14 May 2014 - 26 May 2014
This was my first Contiki tour and first trip to Europe and it was not a disappointment! It really is a great way to see so much of Europe in a little amount of time. Our tour manager was Lee and our driver was Christian and they are the best! Lee is very knowledgeable and will help ensure you're getting the most out of your experience. Christian is hands down the best bus driver and probably the happiest person I have ever met.
Don't let travelling by yourself hold you back from going - I went by myself and met some great people on the trip. Everyone was really friendly and it's not that hard to find someone who has similar travel interests as you.
I did all of the optionals except the rafting and had a great time - the river was pretty tame for the rafting so it was more just casually paddling down, but the people who did it enjoyed it and those of us who didn't enjoyed the time to just hang-out and relax around the small town. The only optional I did that I wasn't a fan of was the Venetian walking tour - our guide was this adorable, feisty older woman but we didn't really see anything that spectacular on our tour - I would recommend skipping it and using that time to explore on your own or shop since you don't get that much time. The Venetian restaurant was the best! The food was delicious and everyone had a great time chatting and drinking.
Seriously be CAREFUL in Rome!! The girls I travelled with and myself kept our hands on our purses on the metro and one of them still almost got pick-pocketed. Keep your purses in front of you with your hands on it at all times and if you're taking a backpack put locks on the zippers. We met some really friendly people on the metro that looked out for us and were very nice, but still keep a close eye on your stuff.
The accommodations weren't bad - they were clean and served their purpose. You're only there to sleep and eat breakfast. When leaving in the morning try and go down before you're supposed to meet - some of the hotels have either really slow elevators or only have 1. Also make sure to keep your hotel list on you; our cab driver in Munich had no idea what hotel we were talking about until we showed him the address.
The main thing to keep in mind is you get out of this trip what you put into it and to keep an open mind about what you're doing the culture you're in.
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
05 Jul 2014 - 16 Jul 2014
Where to begin? This trip was amazing! It is safe to say we all had the time of our lives! Our driver was John and TM was Chris Tabone who, if you’re lucky enough to get him, was voted best Tour Manager 2 years running, so he knew what he was doing! It should be noted this tour is extremely fast paced but is perfect for those on a tight budget/time frame or are doing extra travels before/after the tour. You get to see so much in such a short time it truly is value for money.
Straight up some tips I’ve learnt:
Do all the optional activities - you never know until you’ve tried them all! Pack as light as possible: most hotels have tiny elevators that take forever and most of the time it will be easier to lug your suitcases up the stairs. Even if you go in summer always have a thicker jacket/pair of jeans: it rained at some point almost every day we were there in July! Don’t bother with a tablet/ipad for this tour – there isn’t enough time, so just use your smart phone for free wifi. You will most likely get sick towards the end so I recommend taking at least cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and hydralite/berocca to get you through (the contiki cough is real)! For Europe you don’t really need fancy going out clothes: we only really had to look nice for the night in Florence and last night in Paris. I used the multi-currency cash passport and had no problems with it - thought it was the best way to carry currency around with little fees.
Summary of each place and optionals:
London: Although this is just the starting point for most people I recommend a couple of days in London. Best way to see the sights is a Hop-on Hop-off tour, which I found really enjoyable. We stayed at the Royal National Hotel – was basic but convenient and you hardly spend much time in the hotel. After the startup meeting a few of us went to the London pub for drinks and to get to know each other.
Amsterdam: Early next morning departed for Amsterdam. Hotel was one of the best and served good buffet breakfast and dinner. Canal cruise had unlimited drinks and was a great way to mingle with everyone. We then had a walk through the red light district and did the optional sex show. Not all TMs will offer the sex show, but most of us did it and found it quite hilarious and entertaining, especially when a few girls were called up to undress the male stripper! The night was then free for us to party. Next morning we had the chance to see the Anne Frank Huis which I would recommend.
St Goar: The scenic drive to St Goar was beautiful. The town is quiet but pretty and the hotel was surprisingly nice. In the afternoon there is the chance of the optional wine tasting. Most of us quite enjoyed the white wine and cheese on offer. It was yet again a good activity to get to know one another better in a candlelit cellar. After was drinks at the hotel bar. The next morning we also went to the beer stein demo and could do a bit of souvenir shopping before heading off to Munich.
Munich: The bike ride was a good way to see the city. Would have been better for us if it wasn’t raining the first half of the tour. In between you get to stop at a place for some beer and food then carry on the bike tour. Afterwards was the Hofbrauhaus, which was a huge beer hall. The atmosphere is great and the beer was actually really good – and I don’t even drink beer usually!
Austria: Next is a drive through the Austrian Alps and a chance to do white water rafting. I highly recommend this optional – it was so much fun and the waves aren’t so dangerous that your raft will tip, but just rapid enough to get the adrenalin pumping! Next up was a stop to the Swarovski crystal world. I actually say don’t do this optional because it isn’t really a museum but more an abstract/surrealist art exhibition where crystals are used. Found it a bit of a waste of money and even the gift shop wasn’t that impressive. The hotel we stayed at in Austria was reasonable with excellent dinner and breakfast. Take advantage of ‘schnappy hour’ and go to the pub where your TM recommends. I made the mistake of staying in that night and missed out on one of the craziest nights at the pub I was told.
