Read reviews from past Contiki travelers.
This tour was my second Contiki, and considering that I had an incredible first tour in the summer I decided to do another. I loved the cities themselves, Berlin is a wonderful, liberal, laid back city with a loaded history and many interesting sites and good food. Prague is simply enchanting and is a lovely city with well preserved medieval buildings. However, I was not happy with the accommodation, as we stayed in the Hotel Ibis in both cities, which I was taken aback by considering this was not one of their budget tours. I knew from day one it was not going to be as enjoyable as the summer Contiki I had gone on. The tour guide and bus driver were awesome, and they tried their best but the group dynamic was poor and awkward at best. The people on your group can effect your experience for the worse or better and in this case it was the former. A lot of weird people who were really cliquey kind of had something to do with these poor group dynamics. On top of all this the weather was horrible.
The first word that comes to mind was WOW! Traveling to Ireland was the first "real big" trip I've taken. I'd been dreaming of going for years and since I'd get going alone I thought a tour was the best way to see it all....and Contiki doesn't disappoint!
My tour manager was Roxy. I can't begin to say enough good things about her- she's funny, knowledgable, entertaining, always has a smile on her face, and knows how to get us going. Our coach was masterfully navigated by Mark who can drive a bus as if it was a compact car.
A Contiki tour is full of non-stop places to see- many included and a few additional add ons (I highly recommend doing EVERYTHING). We saw Dublin, Trinity College, Temple Bar, Belfast, Giants Causeway, Derry, Galway, Aran Islands, Blarney Castle, Jameson distillery, Guinness brewery, Cliffs of Moher, Cork, Kilkenny, trad bands, Irish dancers, cows, sheep...lots of pubs and it was ALL magical!
Last but not least- the people! I met so many new friends that are part of some of the best experiences of my life. I won't forget the Auzzies, Canadians, and fellow Statesmen who I shared an amazing adventure with! They all helped make the trip what it was!
I will definitely be taking another Contiki tour in the future!
I could not speak more highly of Contiki if I tried. It was an absolutley fantastic trip. Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco. It is all incredible, I could not rate it better. This trip is the best and easiest way of getting round this part of America. I would really recommend. You make so so so many friends from all over the world and you will have the best time.
I travelled by myself, like most and had the best time ever. I would really recommend it.
Our guide Korrie was amazing and she was so helpful, like a cute older sister! Somene you want to party with, but you know they will have your back.
If I was giving some advice, I would say do the baot trip in San Diego, it is a good way to meet people and get yourself established.
I would say if you are travelling from the UK, give yourself a few days to get used to the time difference.
At the start you will hate '#noregrets' but by the end, you will be living it and loving it.
Prepare to spend about $200 a night in Vegas.
Don't do the walk about dinner in Scottsdale.
On the other hand, prepare to have the time of your life.
IT IS AN INCREIDBLE TRIP! BOOK NOW!
Luke was a great and fun guide. Thailand is beautiful and the people in our group where a lot of fun. So glad i discovered Contiki.
Its a safe easy way to travel to new countries. Lots of infomation and activities provided.
The best trip of my life!
amazing group and awesome places...
New York is a confusing yet exciting place that you need to see to truly understand. Listed on most travellers 'must see before you die' lists, once you get there you know why. New Year's Eve is probably the biggest and busiest time of year to be in New York - but what a time it is! Approximately 3 million people merge into one small space to count the new year in. Talking to a couple of New Yorkers on the subway the day before New Years I asked them if they go to time square to celebrate to which they all laughed and the woman said to me, 'no it's too cold and crowded we leave that to you crazy people'. Cold was the last thing I felt when my group made its way to Planet Hollywood - the destination of our celebrations. Contiki took all the worry and hassles out of my trip and let me simply enjoy where I was and the people I was with. Security is insanely tight all over NY on new year and some people spent the whole day waiting out in the cold for a prime spot to celebrate the night - not us! We partied and felt like rock stars for one epic night of our lives.
