What really goes down on a Contiki tour

7:30 pm

When people think "Contiki" they think drugs, sex and alcohol. That's not exactly it. I personally did 1/3 of those things and I still had a pretty good time.

Contiki is a tour company for 18-35 year olds that travel by coach throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, USA and South America. I did the European Vista Winter for 21 days going from London to Paris, Lucerne, Nice, Florence, Rome, Venice, Munich, Vienna, Prague, St Goar and Amsterdam with 40 other travellers. In my group, I'd say about 70% of people have never travelled as further than Asia (from Australia/New Zealand) before and almost half were couples, which made the group less fun (in my opinion). Travelling with experienced solo travellers are always way more fun because we share our past adventures and future travelling dreams. At times because most of my group have never travelled before and never really had any other adventures, there were a lot of awkward silences. I travelled with my good friend and we roomed with an 18 year old from New Zealand. She was the sweetest roomie and I adored her from our first night out in Paris.

What they say about alcohol is true. You drink a glass of wine or beer almost at every dinner, then every second stop was a big party night. But by big, I mean finish up and go back to the hotel at 2am at the latest. This was my time to go out as late as I want because I don't have anyone waiting for me back home to pick me up. On this tour, I didn't have a chance to be like, "okay, well I'm done with partying. Time to grab my crew and go back home". No one was really big on partying so they started leaving when the European were starting to party.

The only time I had an amazing night out was in Madrid (out of Contiki). I was making friends at the hostel I was staying at which was U Hostels Madrid and the group I was playing card games with bought us a bottle of Vodka and soft drinks so I didn't pay for any drinks. Then we all went off to a pub crawl... at 12am. We went to a couple of places including a "bar" which looked like a Sydney nightclub and we got home at 7am. The last club we went to was packed as hell. I was partying hard with the Spanish. The craziest thing about the night was that this all took place on a Tuesday night.

Anyway, back to Contiki.
What was the best thing about travelling with Contiki? 
1. Your tour manager does EVERYTHING. We had Anna Howe and she was amazing. I went during a difficult time - Christmas holidays. Around this time, a lot of places are closed and Anna always somehow got us into some, if not, better places. She has also "lived" in Europe for a couple of years so she could definitely answer any questions you have, although she pronounced macarons as macaroons but I didn't want to seem like rude and correct her. Ugh I should have.
2. The coach was pretty handy too. Our hotels were sometimes far away from the city centre, but it was okay because the coach would always drive us in. But this would limit us from taking the metro in. European metro is amazing. Sydney Transport, get your shit together.
3. Their itineraries are great - you get to see so much in such little time. They're experts on what's important to see. It may seem full on as you're only in big amazing cities like Paris and Rome for two nights, but they take you around so in your spare time you can go back to the places you saw before in the tour.

What was the worst thing about travelling with Contiki? 
The optional things, they all add up over €500. Most of the options are actually worth it though. But if you go to Venice, don't go on their gondola ride. It's €30 and it is so much better to go up to another local and pay them €30-40. I went to Venice exactly five years ago and we did a gondola ride for about €30 for 40 minutes to an hour and he took us through the cutest, tiniest water streets. The buildings in the tiny streets were pretty run down but omg the run down buildings looked so photogenic. He even gave us a tour and we passed someone's house. I wish I could remember who. I think it was someone as amazing as Picasso. Maybe it was Matisse. He also sang a little, which made the experience 100 times better than the company Contiki took us on. Our guy this time (the Contiki time) was yelling and laughing with his mates around him and the places he took us honestly wasn't that beautiful compared to last time. And it was only for about 20 minutes. My advice would be to go to a local and support them.

If you think this is beautiful, you should have seen the sights I saw with a local gondola last time I was here in Venice

Paris

 The view on top of the Arc de Triomphe. On the right is the Eiffel Tower. It was a really foggy night :(

Champs-Élysées - On top of the Arc de Triomphe
  • The Eiffel Tower does not have the best views of Paris. Because it's so high up, the beautiful Parisian architecture is too small to see and the Eiffel Tower is the biggest icon of Paris. So if you want that iconic photograph, go to Sacré-Cœur and on top of Arc de Triomphe and get a photo of the Eiffel Tower in it.
  • Musée d'Orsay - best for Impressionism and definitely my favourite art gallery
  • Musée de Louvre - Stores one of the most masterpieces in the world. Also go to "Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel" near the Louvre and you'll get a great view of the Eiffel Tower and the mini Arc de Triomphe.
  • Walk with confidence and look like a local. Don't talk to anyone with a clipboard because they will try to rob you. This goes for every city.
  • Get the macarons, even though it is like 3 Euros. Try the escargot and frog legs. It's an experience!
  • The metro is the best way to travel around Paris (and other European cities). Get any (free) Paris Metro app, they're all pretty good.

Lucerne

Optional: Swiss Fondue Lunch

Always stuffing my face with food.
 
The gorgeous view from our hotel room

Mt Pilatus, Swiss Alps

Town of Lucerne

Night in Monaco

 I felt extremely fancy.


 I felt even more like a fancy french woman as I said to the bouncer of the Buddha-Bar Monte-Carlo, "Bonsoir, parlez-vous anglais?" He said no so that was awkward.

Nice

 Our bus driver on the left, Porfirio.

One of our nights out in Nice.

I had lamb

This was my second time having escargots. The first time was on a cruise to Nouméa.

This was my first time having frog legs. 


I booked my Contiki tour with a Personal Travel Manager named Mamita. She gave me an amazing deal with flights and lots of tips about travelling and Europe. She's contactable through email: mamita.mishra@travelmanagers.com.au and she can book any tour!

This is just part 1 of my Contiki trip.
Florence, Venice, Munich, Vienna, Prague, St Goar and Amsterdam post will be up soon :)

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