27 Aug 2015 - 07 Sep 2015
This trip was definitely a must do and a must see! I loved every minute of it and thought it was well organised. Matt (tour guide) and Nicholas (driver) were amazing and kept it fun and interesting.
The group got along quite well on a whole and I've made plenty of friends from my tour. I would recommend packing some overnight bags for certain hotels that do not have elevators if you are planning on taking a suitcase.
The optional tours were fantastic and I enjoyed having my time allocated to spend some time exploring the destination at my own leisure.
My favourite city was actually Munich which really surprised me. I'm now planning another trip back to Germany and this trip as inspired to go back, see more and experience more.
Review written Sep 2015event 0.3
22 Jun 2015 - 04 Jul 2015
I did this trip mid-June 2015 and thought it was pretty amazing. We had a couple of snafus during the trip that made it less fun, such as border control at the port France going on strike and thus not allowing us to cross over from England. That delayed our trip six hours and we missed out on the canal cruise in Amsterdam. However, our tour manager Dani was great and we ended up going (illegally) to Dover Castle and the town of Canterbury. We also missed out on going to the Vatican museum because of a religious holiday, but instead we actually saw and were blessed by the Pope. Another aspect of the trip that I didn't love was the "selling" part of it. Every country, it seemed, is known for something and we were taken to shops to see demonstrations and, of course if you want, to purchase something. Leather, watches, rings, perfume, etc.; this got expensive real quick so be aware.
Some specific highlights of and tips for the trip:
Amsterdam: if going to see Anne Frank's house, leave early (i.e., before the group does) or you won't have time. But the city is marvelous on its own to explore.
Rhine Valley: wine tasting was good though only of white wines as this is common for the region; hotel bar is cute and offers good prices for drinks. Use this time to meet more people on your tour, really any bar time is good time to meet peeps. Pack an overnight bag for this hotel; there is no lift/elevator!
Munich: by far the best time of my trip. Really this place should be giving two days for the tour; I have to go back. The bike tour was amazing (go with Tony if you can). Drink lots of water because the beer halls and beers are tremendous. Best hotel of all the hotels we stayed in.
Austria: white water rafting was awesome. Listen to your guide and you'll be fine. I skipped Swarovski world (another selling aspect) but even if you don't go through the museum you still get a ticket to enter the gift shop (of course).
Venice: the gondola ride and walking tour were great but the dinner was just ok. The wine was watered down and the food, sadly, not the best. But doing the dinner provides more bonding time with your group.
Rome: it was nice that the coach gives a mini tour of the city so to eliminate some walking and Dani also gave us a walking tour of the city. Basically, we "sight-saw the shit" out of Rome all in one day. The next day was a free day to go back to places you want to spend more time. The Colosseum tour was great but you can barely hear the guide; still pretty neat to go through. Make sure to eat dinner while out that second night because dinner at the hotel is not good.
Florence: do the dinner optional here! It was the best dinner in all of Italy and the two bottles of wine before the disco puts everyone in partying mood. The disco is two floors - karaoke/bar at bottom and dance hall at top.
Lucerne: gorgeous city. I did both optional activities and wasn't that impressed with either. Mt. Stanserhorn does provide great views and photos but it takes forever to get up and back. The cruise was too short and the guide didn't say much about what we were looking at. Again, more time to bond with group is the plus for these activities. (Side note - the charms for the bracelet presented in the Florence leather/jewelry store are much cheaper at one of the four "selling" shops here.)
Paris: skip the perfumery and go sight-see the shit out of the city; you can buy perform anywhere. If you've never been to Paris before give yourself the extra hour, maybe more if you leave before the group; take the metro, it's easy. The Nouvelle show was an experience and also the last big outing for the tour. Unlimited wine at the show makes for an amazing last night out with the group.
