** I’ve put a star next to some information as every Travel Insurance company is different. Some cover you for this or that whereas others will only pay you back a certain amount depending on what type of insurance you bought.
If you’ve booked travel, book Travel Insurance!!
I always hear about people booking their flights and all their accommodation but will sort out their travel insurance “later on”
The thing with travel insurance is that it protects you as soon as you’ve booked it – meaning if you break your leg or suddenly get really sick and you’re not allowed to fly then your travel insurance will cover you* and then hopefully you can fly at a later date and not have to pay those outrageous airline fees.
Even if you don’t need to make a claim when you get back, at least you’re not worrying about medical bills or anything while you’re exploring South East Asia or the City of Rome. My Dad is currently in Thailand and is quite sick at the moment so that’s what made me think of writing this type of blog. He was talking to my mother yesterday – worrying about not being able to catch his flights back to New Zealand at the end of the week in case he was too sick but wasn’t sure if Insurance would cover him. (Turns out they will if he provides a medical certificate stating he can’t fly)
When Can Travel Insurance Cover Me?:
Apart from situations like that of my Dads, Travel Insurance companies can cover you if the airline looses your bags. They can provide or refund you with money* if you have to go out and buy new clothes or toiletries as well as any medication that may be in your bags that you need in an emergency. If your bags are completely lost, you’ll have to report it before you leave the airport. Usually your Travel Provider will try and get you to seek compensation with the Airline first before going to them as they are the ones that lost your bags!
Side Note: I would never put medicine I desperately needed in my checked-in bags purely because of this happening.
If you have a medical emergency in another country, travel insurance can cover you if you need to go to the hospital or end up needing to go to the doctors for antibiotics etc.
I can’t stress enough that if you’re ever travelling to the USA, Take out Travel Insurance!!
Health care costs so much in America as they spend more than any other country on things like drugs and equipment. Doctors earn more in the U.S so that’s why lots of suppliers charge more for medical equipment than they do anywhere else. Americans also receive more medical care than other countries. If someone needs their gall bladder removed or heart surgery than they’re much more likely to get it done in the states so when foreigners come over and suddenly need surgery it costs an absolute fortune!
When you’re in a developing country like Vietnam, Cambodia or Samoa, many hospitals will admit you without asking if you have coverage or any type of insurance. Once you’re all fixed up and ready to go, they won’t let you leave until you pay up. This is where your Insurance Provider comes in and acts as an advocate so you’re not over-charged and can get all the payment sorted.
If your passport or wallet are stolen (Which is one of the most annoying-est things to happen!) you can claim for the replacement costs to get you back on the road. If it happens, you have to make a report to the police first and then when you go to make a claim, you’ll need to send your receipts for passport processing fees, the additional travel expenses, accommodation expenses and copies of all documentation to prove that it did happen.
If you need to cancel your trip due to illness, you may be able to be partly refunded (or fully refunded if you’re lucky) for your flights or ‘change of date’ fees. If you’ve already booked accommodation, it’s best to let them know ASAP as some let you cancel within 48 hours for no charge.
Natural Disasters do happen from time to time too, so Travel Insurance may cover you if you need to suddenly come home or actually can’t come home because planes aren’t flying. Obviously you can’t suddenly get Travel Insurance once the natural disaster has happened…
With everything going on in the world at the moment, Terrorist incidents are occurring more and more often. If something has happened in the city where you were planning on visiting and you want to cancel your trip your Travel Insurance Provider may cover you for flight changes and accommodation if it’s a major threat.
It must be noted however that many policies only cover you for your trip if an act of terrorism occurs in the specific country you’re traveling to or from. If your destinations isn’t really near where anything is happening you may not be covered.
Travel Insurance Advice:
I’d recommend only taking out Travel Insurance if you were going on an actual TRIP.
By this, I mean:
If you’re travelling for a long period of time
You’re staying in hotels for a long period
You’re going to a place you’d never been to before far away from home
You have luggage with you that has some spendy stuff in it
Your destination isn’t know to be particularly safe (In terms of stuff getting stolen and the roads are mayhem)
If you have a complex itinerary and may miss connecting flights or tours if something were to happen
And your whole trip maybe costs more than $3,000.
If you’re travelling from Auckland to Wellington in New Zealand on a $39 Grabaseat Flight than I wouldn’t even bother. Most likely the airline will put you on another flight free of charge if your flight gets cancelled and they should be able to cover your luggage costs if your bag gets lost*
Check before you buy if you already have Insurance. Some credit cards you have include travel insurance already but always check that the cover is sufficient for your needs. The ‘free’ insurance they provide can sometimes be very basic and not cover everything.
Also, if you already have Home Owners Insurance or Contents Insurance you may be able to get a discount through the Insurance Provider you already have for some Travel Insurance. (Did I say Insurance enough in that sentence?)
