Trips + Planning

Your ULTIMATE GUIDE to Contiki

ultimateguide

So last month I had the pleasure of being honoured in Contiki Holiday‘s Contiki Legends Campaign.

Why?

Well you might just call me the Queen of Contiki, as I’ve had an ongoing partnership with them for over 3 years , during which I have been on 14 Contiki trips covering: South America, New ZealandAustralia, EuropeScandinavia, Southeast Asia and the USA.

In this guide I am going to go over a lot of the things I have learned about my experiences on Contiki in hopes to give some insight for those looking at taking one for themselves.

Contiki-6

What is a Contiki Trip?

Contikis are an organized tour group of young, like minded travellers from around the world; particularly from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, the UK and South Africa. They are group sizes of 13-50 people, aged 18-35 and can span a couples days, 1 week, 2 weeks, or up to 45 days (alot of different time options here) .

Contiki-6

My Contiki Australia Beaches and Reefs Group- Size ~ 48 people. Pretty much the MAX and a full bus!

Contiki Big Indochina Adventure- Group size

My Contiki Big Indochina Adventure- Group size 18, small and intimate!

Who is Contiki perfect for?

First time travellers, solo travellers, social travellers, adventure travellers, youth travellers, and those that don’t like the hassle and the stress of planning a trip by themselves. For those that want to see the world and not be burdened by having to sort out accommodations, where to go, see and transportation back and forth. 

Me, solo, on my first Contiki at the base camp of Machu Picchu.

Me, solo, on my first Contiki at the base camp of Machu Picchu, Peru.

Trip Styles

Contiki can sometimes be very intense and fast pace, this is because they are trying to get you the most things done and seen within a short period of time. Know this before planning your trip , because if you are someone that likes to sleep in or dislikes travelling on a bus for longer periods of time, a fast pace trip visiting multiple countries is not going to be for you, and you won’t have as much fun as one that is a bit more relaxed. This is precisely the reason behind Contiki’s brand new trip styles. Customization! As they now have options of slower paces tours, and tours that spend multiple nights in one place, really allowing you to take in all there is to see and do!

Make sure you have an idea of what pace you are looking for . Think about this hard and really evaluate HOW you want to travel, not just WHAT you want to see. You can never see everything at every destination you go to, so don’t push yourself to try.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.32.13 AM

Optionals

Optionals are just as they sound, optional. They are little bonuses, extra excursions and treats that you have the option to add onto your tour, while you are on tour. These are there to give you a chance for more free time if you choose, or to join in an activity with your new friends.

These are completely up to you. Most of the time, the majority of the people do a lot of optionals. But people also don’t. This is the beauty of choice.  Go with the flow, a lot of times you might not THINK you want to do a certain optional, but once you start making friends on tour and THEY want to, you might very well be persuaded. And vice versa. Just make sure you keep those prices in your budget as they can add up quickly if you choose to do a lot (I always do a lot!).

Optional: George's Boat- Corfu, Greece. Seriously one of the best day optionals you can take!

Optional: George’s Boat- Corfu, Greece. Seriously one of the best day optionals you can take!

Optional: Hot Air Balloning- Albuquerque, New Mexico

Optional: Hot Air Balloning- Albuquerque, New Mexico

Optional: Olympic Bobsledding in Lillehammer, Norway

Optional: Olympic Bobsledding in Lillehammer, Norway . (We were on team Sweden on our bobsled)

Scuba Diving, Great Barrier Reef : Cairns, Australia

Optional: Beginner Scuba Diving, Great Barrier Reef : Cairns, Australia

Sky Diving in Queenstown, New Zealand. Seriously some of the BEST views!

Optional: Sky Diving in Queenstown, New Zealand. When it comes to skydiving, these views simply cannot be beat!

Accommodations

Contiki has some wicked cool accommodations you will be staying at. But they vary and there is always a trade off.

Backpacker Bungalows- Koh Pha Ngan , Thailand.

Backpacker Bungalows- Koh Pha Ngan , Thailand.

Deck of our hotel overlooking Mt. Cook. New Zealand.

Deck of our hotel overlooking Lake Ohau. New Zealand.

If you are staying closer to the centre of town or, literally downtown and walking distance to where the action is, your accommodation will most likely be more basic, because those cost more $$$. In these cases you are paying for LOCATION as you are right outside the action!

