Having now done 3 Contiki Tour’s across 3 different continents (one in the USA, one in South East Asia and one in New Zealand), I’d now like to consider myself a bit of a Contiki Veteran. For any of you that don’t know, Contiki is a group travel tour company for 18-35 year olds. They run trips all over the world and usually groups will range from roughly 20-50 people in size. So for anyone considering doing a Contiki or who just wants to know a bit more about them, I hope I can give a bit of a deeper insight into what their really about.
1 – You will meet awesome people
Firstly, I think the best reason to do a Contiki is people. I discovered Contiki because I wanted to travel, but couldn’t find any friends to go with. So a few quick Google searches later I stumbled across Contiki. After reading the massively positive reviews on the site, I threw caution to the wind and booked. It ended up being such an incredible two weeks road tripping across the USA with an awesome tour manager, a bunch of really cool people, and a great roommate who I now call a close friend.
That was only the beginning of all the amazing people I would meet and share adventures with through Contiki. These tours allow you to get to know people from all over the globe, and get to know them really well, really quickly. Often you will hear the phrase ‘Contiki Family’ and I can say that it really does become like that. You make really close connections with people who you not only get to see and experience lots of incredible things with, but who will remain your friends long after the trip is finished.
2 – You’ll cram a hell of a lot into a very short time
A big reason I chose to do a Contiki Tour for a 2nd and 3rd time as part of my big around the world trip was this: you can do a HUGE amount in a short period of time.
For example, you want to see the highlights of SE Asia and four countries? Instead of taking months off you can simply manage it in a few weeks, with everything sorted for you. Not to mention, the content of these trips is constantly being improved. Contiki are huge on feedback and pride themselves on making sure people have an amazing experience. So if you went somewhere that wasn’t great, it probably won’t be there next year. Contiki take the time to make sure that you get the opportunity to do and see as much as possible in the time you have, and it’s that openness to constantly evolve and change that means that the tours remain enjoyable.
3 – If you like a beer or 3, you’ll be in good company
Contiki sometimes gets a bad rap for being all about young travellers just wanting to get hammered and party all the time. Now firstly, all my experiences on the Contiki tours were very different and it does massively depend on your group and the people you’re with. However, secondly and most importantly, there will be a complete mix of people on your trip on both ends of the scale. In my experience, although there will always be group meals and events where you want to get everyone involved, if you want to have quiet nights you can and there isn’t pressure from your tour manager to do anything you don’t want to or aren’t comfortable with.
On the other hand, if you like to have a few and go out, there will be plenty of options to do so. Now this obviously varies depending on where you are, for example you’re not going to find night clubs in remote Laos. But if there’s an option to wet your whistle be assured your tour manager will know about it, tell you about it, and other people in your group will want to join you.
4 – The tour manager will be top notch
Now this point sounds like I’m guaranteeing that this will be the case, which obviously I can’t do. But, based on my experience, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about my Contiki Tour managers. Firstly the job description stuff (by this I mean what they get paid to do). They organise all the trips and optional activities, liaising with service providers, handling everything client related (that’s us), and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible generally. They are excellent at this, and once you spend time with a few it’s easy to see why. Having travelled with a couple of tour managers whilst they’ve been off duty, they told me a bit about the training which (for Europe at least) sounded great, a few months travelling all over Europe going to all the locations the trips do, happy days. However, to sum it up it’s more like a boot camp where they are frequently examined and tested, with tiring long days, tasks and presentations etc. All this and if you don’t cut it that’s it you won’t work for them. Therefore the result is that they are extremely good at what they do.
Now to the non job description stuff. This is about those people who go the extra mile and rather than it feeling like ‘us and them’ it feels like you’re all in the same boat (even if they’re doing all the work). It’s not just the way they run the trips, it’s about the extra things like going out with you off the clock and having a genuine deep passion for inspiring people to travel. I’ll always remember our US tour manager near the end of our trip, having bought us all some surprise goon (Aussie’s you’ll know what I’m talking about) at the edge of the Grand Canyon, talking to us about our trip and the experience and how life shouldn’t be a chore it should be an adventure. And I know, this plays into the whole Contiki corporate message so it might sound fake, but it really wasn’t. It came from someone who had chosen a life working on the road meeting new people all the time and who had lived that philosophy. It’s things like that that make the managers great, they’re not just soul-less people who organise stuff for you, they’re interesting, talented and inspiring people who go the extra mile to make your experiences extra special.