Compare before you buy!
If you’re booking your holiday through a travel agent, they’ll most likely try and sell you travel insurance as well. The only thing is, it nearly always costs more than what you could buy yourself online or through the provider directly.
If it’s easier and takes the hassle out of everything than sure – go ahead. Just make sure you go over all the fine print before hand.
Speaking of Fine Print, make sure you know your excess and what is and isn’t covered. This is the biggest complaint I hear from people and read online. They bring a Tablet with them on holiday which costs $500 and when it gets stolen they end up having to pay a $400 excess and then their provider only ends up giving them $200 towards a new one because that’s how much they claim it’s “worth” now.
Also, if you’ve gotten something stolen overseas, make sure you get a police report that says it’s been stolen and where from! I read about a couple that went overseas and someone’s laptop got stolen but the police wrote down ‘they left it’ somewhere so they weren’t covered because the Insurance Provider said it was their fault.
Some Providers won’t cover you for sports like Bungy-Jumping, Skiing or Snowboarding so this would be a good thing to discuss with your insurer beforehand.
If you’re going to South East Asia, you’re usually not covered if you ride a scooter. Way too many accidents happen with people falling off scooters and majorly grazing their legs because they decided to wear a skirt and flip flops. I think most Insurance Companies have written in their policy that you won’t be covered for riding Scooters or Motorbikes anymore.
Keep EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF PAPER you need to claim back. That means receipts from the hospital/doctors visit. Receipts from medication you had to get. Hotels you had to stay at because your flight was cancelled etc…
How Much Should I Spend?:
I found that the cost of Travel Insurance really makes a difference depending on where you’re going and how long you’re going for.
When I got insurance for my Round-The-World Trip, as soon as I selected online I was going to The States than the price went up majorly!
If you’re looking at Travel Insurance from New Zealand, there’s a website called Travel Insurance Compare where you put in your destination, how long you’re going for and also what type of trip it is (Single, multi sector, cruise etc.) and it shows you quotes from a few different Insurance Providers.
The only thing I found with this website however, is that it doesn’t quote all NZ Insurance Providers, only a select few. So it’s best to do more research online.
I found Southern Cross to be quite useful. The have 24 hour worldwide emergency assistance and their website is really easy to use. Just put in where you’re going and how old you are to get a quick quote. If you book online, it’s much cheaper than calling them up too.
I made a claim with them and it was really easy to do. Just e-mailed them and sent in my receipts.
I’ve read Travel Insurance Direct is really good too.
They pay Unlimited Overseas Medical Expenses and Unlimited Cancellation Costs and Additional Expenses from what it says on their website. I might look into using them next time I go on holiday 🙂
I’ve only made a claim once and that was recently on my trip through the UK and Europe. I was with Southern Cross at the time and paid about $360 for a 3 month cover which included the USA, UK, Europe, Middle East & Asia.
When I was on a Tour on my travels, I was sick pretty much half the time with bad Bronchitis so ended up having to go to the doctors in the UK and spent about 100 Pounds all up on the doctors and antibiotics. (That’s about NZD $215)
When I was in Croatia I also jammed my thumb in a door on the Party Cruise I was doing (Whilst drunk I’ll admit) and went to hospital just for them to bandage it up for $3,000 Kuna (NZD $660)
Crazy I know! They didn’t even give me painkillers, but they did do X-rays etc which I really didn’t need. The things you do when you’re intoxicated and you think your thumb is going to fall off…
When I got home, I had a $100 excess (Which I figured out was PER claim) so had to pay $200 excess and then they paid me back around $600 dollars or whatever the exchange rate was at the time.
I know some New Zealanders get Insurance when they travel to Australia (Which is great to have for some things) but I remember I went to Melbourne for a week and ended up going to the hospital Accident & Emergency and didn’t end up having to pay anything.
I was originally worried about payment but the Receptionist there told me that I wouldn’t have to pay anything because Like New Zealand, Australia has both public and private health care systems. So Australian taxpayers fund the public health system just like we fund ours over here and as a New Zealander in Australia we’re allowed free emergency hospital care but any doctor visits etc… you’ll have to pay for. Unless you have a Medicare Card which you can get if you move to Australia.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about these two tour companies for ages! When I was in the stages of planning my trip around the world, I knew I wanted to do a tour across the states but I was having a hard time deciding what one. I’d heard so many different views from people but it was always the same. Friends who went on Top Deck recommended it as “the best thing ever!!” whereas Contiki go-ers loved their trip “Soooo much!!”
I decided to go on both to find out which one I enjoyed more.
I allocated myself just over a month in the USA. I wanted to start my travels on the West Coast of America in August so I could experience some of their Summer time.
I looked into Contiki Tours first. They aim their tours at people aged 18-35 years old. For their American & Canadian tours they had a selection of 34 different trips to choose from with lots of different tour dates which suited me really well.
