25 Jun 2015 - 19 Jul 2015
I did the European Escapade from the 25th June-19th July 2015. This was my first ever contiki tour and it was absolutely amazing!
It was an awesome trip! there was about 53 people on our tour and 50 of them were Australian, we had one Korean, one American and one Canadian.
I had Stacey as our tour manager and Rado as our bus driver.
Stacey was an amazing tour guide, friendly, bubbly, knowledgeable and a good laugh. Rado was an excellent bus driver and got us to most places on time!
I travelled with my best friend and we stayed 2 nights in London before our tour started, we stayed at The Royal National Hotel, the hotel is nothing special but it's where everyone meets up and it was cheap. If you want to see a lot of london, i recommend going a week before because there is just so much to see!
Take lots of money for Europe, because it is very expensive!!! Mainly for souvenirs, food and drink.
Also you need Franks for Switzerland.
Definitely bring cold and flu tablets because you will get the contiki cough! its not very nice but it didn't ruin my european experience.
A lot of time is spent on the coach, but you get plenty of service stops and most people just catch up on sleep.
Make sure to write a journal, because it is very hard to remember what do you did at each place.
Places we went to:
Paris: Paris was amazing! Esargot and Champagne, Bus tour through Paris, climbed the Eiffel Tower, saw the flashing lights, amazing views from the top. Paris didn't feel very safe but we all stayed as a group and looked out for each other. We didn't get to go in the Louvre as the line was too long which was disappointing, climbed the Arc de Triomphe, went inside the Notre Dame Cathedral. Parisian dinner was nice but loads of steps to get to it, i don't recommend wearing heels! The Cabaret show was different, we saw the Nouvelle show, clubbing in Paris is so much fun.
Beaujolais Wine Region: Here we stayed at Contiki's French Chateau which was really nice. Amazing views of the vineyards, group picnic in the hills, wine tasting, swimming pool, volleyball, 'P' party, cheap drinks. Very relaxing, beautiful Place!
Barcelona: The hotel in Barcelona was good, it had aircon and was close to everything. We drank Sangria at a pub called Black Sheep and did loads of shopping! On our free day me and my friend lost the group and got so LOST!! Don't ask anyone for directions because they send you the wrong way. It was a good way to see Barcelona. Nightlife was good, we went to a beach bar and hit a club afterwards, they do amazing cocktails there!
French Riviera/Nice: One of my favourite places on this tour! Gorgeous beaches, no sand, all pebbles! beware of that when its very hot. We went up to the lookout and there were incredible views!! The contiki campsite we stayed at wasn't that good, the cabins were very hot! We visited the Monte Carlo Casino which was gorgeous, but only had 45 mins in there which was a bit disappointing. There was a theme park nearby which we went to and the beach was only about a 15 min walk away.
Florence: On the way we stopped off at the Leaning tower of Pisa where we got photos. We went on a walking tour and saw the Fake David Statue and went inside the museum. Ate gelato, saw lots of gypsies (be warned, they try to kiss your hand so you give them money). Karaoke night was fun, drank lots of cocktails. The Space Electronic disco was cool but you get drinks cards, they only let you get a few drinks and then have to keep paying them off which was a bit annoying.
Rome: Walked through the Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel was incredible but very crowded with people. Saw the Colosseum, tour guide wasn't very good, could barley hear her but still very good to see. We tossed coins in the Trevi fountain but was still under construction which was disappointing. The whole group got lost on the train ride back, but was an adventure. Camp site was nice, there was a pool and a games room but be prepared for mosquitos! We had a i love Roma party here, where we all signed each others shirts which was good.
Venice: Venice was so nice, the best parts being the gondola rides and the guided tour, we got the best tour guide so funny! Saw St Mark's Square. At the campsite we had a masquerade party but most people couldn't make it as they were sick with gastro!
Vienna: Here we went to a leather demonstration where most of the girls bought puzzle rings (be warned if they come undone, they are very hard to put back!) Ate gelato, there isn't that much to do in Vienna for the free day so some people went back to camp. Prater park was cool and had schnitzel for dinner which was nice. Mozart and Strauss was good to see, plus we got to go backstage and drink free champagne, bonus!
Munich: Stopped off at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp which was sad to see. Mike's Bikes tour, we got absolutely drenched but was so fun! Funny tour guides, went through some english gardens and went to the second biggest beer hall in the world, where you could drink beer and buy a stein which were very cheap!!
Austrian Tyrol: This place was soo nice, amazing scenery. Mountain bike riding was really fun and tiring. We got to keep our bikes for the whole day which was awesome! Paragliding was the best! i was so scared but i think nearly everyone did it. Bobsledding really hurts, i didn't like it at all, it was my least favourite thing. White water rafting was really fun too, definitely do that.
Swiss Alps: Jungfraujoch mountain was incredible, it was a 2 hour train drive to the top but was so cool. It was so hot at the top, i definitely recommend wearing sunscreen because there was a few of us that got very burnt! At the top there is heaps to do, but its very expensive. Drinks from the bar at our hostel were so expensive, most people went to the local shop and bought drinks from there.