5 – You will likely spend a lot more than you planned…
While I travelled I just about scraped by with money, spending all the money I had and all the money I borrowed that I didn’t have. That’s because, I thought while I’m out here (a lot of the time on the other side of the world) I don’t want to regret not doing something. I’ve waited so long and saved all this money so I’m going to make the most of it. Luckily on my first Contiki I was still working and had taken it as vacation so didn’t have to worry about money as much. However, once in New Zealand where I was nearing the end of a 6 month world trip and wanted to experience everything, I probably spent twice what I thought I would.
Now take this how you will, but my warning if you’re doing a Contiki is that you will get FOMO (fear of missing out) and you will want to do everything while you’re there. Contiki provide so many extra optional activities that all sound so awesome you’re going to want to do every single one. Obviously this isn’t possible financially or even time wise a lot of the time, but I can pretty much guarantee there will be stuff you hadn’t thought of you’ll want to do. So save a bit extra cash so you don’t regret missing out once you’re back home.
6 – You’ll spend a lot of time on the road
Firstly, don’t worry, you won’t be spending all your time getting from A to B in a tuktuk. Although Contiki coaches are pretty flashy, I thought a tuktuk would make for a better picture than a Contiki coach. Most Contikis, including Asia will indeed involve a fair amount of travelling around by coach.
Although tour managers will sometimes create entertainment, quizzes, movies (if the coach has a TV), or even ‘getting to know you’ type exercises, this type of thing isn’t really the norm so be prepared to bring some entertainment for the long journeys, or maybe a travel pillow and eye mask for sleeping off a bit of over enthusiasm at the bar the night before.
7 – It takes the hassle out of travel
This is something you kind of take for granted until you travel solo. You realise how much organisation goes into these trips. On a Contiki EVERYTHING is done for you. Firstly you’re told everything in advance and given clear itinerary sheets for each day so you know exactly what’s happening. You wake up, hop in the coach and get taken to do whatever is on for that day. Not to mention your tour manager will know everywhere you go like the back of their hand so can tell you where all the food, drinks, nightlife & activities options are. All the information you could want, not to mention that you sign up for optional extra activities and pay for them at the end so don’t need to worry about carrying lots of money about with you for bigger expenses. For example in Asia, we had included boat trips, tuktuk rides, bicycle tours, temple visits, and many other things all seemlessly working together. You just follow what’s on the sheet and happy days, everything else is done for you.
8 – It may give you the travel bug
This is definitely one of the top 3 reasons on this list. I’m a big advocate of doing a taster trip to inspire you to do a bigger one because that’s exactly what happened to me. Coming back from a 2 week Contiki in America, I felt like I had experienced more in that two weeks than I had in the last year living and working in London. I got the bug and with a little encouragement from my roommate mentioned earlier, I had the inspiration needed to book my big trip that was so life changing for me.
If you want to travel, the one bit of advice you should take from this post is to do a mini trip, try it out. If you’re worried about logistics, meeting people, or making sure you fit in doing lots of stuff, Contiki is a great and non scary first step that takes care of all of that for you. It will give you a taste of travel and that inspiration that might lead you to take the leap and travel longer term.
9 – Your group will contain people from all over the world (and probably lots of Aussies)
Partly because 10 is a nice neat number and I was running out of points… But also because it’s very true. Contiki is now pretty global and also huge in Australia so there will likely be a load of Aussies on your trip, but also people from the US, Europe and elsewhere. However, it’s likely that you’ll bump into other people from your home country or nearby too. In my experience, I’ve also tended to find that your trip may have a slightly higher ratio of females to males. Whether this is because group travel is more popular amongst the ladies, I don’t know, but obviously this too also completely varies trip by trip. The locations of Contiki’s will usually influence who goes (for example you’re less likely to get Brits on a UK Contiki for example), but in my experience there’s always been a good mix of people.
10 – You won’t regret it
It may sound like I’m now part of the Contiki corporate team as their hash tag just happens to be ‘#noregrets’. Or it’s been subliminally engrained in my brain after 3 trips (in which case good job guys it worked…). Anyway, the message really holds true. Yes, sometimes you’ll get different enjoyment from a group tour depending on the places you see and the people you’re with, but that doesn’t deter from the fact that you will definitely finish them with a hell of a lot of great memories, and one thing I can be sure of is that the quality will be excellent.
You may not believe me from the tone of this blog post, but I honestly don’t actually work for Contiki. I’m just so positive about my experiences as Contiki was a huge part in what inspired me to take the leap and do my big 6 month trip. Not to mention the amount I’ve managed to do and experience through their trips. So to finish off, if you’re looking to do and see a massive amount in a short period of time, meet new people and have awesome experiences hassle free, then Contiki is definitely for you.
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