They have 6 different types of tours that you can do around the USA & Canada.
Discovery Plus – See the best parts of each place you visit while staying in hotels
High Energy – Explore during the day and party it up at night!
In-Depth Explorer – 2 night stays in most places so you can explore more + more free time
Easy Pace – Slower, more relaxed seeing only a few of the states.
Festivals & Short Stays – Pretty much what it says. Shorter trips focused on one thing like Las Vegas for New Years or 4 Days in New York.
Winter & Ski – Skiing & Snowboarding activities, Zip-lining and Snowmobiles are included on trips like these.
I was tossing up between the ‘High Energy‘ and the ‘Easy Pace’ type of trip. Basically the Easy Pace is where you get to have a sleep-in most mornings and than board a plane to your next destination. It’s quicker I guess to see each city but then I felt like you wouldn’t really ‘get to know’ your Contiki group on a plane compared to the 6-8 hour bus rides you can do instead. (They sound boring but you get that much needed sleep)
In the end I chose the High Energy style tour. Which included…
Twin Share Hotel accommodation (or a room to yourself if you pay extra)
Breakfast every day
Trip Manager & Coach Driver
Air Conditioned Coach – you drive across the USA
Included Activities & Some sightseeing toursThis is more for travelers who want to see as much as possible as their trips range from 8 days to 26 days
Don’t worry if you don’t want to just do the States! Contiki also have tours around Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia & New Zealand.
For the Europe trips, if you’re on a Budget they also have Camping trips where you stay in tents with 1 other person (Of the same sex) or opt to pay a bit more for a single person tent.
Top Deck has similar style trips as well which include staying in Hotels, Camping, Winter trips and Club trips to suit what you want to do.
I looked into their American trips, specifically their Road Trip USA tour that went for 28 days which started in LA and finished in New York but decided on doing a Contiki in the end.
Looking back, I’m not sure which made up my mind…the Top Deck tour went for longer and it was cheaper than the Contiki. Hmm..
What I decided for America
I embarked on a 26 day tour with Contiki called The Grand Southern– starting in Los Angeles.
I made sure to spend 5 days in Los Angeles beforehand at a hostel because once the tour starts, you leave LA immediately and won’t have any time to explore.
(I’d recommend 3 days at least in LA so you can do Theme Parks, Hollywood Sign, Bus Tour etc)
I took an Uber from my hostel to the Kyoto Hotel** the night before the Contiki started and attended a brief orientation with our tour manager and the rest of the group.
You don’t have to go to this, but it’s beneficial as you can give all your passport information and next-of-kin info to your group leader and don’t have to worry about it in the morning.
It’s fun too because you get to meet everyone that you’re going to be travelling with and then head out for some drinks etc.
** – Please note that the Kyoto Hotel is now called DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel
I’ve already written a day-by-day blog on everything I did on my Contiki which you can start to read about here.
My Thoughts on Contiki
The trip on the website promised…
“An experienced & professional Trip Manager & Driver team”
We defiantly got this, I absolutely loved our Manager and our Driver. In my head, I assumed the driver would literally just be driving us places and not saying much at all.
The very first day he stood at the front of the bus and explained the rules of the bus (No hot food, no hot drinks, no dairy on the bus, no using the bathroom unless for absolute emergencies)
I think a few people thought he was way too strict throughout the trip but I’m glad he was as the bus didn’t smell like hot food or urine like I can imagine some to be.
He had a rule where you had to be on the bus by the allocated time every morning to leave for our next destination and if you weren’t on the bus he’d leave without you.
He was true to his word and we left someone in Memphis!
When I did Top Deck they were a bit more relaxed about it but it did get annoying when you were always having to wait for someone and then got to your destination way later than you wanted to.
Lateness = Less time in cool places
“32 meals: 19 breakfasts & 13 dinner”
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but throughout the 26 days we had some great dinners. When I read that we’d be getting dinner included in the cost of the Contiki (for some of the days) I was a bit disappointed. I wanted to go out and choose my own food and pick what I wanted to eat that night!
It ended up being great though. Whenever we were going to be arriving at our destination, we’d have a sheet our tour manager would hand out on the bus a couple of days before with about 5 different options of meals to order at the restaurant we’d be going to. We’d write our name down and what we wanted to eat so they could serve it up really quickly when we arrived.
The best meal I can remember was from Ellens Southern Kitchen in Dallas, Texas.
I had Buttermilk Fried Chicken which was fresh organic marinated chicken, fried crispy and served with broccoli and sweet potato fries.
You got Breakfast at pretty much each destination too. Some were a bit mediocre but most places did bagels, oatmeal, cereals, toast etc…
A list of Inclusions (Things included on the trip)
We did an Evening tour of the famous Vegas ‘Strip’
We Visited Fremont Street & saw the light-and-laser show in Las Vegas
We got into groups and did the Vegas strip in a limo with champagne
Non-stop nightlife (You can be out as late as you want, just as long as you’re back on the bus by a certain time in the morning)
Stopped for photos & souvenirs in pretty much each state we were in.
