Read reviews from past Contiki travelers.
Two points I need to make clear before continuing: The hotel in Cairo has CHANGED. The contract with the previous hotel (with the bad reviews) has ended, and you will be staying a nice hotel outside of downtown Cairo. The change went into effect right before my trip started. I was very happy with the accommodations at the new hotel--clean rooms, hot water and nice bathrooms, relaxing pool/bar/restaurant area.
If you hear something happened in Chicago, it's not going to prevent you from visiting New York City; same with Canberra and Sydney. The media does a great job in blanketing "the Middle East" with problems. Don't let your relatives or friends deter you from going on this trip because of what they have been led to believe is happening through media exposure. Egypt is very peaceful and their economy is seriously suffering from tourists (especially Australians and Americans) being deterred from visiting.
QUICK TIPS: Egyptian pounds and American dollars are accepted everywhere. If you bring American dollars, get all of your money in $1 and $5 notes before you go. It's easier for tipping and buying small things. If you are comfortable with using a debit/bank card and you bank does not have ridiculous fees, there are ATMs in all places. HANG ON TO YOUR SMALL EGYPTIAN NOTES. There is a shortage on circulating 5 l.e. (pounds) and the 1 l.e. coins. A few of the small travel-size packs of Kleenex tissues are great for toilet paper (yes, you will need these). Buy your water and be careful if you get ice in drinks.
Ahem... I personally selected this trip because I have always been interested in ancient history. It was also my 30th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than being in Egypt? I am for sure an 'in-depth explorer' and I love history. I did every Optional with the exception of one--the Unfinished Obelisk & High Dam. (You can see the obelisk when you drive past and it's really not that powerful or exciting.)
THIS IS NOT A PARTY TOUR. Unlike a lot of other Contikis, you need to understand that you are in a religiously conservative country, a place where gender and family roles are still very well defined. The only time we ladies went to a club was the one inside the hotel in Hurghada.
There is one key component of this trip that I would not have appreciated without having a prior Contiki experience, and that is the tour manager/guide, Sherif. Sherif is Egyptian, lives there, and has been working with Contiki for 15 YEARS! To my knowledge, there are no other Contiki tours where one person has been doing the same tour for that long. The vendors and staff at all stops know him. 'Mister Sherif!' You can ask him anything about history, culture, religion, life in Egypt, and he will tell you all you would like to know. He has an undying love for the work he is doing, to show people like us the beauty of his country, and he does with it real passion. (And he does this solo, as he is the tour manager and local guide in one.)
If you have any questions at all about little specifics of cities or optionals, please feel free to send me a message.
The Big Chill is the best. Say no more..... but I will because this tour will change your lives and you will make memories that last a lifetime.
Firstly I must say that yes everywhere this tour goes is amazing and Europe is very captivating, but it is the people who made the trip for me. I went solo and made really really good friends from all around the world. The hardest part is saying goodbye, but now I have so many people to visit and reunite with :) There is something about a camping tour that attracts relaxed people. There were never any big dramas or falling outs on our tour, and most people were solo travellers so I found really easy to talk with. I found it really refreshing that the majority were solo travellers so we were all in the same boat.
Before booking the tour I looked at the camping vs hostels prices etc and decided camping because I saved almost $3000 for the same length of tour. This decision was the best decision I could have made as it allowed me to travel after the tour with some of the tour mates and go back to places I loved. The tents are super easy to put up and with time and a great tent buddy you become pros and they are up in minutes. In some places there is an option to upgrade to a cabin for 4-6 people which works out at about 10 euros each which was a good option when it was raining or sometimes in the 1 night stop places we couldn't be bothered with the tent. There are also a few hotel upgrades which were great, and a real bed never felt so good. I miss the camping though so much and the community feel we all shared.
We often would sit around the campsite eating and drinking together and getting to know one another much more than the other tours might. It was fun being around everyone all the time as you all kind of become a family and are all involved in games and preparing for nights out.
Our Contiki team were outstanding!! If you ever get either Ryan, Bento or Bean as part of your Contiki team you are going to have the time of your lives!! They are all such great people with passion for making sure we were well looked after and enjoying ourselves.
