Trans Himalayan between Kathmandu and Beijing (BTK)

Kathmandu to Beijing 47 days, departing 28 Apr 2013

Ratings for this trip

Comfort Zone: Basic / Adventurous

Basic comfort levels. Expect to rough it every now and again. On OVERLAND TRIPS be prepared to have some nights wild camping, campsites with basic facilities as well as some basic hotels, often on a multi-share basis. Some of the roads we travel along may be poor. On our ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS you will stay in simple, budget (1-2 star) accommodation with some shared facilities. Some accommodation may be on a multi-share basis and transport will be mainly local.

Physical Challenge: Strenuous in parts

STRENUOUS IN PARTS: These are physical tours; we may well be travelling at high altitudes, across deserts or through hot and steamy tropical countries. Physically it can be quite tough, but not necessarily all the time and there will be plenty of rest days and time to relax as well. The fitter you are the more you will enjoy the trip.

Countries Visited

China

As one of the world's largest countries and the most populous there is so much to discover in China.

Understanding the history of China is key to understanding modern China. The people are proud of it's past, and keen to share it's heritage with the world. In a country that defies superlatives the words 'vast', 'astonishing' and 'variation' don't really seem to cover it - China really does have it all. Jungle in the south, mountains in the west, desert in the north and 21st century cities.. well... almost everywhere.

Beijiing is the hub of political and international focus. With the 2008 Olympic games providing funds to modernise huge ares of the city, it is a truly modern city. However most visitors are most struck by it's old elements from celebrated site such as the Forbidden Palace to simple, traditional hutongs.

There's a lot of China to see and most of it is changing rapidly, so what are you waiting for? Get out there are discover it for yourself.

Nepal

Wrapped around the Himalayan mountain range is the remarkable country of Nepal. It is the birthplace of the Buddha and is a land of legend and beauty. Within its narrow confines Nepal contains an utterly spectacular variety of culture and landscapes. Nepal has a stunning natural beauty and a simple charm.

Situated on the banks of the Bagmati River, Kathmandu is the hub of life in Nepal. A small medieval city, it is easy to get around on bicycles which can be hired very cheaply by the day or week. Worth visiting are Durbar Square, the Temple of the Living Goddess, the Royal Palace, Pashupatinath (Hindu Temple), Bodnath (Buddhist Stupa) and Swayambunath (Monkey Temple) - and all set against the magnificent Himalayan backdrop. 

While many urban restaurants in the country have tables and chairs for meals, there's a chance to eat the traditional Nepalese way. Sit or squat on the floor as food is served. Eating is always done with the right hand, which is washed before and after each meal, while the left hand can only be used for holding cups. Try a traditional millet beer with your meal. The Tongba drink is an icon for the local Limbus people, and from the storing of the millet to the drinking of the beer can take 6 months, but the wait is worth it. Nepal is full of culture and this continues into the music scene. With a country of over 50 ethnicity's there is a wide variety of choice. The amazing Dolhori style of music is a rhythmatic style of conversation and with quick thinking, the song can carry on.

With traditional culture and diverse landscapes, this country has something for everyone, and added to the friendly atmosphere, it makes Nepal a memorable place to visit.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Kathmandu

Sun 28 Apr 2013

Border Information: Welcome to Kathmandu. If joining in Kathmandu you will enter Nepal at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport.

Please note that our trips between Kathmandu and Xi'an travel through extreme environments and these itineraries WILL NOT NECESSARILY RUN AS PUBLISHED. We will adjust trip itineraries depending on weather, altitude effects, group make up and road conditions. This day by day itinerary is provided as a rough guide only.

Today we have a group meeting at 10:00hrs in our hotel in Kathmandu.