Hiked along the Canyon’s South Rim
Drove through the Rocky Mountains
Visited Old Town Albuquerque
Visited the unusual outdoor tribute to the American automobile at ‘Cadillac Ranch’ and got to spray paint old Cadillac’s.
Experienced Big Texan culture & food.
Visited the infamous John F. Kennedy Sixth Floor Museum
Visited Fort Worth Stockyards
Mingled with cows and cowboys in this rodeo town in Texas.
And much more!
ME Time Options
Contiki has these ‘extras’ you can sign up for on the trip. A piece of paper is passed around the bus before you get to the next destination and it has written down all the ‘ME Time Options’ you can do.
On the Grand Southern Tour, we got to sign up for activities such as…
Cirque du’ Soleil show in Vegas – AWESOME by the way!
High Roller Day Pass
Grand Canyon Biking (seasonal)
Helicopter Flight of the Grand Canyon- Imperial
Snowmobiles – Single or Double Rider (seasonal)
Horse Back Trail Ride (Seasonal)
Hot Air Balloon over Albuquerque
Cowboy Stadium Tour (including transportation)
Rock & Soul Museum
Visit the legendary Sun Studios
School of Cooking in New Orleans
Airboat Swamp Tour
Miami Party Cruise
Bike tour of South Beach
Thriller speed boat ride in Miami
Speedway Tour in Daytona
I didn’t do all of these but overall everything I did do I enjoyed.
You don’t pay for anything until your tour finishes which ended up being easier otherwise your tour manager always has to chase you up for your money and then it gets confusing remembered who has and hasn’t paid for what.
At the beginning of your trip you get given a list of all the ME time activities you can do and the prices next to it so you always know from the beginning how much you’ll be spending.
I’ll say this now, if you have the money, try and sign up for as many activities as you can!
Even if it’s not really your thing, you could end up having such an awesome time because of the people you’re doing the trip with. Also, it’s no fun sitting in your hotel room while everyone else goes out on these cool adventures.
Shared Accommodation in Hotels
For the accommodation you’re paired up with 1 other same-sex partner on your Contiki. (You don’t choose unless pre-arranged beforehand I think) and they’re your room-buddy for the whole trip. Obviously if you’re travelling with your partner, let Contiki know so they can put you in the same room.
On my trip, one of the girls had major problems with her room-mate being a bit of a physco (very annoying, complaining the whole time, criticizing her etc…) so she ended up pairing up with me when my room-buddy went home half way through the trip (Long story but she basically missed her boyfriend)Anyways, at the beginning my new room buddy and I got along great!!
We had similar interests and loved getting glammed up etc, until it got to the last 2 days of the trip and we basically had a falling out because she started talking shit about me to other people on the trip.
I’m glad I only had a few nights with her and it’s really unfortunate that girls just some times can’t get along. Our Team Leader always said to say something straight away if you’re having problems with someone, but I guess it’s hard when people are already buddied up and don’t want to switch to a new room mate.
Now just because there were a couple of problems on my trip, don’t let this deter you from sharing a room!! Things like this rarely happen and it was just unfortunate that it happened on mine.The places we stayed at however were great!
I think there were probably only 2-3 places out of the whole trip that I wasn’t really fond of. But they were more because of Wi-fi problems or the fact that my headphones were snapped out of my Tablet while I was out for the day. (Grand Canyon House keeping I’m looking at you)
Other than that, I always felt safe wherever we went and you can see that Contiki tries really hard to find centrally located places for us to stay at. Contiki people are usually a rowdy bunch so it’s good that the hotels put up with us!!
Overall, I absolutely LOVED my Contiki. Beforehand, I’d read some people say things like “For the same amount of money, I could have stayed at 4-5 star hotels and had private tours of everything”
This may be true, but Contiki is such an experience in itself. I traveled by myself for 3 months and Contiki was one of the highlights because of all the people I met, because I could sleep on the Coach all day travelling to my next destination hungover while our driver drove us, because I didn’t have to research ‘What to do’ in each state and Contiki organised it for me. So many reasons!
“The meals are crap. Everywhere. If they are included, they are crap.”
This is SO not true!! I Loved all of my meals! I can’t even remember a meal that I didn’t like. If I didn’t like something it’d probably have been because it was Seafood and I hate seafood. But they try and cater to everyone (Gluten free, vegetarian etc…) so I don’t think I even ever had a seafood meal.
