29 Jun 2014 - 11 Jul 2014
Eastern Road was the second Contiki tour for my husband and I. We loved the European Discovery trip a bit more than Eastern Road, but have no regrets and had a fabulous time.
One major difference is that with Eastern Road, many of the cities aren't as well known as say Rome or Paris and doesn't have major attractions like the Colosseum or Eiffel Tower, but this trip we felt was best enjoyed through taking in the culture of the city, the food & drinks, & the history (more so pertaining to WWI & WWII). We also really enjoyed having 2 nights in each city with more of a relaxed itinerary. I'd have to say that Prague was most beautiful, especially at night. Budapest is a great city, easy to get around, lots to see, & great food. Krakow was a wonderful surprise. Easy to walk everywhere & great atmosphere. All of the included meals on this trip were great and at decent restaurants, some with traditional music. All of the hotels were nice & clean and close enough to the city center to either walk, take a tram/train, or a cheap taxi. They all had decent to great wifi.
ME TIME OPTIONALS:
Berlin Walking Tour: skipped because we walked around the day before and saw most of the sights and wanted to check out other things (the Jewish Museum in Berlin is incredible and worth going out of your way to visit)
EyeSpy Tour: also skipped, heard mixed reviews from the group.
Traditional Czech Evening: Live music & dancing. Fun atmosphere. A plate full of duck, sauerkraut, dumplings, cranberries, ambiguous meat patty... basically a pile of meat with a few sides. Very filling.
Nuclear Bunker Tour: Could have been uninteresting and boring, but the guides were entertaining and interesting and we also had a Communist dress-up photo-shoot.
Schnapps museum: skipped to have more time walking around the city.
Viennese Classical Concert & Dinner: skipped to see a different concert in St. Stephen's. Less than half of the group attended, mixed reviews.
Budapest Dinner Cruise: Great buffet. Gorgeous view of Budapest at night. The lights are stunning. Good time socializing with the group. A must.
Parliament Tour: The architecture and interior of the building is stunning. The tour is boring. I tend to take in everything visually and not retain much historical information, but I found the building worth seeing. You might only be there once.
Salt Mines Tour: Be prepared to walk 100 + meters underground for 2-3 hours. Aside from that, it's super interesting, unlike anything I've ever seen. Lick the wall.
Polish Pierogi Night: Excellent food. Demonstration of pierogi making was fun. Overall great dinner.
Bike tour in Prague: My husband enjoyed this way more than I did. Prague is crowded. The streets are cobbled. I couldn't enjoy the city on a bike because I was too concerned with not hitting a pothole in the cobblestone, not hitting a pedestrian or the bike in front of me or other random bikers, not getting hit by a tram, getting thru the 6 second tram lights, and your face will jiggle the entire ride also. Wasn't my fav.
Auschwitz/ Birkenau: Moving. Eye-opening. Sad. A place you will never forget with history that should never be forgotten.
Walking/bus tours: The best walking/bus tour was in Prague, mostly because we had a fantastic tour guide that was interesting and engaging. The guides in Budapest, Krakow, & Warsaw were a little dry. We did a bit of them then would cut off on our own.
Our Tour Manager, Tasha, was fantastic. Very easy-going and organized. She created great handouts called "Tasha in Your Pocket" which we used many of her recommendations for museums, restaurants, & sights. Super helpful. Pete, our bus driver, was very friendly also.
After doing two European tours, personally nothing has yet to compare to Paris, but these cities were very enjoyable and beautiful. Berlin and Warsaw were my least favorite. Berlin doesn't have quite the grandeur and beauty of other European cities and much of the architecture is very blocky and rigid, but the history is compelling and there are many monuments & wonderful museums (Pergamon & Jewish Museum were excellent). The public transportation was the worst in Warsaw, couldn't find any tram or bus maps. The city is quite spread out and we spend the majority of our time in the Old Square. Did eat twice at Zapiecek's, a fantastic traditional polish restaurant, worthwhile!
Being married and a bit older than most of our tour mates, we tended to split off on our own more so than most of the group. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend this trip. And most of all, to travel without expectation. Then everything will be a surprise and a new experience. My biggest pet peeve was to hear people whine about how something wasn't as they thought, 'why they didn't have free wifi at a cafe in Slovakia or that the caesar salad they ordered wasn't the correct caesar salad...' Traveling is an adventure. So why leave home, travel hundreds of miles, spend lots of money, and have the same expectations as you do at home? Contiki's motto is all about NO REGRETS. We experienced amazing cities, visited 7 countries, ate delicious food, met 50+ new people, and thoroughly enjoyed our time in eastern Europe!
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
29 Jun 2014 - 11 Jul 2014
I had a fantastic time on this tour and would highly recommend it to anyone! I had a great group and the most amazing tour manager, Tasha, who knew exactly how to serve everyone (culture vultures, foodies, partiers, shoppers - Tasha had all the answers to make every traveller happy). Pete the driver was courteous & transported us everywhere safely, helping with translation in every city.
5/6 hotels you'll stay in are great - the only "mediocre" one is the one in Berlin (no AC, bad Wifi, not particularly easy to access from public transport). As this was my first impression I was worried that the rest of the accommodations would be similar to that of Berlin but fortunately it only went uphill from there. The hotel in Vienna was my personal favourite (even if the Wifi wasn't good) and the breakfast I enjoyed there was the best breakfast I've ever eaten.
