How Do I Become A Contiki Tour Guide? (Explained)

Cartoon of Steve in shorts and shirt

To many people it seems like the dream job, getting paid to travel the world.

But being a tour guide isn’t all sunshine and roses.

Whilst I might not have first-hand experience with it, I got to know many tour guides while working for STA Travel.

Without exception they all told me it was a tough job, but ultimately very rewarding.

So what happens when you are a tour manager at a travel company which has a reputation for partying?

Today we are going to look at how you can become a tour guide for Contiki…

How Do I Become A Contiki Tour Guide?

To become a Contiki tour guide there must first be a job to apply for, then you must submit an application. The first stage of the process is a video interview. If you get through that there will be a group interview and an individual interview on the same day and in person. Finally, you must complete an extensive, unpaid training programme up to two months long before being formally offered the job.

One of the benefits of working for STA Travel as a travel expert was occasionally being sent on what were called ‘fam trips’ to familiarise yourself with the products you were selling.

I went on quite a few, with many different companies, and as I alluded to in my intro, I would usually get quite friendly with the tour guides.

They all loved their jobs, and the one thing that amazed me about every one of them was they seemed capable of being full of energy and enthusiasm at all times of the day, even after just a few hours of sleep the night before.

The job is hard and requires long hours, and nowhere more so than when you work for Contiki, the tour company notorious for partying!

What Does A Contiki Tour Guide Do?

A Contiki tour guide, also known as a trip manager, is responsible for making sure each tour runs smoothly.

Contiki tours are renowned for packing a lot into their timeframes, there are often early starts and late finishes. 

As a tour member that isn’t too bad, you can rouse yourself hungover from your bed 20 minutes before departure, stuff your belongings into your rucksack and clamber on board the coach before falling back to sleep until you get to your destination.

As a tour manager that most definitely isn’t possible.

You will be the first one up organizing breakfast, making sure everyone is ready to get on the coach and then helping to load it with the driver.

Then on the coach you’ll be giving travellers their itinerary, keeping them entertained and explaining a bit about the history of the area you are travelling through.

You’ll also be calling suppliers to check that everything that is planned for the day is still ok to go ahead.

You’ll be able to explore your next destination when you arrive, but also need to make sure your tour group knows their plans for the rest of the day.

In the evening you will most likely be planning ahead for the next day, and also trying to deal with any problems that might have arisen.

And all the time you need to be full of energy and have a positive external attitude, no matter what you feel like inside!

What Makes a Good Contiki Tour Guide?

There is much more to being a Contiki tour guide than simply showing a bunch of strangers around new places.

A good tour guide (Contiki or otherwise), will have a number of qualities, including:

  • A passion and desire for travel and to learn more about it.
  • Being motivated and enthusiastic, even when you least feel it!
  • Being able to manage your own time well.
  • Being organized.
  • Being able to remain professional at all times (even when out partying!).
  • Being a team player, you will need to be able to work well with your trip driver, as well as all the suppliers you will be dealing with such as hotels, restaurants, etc.
  • Being able to deal with all types of people. Managing a trip of 50 people means there will undoubtedly be some who push you to your limit.
  • Being outgoing and confident in speaking in front of a large group of people.
  • Being able to think on your feet.
  • Having lots of energy and being able to get by on very little sleep!

Still want to be a Contiki Tour guide? Great. Let’s look at how you can turn that into a reality.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Becoming a Contiki Tour Guide

STEP ONE: Apply for the Job!

First things first, if you want to become a tour guide for Contiki then there needs to be a job going.

Regularly check the jobs section of the Contiki website, and as soon as you see a vacancy appear apply!

Note you will need to ensure you have the right to work in the areas you are applying for.

In the USA and Canada, you will need permanent residency or a passport for Canada or the USA.

In Europe, you will need one of:

  • European and/or UK Passport
  • “Right of Abode” for the United Kingdom
  • “Residency” for the United Kingdom
  • Valid work visa for the EU/UK. 

STEP TWO: Interview One – By Video

Contiki will review all email applications and then those that move onto the second stage will be invited to attend a video interview.

This interview is more informal and an opportunity for Contiki to learn more about you as a person, and your travel and work experience.

You will most likely be given some hypothetical scenarios and be asked how you would respond to see how quickly you can think on your feet.