If you are staying farther away, your accommodation will mostly likely be quite nice! But, you’ll need to take transportation to get to most places. Luckily, Contiki arranges a lot of scheduled pick up and drop off times to take you back and forth to the hotel and back. 

So basically, you get a mix of both.

Longhorn Ranch, Texas, USA. Funky hotel with a VERY Texas feel!

Longhorn Ranch, Texas, USA. Funky hotel with a VERY Texas feel!

Sharing Rooms+ Roommates

On Contikis you’ll either be sharing a room with 1 to 3 people (maximum of 4 total). The majority of trips it is only 1 other person.  Know before hand if you are a roommate person or not. If you REALLY MUST have a private room,  pay extra for the upgrade. This is your trip and being social all the time isn’t for everyone.

However, if you are a solo traveller, do no think you have to have a private room. Trust me, it’s actually much, much better if you don’t. Contiki will pair you up and  your new roommate will become your instant travel best friend(s).

Just a walk away from our hostel at Mojo's Surf Camp. Australia.

Beach, just a walk away from our hostel at Mojo’s Surf Camp. Australia.

Converted airplane hanger, now Contiki accommodation. Outback, Australia.

Converted airplane hanger, now Contiki accommodation. Outback, Australia.

Food

Each location and tour varies on the types and quality of foods and how many meals they provide. Most of the time breakfast is always provided. Dinners here and there as well, lunches almost never.

In Asia food is cheap, so you will get buffet breakfasts and lots of fancier dinners. In Europe, a croissant is seriously the national standard for breakfast. Obviously food will vary with the price of the tour. (again, see tour styles) In general,  yes you will have a few average meals, but you will also have many fantastic meals.

Contiki tries to accomodate all tastes. Some travellers want to try all the local foods, while others want to eat what they are used to back home. You can’t please everyone! That’s why they leave a lot of meals open, so YOU can choose!

On all tours though,  if you have a dietary requirement, they will accommodate and make sure you get a special meal at group dinners! So no worries if your vegan, veggie, gluten-free or have allergies!  

You win some, you loose some.

You win some, you loose some.

Drinking and Parties

On Contiki there is drinking and there are parties.  This is very well know.  You are travelling with a group of young people, it’s what we do! Most of time these are a fantastic way to bond and meet your new tour mates, plus it gives everyone a chance to dance, let off some steam and have a great time! Drinking is a part of alot of cultures, and getting the chance to try local drinks is always a treat.

Grabbing a bit in the famous Beer Halls in Munich, Germany!

Grabbing a pint in the famous Hofbrauhaus, Beer Hall in Munich, Germany!

Full Moon Party! The most EPIC of all parties. 20,000-35,000 people all gathered on Haad Rin Beach in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Full Moon Party! The most EPIC of all parties. 20,000-35,000 people all gathered on Haad Rin Beach in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Beer tasting at Carlsburg Brewery- Copenhagen, Denmark

Beer tasting at Carlsburg Brewery- Copenhagen, Denmark

For some people, they live for the party, other they don’t. While drinking is incorporated in many aspects of the tours, it is okay to not drink on a Contiki. 

You should never feel pressured and you won’t feel left out.

Chances are there are other travellers in the group that don’t like to drink and party as well. There are lots of non drinking evening activities in every city! Find which group you fit in with.

Also, many time on tour, you can always go out with the group and just not drink. I have done so many times before.  Each group will have different levels of people that want to drink as much or as little as they like.  You are an adult, and it’s up to you to control your alcohol intake on tour and to be responsible and respectful of others.

Cheers to responsible drinking!

Cheers to responsible drinking!

Tour Leaders

Your tour leader is an extremely valuable resource. Seriously, they know everyone and are there to help you with your questions and problems. That being said, they are also not your parent. They aren’t there to make sure you make it to the bus on time and to baby sit you, nor to hold your hand around the city. We are all adults here, Contikis are for 18-35s.  