My group was incredible - I called ourselves "sophisticated by day, wild by night" and each member of the group seemed to embrace the diverse range of interests and backgrounds of those on tour.
All 6 cities are magnificent - everything in Prague is spellbinding, Prater in Vienna was a welcome surprise, Budapest was beautiful (if not very warm - bring summer attire!), everywhere was stupendous.
Bring an umbrella as it will rain but it never rained for longer than 15 or so minutes at a time.
One of the most important aspects of the trip is the pilgrimage to Auschwitz. This alone was worth the entire trip.
You'll eat lots of meat, sausage... some of the meals are better than others, but you'll never go hungry as there are McDonalds, KFC, and kebab stands everywhere.
DO THIS TRIP, you'll be happy you did! :)
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
25 May 2014 - 06 Jun 2014
As my first time traveling alone as well as my first Contiki trip, I was thoroughly impressed with how well the trip was organized and had a truly incredible experience. I always felt safe and comfortable while on the journey. The tour manager, Nick Papadatos was phenomenal. He was knowledgeable, fun, outgoing, personable and truly enhanced every part of the trip for me. Fortunately the group that I went with was a great group of people who all enjoyed going out at night, but also appreciated the historical significance of everything we did.
I signed up for every additional activity and regardless of what other reviews said the Classical Concert in Vienna and Parliament Tour in Budapest were absolutely worth it. If you have any sort of appreciation for classical music you will definitely enjoy the evening. As for the Parliament Tour, it wasn't the most exciting tour seeing as the tour guides are older but the building itself is exquisite and the architecture is magnificent.
If I had to choose one thing that I was disappointed with I would say that I would've liked to go into every cathedral and castle that we saw, but there simply was not enough time.
Here's a brief summary of each city:
Pros: Walking tour was good and full of historical facts; food was great.
Cons: Hotel was awful - no air conditioning and small rooms. Also, all of the museums were closed on Mondays so we did not get to go to any museums on Museum Island. Eye Spy Berlin tour - definitely not worth the money. Not as cool as they make it seem in the brochure.
Pros: Bike tour (which we did after it down poured and it was still one of my favorite memories from the trip), traditional Czech dinner (the food itself wasn't my favorite, but the evening itself was great!)
Cons: The Nuclear Bunker tour was great- but not as authentic as I would've liked it to be. It has been used for video games and things like that so there are XBOX stickers on the floor and took away from the historical significance of it - but I am still very happy that I did it.
Pros: ALL OF THE OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES - Schnapps tour was great! Classical concert was wonderful. Prater was fun and the Praterdome was easily the best nightclub I have ever been to.
Cons: The city itself wasn't impressive - if it weren't for the optional activities I could've done without this city
Pros: MOST BEAUTIFUL CITY I HAVE EVER SEEN. If you've heard a lot about the beauty of Prague - just wait till you get to Budapest. Dinner cruise was amazing and so picturesque. Sparty - if you don't know what it is - look it up. (Crazy but definitely worth while just to say you've done it!). Also, before you go check to see if they have any festivals when you are traveling - my group was lucky and I got to both the summer festival on Margaret Island which was stunningly beautiful AND I also experienced the Hungarian food festival which was fun and the locals are great. The Fisherman's Bastion was beautiful and made me fall in love with the city. Definitely do the Museum of Terror - it's a great precursor to visiting the Concentration Camps in Poland. Also, visit Margaret Island - it's a great little spot to hangout for an easygoing afternoon.
Cons: There are none.
Pros: Salt Mines Tour - Just do it. You won't regret it. Pierogi. Pierogi. Pierogi!!! Definitely try the traditional Polish drink at the bars - it's similar to Apple Pie and it's amazing.
Cons: Hotel breakfast wasn't as great as the previous cities but it was still good.
Pros: Good nightlife. Pierogi!!!!! The final night was wonderful and it was nice that it was included on the trip.
Cons: Not much to do in the city other than walk around and soak in the sites
*Auschwitz and Birkenau were truly sobering and completely numbing. I have been interested in the Holocaust and WWII for quite some time and have studied it, therefore visiting the camps is one of the main reasons I chose to do this specific trip. It's good that it falls towards the end of the trip because at that point you feel comfortable leaning on your Contiki family when the emotions set in.
Fun things about the trip:
The day song that your tour manager picks - after you get home, when you hear it on the radio you will always remember your Contiki travels and the amazing people you met while on the tour.
Nightlife - even if you're not a big drinker, there is something for everyone. Go out with the group to form some great memories that will last a lifetime.
Worst hotel - Berlin
Worst food - Prague
Worst optional - Eye Spy Berlin
Best food - Poland.
Best set of "Me Time" activities - Vienna & Budapest
Most historical - Berlin and Auschwitz/Birkenau
Most beautiful - Budapest & Prague
Best nightlife - Vienna & Budapest
Best hotel - Vienna
Review written Jun 2014event 0.3
11 May 2012 - 24 May 2012
This was my first trip with contiki, I've never joined a youth trip like this one and I have to say it was a great first impression.