Rhine Valley: We stopped over in Heidelberg, which was a nice little town to buy souvenirs or get your passport stamped. Saw the biggest cuckoo clock in the world, watched how beer steins are crafted. Later on we did wine tasting, which was good if you like white wine.
Amsterdam: The bike ride in Edam was fun, we saw how clogs are made and did cheese tasting. There is heaps of bikes everywhere here! Saw the Red light district which wasn't as good as what people make it out to be. We went to a sex show but i didn't enjoy it, it was too intense plus i was sat in the front row! The canal pedal boats were fun and got to go in the Van Gough Museum, which took up a lot of time. Unfortunately we didn't make it to Anne Frank's house or the Bolls museum. We took photos in front of the IAmsterdam sign which is a must do! The canal cruise was awesome, free drinks and a good way to end the trip. The Sea Palace dinner, I'm not too sure about as i didn't make it past entree. Tip: don't drink too much wine before dinner. Loads of cafes if you're into that sort of thing, over there it is legal to smoke weed in a cafe.
Overall this trip was a massive eye opener and i enjoyed it so much and met some amazing people, who at first are just strangers and by the end you become one big family. I would highly recommend going on this tour, you see a lot of Europe in just 25 days!!!
Review written Jul 2015event 0.3
14 Jul 2014 - 07 Aug 2014
If you want to travel around Europe and have it all organized for you then this is the tour for you!! If your asking your self " Do i really want to travel alone?" or "Maybe i am to old to do a Contiki tour?" Then stop right there! We had 35 ish people in our tour which was considered a small group ages between 18 and our eldest was 33. ( Room to spread out on the bus ummm Yes please!!) We had 5 couples and the rest traveling alone or with a friend. This tour shows you the best of every country and you make so many friends along the way. My favorite place we visited was SPAIN!!! The hostel we stayed at was awesome and so clean and funky!! The food and country is amazing!! Make sure you get to the Food Markets and the Sagrada Família. Switzerland was beautiful but cold so take warm clothes!! I didn't and had to buy a few things haha. Try and do all of the ME time options there honestly worth the money!!! Beware of the bed bugs in Rome that was the only down side of the accommodation and my poor partner got eaten alive!! Take vitamins and cough syrup but keep in mind THE CONTIKI COUGH IS REAL no matter how healthy you are you will get sick!! I sounded like a dieing seal the whole time but it didn't effect my time overseas!
I could talk forever about this tour If you have any questions message me and ill reply to any of your questions or concerns.
Review written Apr 2015event 0.3
29 Jun 2013 - 23 Jul 2013
This trip was a fantastic introduction to Europe. Got to see almost all the major tourist cities and attractions in Europe. Great tour to see a lot in a 'short' amount of time, and have some amazing experiences, including all the additional activities, which I highly recommend.
Some of the accommodation was great, and some was average, but it doesn't really matter, because you pretty much just need a bed to sleep in.
This trip let me know where I want to go back to and for how long. Loved my experience on this tour with Contiki.
Review written Jan 2015event 0.3
17 Aug 2014 - 10 Sep 2014
Seen so many amazing sites and scenery of this trip, but also meet some amazing people on our tour..
The adventure side of this trip was fantastic, White Water Rafting, Bobsledding, Mountain Bike Riding and best of all Paragliding in Hopfgarten.
Lauterbrunnen was by far my favourite place on this tour.
If your a first timer to Europe I highly recommend this trip but the only trouble is you will want to go on holidays again as soon as you get home.
Review written Nov 2014event 0.3
26 Jun 2014 - 20 Jul 2014
I should start this review off by saying it was the best month of my life, and if you've never been to Europe before and want to check out as many things as you can, then this is the perfect way!
It was truly an incredible experience to travel to a place where civilization as we know it started, with the huge amounts of history and stunning sights all part of the journey.. However this isn't just a review saying how amazing it was, because there were definitely some negatives that I found with the Contiki/European experience.
I'm gonna go through some of low lights and annoying parts of the tour, not because I like to focus on the negatives but because everyone will tell you how amazing it is so it's only fair if you really know what you're in for right? I just want to give a bit more of an honest recap of things.
First of all, be prepared to pay for everything, from using WiFi, washing your clothes and even going to the toilet (not on contiki sights, only in public areas). Europe as a whole is very very expensive!!
WiFi was painfully hard to connect to and use at times, with only about half the places you stay at offering it completely free, the rest requiring you to either buy a drink or pay a small amount. It was usually really slow and only stretched within common areas too, meaning no internet in your rooms. Barcelona was the only accommodation where it did reach the rooms and was completely free, easily the best place you'll stay all tour (because it's modern as well, not just the WiFi!). Now obviously you're not paying all this money to come to Europe and sit on your phone, but there's always times when you want to relax and talk to your friends and family on Facebook but can't get a half decent connection.
A lot of the servo's you stop at on the way will have WiFi too but its not normally free and sometimes impossible to use. There was WiFi available on the coach, but it's so expensive it just isn't worth it.