“You’ll stay in the outskirts in most places, which makes it very difficult to get around”
I guess there were a couple of places that were a bit ‘out of the way’ like in Orlando we were around a grocery store, about 3 steak houses and LOTS of souvenir stores but that was it. We were only in Orlando for 1 full day anyways and we all did Universal Studios so it was probably good there weren’t any bars or clubs around! I couldn’t imagine going on a roller coaster hungover. Most of our other hotels however were centrally located. In Memphis we could walk to the main bars, in Las Vegas the bars were IN our hotel, in Washington D.C we were right next to the Subway so we could catch that to the city center.
I guess a few weren’t close enough to just walk everywhere, but our coach always took us out at night if we had dinner or were going to some event. You’re in a group anyways so Taxi’s end up being super cheap (Even cheaper if you take an Uber) which is perfect if you’re dying to head down to the clubs.
“The whole journey is full of alcoholics, the tour manager was arranging partying and drinking nearly every night” Whoever wrote this obviously went on some type of High Energy Trip and didn’t read that this is usually what happens on them.
If you’ve got some party places on your map of destinations, you’ll most likely be going out! However, never EVER are you forced to go out with the group if you 100% don’t want to.
In reference to one of the girls on my trip who was a bit of a physco, when we were in Las Vegas she yelled at me for drinking a big bucket of margarita in the street (by the way, this is legal and expected in Las Vegas) and whenever someone got drunk she’d tell them how irresponsible and awful they were. We were all baffled as to WHY she was even on the trip.
If you don’t drink, that’s fine, just don’t criticize other people for doing what they want to do on their trip that they’ve also looked forward to for months.
There were about 3 girls on our trip who very rarely drunk alcohol so when they came out dancing with us they’d stick to juices or sodas but still had a great time.
Our Tour Manager had been doing Contiki’s for ages so he knew the best clubs to go to and how to get us some VIP tickets which was great. I never saw him wasted off his face though. If any of us got too drunk while he was out with us, he’d make sure they got back to the hotel safely. I guess some Tour Managers get a little bit crazy, but you have to remember they’re allowed some free time too. If you’re even on a Contiki, you’ll be over 18 years of age and probably don’t need to be baby-sat on your night out.
I had 15 days in Europe before I had to head off to Croatia to start my 1 week sailing trip. I decided on doing a Top Deck tour called ‘European Express‘ NZ$ 1,494 which was for 11 days starting in London and finishing in London.
Day 1: London, UK to Paris, France
Day 2: Paris
Day 3: Paris to Swiss Alps, Switzerland
Day 4: Swiss Alps
Day 5: Swiss Alps to Venice, Italy
Day 6: Venice
Day 7: Venice to Munich, Germany
Day 8: Munich to Rhine Valley
Day 9: Rhine Valley to Amsterdam, Netherlands
Day 10: Amsterdam
Day 11: Amsterdam to London, UK
I chose this tour purely for the fact I only had a short space of time in Europe and all of the other tours Top Deck offered were longer than 15 days.
I also got to quickly see France, Germany and Amsterdam before I headed to Croatia which I was really excited to see 🙂
I guess I didn’t start my Top Deck tour off very well.
I stayed at the hostel that Top Deck recommends you stay at as the tour leaves from there. It’s called Wombats Hostel and you can read my review on it here
If you can’t be bothered reading my review, in brief, the hostel was amazing and probably the cleanest hostel I’ve ever stayed at.
But that’s not why my experience started off badly. On the very first day when I woke up at 5am to board the bus by 6am I had the flu!!
My whole body was aching, I had a temperature, I had barely slept and just wanted to curl up into a ball and be taken care of. Instead I had to board a bus to the Ferry Terminal and take the Ferry across to France with all my new Tour mates.
I probably wasn’t the most social person at the beginning of the trip either because all I wanted to do was sleep. 😦
The first thing that bothered me about the Tour was our first driver. When we got picked up from the Hostel, we were greeted by a ‘larger man’ who spoke in a thick British accent and smoked like a chimney and just seemed angry about having to even take us to the Ferry Terminal in the first place. Just the way he spoke came across grumpy and it felt like he was complaining about every little thing. I’m not sure if it was his sense of humor and maybe he was trying to be funny but all I remember thinking was ‘Oh god, please don’t let him be our driver these whole 2 weeks’
Thankfully he wasn’t our permanent driver. He dropped us off at the ferry and went back to central London on the Top Deck Coach. We were met with another driver when we arrived in France.
With my particular tour, we stayed in Hostels that had been pre-arranged. Unlike Contiki where we where partnered up with someone for the whole trip, Top Deck allowed us to choose who we’d share a room with.
Every day before our new destination, a sheet was passed around the coach with 5-6 different dorm rooms written down (Usually each with 4-6 beds) and we could write down who we wanted to room with that night.
It’s good if you get sick of someone and want to change to hang out with different people.
Also if you’re hooking up with someone on Top Deck I guess it’s a good way to stay in the same room as them as our Tour Guide didn’t actually care if Males & Females roomed together.
