Before I started this blog, long before I ever had stamps in my passport or had traveled internationally, I used to stalk Contiki on social media. For years, I thought of international travel as an unattainable desire that only became a reality for those with rich parents or much older people who’d landed big bucks jobs. The Contiki tours were different. The photos were packed with young smiling people in places I’d always dreamed of exploring. While the trips weren’t free, they weren’t millions of dollars or out of the realm of possibility. Contiki was a brand I felt like I could trust because it was relatable to my reality in ways other travel companies just weren’t and had to experience on my own – which is why we headed to Africa the first time around for our Contiki Egypt and the Nile Adventure. Once we had our first taste, we couldn’t get enough. Which is why we signed on to be Contiki’s LGBT ambassadors.
We’ve been brand ambassador’s for Contiki for the last six months and every time I mention them on social media I get an avalanche of questions about the Contiki experience. We work with Contiki because we believe in their product as an ideal gateway to traveling the world. Particularly when you’re visiting areas that are harder to get to or more risky for women and LGBT travelers. In this post, I’ll be taking some time to deep dive into all things Contiki. I’ll be discussing all your questions and will cover everything from accommodations, types of travelers, food, activities, tipping, transportation, and more.
What is Contiki?
Contiki is a powerhouse tour company that takes 18 to 35-year-olds on 350 trips to 60 countries across six continents, with 300 different itineraries and eight different types of tours. Contiki makes travel easier and more social for young people. Contiki travelers have been able to explore remote towns in Peru, spot the big five on safari in Tanzania, explore the Californian Old West, circle around southern India, visit ancient cities in Japan, and go trekking in the jungles of Guatemala.
Contiki Africa Reviews:
Is Contiki Right for you?
How well you know yourself often impacts how well you choose your travel style. There are hundreds of variables that impact travel preferences. With that, I’ll go through some of the pros and cons of Contiki tours.
Pros of Contiki
Contiki is Cheap
While travel is rarely truly cheap, traveling with Contiki is a more affordable option than many others. They always have last minute booking deals, regularly have sales, and have a variety of budget travel options. Plus they always have lower prices than many of their competitors.
Great way to make friends
One of the biggest differences between Contiki and some of the other major group travel brands is the emphasis on creating a Contiki family. In the beginning of the tour, there are usually mixers, ice breakers, and other group activities to really bond the group together. Connecting with like-minded people is one of my favorite parts of the Contiki experience. You get to meet people of a similar age with a shared passion from all over the world which not only opens your social networks but also opens your world view and helps you see from other perspectives.
Everything is done for you
One of the hardest parts of travel planning is working out all the logistics. Contiki does all of the annoying details on your behalf. You don’t need to know how much public transit from the airport to your hotel will cost or what the schedule of the local train is because they pick you up from the airport. You also don’t need to pick your accommodations or figure out how to get from point A to point B or know the best times of day to go to your favorite attractions. You just have to show up and they’ve got it figured out.
Perfect for harder to visit destinations
There are some destinations that are difficult for independent travel. With a group you’re able to blend into a small crowd, you have help navigating difficult physical and cultural terrains, and you always have a translator on hand should you need one.
Traveling with a similar age group
While intergenerational travel can be amazing, sometimes you want to see the world with a group of people around your age and life experience. Chances are you’ll have more in common with folks in your age group than say a family of 5 on holiday or a set of retirees.
Helpful in a bind
Shit happens when you’re on the road lost luggage, wrong visa form, medical issues – I’ve seen it all. When something goes wrong it’s always nice to have someone on the ground to help you in a bind. Especially when they speak the local language and understand the local culture.
Cons of Contiki
Don’t control your schedule
While this is a pro for some people, it’s a con for others. Contiki does have some flexibility with their “Me Time Options” but they’re a group tour and thus have a set itinerary. For those with long term flexible travel plans, it can be hard to leave a place you’re having a great time exploring before you’re ready.
Waiting for other people
With a group tour, comes group mentality. You’ll inevitably end up waiting for someone or something in a long line.
Less local food options
During the tour experience, some of your meals are included. Some tours have more than others included. On both of our Contiki experiences, most of the meals were included but they were mostly buffet-style meals with very few local dishes to choose from. While this makes sense in a Safari camp with no restaurants for hours around us – it’s one of our favorite parts of travel that we really missed on our Contiki tours.
