Indochina Explorer (ZLB)

Luang Prabang to Bangkok 18 days, departing 04 Oct 2014

Ratings for this trip

Comfort Zone: Comfortable

Comfortable Comfort Level. There may be some days that are more challenging but the majority of experiences won’t be too far out of most people’s comfort zone. On OVERLAND TRIPS there will be a range of hotels that might even stretch up to 4-star. Campsite tend to be well organised with good facilities, bars and restaurants and upgrades usually available. ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS will be adventure by day, comfort by night, ideal for those who don’t like roughing it. Hotels will usually tourist-class (3-4 star) with private facilities and we try to add some unique accommodation experiences that may be on a multi-share basis such as a homestays. We will use a mixture of privately hired with some local transport.

Physical Challenge: Moderate Fitness

MODERATE FITNESS: You will travel through areas that may be physically challenging. For example you may be at altitude some of the time. Depending on the trip, activities may include treks of 3-4 hours across hilly terrain, horse-riding and other adventurous activities. A moderate level of fitness is required.

Countries Visited

Cambodia

If you want to find a mystifying, yet inspiring location, look no further than Cambodia. If you are looking for more than a holiday, and want to experience what South East Asia has to offer, this is the place for you.

Phnom Penh is a capital full of life. Lying on the edge of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh is the perfect place to relax after an adventurous day and is a fine place to be to see picturesque sunsets over the city's lake.

Getting into rural Cambodia is a great opportunity to see the rice paddies and sugar palms of Cambodia. The landscapes here are second to none, and as you venture further into the provinces, you can discover the true life of a Cambodian.

The country's most famous attraction is Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex ever built and ancient capital of the Khmer empire. It was built in the 12th century but only popularised in west in the 19th century. It's Cambodia's most visited site and features on the county's flag.

With the Mekong River flowing through the country, there is a chance to see some of the only freshwater dolphins left in this part of the world. If you aren't lucky enough to spot a dolphin, there is over 200 other animals you can spot. Whether this is in one of Cambodia's amazing national parks, or in the wilderness, the choice is up to you, as the vast amount of animals around the country means you are bound to find animal life wherever you go.

Vehicle in Cambodia - 2013 departures

Please note that due to import restrictions we are unable to take the overland truck into Cambodia. We therefore use a private bus for this section of the trip.

 

Laos

For a small country, Laos is one of the most diverse places in South East Asia.

Luang Nam Tha is a relaxing town in the heart of the country lying on the side of the Tha river. A place for exploration, it is the base for some of the indigenous tribes of the country. For more adrenaline fuelled activities, a trek through the Nam Ha National Park is a must. Also a hot spot for water sports, this protected area is a treasure surrounded by trees and rolling rivers. This national park is a fantastic chance to see some of the beautiful dress of the Laos people. The handcrafted decorative materials are truly remarkable.

Laos is graced with many lovely, relaxed towns, a product of the country's Bhuddest traditions of peace and respect. The soothing effects of the city of Luang Prabang is no exception. With the viberant market, great Franco-Loas food and the near byKuang Si waterfalls it's place most visitors spend at least a few days.

The capital city of Vientiane is home to The Golden Stupa which is the national symbol of Laos. It's a fine example of this relaxed and handsome city.

Like the lands the food too is beautiful. The typical Lao dish of Laap is rich in marinated meat and aromatic herbs. It is a perfect treat after a day of exploring. With a distinct taste, the dishes is best enjoyed with sticky rice and lashings of fish sauce.

Laos is a country that offers a friendly welcome and it does take long to get into 'Laos time' where days are slowly whiled away enjoying the landscapes and culture of one of the gems of South East Asia.

Thailand

Thailand lies deep in the heart of South East Asia, and it is a country brimming with Asian culture. Flowing with beautiful national parks Thailand has long been a favorite destinations for travellers.

The capital, Bangkok has an amazing skyline of glorious buildings. Don't be alarmed by the busy backdrop to this city, as there are many treasures hidden all over. Watch the sunset in a rooftop bar. Take a trip to the Amulet Market and protect yourself from evil spirits by the goods sold. Or visit the huge Buhadda at Wat Po.

Thai cuisine is popular throughout the world and concentrates on including five tastes. Spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The blend of these are important and many dishes concentrate on the right balance to make the perfect meal. A traditional dish of Pad Thai consists of chili spices and lime juices infused with chicken, peanuts and garlic on a bed of stir fry styled noodles.

