Read reviews from past Contiki travelers.
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.
This trip was my first ever group tour trip and I really loved it. I had such a great time and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a solo traveller and/or has never been to the snow or skiing/snow boarding before. Just make sure to pack lots of warm clothes - or if you want to pack lightly - pack good quality thermals!
I had never been to the snow before and I made the mistake of just getting cheaper thermals and they were not warm enough. (for example I had to wear 3 pairs of pants thermals (underworks brand level 1 warmth) and 3 thermal singlets plus 3 t-shirts under my ski pants and ski jacket to keep warm).
So easy - everything is organised for you!
I would highly recommend this tour. It was the best 3 weeks of my life! We had amazing food and got to see much more than I expected so a big thank you to Kayla and Mark for all they did for us on this tour.
Being in a campsite environment forces interaction, which I'm very grateful for. You get to know everyone on a much more personal level and get to make friends for life!
I didn't participate in much of the "me time" options as I like doing my own thing and had more time to explore. If you'd like to see more of one city and not pay so much for the me time options, then there really is loads more to see. Our tour guide, Eilidh, was more than happy to point out the best spots to hang around or look for certain things (when I wanted to go see Jim Morrison's grave, she gave exact location and the best way to get there).
Just please take note of the contiki tip recommendations. Contiki recommends that you tip 2 euro per person per day (for the tour guide, cook and driver - which adds up to 6 euro per day). If I had know to budget for it earlier, it would've been nice but they didn't mention it to us at all in the beginning of the tour.
But as a whole, it was really amazing. The long roads tend to get to you but there were always games that kept us busy so it doesn't get to us too much. Oh, and stay hydrated! Beer is cheaper than water so brace yourself for that!
If you are wondering whether or not you should take this trip, don't think--just do! You'll never regret it. This is by far the most incredible trip I've ever taken. From the culture, art, food, water sports, people and of course, your amazing tourmates, this is the trip to end all trips (and be the envy of your friends). Two weeks pass by in a flash, but you get a great mix of big city, landmark highlights, nature, history and laughter, not to mention the once-in-a-lifetime experiences and interactions.
My highlights: riding an elephant in the jungle, waterfalls in Laos, giving food to the monks, seeing the sunrise over Angkor Wat, tubing in caves and playing with monkeys... here are some of my photo highlights from Laos:
If you get a chance, go around the Songkran New Yr Water Festival (April 13th or so), which is super humid/hot, but there's a great water fight in the streets of Thailand, complete with supersoakers, partying in the streets and crazy adventures. Our tour guide, Jeenah, was awesome, really fun and knowledgeable about the local culture and hot spots. If you really wanted to, you could just relax and do your own thing, but I recommend doing the optionals, as they were all pretty amazing. There were a few times that you'll have to wake up super early (like 4am) for alms giving to the monks and checking out Angkor Wat, but we were able to beat the crowds (and heat), and the scenery was incredible. This is the second Contiki trip I've taken (1st was Europe), but this trip was really unique as you get to check out the countries by train, tuk tuk (motorcart), bus and boat--so you get a whole different experience than just by bus. To put it simply, be prepared to have your mind blown by everything you see and experience, from the gorgeous art of the temples to the sad genocide museum of Cambodia, to the simple beauty of the Laotian landscape, and even the crazy partying in Thailand.
Food: Thailand--amazing snacks and street food! I was really wary of the drinks, as I was trying to avoid ice (to be safe), but found out later that the ice in Thailand is made with filtered water, so enjoy those fruit smoothies--they're incredible! Laos, try the street crepes--yum! In Cambodia, avoid street food, as the quality isn't so great and you may get sick. Though, in the restaurants, you could get an amazing slab of steak for under $8. Cambodia has a unique "Kampot pepper", which is pretty pricey if you get overseas, but is cheaper there, and has amazing flavor. Also, if you have a weak stomach, stay away from salads and dairy, as it's so hot there, you never know...