I roomed with 2 girls the first night – Kara & Kelly – and ended up having a blast with them the whole time on Top Deck.
My Thoughts on Top Deck
The trip on the website promised:
I understand that this trip was considerably shorter than my Contiki so there wasn’t a whole bunch of activities over the 2 weeks, but the activities I did do I didn’t actually overall enjoy.
I did the Seine River cruise in Paris and thought it was a bit average.
I actually ended up listening to my iPod the whole time because the audio over the speakers (which explained all the landmarks) on the cruise spoke about the same thing 4 times in 4 different languages. It just got a bit boring to listen to when it was repeated so often.
Also you got given your ticket to do the cruise at your own time that day which meant if you hadn’t made friends yet you’d just go by yourself and compete against all the other tourists trying to board the boat at the same time.
I actually ended up going by myself as the girls I made friends with were doing the Bike-Ride around Paris tour and I didn’t sign up for it (I wasn’t sure how I’d be feeling as I still was a bit sick)
We all attended the Traditional cabaret show in Paris and again, this wasn’t anything to brag about. It maybe went on for a little bit too long and one of the guys on our trip even fell asleep. Eek!
However, in their defense, I’d seen the Cirque du soleil in Las Vegas on my Contiki Tour and that was bloody amazing. You could see how much they practiced because everything was done so over the top and was really made to ‘wow’ the audience. I admit I think I ‘compared’ the two shows to one another and kept noticing the dancers in Paris not being ‘in time’ with one another and to be 100% truthful, a little boring. It didn’t capture my attention for long that I was actually looking at my phone some of the time so that was a bit disappointing.
We did however get the chance to go up to the highest point on the European continent when we were in Switzerland- the top of Jungfrau Mountain via the Jungfraubahn railway. I was keen on this as the pictures looked amazing but it was so bloody expensive I didn’t end up doing it. I think it ended up being nearly NZD$250 just to get the train and look from the top. I know to some people that’s such an amazing experience, but I was travelling for 3 months and didn’t have that kind of budget to spend on a view.
Oktoberfest Now this annoyed me a bit. I booked my Top Deck Tour at a Travel Expo back home in New Zealand. While I was looking at the ‘Top Deck Display’ I remembered talking to the Promoter about being in Europe in October and him getting really excited because I’d be in Germany at Oktoberfest time. Yay!
I booked the Top Deck tour that very day because they were having 15% off all tours and also I didn’t want to miss out on Oktoberfest because he made it seem like Top Deck specifically went out of their way to make it an amazing time for us all.Anyways, when I was on the tour, our Top Deck Leader didn’t have any plans for Oktoberfest! Here I was imagining we’d all go out and buy those cool Bavarian Wench Costumes and the boys would dress up in Beer Man Costumes and we’d all pre-drink beforehand and arrive at Oktoberfest partially off our faces.
But instead our leader said we could leave Venice early on our travel day to Germany and hopefully get there around 6pm so we could attend Oktoberfest. But if we where to do that, we had to go and ask our driver really nicely and it was only a ‘maybe’ as the driver had to get adequate sleep time. (Which I understand but…what!? I thought this would have been organised)Me and some others were a bit confused because I felt like I was sold on this tour because I got to do Oktoberfest. Instead we ended up arriving in Germany at 5.30pm and had only half an hour to get ready and then all set off to Oktoberfest.
Grrr. Sharing a room with 5 other girls and getting ready for Oktoberfest was so stressful. 1 Bathroom to share and only 2 mirrors to do our make-up in.Not to mention, only a few of us on our Top Deck had the traditional outfits to dress up in for Oktoberfest. We had no where to buy them before we arrived in Germany. No stop-offs anywhere so people could buy outfits, no suggestion on where to go, no option for anyone to even think about getting an outfit.
Luckily, me and a few other girls bought some from a supermarket in Switzerland while everyone else was out doing the Jungfrau Mountain trip that I didn’t attend.
Oktoberfest was fun but as I don’t drink Beer I didn’t get that drunk. If we’d had the day in Germany I would have pre-drunk or something beforehand and had a blast but oh well. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was great so I’d defiantly do it again another year but be so much more organised. As we only had that night in Munich, we couldn’t go back the next day to do it all again.
8 nights in hostels & 2 nights in bungalows at European campsites The hostels were fun. The hostel we stayed at in Paris seemed to be in a slightly dodgy area with people always hanging around outside but it had it’s own bar and everything which was cool.
It did however have the weirdest smell in the bathroom, yuck!The ‘Top Deck Campsite‘ they use in Venice called Camp Jolly was horrible.
We stayed in cabins with 1 other person which was fine but when we turned up at 6pm half of the rooms hadn’t even been serviced.
Pretty much all the driers were broken for when I went to do my washing and in the midst of my shower our cabin’s power went out for ages.
