Read reviews from past Contiki travelers.
This trip was out of this world, truly. It was the first part of the larger Indochine trip that continued on to Vietnam...I didn't have 25 days to spare for the whole journey, but felt fulfilled with the three countries I did visit and the people I met on this trip. The tour manager was extremely knowledgeable and fun, had a balance between friendly and organized. We got local info at every new stop with helpful hints. The local guides were interesting and informative, really hilarious in most cases. Our hotels were way better than I'd imagined...all but one had WiFi and only one in Lao was a bit rustic. Expectations were exceeded from the first night.
I'd have to say I had slight reservations booking (being on the older side of the age spectrum) but it wasn't even a factor. Everyone was well-rounded and unique, all taking the trip for their own reasons and most were pretty experienced in travel. Since we kept a good pace to get from place to place, there was a lot of accountability, and people looked out for each other. Friendships were made. There was enough free time built in that you could explore a bit on your own or opt out of certain activities...but most of them were worth taking part in.
As soon as I returned home to see photos of myself hugging a tiger, riding on an elephant's back, playing in waterfalls, dancing in the rain, drinking snake whiskey, w/friends drinking/eating/dancing and just overall having the time of our lives...I realized I would definitely be taking another trip with Contiki. It's well organized and Contiki has made the right choices to maximize the time you have in the locations you visit. Someday when I'm much older and retired I'll take months leisurely browsing through areas...for now I like the pace and social aspect.
This tour was great, you got plenty of time in the greatest cities in the US. The flights were a great way to gain extra time, but the group connection/bonding time was lost by not having a coach.
The hotels are a bit better than what they are normally for a Contiki, as mentioned by our tour manager, they are more 3.5 - 4, which they really were.
You got plenty of time to do your own thing as well as planned activities. Made life long friends on this trip.
Disneyland, Universial... all arranged and transfers provided!
I had an amazing time on this tour. Our tour manager Karlene was the best! It was perfect for someone my age (18 at the time). I made great friends. People may think being on a coach for hours is terrible, its really not. That is where we all got to really know each other and bond. I have since been on another tour where there was all flights and no coach, the group connection was not anywhere near as strong.
The places we stayed in were fantastic, the special stay in France, the Chateau... AMAZING!
Highly recommend anyone to go on this tour, perfect amount of time to be away, and a great insight into each country. I know where I would like to go back to again with my partner!
Awesome tour cannot wait to go back!!
This trip was by far the best holiday i have ever had. We had a great bunch of people who all got along and made the experience all that more interesting.
Our tour manager Alex and our driver Geordie were fantastic and made the tour so much more worthwhile. "Alex's Adventures" were a highlight as he always made sure they were informative and fun. Geordie also made sure the late night bus trips home were a hilarious experience.....especially when great songs were played and everyone was dancing while the lights went into nightclub mode. haha. The effort they both put into this tour is very much appreciated!
The optional extras were ALL amazing. I particularly enjoyed the Cabaret show, the mountain in the Swiss Alps, Space Disco in Florence and the Gondola ride in Venice. But all of the others were equally as good.
Accommodation was as good as you could get for what you paid for. I was happy with all of the places we stayed. You have to remember Contiki is a budget holiday so you are not going to get 5 star hotels. For me as long as the hotel room was clean i was happy. Just don't set extremely high expectations for the accommodation you will be fine.
I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone even if it's your first Contiki. I enjoyed every single day and would definitely go on another tour in the future.
This tour is not for those who are looking for a relaxing tour of Europe-
Contrasts is the BEST way to see as much of Europe as possible in the allocated time.
Bring your vitamins, your Cold & flu stuff, anything that will help you stay as close to 100% as possible, because if you blink you WILL miss something amazing!
Contrasts also has the option of Sailing or the Contiki Resort in Corfu, Greece, which is an awesome way to get some much needed Rn'R. (Or party it up if you don't wanna stop!)
Even if you're afraid of something (ie. heights, water) that is part of the optional extras- it is DEFINITELY worth doing them all - You're in Europe and this is a once in a lifetime experience !
This trip is truly worth every penny, you'll bond with your contiki family, have an amazing time, see some of the most beautiful places, monuments & sights in the world and it is unbelievably well priced for the service you receive.
Anyone contemplating doing this tour, or aren't sure - take it from me it is 100%, no.. 200% worth it, you will NOT regret doing this and you'll create memories that will last a lifetime.