The rest of the tour we spent being show the sights and smells of NY some places we would have never even have thought to have seen.
Though this tour is short it is amazing and certainly is my favourite so far.
The hotel used was a great location, one hotel back from the beach. however I found the rooms too small for me and my friend to fit in, especially when we had been travelling for 6 weeks and had 2 bags each. Pearl Harbor inclusion was great, well worth doing. Included breakfast was more than enough each morning, nice food and plenty of options to chose from.
I loved every minute of this tour, great locations and the places you stay are quite central and close to everything. my only regret is not doing the grand southern tour and getting to continue on for the full 26 days with all my awesome new friends. would recommend this tour to anyone
Words cannot describe how amazing the European Horizon Summer 2013 was. I went into the trip with a lot of Anxiety, and I didn't know what to expect. On our first night in London, we met up with everyone at the Hotel Pub, and after that night it was clear to me that it was going to be the trip of a lifetime. Everyone was so friendly, and I quickly became friends with everyone on the tour. I think the main reason why It was such a good tour was because there was a huge group of us who would spend all of our nights & days together, exploring the cities, and then partying at the Hostel Bar's. The one thing that I wasn't aware of before the trip was that we would have to share rooms with either 1 or 2 other people. I was a little worried about that at first, but ended up being paired with 2 other ladies who I quickly became best friends with. The only bad thing about this tour was having to say goodbye to everyone. The tour was not long enough, and we all agreed that it should have been a 20 day tour. I am so happy that I chose to do a contiki tour, it honestly changed my life. Our large group of friends from the tour are still keeping in touch to this day, and I am content to say that I have made life-long friends. I highly recommend this tour, as well as any other contiki tour. I just hope you are as lucky as I was to have so many amazing people to enjoy the journey with.
I had booked my Egypt tour to start in the middle of my European trip. Whilst I was over there, the news of the riots spread and our group was offered a full refund if we chose to pull out. I decided it was now or never and continued with my travel plan. Little did I know we'd be there to see the president of the country overthrown and the start of a revolution. Everyone involved in the organization of this tour went above and beyond to keep us safe and give us the most incredible experience. One of the best experiences of my life and oh what a story!
My first time overseas (a part from travelling to Bali) I had the most amazing time of my life! I met soo many fun-loving, energetic, down to earth people on this tour who soon after a few days pretty much became family (contiki family)
I had travelled alone to LA and took on the Best of USA tour without knowing anyone (a part from meeting all the people on the tour on our tour facebook page) to this day I stay in touch with everyone on tour, even a few catch ups when anyone is in town or if I fly to other parts of Australia.
Highlights of the trip were partying in LA, San Fran, Vegas and NYC.
The food, tours, adventures, accommodation, shopping, pool parties in Vegas, restaurants, ME time (definately worth taking up all the optional activites), cruises, bike rides, limos and nightlife was fantastic. Be prepared for lots of sleepless nights if you love to PARTY! Our tour guide Brianna McCarthy was great, she went out of her way to organise extra activities and dinners for us all and was well informed of each place and what it has to offer.
I highly reccommend this tour to anyone wanted to see the BEST of USA :)
This trip was incredible! I met so many amazing people and went to so many amazing places.
There were some places on the tour that I didn't care to see, but going to these places were amazing. Every single stop that we did was a new experience.
This tour is very go go go, so you see soooo many things for the time that you are actually in Europe.
I have travelled a ton before, but never with a tour, so I must say Contiki is great for new travellers and experienced travellers!
The great thing about Contiki is that everyone is young and wanting to experience the same things as you. Everyone has the love for travel and adventure!
I just booked another Contiki and words can't describe how excited I am! Bring it on!
I went solo and had such an amazing time on this tour! This was my second time visiting Paris and I loved it even more the second time around. Trying escargot and champagne is a must, as well as the cabaret show and, of course, O'Sullivan's afterward. It's the first big night out on tour so don't miss it!