Venice: Loved Venice for its charm. First up is a guided tour of Venice which was interesting, then the glass blowing demonstration which was insightful and an optional Gondola ride. I enjoyed this optional as our Gondola man actually sang for us and the canals had a certain charm to them! I also recommend doing the Venetian dinner as I found the food to be plentiful and tasty, however some on tour thought that the food was undercooked and not enough. Note about breakfasts in Italy – they suck. At best you’ll get cornflakes, plastic ham and cheese, plain bread and instant coffee and juice.
Rome: After a long drive into Rome we had a walk about tour at dusk which was perfect! The Park Roma hotel was another good hotel which had its own disco. Note that the alcohol they serve is extremely overpriced but all in all our tour had fun with dancing and hallway parties! Next day you have the optional Vatican and Coliseum tours, which I highly recommend as you get proper access and guided tours of the sights. Next up is free time, which we spent going to the Pantheon and Spanish Steps.
Florence: Florence was one of my favourites as it’s not as crowded as Rome but is just as beautiful and rich of history. The guided walking tour was excellent to see the major sights. We then had some free time in which a few of us went to the Ufizzi Gallery to look at some artworks. You then head to the hotel to get ready for the optional Tuscan evening. The food was by far the best here and entertainment was fun, especially when our whole tour jumped up for the macerina! Next was a trip to the Space Disco. There is nothing particularly special about the club but it was a great night due to dancing, drinking and laughing with our new buddies.
Switzerland: The first optional was the Mt Stanserhorn excursion, which I highly recommend as the views were stunning! The watch and knife demo was great for purchasing swiss army knives and other souvenirs. The Lake Lucerne cruise was also a great optional as we could all relax with a few drinks and great scenery. We stayed at the Jailhouse hotel, which in all honesty was perfectly fine – you hardly spend much time there anyway!
Paris: The next morning is a long drive to Paris. When you get there you have a bit of a driving tour to see the major sights. After was free time and as we were there on Bastille Day we got to see a fireworks show around the Eiffel tower. Next morning we had our trip to the top of the Eiffel tower. Views are breath-taking and it is a must do! Next up we went to the French perfumery and museums – the girls loved it but not so sure about the guys. Next up was free time in which we used the metro to get to the Arc De Triomphe, walk up the Champs Elysees, see the Lourve and Lover’s Lock bridge. We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the cabaret show. Another must – the dinner was tasty and the Nouvelle Eve show spectacular. We then retired to the Irish pub for celabratory drinks and a final dance. The next day was the saddest by far as you have to say goodbye to all your new friends. With the complimentary transfer back to London you can expect to arrive back at around 6pm.
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
05 Jul 2014 - 16 Jul 2014
This was an absolutely amazing tour! It was fast - paced and exciting. The memories I made on my trip will remain with me for the rest of my life. Our tour manager was excellent and so was our driver.
There is no doubt that Contiki is an organized, fun and affordable way for young people to travel the world!
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
04 Jun 2014 - 16 Jun 2014
Just got back from this trip our tour guides name was Joel and our driver was Levi they were both extremely knowledgeable and helpful for all aspects of this trip. I got to see so many things and make so many new friends and lifetime memories that I will absolutely never forget. This trip was cheap and you get the most bang for your buck the hotels aren't glamorous but if you're doing this trip right you shouldn't be spending that much time in your hotel room. YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU'RE DEAD will forever be my motto and that's exactly the way this trip works. Wake up go to amazing places see amazing things enjoy great food and drinks with friends and dance the night away somewhere making the best memories of your life. Hands down would recommend this trip to anyone who truly wants a life changing experience!!!
Review written Jun 2014event 0.3
12 May 2012 - 23 May 2012
I wrote this review more than a year after going on the European Discovery tour, but I remember it being absolutely brilliant. Everything from the cities we visited to the tour guide were all top notch. So, yes I would highly recommend this tour; especially if you are a first time traveller. You get to visit many of Western Europe’s main attractions over a relatively short space of time at a reasonable cost. You really do get bang for your buck (value for money; I’m from South Africa). However, this means that you don’t spend a lot of time in any single place and the tour is done at a very fast pace. If there was one general complaint, it was exactly that. People felt they needed more time to explore and discover each city. I don’t think that is the intention of this tour though. Rather you will visit each location briefly giving you enough time to get a taste and then decide whether you want to return for an extended holiday. A lot of my tour mates were real lighties (teenagers), and became quite rowdy and obnoxious at times. I guess you need to take this in your stride though, I couldn’t expect people to be all business-like on a Contiki trip. Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, learned a lot, made great friends and partied like a mad man.
So here are my reviews of each location and excursion. I hope it helps. Before I get into it though, I have one piece of advice: use your time on the bus to sleep. It’s the best way to manage the long days and rough nights.
London: London isn’t technically part of the tour but it starts and ends here so it’s worth mentioning. I suggest that you arrive at least a day early in London, explore the city at your own leisure and then meet up with the tour the night before it starts. I booked my extra nights in London at the Royal National Hotel near the Russell Square subway station. The hotel is walking distance away from the station and quite centrally located in London. The only reason I booked into this hotel was because the Contiki offices are located there and the tour started there as well. Honestly those were the only advantages of staying at that hotel. In truth I found it to be a dingy place. I also had to share the room with some random dude from another tour. I’m not normally one for sharing a room but this random person from another tour (WTF)? I suggest that you book a single room or try another hotel. I was a solo traveller so this might not be as much of an issue for everyone.