Contiki Staff, Australia

Making Friends + Solo Travellers

An average Contiki tour is made up of a mixture of solo travellers; a few pairs such as sisters, friends, brothers, a few couples, and maybe a group or two of 3-4 people. If you are a solo traveller, don’t worry, you WILL make friends and have people to share your experience with. (srsly, tour managers help with this)

If you are a couple, pair or group, make sure YOU are also open to making friends. Invite others to join your group, trust me, it will make for a better group dynamic for everyone, plus making friends in one of the best parts of Contiki.

Contiki-12

Contiki-27

Contiki-14

Group Dynamics + Age Groups

This is a mixed bag and each group and tour varies. Generally, in my experiences:

The more expensive the tour, and the more remote and unknown the location , the higher the chance there will be a great number of couples and an average older age group.

The cheaper the tour, and the more “bucket list” items such as Paris, Italy, Australia, the more likely a younger age group.

But that being said, there will be also someone near to your age on every tour. Remember, they limit this to 18-35’s ONLY. So if you are 18 worries about 30 year olds (and vice versa), don’t. The group is big enough so that each and every age group can find their “perfect mini-group” of friends. 

Contiki-17

General Contiki Rules

  • Be on time, it will win the heart of your tour leader and make the trip better for everyone.
  • Don’t overpack. Seriously, you don’t need half of the clothes are you about to bring and you will be unpacking and repacking quite frequently.
  • Backpack vs Wheeled Bag–  Wheels 100%. You won’t be traveling very far with your bags, so unless you plan on doing a lot of extra trips on your own before or after your trip, a wheeled bag is 100% what I recommend.
  • There will be a theme party. Love it, embrace it. And no, you probably won’t know what it is before hand.
80's throwback party in Laos!

80’s throwback party in Laos!

Australia Day in New Zealand!

Australia Day in New Zealand!

St. Patricks Day in Vietnam!

St. Patricks Day in Vietnam!

  • Have something to do in the downtime, on the bus, boat or on the plane. (A book is a good option, or iPad) Usually thought Contiki has fun games and trivia, movies, etc they play during transportation time so you’ll never feel like you are wasting time. (blankets and pillows are nice!) 

Contiki-7

  • Bring multiple nightclub/ going out attire, as you will find yourself wanting to dress a little nice for evenings out more often than not. Sweaty t-shirts and shorts ain’t gonna cut it.
Contiki-13

A night out at the Monte Carlo Casino in Montenegro.

Drinks at the Opera Bar at the Sydney Opera House.

Drinks at the Opera Bar at the Sydney Opera House.

In Conclusion

There is a reason I have done 14 Contikis and plan on doing many more to come. They are one of the best ways to travel and seriously a lot of fun.

Have an additional questions? Feel free to ask me in the comments below! Also, there are dozens of Contiki staff members just a phone call away that will help you answer all your questions. 

Check out their website: http://www.contiki.com for more info!

Pssss, just for my readers:

Book a 7 day or longer Contiki Holiday and save $100 off the trip price. Use the promo code: PPCHEYNADINE

*Terms and Conditions apply

You Might Also Like

20 Comments

  • Reply
    david (@Djongejans)
    December 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    hey nadine thanks for share this with us i did see contiki from time to time now i know more about them :)

    • Reply
      nadine
      December 26, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      you are very welcome!

  • Reply
    Rianne
    December 17, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Ahh this gets me really excited to plan a trip haha! I’m not sure if I understand correctly, but are the groups mixed with & open to people from all around the world? Because it will be so cool to meet people from different countries :)

    • Reply
      nadine
      December 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Yes, it’s open to various regions so you’ll have people from your group from other parts of the world!

  • Reply
    Dayna
    December 17, 2014 at 8:45 am

    @ Rianne:

    Yes! I am planning my first Contiki to Europe and already there are people from Australia and USA who have joined in the same tour as well (I’m Canadian) … Totally open to everyone around the world.

  • Reply
    Leonardo Aleixo
    December 17, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I already did 2 Contikis in Europe and on Feb, 2015 I’ll be on my 3rd in Thailand. For sure, Contiki is the best company ever. I agreed on 100% you said!

    • Reply
      nadine
      December 26, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Thailand is amazing, such a great Contiki! Have fun and buy lots of neon clothes!

  • Reply
    Andrew
    December 18, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Wow, 14. I’ve only done “8”. I’ve got 2 more booked for next year, but they’ll probably be my last unfortunately :-(.