Yes people on this trip and my next ones are very young, however when you are travelling, the age gap doesn't really matter as everyone is just trying to have a good time and we are sharing the same experience with each other.
We had a great tour manager, she is extremely professional, helpful with a youthful spirit. She brings a lot of energy to us and she hung out with us on most night, same as the bus driver.
Food is just alright but that's the Eastern European Cuisine for you...meat and potatoe everyday...don't have high expectation on it if that's not your type of diet. Vegetarians beware as easter european don't believe in no meat meals so your dish will always be less impressive than the meat lovers...
Hotels are quite good for this trip, Ibis and Noveltels are the staples, they are much better than the old hotels in Italy though. Rooms in Europe are always small so don't try to compare them with the ones in North America.
Overall, amazing trip, great itinerary and met a lot of cool people. =}
Review written May 2014event 0.3
26 May 2013 - 07 Jun 2013
From dancing on bars to sipping beers in ancient courtyards this tour is a mix of the old and the new. Plenty of opportunities to party and so much history to appreciate. This tour does go into more somber areas and history of Europe but it is history to be remembered. Going to Auschwitz and Birkenau was incredibly hard but so moving. All together the tour was amazing and our tour manager made the whole trip something to remember forever.
Review written Oct 2013event 0.3
21 Jul 2013 - 02 Aug 2013
I guess if you are reading this review then you want a few questions answered. Should I do this tour? Which optional extras should I do and which can I skip? What's hot and what's not? I'll try my best to help you with these most pertinent questions.
Should you do the tour? Hell yes! For me the tour was amazing and a real mind growing experience. But what makes the tour so amazing and warrants my high rating? I have a keen interest in World War II and I don't believe that another tour can offer so much in terms of experiencing this pivotal point in history. Even if you are not an avid WW2 follower the sights are amazing nonetheless. Other than the history, the shopping, arts-and-culture and the night life are all top notch. Every city has something to offer for whatever it is you may hope to experience. I also found that the crowd on this tour was older than on my previous tour. There were more people in the 26-27 age group than teens who were still wet behind the ears. While you have to love teenagers, the truth is they behave poorly and can be quite annoying. If you are reading this review and in are in your teens, don't be offended, rather make sure people don't say the same thing about you. So quite obviously, I really enjoyed my tour mates. So let me begin then:
BERLIN: Berlin is an extraordinary city, even more so when you consider that it was ruins after WW2. The historical sites here are aplenty and the people are super friendly. I had an extra day in Berlin and even that wasn't enough. There's so much to see and do so get there early or better still plan an extra couple of days in Berlin at the end of the tour.
The hotel in Berlin is probably the worst of the hotels on the tour. The biggest complaint that people had was the lack of an air-con. But are you going to Berlin to relax in your hotel? So for me it wasn't such a disaster. However if that type of thing bugs you then buy a fan or something. Anyway it's not supposed to get very hot in Berlin but it was over 30 degrees Celsius while I was there. By the way I did this trip in July; the middle of the European summer. The breakfast in the hotel is great; lots of fresh options and even a desert. There is a subway station near the hotel (Magdalenestrausse) but be prepared for a 2km uphill walk from there to the hotel. If you've just been traveling for 20 hours to get there, this can be a tough walk; made worse by the heat and the fact that you have to lug your suitcase all the way. Again, this is part of the fun of traveling.
The tour starts in the evening, so the first night is just admin and chilling. I needed some sleep on the first night so I just had a few beers at the bar down stares then had an early night (the only one on the tour). Both the activities on the 2 days in Berlin were optional extras. The first one is a guided tour through Berlin. For €10 I highly recommend it. It's quite a long walk through the city but well worth it. The guide will give you plenty of historical information and show you most of what you need to see. After that you have the afternoon off. I would recommend that you visit either the TV tower or the Museum of German History (not both). If you do go to the museum, start at the place that interests you most because the place is huge and by the time you get to the WW2 stuff the afternoon will be over. We had dinner at the Horfbrauhaus that evening. Now if you've been to the Horfbrauhaus in Munich then you might want to jump at the opportunity to visit the one in Berlin. Don't be! It’s no where nearly as good, it just doesn't have the same atmosphere. They don't sing any beer drinking songs, the crowd is minimal and the beer maidens or more like normal waitresses rather than the muscular German woman that can carry 6 huge beers in each hand and can probably knock you out if you disrespect them. The beer is still really good though. The best of us managed 2 liters of beer in the time we spent there. Let me know if you manage to do 3. The next optional extra is the Eye-Spy-Tour. This again consists of a walking tour but a much shorter one. However, after that, you end up in a bar followed by a night club called Matrix. The entrance to the club is included in the €16 that this optional extra costs. With all that you get for this extra, I also highly recommend it. The club was great, so you'll have a blast and have a great opportunity to party with the tour crowd, and get to know who all the bad dancers are. You depart from Berlin pretty early the next day, leaving no time to see more stuff, which is why I reckon you should plan a few extra days in Berlin. This is the case with most of the cities on the tour.
You will need extra time in every place.