As far as exploring the city is concerned, I suggest that you get a ticket for one of the red tour busses and then take it from there. There are 3 routes indicated by 3 colours. Each route takes you past most of the major sights. The busses have guides, pointing out and discussing all the landmarks. You can get off the busses when you want, visit a site and just climb onto the next bus. You are also not limited to a route and can changeover whenever routes crossover. A day ticket cost me in the region of £24. It’s not just a great way to see London but perfect to get around.
The actual tour starts pretty early on day 1, after quite a night at the hotel pub. But no worry, the journey to Amsterdam is very long so you will have plenty of time to recover. You drive to Dover, get on a ferry and then dock again in Calais. From there you have a long drive through Belgium into Amsterdam.
Amsterdam: I love Amsterdam. It must be the coolest city in the world. I have never experienced a place where the people are so liberal and where all pleasures are catered for. Everything and anything goes,plus; they are the kings of EDM. Amsterdam is like a really hot woman with a great personality. The city is alive and has a unique vibe of its own that pulsates within you. It must be my favourite city in Europe.
The hotel in Amsterdam was pretty good although you don’t spend much time there. The night out is quite long and your departure from the hotelis early too. Your dinner will be included, as is the case with most of the destinations on this tour.
The night out in Amsterdam ranked is one of the most awesome nights of my life. The evening includes 2 optional extras: a canal cruise and a sex show (yes, a live sex show). The canal cruise costs €31 and is a great way to get to socialise and see the city. Importantly, there’s also lots of Heineken on the barge too. After that you wander through the narrow cobbled streets of Amsterdam until you find yourself staring into dimly lit shop windows, displaying what you may think are manikins but are actually prostitutes. The bright red light at every few shop windows confirms that you are in the famous red-light district. From there on Amsterdam becomes a weird sexually charged city, with no prejudice. The sex show cost me in the region of €16 and while you might think this to be very sleazy, it is quite an experience. It is done with a bit of taste (as much as this sort thing permits) and to be honest is pretty comical. Either way I enjoyed it and when I go back to Amsterdam, I will definitely do it again. After that, the night is open and you can spend it as you like. From there on I partied like an animal. It was certainly a night to remember. For me only a night in Cape Town and Prague came close to that.
The next morning is pretty laid back with a free morning before your departure to Germany. I spent the time wandering the city and visited the Anne Frank museum, which is quite popular and very informative. It costs €10. I recently heard that Justin Bieber visited the museum and wrote a comment hoping that Anne would have been a fan of his. What a dickhead. I also visited the sex museum. It cost me €2 and to be honest was only worth that much. I did it to kill time but it just shows you how liberal the Dutch are.
St. Goar: St. Goar is a quaint little town in the Rhine valley and the way I figure is not so much a tourist destination as it is a convenient halfway stop between Amsterdam and Munich. Having said that, nothing stops the fun! The hotel in St. Goar is great too but there is no elevator and if you are on the 4th floor then you might have a problem. I saw a lot of guys struggling with monster luggage belonging to the ladies on the tour. Fortunately I escaped that torture, not due to a lack of chivalry though.
You visit a beer shtein shop where you can purchase authentic German beer shteins (mugs) that are exquisitely decorated. They are quite pricy, but what could be a more German souvenir than a beer mug. On the single evening in St. Goar there is an optional wine tasting tour that costs €9. It is no different from any other wine tasting that I’ve done although the quaint setting gave it somewhat of a retro authenticity. I purchased a bottle of Eiswein which I understand is quite a delicacy and will appreciate in value substantially.
To end the night off, we spent the evening in the pub at the Hotel, the only place open in the town from what I could tell. There is a Contiki challenge running at the pub where the tour group must drink the most amount of a certain local shooter. There are 2 frames with the winning groups displayed on the bar wall. Apparently the winning group drank something like 3000 shooters. I find that really hard to believe though. That’s like 60 shooters per person. They must have just visited a boring town in Luxembourg before getting to St. Goar. They certainly could not have just partied in Amsterdam. Anyway I don’t think we even got to 100, mostly due to lack of interest brought on by severe hangovers.
Munich: When I think of Munich, I think of beer; lots of beer; lots of really good beer. What a great city. Now don’t get fooled into thinking that Munich is a dilapidated city full of drunks. Quite the contrary, Munich is prosperous; in fact it is one of the most prosperous cities in the world. I have never seen such a clean city. It’s as if it has been manicured. The journey to Munich is cool too, you realise that you are in the heart of lavish Bavaria, when the tour bus is stuck on the right lane at 100km/h with fancy German supercars passing at 180km/h every few seconds. Back to the beer though! Germany is full of Microbreweries where each kelder has its own local craft beer selection; all of which are tasty. I can only imagine what the Oktoberfest is like. I have to do that soon.
All the excursions in Munich are included on the tour. There is a bike tour through the city,which is done well and is very informative. On the bike tour, you stop at a beer hall in the middle of a park, have a few beers and then continue on your journey with a beer in hand. Very cool; back home I’ll be arrested for doing that. Keep an eye out for the river surfers too; I thought that was innovative. There is also a visit to MarienPlatz where you can get to try some of the local cuisine and shop (if that’s your thing). Make sure to check out the Glockenspiel at the square itself. It’s a clock, dating back to the 1500s, with a unique and intricate animated show.