In the Summer Time I can imagine it to be much better as they have a big pool and a bar etc… But I just found the staff there so rude and un-helpful. I needed coins for the Laundry so went to Reception, who then told me to go to the Camp Supermarket next door, where I stood at the counter for 3 minutes while the cashiers could finish gossiping and then serve me. But not without rolling their eyes because I needed some special ‘laundry coins’
Good news was, the Top Deck Staff in the ‘Top Deck’ Dinner Tent were awesome and the food was great!
The bar the campsite had was probably the only other great thing about it. There was another Top Deck Tour there at the same time so we all got drunk and danced away drinking the bar’s cheap drinks.
Trip Leader + Driver + Topdeck On-Site Chefs Our leader was great, maybe a bit less organised than our Contiki leader but he was still a nice guy who was really informative about all the places that we went to. Plus he sung some songs on the bus for us which was pretty entertaining!
Our driver was a bit hit and miss haha, I say that because half the time he was nice and then we had an argument half way through the trip where he yelled at me because we were stuck in traffic and I was busting to pee but he wouldn’t let me use the on-board toilet. I don’t want to be overly appreciative about him because of that incident, but that was just my experience. Not to say that every driver is like that, I don’t think anyone else had a problem with him!
Modern air-conditioned coach, including power points for charging electronics. We only had a couple of power points to use in the middle of the bus. The Coach was clean and air conditioned. They advertise having Wi-Fi but you have to pay so I’d just get a UK SIM card to use overseas if you want Internet.
Top-Deck provides a lot of food so as to ‘save you money’ but I wasn’t a fan of much of it. We always stopped for ‘picnics’ but it was always the same stuff.
Bread, cold meats, salads and some slices. By the second week I was so over eating cold food all the time I just wanted to eat a burger!! Plus if we did have an included dinner, we didn’t even get to choose what to eat which was a bit disappointing.
It sucks that it seems like I wrote alot of bad things about my Top Deck tour and that could have been because I started off my trip being sick.
Obviously on my Contiki I was with my group for nearly a month so we all got to know each other really well and made great friendships.
On my Top Deck I was only on it for about 2 weeks so I didn’t make any close-close friendships (apart from with a couple of girls).
Also I did Contiki in the Summer time so Summer Weather = Happiness!
There were obviously some great moments on my Top Deck. Hanging out in Amsterdam was awesome, meeting people from lots of different countries on my trip was sweet! Drinking and dancing together in the underground bar in Switzerland was a fun time 🙂
Contiki was the best.
Top Deck was good but comparing the time’s I had on my Contiki – it just didn’t quite measure up.
I think even if I didn’t do my Contiki I’d still maybe have been a bit disappointed with the Top Deck Tour.
The food on Contiki was better. The activities were funner. The drinking and nights out were more crazy.
I read online that people are put-off from Contiki because it seems like such a party atmosphere. When I read negative reviews online it’s usually from someone who doesn’t like to drink, or is more of a quieter reserved person which is fine, but maybe Contiki isn’t quite for you. (Or it could bring you out of your shell like a few people on my tour!)
I drink, but even I was nervous doing the tour. I imagined waking up to shots of Vodka in my face every morning and spewing on the bus every second day.
But I was absolutely fine!!! You honestly don’t have to go out if you don’t want to. Everyone is really accepting and if you don’t want to drink, no one will force you. We had a few girls on our trip who didn’t drink but they still came out with us and had a great time.
The only problem we had was with one girl because she criticized the rest of us all the time for drinking. Even in Las Vegas she looked at me in disgust because I was drinking from a bucket. People like that just ruin it for themselves because while we all ended up having a great bond she was always excluded because she just didn’t want to accept any of our personalities and we had to always do things ‘her way’
I didn’t spend my days too hungover to appreciate America though! It wasn’t all just drinking. We’d have dinners together even if it wasn’t included on our trip, we took group photos and played games on the coach together. We had nights out bowling and did our optional activities together. We even had a few couples on the trip and they had a great time! They still joined in on our nights out but still had the opportunities to go and have private dinners together or just spend the night in their room together if they couldn’t be bothered going out. No one ever made anyone feel bad for not going out.
Contiki is aimed at customers who are students and young travellers between the ages of 18 and 35. They operate in North & South America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. They frequently put up last minute deals on certain destinations and offer major discounts to solo travellers.
Lunch is always up to you. A lot of times you eat at rest stops because you’re usually on the bus during lunch time. Some trips include 1-2 lunches.
Dinner is provided about half the time.
Some budget hotels that Contiki uses are slowly declining because past Contiki groups have partied too hard and the hotels won’t allow the company to return (We got warned beforehand at some hotels to keep it down a little bit)
Topdeck is another major international tour operator providing tours throughout, Europe, North America, Africa, Egypt, East-Asia, Latin American, Middle-East, Australia and New Zealand.