Contiki Styles of Travel
No two people are exactly the same, which means no two travelers will ever be the same. Which is why Contiki offers different travel styles help you find the perfect experience for you. Some travelers want to see as many different places as possible and some want to explore one location really in-depth. The styles are broken down by the length of trip, speed of travel, number of countries visited, and budget. Ultimately the choice is yours but with 350 different trips to choose from, you can be sure they have something that fits your travel style, budget, and time available. Here are a few of the styles to choose from.
The Contiki Discoverer is for adventurers who want to see it all and do it all. These trips are fast-paced and hit lots of destinations in a short period of time. This trip is perfect for those short on vacation days who really want to explore. The Discoverer trips offer more options included in the trip price and visit lots of different locations.
The In-Depth Explorer traveler is for the traveler who wants to spend more time in one region or country and really get under the skin through local explorations. The In-depth trips are culturally rich and really take a deep dive into the destination.
The Essentials tours are available exclusively in Europe but allow travelers to stretch their budgets. Every day will have planned activities but will also include “Free Time Add-On” activities for those who’d like to purchase additional tours and activities. This leaves the choice up to the traveler and allows you to customize your trip while keeping costs low.
Sailing & Cruises
Want to explore Croatia by land, sea, and surf? The sailing cruises are available in Australia, Asia, and Europe and are a great way to set sail for alternate waters.
Short Trips & Festivals
Short trips and festivals are all about holidays and events. Ever wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in New York City? There’s a short trip for that. Want to experience Octoberfest first hand? There’s a short trip for that. The short trips are for life’s moments and memories and are the perfect add ons to longer trips.
Ski & Snowboard
Keep it cozy all winter long. The fun doesn’t have to stop during the winter months. Make new pals to ski the slopes with or apre all day. Either way, the choice is yours.
Sleep under the stars and really cut back on costs with Contiki’s camping tours in Europe and North America. Choose the Original for 46 days of European adventures or visit Alaska and experiences the great arctic north.
Why Go On A Guided Tour?
Group tours are undeniably and easier way to travel. If you’re traveling with friends, all you need to do is pick a tour and then tell everyone else that’s what you’re doing. They can settle payments directly with Contiki and your itinerary is set so there’s no debate on what hotel to stay at and no-nonsense around collecting payments for each aspect of the trip. If you’re traveling solo it’s a great way to meet new people and split costs. It’s also safer in some regions of the world and offers you insight into the lives of people from other countries.
Who is The Contiki Traveler?
Contiki has a bit of a reputation for being a party bus galavanting around Europe. In some destinations, that’s true. The Contiki Original, for example, is not for the faint of heart. It’s 46 days of camping around 22 countries in Europe. It’s a whirlwind trip where you get to experience a huge chunk of the continent but are doing so at breakneck speeds. During the Original, you’d expect to see most of the travelers in their late teens and early twenties from mostly English speaking countries around the world.
The age varies based on your destination and style of travel. Both of our trips to Africa were skewed much older. The youngest was 25 and the oldest 35 with the average age hovering around 30. There are a few reasons for that. One safari travel is more expensive than hopping on a bus around Europe. But also, people who are interested in experiencing cultural destinations like Egypt or India are more likely to be visiting because they want to experience the history and attractions more than partying. Don’t get me wrong, folks on both of our trips enjoyed more than a few cocktails but on these trips, nightlife wasn’t the focal point of the adventures.
Both of our trips had a solid mixture of introverts and extroverts but some trips are better suited for folks who need more downtime from social interactions. If you’re an introvert try to find a smaller group trip with lots of “Me Time Optionals” so you can choose to allocate your time more effectively.
Generally speaking, you’ll find more women on the trips than men but the breakdown is somewhere between 60/40 or 70/30 so it’s not as dramatic as you may think. Contiki is an Australian based company so you’ll meet tons of Aussies but also Brits, South Africans, Kiwis, Canadians, and Americans.
Contiki for Solo Travelers
One of the beautiful parts of Contiki is the group bonding and togetherness that they emphasize on this trip. For our most recent tour, we had 13 travelers and only two groups of two people came with someone they knew. If you’re traveling by yourself odds are there will be at least half the group on their own or only traveling with one other friend. People go on Contiki tours to make friends and connect with people around the globe.
Contiki for LGBT travelers
Contiki has gone out of their way to improve the experiences of LGBT travelers on their trips. They’ve hired an LGBT professional development company to conduct trainings with their national-level staff. They’ve created content centered around the LGBT experience and have worked with tons of LGBT content creators. Contiki is a safe and welcoming option for LGBT people looking to experience group tours but also a great way to explore anti-LGBT destinations or regions of the world that are less welcoming and affirming.
What Are the Activities Like on a Contiki Trip?
