Contiki

Is Contiki Right for You?

As you may know, my recent trip to Ecuador was with Contiki Vacations, the world’s leading provider of youth travel. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I generally avoid tours like the plague.

In either case, you’re probably wondering: Did my first Contiki change my view of organized group travel and, if so, to what extent? The goal of today’s post is to address these questions, and others you might have if you’re considering a trip with Contiki.

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Things I Loved About My Contiki

 

I’m a chronic solo traveler and while I appreciate the freedom solo travel offers, I can’t say I don’t get lonely. That was definitely not the case on my Contiki. I can say, without a shadow of doubt, that my favorite part of traveling with Contiki was the great company doing so allowed me to keep.

All of my fellow travelers were interesting, intelligent and kind people I now consider to be good friends. My Galapagos tour guides, Angel and Daniel, and tour manager Maria managed to perfectly bridge the gap between professional and personable, making me not only feel safe and well-informed, but also well-taken care of and, most importantly, cared about.

Another thing I loved about traveling with Contiki is that every moment was spent doing something awesome, whether I was snorkeling with sharks in the Galapagos, riding a historical train through the Andes or looking out onto the Ecuadorian capital from more than a mile up. When I travel solo, I don’t have anyone to motivate me when I’m feeling lazy or uninspired, and Contiki did a great job of making sure I was always doing something and always enthusiastic to do it.

Things I Could’ve Done With Out

 

The flipside of my jam-packed Contiki itinerary is that I often found myself wanting to sleep a couple extra hours, or thirsty to explore a particular city or region (as I did in Baños) more, but not having the time or energy to do so. If I could re-design my Contiki itinerary, I’d add more days (maybe increasing it to 14 or 15, instead of 11) and build in more free time.

In the case of Ecuador, this would not only allow travelers more time to get to know the country on their own terms, but also allow them to feel comfortable being alone someplace that is traditionally considered dangerous. To be sure, although I’ve traveled in South America independently on several occasions, I found myself as terrified as a first-timer exploring Quito after 11 days with a group, even if it was a great, great group.

Things I’m On the Fence About

 

I applaud my tour manager Maria, her infectious enthusiasm notwithstanding, for how consistently she managed the logistics of our trip. Things didn’t always go exactly as planned (they never do in Latin America!), but Maria kept 18 people, many of whom were as young and energetic as the guinea pigs we feasted on in Baños, more or less on the same page, which seems an impossible feat on the surface.

One thing that wasn’t quite as consistent as Maria’s leadership was the quality of accommodation on the trip. Contiki isn’t a luxury travel company, and as a perpetual backpacker I consider my standards to be pretty realistic, but while some of the places we slept we four-star hotels, others were dingy backpacker hostels lacking basic amenities like hot water and Wi-Fi. Contiki’s rate for the Galapagos trip is fair, but I don’t think every place we slept was commensurate with this price point.

Another point on which I’m divided has to do with the age discrepancies between members on the group, which spanned Contiki’s entire advertised range, from 18-35. On one hand, the older people (myself included) were usually keen to do their own thing (i.e. sleeping) while the younger ones partied the night away.

On the other hand, this created a rift between certain members of the group, even if it was a mostly benign one. I would have to go on another Contiki to say for sure, but I can’t say the thought of Contiki’s age range being too broad didn’t cross my mind.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the positives of Contiki outweigh the negatives by a meaningful margin. My Contiki experience allowed me to travel in one of the most incredible parts of the world, in the company of amazing fellow travelers and travel professionals, doing something exciting and fulfilling every single day at a value that, in this region of the world anyway, is almost unheard of.

The beauty of Contiki is that it’s structured and “safe” enough for newbie travelers to feel comfortable almost immediately, but provides options activities and excursions for thrill-seeking pros like me. In like with Contiki’s #NOREGRETS motto, I have absolutely no regrets about traveling with Contiki.

If you’re considering a Contiki for yourself, I would use a few criteria to decide. First and foremost, are you a confident, independent traveler? If you are, a Contiki might be a tiny bit too structured for you, although being in the company of other young people is indeed amazing and, as I mentioned, optional excursions will keep you stimulated.

Secondly, what is the price on your Contiki as compared with what your research indicates the price on independent travel would be? I generally suggested budgeting between 75-150 USD per day in Europe, for example, so if you’re considering a European Contiki, you might see if its price-per-day falls in this range to ascertain relative value.

