Taking part on a Contiki tour will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make – but there’s a few things you should really know first…
1. You’ll love and hate your Contiki Song
The Contiki Song is something most people look forward to, but what it ends up being is completely up to your Trip Managers tastes. The morning song is played every day once you hop onto the bus and start making your way to your next destination. Some people love it, some people hate it – either way, it’s unavoidable. The great thing about the Contiki Song is its the perfect way to get psyched up every morning and every time you’re heading out (you definitely hear it enough times to learn the lyrics!).
Note: it’s also perfect for karaoke nights!
2. Come prepared for comfort on the coach
The coach is going to be your second home, more often than not you’ll be catching up on your sleep – so be sure to pack the essentials. Neck pillows are a must! I can’t tell you how frustrating it can be to have a bus buddy that keeps bobbing their head as they sleep or having that awkward “uhh you’re on my shoulder” moment. Eye masks are a good idea if you want to avoid a lovely new Facebook photo, but sunglasses work fine too. The coach has curtains which are helpful in avoiding the sunlight, but won’t make a huge overall difference if you have trouble sleeping with the lights on.
3. You will drink much more than you expected
Contiki doesn’t have its reputation for being a party tour for no reason. A perfect way to get to know your fellow travellers, it allows people to let off some steam, get more comfortable around these strangers and dance, a lot. Trying local drinks is always fun – and if you plan for it, you can hit up Oktoberfest in Germany! I knew about Contiki’s party scene going in, but it was much more than I expected. Our tour began to pick up a quick pace of going out clubbing almost every second night, whenever we had a coach day looming. We would spend one day sightseeing, end it with a night out, and then nurse our hangovers carefully while driving to our next location so that we weren’t wasting any exploring time. Of course, some people opted not to go out, or weren’t drinking, it’s all up to you.
On that note – you need to prep for hangovers. Some people can’t handle the bus drive while hangover, as there’s no opening windows, and only plastic bags to help you out if you’re feeling blue, (the toilets are a no-go zone). A good idea is to pack some hydralite in advance, and not only will this help you but it’s a great way to help our your fellow travellers. Different people have different cures, make sure you know yours.
4. You have the same roommate for the entire trip
From the first night of your tour you are paired up with one of your fellow tour mates. Usually these relationships start off fine and develop into amazing friendships, but others don’t get on so well. After the first night or two, your Trip Manager often gives you the option to let them know if you want to change roommates, a common occurrence if you happen to find your new best friend quickly, but otherwise your Trip Manager will continue to book you in a room together for the rest of the journey.
5. The bus waits for no one
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be on time. Not only will arriving early get you in your Trip Managers good graces, but Contiki has been known for leaving people behind who don’t show up on time. If the bus leaves without you, you’re pretty much left to sort out how to meet them at the next destination. If you are lucky, you can jump onto another Contiki bus if one happens to be there – but this won’t always be an option.
In my experience, our Trip Manager was nice enough to wait for us to check on someone if they were missing, but I wouldn’t push your luck. Our Trip Manager made us very aware that for every 5minutes we waste being late each day, is more and more time we could be spending at our new destinations.
6. Dress to impress – fancy dress is the real deal
Every Contiki tour has a theme party, you won’t know what it is beforehand but everyone gets enough time to prepare for it, and everyone always gets into it. Go hard or go home right?
7. Pretty much everyone does ALL of the optional activities
On my European Contiki tour the Me Time optional activities pretty much seemed just like our general itinerary, because everyone joined in on everything. The occasional person opted to catch up on sleep or skipped something they’d already seen, but most people didn’t mind the cost. The price for these is not included in the overall tour cost, so you basically pay per activity. The price can really range, some perfectly fitting to the average budget, but some are more costly – like skydiving in Switzerland.
The Me Time optionals are the perfect place to bond with your new friends, but you don’t have to decide which ones you want to do straight away. A few days into the trip you are given a form where you can tick off each one you want to do – as some require pre-booking. Then you have the flexibility to pay within the next few following days.
Note: the coach will ALWAYS go with the tour group and scheduled optional activities. Those who opt to explore on their own have to work out other transportation – the Trip Manager will let you know what your options are.
Note: on tours in places like New Zealand, the optional activities work differently as they are offering more things in each place despite the time constraints – you won’t have time to do all of them.
8. The Contiki Cough is REAL and unavoidable.
Before embarking on my Contiki journey, I’d heard a lot about the Contiki Cough. I didn’t think too much of it, but I packed cold and flu tablets and everything I thought I’d need to avoid it – but nothing worked. Everyone on my tour got it, some worse than others, but sitting in a bus of circulated air meant it was hard to steer clear of.
9. You’ll leave the trip with lifelong friends
With up to 50 people on board the coach, Contiki tours are comprised of people from the ages of 18-35, so you’re pretty much ensured to find people you are comfortable with. Spending so much time together in a short period of time, it’s impossible to leave without making some incredibly strong bonds with people from all around the world. Also perfect for future travel, now you have people to visit all around the globe!
10. You’ll get those post travel blues BAD
I get the post travel blues after pretty much every trip I take part in, but ending my Contiki was something else. Suddenly all of my new best friends were gone, I had no roommate, I was all alone in my Contiki jumper pining over what was. Our Facebook and snapchat groups were filled with sad faces, and almost everyone on our tour cried during their goodbyes, I guess we forgot that it eventually had to end.
When you get home, the travel bug is well and truly embedded – so take advantage of that and keep exploring!
What do you wish you knew before going on a Contiki tour? Let me know in the comments!