Contiki Tour or Do it Yourself? Young couple 26yrs

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Contiki Tour or Do it Yourself? Young couple 26yrs

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1. Posted by AnnaW2019 (Budding Member 2 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Hey guys,

I am after some much needed advice in planning my first trip to Oz in November.

I have booked to go on a 14 day Contiki tour up the East Coast Starting in Sydney and ending in Cairns. I have never been on a tour before, but after reading lots of reviews I am really worried that it will be full of long coach journeys and people getting drunk every night. I am only 26, as if my boyfriend and we like a drink but not every night.

I am worried it may be rushed for such a vast distance....but unsure what my other options are?

My budget is £3000 each including flights, and we are planning to be in Oz for 3/4 weeks.
- 4000 AUD excluding flights each.

I would like to end the trip in Melbourne as I have a friend there who I would love to see over Christmas. We are then planning on Flying over to New Zealand and working there for a few months.

We love hiking/chilling by the beach/swimming/snorkelling/animals and chatting to like minded people! I am open to hostels, as long as they are clean!

Thanks,

Anna :) x

[ Edit: Edited on 23-Apr-2019, at 01:38 by AnnaW2019 ]

2. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 811 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Assuming you're native English speakers (A little info on your profile really does help answer questions appropriately!) a tour is just paying someone else to do the things you can easily do yourself.
IMO buy a decent travel guide (Rough Guide or Lonely planet), Find the train/coach/bus web-sites and away you go.
There can be a reasonable argument for organised tours in countries with odd languages or different etiquette/systems but Aus isn't one of those places.

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5355 posts) 3w 1 Star this if you like it!

Quoting AnnaW2019

I have booked to go on a 14 day Contiki tour up the East Coast Starting in Sydney and ending in Cairns. I have never been on a tour before, but after reading lots of reviews I am really worried that it will be full of long coach journeys and people getting drunk every night. I am only 26, as if my boyfriend and we like a drink but not every night.

I am worried it may be rushed for such a vast distance....but unsure what my other options are?

Two weeks for such a vast distance is definitely rushed (particularly on a tour, which'll try to hit every single highlight along the way, rather than picking a few to explore more in depth), and yes, expect lots of too long coach journeys, interspersed with stops to spend 15 minutes looking at the world's third largest kangaroo statue.

I have no experience with Contiki specifically, but I don't see any reasonable way for them to be able to avoid this. If you can still cancel that booking, you'd probably be happy to do so. Australia is perfectly suited to doing everything independently, with superb public transport and backpacker infrastructure.

Honestly, given the parameters you've set out of flying into Sydney in (late?) November, spending 4 weeks maximum, and ending in Melbourne, I'd almost recommend just spending four weeks travelling solely the Sydney to Melbourne distance, except that the activities you prefer would probably be easier / nicer up north. If flights aren't booked yet, see if you can arrive in Cairns rather than Sydney? (If flights are booked already, I'm loathe to suggest extra flights due to climate impact, but I guess in this case it still makes sense to fly to Cairns first thing.) Then spend 1-2 weeks in and around Cairns, visiting Cape Tribulation, doing some Great Barrier reef activities, maybe bus up and down to Townsville / Magnetic Island so you get a bit of an impression of just how vast the East Coast is without having to sit through it all. Do this bit first, as the wet season starts in December, so the earlier you're up north, the better. Afterward, fly to Sydney, spend ~5 days there, maybe tuck on 2-3 days for the Blue Mountains if you didn't spend too much time in Cairns, train to Melbourne (a much more comfortable way to get between those two cities than the bus, with worthwhile views along the way), rent a car there, and do a week-long loop via the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians (to fulfill the hiking and wildlife requirement; be certain to see the koalas along the access road to the Cape Otway lighthouse, hike the Maits Rest rainforest trail (and in the Grampians, my favorite hike is the one up to Boronia Peak)) before ending back in Melbourne for Christmas.
Australia has been suffering massive heat waves with loads and loads of bush fires in December/January for many of the last several years, so be prepared for that, keep an eye on the local news, and don't be afraid to change your plans if need be. (But no need to worry; generally they're easy to route around.)

Quoting AnnaW2019

My budget is £3000 each including flights, and we are planning to be in Oz for 3/4 weeks.
- 4000 AUD excluding flights each.

That should be absolutely fine, but do keep an eye on how much you're spending, as money can go very swiftly, particularly in the big cities and when doing loads of activities.