For me the highlight of Munich was the HorfBrauhaus. It’s a huge legendary beer hall with so much of tradition and an amazing atmosphere. When you go in, you sit at any table where you get a seat, regardless of who is already there. We sat at a table with a middle aged German man and two ladies from a country I do not recall. The Germans are also super friendly, so you can crack up a conversation with ease. The beers are served in one-litre shteins by burly German beer maidens. Be sure to tip them well and give them the respect they deserve, lest they strike you down with a huge fist. They literally carry six beers in each hand. Try doing that for 8 hours straight! Every 30 minutes the hall breaks out into a local beer drinking song. They songs are tough to learn but fun nonetheless. We also had our dinner there; I recommend the Pork Knuckle; a very tasty local dish.
The staff at the hotel arranged a party for us at the bar in the hotel. I remember that I had a great time but cannot recall the details of the evening. All in all, Munich and the Germans are awesome.
Austrian Tyrol: Next up is another quaint little town not far from Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol province. Again, this is not so much a hot tourist destination as it is a convenient halfway stop between Munich and Venice. The area is especially popular for outdoor sports including bungee jumping, mountain climbing, skiing and river rafting. The latter is an optional extra on the tour. The drive from Munich is long so you arrive at a small but classy hotel late in the afternoon.
We had dinner at the hotel and then happened to stumble upon an entertaining local cultural experience at the dining hall. A few traditional dancers and musicians performed a few acts for the crowd, which consisted mostly of locals. The performers were all dressed in traditional garb and looked as if they came out of the 1700s. As the performance went on, it became more interactive. At one point one of the girls on the tour and myself went up and joined the dancers. Later on 3 other guys and I were called up to do a dance with 4 of the traditional dancers. We were given a pointy hat to wear and had walk around a cooking pot in tune with the music and then every so often stop and do an intricate dance consisting of slapping your hands against different parts of your body. It goes without saying that we couldn’t really follow the dance but we tried valiantly. What we could follow was the part when you kick the arse of the guy walking around the pot in front of you. This you do whenever you feel is appropriate and follow it up with shrieking peacock-like cheer. All this ends with a shot of Schnapps. As it turned out this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the tour for me.
The next day, you depart from the hotel in the morning and head out to a remote location for the optional river rafting trip. This costs €41 and I would recommend it on conditions that you don’t mind cold water and that you enjoy a bit of extreme sport. It snowed that morning giving the water much more of a chill. It was supposed to be summer! Having called it “extreme” that may be a bit of an overstatement.The rapids are pretty gentle and don’t get higher than a questionable grade 3. In fact, at no stage do you even come close to tipping the dingy. The water is freezing, literally. The river originates at a glacier and only just doesn’t freeze over. Despite all of this, the experience is really enjoyable especially if you are a first timer. You get a wet suit which, helps with the cold as long as you stay in the boat. Having done grade 5 rapids in a crocodile infested river in sunny South Africa, this experience was somewhat timid. Still, I would highly recommend doing it. The scenery along the river is stunning too. What could be better than a day on a river out in the open?
After the rafting excursion, you depart for Italy with a stop at the Swarovski museum just before you cross the border. This will cost you €9 and is maybe not the most enjoyable thing you could do. I must admit that the ladies did enjoy it though. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend but I suppose Swarovski crystals do just fine.
Venice: I remember the drive from Austria to Italy over and through the many mountain passes being particularly beautiful. Unfortunately I slept through most of it. Again as I mentioned before, the bus journeys are the best times to sleep. In truth, Italy was the country I enjoyed the least. The Dutch, Germans and Austrians were all so friendly. The Italians on the other hand seem so angry at the world. They snap at tourists all the time and are generally rude. Having said that, there are so many foreign tourists around that I also may become snappy and angry if I lived there. The architecture in Italy is stunning and it is difficult to fathom the age of the buildings there. Some buildings are more than 2000 years old. It is truly a glimpse into the ancient world. The hotels in Italy are of the same quality as the previous cities BUT, their breakfasts suck. Apparently the Italians don’t do breakfast! Go figure!
There are 2 optional activities in Venice. The first is a guided tour through old city that costs €11. It is worth the money and is very informative. The volume of tourists is immense and you really must fight to keep up with your guide. The second excursion is a Gondola cruise through the canals of Venice. If you’ve seen the movie Casanova or The Italian Job then you might have some idea of what this cruise entails. It really is beautiful and amazing to think that the entire city was built on a swamp and reclaimed land. I would definitely recommend this extra. We also took 3 bottles of wine aboard and promptly finished all 3. Not great for your bladder if you’re stuck on a small Gondola for an hour. I must mention that our gondolier told us off on many occasions. We got quite used to that type of thing on the days to come in Italy.
Rome:Rome is where the ancient world really comes alive. You can tell why the Romans were one of the most powerful empires ever. So it goes without saying that Rome is all about the history and the ancient monuments. You will spend 2 nights in Rome, which is nowhere near enough. Not only is there so much to see but everything is overcrowded and slow to get through. It’s almost impossible to get a decent pic of anything without someone getting in your way.