There is a welcoming feel to this country, and with so many activities to try, there is something for everyone in the wonderful country of Thailand.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Luang Prabang

Sat 04 Oct 2014

Border Information: If joining in Luang Prabang, enter Laos at Luang Prabang Airport.

Today is free for you to explore exchanting Luang Prabang.

There is a trip meeting at 18:00 hrs at our hotel, where we will be staying overnight.

Hotel for the night: Bellevue Bungalows

Bellevue Bungalows

Old Bridge Street

Ban Meaungna

Luang Prabang

Tel: +856 71 25 2775

Activity Approximate Cost

Enjoy the tranquility of beautiful colonial city Luang Prabang

Included in Kitty

Luang Prabang

The enchanting "royal" city of Luang Prabang is anchored at the junction of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers in northern Laos. Home to a spellbinding array of gilded temples, art deco shop fronts and weathered French colonial buildings, It is a fascinating and beautiful city to wander around. For all its magnificent architecture, it actually feels more like an easy-going provincial town: saffron-robed monks amble silently through the streets collecting offerings from the city's residents first thing in the morning, and when the evening comes old men lounge in chairs outside their homes while children play out in the streets. There's plenty to explore here from the Royal Palace and many temples to the sacred caves of Pak Ou a short distance outside the city. You can also make the steep climb up Mount Phousi, the spiritual and geographical heart of the city, and a great spot to watch the sunset over the Mekong.

Day 2: Luang Prabang

Sun 05 Oct 2014

Today is free for you to wander the streets of Luang Prabang and explore the surrounding area. Second night in our friendly local hotel.

Day 3: Vang Vieng

Mon 06 Oct 2014

Leaving Luang Prabang, we will spend most of today travelling as we drive south to Vang Vieng. We will stay here for 2 nights basing ourselves at a local guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

Free time available for optional activities in laid-back Vang Vieng

Included in Kitty

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is nestled in a valley of on the banks of the Nam Song river, surrounded by misty jungle and craggy karst limestone peaks. Being up in the hills, the town enjoys a cooler climate than much of the surrounding area, and together with it's breathtaking mountain views and laid-back feel this has made it a popular backpacker haunt in recent years. Whilst it's true that there has been quite a lot of development in recent years, Vang Vieng is still a worthwhile destination as there's a lot to do in the surrounding area. The area is renowned for its many caves, many of which are easily accessible from the town, perhaps the most famous is the cave of Tham Chang, a beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring making it a perfect spot for a refreshing swim.

Day 4: Vang Vieng

Tue 07 Oct 2014

A free day for you to relax and explore Vang Vieng. Second night in local guesthouse.

Day 5: Vientiane

Wed 08 Oct 2014

Travel day, driving from Vang Vieng further south to the old French colonial city of Vientiane. We will be here for 2 nights, staying in a friendly local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Discover the fusion of Southeast Asian and French culture in Vientiane

Included in Kitty

Vientiane

Hugging a curve in the Mekong River, laid-back Vientiane looks more like a collection of rambling villages dotted by the occasional flamboyant monument than a typical southeast asian capital city. Whilst there's probably been a settlement here since as early as the 10th century, it's the French who are really responsible for much of the city you see today, from the wide tree-lined boulevards to the now crumbling colonial villas. It's this well preserved fusion of Southeast Asian and French colonial culture that accounts for much of Vientiane's appeal: noisy tuk-tuk's career past cosmopolitan cafes, whilst baguettes and red wine coexist happily with pho soup and papaya. And this is an easy city to explore, small and manageable in comparison to many Asian capitals, the centre is easily negotiated on foot and even outlying areas can be reahed with hardly any hassle by hiring bikes or tuk-tuks.

Day 6: Vientiane

Thu 09 Oct 2014

Free day to wander the streets of laid-back Vientiane or perhaps hire bikes or go by tuk-tuk to explore the surrounding area. Second night in friendly local hotel.

Day 7: Phi Mai, Isan

Fri 10 Oct 2014

Border Information: Exit Laos at Paoy Pet, enter Thailand at Nong Khai.

Today we leave Laos, crossing the border into Thailand over the Friendship Bridge. Travelling through the region offers a unique glimpse of the Thailand of old. Tonight we will probably stop and find a spot to wildcamp for the night en route to Phi Mai.