Quoting AnnaW2019

We love hiking/chilling by the beach/swimming/snorkelling/animals and chatting to like minded people! I am open to hostels, as long as they are clean!

Have a look at YHA hostels in particular. They tend to be slightly more expensive, but also generally cleaner than the "average" hostel, less geared toward the party scene, and thus with a more varied crowd, including the occasional families and older travellers. I personally avoid their "flagship" hostels in the big cities as too institutional / anonymous, but their slightly less central properties and hostels in smaller cities just offer a good baseline. All of my absolute favorite hostels are independent, but when I don't want to do extensive research beforehand, YHA is the safe option.

[ Edit: Edited on 23-Apr-2019, at 11:26 by Sander ]

4. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1067 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

We booked a tour once (first European trip) and after looking around a little discovered we could do it cheaper by ourselves. We called the tour company, explained this and they cheerfully refunded our deposit and set us free. We planned the trip and went on it and our budget was enough to give us twice as long as we would have had on the tour. We also got to see what we wanted to see and stay as long as we wanted to stay. It was great . . . and this was before the Internet made travel planning so easy.

As long as you know your budget and stay within it, you are free to do whatever you like. It gives you great freedom and I highly recommend it. I don't have anything against tours and they serve a lot of purposes, but if you're on a budget and want to see a lot, they are not the best idea. If you are worried about a foreign language and don't like to deal with your own planning, they work well. You just have to decide what style suits you. We also sometimes take local tours just to get a day off driving or go someplace where neither of us wants to miss looking at any of the scenery; hence, neither of us wants to drive.

Whatever you choose to do, have a great trip.

5. Posted by AnnaW2019 (Budding Member 2 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Hey guys,

Thanks SO much for taking the time to reply.

I took all your comments on board and tried to cancel the Contiki tour and change flights. Unfortunately the fights have already been issued so I cannot change the date....

Contiki will only allow me to change the tour and not cancel, so I have opted for the the cheapest one available:

https://www.contiki.com/uk/en/destinations/australia/tours/city-to-surf-3707

So, my plan was to arrive in Sydney, do this tour for 6 days which ends in Byron Bay. Then from there we want to travel up the east cost ourselves, probably by Greyhound Coach (you can buy a ticket for around$400 I think that is unlimited) and just take each day as it comes so no rush, we may want to stop a few extra days in places we like etc...

I know we can't do it all in the time frame we have, so are you able to recommend the best places to visit on our way up to Cairns?

Fraser Island
Noosa
Arylie beach
Whitsundays
Cairns

I am then planning on staying a week in Cairns before flying to Melbourne for a week........then over to New Zealand for 3 months on a working visa!

Thanks so much in helping, it is a little daunting as I have never travelled so far away before so I really appreciate all your advice :) xx

6. Posted by CrystalMar (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Provided you have good English, you'll be absolutely fine doing it by yourselves. It'll be much less rushed, and you can tailor your plans to your own interests. Getting up and down the east coast is very easy. It's the populated part of the country, so there's no risk of you being "lost in the outback". The whole route from Sydney to Cairns is covered by regular train services, including sleepers, and fares are (from a British point of view) *very* good value. There's also bus services, but the trains are more relaxed and comfortable, and often have better views.

If you are staying more than a few nights in any one place, make sure to check out the Big4 holiday parks member card. It costs $50 for a year, and you get 10% off each stay - they've got parks all along the coast, with facilities for tents, motorhomes and various classes of holiday cabins.

You could also consider buying a big old people mover/wagon (cheaper on the fuel) or 4WD (if you want to get off the tarmac), and load it up with basic camping gear. This will save you on accommodation, and you can always sell the vehicle at the end of the visit and get back most - and sometimes all - what you paid for it. Some people do the same thing, but go for motor-homes instead, though it's a big up front cost, and they can be harder to sell on at the end. There's usually a ton of old Holden Commodore or Subaru Outback wagons going for little money that are fine for the job, and can easily be sold on. Try and get one with some rego left on it as that can be quite expensive, especially on big 4WDs (it's banded by vehicle weight). If you do need to get rego, you can buy it for just three months.

Be aware of avoiding the Dec-Mar time slot. This is the wet in far north Queensland, and it's *very* wet, as in roads-flooded-and-can't-get-in-or-out-of-town type wet.