PRAGUE: The journey to Prague is not too long as to give you an ass cramp or so short that you can’t even sleep. For me the journeys on the bus were all about sleep. There’s a lunch stop in the beautiful city of Dresden. I think that after even after such a brief visit I might want to go back there. Keep an eye out for all the restored (burned) buildings. The hotel in Prague is an improvement to the one in Berlin and is pretty much the standard that you can expect for the rest of the tour. The breakfasts are good too albeit not as good as Berlin. For me, Prague was the best city on the tour. It is by far the prettiest and the nightlife there is amazing. The architecture is particularly stunning and on those streets, you will certainly feel like you are walking through the middle ages.
There are 4 planned activities in Prague. First there is an included guided walk through some of the historical parts of Prague. This walk includes the castle complex and the Charles bridge. The problem is that you really have to keep close to your guide in quite crowded parts of the city. We lost our guide on a few occasions and for a significant part of the tour, couldn’t even hear her. I think you can maybe give this a skip and possibly spend more time at the castle or the bridge. There is an included meal at the end of this walk so make sure you catch up. I can’t really comment on the meal though, probably wasn’t great or too bad.
After that there was an included bike tour through Prague. I enjoyed this excursion, but a lot of people gave it a miss, more due to fear of falling off the bike though. It’s a great way to see the city as the bike gives your feet a bit of a rest while still affording you great views. Next, is the nuclear bunker tour. This tour is an optional extra that costs €18. I found this interesting, but the problem is that it is immediately after the bike tour and really doesn’t leave any chill time. I still suggest that you do it but for your health you may want to give it a skip especially if you did the bike tour. Finally, you end Prague off with the traditional Czech evening. This is really a lot of fun and is far more about the tradition and culture than the food. I remember that the beer and wine is included in the €28 so make sure you’re thirsty. Jump at the opportunity to try your hand (and mouth) at the weird drink dispensing contraption and hat tossing competition. I did and won a little drink as a prize. This extra is a must do.
Finally I cannot end the Prague section without commenting on the pub crawl. There were quite a few awesome nights on the tour but none as hot as this one. We did this on our first night in Prague and it costs in the region of €20. You crawl through 3 bar/clubs before ending up in the 5-story club. I had an absolute blast on this crawl. There are partiers from all over the world and it was simply amazing. It’s a mish-mash of people all interested and partying in a city renowned for its nightlife. Make sure you see the ice bar floor at the bottom of the 5-story club. Also don’t bother lining up for beer at the second bar, it takes way too long and you end up wasting your time. Rather stick with wine and shooters. Also you can take your drink with you through the streets so stock up just as you leave but make sure to finish before you get to the next bar. No wonder Prague is one the party capitals of the world. In closing I must say that the women in Prague are exceptionally beautiful. I envy the men there.
VIENNA: The Journey to Vienna is pretty much the same as the journey from Berlin to Prague. There is a short stop at Kutna Hora; an old church where the bones of dead monks decorate the interior. Quite freaky! You stop of at a weird fantasy-Excalibur world for lunch, where I must warn you against ordering the mega schnitzel. It really is MEGA. It doesn’t even fit on the plate. The hotel in Vienna is by far the best on the tour. It’s very spacious and comfortable, but more than that it is actually quite classy. Like Berlin the breakfasts here are also really good. I remember having lots of free time in Vienna so you can take it quite easy over the 2 days.
Your first evening is free so you have options of visiting various places. I ended up at the theme park, which in truth I kind of regretted. I’m not sure what alternative to suggest but I think one can do a lot better to experience a city than going to a theme park. There are only 2 planned activities in Vienna. The first one is the visit to the Schnapps museum for €8 and the second is the classical concert for €64. The Schnapps museum is well worth it. The visit is quick but informative. Please heed the advice of the guide and do not overdo it at the tasting session. The alcohol is strong and many people felt sick afterwards. You will get an opportunity to buy bottles at the end of the visit so rather get drunk on the stuff back home. I would recommend the flaming rocket and the Vienna gold.
Now the classical music concert is somewhat iffy. Firstly for €64 it really is pricy; almost ridiculously so. You get misled to believe that the concert is in the Habsburg palace, which it is, but is in some far away wing of the palace. The venue is more of a makeshift hall, rather than an actual theatre. The music is…Ummm…Ummm… Crap. I’m really not a fan of classical music but even those who were fans were not impressed. Some people fell asleep while others left after the break. On the bright side, there is an included dinner and it is the one opportunity that you have to dress up. Also it’s a Viennese thing so it is somewhat of a cultural experience. Nonetheless I do not recommend this extra. My suggestion is that you get dressed up, go out for a good dinner and meet up with everyone after the concert. There’s a really good club not too far from the palace, just opposite the parliament building. It’s a club with a huge outdoor area and great music. The queue is a bit hectic and you might have to fight your way in but it’s well worth the fight.
I also visited the Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Belvedere museum which was surprisingly enjoyable. Again start off with the stuff that interests you. If I remember correctly it costs in the region of €18.
BUDAPEST: The drive to Budapest is very short so sleep may be a problem in this journey. There is a lunch stop in Bratislava, it's not really long enough to explore the place but my initial impressions of the city were good. From there it’s a really short drive to Budapest. Budapest was probably the city I enjoyed the least, not because I hated it but more because of the other cities on tour that it had to live up to. It is the one city that you will visit where you can actually see the damage of WW2 and the lack of development through the communist era. Nonetheless it still has volumes to offer and the view from the top of the hill on the Pest side that is stunning. The hotel in Budapest is pretty much the same as the one in Prague but from here on the breakfasts get progressively worse.