The Chateau was the perfect chance to relax a bit before moving on to the rest of this fast-paced journey. I wouldn't have wanted to spend any less time in each location, so I'd definitely recommend choosing a tour that spends 2+ nights in each city.
Barcelona was a huge highlight, I want to go back there one day! I really enjoyed the flamenco dancing optional, plus the dinner we attended that evening was delicious.
All of Italy was gorgeous and interesting but make sure you know what you're getting into regarding the accommodations - the cabins are the bare minimum when it comes to comfort. Be sure to take/buy plenty of bug spray as mosquitoes are everywhere. Nightlife was good though; the I Love Rome party was so much fun! One of my favorite nights on tour. Myself and 2 other girls did unfortunately get bed bugs at some point in Italy but that's not Contiki's fault, it can happen anywhere, so I'd never hold it against them. It's just part of budget travelling. And it didn't ruin my trip so don't stress!
My favorite location ended up being Corfu - from the gorgeous clear blue water to the awesome parties at night, we had a blast there. It's a very relaxing atmosphere which is much-needed after the go-go-go mindset from the rest of the tour. We took an overnight ferry to get to Corfu and we were exhausted so a day laying on the beach was just the right cure.
Our tour manager Matt was absolutely incredible - and it was his first time as a TM! I never would have guessed until he told us on the last day. Him and our driver Pedro made the trip even better than I could've expected.
Definitely do all the optionals! There are some which probably weren't worth the money but it's really the bonding experiences which made them special. If you had to choose one optional though, do George's Boat... it was by far the BEST day.
The on-site teams were always very knowledgeable and friendly, the provided meals were good enough to not complain about (it's free food!) and, most importantly, my tour mates were WONDERFUL. I made some friends who I will never forget. I tried to mix it up at each stop and have different roommates each time so I could get to know everybody and I recommend trying to do the same. You'll obviously find some people who you click with more than others, but you'd be surprised at some of the connections you make when you give others a chance.
Essentially, this tour alternates between one full day of sightseeing/a night of partying, and one full day on the bus/an early night. So you're never TOO burnt out for the city days. Go into it knowing two things: you'll be spending a LOT of time on the bus, and you'll never get the proper amount of sleep per night. You'll be tired and you'll want to sleep for days but it's all part of the experience. YOU'RE IN EUROPE! This may or may not be a one in a lifetime opportunity, so make the most of it. Seriously, have NO regrets... do everything you want to do and I promise you'll have an amazing time.
I booked this trip as a spur of the moment thing about a week before it kicked off, and wow... one of my better life decisions.
The South Island of New Zealand is one unbelievable place. Whereever you go the scenery is amazing, as are the people. Queenstown is a must go place for any traveller, it nearly destroyed me, it's so none stop! From partying in the awesome nightlife, and backing it up with a sneaky skydive or snowboard this place had it all.
Our tour manager 'T' was an absolute legend as was our bus driver Olly. These two lads made the trip what is was.
I only wish I had done the North Island too! ... next time!! The people I met and the friends I made is what defined this trip. Highly reccomended, I'll be back New Zealand.
I came into this expecting so much, but some how i was still blown away with just how awesome the people and the adventure was. It was almost all down to the awesome team contiki provided, we had the best driver and the best tour tour leader on earth. They made every day magical even if we didn't feel well.
I seriously recommend doing all the optionals available, believe me you wont regret it.
And when its all over, you will want to hop back on the bus and do it all over again.
Like many others I went into this tour expecting a wild crazy experience throughout Europe. The brochures amp it up to make you think you are going to be on an all day every day party through every country you visit, with all aspects including food, clubbing, sights and shopping. Do you like cold lasagna or over-cooked breaded mysteries that they call Schnitzel? Or being guided to bars who's business is only based off of Contiki tours? I went on this tour to get a quick, but still GENUINE taste of Europe. I wanted to get the opportunity to experience the life of a local, to see things that were a little more than the shallow touristic dive while having a good time, and with like-minded people. Here's the truth about this tour.