Phi Mai

Exploring the remote temples of Phimai in the remote Isan region of Thailand gives you the chance to learn about the areas interesting Khmer history. This building of this Hindu-Mahayana Buddhist complex started in the 10th century under Khmer King Jayavarman V, which means it actually pre-dates it's more famous cousin, Angkor Wat, by nearly a century. The Phimai temples share a number of design features with their more famous Cambodian neighbours, particularly the roof of the 28m tall main shrine, so much so that many people have argued that this may have been a model for the Angkor complex.

Isan

Crossing between Laos and Cambodia we overland through the Isan region of north-eastern Thailand. This remote area is often described as Thailand's "forgotten backyard" as it's the least-visited part of the country, despite the fact that it accounts for a third of the kingdom's land mass and nearly a third of it's total population. In fact, travelling through these north-eastern provinces offers a unique glimpse of the Thailand of old, a country where rice fields run on as far as the eye can see and silk-weaving is still a cottage industry - and the people here are immensly proud of their cultural heritage and family history and life still very much revolves around family and community.

Day 8: Phi Mai, Aranyaprathet

Sat 11 Oct 2014

If time allows, we will visit the temple complex of Phi Mai this morning, before travelling on to Aranyaprathet on the Thai/Cambodia border. Tonight we stay in a simple local hotel in Aranyaprathet.

Aranyaprathet

On the border of Thailand and Cambodia, lies the wonderful city of Aranyaprathet. Lined with casinos and markets, it is a lively place to visit and a great place to use as a stopping over point before travelling further into Thailand or starting a journey into Cambodia.

Day 9: Siem Reap

Sun 12 Oct 2014

Border Information: Exit Thailand at Aranyaprathet, enter Cambodia at Poipet.

We will spend most of today travelling, crossing the border into Cambodia first thing in the morning before driving on to Siem Reap. We will be in Siem Reap for 3 nights staying in a friendly local hotel.

Please note that we are unable to take the overland truck into Cambodia due to import restrictions. We therefore use a private bus throughout this section of the trip. 

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights in Siem Reap, once the heart of the Khmer empire

Included in Kitty

Watch the sun set over the amazing temple complex at Angkor

Included in Kitty

Full day tour of the incredible temples at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

Siem Reap

The small town of Siem Reap makes a good base for visiting the famous temples at Angkor Wat. The town itself is a pleasant spot in it's own right and a good place for a bit of rest and relaxation. A visit to the old market is a must, even if you're not looking for souvenirs; wandering through the stalls and surrounding shops the silks, cottons, sarongs, silver and statues are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes. There's also a long tradition of shadow puppetry in the region, and if you're lucky you might catch a show at one of the local restaurants in the evening.

Day 10: Siem Reap, Angkor Wat

Mon 13 Oct 2014

Today we get up early for our full day guided exploration of the incredible temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. We will also be able to watch the sunset over the temples. Second night in friendly local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Full day tour of the incredible temples at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

Included in Kitty

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat really is a spectacular as all the guidebooks and newspaper articles have led you to believe, and nothing can quite prepare you for your awe-inspiring first glimpse of the temple's five majestic towers. Angkor literally means "city" or "capital" and that's exactly what the huge temple complex once was - the ancient capital of the Khmer empire. Angkor Wat itself is usually recognised as the most impressive temple within the complex, both in terms of it's grandeur and it's sheer magnitude. As you approach, the intricacy of the layout becomes apparent, and close up, every nook and cranny reveals itself to be filled with fine detail; around every corner a new feature surpasses the last. Throughout the day the colours of the stone seem to change, the spires golden in the dying light at dusk.

Day 11: Siem Reap

Tue 14 Oct 2014

Today is a free day for you to do as you please. Return to the temples to spend some more time exploring, or maybe take some time to relax with a massage or local spa treatment. Siem Reap itself is a lively little town and interesting to wander around. Third night in friendly local hotel.

Day 12: Phnom Penh

Wed 15 Oct 2014

Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. We stay here for 2 nights in a local guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 nights in Cambodia's chaotic capital Phnom Penh

Included in Kitty

Phnom Penh

Cambodia's hot and dusty capital has a reputation for being chaotic and noisy but it has actually become far more pleasant and relaxed in recent years. Wandering through the broad tree-lined boulevards dotted with old colonial villas you'll find that the city has managed to retain much of it's original charm, especially as it hasn't (yet) been overwhelmed by too many towering high-rise developments. Life in Phnom Penh centres around the lively riverfront area where in the evening the locals come to take in the air, snack on the street hawkers food and enjoy the impromtu waterside entertainment along the long grassy promenade. The capital is also a fantastic place for souvenir shopping and with it's great range of restaurants it's the perfect place to sample cambodian cuisine.

