Three young people on a Contiki vacation. Photo: Contiki.com
Back in 1962 a guy had a dream… to show young travellers the world and change their lives while doing so. 55 years later the formula has been perfected.
 
Everyone knows that the people who’ve been doing it the longest have the most know-how and experience but sometimes in the clutter of everyday life we can forget what makes a company like Contiki outstanding in every way.
 
Kelly Jackson talks to the Independent Traveller and brings the unique selling points of Contiki into the spotlight. “Our Contiki know-how is something we’ve been perfecting and honing for over 55 years and we’re very proud of the passion we bring to every trip, adventure and tour young people take with us, and it starts with the basics like top accommodation, more included meals, dynamic and highly trained trip managers and this all leads to more fun and less hassle.”
 
Cool accommodation
 
“Apart from the quality hostels and hotels we use, Contiki also has exceptionally cool accommodation that we actually own,” says Kelly.  The Gasthof in Hopfgarten, Austria is legendary for Aprés Ski parties and the schnapps bar while the Château in France is simply outstanding. Located in the Beaujolais wine region, Château de Cruix offers wine tasting, dips in the pool on a hot summers’ day, and parties in the Cave. Plus, you'll get to meet the Contiki dog, Baxter.
 
Contiki also has a chalet in the Swiss Alps near Lauterbrunnen complete with waterfalls and alpine  hikes, plus Contiki Villages in Rome, Venice and Florence that boast on-site pools, bars and cosy cabins all within easy access to the city.
 
Contiki People
 
“From on-site staff to our excellent drivers, chefs and trip manager, every member of the Contiki team is hand-picked to make our trips the best ever,” says Jackson. “Their local knowledge always take our trips to the next level.”  Jay Edwards is originally from Australia but he is the resident chef at the Contiki Château. He brings a fantastic local flavour to the meals on offer from home-made Coq au Vin with fresh baguettes to the made-from-scratch chocolate mousse. 
 
No Compulsory Tipping
 
Every country in the world has different tipping policies. Within Europe it is customary to tip roughly 5% of the bill in table service restaurants, cafes, bars and in a taxi. All other tipping is entirely optional and certainly not an expectation. “If you feel your Contiki team has delivered an outstanding level of service throughout your trip you may wish to tip them, but this is at your discretion, no one else’s,” says Kelly. “At Contiki we don’t support compulsory tipping on our trips – ever.”
 
Free Wi-Fi on Coaches
 
Keeping connected so that you can ‘gram those epic shots is a must and Contiki offers a limited amount of free Wi-Fi on their coaches and the option to top up just in case you want to keep in touch with the family back home. “We also make sure that where possible all our hotels and hostels offer free Wi-Fi,” says Kelly, “because we know how important it is to our travellers.”
 
No Compulsory London Start and End
 
Choice is always first and foremost with Contiki. The choice to travel whichever way you wish, the choice to add as many extras as you like and of course the choice to start a trip that is most convenient to you. Many of Contiki’s European trips begin and end at the Basement in London. “While London is undoubtedly one the world’s coolest cities, we know that the cost of a UK visa can be prohibitive for our South African passport holders. To counter this Contiki offers all travellers the option to join the trip on mainland Europe,” Kelly adds.
 
More included Meals
 
There are many things that will leave lasting memories of your epic Contiki trip but the taste (literally) of the destination is one of the most powerful. Contiki believes that to travel is to eat and they have laid on the most incredible taste sensations all across the continent. From a five-course Italian feast in Burano to the specially designed menus at the Special Stopovers, Contiki’s ‘Munch’ philosophy aims to please.
 
“We’ve partnered with professional chef Thomas Casterberg to ensure our travellers have a local, authentic taste of their destination,” says Kelly, “and he is responsible for personally training all our Contiki chefs.” The Trip Managers also have superior training in food culture and each one has their ‘little black book’ of foodie haunts for our guests to explore in their free time.
 
Beyond providing authentic foodie experiences Contiki has more included meals than most other travel providers.
 
For more information on Contiki’s trips throughout Australia & New Zealand, Europe, USA, Canada, Asia & India and Latin America check out contiki.com and to book call them on (011) 280 8400.
 
Life’s an adventure – make it count with absolutely #NOREGRETS.