There are 2 optional extras in Rome, the first being a guided tour through the Vatican City. The Catholics on the tour will obviously appreciate this a lot but whatever your belief, the tour is well worth it. It costs in the region of €14 and is quite lengthy. Again, the length is more due to the amount of people being funnelled through rather than the actual size, which in itself is quite large. The second optional tour is a visit to the Coliseum which costs about €26. How can you visit Rome and not go to the Coliseum. I would definitely recommend this visit. Other notable visits which were included on the tour were the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Venezia and Piazza Navona. My favourite was the Pantheon, a building dating back more than 2000 years with an impressive domed roof and oculus.
I remember partying in Rome but I cannot remember the details. I know that the beer wasn’t all that great but the wine was good. Rome is an amazing city and I might consider going back despite the overcrowding and general rudeness. So when in Rome do as the Romans do and swear your neighbour.
Florence: Florence was my favourite Italian city. You get that real renaissance feeling here. The red top roofs from an elevated view are breath-taking (very fitting for the group pic). The city is also a lot less crowded and the people are friendlier. I can just imagine artists and painters working in the city taking their inspiration from their surrounds.
There are 4 excursions in Florence. The first is a visit to a leather shop, which to me was a drag. Skip that if you can and get some time to walk through the city. The second is a guided tour through the city. This is also pretty good especially if you are interested in the history and culture of the city. The other 2 extras are optional and are both well worth it. The first is a traditional feast in the Tuscan Hills which costs €39. Now this may seem somewhat steep but it includes a multi-course meal (in excess of 7), lots of wine and good entertainment. The food here is the best on the entire tour. I would definitely recommend doing this extra. Thereafter is a planned night out to the space disco that will set you back €15.
I thoroughly enjoyed this club and I partied hard and had a blast. We got there pretty early and the place was quite empty but it really packed up after midnight. I thought I might mention the unique payment system they have. You get a compulsory drinks card at the door, which you use to order your drinks. The barman just clips your card for each drink you order. Before you leave the club you hand your drinks card in at the cashier who will then charge you for all your drinks and then issue you with an exit slip. The bouncers will only allow you out of the club after receiving your exit slip. It’s like some sort of negative bouncing. You can get bounced back into the club. The only issue with all of this is if you drink more than you can pay or if you lose your card; in which case you will have to pay the full possible value of the drinks on the card even if you’ve only had 1 drink. I somehow managed to keep it together and pay for all my drinks even though I went into a second drinks card. Other guys had to put large amounts through on credit cards. On the positive side, the system is fast and the queues at the bars are small despite the large amount of people. The system is great except they should allow you to put money onto a card before you buy drinks, just to help you to check yourself. Sorry for that rant but I figure you must be warned; I shudder to think what would happen if you cannot pay for your card.
Lucerne: The great thing about the long drive to Lucerne is not the breath-taking scenery; rather it is the opportunity to sleep off your dreadful hangover. Lucerne is one of the most affluent cities in the world. As with Munich it is super clean and for some reason it’s empty. You don’t see a lot of crowds or traffic. It’s as if everyone stays locked in doors. It seemed profoundly peaceful, bordering on boring though. The standard of living in Switzerland as a whole is very high and Lucerne is no different; but this comes at a premium… A hefty premium! The prices of stuff here is just ridiculous. No wonder people stay off the streets, they probably get charged to walk around. I bought an MGD at a bar and paid $9 (in 2012). Back in South Africa, I would get 6 MGDs for that price. The hotel in Lucerne is really cool. It is an old prison that was converted into a Hotel but without much architectural change. Your room is literally a prison cell with an elevated barred window, dim lighting and no furniture except for a bed. Some people found the place disconcerting. I thought they were pansies. Just don’t drop the soap.
There are 2 optional extras in Lucerne. The first is a 45 minute boat cruise on Lake Lucerne that costs €22. The cruise itself is not necessarily special but the surrounds are amazing. Lucerne is located in the middle of the Alps and the lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The view from the lake, un-obstructed by concrete towers, is beautiful. Still for €22, it was a bit overpriced (in non-Swiss terms). The second excursion is a trip up mount Pillates which costs €40. (By the way the currency in Switzerland is the Franc. Just to swindle you into overspending by miscalculating the exchange rate.) You go up to the summit (2000m above sea level) via a cable car and go down with a mono-rope type contraption. The views from the top are exquisite and afford a great opportunity for some Kodak moments. Make sure to take some warm clothes, it is mid-winter at the peak. It is pretty crowded at the top so there are long queues especially to come back down. I guess that’s why the streets of Lucerne are so empty; everybody is on top of the mountain.
Before you depart from Lucerne, you get an opportunity to buy some cool personalised gifts from a genuine Swiss army knife shop. South Africans; keep a lookout for a place called the Bah-Bah-Las bar. If I had known it was there I would have certainly stopped over the previous night. Unfortunately, I only spotted it just as we were leaving. It’s not too far from the lion memorial statue thingy.
Paris: What more can be said about Paris? It is the city of romance and revolution, of architecture and art. Paris is truly a beautiful city. The Eiffel tower, however much it maybe clichéd, must be one of the most symbolic monuments in the world. It is distinct and it dominates the Parisian skyline. The renaissance style architecture is stunning and there are tons of cultural experiences to indulge in. The food is rich and tasty and the vibe is quite laid back. Paris is, one of the must see cities in the world.
The journey from Switzerland to Paris is very long, made worse by the large volumes of traffic. Sore arses and stiff bodies were the order of the day. You have 2 nights in Paris and you will need it as there is much to see in this city.