On this tour, almost ever dinner is served cold and at the hotel. You will rarely get the opportunity to taste authentic cuisine of the country you visit. It is a quick, in and out slop that the hotel heats up. As for the ME options you pay extra (lotta extra) for a decent meal made for tourists.
If you are going on this to shop or stop into local markets, etc. this tour cuts it pretty short. There is not a lot opportunity to visit shops and things because they are closed by the time the coach arrives. You are traveling most of the day.
And for those of you who were like me and think this is a party on wheels throughout Europe, here's a reality check. You are expected to be up by seven and on the bus by quarter to eight. There is little leniency on this rule, but it is left out in the brochure. So, when you party until the wee hours of the night at a club in Amsterdam or Rome (that contiki is not going to recommend or help you find) be expecting an irritated knock at your door from the guide when you are ten minutes late, a hurried shove on the bus, and a wicked hangover for the next six hours until you reach the next city.
Going on this tour was seriously the best decision I've ever made. From the places we visited to the new and amazing friends I made, it was honestly perfect. You get to experience so much in what seems like a short amount of time, but trust me when I say it's just enough! The cities that you'll visit are must sees and you'll go home with tons of amazing pictures that will last you a life time. Our tour manager (Jaimie) and our coach driver (Jim) were incredibly fun, friendly and were very good at their jobs. Overall, this is definitely a tour that would be perfect for anyone and I'm so glad that I was able to go on it. Can't wait to plan my next tour!
First of all, Contiki really just blew my mind. Our tour had 44 amazing people, all of whom, I will never forget. I went into this experience with no expectations and was actually a bit anxious about how it would all go. The tour proved that there was no reason for that! We visited 7 countries in 10 days (plus one day on each end for travel) and it was a whirlwind, that's for sure. We saw the sights, made awesome friends, and lucked out with a kickass tour manager (Richie!) and bus driver (Max!). We partied hard almost every night, but there were also people who weren't as into the party scene too - so if that wasn't your thing, it was not a big deal at all. The best part about the trip was that there were groups of friends that formed quickly, but if you wanted to join one or sit down at a meal with someone new, everyone was always so welcoming. There was not any drama and everyone got along great. In fact, now we have lots of places to go and visit (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, LA!) and see our new friends. The accommodations were not a surprise and my advice is to read about where you will be staying prior to taking this trip. We stayed in some hotels, some hostels, a campground and some "Contiki houses" specifically geared toward Contiki touring groups. On our tour, the nicest place we stayed was in Paris, France. The hotel was modern and had modern amenities useful to everyone that came through. However, the most fun were probably the Contiki houses because we had authentic meals prepared for us, the bars were always open if you wanted to take advantage of them and it gave the group (as well as other groups) great bonding time. My personal favorite city that we visited was probably Venice, but I wish we got more time to explore. If I had to change one thing about our trip, it would be that we would get more time in each place to really get to know the culture and surroundings. Given the nature of this particular tour, I understand why this option was not available. However, if (and when!) I do Contiki again, I will likely pick a tour where we will stay in one place for longer and really be able to enjoy everything the country has to offer. One last bit of advice, do as many optionals as you can afford! They are all worthwhile and amazing! Especially Jungfrau mountain, the Cabaret in Paris and the farewell dinner also in Paris. I wish that I did not do the walking tour in Venice (to me it was not worth the 90 mins it took to do when I could have been exploring on my own in the 4 hours we were allowed there!) but that would be the only one I didn't love to the fullest. I would recommend Contiki to everyone and hope my group in particular can all do another one together some day!!! Please message me if you have any questions or concerns, I'll be happy to answer anything! Good luck in your journey!!!