First time ever overseas! It was the most amazing trip ever, cannot wait to go back and spend more time at all of these wonderful places! Contiki is such a great way to do it, felt safe and made many new friends! Looking forward on planning a new zealand contiki for next year and a 6 week contiki through euroupe in 2015 love it love it love it!
The tour was lovely. Enjoyed ever minute of it. Also, the tour allows you to see/experience much of Spain on as little money spent as possible.
I went on this tour with my husband in July 2013. Overall what made this trip great was the people on the your with us, not the tour itself. The food was average at best with the good food being the optionals you pay for. The hotel accommodation was great in Amsterdam and Barcelona but in Paris our hotel ceiling leaked and the Lucerne jail hotel had bed bugs. Not something you want to find at midnight! The tour guide made us feel pressured into buying optionals as if he made commission on them. All in all this tour was not at all what I excepted it to be.
Awesome time island hopping and get to chill out alot of the time as well as have fun. Mel was amazeballs as a contiki leader, so chilled and yet organised.
Contiki's Ultimate European was the most exciting experience of my life. Not only did I experience so many cultures in the amount of time we had, but I made friends that I will have for a lifetime. This trip was worth all of my money and I recommend it to anyone wanting to travel Europe.
For those of you that may be interested, this is a quick run down of what we did on the first day.
We started our tour in London and quickly made our way via ferry to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is an amazing city. Full of bikes and quirky buildings. We explored the city on foot. We checked out the local shopping district and we had a Bratwurst (German Style sausage) for lunch. We saw the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and chilled out in front of the iconic 'I Amsterdam' sign. For those doing the optional extras of the Sea Palace Lunch- I'd highly recommend it. It was tasty Indonesian cuisine and plenty of free drinks. The other optional was a river cruise, which turned out to be a party boat with beer, wine and champange! We then hit the town and toured the red light district checking out the prostitutes of Amsterdam (looking of course..). Some of the guys went to the local coffee shops for some 'grass'. Others stayed and saw a live sex show, which was a mixture of sexy and hilariousness. That was our first night in Amsterdam. Others went out and hit the town afterwards, while some of us crashed in our hostel.
I could describe the other 18 days but you'll have to experience it for yourself. The accommodation in general was quite good. There were a few hotel upgrades and all hostels and cabins had the essentials and more. Our tour guide and bus driver, Kate and Phillipe, were great. They were incredibly organised and work hard to make the trip memorable as possible. The ME time extras do cost more. I spent about 350 euro extra on ME extras but they were well worth it. Things such as paragliding, whitewater rafting, gondolas in Venice, pub crawls, river cruises all added to the experience. The experience was incredibly intense. Be prepared to be exhausted after the end of the trip. One of the best aspects of the trip was how we managed to get so much done (in terms of sightseeing, partying, making friends, and other experiences) in such as short period of time. Our group bonded really well together and everyone was incredibly friendly.
If you are after a intense and wild time and want to see Europe quickly at an incredibly good price, I'd definitely recommend this trip. Only downside is that there was limited time in each city. So if you are looking to spend a while (more than two days) in each city maybe look somewhere else. Otherwise- 5 STARS
I just got back from my third Contiki trip. My first was Russia, Egypt was my second and Simply Italy was my third. Russia was pretty good, Egypt was excellent, but Italy was unbelievably amazing. Simply Italy was by far the best Contiki trip I've taken to date. Our tour manager Laura and our driver Cornelius were an excellent team. Laura was what really made the trip fabulous though. She provided us with maps at every stop and always explained things so well. She always answered our questions and her Italian was amazing and beautiful even though she was a kiwi. Everything was so well organized and Laura, our tour manager, always made sure to balance sightseeing with partying. She made it clear to us that it was our holiday and that we would also help make it what we wanted. If we wanted to party she'd take us and if we wanted to sightsee she'd recommend things for us. Boy, could that girl walk though! We ate tons of food on this trip, but boy did we burn/walk it off.
The tour overall was excellent. The only thing I'd change is our stop at Pisa and the mall. We had 1.5-2 hours at a design outlet mall, which I didn't really care for. In Pisa, we were only there for about an hour. My friend and I really wanted to climb Pisa, but an hour didn't leave us with enough time to do so. We thought it might have been because of driving hours though. That day we drove from Milan, I think, all the way to Rome so it was a long driving day. More time in Pisa would have been super though. I could have easily used another day in Florence and especially one more in Venice. Venice is so amazing it's almost a shame to only spend a good full day there. I really enjoyed this one country focused tour though. We did spend some time on the bus, but it wasn't overly excessive. I think focused tours that spend time in one or two countries only are the way to go.