If you love shopping, you'll definitely enjoy this trip--everything is super cheap. Luang Prabang is where you could get more handmade, unique items (silk scarves!) and Cambodia/Siem Reap, you'll find great prices for silver jewelry, clothes and other souvenirs. Haggling for the prices is super fun.
Mobile connection in Laos is really spotty at best. Also, English is not really spoken much, so I'm glad I created this Visual Guidebook beforehand. This may be helpful for you too--just point to the pic and smile :)
-Mosquito wipes/spray and lotion (if you get bit)
-Temple Wear: Depending where you go, you'll need a couple tees and pants/capris that cover your knees. You could always buy something there too
-Trainers/tennis shoes: You'll have to walk up hills and some rocky areas; some of my tourmates hurt themselves while wearing flip flops
-Small packet of vitamins/medicine: With the constant go-go-go, lots of folks get sick...
-Earplugs: on the overnight train, this comes in handy
-Tissue paper and wipes/purell: some bathrooms don't have the essentials or soap/running water
-Currency: Cambodia is the only spot that widely accepts American dollars as well as Riel, so be sure to get local Thai and Laos currency as they don't really take the other ones. Small bills are best as most places won't have much change.
Good luck and happy travels!
My Contiki trip was one of the best things that I have chosen to do. The people on the tour were all amazing and I now consider them great friends who I want to keep in touch with. Our tour manager and bus driver weren't only amazing at their jobs, but they were crazy great people to tour around with too. I would recommend this tour to anyone looking for a stress free holiday to some of the most beautiful countries in the world with some awesome people!
Had an amazing time exploring so much of the United States and a small part of Canada! Would highly recommend the trip to anyone. Our tour guide was great, I met some fantastic new friends and made memories for life.
Best way to sample a lot of countries in a short space of time! Late nights and early mornings featuring awesome people who became my family, the best tour team (Scotty and Gaz!) and all round amazing experiences. You have to go into it with the mind set of NO REGRETS! I did every optional activity and everytime I said that I would have regretted not doing it.. I think that pretty much says it all! So go for it :D
This was the best trip ever!
It was so much better doing less countries but having more time in each, you really need the extra time especially in Spain! You get to pretty much follow other contikis around as well so you'll always be meeting knew people.
If you're a guy and looking for females you would love this trip because it was 90% females. but still so much fun. highly recommend it!
This adventure was amazing. You make SO many friends and so many more memories that will last a lifetime. The staff are lovely and the included and optional activities are great too. Nearly all of the accommodation was to a high standard. So much FOOD! Would recommend!
The landscape of the south island of New Zealand is unbelievably breathtaking. The accommodation is pretty good and the people on the trip were very good and I would recommend this trip!! I higly recommend this tour for anyone!!
All in all the trip was amazing, this was my first contiki and I was travelling solo, but the people were great and it was a really good experience. It's really fast paced, you really just get a taste of each city, but you still get to see a lot. You get a lot of free time to do what you want do and see what you want and really get a chance to experience every city.
The accommodations are just okay, they weren't the greatest, but you really only end up sleeping for about 4-5 hours if even, so you don't really spend too much time in the cabins. Bed bugs were an issue, which was really frustrating and upsetting, but it happens. Bug repellent and cough/cold/flu medicine is a necessity, because the contiki cough is unavoidable.
I had a really great time and everything lived up to expectations.
It's a smart idea to take a sleeping bag, a few people didn't and they froze some nights. I also recommend taking cold and flu tablets and antibiotics with you just incase you catch the wretched cough/flu that goes around the bus. It's bound to happen!
The Volendam dinner was so so, the rest of the dinners and canal cruises were good choices. As was paragliding, that is a must!
The driver was amazing and as was the tour manager.
The only problem I had was trying to get in touch with the tour manager to find out what time to meet and where, as I was joining on the second day in Amsterdam. I was disappointed when Contiki told me I wasn't needed at the hotel until 6pm that night. If I hadn't turned up early I would of missed the canal cruise. That was the only problem I had the whole tour.
Time flies on this tour. Make it count!
Easy way to see the city that never sleeps!
