Part 3, Why Contiki?: What to Pack

So if you’re planning on travelling this year, you’re probably wondering what to pack. I learnt the hard way what I needed and what I didn’t need. But hopefully this post can make your packing stresses disappear.

  • Get a real Camera
    Listen, I know your phone camera is great, but you don’t want average pictures to look back on after your trip. I took ALL my pictures on my phone, it was only recently when I got a real camera that I realised how shitty cell phone camera quality is. You get cameras these days with wifi that connect to your phone, so you can easily share your pictures and keep your instagram alive. If you have a GoPro, pack it. There are tons of adventure activities you’re going to want to capture. Also, don’t forget your Polaroid/Instax camera, Europe is so photogenic.

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  • Leave your stilettos at home
    Listen, Europe is nothing but cobble stone streets. EVERYWHERE. Babes, I almost broke my ankle 20 times in Paris. You don’t need the world of shoes with you. A good pair of sneakers, (Because you walk A LOT.) cute sandals and/or flip flops and maybe a nice flat shoe to wear out to clubs at night.

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  • Bikini time!
    If you’re going to somewhere sunny in Europe, like Greece, definitely pack your bikini, actually pack five. But if you’re going into the main cities, you’ll be fine with one swim suit, most of the hotels do have pools, but you don’t have much time to enjoy them. But after a hot day in Berlin, that indoor pool was everything I needed and more.

 

  • Pack a Towel
    The nice hotels have towels and that’s pretty great. But we got to some of the hostels and they didn’t provide towels and when they did there where two towels for four people in the room. Unless you’re a fan of air-drying, this is a must.

 

  • Winter or Summer?
    So consider what time of the year you’re going. May- July you’re bound to experience a great European Summer. Outside of those months it gets cold fast. But even in summer, the weather can be unpredictable. I was caught in the rain in Amsterdam, Venice and Paris. Pack a light raincoat, which you can squash in your bag if you need it later in the day. Don’t pack a hoodie, you’re most likely to buy a Contiki hoodie on the trip- which is great to wear on bus rides.
    Pack a warmer jacket just in case, one that won’t take up too much space in your bag. You’re going to want a lot of shorts, I lived in my running shorts during the day because it was comfortable to walk in. You only need one pair of jeans and a pair of tights. Pack some cute dresses in too. Contiki throws a lot of themed parties in a few cities. In Austria we had a lumo party, Venice was a nautical party, Rome was a I love Roma party etc so think of where you’re going and pack some cute outfits to dress up in.

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  • Pack Enough Underwear
    This goes without saying, but still. Most girls on my trip didn’t pack enough underwear, so they spent a good part of their trip doing their laundry. Which is usually 1-2 Euros a pop.
    Just take a little laundry bag with for your dirty stuff and do all your washing when you get home.

 

  • Make Up and Sunblock
    Australian girls love their make up. They had fully made up faces at 7 am every morning before we got on the bus. So you’re going to want to keep up. My trick? My Avene Tinted Moisturiser and some eyeliner and mascara, the two minute make up look that left me looking fresh all day.
    For your nights out you’re going to want to wear a bit more make up. So pack your essentials, you don’t want to be travelling with Twenty different eyeshadow palettes. Sunblock is your best friend. So many of the girls on my trip looked like roasted tomatoes after a day in the sun. It’s harsh and intense no matter if you’re in the streets of Berlin or on top of the Swiss Alps. A lot of the girls used Dry Shampoo on the trip, this might be something to add into your bag if need be.

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  • Bags?
    Besides your suitcase, you need a backpack for all your shit on the bus- usually a change of clothes when changing cities etc. Then you also want a good handbag to use during the day, when you don’t want to carry around your backpack. I just got a cute little bag that went on my back and carried all my daytime essentials. Just be aware of pickpockets at all times and you should be fine.

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  • Medication
    The last thing you want is to get sick on your trip. Make sure your stocked up on the following:
    – Nausea Tablets
    – Tummy cramp tablets
    – Headache tablets
    – Allergy Tablets
    – Sleeping tablets
    – Viral Choice (I popped one a day to stay healthy)
    – Corenza C (If you feel sick, just take two immediately)
    – Rehydrate (I got heat stroke in Berlin, you’re going to want a little pick me up after a day in the sun.)
    – Any medication you need or use etc.
    Better safe than sorry.
  • Activities! 