Overall, the food was amazing. My recommendation is to go off the beaten path and find a place where locals are eating and away from tourists. Some of the places we went with the whole group were hit and miss. This pretty much sums up food on Contiki in general. After three contiki trips I can safely say that dinners you find on your own will be better. They aren't trying to mass produce food so you get better food and service. We had an amazing all you can eat pizza dinner in Sorrento, but another night in Sorrento we had an optional dinner we paid like 40 euro for and it was just way too salty and we went home hungry. We had some undercooked pasta in Florence in an included dinner, but that was were the bad meals ended. Every other meal was quite good. The included and optional dinners were, however, better on this tour compared to Russia and Egypt so I was happy with that. Watch out for the places closest to tourist areas. This sandwich/pizza place across from the Colosseum in Rome was very pricey and not too great. Our Sprite was literally 5 euro, which was like 10 dollars Canadian. I guess I can check off another point from the bucket list as I can officially say I I had a 10 dollar Sprite. The pizza was as hard as the colosseum there too, but we only had 45 mins for lunch that day and there wasn't much else around. The best pizza and pasta we had were places we found on our own. Be careful of ordering in Le Spezia as we ordered pesto pasta thinking we'd have enough time before our meetup time and we were wrong. We literally had to inhale our food and were chugging our drinks and devouring bread sooo fast as I think the servers are on island mentality. One other couple we talked to also experienced slow service there so I'd recommend eating lunch in La Spezia first and then seeing the castle or swimming. The beach in the Cinque Terre was amazing though. Our guide said it's rarely super hot and nice so we were very lucky. The fruit shake place across from the beach is amazing too! It's expensive, but it's all made with real and fresh fruit right there in front of you. You can also order ridiculously huge alcoholic drinks. There was an optional hike you could do instead of the beach, but my friend and I were tired of stairs so we opted for relaxation at this point in the tour. I'm glad we went here too as I don't think I'd have known about it from just exploring on my own.
Overall, the hotels were really good. Wifi was hit and miss. Wifi in Italy is like food in Cuba. Overall, Wifi connections just sucked! Some hotels connected well, but at the Regent literally it would get overloaded and the wifi would have to kick someone out before it logged someone else on. The Regent in Rome was just okay. It was far better than the horrible Victoria hotel we stayed at in Egypt. Basically, if I have running and hot water on a Contiki now it's pretty much fab, so it was okay in Rome. The hotel in Sorrento, the Grand Flora, was decent and had a pool which was great, but I didn't care for a tile floor. Then in Florence the Club hotel was super. Rooms were small, but very nice and the lobby was very stylish. The Holiday Inn by Venice was fine and the beds were bigger and softer, which was nice. The local pizza place down the road was really good too, but they didn't know how to handle such a large crowd. It took forever to order. If you go there, I think it's called Pizzeria Al Calesse, then do take out as everyone that did got the food right away and didn't have to wait forever and ever just to order. Le Spezia had an okay hotel. The lift was so small here though that we could only fit one person and a bag in the lift/elevator at a time though. I think the pipes were very old though as our shower just turned on in the middle of the night. Either it was water pressure or this hotel is haunted... We also locked the door at night to find it unlocked in the morning. Okay, maybe I'm going for haunted/ghost on this one?! The hotel in Milan, the NH, was amazing. It's too bad they couldn't all be that great and then we headed back to Rome.
In terms of souvenirs to bring back, leather is big in florence. We went to leonardo's, which was pricey, bur you know it's the real stuff. With contiki you could get your initials imprinted in your purchase for free so that was cool. They also had these really cool puzzle rings that have to be put together like a puzzle in order to wear them. I think that's the only thing I regret not buying. It's hard because you want to balance out your money and it's not like you can window shop in italy and then go back and buy stuff. Venice is where to get glass and masks. If I had more money I would have bought an expensive glass piece. They can ship right from their shop and they have insurance incase anything happens. One couple got a lovely love bird piece. I ended up just getting small earrings. It's expensive, but in the demo this guy like throws the glasses around very hard and they don't break so you know it's good quality. Overall, the demos on this tour were very good and I really enjoyed them. We did skip the lace demo in Venice though. Some people went for the air-conditioning, but lace wasn't really our thing. Masks were amazing in venice. Basically, just look for paper mache as sometimes the italians will order masks from china and sell them. If they are paper mache or you see someone making them then they are the real deal.
