Contiki tours are such a popular way to travel for most young Australians, especially when venturing to Europe. I have now been on two separate Contiki tours, one in Europe in 2013 and one in Mexico in 2014. Whilst they are fun ways to get around, I think it’s good to know about every aspect of the tour to see if it’s right for you.
Whats a contiki tour?
For any non-Australians, Contiki is a New Zealand based company that runs organized travel tours all across the world. They have tours across Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Australia and even parts of Africa. They are typically known as ‘party tours’ and have an age range of 18-35.
How they work
You can choose from a wide range of tours in different styles From slow paced camping to short festival trips, they have it all. Once you book and start your journey, you get your own tour manager as well as your own bus and driver to take you wherever you need. If a flights included, you’ll be met with a new bus and driver at the other end. Generally your tour will consist of a long bus day/flight between cities, then 1-3 nights before you leave.
Europe: There were some small included extras, but a lot are available for an extra cost. The tour manager explained that it is like this to keep the cost of the tour as low as possible and to ensure everyone only spends money on what they want to do. The trip up the Eiffel Tower was included because everyone wants to do that. But extras like the Moulin Rouge show or a tour through the Vatican City came at a cost.
Mexico: Most small tours were included here, including big trips such as entry to Chichen Itza and a boat party. That was a really good thing about the tour here, and there was still free time to see other sights. There were also optional extras such as snorkeling trips and swimming with Whale Sharks.
- If you’re a solo traveler, this is a guaranteed way to make friends
- The Contiki tour managers know their stuff, you’ll get a lot of history lessons along the way
- It fits a lot into a small amount of time. Great for someone with only a few weeks of vacation time. *In 24 days we saw 13 countries in Europe
- Party, party, party. Lots of fun.
- Local knowledge from the tour guides.
- They provide many optional extras, making it easy for you to organize
- It’s all organized for you, so no stress of planning whatsoever.
- Generally, the groups are like minded travelers just there for a good time like you!
- Breakfast is included and some dinners (giving you a chance to try what you want as well)
– Solo travelers
– First time travelers
– People with minimal time
– Party animals
– People who aren’t too sure what they want to see
- It can be very rushed, in some of the biggest cities in the world with so much to see, you may only get one full day there to see it all.
- eg. in Europe we would have two nights in most cities, but it takes a whole ‘bus day’ to get to there, meaning only one day to fit in so many activities.
- The optional extras can sometimes be overpriced.
- eg. in Mexico, I paid around $100 USD for a swim with the whale sharks. I found a similar tour for $80 USD a few days later.
- If you go alone, you have to share a room with a random. I got lucky both times with lovely girls, but if that’s not your thing, it costs a lot more for a private room.
- If you choose a camping tour, the campsites are a fair way out of the cities.
- Being comfortable in a group means you don’t branch out and meet locals.
- Tips to the driver and tour manager are not included. Some are not paid much at all and rely on tips to make a living.
- It’s got to be said, being with the same group for a long period of time may cause some tension, but with such a big group, hopefully it’s easily avoided.
- They take you to the extremely cliche touristy spots, meaning you don’t get much of a ‘local feel’ and the more tourist driven, the more expensive it is.
- You could probably do it cheaper. I paid around $3000 for the Mexican Contiki (13 days) and about $3500 for the European Winter one (24 days). That’s around $150 a day in Europe and $230 a day in Mexico, not including food and some tours. If you really do your research, stay in cheap hostels, and find cheap public transport you could probably find a way to do it cheaper (especially in Mexico) and more personalized for your perfect holiday.
All in all, I had an absolute blast on both my tours. If you want to have a memorable trip and have the money, then go for it! Now that I’m heading back to Europe for a second time, I’m going to try a more backpacker approach to travel, but I will forever thank Contiki for making my first trip so memorable.
Tours are great for stumped travelers, or first timers. If you have a long vacation time and don’t know where to start, try a tour so you can see where you like and go back, get some advice for other places or travel with the new friends you’ve made.
Thanks for reading and as always,