The trip itself was not enjoyable given the fast-paced nature of it. There was a constant rush to check-out of the hotel early, catch a flight, sight-see, check-in to a new hotel, have dinner and go out and start everything again the next day. Which over 10 days becomes too much for me personally. The logistics of having to move a 30 person group also makes everything invariably more arduous and long. This is a package designed for someone who wants to do as much as humanly possibly in a short period of time, which of course is down to the individual.
The social aspect of it is arguably its biggest selling point. Maybe I was lucky with the group but nearly everyone was easy-going and a good laugh. The local guides also made the experience very interesting, in both Laos and Cambodia.
I mostly the enjoyed the liveliness of our trip manager but she was also the reason why the trip turned sour for me. When checking out of a hotel, we had to grab a tuc-tuc to take us and our bags to the bus station. I had a last minute bathroom emergency (as is often the case when travelling to Laos!) and was no more than a few minutes late to come down. When I got downstairs and saw that the tuc-tucs were all gone, I immediately message her asking how to find the bus and the response I get is "we're leaving now babe". I message other people from the group and they tell me where to go. I rush to find the bus station carrying all my luggage on my back, in the rain, and eventually get to the bus.
The trip manager cracks some jokes on the microphone and asks everyone to boo me being late, which I genuinely thought was funny. Until she does it for the 6th time, to an uncomfortable reaction from the group. As I go up to her to offer an explanation [although I did not owe her one] she interrupts me, talks down to me and explains that if it were up to her she would have left me stranded in Laos - "the contiki motto is we do not wait" she says. My roommate, who had gone down just before (after he used the bathroom first), explained that he tried to tell her to wait one minute in the tuc tuc as I was just coming down and she refused. People on the bus were asking her to wait just a few minutes, as I was trying to make my way through the rain. I could not understand her reaction given that it was the very first time that this had happened, I clearly was not deliberately ignoring the rules or the schedule! This is not something I want during my much needed holidays.
As a 30 year old, I do not accept being talked down to especially when I am the client and am paying extortionate prices for an experience. Ironically, on our last night, our trip manager got too drunk and was late for the check-out the next morning. Gave me the urge to say - we do not wait in contiki 'babe'.
Bottom line is I would never recommend Contiki to any of my friends, unless they are happy to be subjected to this regimen when on holiday.