Well, I hope I encounter more amazing tour managers like Laura. She did say our group was really amazing and everyone got along so well. I am a teacher so I can understand how you could get a bad group, okay group or amazing group. I suppose that part is all luck, but overall I've been lucky and had some really good groups. Egypt was just okay though when I went as a huge family of cousins packed over half of the bus so it was harder to meet people. It all kind of depends on who signs up for your tour. I am turning 26 in a week and hope I can save for and do a few more contiki trips before my time is up and I'm too old. I also went with a friend on this trip who did contiki for the first time and she just loved it so now she's also recommending contiki. I'm so happy we had a great tour manager and driver that really helped to make the trip amazing. I can't wait for my next trip! I just hope I don't get sick again. I've come home sick all three times I've done contiki. This time I got hit especially hard as it's been almost two weeks now that I've been sick. I think next time I will bring more money for souvenirs though. I took 1000 euro to spend, but I could have easily spent 1500-2000 euro between leather, glass, masks, drinks etc. If you are looking to make new friends and are looking for a safe, organized, fun and amazing time then do a contiki! You won't regret it!
from the various drinking games to the beautiful beach it was the funnest trip with great people!
This trip was amazing!
The accommodations were way better than expected. The special night stays were great. In Tortuguero the lodge is in the rainforest. There is a lot of wildlife you can experience just walking around the lodge including howler monkeys, parrots and toucans. The tent special stay lodge was also really neat. You sleep in tents but they have queen size beds and a bathroom with running water. Some of the accommodations had AC but not all of them, however this was never a problem. It seemed to cool off enough at night that heat was not an issue, and with the amazing sounds of the wildlife I got some of the best nights of sleep in my life. Most accommodations had hot water. The only time I had an issue with this was in the tent suites...but you only stay there one night so it wasn’t a huge deal.
In Sarapiqui, you get to choose from rafting, ziplining, or rappelling free of charge. My entire group opted for the rafting which I would highly recommend. This was the only opportunity for rafting and there is better ziplining and rappelling in other areas of Costa Rica. The optionals that I participated in were canyoneering in La Fortuna, ziplining in Montverde, and kayaking and the catamaran cruise in Manuel Antonio. I would recommend all of these activities, especially if you are into adventure sports. The catamaran cruise was the last night of the trip which made it a great way to say goodbye to our group. The alcohol is free and there are snacks on board. There is an opportunity to snorkel, and ride a slide down into the water.
What to Pack
Clothing wise I would recommend a combination of adventure/workout clothes and a few nicer pieces of clothing (for nights out). A rain coat is a must and I would recommend a poncho as well. When it rains in Costa Rica it pours and even expensive rain coats got wet quickly. Once something gets wet it won’t dry for days due to the humidity. I packed a newspaper to help keep my shoes dry when there was no AC or hair dryer in the room. Water shoes are another must. I brought a pair of crocs along which worked great for canyoneering. During that excursion you walk through water constantly so a quick drying waterproof shoe is necessary. Bug spray and sun screen were also a must. Some people on my trip were bitten often so I would recommend bringing some sort of ointment to treat bug bites. I would also recommend packing a few general medicine items such as cough drops or cold/flu medicine. I had a head cold for a few days and having the medicine allowed me to fully participate in all the activities.
A waterproof camera is a must for this trip. Not only can you take great pictures in the rain, but can take it along on all the excursions such as canyoneering and ziplining. I invested in a cheap one right before I left and am glad I did. Those who did not have waterproof cameras were able to get some pictures but missed out on taking it along on many of the excursions.
There are plenty of ATM’s throughout Costa Rica so accessing money was not an issue. The only days ATM’s are not available are during the time in Tortuguero so make sure you have enough cash to get you through the first few days of the trip.
All of the hotels had safes, except for Arenal but the hotel has a safe at the front desk you can use. In Monteverde you have to give them a deposit to use the safe in your room but as long as you return the key you get all of your money back.