So many inclusions & the optionals are worth it as well.
The tour manager (Stephanie) went out her way to organise baseball tickets for us which was awesome!!
I can see why this trip is so popular!!
Seen so much in such a small amount of time, such a well organised trip with the best road crew (Dylan & Ricky) who made it the best trip!!
Being underage did limit the nightlife experience for me - but planning to do it again when i am 21.
Only negative - i wish i was still there :(
The Grand Canadian is a fantastic mix of cities, nightlife and outdoor adventure. We saw the east coast of Canada plus New York and Boston then over to the Rockies and Vancouver. Our trip managers Phil and Alex were fantastic and went above and beyond expectations, they included great insights and knowledge of all places visited. Me time options were excellent my favourites, Jet boating, ziplining and the Banff horse back ride and steak fry!
Highlights were seeing a Boston Red Sox game had the best atmosphere, so happy we had this experience, also beautiful Quebec city, Whistler, Jasper and Banff, could have spent so long in these places. No photos can do the backdrops in the Rockies justice!
The very sad part was saying goodbyes to our Contiki family!
Was an excellent trip if your looking for a laid back relaxing holiday, on the other hand there's lots of things that can be done if that is what your after. Margie was an excellent tour manager full of great advice and great ideas on extra things to do. Had a blast meeting new people from all corners of the globe and discovering the island life of Thailand. Can't thank Margie enough for the effort she put into her job!
I highly recommend this tour to anyone wanting to get a taste of western europe, the essence of travel, and the cultures of 10+ different countries.
Me Time Optionals
As i experienced the me-time optionals, I found which ones i did and didn't like. I preferred the high-energy outdoor optionals; (white water rafting, paragliding, bike tours) more than the dinners and the guided tours. This is totally dependant what your coach group is like though.
As I'd paid for all the optionals, i can say that if you don't sign up to them, you actually get more "me" time, because everyone is encouraged to buy them and therefore you go to dinner with the same 35+ people you were on a bus with, instead of going to a local italian pizza restaurant(or any other restaurant) and soaking up the culture. Just my view.
I'm not really interested in history so the guided tours were a bit of a waste on me. Though I can say that the guided tour we got in Venice was the best one. (Since there is no real definitive map of that city) Also dependant on the tour guide you get.
The food I bought using my own money was great. Pizza and pasta in Florence, Nutella Crepes in Paris, Tzatziki and Moussaka in Greece. It gave me a great sense of experiencing culture and the different flavour profiles between countries, sometimes only 100s of kilometres apart.
Jess was our trip manager, Tim was our trip driver.
Jess was super knowledgeable about the history and culture of every country we went to. Again, while I'm not that interested in history she did explain things in a more interesting way, and offered tips and advice if we wanted to go exploring once we got to a place. Always went the extra mile in terms of helping us out.
Although Tim's main job was to get us safely from A to B, he also helped with pointing out attractions we could go and see, and him and Jess also came out to party with us on selected nights. The professionalism from both of them was incredible.
While the coach probably could have been more comfortable, It fit the speed and energy of the tour, and has basic amenities like a toilet and charging station for phones/tablets etc. Being 6"4' i couldn't really get comfortable enough to sleep, but I tended to use the beds at the campsites at night and take photos during the travel days.
People on Tour
Our tour group was extremely diverse. We had the loud alcoholic types and the reserved types as well. I was constantly surprised at how well everyone got along, especially towards the end of the tour.
Again, if it's your first time overseas or travelling in general, I highly recommend this trip. It may be one of the longer ones but it gives you a chance to experience a "contrast" of different cultures, and there is a 3 day break in Greece in the middle.
I went on the European Encounter in February of this year. It was my first ever experience to Europe, and my first experience with Contiki. I cannot describe how absolutely amazing my trip was. Every moment was sacred, each person I met was amazing and I couldn't expect any more from my tour guide Cam and driver Joao. I learnt things I will remember for the rest of my life!
