How I Spent RM 17k & Got Ditched Across The Globe

Zion National Park

If there was a ‘Worst Travel Agency In The World’ award it will have to go to Contiki, a company that young travelers (especially from Asia) should be aware of. You know me by now – I rarely write negative stuff at my favorite space. But as a travel writer who has tried globetrotting the world solo, with a partner, and in groups, I have learned an expensive lesson the hard way – one I want you to know about because no one deserves such treatment on a vacation.

Imagine having paid 4115 USD to a travel agency, to have the entire bus ditch you in a foreign country all the way across the world, without any aid or notice at all.

What would you do?


Dream, Destroyed.

5 years ago, I set up a ‘dream board’ with a mission called ‘3S’. 3S included 3 countries starting with the letter ‘S’ namely Spain, Sri Lanka and pardon the lack of accuracy: the States.

I devised a saving scheme, opened a new account and started a job I disliked to save up. I watched my piggy bank grow little by little, slowly but surely with each passing month from RM0.00, patiently like a poor farmer during winter until it hit my first 5 digit number.


In 2013, I set off to Spain for a month with my brother and returned with my money tank emptied by half. Two months later to Sri Lanka, another quarter of the remaining was gone. In between, I switched jobs, sometimes jobless, barely hanging onto my blog; which was then with Nuffnang, who gave me countless promises that they would propose me for more deals, when they were actually focused on selling other 90s bloggers riding the micro blogging trend.

Another 2 years later, my old new bank account amounted back to where it was before. Venturing the states coast-to-coast had always been the top of my bucket list ever since I was 11 when my mother introduced me to Disney World. We went to many countries together as a family but somehow Florida never happened so I continued lusting over it for years.


Changing my marital status happened in the process, serving as a new upgrade in life. But as the wisps of romantic dreams permeate into thin air, I had a sudden realization that once the actual wedding takes place, even more responsibilities will be expected of me. Not to mention, I have new, very different set of goals turning 30, but . . . What about the final sequel to my 3S mission?

Do I abandon it? Do I start converting my savings for the future of my non-existent kids? Splurge it on the wedding next year? Or use it for what it’s meant to be?

This hard-earned money I had, I paid it to a travel agency called CONTIKI or should I say, CUNTIKI because really, it is run by greedy, irresponsible c*nts since 1962.


What Happened. 

I requested a price quote from Contiki’s website and a woman from their Singapore office called me acknowledging that she noticed my interest and asked if I’d like to proceed with payment. As 4115 USD amounted to RM17k, I had to transfer the money in 4 batches throughout a span of a few days.

The entire duration, my conversation with her was all about the money. Other than that, it was always me who made the first move to ask questions regarding the trip. No one from Contiki advised me on where to meet, trip details, or the necessary visas I needed to prepare, which included an additional one for Canada aside from USA.

AFTER the full payment was successfully transferred, I was sent the WRONG ‘booking conditions’ with a Australia/New Zealand tab underneath, which Contiki heavily relied later on to put the blame on me.


New York: Our first Contiki kickstart meeting. After submitting our travel details, it occurred to me to asked my tour manager if I needed a separate visa to enter Canada via the coach. I was confident that it was a ‘多余’ question believing that a travel agency so international would have advised me on something so important.

Surprisingly, 3 years being a tour manager, he had no idea. I couldn’t help but wonder why I had to submit my passport details, etc, if the reason wasn’t to check if everyone had all the necessary documents to go on board?

Two hours later I was given a site to try and apply for an emergency visa online and of course it had to be non-user friendly to foreigners who actually need it the most.


Boston: It was only the second day of the tour. I received an unfriendly call from the director of sales and marketing of Contiki Asia in Singapore, who in his exact words, called to say “I forbid you to get on the bus tomorrow“, thrice, with fear that my presence might delay the bus onward to Canada the next day. Despite feeling emotionally distressed, I couldn’t help laughing. Naturally, I asked him “Who are you to forbid me???

I explained that the trip had been fully paid for, so it wouldn’t be right if the bus ditched me like that as I am part of the tour, therefor I am too, their responsibility just like the rest. It is Contiki’s responsibility to provide guidance on the visas I need and to ensure that I have the necessary visas before I join the tour. I would have failed my responsibility, if I did not make an application upon their advise.

Badlands National Park

As it was only the second day, I suggested options of a refund or helping me out in any means during my 1-week abandonment since they couldn’t find a solution for both parties to meet each other halfway.

However, he pushed all responsibilities to me using the wrong ‘booking conditions’ they sent. As far as I know, a T&C is only enforceable if it was given to me BEFORE I have paid for the said booking. It requires my consent to be able to amount to the agreement of both parties. Agitatedly, he said “You are most welcome to leave“, and hung up on me; all matters still unresolved.

I have traveled an abundance in this world to see the rich and the poor, yet this is one thing I still didn’t know – that such atrocious hospitality in the travel industry exists! How did Contiki Asia end up hiring such a RUDE person with ZERO emotional intelligence?


