Summer is coming back around again in Europe and many people are probably already well underway with their epic summer travel plans unless coronavirus is around too much longer. Before you get too far into your planning though I want to take the chance to compare two popular travel companies and offer my advice on which is best to travel around Europe with. Let’s look at this Busabout V Contiki review and compare the key differences between each company. This will help you decide which is best to travel around Europe with.
Busabout V Contiki: Which one should you choose to travel around Europe with?
Exploring Europe is at the top of the list for many backpackers and travel enthusiasts. Now more than ever people of all ages are exploring different parts of the world at a level not seen before. There are more and more ways to now see these areas as well. It used to be the norm to book all-inclusive packages and get guided tours around foreign countries, a non-risk but at times snail-paced and unimaginative way of travelling however this is also the preferred way for some.
If that is not really your style though then this blog is certainly for you, I’ve compared two companies, Busabout V Contiki, that are extremely popular with travellers in Europe. Use this comparison to find out which company will suit your travel plans best and some of the key differences between the two.
If you are wanting to read a full review on how Busabout operate then my previous blog post will answer that in more depth.
Why travel around Europe?
Despite being the second smallest continent in the world, Europe is the world’s leading tourist destination, welcoming more than half of the total number of tourists worldwide. It’s not hard to see why as Europe’s beautiful architecture, well-preserved traditions, a plethora of UNESCO world heritage sites, long, rich history, safety and well-developed travel infrastructure, have conspired to make it the travel destination of choice for tourists allured by European destinations such as France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia and the United Kingdom.
Travelling by plane, train or road: why travel by road is best
To slow the rate of climate change we need to make more environmentally-friendly choices. Travel means using some form of transport which is reliant on fossil fuels, which only contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. However, in general, the greenest option by far is to use a bus, so if you care about the environment and the legacy left for future generations, using an inexpensive mode of transport such as a bus or coach to explore Europe, is the best thing you can do for the environment and your wallet.
What is Busabout?
Busabout is a travel service which was founded in the UK in 1998 and offers backpackers, budget travellers and travellers on an extended trip in Europe, the opportunity to travel ‘freestyle’ around many destinations worldwide. The vast majority of those destinations can be found in Europe and Busabout has a loyal following in young, solo travellers between the ages of 18 and 30, although there is no upper age limit for joining in on the fun!
What attracts backpackers and budget travellers to Busabout is the ability to make friends on the road and have higher flexibility in their itinerary, which allows them to spend more time in a place if desired, or move on to another destination if a particular place falls short of expectations. High-season typically falls between the months of May and October, with buses deployed to over 180 cities and scheduled to leave every other day.
What is Contiki?
Contiki is a coach tour company which was founded way back in 1962 and operates in Europe as well as in other continents worldwide. It is popular with 18 to 35-year-old backpackers and solo travellers because like Busabout, it offers stress-free travel, taking care of not only transport but also accommodation, so you don’t have to.
How do the services that Busabout and Contiki offer differ?
Busabout trips are for travellers on both short and extended-duration trips. Whilst the company offers short-duration trip passes to those travelling within Europe of between 1 and 4 weeks, Busabout also offers extended-duration trip passes featuring stops at a minimum of 12 destinations, to unlimited destinations. Best of all, passes are guaranteed – ensuring that you can count on the trip of a lifetime.
Busabout offers freestyle travel at its finest by giving travellers in Europe the opportunity to design their own travel itinerary, controlling the route taken to visit various destinations across Europe. In addition, its unique hop-on, hop-off service enables travellers to move from one city to the next with ease. Find out more about Busabout and their travel service throughout Europe.
Contiki, on the other hand, is not a hop-on, hop-off service. The travel company offers pre-made travel packages whereby the destinations, tour sites and times are set in advance. This means that the service doesn’t provide the flexibility of travel which makes Busabout such a desirable choice for backpackers and budget travellers to European destinations, who are hoping to see, do and experience as much as possible in accordance with their bucket list, rather than that of the company they are travelling with.
The reason Busabout wins on the question of flexibility is that if you really dislike a particular city or problems you experience(d) in a certain city or country are getting you down, you won’t have long to wait very long before another Busabout bus arrives ready to whisk you away to another destination – they depart every other day throughout the European season.
Busabout grants you complete control over the pace of your trip and it is completely down to you whether you want to take it easy and relax whilst on holiday, or won’t let any must-see site or monument escape you whilst you’re in town.
Check out the prices of Contiki trips and compare the two
Do Busabout and Contiki trips come with tour guides?
Although both Busabout and Contiki allocate a designated ‘trip manager’ who functions as a guide to each bus, Busabout differs from Contiki in the sense that the standard package they offer is not a guided tour! You’ll find that whilst travelling from one destination to another with Busabout, the trip manager will be there to answer all of your burning questions about the history of the European destination you’re headed to, the things you shouldn’t miss out on and accommodation recommendations.
