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What do you wish you'd known?

18 Jul 2007 ashleightara asked

ashleightara
I'm curious to know what ppl wish they'd known before they went on their trips, and only discovered afterwards...

For example,
Did you miss something in a town you wish you'd known about?
Did you pack something, and never used it?
Did you NEED something you didn't pack and had to go in search of it?

In particular, looking for different advice to what is already available on the board...share you experience so others can learn from you 'mistake'.

Thanks Smiler
  • 20 Jan 2014 ChelsAc said

    ChelsAc

    Hey, I am going on the Western Rocker tour (Rome, Switzerland and France) and then heading onto England this April. Has anyone been on this tour and have any tips/travel advice or packing suggestions? This will be my first time traveling overseas, and I will be going alone. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me! :)

  • 21 Jan 2014 rachaelnhunt said

    rachaelnhunt

    Hi Allison!

    So I did the Ultimate European back in August – October and even in August the weather in Italy was incredibly hot, and by the time we got to Greece the weather was beyond amazing. Considering that’s their summer you’ll experience hot hot weather.
    I never really stuck to the same amount of money each day because there are a lot of atm’s around at most places, but usually I would have around 100 – 200 euros just in case.
    The tap water in Greece is definitely a no go, your best bet is to just buy bottled water over there, making sure you’re getting still water because it’s sometimes very hard to notice whether it’s sparkling or still (gas or no gas as they may ask you). I was really surprised just how much money I spent on bottled water but what a lot of people did was when you went to a shopping centre/grocery store/small store, if there were packs of bottled water, get them. It works out a lot better in the long run but I guess it just matters whether you can stand drinking room temperature water because majority of the mini fridges that were in the rooms (if they even had them) didn’t even work. But I prefer room temperature water anyway.
    By each stop I assume you mean arriving at the campsites/hotels/rooms then yes, usually you have enough time to freshen up and get changed. I guess every tour is different, but I found that we always had enough time to freshen up once arriving. Just utilise your time as best as possible.
    And finally, when you receive your Contiki Documents you will have in there everything you need to know including all of the hotel names, addresses and I believe there are phone numbers there too?

    - Rachael.

  • 23 Jan 2014 Ashlee said

    Ashlee

    Hi Emily,

    Unfortunately it does matter what kind of TM you get. I did European Escapade in 2012 and our TM was absolutely horrible. He had a horrible group of people on one of his previous tours & thought because we were doing the ‘same tour’ our group would be the same. The first 10 days he was an absolute douche, didn’t care about what he was doing and didn’t help anyone if we had questions or anything (One of the girls had her passport stolen in Paris and his response was “Oh well, you should have been more careful. You will have to wait until we get to Rome to fix it and try to get a new one”. Our driver was great though. In saying all of that, we did run into a lot of other groups at different places and a lot of the other TM’s were great. They were out with there group and night and just seemed like great people. The only time TM’s should be strict is when the bus has to leave in the morning or at a stop during the day. It’s a really long drive between certain places and any delays in leaving will make it even longer.

    The European Escapade is a great tour! I really believe that you need to have at least 2 nights in most places as it gives you a chance to see the city better as you have a full day and sometimes even a few hours the evening before. I budgeted for about 100 euro per day while I was in Europe but I am a big shopper and knew that I would be buying ALOT. The days we travelled from city to city I barely spent anything as you don’t have anywhere to buy anything (except lunch when you stop for half an hour) but the days we spent in the city I bought whatever I wanted. I tried to have enough money so that I could do all the optionals and buy whatever I wanted, I didn’t want to be held back.

    I’m not to sure what the weather will be like in June as I did my tour in September but I’m sure it will be warm. I would still take a cardigan or Jacket for some of the nights that may get a bit cooler. It also gets pretty cold on the bus so I ended up using my sleeping bag as a blanket most of the time (I get cold very easily though). Make sure you take lots of Vitamins, cold and flu, panadol and anything else you may need in a first aid kit. Our entire bus was sick by the end of the tour and when I get sick now I still get the nasty cough I got over there.

    In regards to losing things, I lost my phone over there and was absolutely devastated. A couple of people also lost there camera’s or had them stolen. Make sure you back up your photo’s on the cloud or somewhere as once you lose them you wont get them back. Make sure you have great travel insurance that will cover you if you do lose anything.

    Try not to stress to much, you will have an absolutely fabulous time! :)

  • 24 Jan 2014 Courtney_H said

    Courtney_H

    I wish i had have known NOT to go the little lady who lived next door to the hostel that the tour guide recommended to wash and dry our clothes in Dubrovnik, Croatia. All my brand new clothes shrunk by about three sizes and I had to give them all away!

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  • 28 Jan 2014 Emily said

    Emily

    Thanks Ashlee! I hope my TM is good :/ but ill make the most of it regardless. That helped alot thanks heaps! Am I the only one who is OBSESSED with the tour? From the moment I saw the European escapade I was hooked and I’m on this website almost every day re reading forums and discussions and looking for more to read. I re read the tour details, day dream, everything it’s crazy! I just want it to be June already!!!

  • 28 Jan 2014 Emily said

    Emily

    Also how much spending money did you take? Was it enough? Where was your favourite place to eat?

  • 3 Feb 2014 cherie said

    cherie

    I recommend:

    getting an ipad camera connection kit. It allowes you to put pics from your SD card right onto your ipad

    I also got a local SIM card for my ipad when in the us so I had Internet on the bus. Amazing for all the times I was bored on the bus
    Take a spare iPod cord
    Going out at night even if you don’t drink

    Hope this helps :)

  • 3 Feb 2014 TessaClare said

    TessaClare

    When I went on the European experience tour our guide was kinda lame and serious. Just didn’t gel with our group. Some people voiced this to our bus driver and she could witness it too. Anyways I think she called head office and in Florence we got a new amazing tour manager!! So if ur group really is battling, let someone know and contiki will do something about it. My guide on my Asian adventure tour was incredible. So awesome. Knew so any tricks and tips. Included everyone. So there are some gems out there.

  • 4 Feb 2014 Jess said

    Jess

    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 :)

  • 8 Mar 2014 ashlee said

    ashlee

    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)

  • 10 Mar 2014 Kassandra Peddle said

    Kassandra Peddle

    Hey, I am doing European Discovery Aug.6th, this thread has definitely mentally prepared me for my trip! Can’t wait and will be looking at it again when it comes time to pack, thanks everyone!

  • 17 Mar 2014 Travlin'Hippie said

    Travlin'Hippie

    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

  • 25 Mar 2014 MichaelPunch said

    MichaelPunch

    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!

  • 30 Mar 2014 hayleeb said

    hayleeb

    Hi guys!

    Any advice on the European explorer incl cruise would be great! I am going in august!
    What to pack?
    Recommendations?
    What you wouldn’t pack?
    Anything!

    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!

    Thanks :)

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