Day 13: Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Killing Fields Memorial

Thu 16 Oct 2014

Morning visit to the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and Killing Fields Memorial. Afternoon free to explore Cambodia's capital. Second night in local guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

Learn about Cambodia's history at the "Killing Fields" and Tuol Sleng Prison Museum

Included in Kitty

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as S-21, is housed in the classrooms of Tuol Svay Prey High School which became the main interrogation centre of the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. It is estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here before being killed at the Killing Fields south of Phnom Penh - and countless others who died under torture in the centre itself were buried in mass graves in the school grounds. Only a handful of prisoners ever made it out of the centre alive. Visiting the museum is certainly not a comfortable experience, but for anyone who is interested in learning about Cambodia's horrific recent history it is definitely a worthwhile trip.

Killing Fields Memorial

A short distance outside Phnom Penh is Choeung Ek, referred to many as the "Killing Fields", this was the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng, the Khmer Rouge's interrogation centre, S-21. Standing in this peaceful setting surrounded by orchards and rice fields it is almost unthinkable to imagine that to date nearly 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area. The site is now home to a memorial to all those who died here and is especially poignant after visiting the Genocide Museum at Tuol Sleng.

Day 14: Battambang

Fri 17 Oct 2014

This morning we leave Phnom Penh, heading for Battambang. We will probably stop en route for a boat trip to visit one of the many floating villages in the area. In Battambang we stay in a friendly hotel, either for one or two nights.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit to the floating village of Kampong Loung by boat

Included in Kitty

Explore the "Killing Caves" at Phnom Sampeau

Included in Kitty

Battambang

Laid-back Battambang is a characterful colonial gem, full of well-preserved villas and shophouses clustered around a lazy riverside. The city is famous for it's many statues of animals and divinities which decorate the streets and buildings. Close nearby is the hillside site of Phnom Sampeu, an interesting spot to explore, littered with pagodas and cave shrines with a fantastic view of the rice fields and surrounding countryside from the summit.

Day 15: Battambang

Sat 18 Oct 2014

Free day to explore Battambang and the surrounding area. Second night in local hotel. Note: This is an exploratory trip and the crew may decide to use this day elsewhere on the itinerary.

Day 16: Aranyaprathet

Sun 19 Oct 2014

Border Information: Exit Cambodia at, enter Thailand at Aranyaprathet.

Morning visit to the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau. After lunch we drive back towards the border with Thailand, crossing over in the late afternoon. Overnight in local hotel in Aranyaprathet near the border.

Day 17: Bangkok

Mon 20 Oct 2014

Drive from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok. Whilst in Bangkok we stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore bustling Bangkok

Included in Kitty

Bangkok

The chaotic headlong pace of Bangkok doesn't match up with many people's idealised vision of the exotic capital of Siam. Scattered with high-rise buildings of concrete and glass, the city is a sprawling plain that's home to a population of at least nine million, and it often feels even bigger. But under the shadow of the skyscrapers you'll find a heady mix of frenetic markets, noisy traffic, hushed golden temples and early-morning alms-giving ceremonies. One way or another, the place will probably get under your skin - and if you don't enjoy the challenge of slogging through jams of buses and tuk-tuks, which fill the air with a chainsaw drone and clouds of pollution, you can spend time exploring the impressive temples and museums or shopping 'til you drop.

Day 18: Bangkok

Tue 21 Oct 2014

Border Information: Finishing in Bangkok, exit Thailand at Bangkok Airport.

Free time in Bangkok.

Visa Information:

Most countries we visit on our travels will require visas.  Some are best obtained before you leave home and others can be obtained en-route. Whilst the ultimate responsibility for obtaining visas is yours, we will endeavour to assist you wherever possible.

The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. The information provided is given in good faith and we do try to keep the visa information as up to date as possible.  Please be aware though that rules do change, often without prior warning, which is why it is important that you check for yourself.

For visas that are needed in advance you can choose to submit the applications directly to the relevant embassy /consulate.  However our recommendation is that you use a visa agent to assist you with your applications. While this does increase the cost it will make the process much easier for you. Dragoman have teamed up with ‘The Visa Machine’ to create a safe, secure, hassle-free way of obtaining visas and visa advice. Our unique link within their website is designed to make the visa process as straightforward as possible.  Simply go to  https://dragoman.thevisamachine.com and click on your region of travel followed by your trip route and ‘The Visa Machine’ will advise you about not only the required visas but also the dates by which you should apply.  ‘The Visa Machine’ can then assist you in the actual visa application thus taking all the worry and hassle out of the process.  This should apply for ALL nationalities and countries of residence.

