A couple of years ago, after finding a good deal for a round trip flight to Dublin over St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to go on a Contiki tour. My first option was to go with friends but I couldn’t find anyone that would be willing to go on a last-minute trip to Ireland. So I opted to make new friends with Contiki.
If you’re in your mid-twenties and you have even a peripheral interest in travel, you’ve probably heard of this company as the one that builds dream itineraries for 18-35 year olds. You might even know someone who has been on a Contiki vacation and saw their fun party pictures all over Facebook.
Here is the inside scoop on what you can expect on Contiki tours from a (mostly) objective source.
One of the things about this tour that was attractive to me was that it provided accommodations and some pre-determined activities for a relatively low price. In the spirit of saving as much money as possible, I chose the hostel option. If you’re interested in a more posh experience, they also have private hotel room options for some of their tours. If you’re interested in saving even more money, Contiki has extremely cheap camping trips all over the world. Given that I was going on an extremely popular weekend relatively last-minute, I couldn’t find a hotel cheaper than the entire Contiki tour.
Aside from that, Contiki benefits from automatically providing you company wherever you go. This is especially attractive for a weekend of partying and drinking, which are the kinds of activities that are better in groups. You don’t have to worry about wandering around alone or trying to meet people to have a drink with. Your vacation buddies are already there for you.
Of course, the downside is that you’re stuck with these people. Prior to the tour, people were already posting in the group forum to try to get a jump on their vacation friendships. All of it reeked of the kind of desperation I was gonna see a lot more of during my stint in Dublin. By the first day, I could already tell that the key demographic on this tour was 18-21 year olds that are just getting acquainted with college life so they were going to get wasted beyond measure and try to get laid. Basically, a Contiki tour is like the first week in a college dorm where everyone is forced together Real World-style because they’re the only people you know, before you realize you hate all those people and you never want to see them again. It’s like the travel equivalent of an adult kickball league – everyone wants to pretend it’s just a fun way to meet people, but everyone there is just trying to hook up. So if you don’t want to fuck one of these people, either because you have someone back home or because you’re not interested in that sloppy Canadian that’s dancing up on you, then you might have a bad time.
My goal on this tour immediately became to hang out with the kind of people who I wasn’t going to have to feel morally responsible for when they passed out in their own vomit in Temple Bar. Thankfully, I found those people in a small group of almost-30 year olds. Though you’re in a large group of people wherever you go – tours, shows, etc. – you sort of end up clustering with the people you like the most. Unfortunately, those may not be the people staying in your room. In all likelihood, you’ll be in a room with some girl who stumbles into the room crying at 3 am because the hot guy from Australia kissed another girl from the tour. That asshole! That kind of thing is hilarious when you’re a sophomore in college and you actually like your drunk friends, but when some stranger is disturbing your beauty rest with her drama, it’s not that cute.
My recommendation for anyone considering a Contiki tour is to just spring for your own room. It makes a world of difference to only meet up with people during the day for the scheduled activities but to have your privacy at night to decompress or to hang out with people you actually like, or to bring someone back you might want to sleep with. You’ll save yourself a lot of potential headaches. And ironically, you have a way better chance of getting laid than the people trying way harder than you at the hostel.