My first experience of Contiki and why it’s the perfect jump into solo travelling

I’ve written about my solo travel adventures before (and almost definitely will do again) but I thought today I’d focus on my first ever solo-ish trip. Because if I hadn’t taken the jump into taking it, there’s a chance I never would have started exploring properly on my own. Which also means this blog might not have ever been created either!

My first ever venture into solo travelling was a trip to Paris for New Year’s Eve in 2016. I wasn’t nervous when I initially booked the trip, but as the days moved past (all three of them – it was a very last minute decision) I started to wonder if I was brave enough to do it after all.

But I didn’t need to worry – from checking into my hotel the night before the trip in London for the welcoming meeting to sleeping on the coach on the way home, every single moment of my Contiki trip was amazing. And these are all of the reasons why you should (strongly!) consider Contiki if you want to venture into solo travel, too.

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It’s easy to arrange

I think one of the scariest parts of booking a trip on your own is the fear of forgetting something. Whether it’s your airport transfer, remembering your EHIC card or even worse, your passport, there’s no one to fall back on if you’re travelling solo. But Contiki takes everything you need to know and presents it to you in an easy to read format, meaning nothing can be left behind or forgotten. They arrange everything from transfers to meals and accommodation, and also some of the daily plans. It takes all of the stress away so you can focus on the fun bits – you literally just need to get onto the coach.

There’s lots of structure

Before you embark on your Contiki trip you’ll be given an itinerary. Although nothing is truly compulsory (aside making sure you’re on the coach at the right times) the variety and amount of activities involved make sure you get the most out of your adventure. The trip is arranged to make sure you see all of the top sights as well as some lesser-known spots, so you never need to worry about wandering around lost, on your own.

But there’s also time to explore alone

Most of the time on a Contiki trip is filled with activities, but there’s also a chance to go off and explore the rest of the area on your own. Most days included an element of free time, so if there’s something you’re desperate to see then you can still squeeze it in. Some of the extras included on a Contiki trip have an additional cost, and although these are great, you don’t have to do them. In Paris, we got the chance to see Moulin Rouge cabaret (discounted – but still just under €100) which was amazing but not everyone came along. And that was fine; they got to spend a few hours exploring the city and we got to see cabaret (with many, many bottles of champagne) for the night.

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The trip leaders know everything

One requirement from trip leaders and coach drivers is to know everything about the area they’re leading around – which should be a given, but isn’t necessarily with other tour companies (so I’ve heard). This is a great perk to travelling with Contiki for a few reasons. First, it means if you’re looking for dinner recommendations then you know you’ll be getting an authentic answer, rather than something scripted from hotel staff. It’s also great on the slim (or maybe not so slim) chance you get lost – the leader can probably redirect you back to where you need to be. And let’s not even get started on the pure skill of the coach drivers – I was in awe on multiple occasions watching Simon (our coach driver around Paris) navigate the smallest turnings and huge roundabouts.

It’s impossible not to make friends

From having a ‘few’ drinks after the welcoming meeting (and being disgustingly hungover on the coach the next day) to sharing a room with someone you’ve only just met, it’s virtually impossible not to make friends on a Contiki trip. You’ll be sharing a room with minimum one person – unless you choose to upgrade to your own room – which gives you a great chance to make a friend without even trying. What with spending hours on a coach with other travellers, you’ll be able to get talking to almost everyone at least once. On the journey to Paris, my trip leader Anne-Elyse (who was amazing!) made everyone get up and swap places in a form of speed-dating so we’d all be comfortable with each other.

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You get to see more of the country

Flying is great, sure, but sometimes you can end up seeing more of the airport than the rest of the place you’re visiting. Especially if it’s only a fleeting visit, you don’t want to be spending hours and hours waiting for a flight. My Contiki trip was conducted purely by coach (and ferry, across the Channel) which meant we got to see the outskirts of Paris and also Belgium as we drove through. It took longer than flying, but it was far more interesting

It’s budget but comfortable

Our hotel was a budget one but had everything we needed. Breakfast was free and delicious, and the beds were comfy and the rooms big enough. One thing I was slightly concerned about was the comfort of the coach, but it wasn’t a problem at all. The coaches have plug sockets and wifi, and the seats even recline a bit. They’re not five stars, but they’re big enough to have a nap on – important for someone like me who does not deal well with tiredness!

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The enthusiasm is everywhere

You’re surrounded by people who want to travel and explore the world and have many stories of their own to share. You’e encouraged to branch out and have fun, and there are always people around to share your new experiences with. From bar crawls, to picking the ‘song of the holiday’ and more, there was never a dull moment on my Contiki trip.

My trip only lasted for a few days but I’ve been desperate to take another one ever since! Have you taken a Contiki trip before, or if not, would you consider it? Let me know in the comments!

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