As you will need to submit your passport together with your applications, we recommend that you avoid making any travel plans in the weeks leading up to your departure. However if you do need to travel in this period please let us know as soon as possible so that we can help you work out the options for your visa application process. 

Important Notes

The routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only.

 

We intend following the planned route but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. By their very nature overland itineraries need to be flexible and the regions that we are travelling through are often unpredictable. We run adventure journeys in off the beaten track areas, often in areas without western infrastructure. You should expect that some these areas do not adhere to western safety standards.

Vehicle in Cambodia

Please note that due to import restrictions we are unable to take the overland truck into Cambodia. We therefore use a private bus for this section of the trip.

Physical Preparation

Physical preparation for Asia Itineraries

In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climates from the hot deserts through to the colds of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.

Visa Information

Thailand

Citizens of Australia, NZ, UK, USA do not need visas to visit Thailand as a tourist. If entering by air you will be granted a 30 day stay. If entering by land you will be granted a 15 day stay only. In addition for those coming overland and flying into Thailand you will require an onward ticket out of the country or onwward travel itinerary to obtain the visa. A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office and the cost is 1900 THB. Alternately you can obtain a visa before departure at your local Thai Embassy or Consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border.

Citizens of other countries should check with the relevant consulates as to whether a visa is required.

Cambodia

A visa is required for all nationalities.

Visa can be arranged either in advance or on arrival. Check with your embassy or consulate and allow approx 3 weeks for processing. It is also possible to obtain your Cambodian visa on arrival the land border crossings, please see below for further details.

Visa on arrival

Cambodian visas can be obtained on arrival at the border, this is the easiest option for our groups. Cambodian immigration usually charges 1000-1200 baht for a tourist visa or US$25 - please bring one passport photo. (Cost subject to change without notice from the Cambodian Government).

Laos

All nationalities require a visa to enter Laos.

A 30 -day visa on arrival is available at all ports of entry in Laos including the airports, Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Paske. Make sure you arrive with enough USD to pay for the visa on arrival.You will be required to fill in an application form and hand it back together withl your passport, 1 photo and the fee. All nationalities should check with the respective embassies for more information and costs.

If entering Laos overland we ask all our travellers to obtain their Laos visas en route, and NOT in their home country.  Please ensure that you have up to 3 passport photos and costs range from US$30 - US$42 (please note that this amount can change at anytime and it is best to check with the embassy prior to your trip departure. There will also be an Immigration fee of 5000kip. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months AFTER your entry date into the country or you may be denied entry at the border.

Personal Spending

Based on the range that previous travellers have spent on this trip, we recommend you allow between a minimum of US$15 and a maximum of US$30 per day for Central Asia, China and Burma and between a minimum of US$10 and a maximum of US$20 for India, Nepal and South East Asia.

This will cover individual expenses such as drinks, meals whilst out and also when staying in hotels, souvenirs, tips and personal permits.

Please note:  For trips in Southern India that occur over Christmas and New Year please allow approximately $160USD extra on the kitty for seasonal increases in accommodation costs

What else you need to know

Currencies & Cash

It is not really worth trying to buy local currencies before you travel.  Do also bear in mind that many countries have strict regulations about the amount of their own local currency you are allowed to import - if you are found with amounts in excess of the allowed amounts, it may well be confiscated!

For trips in Turkey, South East Asia, India and Nepal, a sensible mix of cash and ATM cards is best. However, most of our past passengers have said they wished they had been told to bring more cash. Apart from the convenience of being able to change money in many more places, you will sometimes get a much better exchange rate for cash.

For trips in Central Asia, China, Burma and Mongolia please refer to the money exchange notes.

You should take a mixture of denomination notes. Banks and moneychangers in most countries will now only accept bills with a metallic strip running top to bottom of the bill and which are dated from 2003 or later. You should not take worn or damaged notes, or any that have been written on. Cash machines are readily available in most areas but are not always reliable therefore we recommend that you do not rely on them as your only source of cash. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most commonly accepted, but be prepared for very high commission charges. Please do not rely on cards for daily use, as they are not always accepted outside of larger towns and cities. Please bring a mixture of small and large denominations as in more remote areas it can be hard to change amounts over USD50.

