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General Europe Contiki advice
Hey, just got back from European Magic (9 days) and I thought I would share some things I learnt on this tour that might be helpful:
1. Pack for the weather you are likely to have, not the weather you WANT to have.
My tour was in summer, and although I checked out the weather in some of the countries I was going to and it didn't look like it was going to be all that hot, I still only packed shorts, singlets, and dresses. I had 1 pair of jeans with me and since it was rather cold for the first few days on tour, I had to keep using them until the weather got warmer. I would also suggest packing a small umbrella if you can help it. They sell cheap ones in souvenir shops (particularly in Amsterdam) but I know of at least 1 person who did this only for it to break as soon as they opened it.
2. Have money budgeted and ready for your optionals and do most of them (if not all of them).
I did all the optionals except for Bobsledding (it wasn't really my thing, and my travel insurance didn't cover it anyway - don't worry, just make sure yours does before you leave if that is included as an optional on your tour). It really makes the trip more enjoyable and easier for you, and you get to bond with your tour mates more. I definitely recommend doing all of them if you're a solo traveler as you'll make friends faster. The Moulin Rouge was expensive but seriously, DO IT! It was a lot of fun and you get a quality 3 course meal out of it and plenty of wine and champagne. It was definitely worth it. I recommend paying for all your optionals as soon as you can so you don't have to worry about it. I paid in a few installments but found it a hassle to find an ATM, or I'd forget, etc etc.
3. If possible, join the tour on the first day.
We had a few people join us in our first city in Europe (rather than leaving from London and catching the ferry) and I felt that the rest of the group had a better chance to bond and get to know each other than these people who joined a bit later. It's not a huge deal if you can't leave from London, but I think it would definitely help if you could start with everyone else.
4. Before you leave, write down a few places of interest in the cities you'll be traveling to.
If you have time, Google a few attractions in each city you will visit, so that your free time is not wasted wondering what to do. I had a vague idea of places I wanted to see but sometimes I felt like I was just wandering around. Your Tour Manager will definitely give you ideas and advice but have some idea for yourself (for example, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam) so you can budget for things like museum entry.
5. Be realistic about the time you'll spend on the coach.
Especially for a shorter tour like European Magic, you'll likely be spending a lot of time being driven from place to place. Prepare yourself for it and use the time to sleep, listen to your ipod, update your travel journal, write postcards home, read a book, etc so that you won't feel as bored and impatient.
6. Be mindful of pickpockets and con-artists/gypsies.
You'll be given plenty of warning whilst on tour about pickpockets and gypsies but don't be too alarmed. As long as you keep your bag close to you, be generally alert and use common sense you'll be absolutely fine. My advice would be: don't sign anything a stranger asks you to, don't give spare change (harsh but better to be safe), keep your bags with you at all times, and don't pay for something if you didn't ask for it (for example, someone might tie a string around your wrist or give you a rose and then ask you for money. Just take it off or give it back instead).
7. If you see something you like, buy it!
It is definitely wise to budget your spending on your trip BUT don't see something you really like and then not buy it because you don't want to waste your money. You will end up regretting it. And if you buy something good, stock up on it - I bought a packet of Stroop Waffles from Amsterdam and I regret every day that I didn't buy more. I ate them all within a few days and I crave them now. You can find similar ones in Coles or Woolworths but they are just not the same! :)
8. Be prepared to tip - even when using the toilet.
In most places in Europe, you need to pay to use the public toilet/restroom (70 Euro Cents was the highest I came across, it's usually around 50 Euro Cents). Keep some coins with you at all times so you're not caught out. In some cases you'll get a token that will get you some of your money back when purchasing things from the shop, and sometimes you'll also need to tip a cleaner if they happen to be cleaning whilst you're in there.
On that note, be aware that you will probably need to tip your tour manager and driver at the end of the tour. People coming from countries that do not tip (like Australia) will find this hard or unnecessary but factor in 2 Euro for each day for each person (i.e. Tour Manager & Driver).
9. Learn a bit of the local lingo and try it out whenever possible.
This is something I wish I'd had time to do a little better. Before you leave, learn a few basic phrases in each language (such as hello, goodbye, how much?, thank you, please, etc) and try them out in each city, in shops, clubs and taxis. Our Tour Manager taught us a few phrases when we entered a new country but I was a little shy about using them. Be confident with the language and be as polite as possible. You'll get better results. I would also suggest (particularly in Paris) to know a few phrases regarding catching a taxi. In Paris, we caught a cab to our hotel and because our French was very limited, the driver knew straight away that we were tourists and proceeded to rip us off big time with the fare by taking us on an extremely long and unnecessary route to the hotel. Also, DO NOT USE CREDIT CARDS TO PAY FOR A TAXI!!!! I know it seems obvious, but after a big night out, we'd run out of cash and couldn't find an ATM anywhere so had to use my credit card in the taxi. We got a receipt that said we were charged a certain amount for the fare, but later checking my transactions list, they actually took A LOT more (We're talking over $200 AUD for a 5-10 minute cab ride). So just be careful and don't make that mistake.
10. Most importantly: your Tour Manager is a fountain of knowledge. Use her/him whenever you need to.
Your Tour Manager will give you lots of advice throughout your trip. LISTEN to them, and make notes if you need to. Ask them any questions you have or for more specific advice if you need to. They know a whole lot about traveling around Europe (particularly with Contiki) and can really help you out. Our tour manager's advice saved us a lot of time and money in some places.
That's my advice for a Contiki Tour of Europe. Keep in mind that my tour was a shorter one and things might be a bit different for longer tours or camping tours.
If you need any more advice let me know :)
- european magic
- free time
- travel advice
- 14 responses so far
i am so glad i read this, i did not know abou tthe tipping etc. im off to Europe on the 16th for the European Experience starting the 19th
this should be printed and given to Euro travellers as an FYI :):)
Great tips! I’m trying to be as prepared as possible before my trip (3 days). Thanks! :)
Wow, great tips. Thank you
Great tips thanks so much, are there hair dryers in the motels? is there many free WiFi locations?
My friends and I are doing European Magic (winter) as weill and I’m so grateful for your post. I’m going to print this out and make some highlights =) Thanks for taking the time out of your day to help the rest of us out!
Thanks so much for all of your positive comments!
Hairdryers were available at most places, sometimes you had to ask at reception. If you can’t live without it, then bring your own but just be mindful of different voltages.
WiFi was also available at most places. Sometimes it was free (just needed to get the code from reception), other times you had to pay. I only used it when it was free. Others paid & said it was really slow/didn’t work. It’s up to you but if you make use of it when it’s free then you’ll have more money to spend on presents for yourself/alcohol/food etc.
Hope you all have an awesome time on tour. My 9 days with Contiki were the most fun I’ve ever had!! You’ll have a blast!
Anymore questions, just ask & I’ll answer them as best I can :)
Thanks for the tips! I’m leaving the 24th September, very nervous as this is my first international trip!
Thank you for the fantastic advice :) xx
i know you can only bring one suit case but i have a carry on/duffle bag also is there room inside the coach for that as my second bag?
Thank you very much! it seems you had a great time and you buy a lot of things, if this not akward, can you let me know how much you spend doing all the optionals, having lunch and dinner and shopping?
Thanks for the general tips. Very helpful!
Thank you for the tips! very helpful to know!
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