I did my very first Contiki tour this year and, not to adhere to cliches here, but I had the time of my life. I embarked on their 14-day Asian Adventure through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia and if there’s anything I’d do over again 15 times in a heartbeat, it’s that tour.
I first heard of Contiki whilst on a tour through the Scottish Highlands, where some Aussies on my trip mentioned the company. Founded by a Kiwi but based in Anaheim, the travel company offers trips around the world for 18- to 35-year-olds seeking culture, sights, adventure, and an all-around good time.
Fast forward two years from my Scotland trip to a forlorn me, nearing college graduation and contemplating the unknown future while the all-too-familiar travel bug gnawed at my stomach. It was time for me to embark on another international adventure, I just knew it. As I started to plan, Contiki’s name fell into my head and I typed it into the search bar on my laptop. From there, I started researching the endless global opportunities that the company offered and quickly got absorbed…Next thing I knew, I was booked for a trip at the start of the new year.
My love letter to Southeast Asia can be found here (a destination ultimately chosen due to some dreamy mental images and the allure of how far you can stretch the dollar there) but for now, I’ll focus on how Contiki unquestionably made my trip the incredible experience that it was. If you’re looking to embark on your own worldly adventure, here are 5 reasons you should sign up with the travel company right now:
1. The convenience
Certainly, you could embark on any of the travel routes Contiki covers on your own at a cheaper cost than what you’ll pay for their tours – but trust me, the value you receive on a Contiki tour greatly outweighs the cash you’ll be saving on your own.
For one thing, everything is taken care of. You’re told where to meet and when and all you have to do is show up; the rest is sorted for you. Train tickets, museum fees, hotel rooms, even luggage storage…it’s literally all organized for you so you spend less time planning and more time experiencing.
When you travel on your own, there’s always a slightly nagging worry in the back of your head when you book a ticket to the next town: now what? How do I find my hostel? Am I being ripped off? Is this safe? None of that will even cross your mind on Contiki. Not to mention, you have a Trip Manager with you at all times who’s insanely knowledgeable about the places you’re visiting, so you can rest assured you’re in well-educated hands. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
2. The variety
Contiki offers tours across 6 continents, spanning every type of trip length or travel style you could want – there are trips from 3 days to 55 days (seriously), from easy pace to high energy, wintry sporty adventure to chilled-out beachy bliss. Whatever you’re looking for, Contiki likely has it. The variety alone makes it difficult to even decide which trip to take first!
One of the coolest parts about the company is how their tours offer a lot of ME Time Optionals – additional activities offered at negotiated rates (i.e. cheaper than what you’d book on your own) or else time you can dedicate to doing, well, whatever you want. Sure, there’s an abundance of planned, included activities (as it is a tour), but there are plenty of opportunities for you to make the trip what you want it to be. Contiki recognizes that this is your vacation, and they curate their trips to enable optimal chances for you to seize that and run with it.
3. The opportunity to make friends from all over the world
The tour I took had people from the U.S., England, Wales, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland on it; we started out as complete strangers and by the end of the 2 weeks, we were one big family (as in, tears were shed when we said our final goodbyes). How crazy is it that a tour group like Contiki brought together 25 people from three different continents, who would otherwise never have met?
My Contiki fam is referred to as #StickyRice because that’s what we’d yell to stick together as we attempted to maneuver insane Southeast Asian traffic. Together, we tore up dance floors, drank beers in a Cambodian rice field at sunset, sang karaoke classics at the top of our lungs in the back of a tuk-tuk at 2 AM (and promptly got told off by our trip manager because we had no clue how loud we were being – sorry, Rachel!!), and explored the world. That’s pretty special.
And hey, how cool is it to think that I now have couches to crash on in literally every major city in Australia, as well as Switzerland, the UK, and Canada?
4. The catering to solo/budget travelers
While I did my Contiki tour with a friend, about half of our group came on their own, which is something I find so incredible about what Contiki has to offer – it’s an awesome option for solo travelers. Pretty much everyone on the tour is like-minded and fun-spirited, and the Trip Managers work hard to ensure the nature of the tours are inclusive – meaning, solo traveler or not, you’ll be cruising along comfortably in no time. Plus, basically every night is one giant party.
On top of that, Contiki tours tend to be budget-conscious. The accommodations you’ll stay in are comfortable yet economical and your Trip Manager is well-versed on all sorts of local dining and entertainment options at every price.
You may find times in your life when the travel bug infects you so hard that your passport is practically gluing itself to your hand, begging to be put to use. But it’s not always easy to find someone to take off on a worldly adventure with; friend A can’t get the time off work, friend B hasn’t saved up for it, friend C says -insert excuse here-. So honestly? Book a Contiki trip! Go alone. Having experienced one of their tours for myself, I’d happily sign up solo if my trusted travel companion wasn’t available.
After all, as our Trip Manager said, with Contiki you’re never alone (*cue cheesy bout of “awwww!”s from the crowd*).
This is Contiki’s slogan and it’s the motto I think every travel experience should adhere to. I returned from my Southeast Asian adventure aching all over, sleep-deprived, and with a pitiful balance in my bank account. But I wouldn’t change any of that for the world. Ever.
My trip with Contiki was adventurous and eye-opening and chaotic and social all rolled into one and I can honestly say that I don’t regret one thing about it. I love Contiki’s philosophy and I’m anxiously counting down the days to my next trip with them.
The question is…where to next?