There are 2 planned activities in Budapest, one is great and the other not so great. The river cruise is superb, the food is good (better than any of the other cities) and the views are stunning. There's also plenty of wine making the views all the more enticing. For €34 it is well worth every penny. The view of the Parliament building from the river is beautiful especially with it lit up at night. Having said that, the view is the best part of the Parliament building, because the tour through the inside of the building is just bland and uninteresting. For €18 you could do much better. I know that the history is the appeal but you could do much better spending your time on Google reading up on the building. This is the one extra that I would unequivocally suggest that you SKIP. Do not take my advice at your peril.
The highlight of Budapest for me was the Bath club. It's quite unique so let me explain. Budapest has a number of hot water springs throughout the city. These springs are used as normal spas during the day, however at night they turn the place into a club. You need to take a towel and swimwear with you. The entrance is approximately €20. You will receive an arm band and a smart card. You then need to load drinks-money onto your card. After that you can go to a locker room to dress and lock away your valuables. Your arm band serves as your locker key. Then you go and have a party in one of the hot pools, where an aqua DJ will entertain you. The concept is pretty cool and it is loads of fun. The hot water leaves with quite a weird hangover so take my advice and use the Parliament tour time to sleep in. It will all work out just perfectly.
I also visited the Terror building in Budapest during my free time. This museum centers around the oppression of the Hungarian people during WW2 and communist rule. The creators have done an amazing job to give you a full experience and you don't need too much of time to go through it. What's neat is that you can just collect all the information sheets and read them later at your leisure and spend the time in the museum on the visual stuff. It costs €16 and again, it was worth the spend. Finally, just remember: DON'T DO THE PARLIAMENT TOUR.
KRAKOW: This city was the most unexpected amazing experience for me. I knew very little about the place before the trip and so in a way I didn’t really expect much but it certainly surprised me. There is so much of history and beauty all around the city. The meals in Poland were the tastiest of all the countries both in Krakow and Warsaw. They also have a drink called an apple pie which you must try; in fact some people started drinking this as a standard from Krakow onwards. While the food in Poland was great the breakfasts in the hotels were terrible. The trip from Budapest to Krakow is very long, you may have a great opportunity to sleep but your ass will certainly protest. There is a short lunch stop in BanskaBystrica back in Slovakia where you must hurry. Here you order, you gulp down and you pay. You don’t have much time and the service is slow.
There is an included meal on the first night in Krakow. As I mentioned earlier, the food all over Poland is good and this place does not disappoint. There are only 2 planned activities in Krakow and they are both pretty short and easy going. The first is an included short guided walk through the city. The pace is slow so you can unwind a bit. The second activity is an optional extra tour at the salt mines for €20. It is worth the money and I would definitely recommend it. Other than that the rest of your time is free. I visited the Schindler museum which again for €12 is well worth the effort of getting there. Here too the creators did a great job of creating the right effect. Don't expect the whole museum to be about Oskar Schindler or his List though. The museum is dedicated to the Polish experience of WW2.
The night life in Krakow is great too. We ended up in some club close to the town square. The music was great and the crowd was cool too. Your time in Krakow is limited because of the long arrival Journey and the early departure. I would definitely plan to go back there some time and explore the place at my own leisure.
You depart from Krakow quite early for a visit to Auschwitz; about an hours’ drive out of Krakow. This was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. There are really no words to describe the place or the experience itself. All I can say is that you must do the visit and you should treat the experience with the respect it deserves. Don’t go on this tour with a hangover, take as few pictures as possible and immerse yourself in the moments. It may not change your way of life but you might complain a little less about the air-con in Berlin.
WARSAW: After visiting this city you will not be able to comprehend that 90% of this city was leveled in WW2. The city was completely rebuilt, but the city centre was rebuilt to look the same as it did before the war. You will still get the feel of an old European city centre. The movie “The Pianist” is set in Warsaw, if you’ve seen it recently; you may recognize some of the buildings (a certain archway in particular). There is a large restaurant at one end of the main square where the meals are exquisite. I highly recommend this place but cannot remember the name. All I remember is that the umbrellas on the outside deck are white with red print. I hope that helps. I also seem to remember that the restaurant is on the left of the mermaid in the centre of the square.
The trip from Krakow to Warsaw is also pretty long, more so in time rather than distance though. For some strange reason there are traffic lights on the highways in Poland. There is a lunch stopover at Czestochowa where you can also view the “Black Madonna”. Please do not shoot me, but it was kind of over-rated. The anecdotal story behind it is quite interesting though.
The best advice that I can give you about the hotel in Warsaw is not to eat their breakfast. It is horrible. Rather go out for breakfast, there are plenty of good places to eat in Poland. There is only one planned tour through Warsaw and it is mostly on the coach. You’ll have some free time on the last afternoon before the final big get together in the evening. To end the tour off there’s an included meal (with drinks) before you head out to a bar and club for the last big night out. This night is always bitter-sweet; you want to have a blast but you know that you may never see most of these people again. The next morning is even worse, not only do you have a terrible hangover but a grave feeling of finality also.