How I Solved It On My Own

Capitol Hill

I woke up the next day and the bus had left. I went down to the reception to see if my tour manager had left me a note or some sort of aid or advise on how to rejoin them. Two receptionists looked at me and said:

“No one told us that there is somebody from Contiki who’s still here, because usually they do…”

My eyes fell on her sympathetic gaze and I started feeling so sorry for myself I sobbed uncontrollably. The hotel was fully booked so the kind hoteliers took me in and placed me in an ‘OKU’ room for disabled clients; which feels more like staying in a hospital than a hotel.

As I was writing this, I had no where to go, nothing to do, stranded on a rainy day in midtown Boston, trying hard to stop my rebellious tears from wetting my cheeks and ruining the makeup. There were all stares. It’s all gone. My makeup. A quarter of my money. I wondered if I’d receive the same treatment if my father was Obama and I was Malia Ann.

Capitol Hotel

I stayed a couple of days more in Boston to sort things out for the next 6 days. É helped me to book a flight out to Washington DC and surprised me with a very nice stay at Capitol Hill as a treat after all that hurt.

The remaining days I sought refuge at my friend, Laura’s place at a small place called Hagerstown. In the end, the damage done still summed up to 850 USD (RM3400). </3


Why You Shouldn’t Travel with Contiki

Hollywood Walk of Fame

The reason I booked my trip through Contiki was because I wanted the services of a travel agency – I won’t have as much knowledge of the places stated in their itinerary, which is why I am willing to pay RM17k to ensure that I can enjoy my tour and be safe at the same time.

I wanted to be advised, for a smooth trip to be planned, to have assistance if I needed since I’d be alone, which is why I chose to join a group. I got NONE of the words in bold from Contiki.

In other words, I might as well have done this on my own.

Lucky for them I am a 29-going-30 year old adult who is well-travelled. What if I was someone’s 18 year old daughter who just graduated and was traveling for her first time with Contiki, thinking she will be safe all the way across the continent, just to learn that she’ll be ditched?

They give their tour guides fancy names i.e. ‘tour manager’, when really, ditching a client when facing a problem is not ‘managing’ a matter but rather, running away from it.

The least they could do was assist in booking alternative accommodation whilst I tried to sort out the visa situation. Contiki has multiple deals with hotels worldwide, so it would have been easy for them to help get better deals in hotels. Instead, the sales director of Contiki Asia was too busy trying to argue his point and being rude to even consider this.

The way Contiki dealt with the challenge shows how extremely careless, irresponsible and NOT Asian-friendly they are. Most of their clients are from Australia and UK; which exempts them from applying for a Canadian visa, so the lazy bastards forget what to do with the minority of their clients with other nationalities. Yet, they continued to be incompetent by not offering any sympathy or assistance in dealing with the problem, leaving a girl stranded all alone.

Can someone please remind me the purpose of a travel agency again???



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  1. your friend from Melbourne, Shasha on

    Oh Cindy, what a heartbreaking story…did you ever end up continuing your trip with Contiki or was that it? Just left you in Boston after day 2 in the States?

    Was it explained to you that you needed to ensure that you had all relevant visas before your trip?
    Did you try to call maybe Contiki USA to get some explanation and help?

    Sorry for all these questions, but the sound pretty s**t if you ask me! That Director of Sales is far from empathetic. 🙁

    I liked that you’ve got all smiling photos even if your story is nothing much to smile about…

    *big hugs*

    1. Hi Shasha, I haven’t heard from you for so long! Cuntiki literally left me in Boston on the 2nd day. A week later, I took an 11-hour midnight (backbreaking) Greyhound bus, to save some money & meet them in Cleveland. It was my own initiative. The agency didn’t even bother contacting me on how, when or where I can rejoin them once they returned from Canada.

      Nothing regarding the trip was explained to me, leave alone the visas. Contiki USA kept pushing the responsibility away to Contiki Asia. That so-called ‘director’… I don’t even know how a man so rude can be hired to run a tourism industry? Perhaps that’s why it’s so sh*t!

      I wasn’t sure if the smiling photos are appropriate, haha! But I guess sad photos would be weird.

      Big hugs back & sending all my love from Malaysia!

  2. Hi babe,

    Hope that you manage to accomplish what you wanted in this trip. I honestly think that this travel agency has not fulfil their responsibility and you should demand for a compensation for your loss. Do not give up seeking for a proper explanation from the travel agency and also give you your hard earned $$$ back!!!

    Good Luck


    1. Hi Carmen, I tried to make the best out of the trip. I demanded at least some kind of compensation, but the Sales Director scolded & hung up (Can you imagine?). I wish there was something I could do but for now, I think more people should know about the quality of this travel agency, before wasting their hard-earned money on them. Thank you for your support xxx

  3. I was thinking to give it a try. Now I think I better plan it by myself. I couldn’t imagine if I was in your place. Fight back and get your $$$ back.

