Hey guys, hope all is well! I pretty much procrastinated these past few days, watched a ton of Breaking Bad, and had a beach day. Safe to say, it's time to kick it up this week in life. I made it four days at the gym, so trying to make it 5 this week.
Last week, I mentioned how I went on a Contiki tour and the amazing experiences I had along the way. Like most things in life, there are always pros and cons to everything, so I wanted to take this chance to talk about them. Going in to the tour, I set my expectations pretty high. In saying this, I can't speak for each and every person's experience as for them, it might have been everything and more! Let's get started.
THE PROS OF A CONTIKI TOUR
- VALUE FOR MONEY- While I don't necessarily think we paid the cheapest price, the amount of things we got to do in such a short period of time makes it all worth it. The whole trip was organized for us including transportation, accommodation, and a few meals. There is no way you could possibly see that many countries in that short of a period of time by yourself for that money.
- SAFETY- Despite everything going on in this crazy world, not once did I question my safety during this entire trip. We had one of the greatest bus drivers in the world, good security at each of the hotels, and were made aware of scammers where gypsies, pickpockets, and pushy sellers would be present.
- MEETING NEW PEOPLE- A surprising amount of people head on a Contiki by themselves, so no one is ever really alone. You quickly make friends or at least acquaintances with everyone on your bus. You share a common bond in that you are adventurous, free willed, and came on this tour for unforgettable experiences and to meet new people. Don't come on this tour if you think mankind sucks because you will be stuck with these 50 people for the next 15 days or whatever length tour you pick.
- TIME- Considering I don't get much time off work, this is a great way to see everything in so little time. Based on the tour you pick, you get to choose the pace and how many places you want to see. In our case, it was go go go and a highlight reel of each country. While we didn't have much time, it was enough time to see all the major places I'd want to visit in each country. In this case, I wish there was more time, but now I can come back and eliminate the ones I wasn't that in to.
- DISCOUNT EXCURSIONS- While I was so a bit skeptical on this, I did look up some of the excursions and found our excursions to be discounted.
- CONVENIENCE- When traveling by myself, my boyfriend and I usually set up our day and spend a lot of time exploring the city and vetting out different sales booths for different excursions we might be interested in. We set up our days around them and do some research on how to get around without getting ripped off. It was nice not having to worry about where to go, knowing where I am, and how to get to the major sights easily.
THE CONS OF A CONTIKI TOUR
- QUALITY OF ACCOMMODATION- I am not a princess by any means, but I swear about halfway through the trip, I encountered bedbugs. Not everyone experienced it, but after talking to some of the other girls, we realized it wasn't just our room. On our tour, we paid a bit more to travel under hotels instead of hostels. During parts of the trip, we ended up staying at the same places as the hostels group, which was a bit annoying due to we paid more. The night that you stay in a prison converted in to a hotel isn't cool like it sounds. It literally feels like you are staying in a prison with a shower that barely fits your legs inside. In some hotels, I found mold on the ceiling and the couple next door to us found a bloody handprint on their wall. As mentioned before, I never felt unsafe, but these are 1-2 star hotels at best.
- SUCKERED IN TO EXCURSIONS- While all excursions are optional, some of these excursions take place in the middle of nowhere. The bus is actually stopping for this specific excursion, so you don't have a hotel room to fall back on or a city to explore while they do the excursion. An example of this would be the whitewater rafting in the alps. It's halfway between our two hotels, so we have already checked out of one and on our way to check in to the next. While beautiful, I felt bad for those who didn't participate and were stuck waiting around. Another excursion was the cable car to the top of the swiss alps, where we landed on a Sunday. Again, another stop on the way to somewhere with a little town, where all the shops were convenientlty shut as it was a Sunday.
- SELLING PITCHES- Almost everywhere we went was a selling pitchl, whether it be leather and puzzle rings in Italy, beer steins in Germany, Swarovski in Austria, perfume in France, Swiss watches and knives in Switzerland, everything felt forced. We spent a lot of wasted time going to these demos. Half of us got smart halfway through and realized these demos were optional. After all, it's valuable free time. In Contiki's defense, they did make a lot of sales through our group and of course, we bought because we did want these things and didn't have free time to go find it ourselves.
- INCONVENIENT TRAVEL DAYS AND TIMING- As mentioned before, we ended up at many places after 5 pm, so all the shops were shut or landed in certain towns where they knew everything would be closed on a Sunday. The most frustrating part for me was the only free day in Paris, which landed on a Tuesday, only to discover the Louvre is closed on a Tuesday. This was not brought to my attention nor was it ever mentioned anywhere on the website that this was how the tour fell. In Switzerland, I was disappointed that all the shops were closed when we got there and had to leave the city by 8 am, so they conveniently partnered with a Swiss Watch and army knife store to open just for us, claiming 100% of our sales. The stores conveniently closed after our group left. It's stuff like that that frustrated me because I felt like we were being conned.
- A LOT OF BUS TIME- While I was well aware there would be a lot of bus time, my primary frustration was how much daylight it burned. I would have much rather left earlier in the morning or not stopped in random cities to get to our destination faster. In some cases, I feel this tour would be better run with a combination of bus and train. Having the bus stop every 3 hours was a pain with 45 mins rest at each stop. Meanwhile, you felt bullied in to not using the toilet, so you felt pressured to hold it in each time you hopped on. Apparently, the toilet can only be emptied twice in 14 days?
- HIDDEN FEES- When getting around the countries, we were primarily with our tour group. In some days, we got some free time and were given a metro pass in Rome to get home. However, the hotel would be so far from the train station that if you didn't get back in time, you would be taking a 20 Euro cab ride. In Paris, no transport is provided, so you must buy your own mero pass. After leaving the Florence nightclub, you all must find your own way home with no option to leave at a set time by tour group. After paying all you have, you are still expected to tip your trip manager and driver although you'd think it was included after everything they lure you in to.
- BEDDING SETUP- While most of these rooms are set up for twin share, throwing an extra cot in to the same room hardly makes it viable as a triple share room. One of us always got screwed with a really uncomfortable cot and forget about having anywhere to put your suitcases. Not worth the $50 extra you save per person, but I guess a necessarily evil to keep us altogether. However, the savings should be much more based on our experience.
WOULD I GO ON A CONTIKI AGAIN?
Despite everything, my answer would be YES. In my thoughts, the pros outweigh the cons. I would gladly do it again. Now that I'm a bit older, I probably won't as I want to enjoy my time and not rush through everything. However, if an opportunity presented itself, I wouldn't say no. It's a great way to travel and attracts some really fun and genuine people who share the same passions that I do.
Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday and tune in next Thursday about being back in reality and talking about fitness goals and recipes as I experiment with trying to get a hot body after this fatty trip :p