Travelling with Contiki has its ups and downs, its pros and cons, its drunk party-goers and its downright uptight travelers. It’s got a little bit of something for everyone but it may not always be the best option when you’re travelling abroad. I traveled to Europe with my boyfriend for a month in January 2013 on Contiki’s Winter Wanderer tour. I’ve put together a list of the best and worst things I took from travelling with one of the most popular tour companies in Australia.
- It’s cheap
Let’s face it – travelling the world is expensive. Get the most out of your dollar, Euro or Pound and take advantage of Contiki’s group discounts. It really does make a big difference, especially if you’re a uni student looking to get away for a while.
- It’s planned
You won’t have to worry about where you’re heading to next or whether you have a hotel reservation for the night. You won’t even have to worry about how to pay for it. It’s all looked after. You’ll also get to pick from a lot of pre-planned activities or extras that you can pick to do at the beginning of the tour. It helps when you’re after a relaxing trip.
- Make new friends
You’ll meet a lot of people while you’re travelling around in a big group. Some of these people you meet will turn out to be great friends from all around the world. They make for really good travel buddies in the future too!
- See a lot quickly
If you don’t have much time to spend travelling around the globe but you want to see as much of it as possible then Contiki is a great choice. In just under a month I was able to visit 10 countries in Europe! Not bad for a first-year uni student with a part time job, hey?
You get a travel guide
If you’re really unsure about a place or you need directions for something, a guide will come in handy. It’s their job after all. They can recommend great places to eat, things to see and ways to enjoy your holiday that you hadn’t thought of before.
- It’s a large group
A lot can happen when 51 strangers spend a month together in another part of the world. There may be hook-ups, break-ups, fights, arguments,and lots of noise at night with such a large group. If you’re like me and you’re the type of person who gets along with everyone you’ll find that a lot of people get real annoying, real quick.
- Little alone time
You’ll find that even when you’re given “time out” days, you’re still stuck with the large group quite a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to explore a new country with some of your closest friends or your significant other and set your own itinerary without having to tag along in such a big group.
- It’s very fast paced
Setting your own pace is basically a no-go. The strict itinerary means you’re constantly counting down to the next coach departure. You’ll find that the early wake up calls (around 6-7am) leave you really tired throughout the day and you’re constantly slogging around your luggage. It’s tough to say the least.
- Coach days
You’ll understand the dread and unease that comes with the words “coach days” soon enough. They are the long 8-hour day drives between countries, states and cities. You’ll be among sick people, tired people, people who need to go to the toilet and those who are down-right loud and obnoxious. All you’ll want to do is look out the window and enjoy the view but there’s a lot to put up with on a coach.
(Tip: Take ear plugs and a pillow!)
- Not everything you wanted
Some nights you’ll have to eat in a restaurant that you wouldn’t have picked yourself, other times the coach will make a lunch stop at one of the most boring places in France and you’ll have to make do. You don’t always get to do what you want. With strict itinerary comes strict freedom.
If you’re thinking of booking a trip on Contiki, keep these points in mind. I wouldn’t change anything about my first trip to Europe but I will never go on a Contiki trip again. The cons far outweigh the pros for me. But remember, regardless of how you go about it, you will always have a great time travelling!