Unfortunately in Albania my bag got mixed up and ended up on a Topdeck bus and I only realised when in Croatia as I was setting up my tent. Ryan got straight on the phone to Topdeck and luckily they were in Croatia too so we swapped the bag over the next morning. Problem solved in a matter of minutes thanks to Ryan.
The food cooked by the on road cook is phenomenal!!! Often better than you would find in restaurants and we never went hungry. Bean is the sweetest person I have ever met and went above and beyond for us. Hats of to you Bean :)
Our driver Bento was such a great driver and always got us to our destinations with time to spare. He stopped at many special locations for us to take amazing pictures as well. The coach was always clean. Bento provided many laughs and entertainment and also is a wonderful person with passion for his job.
- bring a power board - your friends will love you
- expect rain at least once over your tour
-make a budget on how much you think you will spend and double it
- do all of the optionals, Georges Boat was my trip highlight!
- mosquitos in Venice are horrific
- a neck pillow is a must
- take lots of photos and videos (vids are hilarious to look back on)
My favourite places were Corfu, Dubrovnik, Switzerland and Munich. I didn't like Turkey too much but most people loved it.
Book this trip before you regret it. It is worth every penny. I am so jealous of you all who do it. I promise you will have the time of your lives and want to do it all over again. Day 46 of the tour was the worst because saying goodbye to around 50 incredible people was heartbreaking. You will make friends and memories for life!
I had an amazing time on this trip it was downright amazing but are you ready to drink because there is literally not a night you aren't legless on this tour the family I made are amazing the food was brilliant! Worth every cent you pay!!!! REMEMBER TO TAKE EYE DROPS AND COLD AND FLU MEDICINE! CONTIKI COUGH IS ACTUALLY A THING!! You have a p party Paris and a masacrade party so be prepared because it sneaks up quick! You will literally go over a non drinker and come back a borderline alcoholic but it's amazing DONT MISS THE KARAOKE BARS THEY ARE BRILLIANT! And remember a sleeping bag! You will need it!
I had an amazing time on this trip it was downright amazing but are you ready to drink because there is literally not a night you aren't legless on this tour the family I made are amazing the food was brilliant! Worth every cent you pay!!!! REMEMBER TO TAKE EYE DROPS AND COLD AND FLU MEDICINE! CONTIKI COUGH IS ACTUALLY A THING!!
Wow! I can't begin to express how much fun I had on this tour. One of the best decisions of my life was booking this tour and I don't regret a second of it. Our tour manager Beccy B (with the beats) and bus driver Conor were second to none! They put so much effort into our tour with every little thing they did. And the friends you make are probably some of the best you'll ever had.
This tour is fast pase but you really make the most of it. You'll do a lot of driving but you get to hang with your new family! Would totally recommend this tour, its a good taste of what you want to come back to Europe and see!
This class was thorough and required a lot from its students. I enjoyed the boat setup and all of our dives. But you don't need to bring shoes on the boat because you will be barefoot the whole time, and try to get on of those quick drying towels from kathmandu. None of the cotton towels could dry in time on deck - but those could handle the quick turn around dives.
Also, if you get seasick I highly recommend taking dramamine most of the time you are out there. But the night before take it and then again in the morning while boarding. I was able to keep my dosage up and then during the tough drive out to the reef I was fine and didn't get sick. But I did sit at the back of the boat staring at the horizon the whole time. Once we made it to the reef it was easy. But the same for heading back into town - keep your dramamine levels up. I'm prone to get sick but with these tips you should be fine.
My dive partner and I rented a dive camera that we really didn't need. We got maybe 2 or three photos that were good, but looking back I would just wait until I'm a more experienced diver to get a nice camera to take photos with.
One of my favorite parts of the day was sitting up on deck after the dives to see the stars out there and relax with a beer gossiping about what each person saw that day or what good stories they had.