Speaking of the coach, make sure you get on it early enough on drive days(travelling from one city to the next) so that you secure yourself a window seat. They're so much easier to get to sleep on, which can be hard at the best of times when you're clinging to life from a terrible hangover, but just trust me and get a window seat!
Laundry facilities are available at most places you'll stay, but of course it comes at a price. They would vary from 3-5 Euros for a wash and the same for a dryer. This annoyed me, you would think paying all the money that you do they would at least let you wash your clothes for free, but nope. Your best bet is to split a machine with someone else to halve the cost. Again we're not talking a lot of money, but is it annoying? You bet.
The rooms themselves were... small. Most places you stay will be 4 to a room, with only just enough space to put your suitcase down if you're lucky. The worst part about these rooms though is undoubtedly the heat. Now of course if you're going in summer it's going to be hot outside, but nowhere near as hot as some of the rooms will get. The Europeans don't seem to have discovered A/C as of yet, so don't go expecting any of that in the accommodations. You won't even get a pedestal/ceiling fan to at least help the mugginess of the rooms. If it's been a hot day outside, be prepared to sleep in a sauna that night. Maybe that's why everyone was drunk all the time, just so they didn't have to endure trying to sleep sober in those conditions. Not all places are like this, but a fair few will be.
P.S. Don't wet the mattress in any way, even with water, because you will have to pay 100Euro in the morning... (long story, just look after your mattress!)
Showers and toilets are sometimes communal and sometimes in your room (so much better). Again, everywhere you stay is different.
The food you get served by Contiki for dinner is a little bit hit and miss, but did get better towards the end of trip strangely enough. Some meals were really nice with plenty of leftovers while some weren't great and left you still hungry.. luck of the draw really. Breakfast is continental and fairly standard in most places, with muesli and yoghurt always available which made me happy. They do cooked breakfasts occasionally as well which were pretty decent.
Be prepared to get sick! I know everyone says this, but that's because its 100% true and guaranteed. You're basically paying 4 grand to push your immune system to its limits in strange and foreign conditions. I was a bit silly in that I didn't take/bring any medication for coughs and whatnot with so I pretty much just took it on, which wasn't too bad until i got a stomach bug in Amsterdam.. oh well! Just be prepared and pack whatever you know you're susceptible too.
Now, onto the ME Time 'Optional' Extras. I use quotation marks over the word optional because they tell you that they're optional, but they will try their absolute hardest to peer pressure you into doing each and every single one. This was just about the most annoying part of the whole trip from a Contiki stand point for me. A few days in, your tour manager will go through each and every single optional available whilst your sitting on the coach hungover, explaining what each one is and why you should do it. Now that probably doesn't sound so bad at first, but what I didn't realise is that they will then pass out a form and you have to decide then and there what optionals you wish to do for the rest of the tour. It is a massive sales pitch by the tour manager and it's a hell a lot of money to be paying upfront for things you don't even know if you'll want to do in 3 weeks time (about 700Euro+ to do them all).
I was under the impression we get to decide a day or two before if we wanted to pay for these extras, because really who knows what you'll feel like doing before you get to a city?? But no such luck..
Thankfully however most of the ME Time Optionals are totally worth it. The best being the railway up Jungfrau Mtn in Switzerland. This one is expensive but SO SO worth it, specially if you haven't experienced mountains and snow before, you HAVE to do that one. I had no idea we were gonna get to be in contact with snow but luckily there's snow all year round in the Swiss Alps!
All the activity ones are definitely worth it, including the bike rides. They're really easy and even the girls enjoyed it, which says something I think!
The only optionals I would say to avoid would be the group dinners. This being because when you go to these dinners everyone gets the same thing and there is no choice in what you want, so all the food is mass produced and just not that great. You would be much better off going off with a small group to a random restaurant and getting meals actually cooked for you. These dinners are a chance to mingle with the group of course, so really it comes down to whether you would rather socialize with your contiki family or experience some of Europe's amazing cuisine.
Contiki will also take you to random stores(you get no choice) that they have an affiliation with in pretty much every city and the store will try to sell you more things. A lot of these stores are actually pretty decent like a really nice Perfume factory in France and beer stein producer in Germany, but some are shit, like a leather shop. So yeah, just so you know.
Finally, bring a lot of money!!!
I got told London was expensive but I had no idea the rest of Europe was just as bad! Food and drink are the worst killers. Naturally you're not carrying a lot of food on you so every time you get hungry it means more money. Try and always buy a few snacks at a time, fruit is a good idea because its often hard to come by, and always have a water bottle with you to prevent having to shell out money every time you're hungry/thirsty.
Even the drinks in nightclubs are expensive, something I thought would be cheap. Some clubs do 'free pour' which normally means you get a reasonable amount of alcohol but these drinks usually cost up to 8Euro and can very quickly add up. A lot of the people on our tour needed their parents to send them more money because they simply didn't have enough, something that I only just avoided myself!
Alright, I think that's all the negatives out the way!
Please don't read this thinking that you shouldn't go, if you're 'umming' and 'arring' about this tour, don't! You definitely need this in your life! It was truly the best experience of my life and I'm so glad I did it.
