Guided Tours of Europe

Travel Forums Europe Guided Tours of Europe

1. Posted by farleyUL (Full Member 125 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Has anyone had any experience with companies like Contiki that offer guided tours of Europe? What are your opinions about them and what are some other ones other than Contiki? Thanks!

2. Posted by TravelMc (Full Member 93 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!


I did a contiki a couple of years ago. They have a reputation for being a boozing shagging travel fest and I can say the boozing part was dead on but the horrors that go with lots of hormonal travellers sleeping around never materialised on my bus. It was fantastic. I looked into the competition tours (in particular Top Deck) but contiki provided the tour I wanted so I booked that - the 2 week euro experience. Everyone got on really really well - we even had 2 couples on their honeymoon who had done the lovey dovey part and were seeing a bit of Europe before heading home to settle down to married life!
I would highly recommend a trip with Contiki or any company that offers these type of tours. You can tell the good ones - they all have very professional brochures and websites and you get a 'feel' for the type of language they use to promote their tours and can tell the ones who run a good service. Top Deck and Contiki are the two main ones I had heard of before I started travelling though so start out investigating these ones just to get an idea of whats on offer. Bear in mind that you have to pay for 2 meals a day for the whole trip (though some dinners are part of the package) and if you have special dietary requirements expect them to have a few hiccups with them (but nothing major I shouldn't think - they wont feed you peanuts knowing you have an allergy). Be aware that whoever you travel with will cart you to certain places to buy your souvenirs because they have arrangements with these companies. Saves you wasting your precious time looking for special shops - you can get on with enjoying each stop! You will also probably have to keep some cash in reserve to tip your driver and your guide. This is the one thing that really peeved off everyone on my bus. The guide tells you that you should pay a tip and then suggests and amount per day which mounts up. A good guide would just say 'feel free to tip us if you think we did a good job'. Our guide whined about how they don't make much money for the job and went on for 5 minutes. She also made a couple of big errors in planning that meant we had to miss one part of our tour and still expected a 30 euro tip from each of us. Needless to say she didn't get it. No one had sympathy for their pay packet when they considered they got free tours of Europe every day of the week includng accommodation and food!
Do note that you don't have to tip - and if you think they only deserve a 5er then just give them that!
But on the whole you will love it. If you like meeting people, don't have a huge amount of time but do have a long list of places you want to see its the way to go.
I swore I would only ever see Rome if it was on a tour and I couldn't avoid it (because I had only heard really bad stories from fellow travellers who had been). But I loved it and being in the relatively secure environment of a tour group may me feel so much more relaxed that I probably enjoyed it much more than I would have if I had gone off my own bat! :)


3. Posted by farleyUL (Full Member 125 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!


Awesome advice, I really appreciate it and will definitely take it into consideration. We're not planning on going until next summer so there's plenty of time to research and plan. Sounds like you need to budget several hundred more euros than the price they charge you so you can pay for meals and tips. Thanks again!

4. Posted by coldwarspy (Travel Guru 1108 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Hi There
I have done one in Ireland and ill never do one again!
It was good only to get to the old Celtic sites that arent reachable by any public transport.

But it seems to me you loose all the fun of travel, the adventure, the stress and the reward of getting somewhere by thinking of how to yourself. Sometimes the most fun iv had is being 'stuck' and tryin to get THERE but cant find the the end you always get THERE and its a reward to know u did it urself (or with other like-minded backpackers) and the most interesting people you meet are the locals along the way...

whether stuck in a Hungarian border town pub waitin for the next local train to transylvania, hitchhiking thru the Latvian wilderness, or partyin with local Turks in Istanbul raves...all these adventures iv had and wouldnt ever had them with a guided tour.

and besides, wouldnt u get tired of the same peeps every night drinking with? and travelling?

5. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

I've never done Contiki or a similar tour, but I know something about guided tours. I hate them. I will only take them if there is no other option (Lybia), if i'm really pressed for time and want to do as much as possible or the deal just can't be beaten.

The one time I voluntarily went on a guided tour was in Turkey - one week in 4-5 star hotels with full board and a tourbus and guide leading on a trip all over the country. Price: 230 EUR.

Price of the flights alone, had I done this myself: 190 EUR. Prices of the hotel rooms, had I checked in at the front desk as a single traveller: 110 EUR/per night. 6 x 110 = 660; 660 + 190 = 850 EUR just for flights and hotel! Can you see why I couldn't resist?

So I was hard pressed to complain, yet I would have loved more freedom. I definitely would have seen more of Turky had I done this myself. (Which is why i'm going back in August.)

Other guided tours I've gone on were schooltrips, and you know how it is - I never got to see and do on them what I really wanted. It only took one schooltrip to London for me to realise that I really wasn't cut out to be a package tourist. The strict schedule felt like a yoke to me. If I saw something and really wanted to learn more about it, the schedule usually didn't allow me to do my own thing. I had to follow the group, no matter what I thought or wanted. Really annoying.

So I guess it depends on you - what do you want on a holiday? New experiences yes/no, willing to work for it yes/no? Stubborn and sturrish, strongminded individual set to do your own thing no matter what, or easy going, pushover person to whom having steady company outweighs all possible disadvantages?

6. Posted by nikkij (Budding Member 7 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

I did two Contiki tours - one of the Greek Islands (which was a cruise for 6-7 days) and one of Europe - 28 days.

The benefits of the tour were, as a first time overseas traveller, I wasn't by myself trying to find my way in a foreign country. I got to see almost everything I wanted to in a short amount of time, and the price is alot cheaper than if I had done it myself.

But I agree with the other poster about the tour guides whining about tips. Our tour guides did it too - and quite often - but they were so annoying that hardly anyone tipped.

Which brings me to the drawbacks - make sure you research each city thoroughly before you get there - they do have certain places they take you to as they get tips, and it does waste some time, where you can go elsewhere. For example, I wanted a leather jacket in Florence and they took us to a place that was quite expensive, however I found the jacket I wanted at a small shop across the street and half the price the "Contiki" store was selling it.

One of the other annoying things about our tour was the fact that everyone goes to Paris to go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa - we missed it (and it was our first stop) because of stuff ups by the tour guides. We also had other stuff ups with our cruises from Corfu to Venice etc, and this caused us to miss a day in Venice - so only 1 day instead of 2.

But for a first time traveller, I highly recommend the Contiki tours, as long as you go in forewarned. I can't wait to get back to Europe again, but will avoid at all costs doing another tour, as I have seen the main sites, and just want to concentrate on getting entrenched in the culture.


7. Posted by nisansala (Budding Member 10 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Hi! I did the London to Athens (budget) tour last year, and I a had a GREAT time!!

My tour guide was amazing (didnt complain about being paid very little). He made us maps of all the cities with tourist attractions highlighted. He also give us a info sheet about each city with tips, great places to see/eat, emergency numbers and phrases in the local language. Deffinately made things a lot easier.

You'll meet lots of amazing people from all over the world and party a LOT. My tour was very diverse, so if you didn't feel like partying that night, there were always people to hang out with. You do get some free time, so you can do/see whatever you want. The food they provided was actually pretty good. it was nice to have a home cooked style meal everyday. The "cabins" we stayed in were pretty good. On my tour, the worst were in paris, the best were in florence.

I think the main con of a contiki tour is time. A lot of the cities, you only got about 1.5 days in each city. This is enough time to see all the main sights usually, but you don't get to experience it much. I did meet some locals, however not as much if I had not been on a tour. The places they take you are somtimes a waste of time (that leather shop). the accomidations are a bit out of the way, so it makes it more difficult if you want to go somewhere without the group.

Hope that helps!!