They will even assist you to book tours and accommodation while travelling between destinations. However, once you’re off the bus, you’re at liberty to travel where you want, when you want and how you want. In contrast, Contiki provides you with full-blown tours meaning that you have an itinerary to follow if you want to get the most value out of the trip you have paid for.
Do either Busabout or Contiki apply any age restrictions?
Whilst both Busabout and Contiki require that you be at least 18 years old at the time of travel, Contiki applies a cap of age 35 for its guided tour packages, whilst Busabout applies no such cap to either its freestyle or pre-made tour packages. If you will be under 18 years of age at the time of travel but can be accompanied by someone aged 18 or older, definitely reach out to your company of choice as there are some exemptions for such scenarios.
What accommodation options do Busabout and Contiki offer?
Busabout travellers concerned about accommodation options within Europe can opt to stay at hostels available at discounted prices on the recommendation of their guide, meaning that they can stay in safe and clean accommodation options which won’t break the bank. Busabout makes every effort to ensure that you are taken to the doorstep of the hostel’s building, meaning you won’t have to worry about lugging your heavy suitcase or backpack across the city. Accommodation varies in price between each location and depending on if it is a city or small town but most are inclusive of Wi-Fi. You can opt to book and reserve for all of this in advance if you desire once you have purchased a Busabout ticket via their online travel scheduler. Beyond the Busabout bus, you can expect to meet a bunch of fellow travellers, just as keen to explore as you are!
You can use the adventure planner feature on Busabout and create a complete custom itinerary that includes accommodation as well. Check it out and plan your ideal trip throughout Europe.
As a comprehensive tour package, Contiki Europe tours cover all the costs of your accommodation, travel within the destination, meals and activities. So naturally, the cost of travel is generally much higher than Busabout’s offerings.
In terms of accommodation, you can opt for Contiki’s ‘Iconic Essential’ package, whereby the accommodation is hostel-based. These packages are more economical and you can expect to share a room with 4 to 6 people of the same gender. Such packages are typically only available during the summer months.
However, there are some Iconic Essential packages available all year round. Contiki’s ‘Discover’ and ‘In-Depth Explorer’ packages offer hotel-based accommodation for travellers in search of a deluxe offering whilst exploring Europe.
That’s great and all, but what is backpacking and travelling solo in Europe without the buzz of hostel life and the hilarious travel stories that come with winging it whilst on the move?!
Do Busabout and Contiki buses come with Wi-fi?
Both Busabout and Contiki buses are Wi-Fi enabled for the comfort of its Millennial and Generation Z travellers. These usually come at an extra cost per usage though.
You can also consider travelling with a pocket wifi device that may end up being cheaper and more flexible to use.
Are Busabout and Contiki expensive?
Whilst with both Busabout and Contiki you no longer have to worry about being stung by excess baggage fees and penalties for not checking in online at the airport, Busabout is definitely the more cost-effective option.
How much does Busabout cost?
How much does Busabout cost really depends on the type of trip want? Busabout is very reasonably-priced considering what is on offer, with prices starting from €189 for 3-stop passes, to €1239 for unlimited passes. Budget travellers looking to explore Europe can count on access to Wi-fi, ‘rest stops’ whilst in transit which will afford some time to grab food or use the restroom, discounted accommodation offerings, flexibility in designing the travel itinerary and – best of all – positive vibes, whilst exploring Europe with Busabout. See which travel package will suit your trip with Busabout or plan a complete trip using the adventure planner feature.
Are Contiki trips worth it?
Contiki is certainly much pricier due to the fact that accommodation, meals, travel and organised tours are included in the package. You can see some of the packages available for Contiki and decide for yourself are Contiki trips worth it.
What other tour options or services do Busabout and Contiki provide?
Depending on your travel style and the season, both Busabout and Contiki have a range of options to suit your needs.
Aside from giving travellers the flexibility to develop their own itinerary at low-cost, Busabout also offers a range of pre-made packages featuring incredible festivals headlined by some of the biggest names in music, once-in-a-lifetime cruises for young-travellers to Greek and Croatian islands (just check out this awesome sailing and island hopping package along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast – hey, you’re only young once!), winter ski trips, Adventures travel trips and much more. Many of these pre-made packages that are led by guides include accommodation.
Contiki has an equally diverse offering in Europe, albeit with less flexibility in designing your holiday. Iconic Essentials is Contiki’s classic option for budget-conscious travellers. Discoverer packages offer access to the same top destinations around Europe as the Iconic Essentials package, but with the addition of hotel accommodation rather than hostel stays. Contiki’s In-Depth Explorer package allows travellers in Europe to gain a better ‘feel’ for a destination by offering a selection of places to visit in one country rather than a multitude of destinations across different countries. Also, like Busabout, Contiki arranges festival packages and winter ski/snowboarding trips.
