(1) Your trip may be a part of a larger trip
This was probably the most surprising aspect for me, so it gets the #1 spot. If you choose a shorter Contiki tour, don’t be shocked if you’re joining a group in the middle of their trip or leave earlier than the rest of the group. Doug and I joined a trip right in the middle, and at first it was a bit awkward since everyone else has already been together for a week or so. After a few hours and a few drinks, everyone opened up, and were all very welcoming!
(2) Bus rides can be LONG
This may seem obvious to some people, but to me it definitely was not. Reading the itinerary, everything sounds like it is back to back, and it is easy to forget that it takes time to get from country to country. Sometimes the bus ride will be 1-2 hours, and other days, you spend most of the day on the bus, so prep yourself. There is one giant bright side to this. You get to check out some incredible views you wouldn’t see if you were flying from country to country!
(3) You’ll probably end up doing most/all of the free time add-ons
When I first looked at the free time add-ons for my trip, I crossed a bunch off, thinking who would want to do THAT? Then the day comes to pick which ones you want to do, and you look around to see everyone else is doing most or all of them. The pressure builds, and you check the box for all of them. Even with the pressure, you won’t regret doing all of them. They are listed on there for a reason after all. Also note, these cost extra $$, so budget that money in!
(4) There’s a decent amount of free time
Being that you’re booking a tour, it is easy to assume you’re with them 24/7. Well, that is definitely not the case. There is plenty of free time scattered within the itinerary, so make sure you have some ideas of what you want to do in that time. If you’re not prepared (like me), don’t worry, you’ll find a group from your tour that you’ll want to tag along with. On the same note, if you do have something you want to do, you might not get the chance to do it if you don’t voice your opinions to your group. Along with the free time, it’s important for me to point out how much freedom you have too. This isn’t summer camp, and the tour managers won’t treat you like it is and babysit you. You don’t have to do everything with the entire tour group, but you are responsible for staying close enough the group and not getting left behind.
(5) The hostels are much nicer than expected
Maybe this was my own travel ignorance, but when I read the word hostel throughout the itinerary, I pictured run down, dirty, uncomfortable places to stay. I have to say, every hostel we stayed in was much nicer than I could have pictured, so do not let the word hostel scare you off! It’s important to add here too about your roommates in the hostels. You’ll never have strangers as roomies, it will always be fellow members of your Contiki group.
(6) Not everyone in the group is that great
When I read reviews about the trips, there were SO many people who talked about their friends that they made for life. In my head, that meant everyone got along and everyone was great. False. There were 50 people in my group. There was bound to be people who didn’t like each other, and that’s okay! Just steer clear of them through the trip, and it will definitely not ruin your trip.
(7) You’ll make deeper connections than you’d think
On the flip side, you’ll meet people who become your friends for life. I expected to make some friends, but I never expected to get as close to people as I did. 10+ days together all day every day, really brings you together.
(8) You learn and see A LOT
Obviously, based on the itinerary you expect to see a bunch of different places, but you can’t imagine how much of each city you actually see. Being with the tour managers who know the cities inside & out is a huge advantage. I can say without question, I would not have seen as much if I did the same itinerary on my own. On top of knowing where to go and what to see in the cities, the tour managers are super knowledgeable about where you are, and you end up learning some history and cultural aspects you might never have known.
(9) The tour might shift your life into a new perspective
Getting immersed into so many diverse cultures and spending so much time with people from different countries really makes you think about your life and routine back home. I know, personally, I left with a completely new outlook on life. Life cannot be taken so seriously all of the time, it is important to break away from your home to venture out, and of course, work is important, but it cannot control your life. I actually was crying on my flight home because I was miserable thinking about the life I was going back to. I knew I needed to revamp my whole life after that trip (and I did)
(10) You’ll be pulled right out of your comfort zone
You will try foods you never would try at home. You’ll go on adventures you’d never dream of doing normally. You meet people from all different backgrounds that give you a new outlook on things that make you uncomfortable, and it really expands your world more than you think!
(11) It is one of the best times of your life
I have to admit… I had my doubts after we booked. Doug and I were both beyond excited to be going, but we both kept saying things like “what if everyone sucks?”, “what if it’s boring”, “what if we have to room with total weirdoes!?”. I cannot even explain how wrong we really were. (okay – maybe there was one or two weirdoes sprinkled in there, but like i said earlier, just ignore them!) This is the experience of a lifetime, and a guaranteed incredible time. I cannot wait to do another one, and you’ll hear similar from anyone else you know who has venture out with Contiki.
Have you ever done a Contiki tour before? Where did you go & what did you get out of the trip that was unexpected when you first booked? >>Comment below!