Review written Jul 2015event 0.3
13 May 2015 - 25 May 2015
There is so much I could say about this trip. It was on my bucket list to travel Europe and it was even better than I could've imagined. My husband and I did all the optionals, besides the white water rafting because I was too scared, but I highly suggest doing EVERYTHING you can. This trip was worth every penny, and more. We had the best experience, nothing went sideways and I would go back in a heartbeat. Our tour manager Tamsyn was amazing and funny and knowledgable. We made so many new friends and already planning to meet up with a few of them in the near future. This was life changing and I hope more people take the opportunity to travel the world. Contiki makes it so easy. Everything is basically taken care of for you. I will definitely book another Contiki holiday in the future.
Review written May 2015event 0.3
26 Mar 2015 - 06 Apr 2015
When my Tour Manager (Alex Tkachuk) explained at the beginning of this trip, that we would all become a family and would look back on this trip with the greatest memories of our lives, at first, I was a bit skeptical considering the total number of people and the amount of time we had together as a group. I am so glad that what Alex told me, was, in fact entirely true. Never have I met such genuinely nice, caring, diverse, fun-loving and great people and loved them over two weeks. I have experienced 9 countries and taken so many ridiculous pictures, it's unreal. I would like to specifically say that our Tour Manager was so down-to-earth that the trip was never stressful and always fun. Alex has a Masters degree in History so whatever questions we had from each location from Rome to Switzerland, he was always a fountain of knowledge. No question was stupid to ask and he would always act like one of the group and make fun of us, and play pranks on the other Contiki staff that we met on the way. I feel that with Alex, sharing his knowledge and great enthusiasm in all the cultures and backgrounds meant that this trip was even more exciting. I felt that he was truly passionate about his job and that made the trip feel so effortlessly great, he always went above and beyond my expectations. From showing us how the Rome Metro worked to dancing with us in Space Disco, he was definitely an important member of our Contiki family and I would most definitely recommend Alex for Contiki manager of the year. Another great member who without, we would be totally stuck was Ana. She was the best driver known to man and I truly stand by that. There was one tense time where Ana had to maneuver our huge bus over a small cliff edge and in silence we all watched as a cliff wall progressed by, merely inches from our faces. Once we were at the top, Ana was given the greatest round of applause and so many 'good jobs' that it was heart-warming even for me to hear. During the trip, it was also Ana's birthday whilst we were in Rome, so the majority of us stayed up and partied in the hotel disco with her. Again, like Alex, Ana was so down-to-earth and danced with each and every one of us. She always went out of her way to speak to us and took plenty of pictures with us. Ana and Alex even gave us extra gelato in Rome and free Easter chocolate in Switzerland for being a nice group. These members of staff were so fun, that I could not say a bad word about them at all.
As a trip in general, I loved all of the countries, each had its own unique vibe and background so that no two countries felt alike. I was surprised that Austria was one of the locations that stood out to me, which at first, I thought would just be small villages and nice views. Not only were the locals absolutely lovely with the greatest manners, but the food was delicious! They also have the best chocolate, (sorry Switzerland). I felt like the excursions for each place definitely added to the cultural experience of each country, wine tasting in the Rhine Valley for me was a surprise as I don't normally drink wine and they were all absolutely gorgeous, especially the ice wine. Another favourite excursion of mine was the bike ride in Munich, it was fun, energetic and got us around the city so efficiently that we got to the beer house quite early. I would highly recommend going to all the excursions, even those which seem expensive like Moulin Rouge. Don't let the price of the excursion be off-putting, as the slogan of Contiki states "no regrets". After all, what do you want to remember from the tour, spending your time with 50 amazing people, going to sights for example such as the Moulin Rouge to see some fantastic dancing, acrobatics, comedians and more, or do you want to remember the trip thinking 'I wish I would've spent that extra money and gone to that excursion'? Money means nothing in the long run, experience means everything! I will never forget this amazing experience and I have added all my friends from the trip on every social media platform I have so that I can continue to stay in touch, reminisce about the great times and talk about seeing each other soon.