You’re going to want things to do on the bus! Pack in a portable charger to keep your phone alive and make sure you’ve got loads of reading material or even a colouring book for those long bus rides!

Okay, thats all I can think of for now, I hope that helps! Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you have and tell me what you’d like future posts to be about!

Happy Packing!
Nadine

 

Part 2, Why Contiki?: Money, Money, Money

What’s up Somethings!
Today I’m talking all things Money when going on a Contiki Tour.

Let’s be real, travelling to Europe is expensive, especially with the Euro to Rand exchange rate. So if you’re going to be travelling, you’re going to want to take a good amount of money with to ensure you get the most out of your trip.

It’s really depressing when you get your money exchanged for Euros, you go from being really rich as a South African to being really poor in Europe. Meh. So let’s talk about expenses and what you’ll actually be spending your money on.

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Nautical Party in Venice!

You’re not going to have time to go shopping. There is a lot of time to do what you want on a Contiki, but if you’re going to spend that time inside H&M in Paris, you’re going to regret it. There’s so much to see and do in Europe, and shopping there really isn’t a must. The prices work out the same as they would be here, sometimes even more expensive. If you’re travelling to Asia then by all means, shop till you drop. But Europe, I’d advise against it.

On a Contiki, they give you a list of added on extras, which you can pick from. This ranges from activities and dinners etc with the group. Doing everything on the list (Which is what they suggest you do) is quite expensive, and it would have taken up a bulk of the money I’d saved. So I left a few things off the list. Which I now regret. So this is what I’ll do on my next trip: I’ll work out how much money I’ll need to do all the added extras, and ensure that I’ve saved enough to get all of those. I suggest that you do all the activities but leave off some of the traditional dinners. There’s no need to spend R500 on a meal you might not even like, unless you’re a foodie, which I am not.

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You get breakfast included in your Contiki price and a few dinners, other than that, you’re going to be spending a lot of money on food – Pasta is expensive in Italy. My advice is that you stock up on food at breakfast, grab some fruit and croissants to eat throughout the day. You’re also going to spend a lot of money on snacks for the long bus rides, like be prepared to spend R40 on Pringles like every day.

And last but not least, Alcohol. You party a lot on a Contiki. A lot. And drinks are expensive AF, but luckily the Europeans are generous with their alcohol. They were free pouring for days, so you don’t have to buy too many drinks to get a buzz. But I suggest before a night out, you take only the cash you need or are willing to spend, so you can avoid over spending while you’re drunk.

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Bike Tour in a Beer Garden in Munich!

So how much should you take?
Listen, between R20 000- R30 000 should be enough to ensure you have a good time. If you can take more, do it. The more money you have the better.

There are lots of ways to have a good time on your Contiki without spending money, I spent a lot of my time just walking through the streets of the cities. I put myself on a daily budget – which was cool because if I didn’t spend all the money I had budgeted for the day, my daily budget increased for the rest of the trip. If you control your money and keep track of what you’ve spent, you can make any amount of spending money work.

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Bidvest has a great option called the World Currency Card, which comes with an app, so you can always check your balance and expenses wherever you are in the world.

Feel free to post any other money related questions below! I’d love to help out! Also ask me your Contiki questions!

Okay, I’ll let you go start saving now!

à bientôt!
Nadine

Eurotrip: Florence

We only had one day in the beautiful little city of Florence, but it was great. What a pretty little city. The heart of Italy’s artistic past.
The views are to die for, I suggest wondering through the city by yourself to get the most of it. There’s beauty to be found around very corner. We did a walking tour through the city, where we got to see the Statue of David, as well as the other magnificent statues surrounding him. 


We also attended a Leather Demonstration, which is Florence’s specialty. We learnt how leather is made and how to identify fake leather items. It was extremely informative and we were able to do some shopping afterwards. 
A few of the girls bought, what we called, puzzle rings. They’re a Florentine specialty. The ring is perfect when you wear it, but if you take it off, it will fall apart into four pieces. It’s quite complicated to reassemble. The story behind the ring is that a Florentine king knew his wife was cheating on him, so he gave her a ring that would reveal when she was being unfaithful (she would take her rings off to commit adultery!) it’s a fun little gift to get someone back home!