I was very nervous about going on this tour alone and not sure what to expect. I loved every minute of it. The entire outback is most romantic - sunrises and sunsets were out of this world. The wildlife was surreal to see out in the open - kangaroos with their baby's hoping within just 10 feet of you. The stars we camped under were brighter than I had ever seen - and in between the hiking, camping, abd helicopter tour - I made lifetime friends.
Take versatile clothes and pack light. You just need closed toed tennis shoes, sunblock, hat, and a good water bottle. It's so hot out there youll need to rehydrate constantly. Also, you'll end up buying a mosquito net (worth every dime I paid for it - but I noticed price fluctuations so you can shop around a little).
And the most important thing to do is to sit at some of these amazing places and take a moment to reflect on them. At kata tjuta you can take a moment to evaluated the scenery and listen to the wind. The way the rocks align up you can hear the wind speaking to you. At uluru you can reflect on the aboriginals story of creationism while watching a sunrise change the color of uluru right before your eyes.
I was lucky enough to go on a tour that had a manager and driver that created a super fun and amusing environment. The manager went above and beyond his call of duty by giving us additional MEtime optional activities that weren't offered anymore or at all and he got us discount on them as well. He had great insight into every location since both he and the driver grew up on the east coast of Australia. The tour went through many different lifestyles and areas of Australian life and the group of people I was with made the trip even better. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
When I look back at this trip I have mostly positive thoughts, although there are also some negatives. I'm going to be completely honest here because I believe that potential trip-goers need to have a realistic perspective and honest opinion.
Queenstown: This place is literally the best spot for young travellers. Its aesthetically pleasing, full of adventure activities and sights too see for people who like a slow pace and has plenty of hype for people who love their nights out! We were there for 4 days and it feels like home by the end of these days. The included activities included the Shotover Jet (the most amazing experience! So much adrenaline and something that I will remember forever) and dinner at Winnies Pizza (this pizza is heaven!). Metime activities are expensive but some are worth it. For people that are starting their Contiki in Queenstown beware; most people on my tour started in Christchurch so they had spent 3 days together and had already booked their metime activities hence there was a bunch of activities that I wanted to do like the Canyon Swing and Ziptrek that I was not able to get into because it was all booked out. I did Minus 5 Ice Bar (recommended), Milford Sound (recommended; the drive was more amazing than Milford Sound itself), Shotover Rafting (I don't recommend, the rafting I did in the Tully river was better than this and definitely not worth $200+) and Skyline Dinner (something like a 18-course buffet- amazing!- and great value for money). Hidden costs in Queenstown annoyed me like transport (taxis, buses) and beware those of you that are not about the nightlife, there is nightlife happening every night and most of the time you feel pressured to join.
Franz Josef: We were going to do the Ice Explorer but it was cancelled due to a bad crash and weather. The Kiwi enclosure is not worth the $30 to get in there but the Hot Springs are definitely recommended! (so niceeee and a perfect way to warm up) Also, there is a themed party so make sure you shop in Queenstown and the theme changes every trip.
Christchurch: Did not get enough time here. We had around 15 hours here. Although we did go to Lonestar for dinner and it was expensive but the food was amazing. The ferry ride from the South to North Island was boring- have entertainment!
Wellington: Maybe my favourite stop. DO THE $25 DINNER/BAR! We went to Blend bar and got 2 drinks, a meal and dessert for $25. Drinks were $5 only and this bar had classics to dance to such as YMCA, the macarena and more and the bartenders conducted drinking games. This was the only night I got really drunk but had an amazing time! The next day do stuff thats free. Wellington has plenty! We did the museum and it was amazing and took up a good amount of the day.
Taupo: Taupo itself is lovely! Nice and hot compared to the South! We should have gotten another day here as it looked like there was plenty to do. The boat party was legendary. It was also a graffiti party so we all had to wear white shirts and buy markers and Sharpies.
Rotorua: I cant give an accurate description of Rotorua because I was sick and spent the day in bed. Although, Huka Falls was incredible. Do the OGO balls!!! And definitely do the gondola and luge rides! The Maori dinner was so interesting and insightful and included!