There are a number of things planned in Paris; a trip to the top of the Eiffel tower, a guided bus tour and the Nouvelle Eve dinner and show. Also you have a free day in Paris where you can explore at your own leisure. An important tip in France is not to assume that the locals can speak English. While most of them can, they just refuse, especially if you start your conversation in English. Apparently they have never really gotten over the battle of Waterloo. Rather ask them (in French) if they can speak English and then proceed from there. That usually gets you further. What works even better, is to speak to them in a totally different foreign language (I tried Afrikaans, a sort of South African Dutch) and when it becomes apparent that they don’t understand you and you don’t understand French, English simply becomes the happy meeting point in the middle.
The Eiffel tower trip is great with magnificent views. One of the elevators was out of order when I was there so the queue was super-long. Our guide decided to get us staircase passes instead and we literally climbed the Eiffel tower. In truth, I think walking is the better option. Not only do you get a well needed workout (after all the drinking) but you get to explore the tower and enjoy the views from different levels. The €12 I spent here was well worth it. Try to get to visit the tower at night. It is lit up in different colours and is pretty stunning.
The bus tour is interesting too and gives you a good departure point for the free day. Also, the guide will fill you in on all the need-to-knows of Paris. I found the drive around the circle at the Arch de Triomph to be quite exhilarating especially after seeing it on so many movies. The morning of the final day starts with a visit to a perfumery, which I thought was quite a waste. The ladies loved it and the guys with girls pretended to love it. After that, the day is yours. I visited the Notre Dame and the museum of modern art in my free time. Both are quite cool, especially the Van Gough section at the museum. The Louvre was closed on our free day so we unfortunately missed that. It is closed every Tuesday so if you really want to visit the Louvre, then you must get your timing right or you may want to extend your stay in Paris.
For €123, the Nouvelle Eve Dinner and show is expensive to say the least, but it is worth it. It is the final event of the tour and a big night is a must. The show is a Moulin Rouge style cabaret, but it is not at the famous Moulin Rouge. It is actually next door to the Moulin Rouge. This fact may leave you feeling a bit ripped off, nonetheless I still suggest that you go for the show. The show consists of a number of different acts including bear breasted dancers, acrobats and comedians. Dinner is served during the show and as I recall it was good too (wine included). After the show our guide took us to a local club where we parted till morning; all of us in a great mood but rather sombre to know that it a few hours it was all going to be over. I still can’t get over the how people become like family in just 2 weeks. I had assumed that I would go on the tour have a blast and leave without the slightest care for anyone I met. It is not so, not in the slightest.
I took the complimentary drive back to London where I spent an additional night before flying back home. I had a light flight so I had a bit of time to explore London a bit more. I visited Madame Tussauds and also went past Lords cricket ground; both of which are worthy day trips. It did feel pretty weird to end the tour wandering London on my own, it was a kind of peaceful yet melancholy feeling. Anyway, enough of my sad stories! This tour is amazing, so do it to the maximum and have the time of your life.
Review written Mar 2014event 0.3
17 Apr 2012 - 30 Apr 2012
This trip was incredible! I met so many amazing people and went to so many amazing places.
There were some places on the tour that I didn't care to see, but going to these places were amazing. Every single stop that we did was a new experience.
This tour is very go go go, so you see soooo many things for the time that you are actually in Europe.
I have travelled a ton before, but never with a tour, so I must say Contiki is great for new travellers and experienced travellers!
The great thing about Contiki is that everyone is young and wanting to experience the same things as you. Everyone has the love for travel and adventure!
I just booked another Contiki and words can't describe how excited I am! Bring it on!
Review written Oct 2013event 0.3
07 May 2013 - 20 May 2013
Like many others I went into this tour expecting a wild crazy experience throughout Europe. The brochures amp it up to make you think you are going to be on an all day every day party through every country you visit, with all aspects including food, clubbing, sights and shopping. Do you like cold lasagna or over-cooked breaded mysteries that they call Schnitzel? Or being guided to bars who's business is only based off of Contiki tours? I went on this tour to get a quick, but still GENUINE taste of Europe. I wanted to get the opportunity to experience the life of a local, to see things that were a little more than the shallow touristic dive while having a good time, and with like-minded people. Here's the truth about this tour.
On this tour, almost ever dinner is served cold and at the hotel. You will rarely get the opportunity to taste authentic cuisine of the country you visit. It is a quick, in and out slop that the hotel heats up. As for the ME options you pay extra (lotta extra) for a decent meal made for tourists.
If you are going on this to shop or stop into local markets, etc. this tour cuts it pretty short. There is not a lot opportunity to visit shops and things because they are closed by the time the coach arrives. You are traveling most of the day.
And for those of you who were like me and think this is a party on wheels throughout Europe, here's a reality check. You are expected to be up by seven and on the bus by quarter to eight. There is little leniency on this rule, but it is left out in the brochure. So, when you party until the wee hours of the night at a club in Amsterdam or Rome (that contiki is not going to recommend or help you find) be expecting an irritated knock at your door from the guide when you are ten minutes late, a hurried shove on the bus, and a wicked hangover for the next six hours until you reach the next city.