The rest of the day is free to explore this fascinating city, staying overnight in our comfortable hotel.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Tibet

Hotel Tibet

P.O BOX 7956

Lazimpath

Kathmandu

Tel: 977 - 1 - 4429085 - 8

Activity Approximate Cost

Time to explore the sights of Kathmandu

Included in Kitty

Discover Kathmandu on a guided city tour

Kathmandu

Situated on the banks of the Bagmati River, Kathmandu is the hub of life in Nepal. A small medieval city, it is easy to get around on bicycles which can be hired very cheaply by the day or week. Worth visiting are Durbar Square, the Temple of the Living Goddess, the Royal Palace, Pashupatinath (Hindu Temple), Bodnath (Buddhist Stupa) and Swayambunath (Monkey Temple) - and all set against the magnificent Himalayan backdrop. The wonderful Indra Jatra Festival takes part here and the colours and chariots travel through the city.

The giant of Mount Everest lies on the border with China and with a chance to visit the base camp, it will feel like you have started to conquer on of the most enthralling challenges in the world. As soon as you set sight on this country you'll see that it was made for trekking. The pulse raising activities range from mountain biking and white water rafting, to the jaw dropping effects of one of the country's many national parks.

While many urban restaurants in the country have tables and chairs for meals, there's a chance to eat the traditional Nepalese way. Sit or squat on the floor as food is served. Eating is always done with the right hand, which is washed before and after each meal, while the left hand can only be used for holding cups. Try a traditional millet beer with your meal. The Tongba drink is an icon for the local Limbus people, and from the storing of the millet to the drinking of the beer can take 6 months, but the wait is worth it. Nepal is full of culture and this continues into the music scene. With a country of over 50 ethnicity's there is a wide variety of choice. The amazing Dolhori style of music is a rhythmatic style of conversation and with quick thinking, the song can carry on.

With traditional culture and diverse landscapes, this country has something for everyone, and added to the friendly atmosphere, it makes Nepal a memorable place to visit.

Kathmandu is not only the capital of Nepal, it is pretty much the only city in the country. Situated on the shores of the Bagmati river, it's a lively, bustling place where ancient collides with modern to create an exhilarating melting pot of sights, sounds and smells. Todays modern jumble of concrete buildings and busy streets has built up around the medieval old town, where wandering through the winding alleyways is like taking a step back in time. The heart of the old city is the magnificent Durbar Square, where Nepalese Royalty used to be crowned, and today it's a good spot to sit and watch the world go by. The buildings here date from the 17th and 18th centuries, although many of the original structures were even older and many suffered from earthquake damage in the 1930's. Other sights worth visiting are the Temple of the Living Goddess, the Royal Palace, the Pashupatinath Hindu temple, Bodnath Buddhist stupa and Swayambunath (the Monkey Temple), all of which are set against the magnificent Himalayan backdrop. When all the sightseeing gets a bit to much, you can kick back and relax in the numerous cafes and bars around the tourist areas of Thamel and ‘Freak Street’. If you can afford the time, it's also worth allowing yourself at least a couple of days to explore the surrounding area of the Kathmandu Valley.

Day 2: Kodari

Mon 29 Apr 2013

Leaving Kathmandu in the morning, we have a few hours drive to reach the cliff-top gorge resort of Kodari. We will be staying in Kodari for 2 nights at the Last Resort Tented Camp. This allows you plenty of time for a range of optional activities from bungy-jumping to bridge-swinging and canyoning - or just sit back and relax and enjoy the amazing views.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 nights at a stunning mountain resort, nestling in the foothills of the Himalaya

Included in Kitty

Overnight stay at spectacularly situated mountain resort in the foothills of the Himalaya

Included in Kitty

Day 3: Kodari

Tue 30 Apr 2013

Free day in Kodari. Explore the area, kick-back at the Last Resort camp or get involved in some of the adventure activities on offer. Second night in tented camp.

Activity Approximate Cost

Time for optional adventure activities, canyoning, cycling & rope-walking

Day 4: Zhangmu

Wed 01 May 2013

Border information: Exit Nepal at Kodari, enter China at Zhangmu

Today we drive along the Arniko Highway, zigzagging on poor roads past steep gorges up to the Chinese border. It can be very time-consuming crossing the border from Nepal into the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, so some patience may be required - and time is built into the itinerary to allow for delays. Tonight we will probably stay in the small town of Zhangmu on the Chinese side of the border in a rustic local hotel.