Waitomo: Awesome little small town. Most of us did the caves walk and its amazing. Others also did the Rafting and said it was a highlight of their trips.
Auckland: From what I saw by spending 5 hours there it was nice! Its got a great vibe and has lots happening. I did the Sky Tower Walk and I recommend this 100%, it's insane as well as the Sky Tower Jump!
Accommodation wise, here's the low-down:
Queenstown: Beautiful, 9/10
Franz: Average, not enough room for Quad Share, 6/10
Christchurch: Luxurious, 9/10
Wellington: Average, better than Franz, 8/10
Taupo: AMAZING, 9.5/10
Rotorua: Average, probably the worst, so hot! 5/10
Waitomo: Better than I expected, 7/10
Auckland: Didnt stay in accommodation, left this day :(
OVERALL, I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THIS TRIP!
I had a great experience on this trip. It was my second contiki and I am hooked. Check out my vlogs from each day below and book this trip with confidence!
--GO THROUGH EUROPE WITH ME AND MY FRIENDS--
Day 0, Minneapolis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGPZEffGr6g
Day 1, London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acsGQwHhalI
Day 2, London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9DhWPiBsPk
Day 3, Amsterdam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgVZbC0shbU
Day 4, Amsterdam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZTYmttWMO0
Day 5, Berlin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PjtJSpSzKc
Day 6, Berlin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1KnOGJBQGU
Day 7, Prague: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woBicgeqDSg
Day 8, Prague: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kin_ixDt_aI
Day 9, Munich: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHF3Jlzsgsc
Day 10, Munich: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVL-08Uwq68
Day 11, Austria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMCIWsqbLzs
Day 12, Venice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY481iCblZw
Day 13, Rome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOtnDKE1OGU
Day 15, Florence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCZhErzO6Uk
Day 16, Florence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv8vVt2CUT8
Day 17, Pisa/Lucerne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7AktdC5JyA
Day 18, Lucerne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW51XCx8blk
Day 19, Paris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LgHBf5Q0xk
Day 20, Paris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiXkD3SOYpA
This trip was much more than I imagined. I flooded the bathroom on the first night from taking a shower. I fell asleep at a bar with zero alcohol consumption. I made friends and now all we talk about is fart jokes. I'm now invited to a wedding after my tour mates got engaged at the Hobbiton. The scenery was amazing. You saw sheep and sheep and heaps of sheep. Skydiving got cancelled due to the weather but we were able to bungy jump from the Auckland Harbour Bridge which I don't think I'll ever do again. Ogo is a must-do thing. Black water rafting in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is actually a lot colder than you imagine, but you end up being numb and direct your attention towards the glowworms. There wasn't free WiFi at most hotels and the WiFi on the coach had limitations, but on a trip with so much to do, you won't really have time to worry about your social media accounts. The food theme of this trip would be ribs, steak, and fish and chips, all of which were delicious. The coach was pretty comfortable and provided a great space for naps. Our driver, Aaron, was really nice and funny. He told us about a foot fetish story from his previous tour in Russia. Our tour manager, Katie, was pretty cool. She let us have a sing-along on the coach during a long drive. My roomies were great. On our first night in Rotorua, we stayed up making fart noises and fart jokes and we all had a hard time falling asleep. The majority of my tour mates were from Australia. I think there were a lot of best moments. We have a lot of inside jokes with each other. We stayed together even after the trip officially ended. We planned dinners together and went up the Sky Tower to watch the sunset together. We share friendship gems. We're a crazy bunch and we will always remember this trip. Also, Kiwis are very funny and generous.
This trip was AMAZING. I highly recommend.
Transportation: Travel pace was very fast, and you should expect to spend a lot of time on a coach bus. However, I did not mind this bus time because our tour manager and bus driver kept it fun by playing music, movies, and running games. It also is significantly better if you choose to socialize and get to know the people on your trip while you ride.
Contiki Inclusions: The included activities were fun at times, and other times they were a bit lame, but they never were too long and you almost always have the option to skip them. If you are really particular about what you spend each minute doing, it may be kind of difficult to work around the contiki schedule, but for the most part, it was fun and staying with the group was a better option from a social standpoint.