    1. This is the exception and not the rule to Contiki traveling. While I agree that you should be compensated for the time lost on the trip, as an experienced traveller, you should have looked up any visa information on your own before even departing from your country. I have used contiki and LOVED every second of it. And I too was not given all visa information. I was only told to make sure I had the necessary visas but not how to get them. But as an UNEXPERIENCED traveller, I knew I needed to look it all up for myself to make sure I’d be okay for my trip. The fact that you haven’t taken any of the blame here is a little arrogant. As far as your trip manager is concerned, he is just a tiny cog in a large wheel. He didn’t ditch you. He didn’t personally set out to hurt you. His job is to keep the trip moving, not to arrange accommodations for a mistake he wasn’t part of making. You were given a day sheet with a time and a place for meeting. You did not meet at the bus to get on it. You let yourself be left behind by not being up and ready at the time you were supposed to. Perhaps if you had fought to get on the bus that morning, more might have been done for you. At the very least, you would have held up the bus long enough for them to give you some kind of guidance, albeit, forced guidance. After reading all this, it is clear to me that you just want to play the victim and take zero responsibility for anything. Even with a travel agency, an experienced traveller should never leave it all in the hands of a complete stranger.

      1. Hi Stephanie, I suppose we’ve met.

        My post is only a fragment of an entirely out-of-hand situation luckily, you were not in. You were advised to have all the necessary visas beforehand – yay! But I think you are missing the point; which is something happened to a client – HOW did the travel agency choose to deal with it?

        Aside from the ridiculous director of sales who called to shout & forbid me, a conversation I wish you heard, our tour manager too, forbid me vis-a-vis to get on the bus – not even to Maine / Niagara Falls, which is still within US borders! Therefor, I can’t apologize that I DO see myself as a victim. Also, were you suggesting that I make a scene to stall the bus? If so, I wish I had a bit of your selfishness in me to carry that out.

        You’re obviously a Contiki fan, so I won’t expect your empathy. Perhaps, perhaps… Perhaps if you were in my shoes at a different place, different time, perhaps you’d know what it’s like. Yet, I would never wish any sort of such matter would happen to you or anyone else.


      2. No one is saying that they didn’t handle this the wrong way. I completely agree that there was zero tact in the way the situation was handled on the end of these sales managers and they should have helped you at least find other arrangements for your week off the trip. BUT you competely ignored the fact that the only responsibility you had prior to the trip was getting the necessary visas you needed to travel with. Even if they have you ZERO information on how to do it, how could you not look that up for yourself? This entire situation would not have even happened if you had done your end of the job. Everyone else on your trip was able to look up and get their visas and you did not. So while I agree, they handled it the wrong way entirely, you can not blame an entire company on a mistake you are also at fault for and for an Asian sales rep with no bedside manner.

        And making a scene, no, I was not implying that. However, you write as though the tour snuck out and left you behind with malicious intentions. It was your choice not to get up that morning at the assigned time of departure. That does not mean making a scene. That means being able to be your own advocate in the situation and asking for some guidance that you clearly feel you were not given. I don’t see how a 15 minutes conversation about your next steps is selfish compared to all the whining you’d rather do behind a screen.

        I’m sorry this happened to you. And I’m sorry that you didn’t get any kind of apology about this ridiculous situation. But you messed up here too. It’s a two way street in ever interaction on this planet and if you want to play a victim, that’s fine, but that’s clearly not the whole story as you’ve painted it on here.

      3. Dear Stephanie,

        Most girls who learned about my case, got really worried, told me they did not look that up either, & went to ask the tour manager if they need a separate visa. Lucky for their nationalities, it’s all cool. Did you know that on the first night, our tour manager with zero hesitation, agreed that the sales exec from Singapore should have advised me on something so important, & even wrote an email to give her a bollocking?

        I don’t blame you for not understanding the scene as clear as I do, but what you suggested would have made a scene; following my face-to-face conversation with the tour manager the night before. I was forbidden by the company to get on the bus – I can’t even begin to explain how ridiculous this part went. Of course I fought the best I could to go as far as to Maine – I have paid to see Niagara Falls too!

        I would be very selfish if I did not share my story & Contiki’s incompetence, risking more Asian travelers possibly falling into the same situation & receiving the same treatment.

        About my absence, the action Contiki should have taken is to check on their missing member instead of f*cking off. What if I fainted in the bathroom or something happened to me the night before? What if that person was you, & we left you behind without even checking if you’re safe or alive? To think about it, many things that Contiki did or did not do, are really questionable.

        It is true that the world is a 2-way street. & you’ll never understand until it happens to you…

    2. I’m glad my article came in in time! Do it yourself or any other way; just don’t Contiki.

  4. I am really really sorry this happened to you, I would be so anxious and scared but rest assured not every tour manager or travel agent is like this. The lady I booked my contiki with was a superstar and I had the time of my life. I wouldn’t necessarily say to someone don’t do contiki just because of one bad experience, because some people would say travelling alone is just as hard, or they have encountered similar issues. However, I could have had a smooth experience because unfortunately I am from an Australian background and I didn’t need as many precautions before I travelled. But I was on tour with people from Japan, the Phillipines, South Africa and no one seemed to have any issues. I do hope you were somewhat compensated for their actions and mistakes, you’ve handled this very maturely!

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