It’s in the books, folks. My first Contiki tour came and went way too quickly! For those of you thinking to do a tour with Contiki, especially if you’re planning to go solo, I want to take the time to give a thorough review of my trip. Contiki has not asked me to do this tour, so know that all thoughts are my own.
I chose the Amsterdam to Barcelona tour to really maximize my time in Europe. Unfortunately, we don’t get unlimited time off at work, so I made sure to find a trip that allowed me to see many places in a shorter period of time. It was an 11 day trip where I was able to stay in five different countries. The full tour was Amsterdam, Paris, Lucerne, Nice and Barcelona. We also had a stop in Monaco, so technically I was able to see six countries. Talk about a whirlwind of a trip!
My fearless leaders
Your tour manager and coach driver are your fearless leaders on this trip. I was lucky enough to get amazing people to lead my way through Europe. Tamara, my tour manager, was extremely helpful every day. She was full of knowledge about the countries and cities we visited and was able to point us in the direction of fun places to hang out. She had great recommendations on places to see and activities to do. Without a good tour manager, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the trip as much. The same goes for my coach driver, which leads me to the next subject…
Traveling by coach isn’t my ideal form of transportation. Full disclosure: I get car sick. I was nervous heading into the trip because I knew we would be spending lots of time on the coach. Recommendation: Take a lot of Dramamine with you. You will spend A LOT of time on the coach between cities. The average was at least 8 hours on each major travel day. If you get car sick, try and sit in the very front seat. It makes a huge difference. Also, respect the coach. This is your home, and your tour groups home, for your trip.
Duration in each city
When you’re doing a tour that is under two weeks, and visiting six countries, you don’t have the opportunity to spend a lot of time in each city. On average, I would guess we had six hours of free time in each city. The general flow of my trip was:
- Bags to coach around 8-9 am
- Arrive in city around 5 pm
- Dinner/go out
- Back to hotel
- Breakfast and possible activity with group
- Free time
- Catch coach back to hotel by 4-5 pm
- Dinner/go out
- Bags to coach around 8-9 am to head to next city
I definitely felt rushed in the major cities like Paris and Barcelona, but this worked fine for Lucerne and Nice. You know when you sign up that you won’t have a chance to see everything you want in each city, but I’m glad I was able to see many different places. At least I know where I’d like to go back to on my next trip!
The food was hit or miss
To be honest, this was my biggest complaint. When you travel with a tour company, be aware that they have agreements with restaurants and hotels. For the five included dinners, we went to a restaurant with a set menu that had a meat, fish and vegetarian option. Most of the meals weren’t impressive. The best dinners were in Monaco and Barcelona by far. Knowing what I know now, I would have rather skipped out on the included dinners and paid more money for better, more local meal.
Accommodations or lack thereof
The hotels were also nothing impressive. Part of the way Contiki drives the cost down is by staying at budget hotels outside of the city center. That’s okay though. You either have public transport or the coach to get you to the city. The largest complaint I have about the hotels is that some of them were musty and there was visible mold. Just be prepared that you won’t be staying in the city center and some of the hotels may be less than three stars.
Many new friends
The best part of traveling solo was that I had to be open to meeting new people. I’m so happy I did this trip solo! I created many new friendships and some that I know will last. This was my first international solo trip and I would do it again in the heartbeat. You really need to get out of your comfort zone when you do something like this and you won’t regret it. Oh, and be prepared for a lot of late nights and partying.
I highly recommend Contiki for a solo traveler looking to go on an international trip that may not have the confidence to travel totally solo yet. They handle all the major pieces of travel so you literally can show up and enjoy your time. If you want to spend more than 1.5 days in a city, Contiki may not be for you. Explore what trips they have to offer and let me know if you have any questions!