I don't regret a thing, not even staying up until the early hours of the morning nearly every single night to hang out with my Contiki family. We ate amazing things, and seeing every place was so special and I will remember it always. Thank you Contiki for making the trip the trip of my life! I will see you soon since I will definitely be booking another tour with you in the near future. ❤️
Review written Apr 2015event 0.3
22 Sep 2014 - 04 Oct 2014
After getting back and getting right back into work, I miss everyone already. This was a fast pace, site seeing packed trip. I took an additional day in London and went site seeing, met some locals and they actually toured me around on their day off. We rented bikes for 2euro and biked around everywhere, I highly suggest this. I felt like I fit in even though I was biking on a tourist bike. I checked in and met the Contiki group, and me, my friend, and 2 new people went out and partied hard. Instantly we were good friends. Me and my friend missed the bus going to Amsterdam funny enough. So we took the train and after leaving 4 hours after the group, we got to the hotel in Amsterdam pretty much on time. The Canal cruise was a great way to break the ice, especially because I missed the games on the bus. After that was the sex show, I opted out and kinda regret it. But everyone said it was weird, and kinda awkward, but people always joked about it. After that was a night in Amsterdam to ourselves. The Tour manager said she’d take everyone to a bar called Baluchi’s, I would suggest going elsewhere. Nothing wrong with the place, just kinda touristy. Then the night was done and we had the morning/afternoon in Amsterdam then off to St Goar. This is a quaint little town, but you stop off there so the bus driver can get rest. I’d suggest the wine tasting, it’s kinda cool. I don’t drink wine at all and I found this wine sweet. So if you’re not a wine drinker, this is the wine for you. Then back to the hotel to have a few more drinks. Next up was Munich. Since we went during Oktoberfest we had a quick bike tour with “Mikes Bikes”. It was like 1 hour, besides the 3-4 hour bike tour they normally do. I found them somewhat funny, but I couldn’t handle them for 3 hours. Very high energy, and very crude. But they were informative. Next off was OKTOBERFEST! We got to the gates around 530, and had to be back at the bus for 9pm. That was enough time for sure. We went to one tent, stayed the whole time. I got up to 5 steins (5L of beer), and I think that was the max our group did. We got crazy lucky and had a group of 10-12 people in one area, you usually stick with 2-3 max. I had so much fun there, but that’s my personality. If you aren’t a drinker, there’s rollercoasters, shops, street performers and such. Next was Austria. I did white water rafting and boy was that some great water. I couldn’t stop drinking it to cure the hangover. The cold water once you jump in is a great cure too. Our guide (Magnus) was hilarious, and his life stories were cool. Back to the hotel after that, and then to the hotel bar for a few schnapps shots. You need to try a few because they are crazy good guys, crazy good. Then to a local bar where there was another Contiki group, this place was like a wine cellar. It was cool, packed, and quite German. They had a guy revving a chainsaw to get people’s attention to go to another room to watch them dance. I liked it, could have done without the diesel smell afterwards. Now off to Italy. For me though, I didn’t have fun in Italy. I got food poisoning (along with like 6 others) after the Venetian Dinner, which ruined the next few days for me obviously. I’d suggest not doing the Venice walking tour, very quick and not really worth the money. I’d also skip the dinner, you can find much better food elsewhere (Our Tour Guide said it was below par and she complained though). So 1st day in Rome I didn’t leave the hotel room, 2nd day in Rome we did see a lot, but again I was gun-shy when it came to food and drinks, so I didn’t have a fun time again. Florence was awesome, great views, great weather, and a good walking tour. I went up the Domo on my free time and I’d suggest that. The Tuscan dinner was alright, nothing out of this world. You aren’t on the hills actually, no view, just in a hall almost. Then Disco techa. If you’re confident on going partying on your own I’d suggest it, this place made money off Contiki, that’s it. No locals really go. Kinda fun, but Karaoke they do isn’t real Karaoke, so don’t expect to really sing. Then to Switzerland (Lucerne). DO BOTH EXCURSIONS! The cable car ride up was sick, once at the top of the hill; definitely go walking on the trails, very sick