Which is better – Busabout, or Contiki?
Without a doubt, Busabout is the winner if we’re talking about cost, flexibility and travelling independently.
The typical demographic of a Busabout user is a young backpacker or solo traveller keen to experience as many destinations as their budget will permit during the period of travel. Travelling with Busabout is one of the cheapest ways to explore Europe and the UK-based travel company offers a host of cultural activities, island-hopping packages along spectacular coastlines in Croatia and Greece and music festivals.
Although both Busabout and Contiki solve the perennial issue of loneliness whilst travelling abroad for extended durations by giving you the opportunity to interact with others in the same, Busabout is definitely the superior choice for those seeking greater flexibility in terms of designing their itinerary and exploring without the need to follow the crowd.
You can meet a tonne of like-minded travellers between fellow Busabout travellers, and people you encounter in your hostel. What’s more, there’s no need to lament the fact your bus is leaving a particular city with Busabout, because you can simply stay a little longer! Provided you reschedule your departure date at least 24 hours beforehand, you can change your itinerary at no extra cost.
Access to local knowledge without compromising on your independence
Busabout guides are fun-loving, adventurous spirits with a solid understanding of the travel destinations on the Busabout route, as they visit every place before they begin working. Securing tips from a local, or a well-seasoned traveller has to be the ultimate way to see the very best that a place has to offer.
Whether you’re keen to see the magnificent architecture, eat like a local, or discover sites off the typical tourist route, your Busabout guides will help you achieve that. They will also let you know about activities you can participate in, such as cooking classes, pub crawls and walking tours.
The main appeal for travellers opting for Busabout is the fact that you can take all of the advice your Busabout guide gives you without having to commit to any of it or feeling guilty for having wasted money should you decide to sit out of any activity, as might be the case with Contiki or other travel companies.
It is hard to beat having the flexibility to design your own holiday, start planning your trip ready for summer. If you want to find out more information in regards to Busabout and how they operate I suggest checking out my previous blog post where I offered a complete review of Busabout.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions about booking or travelling with Busabout. I spent 3 months travelling around Europe with them and had the time of my life. I went to festivals, sailed the Mediterranean Sea, explored Greece and much more.
Other useful companies I use in Europe:
GetYourGuide – A company that offers a selection of popular tours for almost every destination you are likely to visit.
Viator – Viator also offers a range of tours and private excursions you can do in popular destinations. Always good to compare prices between companies.
FishingBooker – If you enjoy a fishing trip then Europe has plenty of exciting destinations to choose from. FishingBooker is a website that lists the best local charters in different locations around the world
Ebates – This is a great tool to use when booking almost anything online. You will automatically get a percentage of your paid price credited back to you after you complete your tour, accommodation stay or flight. Find out more about Ebates here
Booking.com – One of the companies I use the most when I’m travelling. It allows me to search for good accommodation and see pictures, and fellow travellers reviews of the hotel. Always offers great prices as well.
HostelWorld – If I’m not looking for a hostel then I always book through HostelWorld
Europe on a shoestring by the Lonely Planet – The travel bible as it becomes known to me during my travels around Europe. Shares plenty of information and provides a great source of knowledge. An easy to read book, which features attractions, accommodation travel advice for different parts of Europe.
World Nomads Insurance – If you are travelling for an extended period or almost any period in general then it is always best to have reliable travel insurance. Unfortunately you just never know when your travels will need to be altered or someone decides they like your belongings more than you.
Organise Your Trip: Travel Advice and Tricks I Personally Use
Book Your Flight
Heading to either Skyscanner or Momondo are my methods of choice for this. They are my favourite as they search for flights from different companies all over the world. You can filter the results to suit your needs and ensure you land the best price every-time.
Book Your Accommodation
This is an important part of any holiday you’re going on. Read all the reviews and get the right accommodation via TripAdvisor. They even show you the best prices available at the time for that room from suppliers like Booking.com.For booking a hostel your best bet is to start with HostelWorld or possible even use CouchSurfing if you’re on a real budget.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is a must these days so you have a piece of mind you’re covered for anything that could go wrong while on your trip. I now never go on a trip away without travel insurance. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past few years.
My favourite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (little more expensive but covers everything)
- SafetyWing (cheaper option to just cover you for health issues)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
As I have been travelling frequently over the last few years I’ve learnt some great tools to use for saving money when travelling. I have a travel resource page that lists all the trusted companies I personally use and rely on. I think you will find them good as well.
The Best Place To Book Your Tours
If you are someone you likes to have the best tours in one place and read reviews from other travellers about their personal experiences of each different tour then the best platform to use is GetYourGuide.
They offer the best tours, have money-back offers in case your trip is cancelled and ensure the price of each tour is the lowest possible.
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