Food: the included meals are typically cooked at the contiki-owned properties on the "special stopovers". Food was always good, but don't expect a five star chef. The contiki staff is a better cook than I am personally, so i had no issues with this. You also get plenty of opportunities to go out on your own for lunch/ dinner. Also, be aware that sometimes you will be asked to pick up your dishes and bring to the dish room (crazy, i know). Some people had a problem with this, but it was maybe 5 seconds of effort?
Accommodations: The accommodations were a 2-4 person hotel at best, and a cabin in a campsite at worst. I am not particular or fussy about where i stay, but if you are, this is something to keep in mind. You have a sleeping bag with you (included depending on what country you are from) and typically are given a fitted sheet to cover the bed with. Our tour manager would pass around a clip board each day for us to sign up in groups of 2-3 for housing, so it was very flexible. You could stick with the same people or switch it up as you please. i found that switching it up was nice because it gave me opportunities to get to know others that I hadn't really talked to yet. The contiki special stopovers are typically a ways outside of the city, so you will need to pay for a cab if you want to go out in the city at night. I don't recall spending a ridiculous amount of money for any cab rides, but I was always splitting with a couple others. At the contiki accommodations, however, they always have a bar that serves pretty cheap drinks, and often they throw themed parties. Your contiki will be one of 2-4 groups staying at that accommodation on any given night, so the parties that contiki hosts are really fun! I particularly loved the Beaujolais Wine Region Chateau that had a dark basement with black lights and loud music plus bottles of local wine for maybe 8 euro.
Me Time Optionals: Some of these were great, some were very overpriced. Most people chose to do every single activity, so if you want to stick with the group, be prepared for about 350 euro extra for that. We were able to make decisions on which activities we wanted to do up to 48 hours in advance, so I didn't sign up for any initially, but made my decisions once i met the group.
Pace: The pace of this trip is extremely fast. If you want to see as much as possible in as little time, this trip is for you. If you have already been to many of the places on the list, you might not like getting the introductory overview that this trip is intended for. Most cities you arrive mid afternoon and leave early in the morning. There was only a couple cities that you got two nights and a full day in. Be prepared for a lot of time spent hung over on a bus exhausted. I thought the exhaustion made it more fun, but just know this trip is NOT relaxing. The people on your trip will be loud and really drunk, and will likely disturb your sleep if you are trying to get to bed earlier. The trip is most fun if you just embrace the craziness and go as hard as you can for every minute of it.
As I say words here will not do this tour justice. I had Margie as our Contiki mum. She was very knowledgeable, fun and became a good friend. If you needed anything then she would have the answer or get it soon enough.
The trip itself is amazing the things you see and do really give you an appreciation of your life. From fun things like Lady boy shows to riding elephants to holding a giant snake in Vietnam.
To educational things like the cope foundation to the killing fields or the Vietnamese tunnels.
Or the beautiful countries Laos with its perfect sunsets and caves to Halong bay cruise.
If your a foodie this will hit the taste buds, street vendors everywhere selling quality food from small stalls or fresh fruit, The contiki family meals were great too dining at restaurants that help the street kids or were trying to save animals this tour will show you so much if you let it. Get involved try things out of your comfort zone( rat, Snake, Scorpions and bugs there is a bug cafe for that too) Snake Whiskey is an experience.
leave the wifi behind as they are developing nations so its not strong and thats great as it gives you a chance to be in the moment.
I recommend this trip. bring sun screen, bug spray enjoy the massages, shop to you drop( just watch your bag weight limit).
Most of all enjoy these countries for what they are developing and recovering from years at war.
Was awesome, went all the way through Vietnam, Contiki was great met people, did all activities, got harassed and ripped off by locals, stayed in good hotels, saw the War Museum and VC tunnels, shot guns, rode scooters, had a mud bath, went to beaches, local restaurants, beach restaurants and night markets, went on a boat tour and swam in the river and dived off the boat and snorkeled. Got clothes made at Yalys, rode bikes around, went to a cooking class, visited the imperial palace and local temples and pagodas, did karoke, bought stuff, went to Halong Bay and kayaked and stayed on a boat, showed everyone my penis. Great trip 9/10
Im telling you, Please don't waste your money supporting this company. I was so upset most of the time.