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
30 May 2013 - 10 Jun 2013
Booking this trip was by far the best thing I have ever done. Despite the fact every day was exhausting with a numb bum from the bus rides, it was amazing. You get to see so many beautiful places and do things you wouldn't do back home in your 'normal' life. From whitewater rafting surrounded by snow capped mountains in Austria to exploring the alleys of Florence, I will never ever forgot this trip. P.s. best tour guide Matty and driver Geordie, best guys!
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
29 Aug 2013 - 09 Sep 2013
my first contiki tour tavelling solo. Met and made so many friends.
Visited such amazing places. We had a great group of ppl - (chinese, usa, brazil, sa n the majority being aussie n canadian) everyone got along so well.
Out of all the places we visited. ..Italy and Paris were my favourite.i enjoyed Germany more than i expected. Austria..not much to do but simply beautiful. Italy has so much history it will keep you fascinated.
Lotsa walking on this tour so make sure you have comfortable shoes. Dont expect sleep...maybe on the coach.i recommend doing all the me time optional tours..although i didnt think swarovski world was all that.
If you not sure which optional tours to book - meet your grp first and then decide. They quite flexible with booking them.
I didnt share a room. The ppl that did had no complaints. If you used to your space and can afford to fork out extra for a room of your own i would advise it.
I went vegan on tour and managed to survive. The accommodation was good and the tour was hassle-free.
Expect to spend about 80 - 120euro per day. I bought souvenoirs in every country. Take cash but also a euro charge card.
And def get a euro sim card! I forgot to get one when i arrived in amsterdam. SA roaming rates suck - i had a R6,000 bill waiting for me when i got back.
I would definitely do another contiki tour. #NoRegrets
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
08 Aug 2013 - 21 Aug 2013
This Contiki tour was AMAZING! It was a very intense two weeks, so if you are looking for something really relaxing this isn't it. But if you are looking for adventure, seeing many new things, late nights and early mornings, making tons of new friends, and driving all over Europe, this is what to do! I think it was two of the best weeks of my life. Everyone bonded really quickly and made new friends from all over the world, and had a great time every day.
I loved Austria and Switzerland the best, they were amazingly beautiful!
If you're wanting to see all these places, do it!!! The tour guide and bus driver were amazing helps and taught us so much along the way.
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
06 Aug 2013 - 19 Aug 2013
Going on this tour was the best decision I've ever made. It majorly exceeded my expectations. I got so close to everyone in the two weeks, and our tour guide and driver (Alex and Antonio) were awesome!! All of the optional activities were tons of fun, and I'd recommend doing all of them. We saw so much more than I would've ever been able to by myself. Favorite place was definitely Munich, along with the amazing bike tour! Definitely do this tour - it's so worth it and you'll create memories that will last you a lifetime.
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
21 Jul 2013 - 03 Aug 2013
I literally just got back from this trip within the past 24hours and all I can say is that it was worth every penny spent! Our tour manager was Dane and driver was Johnny, and they completely made our trip worth while. No matter what hiccups occurred along the way from city to city (such as traffic etc.) they always made sure that we were getting the most out of each city we visited. It is a very fast paced trip and you are constantly on the go, but definitely the perfect trip for someone that wants to see a little bit of everything in Europe.
I participated in all the Me Time optionals and they were also worth every penny as well. Such a great life changing experience. Met so many wonderful people and made new friends along the way from all over the world. Definitely would love to book another trip through Contiki, and will definitely be recommending to friends and family members to book through them as well!
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
11 Jul 2013 - 22 Jul 2013
I've recently returned back from the 12 day European Discovery Tour. WOW! This trip was amazing and truly offered everything i wanted. It suits both adventure enthusiasts and history fanatics, it really is a trip for all. You meet such amazing people from all ages and from all around the world. The optional activities were phenomenal; white water rafting, gondola ride, sex shows and more. Both included and optional activities your guaranteed an awesome atmosphere! Contiki is a well organised tour company, which allows you to have no worries. They even add personal touches such as day songs, which will make you remember your trip for years to come, each time you hear it play. My tour manager Hannah Bews was fantastic; a true professional who knows how to have fun. She knew everything there is to know about each city we visited and would really get you excited for the places you were about to see. Both Hannah and Polski, our bus driver, would go out of their way to help us. They added their own touches to the trip and without the pair of them the trip wouldn't have been as great. This trip is fun filled, educational, party popping, sight seeing, but most of all MEMORABLE!
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
16 Jul 2013 - 29 Jul 2013
European Discovery is like Sparknotes. You'll receive a history overview, key facts and just enough time to visit the important sites. It was great for my husband and I who had never been to Europe before and wanted to see as much as we could in the limited amount of time we had. It was exhausting, but worth every late night and early morning. Our tour manager made our trip and helped create such great memories. We will travel with Contiki again soon. Next time we hope to take our time and really enjoy the countries we visit.
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
18 Jun 2013 - 29 Jun 2013
This was my first trip to Europe and I did it solo. My European Discovery trip with my Contiki family was the highlight of my holiday. We had people from all over the globe and we all got along so well it was fantastic! Our tour guide Garai and the coach driver Chris made this Contiki the best tour around Europe I could of ever have imagined! Garai’s knowledge on the monuments and history of Europe as well as his unique sense of humor bought me understand about the surroundings we were in as well as sharing a laugh.
Loved the tour, Loved the people, Loved the places!
Will remember my experience with Contiki for the rest of my life!
