Ten things they don't tell you about Contiki
If you’ve just returned from some form of travel tour this mid-year break (or lived vicariously through the posts that flooded your Facey news feed), you’ll know doing a Contiki is an unforgettable experience.
You’ll learn the importance of time
Unlike that seedy Monday morning class, you can’t just slip into the back row unnoticed. Hint: these golden rules of attending lectures will help.
On Contiki, the bus will leave. You’ll have to pay for a train or bus to the next city, which is most likely in another country. You’ll pay a lot of money and cry. So don’t just be there on time. Be there early.
You’ll drink a lot. Even more than you think.
If you rock up to the first day of your Contiki tour and tell people you don’t drink you’ll immediately become the comedian of the group. At most Contiki dinners you’ll be welcomed at the door with a shot of the country’s strongest turps. Some European clubs also have a card system where you “drink now, pay later”. Yes, we think so too - massively dangerous. Choose your poison carefully.
There’s a chance you’ll be naked in front of complete strangers
The places you stay on Contiki are extremely cosy. So choose your bunk buddy strategically, because there’s a chance they’ll be seeing all sorts of you when you’re scrambling through your luggage, naked, because you can’t find any clean underwear.
You’ll need an interesting story
Whether you’re meeting your tute buddies for the first time on your first day of class or doing the obligatory “Hi, my name’s…” on Contiki, the business of introducing yourself is never fun.
What do you mean I need to share a “fun fact” about myself? Before you know it you’ll be at the front of the bus with a microphone, so start thinking before your trip.
You’ll probably get swindled
In Europe you’re not only dealing with pickpockets, but people trying to sell you things for “free”. ‘Swindlers’ are people who’ll trick you into something that is seemingly free – like a photo with them – and then will demand money. So stay alert, don’t keep anything in your back pockets and master your ‘I know what I’m doing' face.
Your Contiki family won’t always be your Contiki family
“Your Contiki family will be for life,” runs the slogan. But similar to getting put into a dreaded group assignment, the odds of everyone getting along are quite slim. Don’t let the idea of the perfect Contiki family cloud your judgement and stick to your guns if you think something isn’t right.
In saying that, you’ll need to make close mates
If you’re flying solo on the trip make sure to find some solid friends who’ll give you Panadol, an extra pair of socks or some bus snacks. The lesson? If you’re generous with your Contiki family, it’s likely you’ll get the same love in return.
You’ll lose your belongings
Those Pandora rings you got for your birthday? Leave them at home. Your brand new kicks? Leave them too. Pretty much anything you’d be devastated to lose, you’re bound to misplace or destroy amidst your Contiki travels. And if you do bring important things, for the love of God, get them insured.
You’ll be walking, perhaps even climbing, everywhere
If you want to see the views of any city and get that Instagram-worthy upload, you’ll be climbing the most treacherous stairs known to man. The Europeans are ruthless, or completely forgot to factor in gravity when they designed their buildings. Combine this with a lack of sleep and a killer hangover, it’s 10 times worse than when the elevators aren’t working at uni.
Contiki’s probably one of the best things you’ll do during your youth
While there are things we can probably be better prepared for before starting our Contiki journey, the little hiccups all become part of the memories you create. In the scheme of things, they’re miniscule next to the fun nights you’ll have, the beautiful attractions you’ll see and the experiences you may never get to live again.
Julia Sansone is a journalism student and photographer from RMIT University who is passionate about travelling the world, dog spotting and lunch breaks.