Overall this trip was unforgettable and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great combination of adventure and relaxation. Most of the adventure activities are optional so even if you are not looking for that type of activity I would recommend this trip. Not only do you get to see wildlife like monkeys, sloths, toucans, and dart frogs, but there are plenty of days at the beach. Our tour group was great. The guide was knowledgeable and a lot of fun. This trip was truly an experience of a lifetime!
I took this tour at the end of May. I wish someone had warned me not to and told me how disorganized Contiki tours were or how rude the people working for them are!
When I arrived in London the morning my travel documents stated that I would be staying at the Imperial Hotel in Russell square. However after paying a taxi to get me there when I went to check in I was told that I was moved to the Royal National Hotel. No explanation provided was just told to go there. After waiting in another long like to check in, the Royal National tells me I should be checking into the Contiki Basement. At the C.B I tried to inquire and possibly check in early (I had made this request when booking and was told they would try to accommodate it) the girl at the desk told me that she would not speak to me until 2pm. No explanation to the hotel change, no courtesy whatsoever. Finally at 2pm (4 hours after I got there), they acknowledge my presence and check my in. They gave me a drink voucher for the inconvenience and and a free breakfast for my extra day.
However when I tried to redeem the drink voucher that night I was told by hotel staff that they had never seen it before and didn’t know where I could redeem it. After traveling over 7 hours to get to London and getting the run around for at least 3 hours by Contiki staff I was in no mood to find this free drink.
I tried to use the breakfast voucher the next morning and was told that I had to pay $5 if I wanted the English breakfast, so I settled for the continental breakfast. When I joined the group the next day I was told my card needed a stamp which said ‘English Breakfast’ that others on my tour had but I did not.
The bathroom ceiling in my room was full of mold. This above all else is a sanitary health concern. When I told my tour manager her response was that this is London standards. I have friends in London who visited me in my room and assured me that this was not London standards.
The first night of the tour we went on a ‘walking tour’ off London. Which may not have been the smartest idea after a long day especially since this was the night that London was hosting the soccer final of two German teams. The streets were packed to say the very least. Halfway through the tour the group was split up when a large group exited a pub splitting the group up. We didn’t have a chance or hope to find the group. A few of us stuck together with the hopes of at least finding our hotel, which we did hours after walking around looking for the way back. Our tour manager was not clear about what our next stop was so it was impossible for us to try to find the group. When I let her know the next day she claimed she waited. When I reconnected with the group the next day the few that were able to stick with her informed me that she did not wait for us and she had just made a comment about how we must have decided to split off and kept walking.
The other big blunder we felt was when we arrived in the airport in Rome. I understand that the Rome portion of the trip is unguided. However in all travel documents and what we were told when we left Paros was that a Contiki representative would meet us at the airport and would be holding a Contiki sign. After a half hour of waiting patiently reading all the signs that didn’t say Contiki we decided to split up and figure out where the representative was. After what was at least another half hour we reconvened to learn that a few people from our tour called the hotel (paying for long distance charges) and were told that the tour guide was not meeting us at the hotel and instead we should look for a Contiki bus that was picking us up. Another group of people found the driver who was driving an unmarked van and said he was our driver and also informed them that the Contiki representative was meeting us at the hotel not the airport. I can assure you if I wasn’t with a group of people I would not have gotten into an unmarked car in a foreign country! We finally get to our hotel and meet the representative who gives us our metro/bus/subway passes. When any of us asked him a question like where is a good place to eat his answers were vague or often “I don’t know”. He said he could only talk/answer questions for a few minutes as we were late (like this was our fault) and he had somewhere else to be by this time.
My stay in Rome was the best part of my trip. I no longer had ties to Contiki and could rest assured that nothing else would go terribly wrong. By this time I had made friends and spent time with them in Rome seeing the sites without the stress of Contiki.
I emailed my concerns to Contiki and received a letter about a month later. They ‘regret’ the things that happened and offered a less than satisfactory 5% off my next tour. I hope I have made it clear that I will NEVER be travelling with Contiki again and hope that I can save someone from making the mistake that I did. The only way I would even consider another Contiki tour is if they were offering me one for free. And even then I’d have to think if it was worth my time. The least they could have done was offer me a percentage off the tour I already paid for as I did not get my money’s worth!!!