We found a really amazing spot, overlooking the city for a group photo! It was extremely windy up there, but I think we got Florence on a stormy day. 


The evening started with a traditional Florentine Dinner, which was delicious. SO much food! The Italians love to feed you, so if you’re eating out, don’t over order- check the portion size first then decide if you need more!


We ended off at the Red Garter, a local karaoke club in Florence. Bad singing, cocktail jugs and a dance floor? What more could you ask for?!


Florence is so beautiful. I wish we had had more time there, but our next stop was the Swiss Alps- so we had to get going! 

 

Eurotrip: Rome

Rome is just one of those cities you HAVE to see before you die. It’s like being in a time capsule and being able to experience the way the Romans lived in the past, because so many of their ancient buildings are still in tact. 
My time in Rome was filled with Gelato and lots and lots of pizza, accompanied by walking- so much walking! The city is huge, we had a day and a half to fit in all the big sites. 


We started with the Vatican City, we had a guided tour through the smallest city in the world. Our tour included the Sistine Chapel, which is amazing- it should definitely be on your bucket list. Our tour guide explained how Michelangelo designed and painted the ceiling of this beautiful chapel. After the Tour, we got to enter the Basilica. If you wanna see the Vatican, I suggest booking in advance to skip the queues (which go all the way around the block) or book a tour as part of a group. I could think of nothing worse than lining up for hours in The Roman Heat!


We then took a walk down to the Trevi Fountain and tossed some coins! (1 coin means you’ll return to Rome, 2 means you’ll find a new love and 3 means you’ll get married- I’m not telling how many I threw in!)  


It was then off to the mind-blowing colosseum, where we had a guided tour of the floor where the gladiator matches took place! It’s amazing how centuries later, this building is still in tact (with a few bits missing here and there) and standing. We had a few minutes to wander around and I managed to snap some awesome pics! 


Rome is referred to as the Lasagna City, because it has so many layers- this was evident during our tour of the Roman Forum, as we wondered through the ruins of Ancient Rome, my breath was taken away but how advanced the ancient Romans were regarding architecture. 


This time of the year Rome is extremely hot! If you’re going to be doing as much walking as we did, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and dress appropriately. For the religious cites, women need to have their shoulders and knees covered and men may not wear hats and should also be dressed respectfully. 
All in all, Rome was a great time. It was just too hot for me! Which is why I was glad to hear, that our next stop; Florence, was a bit cooler! 

Eurotrip: Venice

We arrived just off the coast of Venice we were stayed on a campsite that was just a 30 minute boat ride away from the floating city.

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Venice is a dream. It’s a time capsule, all the buildings and architecture represent a beauty that can only be claimed by the Venetians. The city is very small, you can walk from one end to the next in about 10-15 minutes. The streets wind into narrow alleyways, where you’ll find some of the best Italian coffee, gelato and pizza.

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If you’re looking for Gelato, I suggest finding a shop called Suso and treat yourself to one of Italy’s delicacies. Try the Spritz when you’re in the city, it’s a refreshing drink and you get a takeaway cup to walk around with while you shop.

We started our day with a walking tour through Venice, where we saw St. Marks Square as well as all the big monuments and important buildings. Our tour was just over two hours and ended in some Venetian Tapas and drinks. There are many walking tours in Venice, I suggest doing them so you can truly understand the history and beauty of the city.

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The local markets are filled with souvenirs, from sailor hats to fans, there’s something for everyone. The local mall houses all of the big designer brands, if you have some cash to spend, you’ll be able to shop till you drop there.

For lunch we got some Pizza and sat in the middle of St. Marks Square eating it. (Like real Italians)

Unfortunately it was raining on the day we were there, so to get out of the rain we went to see how Venetian Glass Ornaments are made at a glass blowing demonstration. It’s pretty amazing and it’s free to watch, so you should check that out!

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We took a gondola ride through the city, where we got to see Venice from a different angle. Do not leave Venice without getting on a Gondola, it’s a relaxing and beautiful ride.

For dinner we stopped at a place that sold Pasta in a box, these places are everywhere, so if you need a quick meal that’s a good suggestion.

All in all, it was a beautiful day in the Floating City. You’ll fall in love with it, just like I did.

Next stop, Rome!!!

Nadine Suliaman
20somethingsomethings.com