There were bedbugs at all but one of our accommodations! Everyone got bit including me!
The trip itself was a sex fest / drunk fest. The trip manager encouraged it. It was just gross.
The trip as a whole, complete disappointent and so much money wasted. 3 other people and I got our own personal hotel several of the nights because we didn't want to sleep with the bedbugs.
So much money wasted.
Hopefully this will save you some.
:( such a crap company.
This is a great tour for getting to see the top places to visit in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. We had moments of activity and also moments to just rest and take it all in. Be advised, there are some long transport days, but the method varies from boat, to train, to coach, and even plane. The hotels were typically nice, some were a little run-down and moldy, but most of the time we were only in them for one night so it didn't make much of a difference.
Overall, the included activities were enjoyable but they were not the most memorable, those were the optional activities which you must pay extra for. For example, elephant rides, playing with tigers, and kayaking. However, they are not that expensive.
There is a lot of bar-hopping, it is optional, but in a strange place you probably don't want to be alone, so if bars are not your thing, find a few friends who also feel the same and plan out your nights. Some ideas might be to get a massage, go to a dinner/show, night markets, etc. Its your trip, so don't feel like you cannot make it your own.
The only reason I am not giving this review a 5 star, is because I specifically chose this trip for the Lantern festival in Thailand. I inquired to make sure we would be in the right place at the right time, however, the plans seemed to change and we were in a different city. Not only that, but our tour guide did not seem to know about the event at all. This was a MAJOR bummer. Heart breaking, even.
All in all, it was an incredible adventure, I met some amazing people and made memories that will last a lifetime. My advice, don't waste your life thinking "should I?" just do it! #NoRegrets
As it was the first time I had been to Europe I was nervous about if contiki would be for me. I had a 5 week period to travel and I decided to spend 2 of those weeks on contiki doing European Highlights. It was an awesome decision but in reality I wish I had picked a three week option. (Regretted not going to Swiss Alps and Austria people I spoke to said it was their highlight).
Contiki is amazing if you go in with the right attitude be realistic and make the best of every situation your in. Also remember this tour is "high energy" they mean it, you will see the "highlights" of Europe, but you will not have much time to relax and take them in. Think of it as a bucket list tour, you can tick of so many items and decide if you want to go back.
There where people on our group that expected 5 star accommodation that is not what your going to get. The accommodation is fine but basic I went during the height of Summer and it was very hot and there where not fans in any of the accommodation and air conditioning was a rarity that you normally had to pay for. Contiki will tell you that you need a sleeping bag, if you go in Summer don't bring a sleeping bag bring, bring a silk sleeping bag liner you will be a lot more comfortable, they also have bed bug repellant on them if you buy the right brand. (Mum gave me this advise from when she did her contiki when she was my age).
My highlight was Munich make sure you have a night out at "Cult Fabric" it's a red light district with an almost theme park layout. Entry was 10 Euro's my tour manager Zac recommended it, but other tours went to Pacha don't do this go to "Cult Fabric" you will not regret it. The "Mikes Bike" option was also heaps of fun.
Another thing to note is make an effort to speak to your bus driver. My tours bus driver Pedro was a great guy who had seen it all. He helped out people when they where sick and went the extra mile to make sure that everyone had a great time.
All things considered you will have an amazing time if you decide to go on this tour, you will meet lots of amazing people, you will see so much in such a short space of time and you will make memories that will last a life time. Just go in with the right attitude and remember in the words of my tour manager Zac "it's not weird, it's different".