On this tour I got to see all the expected sights, landmarks, historic places everything you can imagine, I got to experience new culture, cuisines, lessons in life and pretty much live the dream for 37 days with people I had never met who now mean soo soo much to me! I didnt know what to expect and was quite scared to do Contiki as i was going by myself, but come Day 1 of the tour, there was no need to worry!
My tour manager was amazing and has become a good friend, our driver the same! The optionals were a lot of fun! Transport was perfect, our driver even did extra pick ups on some nights we went out when it was too far to get home by taxi! They went above and beyond for us! The meals that were supplied were fine, they were good, most of them were buffet style so we got to choose what we wanted. Lots of people said the food was shit, but to me it was really better then I expected, as was the accomodation. Previous to my trip people warned me that some places would be dodgy and I wouldnt like it / feel safe.. So automatically I expected the worst. However as they say 'Expect the worst get the best' thats what happened! Accomodation was fine, there were 1 or 2 places that would probably be rated 2 stars (just a guess) but honestly, it was NOT bad at all for A Concept Tour (budget trip) I really enjoyed the Generator Hostel in Barcelona and The hostel in Ljubljana was amazing (the old bank) Most places had free wifi which was handy for being homesick!!!
All the Contiki sites were ALOT of fun, they really entertained us, provided us with yummy food, made us feel at home it was great :) So were the Contiki Staff at the campsites. Luke in Venice, Tyson in Rome and Kate (somewhere in Italy) were some I really got along with!
Tour mates were amazing, I think we all really got lucky! We had an amazing group. I had too many amazing moments, none of which would make sense to anyone that wasn't / hasn't on the tour or done a Contiki! I truly lived with #noregrets. I even got it tattooed on my foot (minus the hashtag haha)
One thing I will add for anyone that reads this or plans to go on a Contiki is:
THESE ARE VITAL FOR YOUR TRIP! -
- Cold and Flu Tablets (strong ones)
- Multi vitamins / vitamin C
- Insect repellent & cream for bites (YOU WILL GET BITTEN especially in Italy and Greece)
- Lots of sunscreen (Aussie sunscreen is perfect as we've got the strongest sun in the world, especially in comparison to Europe - also sunscreen over there is expensive)
- If your a girl lots of spare for that time of the month!!! Its a little tricky to find good stuff over there
- Bed bug spray
..and im sure theres a couple other things but i cant think right now!
Anyways best time of my life!!! I reccommend to anyone and everyone! Also GO SOLO! I wouldnt change anything about going by myself - you really wake up to urself and learn life lessons !
LIVE LIFE WITH #NOREGRETS Contiki Style!!!
The Big Chill:
Contiki Europe 2012.
I must say first off that this tour is a kick ass tour that really showcases what both Europe and Contiki offers young travellers. The Big Chill is made up of the Southern Trail and the Northern Trek so half way through you loose some of your new mates but meet a bunch of new peeps to share the rest of the tour with. If you want to see to whole of Europe, are ready to party and learn all about Europe’s history then The Big Chill is a must.
This tour see’s you visit so many of the major bucket list items and tourist hot spots and a few of the out of the way surprises that you just fall in love with. You stay at campsites in tents, there are a few options throughout the tour to upgrade to rooms as well as a few spots where you stay in Hotels anyway. Staying in tents actually works really well and is at the heart of Contiki travel, this is how it all started. I felt that while we were staying in tents and we had some spare time around the campground, our tour was much more social then if where in hostels or hotels. You do not hang out in the tent and find yourself chilling out with a beer just chatting.
After the epic 46 day tour we had grown so close to our group and constantly stay in touch with many people. Travelling with a group for 46 days and through 20 countries means that you really build a great bond to your fellow Contiki crew. The on-tour cook was brilliant and it was amazing what Vee could produce at a campground. Our tour manager was brilliant and well versed on European history. A special mention must be made to our coach driver Rado, who had some serious skills, it was amazing where he could put the coach.
Definitely consider The Big Chill you will not regret it, I had so much fun and met so many amazing people.
Overall, this was a phenomenal journey! I would definitely recommend it to MOST. If you're interested in culture, history, communism, WWII, sightseeing, etc. then this is your trip. If you are ONLY interested in alcohol and sex, maybe not so much. You can definitely get your drink on, but you need to think about if you really want to visit Auschwitz when you're hungover and if you really want to have a splitting headache when you're on a two hour bike tour of Prague. If you just want to drink and sleep, not your trip.