Pre and post trip accommodation and connecting flights

At Dragoman we believe you should make the most of the places you visit, so if you would like to see more of your joining or finishing point cities, why not book additional accommodation to extend your stay. Dragoman can take away the hassle of time zones and language barriers by making the booking for you. This accommodation is only available at the joining or finishing city of your trip, immediately before or after the trip you are travelling on. 

While Dragoman is happy to assist with booking your pre and post trip accommodation, it is important that you understand you may be able to book your own room at a cheaper rate directly through the hotel or on the internet.  Our additional accommodation prices are based on the hotel’s rate plus an administration fee. Please note our rates do not reflect last minute walk in rates or internet specials.

We can also book arrival airport transfers for you as long as we have your flight arrival details.  These are normally payable in cash upon arrival, however we do have pre paid transfers in a few destinations. 

Please contact our reservations team for details of the accommodation and transfers that we can offer as not all hotels offer this service.

Accommodation on tour

Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels and therefore do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers will share with people of the same sex for the duration of the trip, in accommodation ranging from twin to multi-share. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. The campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, this allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities. 

Group size?

The maximum group size we take on our overland journeys ranges from 19 to 22 depending on the geographical location, however the average number of passengers is more likely to be around 16. 

Please note that there is an overlap of 2 trips in Zanzibar. This means a group starting a trip in Nairobi for example will visit Zanzibar at the same time as groups starting their trips in Dar es Salaam. In practical terms this means there could be up to 44 group members in Zanzibar at the same time.

Who travels with Dragoman?

Our passengers come from around the world and are always an interesting mix of nationalities and ages. On average there is a pretty even split, males to females and between solo travellers, couples and small groups of friends. We believe that overlanding should be open to as many people as possible and so although we have a minimum age limit of 18, as long as you are fit, healthy and passionate about travel, we are happy to take you, whatever your age is. One of the beauties of group travel is the camaraderie and friendships that are formed along the way and as well as the variety of people that you will meet.

Our Community

At any time before or after you book you can join our community - Dragoland. This is a great place to ask questions before you travel and catch up with your fellow travellers once your trip has finished. You can share photos, videos and stories You can also download a selection of free travel apps. See the home page to sign in, it's free and easy.

We also have a Facebook page where travellers regularly swap info with each other - you can join here

Our crew and guides

Our crew are passionate about travel and always up for adventure. It takes someone special to become a Dragoman leader. Our crew undergo the most intensive training program of all overland companies, spending 10 weeks learning the ropes at our base in Suffolk, UK and then up to six months on the road as a trainee. On all Dragoman overlanding trips two western crew who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation will accompany you. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. On trips South of Nairobi in East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. 

Dragoman endeavours to provide the services of experienced crew however, due to the seasonality of travel, situations may arise where your crew is new to a particular region or training other crew.

Your tour leader has a duty of care to all of their passengers and therefore they have the authority to ask passengers to leave the trip if they require medical assistance, are behaving in an anti-social manner or refuse to comply with local laws and customs. In all matters relating to the trip, the leader's decision will be final and we appreciate your respect of this.

Health

All Dragoman travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in our trips. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our leader, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Dragoman reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of the trip without a refund. 

You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information prior to travel, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. We also advise you to declare any pre-existing medical conditions to your travel insurers upon purchase. 

For trips that travel to areas of high altitude we also require all travellers to complete an altitude questionnaire. The ratings for each trip are a good indication of how challenging they are and in some cases customers should be prepared for some long driving days and possibly limited facilities. We are always happy to give extra advice if you have additional concerns. 

 

Vaccinations

 Recommended vaccinations and other health protection vary according to regions and recent bulletins issued by health authorities. It is essential to get the latest advice on the region(s) you are planning to travel in. It is essential that you check with either your doctor or travel clinic in good time before you travel.

 In the UK we have been working with Nomad travel for many years and their website has comprehensive, up to date vaccination and health information. Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount off all vaccinations given at Nomad Travel clinics.

A good source of up to date information is the world Health Organisation - http://www.who.int/en/

Malaria

Get expert advice before travelling about types of malaria pills and take them as instructed. Recommended types do change from time to time and from area to area. Consult your vaccination centre for the most up-to-date requirements

The mosquito usually bites between the hours of dusk and dawn and so covering up by wear long-legged and long-sleeved clothing, preferably light coloured and buttoned at the wrists can help. Do not sleep without closing windows, tent doors or, if sleeping out, use a mosquito net. Wear repellent applied directly to the skin or soaked into clothing.