It was the best trip and experience of my life till now. I cant say it in words how much this tour impressed and gave me. I enjoyed every single minute of it. I cant put this trip in a category. We`ve done so much: Nightlife in Las Vegas and San Francisco, hiking in Yosemite National Parc and biking in San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, shopping in SF and relaxing at the beach in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. Also I met so many friendliy and open people from all over the world. Guys I love you! It was funny to sit in a bus with 53 people who have all a hangover :-). We travelled a lot but it never feels like. The stops were perfect timed. After that tour i spent some days in a hostel. it was boring there. but i told him about contiki. how awesome this is and that they have to do it. and yes...they had immediately a look at the site and will book a trip.
I think i will write a book about this life experience...maybe in german..its easier for me :-)
I wanna thank Eileen, our Tour manager, for giving me the best time of my life. You did a perfect job. Showing us so many different things, telling us facts about different citys and showed us how to dance :-). hope we keep in touch and i can do another tour with you. Also thanks markus our driver. funny man :-). he showed me the best drink ever called AMF :-). And of course i wanna thank all people who shared the funny time with me. BIG HUGS from Berlin
I guess if you are reading this review then you want a few questions answered. Should I do this tour? Which optional extras should I do and which can I skip? What's hot and what's not? I'll try my best to help you with these most pertinent questions.
Should you do the tour? Hell yes! For me the tour was amazing and a real mind growing experience. But what makes the tour so amazing and warrants my high rating? I have a keen interest in World War II and I don't believe that another tour can offer so much in terms of experiencing this pivotal point in history. Even if you are not an avid WW2 follower the sights are amazing nonetheless. Other than the history, the shopping, arts-and-culture and the night life are all top notch. Every city has something to offer for whatever it is you may hope to experience. I also found that the crowd on this tour was older than on my previous tour. There were more people in the 26-27 age group than teens who were still wet behind the ears. While you have to love teenagers, the truth is they behave poorly and can be quite annoying. If you are reading this review and in are in your teens, don't be offended, rather make sure people don't say the same thing about you. So quite obviously, I really enjoyed my tour mates. So let me begin then:
BERLIN: Berlin is an extraordinary city, even more so when you consider that it was ruins after WW2. The historical sites here are aplenty and the people are super friendly. I had an extra day in Berlin and even that wasn't enough. There's so much to see and do so get there early or better still plan an extra couple of days in Berlin at the end of the tour.
The hotel in Berlin is probably the worst of the hotels on the tour. The biggest complaint that people had was the lack of an air-con. But are you going to Berlin to relax in your hotel? So for me it wasn't such a disaster. However if that type of thing bugs you then buy a fan or something. Anyway it's not supposed to get very hot in Berlin but it was over 30 degrees Celsius while I was there. By the way I did this trip in July; the middle of the European summer. The breakfast in the hotel is great; lots of fresh options and even a desert. There is a subway station near the hotel (Magdalenestrausse) but be prepared for a 2km uphill walk from there to the hotel. If you've just been traveling for 20 hours to get there, this can be a tough walk; made worse by the heat and the fact that you have to lug your suitcase all the way. Again, this is part of the fun of traveling.
The tour starts in the evening, so the first night is just admin and chilling. I needed some sleep on the first night so I just had a few beers at the bar down stares then had an early night (the only one on the tour). Both the activities on the 2 days in Berlin were optional extras. The first one is a guided tour through Berlin. For €10 I highly recommend it. It's quite a long walk through the city but well worth it. The guide will give you plenty of historical information and show you most of what you need to see. After that you have the afternoon off. I would recommend that you visit either the TV tower or the Museum of German History (not both). If you do go to the museum, start at the place that interests you most because the place is huge and by the time you get to the WW2 stuff the afternoon will be over. We had dinner at the Horfbrauhaus that evening. Now if you've been to the Horfbrauhaus in Munich then you might want to jump at the opportunity to visit the one in Berlin. Don't be! It’s no where nearly as good, it just doesn't have the same atmosphere. They don't sing any beer drinking songs, the crowd is minimal and the beer maidens or more like normal waitresses rather than the muscular German woman that can carry 6 huge beers in each hand and can probably knock you out if you disrespect them. The beer is still really good though. The best of us managed 2 liters of beer in the time we spent there. Let me know if you manage to do 3. The next optional extra is the Eye-Spy-Tour. This again consists of a walking tour but a much shorter one. However, after that, you end up in a bar followed by a night club called Matrix. The entrance to the club is included in the €16 that this optional extra costs. With all that you get for this extra, I also highly recommend it. The club was great, so you'll have a blast and have a great opportunity to party with the tour crowd, and get to know who all the bad dancers are. You depart from Berlin pretty early the next day, leaving no time to see more stuff, which is why I reckon you should plan a few extra days in Berlin. This is the case with most of the cities on the tour.