For all the rest of the amazing reasons to go on this trip, and to get a better idea on other things, just read all the other reviews!
Good luck and safe travels!!
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
13 May 2014 - 06 Jun 2014
This trip was nothing short of amazing I literally can't put it into words and met some great friends along the way. The reason you are reading this is because you wanna know stuff and i'll tell you the things you want to know!
Wifi - There is is wifi everywhere not even kidding. We all turned into wifi warriors trying to find a connection so don;t worry about trying to get a roaming sim. The Contiki buses do have wifi but it's crazy overpriced and you pay per 100MB. Nobody used it. All the sites you stay at have it, some you'll have to pay, others you'll have to walk to a certain sweet spot and others it's shitty slow.
Optionals - Most of the optionals are great. I only didone of the dinners (the last one) as you can find food ALOT cheaper elsewhere especially the French dinner. So get lost Paris and find something cheaper with your new buddies!
Bus time - You'll be spending alot of time on the bus, especially to and from Barcelona. It is not a bad thing! Either you can catch up on some well needed sleep, or look at the sights or listen to your tour manager talk about Napoleon!
The sites - All the places you stay are alright. You aren't in hotels but hey, it's not dirt. Keep an eye out in the Italian sites as during the warmer months there are bugs (Bug spray for Venice is ESSENTIAL. You will be eaten alive) so make sure you keep windows a bit closed! Most places have 4 or so to a room and the rooming list gets passed around so buddy up!
Contiki Cough - You will get it. No amount of preparation will stop it. Get some pseudo from the pharmacies, they are everywhere, and hope that it goes as soon as it comes on!
Criminals - Ok so in places like Barca, Paris and all of Italy there are some pretty shifty dudes. You don't need a secret undershirt bumbag or whatever (if you want though, go ahead) just keep your bags closed and back pockets empty. Ignore all the street sellers and petition signers and never EVER go home alone from a night out.
Pack Lightly - I cannot stress this enough. There are H&Ms everywhere so if you need more clothes, cheap and easy. I dumped many shirts and shorts while travelling. You don't need heaps of clothes!
ID - Continental Europe is pretty lax when it comes to ID in clubs and stuff so you wont need your passport except when you go to Monaco so don't worry. UK is a bit more strict but a drivers licence will do.
Sleeping bags - You can buy them at the Contiki basement in London but me and my friend got one from Argos on the cheap. You'll need them for most contiki sites as they just provide a bed and a pillow.
Towels - Bring a quick dry towel. Small, light and drys quickly especially when you have early starts. You can just dry them over the seats on the bus. I had a regular towel but they are not fun to transport or have wet in your bag all day :/
Alcohol - Since alcohol is flowing daily in Europe and it is Contiki alot of people will be drinking. Since I am not a big drinker I was a bit worried but everyone is cool. No pressure. Drink what you what when you want. Don't worry if you can't drink beer in Munich, have a pretzel instead :)
That's more or less the main points. You will have an absolute blast doing this tour. This was my first trip overseas and now I have friends for life! Seriously, just do this tour.
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3
06 May 2014 - 31 May 2014
What a month it was. European Escapade gives you a taste of everything Europe has to offer. If you're looking to get as much out of Western Europe as you can in a reasonable amount of time, this is the tour for you. My tour guide and driver team was amazing. Anything you needed to know or needed assistance with Clare was there and Rado our driver? Oh Rado... What a GEM! I miss them both so much. Contiki is amazing, they plan everything for you and the on-site teams were also insanely cool. Those were my favorite stops along the way... Contiki themed hostels/lodges/chateaus always had a cool atmosphere, wicked bar and usually a club of some sort. All you basically need to do is wake up on time and Contiki team does the rest for you I had a blast. I literally could not give you one single complaint or regret. It was the time of my life, just be prepared because they have theme parties at a few of the contiki stops, tight & bright, shock your mother, i heart roma.. Those are the best times so pack some funky items just in case!! ALSO bring vitamins and cold meds from home the contiki cough WILL get you! One last thing... The suggested budget is a little off if you're a big partier like myself because I don't they don't factor in drinking.. Factor in some wiggle room for the budget if you plan on drinking your face off which will probably happen because it's contiki! There's something for everyone on this tour and there were some people in my group who preferred to hang alone but honestly if you're looking for a party atmosphere this is it. I have never laughed and smiled so hard for so long in mt life 26 days of pure, uninterrupted HAPPINESS!!!
Review written Jun 2014event 0.3
01 May 2014 - 25 May 2014
just come back from tour had a blast with a great road crew and Group of People to go around Europe with and would gladly do another Contiki again well worth the Experience and time to kick back and do what you wanted to do and the place and onsite teams were awesome as well I would recommend anyone who want to go over seas in Europe to do a Contiki
Review written Jun 2014event 0.3
11 Jun 2013 - 07 Jul 2013
I did this tour last summer with some of my girlfriends and we had the best time. It is pretty fast paced, but if you are looking to get a taste of Europe in one month, then this trip is for you! When you go back in the future, you can spend more time in the places that you really love. I recommend this trip for first-time Europe travelers like me :)
Check out my blog www.ellafortuna.com to see each place we went to and how much fun we had! :)
Review written May 2014event 0.3
27 Jun 2013 - 21 Jul 2013
This was a fabulous trip and I had an amazing time over the 25 days. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone who would like to get a good feel of what Europe is like, it was just the right amount of time, anything shorter and I don't think it would of been as enjoyable. Do as many of the extras as you can, they really make the trip.
