know, gave us suggestions on what to see in our spare time, she had a million and 1 things to do but seemed to have all the time in the world for us.
–Optional I often went for most of what activities were on offer, some of them I regret doing as they weren’t worth the money but if it is going to get you into a attraction a lot quicker than do it, such as getting into the colosseum, the lines where long and some people that had chosen to not take the optional ended up waiting for ages to get in.
–Time, solo, people, research on the tour and Bus Sometimes spending hours on the bus, it got to be a really drag. Use your time wisely on the bus sleep, do your travel journal or get to know you tour mates. I take a book and my iPod with me when I wasn’t talking to people. The bus can’t wait for you, if your late its your own fault, on my La to the bay tour we waited for over an hour for a guy to get on the bus which made us late getting to our next spot.I am a quite person and it often takes me a few days to come out of my shyness, I was like eep 50 people! My last tour was fully booked out, most of us were Aussies or Americans (I’m Aussie) we all got on great, there were little problems but that was main due to people being assh***. Talk to the people on the tour as you are going to be spending time with them, try and not be that person where everyone wants to leave behind. I have always travelled solo, I have found it much easier to do so but 50/50 of the people are solo on the tour, you’ll find someone to talk to or share a room with.
I research in my Lonely planet guide the next place we are visiting, before you leave home actually do look at what you where you are going, it really annoyed me sometimes at the fact that some people had no idea where we were going to be the next day and were like so what can we do there. Buy a guide book or look up wiki travel or something, it is safer to know than not to know. Learn a little of the language even if its hello or where is this, I speak French and German semi-fluently but that’s because I choose to before I left to go to Europe the 1st time and the amount of time I spent having to translate for people, the locals will love it if you could at least say something to them in their language.
Last but not least have fun, you have paid money to be where you are so enjoy every moment of the journey. Live in the moment!
Things I wish
I wished I had packed that t-shirt but forgot
I took earplugs
I had more time in some cities
I had never packed that scarf that I never wore
I hope that the drunk photos of me don’t end up on Facebook for my family and friends to see especially my grandma
Im doing Thai Island Hopper West tour and would like to know what i should take along and what i shouldnt. Anyone some tips please? it will be my first trip to Thailand so not sure what to expect. Thanks
Im doing Thai Island Hopper West tour and would like to know what i should take along and what i shouldnt. Anyone some tips please? it will be my first trip to Thailand so not sure what to expect. Thanks
Great thread! Ive been reading this over the past few days
I have a question about the Parisian dinner? Does anyone remember what time that started roughly?
I pre-purchased a ticket for the eiffel tower but the only time available was 3.30pm. From reading travel reviews and forums it seems the bus picks everyone up at 4pm? So I’m pretty sure il end up missing the bus :/ but i was thinking i might be able to take a change of clothes with me and just meet everyone at dinner after my eiffel tower thing..? Any advice? Cheers :)
The Contiki group I was wish last week got seated at 7pm. I was running all over the city and missed the meeting time. I ended up taking a taxi and getting to the La Nouvelle Eve place at around 6:30. When I told the host that, he just told me to hang out and wait for my group to go in together. I’m sure from the Eiffel Tower to La Nouvelle Eve won’t be too long. Just make sure you let your tour manager know!
Thanks for your reply Rosanna (:
So 7pm for the dinner or the show?
I’m doing The Escape tour through europe at the end of September and i was wondering how much spare time i will have in each city? I plan on doing all the optional extras, but after that will there be time to explore on our own?
These posts are so helpful, but most of them seem to be about Europe. I am doing the Big Walkabout with Sailing. Does anyone have any tips for travelling in Australia or has anyone been on this trip? Must have’s, do’s and see’s?
I did a Contiki tour quite some time ago and documented my entire trip – from accommodations to restaurants to attractions and more! Here is my Contiki Video Diaries pt. 1 travelchickdiaries.com
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