Deciding what company for a tour


#1

Hey guys,

My partner and I are planning on going overseas in 2011 to do one of the camping tours and I am finding it extremely hard to pick to use Topdeck or Contiki, is there anyone who has been on both and that could give me a little information about which one you think is beter and why?

Thank you ! ;D


#2

Hi Dee,

I have done both Contiki and Top Deck in Europe and to put things in perspective Top Deck is currently winning 3 to 1 (my next tour departs on December 19th with Top Deck).

In terms of equipment and campgrounds, there isn’t much of a difference, in fact you will find yourself sharing campgrounds and bars with the Contiki tours. The difference is very much in the attitude of Top Deck. I’ve said it before - Top Deck treat you like an adult. I’ve worked with ex-Contiki staff and they have confirmed a few of the rumours which are:

:-x Contiki drivers have to keep a log book of their mileage which means that they don’t have any flexibility in where/when they go.
;D My last Top Deck tour, we were staying in Kirchberg and our guide was giving advice and tips on how to get into Salzburg. She asked how many where going in, and about 30 of the 40 people on the bus put up their hands. She arranged for the bus driver to take us in instead us us having to take the train and all we did was pitch in for the fuel cost - which was cheaper than a train ticket and left at a time that was good for us!

:-x Contiki are reknowned for getting really narky if you don’t participate in optional extras and not giving the non-participants something to do when the activity is on.
;D Top Deck has very much a “do want you want” feel. There are a couple of activities where if you don’t do them (such as white water rafting) you might be sitting on the bus reading a book, but for most of them, the tour guide is very cool about individual choice

:-x On my tour with Contiki, as I had been to Europe before (on a Top Deck trip), I didn’t want to do a couple of the orientation walks and instead wanted to spend that time at a museum I hadn’t got to last time. I was reamed up and down for not being a “joiner” and “letting the group down”
;D My second tour with Top Deck, my friends and I decided we wanted to get into Florence early. We told the tour leader what our plans were, she thanked us for letting her know and we agreed that we would meet at a bar to catch the bus home very late that night. We missed meals, did our own orientation tours and as long as we communicated with the tour leader of bus driver, everything was cool. This is what I mean by being treated as an adult.

Whichever tour you choose, you will have a fantastic time, however, it’s the individuality allowed within a Top Deck tour that made them the most memorable for me.

If you have any other questions, please ask.

Cheers,
Stacey


#3

:slight_smile: Thank you stacey, that has been a great help! plus do the ages on Top Deck vary ? I will be 20 when I go on my trip and does everybody still have a good time going out and what not?

Thanks ;D


#4

I just got back from doing back to back tours, the first with Contiki and the second with Topdeck (both hotel tours, so I don’t have experience with camping tours). Whichever you choose, you will definitely have a great time, but if I was going to pick one over the other then I’d pick Contiki.

I had probably the complete opposite experience to Stacey. I felt on Topdeck that I was forced to go on the orientation walks with the group. There were a couple of times where I would have preferred to do my own thing, but felt pressured to go with the group. The orientation walks felt quite rushed and if we stopped to take a photo we would practically be scolded and told to hurry up. I just felt like there was very little flexibility, as opposed to Contiki where we could leave the orientation walk and do our own thing, as long as we got back to the bus or to dinner on time.

I felt that Contiki was a lot more organised than Topdeck, in a good way. It was nice knowing exactly what was going on and when. Topdeck was a bit more go with the flow and you only really found out what was going on when you got to a place. I liked being able to plan my day knowing that dinner would be at a certain time, or that we would be in a town for a certain amount of time.

I felt Topdeck was more rushed in general. Lunch stops, toilet stops, stops in cities and at certain sights all felt like we were pushed for time.

I never felt like I was forced into any optional activities on either tour. I pulled out of an optional on both tours due to illness and had no issue with a tour manager getting grumpy over it. I liked how Contiki took payment for all optionals straight away, as opposed to Topdeck who would collect the money as the tour went on. I found I never had the right amount of cash on me (as we were never given much of a warning). On both tours the optionals were great.

I did hotel tours with both companies and found Contiki’s accommodation to be of a higher standard than Topdeck. Some of the hotels on Topdeck were awful.

As for provided meals, there was a better variety of food on Topdeck. Contiki was the same thing over and over again (lots of chicken and soup!). Both tours the food was better than I expected.

Both groups had a huge range of ages, 18 up to 37ish on both tours I think. There were always people willing to go out and party on both tours, and I never felt forced into going out drinking. I did find that people on Contiki were more into getting to know everyone else straight away, and I felt like I got to know everyone on my two week long Contiki tour a lot better than everyone on my three week long Topdeck. There were a lot more couples and groups of friends on my Topdeck tour, more solo travellers on Contiki.


#5

Thankyou for that information, gosh I am not sure what I am going to do i will have to way up my options

Thankyu guys ;D


#6

Hey Dee

I am definitely pro Topdeck!

Contiki, it seems, is famed for being more about the drinking than actually seeing the sights. Ultimately you are paying a lot of money so why not surround yourself with people who really want to explore Europe. Not to say that Topdeck isn’t fun! We enjoyed Toga parties, pub crawls, nights out etc but it wasn’t the main focus. Everybody still wanted to see the sights, head to beach, explore museums, participate in optionals etc.

I didn’t feel at all pressurized to take part in optionals and loved how we were allowed free time to do what we would like to do. Topdeck also don’t insist that you tip which I have heard Contiki does…

Hope this helps!!!


#7

Just for another different opinion here, i just came back from a Topdeck tour and I found contiki was sooo much better.

In saying that, I think that the particular tour I was doing was possibly part of the problem, although I found that contiki were far more organised (as mk5786 said as well). Our topdeck tour leader and chef and driver had not even been to the countries we were in before! We got given the wrong information, wrong directions and were never given enough information about what we were doing each day. I found it really frustrating. I’m also fairly sure that contiki get paid more than topdeck so therefore we found our bus driver and chef and tour leader all a bit begrudged and heard lots of complaints about their money.

As well as this, because on topdeck you are able to do your own thing so much, people don’t really get to know each other as a group. Because I was travelling by myself I was really disappointed by this. On contiki I made some excellent friends who remain my best friends four years later. Because of the topdeck style where the tours are constantly splitting up and having people come and go on many occasions, it meant you weren’t really able to get to know people so well and because I left earlier than some others, I felt like a lot of people were planning for better things after I’d gone etc. Kind of made me feel like I’d missed out! I didn’t really like that at all. On contiki we all started and finished together, and it really created a real sense of friendship.

I did still have fun on topdeck though, but I just had so much more fun on contiki. Contiki do ask you to tip at the end though, where topdeck don’t. But I didn’t mind that so much. You aren’t forced to.

Ive had other friends who’ve done both agree with me on this issue as well. However, if you are the type of person who only wants to go on a tour just to have a bus ride between towns, then sure…go topdeck. It depends on the kind of person you are really.

As for food and what kind of people go on the tours. It really varies with each tour. Food depends largely on the cook and how lazy he or she is. And the people obviously there is no real way to predict that. I had more solo travellers on my topdeck than contiki, whereas someone above mentioned more solo travellers on contiki. So that can’t be predicted!!!


#8

Here is the best non biased website for comparison of these tour companies. I hope this helps.


#9

Hey Dee

Topdeck definitely has my vote but check out some more contiki vs. TOPDECK debates from the forum:

http://forum.topdeck.travel/tours/11267/topdeck-vs-contiki

Hope this helps! :slight_smile: