Contiki vs. paying yourself

With winter already on our doorsteps, maybe taking a break to an idyllic beach location is exactly what you need. But, does searching for the flights, hotel, and tours work out cheaper than taking a holiday package? Moneybags journalist, Ashleigh Brown, investigates.

Contiki Holidays has been sending youth travellers (18 to 35 years) around the globe for over 50 years and they are the go-to experts at putting together an experience not to be forgotten, so they say.

They also take the hassle out of travel by taking care of all the arrangements, putting on a holiday of a lifetime. However, with most packages you would still have to pay for your flights.

But how do they compare to paying for everything yourself?

Contiki tours

“Usually those travelling independently only look to the price, in the belief that they can do it cheaper. But what independent travellers don’t factor in is the cost of their time, and the power of our global buying,” says Kelly Jackson, the general manager for Contiki.

Jackson highlights that the main ‘saver’ with Contiki is the time factor. For example, she points out that standing in line to enter the Colosseum in Rome along with the rest of the travelling world will cost you a truck load of precious sightseeing time – anything up to two hours just to enter this masterpiece.

Whereas if they had travelled with Contiki they would enjoy priority entry, the time saved alone is worth it, and it’s cheaper too.

“Another thing to consider is the cost of getting around. Taxis, trains, trams and the like all add to the costs whereas transport is included with Contiki. Plus we include meals, accommodation, sightseeing, fun stuff and enough free time to make the trip your own,” she says.

Going solo

“Generally, the cheaper the package, the further out your accommodation will be from the main city centre (as a rule of thumb),” says Lance van den Heever-Liebenberg the managing director of Marmalade Toast a travel management firm.

He says that this means that to get into the city for dinner or to party with the group could be expensive due to the need for taxis (instead of being in the city and being able to use cheap public transport).

He also says that the excursions are generally add-ons and these can get incredibly expensive in each city you visit.


“We find that most often with a bit of research and asking an agent like ourselves, we are able to find better value for money excursions than what the Contiki or Trafalgar tour are arranging (the joy to this is often being in a smaller group, having a private guide, having lunch or a meal included in the price and the excursion being exactly what you want to see and not something designed for the masses),” he says.

Van den Heever-Liebenberg says that Contiki tours have a number of destinations included, meaning you mostly only spend a night in each city.

“Very often all packages (such as a Thompsons package holidays, or Contiki and Trafalgar) are designed to suit a bigger spectrum of people,” he says.

Therefore, he suggests if you still want to have a ‘package’ deal, but be able to pick where you want to go, and for how long, then tailored packages are the way to go.

“We have access to the same airfares as companies like Contiki, and generally a broader portfolio of hotels (and very often existing relationships with each property) meaning that we can cut costs by tailoring the package to suit your needs (including excursions, dinners, theatre tickets, train tickets and so on),” he says.

Though, van den Heever-Liebenberg admits that Contiki is great if you have never travelled before, and don’t want to go by yourself.

Contiki packages are designed for single people, as making single bookings can get quite costly if booking direct as the single rate at a hotel is generally quite high.


Moneybags compared the nine day Traveller Hopper West package with Contiki versus paying for the same trip yourself to see where the numbers add up.

The departure date for the Contiki is September 23, 2015, and the package costs R9485 for nine days’ worth of travelling. You have to book the flights separately.

The itinerary includes:


Source: Contiki, correct as of 11 June 2015. For a full list of the events on each day, visit the website.

The Contiki website says that the average cost per day for the tour is R1053.

A quick search on TravelStart says the cheapest flights for the time period are R6488 return to Phuket.


Source: TravelStart, correct as of 11 June 2015.

Now the tricky part comes in. If you wanted to do a trip like this solo, you will need to make multiple bookings for all the different islands.

There are an abundance of hotels all over Thailand, and you are advised to shop around for the best deals.

For the stay in Phuket we found the Serenity Resort and Residences for R836 a night. According to the itinerary you will spend three days in Phuket, meaning you will pay R2508.


Next you go on to Khoi Phi Phi for another three days. We found a hotel for R561 a night, meaning you will pay a total of R1683.


The last trip before going returning to Phuket, you will be in Krabi for three days, leaving for Phuket on the last to catch your flight back home again.

We found a hotel for R371 a night, making it R1113 for the stay.


For the solo trip with the hotels and the flights, but excluding any spending money, or extra activities will cost you R11 792.

For the Contiki trip, with the package plus the flights would cost you R15 973.

Moneybags’ verdict

At the end of the day, it is all about what you want. With Contiki you can save a lot of time (and stress) by having everything organised for you, and you get to meet great people along the way. You will, of course need to take some spending money, and any extra activities will cost you.

But if you want to travel by yourself, or even have a more tailored package, then going solo is for you. Just make sure that you have everything organised, have paid all your hotel deposits, and have enough money for all the transport you are going to need.

Even though the costs are a very important part of travelling, there are other factors to consider: are you going to see what you want to? Will you have to spend more time fighting for a taxi, than sightseeing? Would you rather have a schedule to stick to, or is flexibility better for you?

Weigh up all the pros and cons before you make your final decision. So, where will your next holiday take you?