You will need extra time in every place.
PRAGUE: The journey to Prague is not too long as to give you an ass cramp or so short that you can’t even sleep. For me the journeys on the bus were all about sleep. There’s a lunch stop in the beautiful city of Dresden. I think that after even after such a brief visit I might want to go back there. Keep an eye out for all the restored (burned) buildings. The hotel in Prague is an improvement to the one in Berlin and is pretty much the standard that you can expect for the rest of the tour. The breakfasts are good too albeit not as good as Berlin. For me, Prague was the best city on the tour. It is by far the prettiest and the nightlife there is amazing. The architecture is particularly stunning and on those streets, you will certainly feel like you are walking through the middle ages.
There are 4 planned activities in Prague. First there is an included guided walk through some of the historical parts of Prague. This walk includes the castle complex and the Charles bridge. The problem is that you really have to keep close to your guide in quite crowded parts of the city. We lost our guide on a few occasions and for a significant part of the tour, couldn’t even hear her. I think you can maybe give this a skip and possibly spend more time at the castle or the bridge. There is an included meal at the end of this walk so make sure you catch up. I can’t really comment on the meal though, probably wasn’t great or too bad.
After that there was an included bike tour through Prague. I enjoyed this excursion, but a lot of people gave it a miss, more due to fear of falling off the bike though. It’s a great way to see the city as the bike gives your feet a bit of a rest while still affording you great views. Next, is the nuclear bunker tour. This tour is an optional extra that costs €18. I found this interesting, but the problem is that it is immediately after the bike tour and really doesn’t leave any chill time. I still suggest that you do it but for your health you may want to give it a skip especially if you did the bike tour. Finally, you end Prague off with the traditional Czech evening. This is really a lot of fun and is far more about the tradition and culture than the food. I remember that the beer and wine is included in the €28 so make sure you’re thirsty. Jump at the opportunity to try your hand (and mouth) at the weird drink dispensing contraption and hat tossing competition. I did and won a little drink as a prize. This extra is a must do.
Finally I cannot end the Prague section without commenting on the pub crawl. There were quite a few awesome nights on the tour but none as hot as this one. We did this on our first night in Prague and it costs in the region of €20. You crawl through 3 bar/clubs before ending up in the 5-story club. I had an absolute blast on this crawl. There are partiers from all over the world and it was simply amazing. It’s a mish-mash of people all interested and partying in a city renowned for its nightlife. Make sure you see the ice bar floor at the bottom of the 5-story club. Also don’t bother lining up for beer at the second bar, it takes way too long and you end up wasting your time. Rather stick with wine and shooters. Also you can take your drink with you through the streets so stock up just as you leave but make sure to finish before you get to the next bar. No wonder Prague is one the party capitals of the world. In closing I must say that the women in Prague are exceptionally beautiful. I envy the men there.
VIENNA: The Journey to Vienna is pretty much the same as the journey from Berlin to Prague. There is a short stop at Kutna Hora; an old church where the bones of dead monks decorate the interior. Quite freaky! You stop of at a weird fantasy-Excalibur world for lunch, where I must warn you against ordering the mega schnitzel. It really is MEGA. It doesn’t even fit on the plate. The hotel in Vienna is by far the best on the tour. It’s very spacious and comfortable, but more than that it is actually quite classy. Like Berlin the breakfasts here are also really good. I remember having lots of free time in Vienna so you can take it quite easy over the 2 days.
