European Escapade » Review by Anna Levy
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