Treating clothes and mosquito nets with a Permetherin solution provides significant protection. It should be available at most travel stores.  Mosquito coils are useful on still nights, in hotel rooms but cannot be used inside the tents.

Meals and group participation

On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger - you're part of the crew. You are expected to pitch in to set up camp, shop for food, cook and generally help out. As part of your trip you will be assigned a truck job which could be collecting water and firewood, sweeping out the truck, loading the back locker, etc.

While camping on overland journeys, all meals are included in the kitty. This means that you will have to work together to cook for everyone in your group. You will be divided into smaller units of 3-4 people and take it in turns to cook for the whole group according to a rota system. When it is your turn to cook you will have to plan the meal, shop for the ingredients in local markets or supermarkets and then prepare the meal for the whole group. The secret to cooking for 20+ people in a basic camping kitchen is to keep it simple! (On trips south of Nairobi we have a cook on board the truck; however you will still be required to help prepare meals).

If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting. An example of a typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, fruit and cereal as well as tea and coffee. When time allows it will also be possible to serve something hot such as eggs or pancakes. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto or pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit from it.

Responsible tourism

Dragoman is committed to ensuring that we have a positive impact on local communities and that we implement policies to minimise any negative impact on the local environment. We are dedicated to making sure that we adopt a responsible attitude to the areas through which we travel and believe that our trips should benefit the local people and their environment. Dragoman recognises that we are guests of local communities and strive to make these communities our partners, so that they benefit directly from our visit. You can find full details of Dragoman’s responsible tourism policy linked from the home page.

A few Rules 

 Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs is not only against the law, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Dragoman customers.  It is one of our core values to treat all people we encounter with respect which of course includes all the local people who make our destinations so special.  The exploitation of prostitutes or children is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes or abuse children.  Equally Dragoman will not tolerate any violence or threat of violence towards local people, other group members or any member of our staff. 

 We expect all our customers to obey all the laws of the countries through which we pass.  This particularly applies to the smuggling of contraband and possession of narcotic drugs (as above), firearms, antiquities and ivory. 

Any customer found contravening such laws or customs will be required to leave the trip immediately with no refund of the trip price.

Safety and security

One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise passengers to leave any valuable jewellery, watches etc at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice.

Please note: Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.

The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority of Dragoman. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers

Leaders reports from off the road

Local contacts we have built up over 31 years of experience

Dragoman has also teamed up with the UK Foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) in their 'Know before you go campaign' www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougoThis website offers straightforward travel advice, top tips, and up to date country information to help you plan a safe trip.

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel. Below are links to some of the websites

Britain. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country

Australia. http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

New Zealand. http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

United States. http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

Canada. http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/menu-eng.asp

Dragoman has comprehensive passenger liability protection and tour operator insurance. These policies have total indemnities of £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 respectively. This is in addition to local vehicle insurance and your personal travel insurance.

Emergency contact

We have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in theses trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked and the crew informed if necessary.

Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have comprehensive travel insurance. Without evidence of valid travel insurance you will not be allowed to start the trip.

Whatever policy you choose, you must ensure that it is designed for adventure/overland travel. As such it must cover you for adventure activities such as white water rafting, trekking, horse-riding and that the 24 Hour Emergency Assistance Company must be experienced in handling situations in developing countries – for example they have the ability to arrange repatriation from remote areas such as the Sahara or if you were trekking in the Andes. Please double check if you have annual travel and/or credit card policies to ensure they have the cover you require, as many of these policies are not able to cope with adventure travel to remote areas. We recommend that any policy has the following minimum levels of cover: Medical (incl. repatriation) £5,000,000 Personal Liability £5,000,000 Cancellation and Curtailment £5,000 Loss of Baggage, personal effects, money and other inclusions are down to personal choice.

Issues on the trip

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local partner straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

We recognise that there may be times when your group leader may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction. If this is the case please contact our customer relations department on customer_relations@dragoman.co.uk. You may also choose to provide details in your feedback questionnaire which we ask you to complete at the end of your trip but we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

Passports

Check that your passport will still be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip - this is important as some countries WILL refuse entry to anyone whose passport is due to expire. A temporary or "visitor's” passport is not valid on our trips. You will need to provide us with your passport details prior to departing for you trip. If you change your passport please remember to inform us.

Luggage & Kit List

Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use.