Remember Contiki won’t be looking for the finished article though, your personality is more important as you will be trained to do the job.

Come across as enthusiastic, confident and willing to learn and hopefully you will move on to…

STEP THREE: Interview Two – In Person

Interview illustration

The third stage of the process is broken down into two sections, you will have both a group interview and an individual interview.

You will also have to prepare a short talk on a subject to give as part of the group interview on the day. Contiki will choose the topic for you ahead of the interview.

The group interview will give Contiki a chance to see how you work as part of a team, whilst the individual interview will allow them to get to know you one-on-one and see if you are a good fit for the job.

The talk is to see your comfort level when it comes to speaking in front of large groups, as that is something you will frequently have to do if you get the job.

Again let your personality shine through at this stage. In the group interview try and help the other interviewees if they are struggling, don’t think of them as your competition, Contiki will be looking to see if you are good as part of a team.

Be honest, open and be prepared to think on your feet.

Note that the venue for this stage is chosen by Contiki and there is no compensation for any travel costs incurred getting to the venue.

STEP FOUR: Complete a Two Month Training Programme

Congratulations! If you have got this far, you have almost got the job.

You now just have to complete an unpaid training trip.

However this isn’t any normal piece of training, it is extremely intensive.

For Contiki Tour Guides in Europe it involves seven weeks of visiting the major destinations in Europe.

For Contiki Tour Guides in North America it involves 3 to 4 weeks travelling through the USA or Canada.

Prior to the trip you will have to complete a pre-training assignment.

I don’t know the exact nature of the work, but I do know one Contiki tour guide called it “basically a dissertation” and another called it “an enormous assignment”.

Contiki themselves admit that the training is intense, and this was backed up by a former Contiki Tour Guide who said:

Text explaining how intensive Contiki's training is

As well as learning about the destinations you are visiting, you will also be learning all the skills you need to be a Contiki Tour Guide/Trip Manager.

It is basically preparing you for how crazy and full on the job will be when you start, to make sure you can handle it.

As one Contiki Tour Guide said: “There is no way to sugarcoat this for you; training to become a tour guide is brutal.”

STEP FIVE: Start the Job!

Only when you have successfully completed the training will you be formally offered the job.

The whole process from initially submitting an application to your first day as a Contiki Tour Guide could take anything up to six months.

How Much Do Contiki Tour Guides Get Paid?

Being a Contiki tour guide, or trip manager as they are known, is not a position you do for the money.

As one guide said: “You aren’t making millions, but there are so many perks to the job that it’s worth it. If you get assigned lots of trips, you can save enough to travel in the low season.”

It is difficult to put a figure on the salary of a Contiki Tour Guide, as Contiki don’t publish salaries when they advertise jobs, and tour guides can also make a decent income from tips that aren’t included in the base salary.

A quick glance at the employment website Glassdoor shows that the base pay for a Contiki Tour Manager is somewhere around the $58,000 mark in the USA and £22,000 mark in the UK.

The USA figure seems a little high in comparison to the UK figure…

You will earn tips on top of the base salary. You get paid per trip so this figure could vary depending upon how many trips you are sent on.

Remember that when you are a Contiki Tour Guide, the days will be long, and the job will consume you from when you wake up right through until you go to bed.

On the Tour Manager job reviews on Glassdoor, this is what those who had been in the job said about the pay:

“Money is never what they tell you – be aware.”

“You won’t get rich doing this – very much a right after college kinda gig.“

“The pay isn’t incredible, so if you’re in a financial pickle, maybe rethink applying as you are an independent contractor.”

I think the bottom line is this is a job you do for love, not money.

It will be hard work but will leave you with a thousand times more memories than if you sit at a desk doing a normal office job.

Final Thoughts

INFOGRAPHIC Explaining How Do I Become A Contiki Tour Guide
Click infographic to enlarge.

Being a Contiki Tour guide is evidently hard work, both in the training and the job itself, and it demands a certain kind of personality.

You need to be committed, outgoing and full of energy and enthusiasm at all times.

To get the job you will need to go through two interview processes and an extensive and unpaid training programme.

The job itself is not known for being a high payer, but what it lacks in money it makes up for experiences and it will undoubtedly be an unforgettable time of your life.

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