Are Contiki Tours Worth It? (Discussed)

Cartoon of Steve in jacket and baseball cap

Contiki divides opinions like no other tour company.

For some it offers the dream trip, for others it is the stuff of nightmares.

When people came into the STA shop I worked at in London Victoria, I could usually tell within a couple of minutes of talking to them if they were suited to a Contiki tour or not.

So I thought that I would use the benefit of my experience for a blog and discuss whether a Contiki tour would be worth it for you.

Yes, you!

Let’s get started…

Are Contiki Tours Worth It?

Contiki tours will be worth it to some and not worth it to others, it all depends on what you value and what you are looking for when you travel. If you are a first-time traveller, not sure about what you want to see, who enjoys partying and wants to have everything organized for you then you will most likely really enjoy a Contiki tour and it will be worth it for you.

There isn’t a simple yes or no answer to this question.

It is much more complicated than that. 

As I alluded to in my introduction, some people will love Contiki tours others will hate them.

So how do you know which category you fall into?

Contiki Lover: Contiki Tours Are Worth It If…

You have to be a particular kind of person to really love Contiki tours.

Notably the kind of person that enjoys partying and drinking!

Ok the tours aren’t all about that, but there is a lot of socialising and drinking that happens on a Contiki tour.

There is a reason it is known as the party bus!

Beyond that though, Contiki will be suitable for a number of other travellers.

For first-time travellers Contiki is great.

I can remember my first trip and two of my biggest worries were getting around and finding places to stay.

How do I get from A to B, then what happens if I get there and I can’t find anywhere to stay? How do I plan it all?

With Contiki everything is taken care of for you, from the accommodation to the transport to the itinerary.

You literally just have to show up in the right places at the right time and the rest is taken care of.

It is also safer, safety in numbers and all that. 

There is less chance of being scammed or being put in a vulnerable situation when you are travelling with a large group.

Then beyond that, for solo travellers, Contikit is one of the most sociable tour companies you can travel with.

You will be with a bunch of people your own age, all of a similar mindset, sharing some amazing experiences and having fun.

Pretty soon you will have a whole bunch of new best friends. 

Ok you might not like everyone on your bus, but I can guarantee there will be at least a few people you really bond with and will probably stay friends with for a long time.

Contiki tours are somewhat of a whirlwind experience. You see a lot of places in a short period of time.

Some people might not like the idea of this, but if you only have a limited time, then you will finish your trip having seen a lot of new cities and countries, and I don’t think that can ever be a negative.

You will also see some places you would not see if you were attempting to plan the trip yourself. Some might be to your tastes, some might not, but Contiki does have extensive knowledge of what travellers enjoy.

You have the benefit of a tour guide explaining the sights and scenery as you travel.

And I must say, on the Contiki tour I went on as a ‘fam trip’ when I worked for STA, the bus was fantastic. Very luxurious and comfortable, which was handy as we did spend a lot of time on it!

In short, you will probably love Contiki tours if:

  • You enjoy partying and drinking.
  • You are a first-time traveller.
  • You want everything planned for you.
  • You want to meet people.
  • You only have a limited time and want to see a lot.
  • You aren’t sure what you want to see.
  • You want to feel safe.

Contiki Haters: Contiki Tours Are Not Worth It If…

Group of people on sand with Jeep behind.
Above: Hanging out with my tour group in Australia

If you want to be able to travel at a leisurely pace, then a Contiki tour is not for you. 

On any Contiki tour you will see a lot of places in a short period of time.

So if you find a place you like, make the most of it as you won’t be there long.

As an example if you go onto the Destinations section of the Contiki website and go to Europe, at present the top three trips are:

  • European Horizon: 7 countries in 11 days.
  • European Trail: 13 countries in 23 days.
  • European Whirl: 10 countries in 18 days.

Consequently, that means you have a lot of early starts and spend a lot of time on the bus. Such a regimented way of travelling will definitely put some people off.

If you want to save money then Contiki isn’t for you either.

That isn’t to say its trips are overpriced, because they are certainly in line with its competitors, but you could definitely do it independently for cheaper.

Then there are the additional extras.

These are optional, so it is up to you whether pay for them or not but, in my experience, many of these optional extras you could find for cheaper than the price Contiki offers.

Let’s take the European Horizon tour as an example:

  • Amsterdam Canal Cruise: €23
  • Rhine Valley Wine Tasting: €9
  • Mike’s Bike Tour: €23
  • Austrian White Water Rafting: €50
  • Austrian Paragliding: €134
  • Gondolas: €26
  • Hidden Venice & Apertivio: €19
  • Mt. Stanserhour: €54
  • Adventure Park: €37
  • Swiss Bungy Jumping and Ropes Park: €240
  • Parisian Farewell Dinner: €38
  • Mouline Rouge Cabaret Show: €100

That is a lot of additional extras, in fact of 21 ‘highlights’ shown on the tour pages 12 of them you have to pay extra for.

Some will be great (I’ve heard nothing but positive things about Mike’s Bike Tour above for example), some will be good value, but some you will be definitely paying over the odds for.

On top of that you will need to factor in tips.

Local guides will be expecting tips and towards the end of the tour you will be given an envelope and told to write a ‘love letter’ saying what you liked most about the tour.

It is ‘suggested’ that the standard for tipping is €3 per day for both your tour manager and your tour driver. 

So over an 11-day tour like the European Horizon trip that is an additional €66 out of your pocket if you choose to follow the Contiki guidelines.

Accommodation can be a bit basic too, and sometimes it is a distance from the centre of the town or city you are meant to be staying, so again you are looking at taxi or bus money if you want to go out.

Finally, whilst you are not obliged to go out drinking and partying every night, most Contiki travellers do, so if that isn’t your scene, maybe it is best avoided.

In short, you will probably not love a Contiki tour if:

  • You want to travel at your own pace.
  • You don’t like early starts.
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of time in transit.
  • You have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want to see.
  • You are not a party animal.

Final Thoughts

INFOGRAPHIC Explaining Are Contiki Tours Worth It
Click infographic to enlarge.

So whether a Contiki tour will be worth it for you or not very much depends on what you as an individual are looking for.

Are you a first-time traveller who is a bit nervous about travelling and you aren’t sure what you want to see? Are you sociable and enjoy drinking/partying? Then Contiki is probably a good option.

Are you prepared to pay a premium for someone to handle the logistics of travel for you? Then a Contiki tour will be worth it.

What do you have more of, time or money? If you have more time, then plan the trip yourself, take it slower and choose what you want to see instead of being part of a group being taken to set places at set times.

Much depends on what you want to get out of your trip and what you value.

Think carefully about that, and find a way of travelling that suits your needs and it could be the difference between having a good trip and having a great trip.

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