    • Reply
      nadine
      December 26, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      8 is still VERY VERY impressive!!! what regions have you done?

      • Reply
        Andrew
        December 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        I’ve done New Zealand (the South and North islands separately so 2x trips), Canada (west coast, 1x trip), Europe (continent and the UK and Ireland, 3x trips including a London Explorer) and the USA (west coast, 2x trips including a LA Explorer). Next year is Peru in April and Scandinavia in June. By my calculations my 100th day on Contiki will be about half way through the Scandinavia trip.

  • Reply
    Alix
    January 19, 2015 at 2:06 am

    Hi Nadine, just got back from the Southern Adventure tour USA which you did. I absolutely loved it! So I’m looking at booking another contiki for July in Europe (or Canada) and was wondering what the main differences are?

  • Reply
    Sara
    January 28, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I’ve got a very specific question that hopefully you can answer. I’m booked on the simply Italy Contiki in May 2015(soooooo excited) and just wondering which would be better for luggage…suitcase or backpack. I used a wheeled duffel on the Costa rica Contiki I did in 2013, and while it worked well… There were moment of extreme frustration. I also did a Romania trip through another company this past October and had some difficulty on the cobblestone, and found my frustration was I greatly under packed, and had I rewear dirty clothing

  • Reply
    Sara
    January 28, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I had more to the above question but was cut off!
    The wheeled backpacks I was looking at were through eagle creek and am just curious if you think it would be enough packing space (yes I’m THAT girl) or if I should just go with a suitcase and I’ll be fine on the European cobblestone!

  • Reply
    sarah
    August 9, 2015 at 11:55 am

    “A night out at the Monte Carlo Casino in Montenegro” I think you mean Monaco :p ?
    I’m thinking about doing one of the usa trips :) ( i’m european myself and although i haven’t seen every country here yet it would feel a bit silly to do one of the european trips :p

  • Reply
    Donna
    September 9, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Thinking of this trip for my two kids – 18yr old daughter & 19 yr old son. 19 yr old is in college so he has tasted the party life. 18 yr old graduating HS in June – not much of a partier, more of a “sipper”. Are they too young for this trip? (they want to go to Australia) Appreciate your input.

    • Reply
      carol
      September 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Donna, Did you end up sending your daughter on a contiki trip? I am considering sending my 18 year son and had the same type of questions.

  • Reply
    ivy_shobs
    November 23, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Hi! Is contiki really strict with baggage weight? I am doing the wild western tour in USA this december. And I don’t think my clothes can fit in just 20kgs baggage limit. Please help.

  • Reply
    leanne nicholls
    April 19, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Hi!! I am booking my second trip with continki (completed the Thailand one last year :-)
    Im looking to do the LA to the Bay for my birthday in October, do you know anyone whose completed this tour? Also, what would you recommend for amount of spending money – it’s 12 nights. Thanks in advance.

  • Reply
    D
    May 25, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Help!
    I’ve read so many mixed reviews. My boyfriend and I (ages 24, and 27) are planning a trip to Thailand but we want to see the most we can in the 3 week time period we have. We are thinking of doing the 14-day southeast Asian adventure (Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos) combined with the Bali Island shopper that sees 3 islands for 8 days. When our travel agent suggested Contiki, we were incredibly put off. We did not want a group trip, with a bunch of 18 year old binge drinkers. However, the more we’ve looked at the idea, it seems like it might be the best so that we don’t have to plan every single aspect of a 3 week trip, when we want to leave in September. I’ve read that the money isn’t worth what you get for Contiki, as the food isn’t great and the hotels have bed bugs etc. I read your whole review, but can you tell me more specifically about your time in Asia?
    Also, if we are going as a couple, are we going to be stuck in a room with 1-2 other people for most of the trip? Did you feel like it was worth doing Contiki in Asia, or because things are cheaper you could have just don’t the trip on your own?
    Also, did you feel that you spent too much time on a bus, and not visiting the locations, when you could have just hopped on a plane yourself and flew there even if a bit more expensive?
    Thanks!
    -D

  • Reply
    Holly O'Sullivan
    July 8, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Hey Nadine :)
    I am going on a Contiki tour in Europe later this year, so it ill be chilly – do you have any tips for Contiki tours in cold weather?

    Thanks,

  • What are you thoughts?