I guess that this feeling can only mean that you had a great time, for if you are happy to have the tour end that you could only have hated it. So do this tour, max all your credit cards and have a rocking time. It really is great. Five stars from me.
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
26 May 2013 - 07 Jun 2013
The Eastern Road tour was great way to see a bit of Eastern Europe. I loved the bike tour in Prague & the boat cruise in Hungry is a worthwhile optional extra. Even with having 2 night stops in most places, it's pretty full on, but heaps of fun. There's a good split between partying & seeing the sights. Joe our tour manager was awesome, definitely was key in making our trip as good as it was.
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
06 Jul 2013 - 19 Jul 2013
Overall, this was a phenomenal journey! I would definitely recommend it to MOST. If you're interested in culture, history, communism, WWII, sightseeing, etc. then this is your trip. If you are ONLY interested in alcohol and sex, maybe not so much. You can definitely get your drink on, but you need to think about if you really want to visit Auschwitz when you're hungover and if you really want to have a splitting headache when you're on a two hour bike tour of Prague. If you just want to drink and sleep, not your trip.
Overall tips: Poland is cheap - if you need to get gifts, get them in Poland! Always have snacks on hand, i.e. granola bars, because there are some days when we are just go-go-go and end up starving! Fly into Berlin and fly out of Warsaw, don't bother with the transfer from Warsaw to Berlin.
And as always, be on time to everything. The group WILL leave you and we will probably laugh about it, too. Don't be that person.
As far as the hotels go, they were all satisfactory and within reasonable distance to major centers. Those, like Austria and Budapest, which were not centrally located had easy public transportation. The only hotel location that was not satisfactory was in Berlin - a mile walk to the U-bahn station. Fine during the day, but a little sketchy at night.
More Specific Tips...
Germany: In Berlin, definitely do the daytime walking tour but the Eye Spy tour is a glorified pub crawl of two rather crappy bars. The Communist-themed bar was a let-down, mostly just red. The next place we went was disgusting. Next to the Berliner Dom, the Lustgarten has a great fountain that's perfect to cool off in. Don't waste your time with a big sit-down lunch in Dresden; grab a sandwich to go because you don't have long.
Czech Republic: In Prague, the walking tour is long but necessary. I skipped the bunker tour and didn't regret it. Definitely do the traditional Czech evening - in fact, do all the optional dinners. Aside from a good time, they're a bonding experience with the group. Kutna Hora is very small and the bone church is all there is so don't expect much. Get rid of your Czech crowns here. If you stop at the really strange amusement park/truck stop in the Czech Republic, just go over to the mall and get KFC. You won't be able to eat at the restaurants in the complex within the allotted hour.
Austria: In Vienna, enjoy your evening at Prater and definitely do some rides! And get the little sugared donuts. Climbing the Stephansdom was interesting, but there's just a small room at the top with some windows. History buffs should check out the Kaisergruft. Definitely take the Schnapps tour because it's cheap and you get three (or more) small shots as well as a trip to Schonbrunn Palace. The Mozart evening was fun, but don't feel bad if you decide to skip it. Definitely go to Tel Aviv Beach at night in Vienna - open air bars along with river! Save your Euros because Slovakia uses them, too, and you'll be there for two lunches. Hungary: Definitely do the river cruise.
Hungarian Parliament was beautiful, but you could skip it and not miss too much. The tour guide does bring you to Saint Stephen's Basilica, too, which is a good take-off point for the day. Go to Szechenyi for the baths but be prepared for a confusing system there - try and read about it online first. Go to the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, too - they're across from Parliament but hard to get to. Walk down the river away from Parliament and you'll see some pathways down to the riverfront. Tram 2 is easy to remember and a quick trip back to the Mercure. ChaChaCha offered a chill night out, but the place next to it is better. When getting in a Budapest taxi, set the price ahead of time.
Poland: In Krakow, do the salt mine tour extra, but understand that the mine is very much a tourist attraction. Beware if you have an elevator phobia though. Krakow is a great laidback town without a lot of big sites. The walking tour gets the necessary sites out of the way, then head to Old Town and visit the Cloth Hall for shopping. Definitely eat at Marmolada and get the fried meat pierogies - best I've ever had. Krakow is the only city I didn't take a taxi or public transport in because the hotel is so close! In Auschwitz, just be prepared for the emotions. In Czestochowa, go to the left inside the abbey to find the painting, but don't expect to get close. This is more of a really pretty and maybe miraculous bathroom stop. Still, definitely go inside and find the painting - it only takes ten minutes. In Warsaw, visit the Warsaw Rising museum, but other than that there's not a whole lot to see. Just enjoy the Old Town and have a nice, long lunch. Visit the PoleArt store that's in the square with the mermaid fountain. Don't skip out on your last night out because I think you'd regret it. Enjoy your last hurrah :)
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
20 May 2011 - 01 Jun 2011
I wrote this review 2011 shortly after going on this Eastern Road tour, so it is possible some of this information is outdated. I still wanted to post it, since none of the current reviews are this thorough. I will start with an overview of the trip and then detail each optional trip. The only optional trips I would absolutely skip are the Eye Spy Berlin and the Vienna Concert. All others are worthwhile.