Review written Feb 2014event 0.3
31 Jul 2013 - 24 Aug 2013
I found the Contiki experience an amazing one - a really good taste of Europe (my favourite places were Paris, Barcelona and Venice). You get so close to your tour group and tour manager, and that really makes a huge difference. The nightlife and parties were incredible too, especially as Contiki had a lot of connections in bars, clubs and activities. At 18, my friend and I were the youngest on tour with the average age being about 22/23 (oldest was around 26).
Just a few things. Contiki will try to milk you for your money, especially with optionals, so if you're travelling with a tight budget you might struggle - I spent a lot more than I intended (about 2000 AUD, and I didn't do all the optionals). Some of the optionals were really disappointing too and seemed to be a bit of a rip off.
Optionals to avoid:
- Flamenco show, Barcelona - boring and amateurish, especially for 30 euros! Would much rather have wandered Barcelona.
- Tuscan meal, Florence - really average food in a not-particularly-special restaurant. Would have been much better off finding food elsewhere.
- Electronic Space Disco - it was fun because everyone on tour went, but the actual club was disappointing.
- Vatican Tour AND Imperial Tour - these were both overpriced and the guides were horribly boring and uneducated.
- Bobbahn, Austrian Tyrol - I didn't actually do this, but I heard negative reviews from everyone who did, saying it was uncomfortable and at times painful, and not worth the money.
- JungFrau mountain, Swiss Alps - I didn't do this either, but from what I heard, the journey up the mountain was the main feature of the day (2 hours long) and the experience was quite overpriced and not particularly special.
Optionals that were amazing:
- Cabaret, Paris - very expensive but worth it for the real Parisian experience with your new group, one of my favourite nights in the tour.
- Parisian dinner - absolutely boiling when we went (no air con in the restaurant) but the food was delicious!!
- Venice walking tour - this guide was lovely and very knowledgable.
- Viennese dinner - a very eccentric experience but completely hilarious.
- Munich bike tour - the guides are hilarious and the tour was really fun.
- Whitewater Rafting in Austrian Tyrol - not very hardcore for professional rafters out there, but fun and a good experience.
- Tandem paragliding - expensive but INCREDIBLE, worth it.
- Wine tasting, St Goar - another really bizarre experience, hilarious.
Highlights of the whole tour were some of the nights out we had as groups, like in Paris, Barcelona, Florence and Amsterdam. Also the free days we had in each city to explore and go our own way - our tour guide organised maps and metro maps for us each time, which made it way easier. We also got to see really special parts of each city which you wouldn't necessarily find otherwise.
I thought the accommodation was fine for most of the trip - the hostels were comfortable enough and clean, which was fine, and the contiki properties served surprisingly good food. The issue I had was that in Italy we stayed exclusively in Contiki campsites in cabins, none of which had air conditioning (in 35+ degree weather) and all of which were quite far from the cities. Venice was ridiculous - to the point where we physically couldn't travel into the city at night because the transport cut off.
Another slight downer is that Contiki will try to sell you things at every available point, usually disguising it as a 'demonstration' or an 'opportunity', when really they're just informercials preaching to you about their products. Bit of a pain, try to avoid when possible.
You'll be on the coach for about 40% of the trip. The coach was pretty comfortable and we'd all sleep or socialise, but some days involved long drives so bring comfortable pillows and things to do!
Also, take as many vitamins and immune boosters as possible. You will get sick. The Contiki Cough is famous.
Overall an amazing experience, really happy I did it and happy to recommend the trip to others.
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
06 Apr 2010 - 30 Apr 2010
I had an amazing time on this tour. Our tour manager Karlene was the best! It was perfect for someone my age (18 at the time). I made great friends. People may think being on a coach for hours is terrible, its really not. That is where we all got to really know each other and bond. I have since been on another tour where there was all flights and no coach, the group connection was not anywhere near as strong.
The places we stayed in were fantastic, the special stay in France, the Chateau... AMAZING!
Highly recommend anyone to go on this tour, perfect amount of time to be away, and a great insight into each country. I know where I would like to go back to again with my partner!
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
02 May 2013 - 26 May 2013
This tour was an experience of a life time! We had an amazing group with an awesome tour manager and driver. We got taken to all the cool places in all the cities we went to and then got set free on our own to explore. I really enjoyed Munich but wish we had more time there. Austria was awesome with the adrenalin activities. Over all it was a great time and I have met some friends for life I I would recommend it for anyone looking to see a fair bit in a short time! And partiers are always welcome!!