Your first evening is free so you have options of visiting various places. I ended up at the theme park, which in truth I kind of regretted. I’m not sure what alternative to suggest but I think one can do a lot better to experience a city than going to a theme park. There are only 2 planned activities in Vienna. The first one is the visit to the Schnapps museum for €8 and the second is the classical concert for €64. The Schnapps museum is well worth it. The visit is quick but informative. Please heed the advice of the guide and do not overdo it at the tasting session. The alcohol is strong and many people felt sick afterwards. You will get an opportunity to buy bottles at the end of the visit so rather get drunk on the stuff back home. I would recommend the flaming rocket and the Vienna gold.
Now the classical music concert is somewhat iffy. Firstly for €64 it really is pricy; almost ridiculously so. You get misled to believe that the concert is in the Habsburg palace, which it is, but is in some far away wing of the palace. The venue is more of a makeshift hall, rather than an actual theatre. The music is…Ummm…Ummm… Crap. I’m really not a fan of classical music but even those who were fans were not impressed. Some people fell asleep while others left after the break. On the bright side, there is an included dinner and it is the one opportunity that you have to dress up. Also it’s a Viennese thing so it is somewhat of a cultural experience. Nonetheless I do not recommend this extra. My suggestion is that you get dressed up, go out for a good dinner and meet up with everyone after the concert. There’s a really good club not too far from the palace, just opposite the parliament building. It’s a club with a huge outdoor area and great music. The queue is a bit hectic and you might have to fight your way in but it’s well worth the fight.
I also visited the Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Belvedere museum which was surprisingly enjoyable. Again start off with the stuff that interests you. If I remember correctly it costs in the region of €18.
BUDAPEST: The drive to Budapest is very short so sleep may be a problem in this journey. There is a lunch stop in Bratislava, it's not really long enough to explore the place but my initial impressions of the city were good. From there it’s a really short drive to Budapest. Budapest was probably the city I enjoyed the least, not because I hated it but more because of the other cities on tour that it had to live up to. It is the one city that you will visit where you can actually see the damage of WW2 and the lack of development through the communist era. Nonetheless it still has volumes to offer and the view from the top of the hill on the Pest side that is stunning. The hotel in Budapest is pretty much the same as the one in Prague but from here on the breakfasts get progressively worse.
There are 2 planned activities in Budapest, one is great and the other not so great. The river cruise is superb, the food is good (better than any of the other cities) and the views are stunning. There's also plenty of wine making the views all the more enticing. For €34 it is well worth every penny. The view of the Parliament building from the river is beautiful especially with it lit up at night. Having said that, the view is the best part of the Parliament building, because the tour through the inside of the building is just bland and uninteresting. For €18 you could do much better. I know that the history is the appeal but you could do much better spending your time on Google reading up on the building. This is the one extra that I would unequivocally suggest that you SKIP. Do not take my advice at your peril.
The highlight of Budapest for me was the Bath club. It's quite unique so let me explain. Budapest has a number of hot water springs throughout the city. These springs are used as normal spas during the day, however at night they turn the place into a club. You need to take a towel and swimwear with you. The entrance is approximately €20. You will receive an arm band and a smart card. You then need to load drinks-money onto your card. After that you can go to a locker room to dress and lock away your valuables. Your arm band serves as your locker key. Then you go and have a party in one of the hot pools, where an aqua DJ will entertain you. The concept is pretty cool and it is loads of fun. The hot water leaves with quite a weird hangover so take my advice and use the Parliament tour time to sleep in. It will all work out just perfectly.
