If you haven’t already heard of Contiki – which I imagine most of you travel lovers have – they are a travel company that specifically run tours around the world for 18-35 year-old-adventure-lovers. You can take a tour with them in Europe, Australia, North America, New Zealand, Asia and Latin America.
If you plan to travel by yourself, no worries – you’ll instantly make friends since 50% of their travelers are also traveling solo!
Since Contiki is such a popular company to travel with for young travelers, I decided to interview one of my readers to get a first-hand experience of what it’s really like to travel Europe with Contiki.
Meet Shay, a 19 year old Canadian, who recently traveled around Europe for the first time with Contiki!
First of all, what made you decide to travel with a group tour?
Contiki offers so many different trips in Europe. Which one did you experience?
Shay: I went on Contiki’s European Experience trip. It was 21 days – although it’s really more like 19 days. (The “start date” is the day you meet your group in the Contiki basement at 7pm, and the “end date” is the day the people going back to London leave at 7am.)
The tour goes to London, France (Paris and the Beaujolais Wine Region, French Riviera (our group went to Monaco, but I think some tours go to Cannes), Italy (Florence, Rome and Venice), Austria (Austrian Tyrol), Liechtenstein (just a lunch stop, but it’s pretty cool), Germany (Munich and Rhine Valley -St. Goar), Switzerland (Lauterbrunnen, Lucerne), and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).
The people you travel with can really make or break your trip, so tell me a bit about the other travelers in your group.
Shay: I believe my trip had 44 people. There were a few Canadians, a couple Americans, a few Kiwis, some Filipino girls, but majority of the group were Aussies. The ages really ranged from 18-35, with the average age around 23/24.
Our entire group got along pretty well. By day 2 everyone split off into their own friend groups, but if there was a tour dinner, or party night, everyone floated around and mingled with everyone. This worked really well for us because everyone got to know each other, but you had some main friends.
Were most of the other travelers in your tour group traveling solo, or did they come with friends?
What was it like traveling with the same group of people 24/7? Was there a lot of drama?
What was one of the funniest experiences you had while on your Contiki Trip?
Contiki has a big reputation for having very party oriented travelers. Would you say that is true? In your tour group were there also travelers who weren’t as interested in partying, and did they still enjoy their experience?
How much in total did you spend in “Extra Costs” during your trip? Can you break it down into categories?
- Optionals (extra dinners out, cabarets, paragliding, bike tours, Contiki wear, extra tours and more): I spent about 500 Euros ($690 CAD, $555 USD, $715 AUS, 365 GBP). The page for your trip will actually tell you all of the activities you can do, and how much they cost. So I knew how much I would need, which was really helpful.
- Bars and drinks: maybe $150-$200 CAD ($120-160 US, $155-206 AUS, 78-105 GBP).. I didn’t drink a ton, and my birthday was on the tour, so I got free drinks that night! A lot of the time, we’d buy booze at the store, and pre-drink so we didn’t need to buy expensive drinks at bars and clubs.
- Souvenirs for myself and family: about $200 CAD ($160 US, $206 AUS, 105 GBP)
- Lunches, snacks, and treats: around $350 CAD ($280 USD, $360 AUS, 185 GBP)
- (Note: ATMs get you on fees and charges. So ask your bank which atms overseas will work best with your cards.)
How did you like the Contiki staff on your tour?
Our team was incredible!
Our tour manager, Carly, was awesome. She taught us a lot about the areas we were in, significant buildings, random facts, and more. She knew how to have a good time – while keeping it professional – and always made sure we were looked after, and that we knew where the party was.
Our driver Sandro, was equally awesome. We didn’t hang out with him as much as Carly, outside of the bus (schedules and sleeping and such), but he was a great driver. He could manoeuvre that bus on teeny tiny roads, and no one ever felt unsafe when he drove. He had a few days off in Italy, and everyone noticed that our sub bus driver would somehow have the bus sway more than Sandro, so we were happy to have him back after his break.
Also, the onsite Contiki staff were fantastic – always there to help, came to the parties, enthusiastic and energetic, and ensured we had a great time. In Rome, I came back from my day in the city, and somehow ants had taken over my bed….only my bed. Unfortunately, I had ants under my pillow, in my sleeping bag, and because my pack was open and on my bed, they got in my clothes. One of the guys helped me shake everything out, and we grabbed an onsite staff member and he made sure I had a new room – bug free – and he did it really quick.
What concerns did you have before you left on your Contiki trip, and what would you tell others who have the same concerns?
Do you feel that traveling abroad has changed you in any way?
“If you have traveled abroad, and you come home
and it doesn’t change you, then you didn’t do it right.”
There are many other young adult travel companies out there, such as G Adventures, Top Deck, Intrepid. How did you choose to travel with Contiki?
Shay: I am a big follower of Youtubers, and Contiki has been doing something called The Contiki Roadtrip for a couple years now. This Roadtrip is basically a web show where they take some of the big youtubers around on these trips and show you what you do on the tour, while also doing challenges to get their viewers a free trip on Contiki. I watched CTFxC do this very trip in 2012 I think, and instantly wanted to go. I never really looked into other travel companies to be honest. I saw the itinerary for this trip, and didn’t want to look around.
Looking back on your Contiki experience, what was the best part of the trip?
What would you say to other travelers who are thinking about doing a Contiki tour?
What have you learned or taken away from your traveling abroad experience?
Shay: Besides that I need to see it all, I’ve learned that no one place does things “properly”. Every country has their own customs and it’s only a matter of adapting. I’ve learned more about my capabilities as an adult: what I can do and what I can’t, what I’m comfortable with doing and what I’m not. I’ve learned more about budgeting…kind of. And I’ve learned so much more about what the world has to offer, and how small my bubble of it truly is.
Would you take a Contiki Trip?
Wondering what to pack, what luggage to take, and more specific insights into a Contiki Trip? Make sure to check out “What’s it Really Like to Travel with Contiki? – Part 2”.