Review written Jun 2013event 0.3
31 Jul 2010 - 24 Aug 2010
Had so much fun!!!! Lots of great sites, lots of great people, partying, drinking and learning so much about different cultures and countries. I even met my now fiancee on it.
Everyone should do this at least once in their lives!!!
Review written May 2013event 0.3
28 Mar 2013 - 21 Apr 2013
I booked this tour without planning or really thinking about it only 2 months before it left. It was homestly the best thing ive ever done!
Ive made friends I'll have for life, saw incredible sights and have some awesome memories! I had an awesome tour manager Megghie (you'll be blessed if you get her) and a fabulous driver Rui!
If you are thinking about doing this tour, DO IT!!
Also make sure you have enough money for optional extras, they are worth it! Paragliding over the swiss alps was insane! Something I will never ever forget.
Review written May 2013event 0.3
This review will cut out half way through, if you want the rest, msg me.
I thought writing an extensive review would be helpful for people going solo and are somewhat apprehensive about it (and maybe their parents, too). This tour absolutely changed my life; I could not have asked for a better experience! If you want to see as much as you can in only a months time, I could not recommend any other trip. I felt safe and taken care of at all times -- you will always find some good travel buddies, and the contiki staff are so amazing, whether it is your tour leader, bus driver, or the contiki reps at each stop.
First off, budgeting. This trip cost me around $8 000 Canadian when including the contiki price, air fare, the ME time optional activities, food and spending money. FYI, you should sign up for all the optionals, as your tour group will be going to them regardless. Some people tried to save money by not doing activities like the white water rafting tour, but the bus will go to it anyway, so you're stuck. I'll let you know which optionals you can skip out on through this review.
From Canada, mind you:
ME optionals: 700-800
Tipping Guide/Driver: 100 at the end (2 euro per day is what they recommend)
Museums, Food, Shopping, Ticket Fees for whatever: 75-100 per day.
Extra Hotels: 150
Came to around 8000 for me, and I was pretty thrifty. I ate street meat whenever possible, and bought about 500 in gifts for family.
I traveled solo for the first time in my life (I was incredibly anxious at first), but the tour is structured in such a way that allows you to meet people right off the bat. You can meet all your fellow contiki travelers the first night after your group meeting and have a beer to get to know one another, so when the tour starts you have some familiarity. I took one of those cab/vans from Heathrow. It cost about 30 pounds as opposed to a 90 pound cab ride, and got me there pretty quick. They have counters for em all over the place. I booked the hotel for the day before (it took me a while to get adjusted to the time difference, so I slept quite a bit the first day). The next day I took an on-and-off bus tour of the city, which has a stop right in front of the hotel. Then by 6 PM, I met up with my group and had a beer. They pair you up with randoms in the hotel which is kind of sketchy, and they are not necessarily on your tour, so lock your luggage.
You are given a piece of paper with the list of every stop/number/address etc. on your trip, so if you get lost, simply find a cab and they'll take you to where you need to go. I never had to use it, but I know some people who drank a little too much during nights out on the town found it easy to get back to where they were supposed to be. My rule of thumb was to always travel around with people. You will quickly find out who you are compatible with. I found that at every city people would talk about what they wanted to see, and then you just break off into different groups. Some people want to shop, some want to see historic sites, it depends on the city. I went off by myself once to see some historic buildings in Munich, couldn't understand the subway system, got a little lost, but fortunately a cab driver got me back to where I was supposed to go. I generally stick in groups, especially if you're worried about safety, it's not a bad idea.
From this point on you are in the care of the contiki crew, and follow the itinerary. I have to say that it is exceptionally organized. Generally speaking, it is one day of travel with the night in the city which consists of a quick drive-through or a night event (sometimes optional stuff), and the next day you get to wander around, see museums, etc. Your leader gives you a map each time you go to a city so you don't get lost and suggests places to see (also shown on the map).
The food at each contiki stop was fine, it wasn't anything amazing, but it was usually themed for the country you were in. The travel days are where I found it to be the most expensive, as buying lunches and snacks add up quite quickly when you're on a bus for that long. I tried to eat cheaply to save money, so there's usually a sandwich option at the various stops that costs around 6 euro or so. I found this ate up more of my budget than I expected.
The actual sleeping quarters are kept quite clean by the staff. You are not experiencing anything luxurious on this trip. Most stops are cabins with 2 or 4 to a room, hostels with 4 to a room, and if you're lucky, you will get a hotel with 2 to a room (happened twice, and it was glorious). The cabins do not have air conditioning, in some cases they don't even have screens on the windows so you are trapped inside disgustingly hot, unsleepable conditions (Venice). For me, this was the biggest negative for the trip, as I need a good night's sleep. The partying in most of the campgrounds is quite loud, so bring ear plugs if you decide to stay in that night. The showers are hit-or-miss in terms of being warm, unless you are in a hostel or hotel. Most people compensated by sleeping on the bus, which is more than doable since you are on the road for hours on end some days. This is the only negative aspect of the tour from my standpoint, but it didn't seem to bother many other people, so I am somewhat finicky about it. You bring your contiki sleeping bag around so there's no worries about questionable sheets.