Each Contiki trip is a bit different because each destination is a bit different but for the newly added African tours offer a wide variety of activities. Contiki has four new trips to take travelers to South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, and Kenya, and there will be five extension trips to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, visit the beaches of Zanzibar or see the gorillas in Uganda. The tours feature iconic African adventures like spotting the Big Five, witnessing the Great Migration in the Serengeti or Masai Mara, visiting Victoria Falls, river rafting on the Zambezi River, bungee jumping off the bridge linking Zimbabwe and Zambia. As you can see, the adventures vary widely from beach lounging to adventure sports to nature spots.
The accommodations vary widely depending on which trip you’re doing. Most Contiki trips will be booked at 3-star hotels, but some trips will be at hostels or camping if you’re doing a budget trip. For both of our Contiki adventures, we had incredible lodging options. We stayed on a Nile river cruise boat for three nights, had an adventure on a sleeper train car that converted into a hotel room, and stayed at several beautiful resorts. On the East African Safari, we stayed at several gorgeous luxury tented camps and had the opportunity to sleep side in the Savannah side by side with African Safari animals.
Transportation is always included in the price of the Contiki tour. Generally speaking, you’ll be on a bus between locations. On the upside, you’ll have lots of time to get to know your fellow travelers and you’ll be able to cover a lot of space in a short period of time. On the downside, there is usually lots of bus time. Contiki trips are fast-paced, action-packed trips that do a great job showing the highlights of a destination or region. While the ground transportation is included, the flights to and from your destination are generally not included.
Each Contiki adventure is a bit different when it comes to food so you’ll want to read the trip information thoroughly to see what’s included. On both our Contiki adventures, the vast majority of the food was included. Which makes sense when you think about the destinations. There aren’t any restaurants in the middle of the Serengeti. On both trips, the majority of the food was served buffet style and was catering to a western audience. While each buffet had one or two local dishes they seemed to be toned down for the western pallet. This is one area where we’d like to see Contiki improve. We love trying local foods and experiencing the flavors of a destination.
Today, we live in a world where climate change is no longer a threat but a reality, communities and ancient traditions are being lost and over-tourism is negatively impacting some of the planet’s best-loved destinations, your travel choices have never been more important. Where we travel, the activities we participate in, and how we treat the locals have dramatic impacts. Giving travelers the chance to make their travels matter is at the very heart of the Contiki experience, which is why they have a range of sustainable travel experiences built into trips across the world. Contiki Cares focuses on supporting people, wildlife, and the planet through their effort to support local organizations of marginalized people, animal welfare projects, and environmentally friendly initiatives. By 2022 Contiki has pledged to rid their supply chain of all single-use plastics. In partnership with ME to WE, Contiki also offers ethical volunteer activities alongside a local community in Latin America or India. Click here to read more about the Contiki Cares initiatives.
Tour Managers & Contiki Staff
On every Contiki adventure, you’ll be partnered with a Tour Manager. Their job is to ride along with you for the entirety of your stay and make sure everything runs smoothly. They act as a tour guide, impromptu translator, and handle all things bureaucratic. From helping you exchange currency to buying SIM cards to getting you through immigration – they’ve got you covered on all the pesky details that come with travel.
In Europe, the guides are from all over the world, but on both of our African Contiki’s we had local guides and local drivers who were able to help us learn more about our destinations. We loved being able to connect with them to learn about the more personal experiences they had growing up in the area and what it’s like for them and their families.
Cost & Payment Options
Contiki is well known for its flexible deposit, flexible payment options, no change fees – which is very different than most tour providers. The majority of their trips only require a $200 per person per trip deposit. It varies based on destination though so make sure you read the trip description information when booking. You don’t have to pay for everything all at once. Once you have paid a deposit for your trip, you will be able to pay part or all your outstanding balance through their online portal called “ Manage My Booking”. Contiki accepts all major credit card and debit cards from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
Tipping & Extra Costs
While Contiki never has any hidden fees, the trip price listed on the website will have detailed information on what is covered. Keep in mind that you’ll need to book your own airfare in advance and that you’ll want to budget in money for visas, vaccinations, souvenirs, drinks, tips, and other personal expenses while on the road. In your Manage My Booking section on the Contiki website, you’ll find all the details for which visas you might need, shots required for the destination, your itinerary, and all the extra booking options for additional activities. In most destinations, you’ll be encouraged to tip your Trip Manager, drivers, servers, and other staff. This varies widely depending on your trip so be sure to ask what’s appropriate for your destination before departure.