Accommodations: The hotels were all decent. About half of them had air conditioning. Most were within 20 minutes via public transportation or walking of the city center. If you are a couple, the guide works hard to get you a double bed. My biggest complaint about the rooms, were the uncomfortable beds, but that’s just my opinion.
Transportation: You should expect to do a lot of walking when in each city. The public transportation is easy to use in most cities. Stick with a group if you are unsure about using the public transportation alone. The coach rides between cities are about 4 to 6 hours with a few stops for food. The coaches are very modern with air conditioning, a bathroom, reclining seats, and curtains. The roads are all very good with the exception of a few roads in Poland. Do not take the coach from Warsaw to Berlin if you can help it.
Food: The provided meals and optional meals are all very good. On your trip you will experience a lot of salty meat and potatoes. The food is good and there is variety if you look for it. Vegetarian meals are available. Try the local specialties in each city to get a truly cultured experience. None of the food I had on the trip was bad. Be adventurous.
Berlin historical walking tour: This is a long and thorough walking tour of Berlin’s many sites. It lasted about 4 hours for us. The guide was good and kept it interesting. It is well worth the 9 Euros. I would recommend this to everyone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in Berlin.
Eye spy Berlin: This was not worth the 16 Euros. It was with the same guide, but it involved much less. It was about 45 minutes of history. We then got a free drink at two lousy bars. You can see more and get more by skipping this optional. It is just disappointingly little for the amount of money it costs.
Traditional Czech evening: This was a fun dinner that is worth doing. The food was very good. The singing and dancing felt a little cheesy, but that didn’t stop it from being enjoyable. Sit with a group of newly made friends and enjoy good conversations over good food.
Vienna classical concert & dinner: This was disappointing for the price. The food was very good, but concert did not feel very grand. It was in a far off corner of the palace in a small side room. The seating was removable stackable chairs, and the orchestra was only about 10 people. The music was of average quality. The whole thing felt overpriced. With only one night in Vienna, you can find much better things to do than this.
River cruise with dinner: This was a lot of fun and worth the money. Dinner is an all-you-can-eat buffet, which provides the variety that most people need at this point in the trip. The city is beautiful from the water, and the boat has an open air upper deck. This is a fun night that I can definitely recommend.
Group photo: I didn’t get a copy of this. With digital cameras, I don’t know why you would pay for a professional picture. You can easily get pictures with your own camera of the people you want to remember. It is a beautiful place for a picture though. In either case, you’ll enjoy the area.
Parliament tour: I didn’t do this tour. I just didn’t feel like it was worth the time and money. The people who did it seemed to enjoy it. It’s up to you.
Salt mines tour: This was very interesting. It is currently the top attraction in Krakow for a reason. It is not very dark or cramped, so most people should be okay with it. It is worth the money, so I recommend it. They aren’t too strict on taking pictures either.
Schindler’s factory visit: This is a large interactive museum. It’s well worth the 6 Euros it costs. The tour guide went too slow and covered too little in my opinion, so I would try to break off of the group if you can. There’s a lot of history to see while you’re there, so don’t get too absorbed with the Schindler’s List movie information.
Air Travel: (This is based on my experiences.) British Airways is a terrible airline. Avoid them if at all possible. They are responsible for all of the worst parts of my trip. No seat reservations, lost luggage, large surprise fees, rude and unhelpful staff, ect. I flew 4 flights with them on my European journey and there were issues with every flight.
Review written Apr 2013event 0.3
14 Jul 2012 - 26 Jul 2012
I can say without a doubt that this was the best two weeks of my life. This tour has so many things to offer, from rich incredible history, amazing unique experiences, visiting fascinating places and amazing nightlife and parties every night! It is truly the perfect mix of culture and fun.
The accommodation was really nice and usually reasonably close to the city squares, especially in Krakow (really great underground cave bar there, check it out!) Budapest, Prague and Krakow were my favourite cities. This tour had so much partying and something exciting happening every night which was the best for adventurous people like me.The pub crawl is Prague was INSANE. I don't actually remember most of that night except it was so much fun! The nightlife in Eastern Europe is crazy so get amongst it!
Going to Auschwitz Concentration Camp was a once in a lifetime opportunity and was truly eye-opening, I'll never forget it. You will learn so much history about the Berlin Wall and World War II which is still so evident in all the cities. Learning so much was a true highlight of this tour for me. The cuisine was so delicious (especially Hungarian goulash) and the optional dinners were the best experiences to have a great night with your contiki mates and try new dishes.
Petula and Angela were our brilliant tour guides, easy going, so much fun and energetic, and full of knowledge. I had the best time with a great group of people from a variety of ages and cultural backgrounds.
I would definitely recommend this tour because it is the perfect way to discover Eastern Europe. I wouldn't change a thing!
Review written Sep 2012event 0.3
08 Jun 2012 - 21 Jun 2012
This was my third Contiki Tour and was definitely an average experience. My first two tours were incredible and I didn't want them to end. Eastern Roads had a few things that I feel could have been organized a little better by Contiki such as the location of the hotels in Vienna and Berlin. They were far away from the city centers, making it difficult to get anywhere. The hotel in Vienna was a 5 star resort that was 45 minutes from the city center. Also, I would argue that those two cities are not really Eastern Europe. I would probably add Bratislava and get rid of Vienna. Vienna was cleaner than Kirk Herbstreit's hands before he touches the microphone.