Review written Jul 2013event 0.3
27 Jun 2013 - 10 Jul 2013
Where do I begin. This was the best trip/ experience I've ever had. It was a great way to get a taste of multiple countries in two weeks. The hotels were nice & clean (barely in them enough to have a complaint), the coach bus was always clean and comfortable, the food was a great sampling of each country, and I can say I left with several new friends from all over the world and many, many memories. I have to mention how incredible our tour manager, Danny Steenkamp was. Always working, always planning, always willing to go the extra mile to make everyone's holiday memorable, always positive...a wealth of information, great sense of humor, and made the experience seamless from country to country. This was my first trip to Europe and it definitely won't be my last. I am still blown away by the history and beauty of each country and truly had sensory overload. We were able to see pretty much everything we wanted to see at each stop (with some planning in advance and a quick walking pace) and Danny would have put us in the category of the "culture vultures" - but I was definitely in pure bliss through out the whole trip, taking it all in. We did most of the ME Time Optionals; The Tuscan Hills Feast is a must (one of the most memorable times with the group), Gondola ride was best way to see Venice away from the tourists and take it all in, white water rafting gave the most beautiful views of Austria & the Alps, wine tasting in St. Goar was a cool experience in a creepy, old cellar, Canal Cruise in Amsterdam great kickoff with group and relaxed way to take in views of Amsterdam, Swarvorski Crystal Museum is worth the 8 euro for a one time trippy museum experience, Mt. Stanserhorn was a breathtaking view of mountains in Switzerland and the Cabrio cable car was so cool, recommend the group photo since it was the only time everyone was together and there was a beautiful view of Florence in the background, & Cabaret Show in Paris was such a memorable way to end the trip. Only slightly disappointed with Vatican tour & Colosseum/ Roman Forum tours- they are back to back, with minimal time in Vatican museum, both are so crowded with tourists, it was crazy hot for the Colosseum & Forum and more than half our group left probably from hunger & dehydration and skipped the Forum (which was incredible to stand in a place over 2000 years old)- so plan ahead, bring water & snacks because it was a long morning and a little information overload but worth seeing! Otherwise some tips: keep change for bathrooms, introduce yourself to everyone day 1, bring cash bc it's just easier, glad I had a rain jacket & umbrella for different weather, bring meds ( i got a chest cold & heat rash- probably needed to drink more water consistently), do what you can to see everything you want to see- you might never be back, I loved having my Ramble & Rove travel journal (off Amazon) made journaling easier with writing prompts, glad I had video camera & regular camera, took IPhone but kept it on Airplane mode so could make text over iMessage, FaceTime instead of call, use for alarm clock, and get online (had wifi at most hotels)---overall have no regrets, I sure don't, I only wish I could have stayed longer.
Review written Jul 2013event 0.3
08 Jun 2013 - 19 Jun 2013
Was a really hectic, fast paced and awesome trip. Definitely a great tour for those wanting to see lots in a short period of time. Not much down time on this tour, it's all go go go. I was a first time traveler and found this tour no problems at all. Just be prepared to be tired and spend a bit of time on the bus. If you can handle that, you'll love it. Scenery on the drives is amazing anyway.
Had a really knowledgeable tour manager (Kristen) who was very well organized, and had a Guru of a driver - Johnny "No Problem". Crazy fella and really first class service. Couldn't have asked for better people to run the tour.
Everything was well organized and the accommodation and food was great. You always knew where to go and what to do.
Definitely recommend doing ALL of the optional extras.
Review written Jun 2013event 0.3
07 May 2013 - 20 May 2013
Just got back from the discovery tour..and it couldn't have been more perfect our tour guide Lisa was AMAZING!! Our bus driver Christian was the funniest French rapper iv ever met...lol! The people Nd the sights...no words can do it justice! You are constantly on the go so you get to see everything in the short amount of time you are there. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who is looking to travel alone! We partied hard every night Nd woke up early to see the world. Lifelong friends and memories were produced...and I will never be the same again! Lisa had so much knowledge about everywhere we went, yet still an amazing sense of humor! She made the trip what it was Nd was so organized and went above and beyond to make sure we had enough information! This trip was the BEST thing I have ever done and will DEFINITELY be doing another one!
Review written May 2013event 0.3
30 Apr 2013 - 13 May 2013
The European Discovery tour was simply amazing.
Two major factors that made this trip so incredibly awesome for everyone included our Tour Manager, Lasse and Coach Driver, Rasto. They both were extremely knowledgeable and extremely kind to everyone on the tour. They both treated us like family members.
In each city that we visited, Contiki had kept us busy! I can't believe all of the amazing things that I had seen in such a short period of time. We had loads of "cultural experiences" that we will never forget.
We all had created so many wonderful memories and ended the tour with many new friends. I can't imagine doing all of the wonderful things that we did on my own... Contiki is definitely the way to go. If you are looking for a fast-paced tour - where you can visit 9 countries in such a short period of time, European Discovery is definitely for you.
I can only hope that I will see Lasse and Rasto on my next Contiki tour!
Review written May 2013event 0.3
05 Jul 2012 - 16 Jul 2012
Had an absolute ball on this trip! Made so many new friends who i will be in contact with for life. The people who work for contiki were great and knew a lot of stuff about the places we visited. Being in Paris on Bastille day was definitely a highlight! Definitely recommend Contiki to everyone!
Review written May 2013event 0.3