Updated: Jun 24
Looking to book a vacation with Contiki and you’re on the fence about it? Stress no more, I’ve got the inside scoop to the pros and cons of a Contiki trip! The pros... the cons... you'll find it all here!
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First, a little bit about my experience with Contiki: I’ve personally been on (2) Contiki Trips – Northern Thai Highlights and Ecuador's Lava Line. I found out about it in the craziest way – from my neighbors trash! I saw a travel magazine that had been thrown out and figured I’d check it out because I loveeeee to travel. I had never heard of Contiki but was immediately intrigued when I saw that they were a tour company aimed towards 18-35 year olds. I flipped through the magazine and was in awe of the amazingly fun pictures, descriptions, and itineraries. I spent the rest of the afternoon researching online if this would be a good fit for me. Within 2 weeks, my friends and I had signed up for a 7 day trip to Thailand with this tour company. We didn’t know what to expect but were excited to check out a new country and maybe make new friends. We anxiously awaited the 8 months and boarded our flights ready for an adventure…. And an adventure it was!! Contiki had a jammed packed itinerary for us with so many unique activities! We loved each and every one of them. Every day was better than the last and it was over in the blink of an eye. Even my two friends, who had never been out of the country, loved every second of their time with Contiki in Thailand – they made navigating a new country very easy, safe and stress free!
I’ve listed some of my favorite things about Contiki below, as well as some of my least favorite things!
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
Contiki's motto is "Travel with no regrets" and they sure know how to make that come true! You'll get to see and do everything that will make your Instagram explode with likes.
There is a $200 deposit when booking the trip. If you find out later on that you can't go, you can transfer your deposit to a different date or different trip completely! They don't require the full payment until 45 days before the trip.
Most all trips are based on double occupancy. If you want to travel alone, and have your own room there is an additional fee.
They say 55% of travelers on their trips are female... however, I feel like it's probably closer to 65-70%.
Before you go, you'll receive an "itinerary" and list of the hotels you are staying in. There is no formal schedule saying 7:30- Meet in Lobby; 8:00- Board Bus. It was very vague.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT CONTIKI:
They really know their audience. This tour is for 18-35 year olds and it was definitely geared towards activities that age group would find fun! It was every bit educational, adventurous, and fun as you’d want it to be! On our tour we biked, hiked, swam in waterfalls, played with elephants, went to local bars, and more!
Each tour has (1) Contiki Guide and (1) Local Guide. This was great because you got the best of both worlds. If you’re going to multiple cities, it is possible that the Local Guide will change throughout your trip – however, your Contiki guide will always be the same! This was great because we really had the best of both worlds. It was nice to have a constant guide with us every step of the way. It was also nice to know that we were getting a local guide so that could really tell us about their hometown.
Breakfast was provided each morning at the hotels and they always had a good variety. In Thailand, there was always a mix of Western and Thai food. Ecuador breakfasts were simple but filling. Most tours include breakfast each morning and a few other meals which is a great way to experience a taste of local flavor.
There is a lot of driving in the motor coach. That might sound like a negative to most people, but Contiki did what they could to make the experience a positive. The motor coach itself was very nice and always air-conditioned. They made designated bathroom stops which was nice. Sometimes we would play games on the bus or watch movies.
There are like-minded people on the tour. It’s a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Every time I travel with Contiki, I meet people from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and USA. It is fun seeing those cultures blend and experience a new one together.
Our tour guide was always able to recommend the safest and best bars for our nights on our own. Going out in a foreign country can be daunting because you never know what a dangerous place is. Our guide was always knowledgeable on the area and had great recommendations.
Experience the country as a local. Because you are on a tour, you are able to do things that you couldn't if you were a solo traveler or here on your own! Contiki provides experiences to allow you to see what the local life is like by bringing you to locals houses and farms. You get to speak with locals and learn from them in their community. For instance, we played soccer with a local community in Ecuador and we talked to a local villager (our guide was a translator) about life in Thailand and about her newborn baby.
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT CONTIKI:
My idea of “luxury” accommodations and their idea is completely different. Now, I’m not saying the hotels were BAD. But, they were far from luxurious. Some didn’t have a hairdryer or common amenities. Others were in iffy locations or slightly rundown. We weren't in the hotel rooms very much, so it wasn't bad, but I would have spent an extra couple hundred dollars for nicer hotels and a better experience at night.
They did not provide a packing list. I wish they had provided us with suggested items to bring along on the tour. I say this because I do not typically bring a towel with me as the hotels always have one. However, since we were moving hotels each night, we couldn’t bring the hotel towels with us. We did a lot of outdoor activities in water (river, lakes, waterfalls, etc) and really needed a towel each time to dry off.
Be prepared for some ‘add-on’ expenses if you want to see and do everything. For instance, they picked a hotel outside of a city, and then expected us to pay on our own to get to the city to experience the nightlife as a group. They asked $5 for the group picture. They took us to a cemetery but didn’t pay for the museum access. On my particular trip, these were small add-ons, but I know other trips have more expensive add-ons. It wasn’t a make or break, but just something I wish I had known prior.
You can’t go at your own leisure. Well, duh – you’re on a tour! However, this is most definitely still a negative for me. There are some places I would have loved to spend a few extra hours exploring and enjoying when we only had 30 minutes. There were also one or two places that I could have skipped altogether. Also, all the potty breaks that take 20 minutes when you only need 2-3 minutes is sometimes frustrating.
Contiki provided a genetic itinerary without much detail. Having a more detailed itinerary would have allowed us to better plan our free time. Unfortunately, the itinerary they gave us weeks before the trip was pretty generic. “Wake up here, go here, explore here, and have some free time before going here”. There wasn’t any detail to what we were doing, how we were getting there, how long we had at each place, and how much free time we had. This proved difficult when trying to book events in advance for our free time. They also provided a list of the hotels - see below for an example.
Overall, I loved my trip with Contiki. I went it in with average expectations and I was blown away by the fun adventure each and every day! Now, whenever I'm interested in visiting a new country, I look up the Contiki trip to see if it's something I can do!
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