In terms of partying, it was almost every night. There were a fair number who chose to not go out drinking, but there were an equal number who went hard almost every night. Nobody holds it against you either way. I couldn't party like the 20 year olds every night, but they loved it when I came out. Some nights we played cards or watched a movie (some stops had optional "chill" activities for those who didn't want to drink). Just be aware that it happens, and it happens a lot.
Okay, enough rambling, on to the tour!
LONDON: The tour does not include London, so if you want to see anything, book a hotel the night before or after the tour.
PARIS: You will never have enough time to see everything. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays (or it was when I was there). I saw the Arc de Triumph (better view than the Eiffel), the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and another church I can't remember the name of, before heading out to the optional activity dinner and the Nouvelle Eve show. Each optional dinner usually comes with half a bottle of wine per person. I actually consider this the best day of my life! We stopped at the Louvre for 2h the next day before heading off, which was because our tour leader slid it in to the itinerary for us. Expensive, but I would do both ME optionals. The metro was quite easy to use here as well, so use it to save time walking and get more in.
BEAUJOLAIS: This is more of a relaxing day. It wasn't particularly my favourite stop, but it was a nice time to meet your group after the crazy rush that was the first days. The area is AMAZINGLY beautiful. You are staying in an old cheateau on the hillside (lots of pictures on the site). Go for a hike, chill out at the pool, play some soccer, and relax. This is one of those places where you're not getting any sleep -- they have a club in the basement, the rooms are quad-share...just overall noisy. So I wouldn't make this a catch up on sleep night, especially since the bus to Barcelona is the longest ride of the trip coming up the next day.
BARCELONA: I got sick that day, that sucked. The hostel we stayed at was nice -- some people opted to go clubbing. Visited the markets in the city, saw the FC Barcelona stadium which was worth the cab ride out, and saw the Flamenco show at night. It was okay, but again your whole group goes, so you might as well, it wasn't that expensive.
FRENCH RIVIERA: One of my favourite places. Some additional expenses: we went to a private beach which costs around 10-15 euro. Some went to the public beach, but your stuff could get stolen, haha. Entrance into the Grand Casino is also some extra coin. Make sure you bring some nicer clothes, but don't worry about being super formal. This place is amazing. Nothing in terms of places you HAVE to see, just wander around a bit and hang out on the beach.
FLORENCE: Very nice city, lots of museums, but honestly, there is so many statues and such lining the streets I was fine just walking around. Space Electronic Disco is definitely optional, but I found it fun. It's just a club, but the majority of people there were other contikiers or young children (16 year olds can go to clubs there).
ROME: See the Vatican -- you have to. It was only like 30 euro for a cab ride back to the camp from there. Take both guided tours, as they will speed things up as you avoid lines. We also got over to some other landmarks, but honestly there is so much to do here (like Paris) you can't get it in in one day. Plan wisely. The metro is also a quite easy way to get around.
VENICE: Take the Gondola Ride and walking tour. Most of the day you walk around and take pictures -- very expensive city. Your guide should warn you of this. Your campsite is outside the city, so you don't have time to wander at night. Again, some church fees etc. I avoided purchasing the tour t-shirts and group photos whenever possible, they didn't seem necessary when I could spend that money on a nice lunch or stuff. I bought a beautiful lace tablecloth for my parents here (around 150 euro). Some good shopping.
VIENNA: I love classical music, but didn't particularly care for the concert. If you want to save some money, here is a good place to do so. It's right in the heart of everything and your tour will stop there, so you can take the time to wander. It wouldn't hurt you to see it, but just saying its a place to save money. The schnapps museum is a tour stop, so you might as well do it, there's nothing in that area to explore if I can remember. The Viennese Dinner was quite fun, and you are WAY out of the city in the forest somewhere if they go to the same place still. We went to a war museum outside of Vienna that was amazing and I can't remember the name, but if you like history then it's worth a trip -- public transit takes you right there.
MUNICH: Take a bike tour, I wish I had of done that instead of getting lost. Go to the market and sample some cheese and meats, that was really fun. The Bavarian Beer Hall was a must dinner as well, very fun.
TYROL: They changed things around here a bit since I went. White Water Rafting is a must -- I still tell people about how I rafted the Alps! This area is so beautiful. I never did the Tandem Paragliding, but those who did loved it. It was one place I decided to cut costs, as the bus goes off separately to this activity, and doesn't punish those who opt out. Our mountain biking was cancelled due to weather, so some people hung out and watched a movie, while others went to a trout farm down the road where you catch and cook the fish. I wish I did that! The bobsled option wasn't there for us, so no comment.
SWISS ALPS: This place is unbelievably gorgeous. I thought the Tyrol region was amazing, but Switzerland is ridiculous. The accommodations were pretty standard in terms of quad-share, but this one has a WATERFALL behind it. Some walked over and had a shower under it, but its several hundred feet tall...I decided against it. Take the Jungfrau -- ya it costs a lot but it was so crazy taking the train up into the clouds. There are also tons of activities once you get to the top. You need a coat, it's snow. The town is beautiful as well, it's worth a walk around.