The tour group was an interesting bunch. I'm probably a little biased as my New Zealand tour group was 46 girls and 14 guys and I'm a 25 year old guy. Eastern Roads was probably 55% guys and for me, partying with a bunch of 22 year old frat guys is just not as much fun. I understand that the male to female ratio or the individuals on the tour can't be controlled but I also believe in being candid. My buddy and I had 'Contiki Girlfriends' if you will and the poor girls had to put up with several of the wasted 'dudes' constantly touching them and lurking around them on multiple nights. I laughed. The girls were creeped out.
I feel that the tour manager on this tour did the bare minimum to facilitate the tour. For example, we didn't do any group-bonding activities on the bus until a girl complained on the 5th day. Then we did speed dating. We weren't given the tour manager's contact info, room number, or exact address of some of the places to where we were going. If someone got separated, they weren't able to find the group. We were also told that there was nowhere to do laundry on the tour by the guide. My buddy and I did laundry in Vienna because we thought that it was going to be only chance we would have. I was charged 79.50 Euro for 5 T shirts, 5 boxers, and 3 pairs of socks and they lost one sock. They also attached these super-sticky labels with a serial number that pulls the threads out of my clothes when I try to remove them. It's like the hotel laundry mafia interned my socks and charged me ransom. After hearing about our experience, the tour manager emphasized to the group that we could do laundry in the next city, Budapest for 10 Euro. Obviously this incident was my error but I would expect a tour guide with 8 years of experience to tell us when we asked at the beginning of the tour that we could do laundry in Budapest and how exorbitant the cost of laundry was in Vienna.
I know from my other tours that the Contiki experience can be better and I'm on the fence about doing another tour.
Review written Jun 2012event 0.3
11 May 2012 - 24 May 2012
What a great 13 days of Eastern Road! Our tour manager Petula was absolutely great she took care of us! Georgie our bus driver did a great time getting us from cities to cities and around tight corners! Kudos to that team!
As for the tour itself, everything you thought about Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw will completely blown your mind away. The stunning beauty each cities beholds will really shock you. The people are friendly and the food and beer are absolutely fantastic! The tour group I was in were some amazing people! Friends for life!
My personal favorite city was Budapest! I did not expect too much of the city but why it blew my mind away! Prague was also a great city! Poland and Slovakia are both absolutely beautiful! Berlin and Vienna were also very cool and easy to get around cities. The trams and subways are best way to get around. Try to avoid taxis in Prague they will do anything and everything to rip you off.
Becareful of gypsies! They are around in three cities, Berlin, Krakow and Prague.
Review written May 2012event 0.3
29 Jul 2011 - 10 Aug 2011
A fabulous trip! Beautiful countries, great history, food and friends! Accommodation was great overall, way above what I thought a Contiki would be! Awesome people from all age groups. I would totally recommend this trip. A GREAT way to travel Eastern Europe if you're on your own!
Review written Nov 2011event 0.3
19 Aug 2011 - 31 Aug 2011
Overall very good value. However,with Berlin being the 1st impression, the hotel and meal could have been a bit better. All others were very good. Especially the hotel in Warsaw! I would have rather started the tour at a hotel closer to the airport if we weren't going to be in a good area anyway. The bike tour in Prague was a little disappointing. The streets were way too crowded, and the walking tour covered all the basics anyway. Loved the dinner cruise in Budapest! Thought this was one of the most interesting cities, and would definitely make a trip back. Would liked to have had a crash course in public transportation for those who don't have it in their native city :) Tour manager and bus driver were excellent! Very knowledgeable! I would definitely recommend this trip to all single people. We were the only married couple on our tour which was a little disappointing, but not a deal breaker. Would like more actual Pub crawls, not Club crawls. All local guides were wonderful, sights were great, very glad we chose this part of he world.
Review written Sep 2011event 0.3
05 Aug 2011 - 17 Aug 2011
This was the best vacation I have ever taken! I met the most amazing people on this tour, who I stil keep i touch with and hope to travel with again.
Our tour manager, Ali, was great! She gave us a lot of information for every city we visited and she came out with us most nights to the bars/clubs.
I loved the mixture of fun/recreation and history on this tour. I was also really surprised how different each city is to one another, yet they are so close together. I am Canadian, and it takes days to drive anywhere that looks new, but one day on the tour we had breakfast in Budapest, lunch in Slovakia, and dinner in Krakow, Poland!
The included visit to Auschwitz is something I will remember forever. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
Some of the bus days were a little long. I would recommend leaving from Warsaw, instead of going back to Berlin (12+ hours on the coach!). However, Ali had games and music and movies for the ride, and the coach was comfortable so it didn't seem as long as it was.
I definitely recommend this tour to anyone who is interested in the history of World War 2, the Holocaust, Communism, or just Eastern Europe.
Review written Sep 2011event 0.3
20 Aug 2011 - 31 Aug 2011
Really enjoyed the Eastern Road trip in August. The trip was well planned to see and experience the most possible in the time available. The tour guide provided a well organised, informed and always on time tour. Thanks to the bus driver for great driving and excellent presentation of the coach each day.
Had a great time and have met many friends from the trip. Look forward to travelling with Contiki again.
Review written Sep 2011event 0.3