The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different-sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg.  Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.

Your clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats (except on routes between Nairobi and Cape Town where ground mats are provided).

The clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in, which will vary depending on which part of the world you're heading to. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats*, so you'll need to bring those with you. Think about the climate and altitude of the areas you'll be travelling to, there's nothing worse than being cold at night so it's worth investing in a decent sleeping bag if it's likely to get cold. And remember even when it's warm during the day, it can often get cold at night, particularly in desert regions.

IMPORTANT: Ground mats are provided on all of our overland trips that run in South and East Africa, between Nairobi and Cape Town. This includes our Family trips between Nairobi and Cape Town.

For a general idea of what you need this list provides a guide:

For a comprehensive kit lists take a look at the Dragoman kit list that Nomad Travel have created.  Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount on all equipment purchased either online or in store. Click to see the kit lists www.nomadtravel.co.uk/kitlist/overlanders-kit-list

Water

The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments.

Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your Overland vehicle. You are free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like. You are helping the environment and your hip pocket!

Personal medical kit

All of our trucks have a fully stocked medical kit onboard for use in emergency situations only.  Therefore in addition to this we recommend that you purchase your own personal medical kit. In the UK we have teamed up with Nomad Travel Stores and Clinics to produce the Dragoman Travel Medical Kit. It has been designed in conjunction with the truck kits  and contains everything you would need for any minor accidents. For more details please visit their website:

nomadtravel.co.uk/catalog/view/dragoman-medical-kit

Electrical equipment

Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt socket so to charge your iPod, MP3 player, camera, laptop and mobile phone you will need a DC 12 volt adapter - the type that can be used from a cigarette lighter in your car. Please be aware that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets and the majority of the campsites we stay at have electricity points so please bring along your normal charging adapters as well. You will need to ensure that you have the correct country adaptor for your specific charger.

For mobile phones, please note that most countries in the Americas operate at 850MHz and 1900 MHz which is not the same frequencies used in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Most modern tri-band and quad-band mobile phones will be able to operate on these frequencies but please check your mobile phone specifications before travelling to ensure that you'll be able to use your phone in the Americas.

The kitty

In addition to the trip price on our overlanding trips you will also be required to pay a kitty specified for your trip. The kitty is payable in instalments at the start of each section of the trip for combination trips, and in full at the start of the trip for individual trips. Each customer joining a trip pays their kitty into a central fund. The fund is managed by the Dragoman crew & kitty accounts can be viewed by all throughout the trip.

The Kitty covers all things that the whole group does, such as:

The kitty system is very unique to overlanding and we believe it allows us to have flexibility & transparency on our trips. You can see exactly how your money is being spent and ensure that you are getting the best value by buying locally. It also helps to keep the costs competitive & save on administration costs so that we can pass the saving on to you. Dragoman makes NO PROFIT on kitties as they are the group's fund. 

We constantly update the kitty prices on our website and the kitty advertised in the brochure is an estimate at the time of printing. Prices can go up or down with no notice and exchange rate fluctuations will affect costs. If there is money left in the kitty at the end of your trip then this is divided between the group and you receive a refund.  Once you book your trip it is very important that you check our website on a regular basis and just before departure for any changes to the kitty amount.

At least half of your kitty should be paid in cash in the specified currency on the website (US Dollars or Euros in West Africa). The outstanding amount can be paid in local currency during your trip; your leader will give you the exchange rate.  Most of our travellers choose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.

Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.

Continuing your trip

Having an amazing trip and met a great group of people? Having too much fun to go home yet?  If on your trip you decide you would like to continue, then why not speak to your trip leader who can advise you of the cost and availability of continuing your journey.

Contingency emergency fund

Sometimes, civil or political unrest, or reasons beyond Dragoman's control (e.g. a natural disaster), can mean that an itinerary is disrupted and we have to make a contingency plan. This may involve hiring alternate transport or even the whole group flying over an area. Although Dragoman will help organise travel arrangements, in circumstances outside Dragoman's control you should be prepared to contribute towards the costs and therefore we ask you to bring along a 'Contingency Fund' of USD400. In almost all cases trips run smoothly and this fund is therefore never used. We also recommend that you take along an internationally recognised credit or charge card with a decent limit in case of emergencies, such as medical treatment en route, or even the need to be repatriated; though these occurrences are rare. Remember that travel insurance policies usually only refund you for expenses after you have already paid out.

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary. The Dragoman crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own Dragoman crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person.