Finally, do the dates of the Contiki match up with when you are able to travel? After answering these questions, you should know pretty clearly whether or not a Contiki is right for you.

Or maybe, you’ve already taken a Contiki? If so, I would love to read your impressions in the comments below.

About The Author

is the author of 732 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhiannon February 12, 2014 at 5:07 am

There are lots of negative blogs on contiki, it is great to read one that so clearly states what you thought was the positive and not so positive sides. As a newbie traveller myself and contemplating incorporating a contiki trip into my travels, this was great to read. Thanks!

Robert Schrader February 13, 2014 at 4:12 am

Thanks for the comment Rhiannon! Please let me know if you have any more questions and also, keep reading!

Naomi July 2, 2014 at 11:16 am

I echo the comment below, I’ve travelled a fair bit before but like you mentioned, it can get lonely. I read so many bad comments about contiki I was really considering whether I should reconsider spending the money to do this. Thank you for such a well written and balanced view!

Robert Schrader July 2, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Thanks for reading!

Avrilia August 7, 2014 at 7:07 am

Thanks for the review! I am contemplating in taking the trip with contiki this year, how diverse was the group that you were in? (nationalities etc). I am always excited when I’m in a group of people with different nationalities, as from my experience cultural diversity helped a lot in connecting with other people, open mindedness etc. Sometimes I feel intimidated when travelling with a group of people where the majority are coming from the same country (esp. the native english speaking countries, as myself being a non-native english speaker). this is just my personal experience.., great post btw.

Robert Schrader August 7, 2014 at 7:53 am

The group was not that diverse in terms of nationalities (there was just U.S., Australian and British) or racially, now that I look back. There was one Asian guy and the rest were white! What’s interesting is that the 18-24s and 24-35s all tended to stick together.

Aiko October 12, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Hi
I need feedback on this service http://galapagosinformation.com/

Know him? My friends told me that was excellent. a second opinion?

Robert Schrader October 13, 2014 at 6:59 am

I don’t know him personally, but his prices are high!

Jasmine January 19, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Hello there,
I have been planning my first travel trip to Europe through Contiki. But recently I’ve become very nervous because although I am 20, will be 21 right before this trip, I am not a huge partier like college kids my age. I’ve also never been to Europe and this is my first big traveling trip solo. I’m worried that I’m going to get stuck on a trip and not be researched enough to go completely out on my own while everybody else is partying. I’m worried I’m making a mistake with Contiki
Please help

Robert Schrader January 20, 2015 at 7:52 am

Hi Jasmine:

I don’t think you’re making a huge mistake with Contiki. There are bound to be some old folks like me on your trip – just hang out with them and you’ll be good!

gringo al SUR December 2, 2015 at 9:08 am

Hi, if you are really serious about exploring the real Ecuador and like some of you say are not a party fanatic, allow me to help you. I have been living here for 6 years, married with an Ecuadorian woman, speak both English and Spanish perfectly, have lived in new Zealand for 15 years (so I know the kiwis). My name is Pierre, I am from Belgium. I am the owner of a web site dedicated to the southern part of the country which in my view is the most interesting and least known. That is where I live in a small place called Vilcabamba. The site is http://www.todoloja.com. I am not an organization like Contiki. My aim is to get genuinely interested people to these underrated places that abound around here, help them find accommodation, contacts and whatever they need, accompany them … Ecuador is a place of adventure where nobody ever knows for sure what’s coming next. One has to be open and free to let the magic do its tricks and flow with the flow which is somehow incompatible with organized tours. Prices are not high here which is good in these times of crisis. Trip from NZ for example is not that hard with LAN direct to Santiago and then a short hop to Guayaquil. I have done it several times, much easier than NZ – Europe for example. People are great especially in the country where they haven’t seen a gringo yet and Ecuador is not dangerous at all. Take a look at the web site and contact me through the contact page or facebook. I am looking for some opportunity to do business with people who want to visit this beautiful part of the world. Cheers.

Alex Scott July 9, 2016 at 3:44 am

Hi,

Thanks for your review. I was wondering if you had ever heard of Nature Galapagos and Ecuador Tours? I would really like to go to the Galapagos, but tend to be a little introverted, so am a little worried about traveling with a large social group like Contiki seems to attract?

Robert Schrader July 20, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I’ve unfortunately never heard of those companies…

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