Overall tips: Poland is cheap - if you need to get gifts, get them in Poland! Always have snacks on hand, i.e. granola bars, because there are some days when we are just go-go-go and end up starving! Fly into Berlin and fly out of Warsaw, don't bother with the transfer from Warsaw to Berlin.
And as always, be on time to everything. The group WILL leave you and we will probably laugh about it, too. Don't be that person.
As far as the hotels go, they were all satisfactory and within reasonable distance to major centers. Those, like Austria and Budapest, which were not centrally located had easy public transportation. The only hotel location that was not satisfactory was in Berlin - a mile walk to the U-bahn station. Fine during the day, but a little sketchy at night.
More Specific Tips...
Germany: In Berlin, definitely do the daytime walking tour but the Eye Spy tour is a glorified pub crawl of two rather crappy bars. The Communist-themed bar was a let-down, mostly just red. The next place we went was disgusting. Next to the Berliner Dom, the Lustgarten has a great fountain that's perfect to cool off in. Don't waste your time with a big sit-down lunch in Dresden; grab a sandwich to go because you don't have long.
Czech Republic: In Prague, the walking tour is long but necessary. I skipped the bunker tour and didn't regret it. Definitely do the traditional Czech evening - in fact, do all the optional dinners. Aside from a good time, they're a bonding experience with the group. Kutna Hora is very small and the bone church is all there is so don't expect much. Get rid of your Czech crowns here. If you stop at the really strange amusement park/truck stop in the Czech Republic, just go over to the mall and get KFC. You won't be able to eat at the restaurants in the complex within the allotted hour.
Austria: In Vienna, enjoy your evening at Prater and definitely do some rides! And get the little sugared donuts. Climbing the Stephansdom was interesting, but there's just a small room at the top with some windows. History buffs should check out the Kaisergruft. Definitely take the Schnapps tour because it's cheap and you get three (or more) small shots as well as a trip to Schonbrunn Palace. The Mozart evening was fun, but don't feel bad if you decide to skip it. Definitely go to Tel Aviv Beach at night in Vienna - open air bars along with river! Save your Euros because Slovakia uses them, too, and you'll be there for two lunches. Hungary: Definitely do the river cruise.
Hungarian Parliament was beautiful, but you could skip it and not miss too much. The tour guide does bring you to Saint Stephen's Basilica, too, which is a good take-off point for the day. Go to Szechenyi for the baths but be prepared for a confusing system there - try and read about it online first. Go to the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, too - they're across from Parliament but hard to get to. Walk down the river away from Parliament and you'll see some pathways down to the riverfront. Tram 2 is easy to remember and a quick trip back to the Mercure. ChaChaCha offered a chill night out, but the place next to it is better. When getting in a Budapest taxi, set the price ahead of time.
Poland: In Krakow, do the salt mine tour extra, but understand that the mine is very much a tourist attraction. Beware if you have an elevator phobia though. Krakow is a great laidback town without a lot of big sites. The walking tour gets the necessary sites out of the way, then head to Old Town and visit the Cloth Hall for shopping. Definitely eat at Marmolada and get the fried meat pierogies - best I've ever had. Krakow is the only city I didn't take a taxi or public transport in because the hotel is so close! In Auschwitz, just be prepared for the emotions. In Czestochowa, go to the left inside the abbey to find the painting, but don't expect to get close. This is more of a really pretty and maybe miraculous bathroom stop. Still, definitely go inside and find the painting - it only takes ten minutes. In Warsaw, visit the Warsaw Rising museum, but other than that there's not a whole lot to see. Just enjoy the Old Town and have a nice, long lunch. Visit the PoleArt store that's in the square with the mermaid fountain. Don't skip out on your last night out because I think you'd regret it. Enjoy your last hurrah :)
I literally just got back from this trip within the past 24hours and all I can say is that it was worth every penny spent! Our tour manager was Dane and driver was Johnny, and they completely made our trip worth while. No matter what hiccups occurred along the way from city to city (such as traffic etc.) they always made sure that we were getting the most out of each city we visited. It is a very fast paced trip and you are constantly on the go, but definitely the perfect trip for someone that wants to see a little bit of everything in Europe.
I participated in all the Me Time optionals and they were also worth every penny as well. Such a great life changing experience. Met so many wonderful people and made new friends along the way from all over the world. Definitely would love to book another trip through Contiki, and will definitely be recommending to friends and family members to book through them as well!