RHINE VALLEY: Very tame compared to the other stops. I think this is where we finally got a hotel...I took like a 2 hour shower just embracing the hot water. If you still have some money, buy a cuckoo clock or beer stein (they cost a lot of money but are pretty sick souvenirs). Just a cute town you can wander around. You don't stay long in Heidelberg, it's one of those stop overs to break the long drive, there's a few of them on the trip like Arles, Pisa, etc. They are pretty awesome little stops, though. You can grab local cuisine, and in this case, find a pharmacy. I'll talk about that later.
AMSTERDAM: Some people love it, I found it a bit sketchy. Red light district is fun to walk around. Anne Frank's house was not worth the line, and I'm a history teacher. I bought some cheese in Edam which is a very nice stop, but it all melted in my suitcase. DO NOT BUY CHEESE AS A SOUVENIR. The canal cruise was expensive, but it was okay. The final dinner was the crappiest dinner by far in terms of ME optionals, but it was the farewell dinner. Some people went out to bars/bakeries that night, but I stayed back and played some cards. This was a pretty crappy hostel -- the other hostels were actually quite nice, I have to say. They stuffed like 4 single beds into a room that should only have 2. I also stepped in somebody's puke that night. BAH! Check out the Heineken brewery, that was pretty cool and only around 15 euro.
So where I cut costs: tandem paragliding, group photos, t-shirts. I would recommend doing the dinners as they get you socializing. Any shows are a must. I think at the end it cost me like 700-800 CAN to do them all, but it was worth it. And in most cases, you either do it or stand around waiting until the group is done. Just take that into account.
Bring medicine: I was sick for 2 weeks because illness circulates around the bus's air conditioning. You also don't have time to find clinics or pharmacies.
Bring ear plugs: If you suck at sleeping through noise like I do, you need em.
Travel Bags: I brought a knapsack and it was a pain lugging it around. You can buy smaller travel bags (I think Swiss Army sells good ones). You also want to wear them on your front, so look into that.
Clothes: I brought one pair of nice jeans that could double for walking around on chilly days or going out, and one pair of dress pants. The only time you need dress clothing is for the casino, and I'm pretty sure I could have worn jeans there. It is hot as balls in July for most of these countries, so bring comfortable walking clothes. It only gets colder in the mountains, and even then it was mostly short weather. You'll need something warm when going up Jungfrau. I had a sweater with no jacket and couldn't go outside for long.
Shoes: I wore comfortable running shoes and was set for walking around the cities. Some people wore sandals/thongs, and their feet were swollen like crazy at the end of the day. 1 pair of runners, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of nicer shoes, that's all you need.
Plastic Bags: Bring em, because your clothes won't dry, and they stink up all of your clean stuff. Believe me, it was a huge pain trying to keep my luggage away from getting that moldy smell. The dryers at most places suck, so make sure when doing laundry you give yourself time to hang stuff up outside to get dry. The humidity sometimes won't even let that happen.
AGE: I was 25 when I took this tour, and was like the 5th oldest on the trip. Our oldest was 28 or 29, but they fit right in with everyone. At the end of the day, everyone is there for the same reason, and I got along with some of the 19 year olds as much as the 29 year olds, age doesn't matter. I can see on certain trips where some people would not mesh and blame it on age, but at the end of the day thats the gamble you're taking when you go solo on a group tour. My group was fantastic, and 3 years later we still keep in touch. Some even became great friends and hang out with each other all the time. It is seriously a life changing journey.
Otherwise, look at the Contiki recommendations, they're spot on.
I hope this helps people who are anxious about traveling. The contiki staff were amazing from start to finish. The tour was planned down to the hour, the optionals were amazing, the accomodations were "okay". There's so much that isn't listed on the itinerary, but even if you know NOTHING about these cities, they will still give you suggestions. Doing the Great Britain tour this time, I'm 27 now, need hotels. :)
Review written Mar 2013event 0.3
31 May 2012 - 24 Jun 2012
Best 25 days of my life! From day 1 we were a family. Our Tour Manager T-Bone did an amazing job at getting us to feel comfortable if we were traveling alone (most of us were). She MADE the trip! And our epic bus driver Fillip knew how to throw a BUS PARTY! All the accommodation was great some of the places we stayed were beautiful! I recommend doing ALL the optionals they are fantastic and you will have a blast. Couldnt have asked for a better bunch of people the share in the best time of my life. To many amazing moments i could go on forever. Just book it and GO! #NOREGRETS
Review written Feb 2013event 0.3
13 May 2012 - 08 Jun 2012
Absolutely amazing, made lifelong friends, it was a whirlwind action-packed month but the stress wasn't there because Contiki takes care of EVERYTHING, my tour manager, Jordana, looked out for us and went the extra mile, I couldn't have imagined doing it any other way. Not only did I soak up all the culture I wanted, ate my way through Europe, but I laughed and danced and drank with people from all over the world that I never would have met otherwise. I don't regret. a. single. cent.
Review written Dec 2012event 0.3