A few #regrets I had was that I didn't take more photos and videos with the people in my group. At the end of the day, I will always remember each place I visited, but I wish I had more photos with the people I got to share it with.
I have just booked my next contiki to America next year, and if it is half as good as the European Encounter, I will be completely satisfied. I am planning my next one solo, rather than with a friend, as I believe contiki allowed me to get the confidence to meet others and embark on a journey by myself.
I am very jealous of everyone that is going on this trip in the future, I wish I was there to share it with you!
This was my first Contiki and honestly the time of my life! You get to see and do so much in the short time you're on this tour! This tour joined another which started in London and we quickly became friends with everyone.
All the accommodations were fine, the Generator in Barcelona, and the accommodation in Nice and Rome were the best in my opinion. It's usually 4 or 3 people (same sex) in a room, but sometimes you may get a twin. If you're traveling with someone like I was, as long as you book together you should always get to be in the same room! On this trip you get alot of time at the beach and by the water (which I loved) but still some good time in the cities exploring as well.
Our tour manager Ellie was amazing, very friendly and so knowledgeable. I felt very comfortable talking to her about anything I needed to.
Like most tours, the nightlife is a huge aspect, you don't have to go out, but it's really hard to turn down. Contiki takes you to some of the best places, and gives you advice on where else to go. I always felt safe everywhere that we went and the parties are the absolute best!
As far as optional go, I did the Isle of Capri boat tour, the Florence Tuscan Countryside dinner, Space Night club in Florence, the Vatican, the Colosseum and Pompeii. In my opinion those were all must dos! My favorite was definitely the boat tour where we got to cruise around for a few hours jumping off the boat into the ocean. For dinners, some I heard were hit or miss, we decided to pay for Tuscan Feast and it was well worth it! Unlimited wine, followed by a night at an amazing night club with all your friends!
If you're on the fence about doing a Contiki do it! It'll be the time of your life and something you will remember forever.
I booked this trip on a complete whim and was so nervous about going out alone but there was no need. From the first moment I met my tour mates, I had the time of my life and didn't experience a single moment of regret or doubt.
18 days is probably the perfect length for the tour and it'll fly by like you won't believe - I was nowhere near ready to leave all the amazing friends I'd made and tears were flowing on the last day.
High energy is definitely a good way to describe the tour and I'm totally not a party animal back home so I was scared that I wouldn't fit in here. If you're the same, don't worry. You're with such fantastic people that you want to spend each and every night partying with them. Be prepared for early morning while hungover to be tough for the first few days but by halfway through, we all just caught up on sleep on the coach. #noregrets
I was concerned that long days on the coach would be boring and take away from seeing the cities but for me, the journeys flew by. Everyone would doze off until the first service station stop, then chat or watch a movie for the rest of the time. Take a neck pillow!! Also, you'll get sick - almost everyone on my tour did. Take cough medicine and cold and flu stuff but a few shots did the trick as a quick fix for a night out too ;)
Everywhere we stayed was decent enough - some obviously nicer than others - but you spend so little time in the hostels that it doesn't matter. Breakfasts were a bit lackluster but did the job, and included dinners were nice except for the hostel in Berlin. There's a great pizza place nearby though! Staying at the campsites and Contiki run places was fun too and the party nights they held were some of my favourite nights of the trip - especially in Austria.
My favourite optional extras were the Amsterdam river cruise and dinner, Berlin walking tour, white water rafting and the gondola ride in Venice. The walking tours in Italy weren't great in my opinion but it's probably the easiest way to see the Vatican City and Colosseum.
Tony and Darius, our tour manager and driver, were absolutely incredible and I can't count the number of times I nearly cried laughing on the trip. Both went out of their way to make sure everybody was happy and the talks Tony gave about each country were really interesting. We made several stops along the way that weren't in our itinerary - an amazing scenic spot in Switzerland for photos and Dachau concentration camp were my favourites - and their commitment to doing this for us made the trip just that little bit more special.
It was honestly the best three weeks of my life and I'd encourage anybody to do it - I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat if I could!
"Go big or go home"