sights. Then the Lake Cruise. I almost didn’t do it, but very glad I did. It was nice and relaxing, and the first time I felt calm and relaxed all trip. The Swiss Alps in the background were breath taking. Definitely bring your camera here, I left mine at the hotel and regret it. If you want to buy a watch or knife, do it before the lake cruise if you have time, places close at 7pm and the store Contiki takes you too admittedly make their sales off Contiki. Try and go somewhere else, you’d get a better deal. Paris is next and it was cool. Eiffel tower at night is great, but wait till 10pm, 11pm, or 12am. It sparkles. I went back to the hotel that night with the bus because I was beat and need some sleep. Next day I skipped the bus tour and perfume shop to go into Paris with a small group. I liked that better, we got A LOT more time to go at our own speed, which was glacier at that time because we were all tired. Louvre (watch your wallets, mine was taken there), Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, Love Lock Bridge, shopping strip, and something else were my sights, and it was very cool just to walk around. Do the cabaret show, it was so cool. We tipped our server and got free beer fed to us which was sick. But the food was good (not great) but the entertainment was great. The dancing, the magic, the juggling, the great promoted street performers were all around awesome. Then we went to a bar beside Moulin Rouge (O’sullivans) and from what I remember I had fun. I woke up at the wrong hotel and had to run back to my correct hotel to make the bus to the airport in time. But that was the best way to finish the trip.
If you are worried about making friends, don’t be. On my flight home we had 6 of us, and we all booked our seats together. I even moved from a great leg room seat to a normal one. If you are open to people, everyone will become friends with you. This is a great way to do a trip, just be prepared to have no sleep for 14 days.
Review written Oct 2014event 0.3
11 Jun 2014 - 23 Jun 2014
This trip is really what you make of it. Are tour manager (Joe) was world class, I learned more about history in 13 days than all of my time in high school and college. If you are the type of person that wants to just relax and enjoy the history and their is plenty of it you can do that. If you are they type to party every night you can because I did. Also they structure it nice because there's a 3-5 hour bus ride every day which you can sleep and recover and still enjoy the history. So my recommendation is party every night listen to the history and be friendly to your tour group their your family for the next 13 days.
Review written Aug 2014event 0.3
05 Jul 2014 - 16 Jul 2014
I can't even put into words how truly incredible my European discovery trip was! I met so many fantastic people, who I hope to stay in touch with forever. Thankyou Chris for being such a passionate, enthusiastic tour manager! Cannot wait for my next contiki!!!!
Review written Aug 2014event 0.3
09 Jul 2014 - 21 Jul 2014
Before starting this tour I was a bit worried/nervous as I was travelling solo for the first time. I definitely worried for nothing! I had a fantastic roommate and made some great friends for life. I never felt alone.
The tour itself was absolutely stunning. Every single day was an amazing experience, it was busy, but definitely worth it. Not a single destination disappointed. It truly exceeded my expectations. We sight-saw the heck out of Europe!
Dani (tour manager) and Levi (tour driver) were a fantastic tour team! They really made the experience even more special. Definitely went above and beyond for our group, and we will all be grateful forever!
Fantastic experience. I would recommend this trip/tour wholeheartedly!
Review written Aug 2014event 0.3
10 Jul 2014 - 21 Jul 2014
WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW
Basically the best thing I have EVER done! what a fantastic trip! Dani and Levi helped me to sight see everything in Europe in a huge 12 days! we did everything plus extras that they threw in! I made some amazing friends and just had an all round fantastic trip. If your looking to see everything in a good amount of time choose this tour! Everywhere we stayed was lovely, always great value for what we paid. I ate my way through Italy! I also went solo, so people don't be scared! I have literally made some friends for life and they are even flying to my home town for my 21st next year. seriously best money ever spent - we and a blast everywhere and made some memorable moments.
Review written Aug 2014event 0.3
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
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