I also visited the Terror building in Budapest during my free time. This museum centers around the oppression of the Hungarian people during WW2 and communist rule. The creators have done an amazing job to give you a full experience and you don't need too much of time to go through it. What's neat is that you can just collect all the information sheets and read them later at your leisure and spend the time in the museum on the visual stuff. It costs €16 and again, it was worth the spend. Finally, just remember: DON'T DO THE PARLIAMENT TOUR.
KRAKOW: This city was the most unexpected amazing experience for me. I knew very little about the place before the trip and so in a way I didn’t really expect much but it certainly surprised me. There is so much of history and beauty all around the city. The meals in Poland were the tastiest of all the countries both in Krakow and Warsaw. They also have a drink called an apple pie which you must try; in fact some people started drinking this as a standard from Krakow onwards. While the food in Poland was great the breakfasts in the hotels were terrible. The trip from Budapest to Krakow is very long, you may have a great opportunity to sleep but your ass will certainly protest. There is a short lunch stop in BanskaBystrica back in Slovakia where you must hurry. Here you order, you gulp down and you pay. You don’t have much time and the service is slow.
There is an included meal on the first night in Krakow. As I mentioned earlier, the food all over Poland is good and this place does not disappoint. There are only 2 planned activities in Krakow and they are both pretty short and easy going. The first is an included short guided walk through the city. The pace is slow so you can unwind a bit. The second activity is an optional extra tour at the salt mines for €20. It is worth the money and I would definitely recommend it. Other than that the rest of your time is free. I visited the Schindler museum which again for €12 is well worth the effort of getting there. Here too the creators did a great job of creating the right effect. Don't expect the whole museum to be about Oskar Schindler or his List though. The museum is dedicated to the Polish experience of WW2.
The night life in Krakow is great too. We ended up in some club close to the town square. The music was great and the crowd was cool too. Your time in Krakow is limited because of the long arrival Journey and the early departure. I would definitely plan to go back there some time and explore the place at my own leisure.
You depart from Krakow quite early for a visit to Auschwitz; about an hours’ drive out of Krakow. This was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. There are really no words to describe the place or the experience itself. All I can say is that you must do the visit and you should treat the experience with the respect it deserves. Don’t go on this tour with a hangover, take as few pictures as possible and immerse yourself in the moments. It may not change your way of life but you might complain a little less about the air-con in Berlin.
WARSAW: After visiting this city you will not be able to comprehend that 90% of this city was leveled in WW2. The city was completely rebuilt, but the city centre was rebuilt to look the same as it did before the war. You will still get the feel of an old European city centre. The movie “The Pianist” is set in Warsaw, if you’ve seen it recently; you may recognize some of the buildings (a certain archway in particular). There is a large restaurant at one end of the main square where the meals are exquisite. I highly recommend this place but cannot remember the name. All I remember is that the umbrellas on the outside deck are white with red print. I hope that helps. I also seem to remember that the restaurant is on the left of the mermaid in the centre of the square.
The trip from Krakow to Warsaw is also pretty long, more so in time rather than distance though. For some strange reason there are traffic lights on the highways in Poland. There is a lunch stopover at Czestochowa where you can also view the “Black Madonna”. Please do not shoot me, but it was kind of over-rated. The anecdotal story behind it is quite interesting though.
The best advice that I can give you about the hotel in Warsaw is not to eat their breakfast. It is horrible. Rather go out for breakfast, there are plenty of good places to eat in Poland. There is only one planned tour through Warsaw and it is mostly on the coach. You’ll have some free time on the last afternoon before the final big get together in the evening. To end the tour off there’s an included meal (with drinks) before you head out to a bar and club for the last big night out. This night is always bitter-sweet; you want to have a blast but you know that you may never see most of these people again. The next morning is even worse, not only do you have a terrible hangover but a grave feeling of finality also.
I guess that this feeling can only mean that you had a great time, for if you are happy to have the tour end that you could only have hated it. So do this tour, max all your credit cards and have a rocking time. It really is great. Five stars from me.