7/10 does better justice than 3*s - these are undeniably some great cities and I enjoyed my trip. Do be prepared to pay the extra €250 or so for ME time activities as these were the highlights of the trip and the thing which really sets apart travelling with Contiki rather than hostelling by yourself. Also, the vast majority of travellers on this trip will have been together for the previous 2 weeks - it can be a little harder to break into the group, especially as by this stage people are feeling the effects of non-stop travel &partying for 15 days! Unless you've already visited, choose the first module of the Europe trail (Amsterdam, Berlin etc) to avoid this. Bear in mind as well that coach days will use up all the (short) daylight hours so for the nights where there's no activity planned, research in advance what you might like to do before the daily trip to a watering hole! Overall this is a fun, sociable and stress free European experience.
The amount of countries and cities I was able to visit in 37 days was absolutely incredible. We had an exceptional Tour Manager who did everything she possibly could to make sure everyone had the best experience possible no matter what they wanted out of the trip.
But, I have a gluten intolerance which has put me off travelling as I can rarely eat in restaurants at home because of the worry of having a reaction. Contiki state that they will cater to any dietary requirement which put my mind at ease and was one of the main reasons for me choosing a Contiki tour. Needless to say, they didn't.
Breakfasts became a huge struggle for me, and baring in mind the cost of breakfast is already included in the trip cost, I was having to go to cafes and supermarkets to buy my own breakfasts, meaning I was paying for breakfast twice nearly everyday. Where I was able to eat breakfast, I was paying the same amount as everyone else but could eat about 10% of what was available. In the Contiki run chateaux in France, a buffet style breakfast was available in which we queued up for. Amongst other things there was fresh fruit, which was all I could eat, but by the time I reached the front of the queue this was all gone. I went to the kitchen to ask for more but they had said that that was all they had. I was shocked that a plate of fruit was not put aside for me and that people able to eat the other food on offer had got priority on the only food I could eat. In the hostel in Dubrovnik, I presented my 'Gluten Free' card the first morning and I was told that there was nothing the kitchen could do for me and after a long discussion I was handed a moldy banana (it literally had grey fur growing on it) and the second morning there was nothing for me at all.
Dinners weren't any better either, particularly the included dinners (in one place I was presented a slice of ham. Just that.) and in a restaurant in Mykonos my gluten intolerance was confused with a cucumber allergy and after this was resolved i was left uncertain as to what was in what I was given.
Having already 'bought' the included meals, I did not budget for these meals (I am a student and I was looking for a BUDGET holiday) which left me significantly over budget as I was paying about an extra 6 euros a day on buying breakfast from cafes or supermarkets (on all but 2 days) and re-buying myself dinner. This soon adds up. I mentioned my concerns to my trip manager who did the best she could do in trying to make sure I had enough to eat - checking in with me after each meal to see if I'd been given something) and argued with kitchen staff in numerous places about getting me a gluten free meal. She did her absolute best and I am so grateful for this.
When I arrived home, I phoned Contiki to ask for the breakfast and dinners that I had paid for in the trip cost to be reimbursed as I had not eaten these in the majority of places to which I was told that it was 'my fault', 'my problem and not theirs' and when I asked what they were going to do with the money I had paid them for food, that clearly hadn't been used/spent, I was hung up on. I sent emails and received a letter saying that would have been aware when signing up to the trip that eating would be difficult for me and that it is common knowledge that European breakfasts often consist of pastries. So why do they say they can cater for all dietary requirements, when clearly they can't? They refused to reimburse me and I was left out of pocket some 200 euros. This is appalling as they are not following by what they have stated on their website and it is leading to false advertisement. It was such a shame because I had the time of my life on this trip but the stress and upset of how meals were handled has put me off signing up for another Contiki or even travelling again.
I'm disappointed and angry about how my complaint was handled by their customer service - how can they tell me that this is my fault for having a dietary requirement?!
If you are thinking of travelling with a dietary requirement, think careful, over-budget and ignore everything that Contiki says about catering for you - it isn't true.
The London, Paris, and Amsterdam trip was my first Contiki and it was truly amazing! I went as a solo traveler and met so many awesome people from all over the world. I highly recommend traveling with Contiki as it is safe, takes care of all the logistics, and is way cheaper than booking all of these places separately. I have already booked another Contiki and will continue to travel with this company for years to come!