Breakfast is provided everyday and Lunch is usually up to you, most tours will include a few lunches where you stop and have a picnic.
Accommodation varies depending on destinations. They have Hostels, guest houses and bungalows with selected free hotel upgrades. They also have special stop overs such as flotilla sailing in Greece. Rooms are single sex and multi-share, usually 4-6
people per room.
If anyone has any questions about Contiki or Top Deck, let me know in the comments! I love talking about my trip 🙂
And if you’ve done one of their tours, let me know how it went, everyone has different experiences depending on the people they’re with and the things they see so it’ll be interesting to read.
My second proper day in Rome was a pretty chilled out day. I had washing to do so I loaded it all together and went down the road to the laundry mat.
Thankfully you just paid the guy there and they washed and dried it all for you. No waiting around for me!
As I’d done so much exploring the day before, I Googled somewhere to get my nails done and set off on a walk to find this place called Enhancements.
When I got to the road it was on, I must have walked past it because I couldn’t find it!
After feeling like I just went on a big walk for nothing, I eventually saw it and went in to see if they had any appointments available.
I didn’t even care how much it cost, my feet were in desperate need of a pedicure. You have no idea how gross your toes end up looking when you’re travelling and have no time to care for them! Haha.
Not to mention my finger nails kept breaking every time I so much as glanced at them so I asked about getting a manicure as well.
Thankfully they were free right then and there so I picked some colours for my nails and then went into a room to change into a bathrobe.
I know right! Getting changed just to get my nails done, it was a bit of a fancy schmancy spa. 🛀💱
I got my pedicure first (poor lady). My feet were scrubbed and moisturized and massaged. It was heaven! She honestly did the best job and my toenails look so pretty and pink now 🙂
I then got my manicure and even though she cut my nails nice and short, they look great and now they can finally stop breaking. My yucky black nail I have from jamming it into a door in Croatia is all covered up now too!
I walked away probably spending the most I ever have on my nails but it was 100x better than going to one of the Asian nail spas that use cheap nail polishes. She honestly did the best job ever!
And everything was cleaned and sterilized and nice products were used. (I notice these things as I used to be a beauty therapist)
It’s crazy how I’m excited that the products someone is using on my nails are clean. It shows how shady some nail bars are back home.
Anyways, once my nails were all dry, I paid and left to walk aimlessly around Rome.
I was feeling a bit hungry so went to a random restaurant that looked good and ordered some Pasta.
I’d had so much lasagna lately that I decided to mix it up a bit and get a Cabornara.
It was very fulling!
That will probably be my last pasta dish for a very long time. I try and not eat it too much back home because I get sooo bloated when I eat really carby food. 😩
I went on a search for souvenirs after lunch time but couldn’t really find anything I loved. Or anything I could buy that would easily fit in my bag…it’s really getting harder and harder to buy stuff. I might just have to stick with clothes now as they’re the lightest.
I went to the Termini train station on my way back to the hostel to try and figure out what train I had to take the next morning to get to the airport.
It seemed kinda simple, just buy a ticket from the kiosk and find your train at the time.
If you’re ever in Rome and need to get to the Airport, taking the train seems like the thing to do to save money.
They had a Lindt store at the train station too so I went in to have a browse and ended up leaving with 2 boxes of Lindt chocolate recipes to make back at home. I got a Chocolate mousse recipe and a chocolate lava cake type thing. Along with a box of powdered Lindt hot chocolate to make back in New Zealand. It’s funny coz all the instructions are in Italian so I’ll see how I go with trying to translate it haha.
It’s good i’m travelling by myself as I was very boring when I got back to my hostel. I had a bit of alone time so I took advantage of the Wi fi and ended up watching more episodes of Teen Mom 2 in my room.
I’m really feeling for Leah here…can’t believe her and Jeremy got a divorce! He defiantly needed to be a more supportive husband while she was going through all that shit. (People who watch this show will know what I’m on about) 👿
Later on I went downstairs to the bar and met up with my friend from Top Deck Nick. He was sitting with some new people so I joined them and we started discussing our travels. Turns out they’d just been in Croatia too and they were the other boat of people sailing at the same time as us!
When I started talking about where I’d been in Croatia we all clicked and realized we’d been at the same club the night I got really drunk in Croatia. They remembered me as the girl who ‘did a dance off with one of the girls from their group’
I was now currently sitting in front of this girl and they thought it was hilarious. Me and the girl finally introduced ourselves and had a good laugh. We’re friends on Facebook now and we realized we had a mutual friend too! (One of my old flat mates I lived with) such a small word when you’re travelling…
I ended up going out for dinner with them to a restaurant next door to the hostel and we all had some more Italian food! Yes I got a pasta but it was defiantly my last one this time!!
I had a slightly early night and went back to my room about 11pm to organise my stuff for the next morning.