Lauren Gross tells you what a contiki tour is really like.
I just got back from a 21 day contiki tour of Europe and it was without a doubt the best experience of my life. Before going, I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t be, as I had spent ages tossing up between a contiki or doing it on my own. I had heard mixed reviews of contiki – that it was rushed, you spent more time on the coach than off, the accommodation and food were awful, and there was more drinking than sight-seeing. While some elements of that are true, it’s not 100 per cent true – and there is also so much more to it than that. I had so much fun on contiki and I would recommend it to anyone without a second of hesitation. And here’s why…
Time in each place
Yes, it’s true that you don’t get a lot of time in each place and it’s definitely not a relaxing vacation. But, the benefit of that is you get to see so much in such a short amount of time. If you’re a student looking to tour Europe during the semester break, contiki is the way to go to squeeze as much of the continent as possible into that short timeframe. If I did it on my own there is no way I would have seen as many countries and as many sights as I did. On the downside that does mean some days are spent entirely on the coach. However, since you were probably out dancing on tables until 4am and got on the coach at 8am, it’s a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep or have the rare opportunity to sit down and do nothing. It’s a good idea to sit next to someone new on the coach because you have eight hours worth of friend-making conversation ahead of you.
Yep, people did have sex with each other. It’s an environment of young people living by the #noregrets contiki mantra, and also, no one from home is around so people could act without feeling judged. If you’re going on contiki and you want to hook up, you definitely can. But, if you don’t want to, there’s no pressure. There were people on the tour who had partners at home and remained faithful and there were people who preferred to kiss the locals at nightclubs instead of getting involved with people on the tour. In regards to drinking, some people drank every night and some people didn’t. The majority of people probably drank every second night. Ahead of time, our trip manager would let us know if a ‘big’ night was coming up or if it was more of a ‘quiet’ night so you could plan accordingly. While I did have a big night every second night or so, I never missed out on sight-seeing. I always got up early and headed into the city because, as fun as the partying was, I travelled to Europe to see Europe. However, some people would sleep for most of the day. Your trip was what you made it.
You make so many friends! The older you get, the harder it can be to make friends. If you have drifted apart (or deliberately distanced yourself) from your high school friends and haven’t made a whole heap on campus, contiki will nab you 50 brand new friends. Jumping into a lake in Austria on a really hot day is fun, but jumping into that lake and swimming with your 50 new friends? So much fun. I guess it depends on the group, but on my tour, everyone became such good friends and really looked after each other. On the last night I got sick and cried (because I’m a five year old when I get sick) and everyone was there hugging me in about five seconds. #contikifam
The food and accommodation
Contiki has a reputation for ‘crappy’ food and rundown hotels. All of the accommodation and food exceeded my expectations – I thought they were all really good! It’s not luxury, but you’re barely in the hotel and it was clean and bed-bug free. I’m a super picky eater, but there was always something on the plate I would eat and enjoy.
Contiki cough is a real condition and it’s a lot worse than you think. Some people on the tour actually got bronchitis. Everyone is run down due to lack of sleep, copious amounts of alcohol and being trapped together in a confined space on the coach. So bring your Panadol and accept the fact that you will have to see a doctor, or at the very least, head to a pharmacy during the tour. May the odds be ever in your favour.
If you’re open to making new friends and having fun while seeing some of the most beautiful sights in the world – do a Contiki! You will have the most fun you have ever had in your life. #noregrets