Zhangmu

Zhangmu is the border town in Tibet. It clings precariously to the sheer mountainside and is separated from Nepal by a cascading river, which spans the famous Friendship Bridge. This is the real frontier between the two countries.

Day 5 to 7: Friendship Highway

Thu 02 May to Sat 04 May 2013

We will spend the next 2 to 3 days climbing high into the mountains over the Lalungla Pass (5050m) up into the Himalaya. This is part of the famous "Friendship Highway", cutting through gorges, across plateaus and over high passes. On all the passes that we cross you will see the ever present pilgrim prayer flags, cairns and scattered "wind horse" papers.

We will travel slowly taking time to acclimatise to the altitude and wildcamping along the way. We may sometimes back-track on ourselves, enabling us to sleep at lower altitudes than we have climbed to during the day, as this helps the body to acclimatise to the conditions.

Friendship Highway

The Friendship Highway is the name given to Route 318 between Lhasa and Kathmandu. The route is a rough road through some of the remotest parts of our planet. It cuts through gorges, across plateaus and over high passes. It passes some of the most stunning scenery on Earth. Just in case you think this is an exaggeration, try to imagine what Mt. Everest really looks like from the Tibetan side on a sunny day. There are a number of high passes that we will have to cross and altitude may become a problem for some. To give you an idea of the passes that we will cross, below we record some of the passes Between Golmud and Lhasa Dangjin Shankou Pass 3519 m, Kunlun Pass 4849 m, Fire & Wind Pass 4930 m, Tanggula Pass 5231 m, Kyogche La Pass 4900 m, Between Lhasa and Shigatse Shogula Pass 5300 m, Between Shigatse and Kathmandu Tropu La Pass 4950 m, Gyatsola Pass 5200 m and Lablungla Pass 5050 m.

Day 8: Baipa

Sun 05 May 2013

Arriving in Baipa (also known as New Tingri) we meet the junction for the road to Everest Base Camp in Tibet. We will stay here overnight in a local guesthouse, allowing us a time to explore and to acclimitise a bit more before our onward journey.

Baipa

Baipa, also known as New Tingri is a small town in Tibet. This is the junction of the road to Everest and trips to the mountain can be arranged. It is one of the most fascinating spots in the world. Be prepared to be in awe of one of the most famous wonders in the world.

Day 9: Rongbuk

Mon 06 May 2013

From Baipa we make the journey to the Rongbuk Monastery & Everest Base Camp. The drive is not an easy one, passing over another 5200 m pass, but the views are sensational and weather permitting, we should have excellent views of Mt. Everest. Once we have reached the Monastery it is about a two hour walk or donkey and cart ride further to Base Camp.  We will usually camp here in Tibetan tents with pot-bellied stoves which take six to eight people. Hopefully when you open up in the morning, there will be a view of Mt. Everest. From base camp the view of the north face of the highest mountain on earth is something you will never forget.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight at Everest Base Camp, crossing Tibetan passes of 5200 metres en route.

Included in Kitty

Day 10: Baipa

Tue 07 May 2013

This morning we have some more time at Base Camp, before making the return journey to Baipa. We will stay overnight here once again tonight in the same local guesthouse as before.

Day 11: Shigatse

Wed 08 May 2013

Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive over high mountain passes to Shigatse, Tibet's second biggest city. We may have to ford a number of small rivers and the road is rough, but the stunning views and scenery make this one of the world's most visually fantastic journeys. Overnight in a friendly local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Stopover in Shigatse and visit to Tashilhunpo Monastery

Included in Kitty

Shigatse

Shigatse is Tibet's second biggest city and an important cultural centre. Having been the capital of Tibet from 1565 to 1642 the city is home to some fantastic architecture including monasteries, fortresses and palaces. The most famous is the Tashilhunpo Monastery - the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism behind the Dalai Lama. Perhaps the most impressive building is the monastery, the Chapel of Jampa, which houses the world’s largest gilded statue. Standing at 26 metres high, the image of Jampa (the future Buddha) took four years to complete and used a remarkable 300kg of gold in it's construction.

Day 12: Gyantse

Thu 09 May 2013

This morning is free to explore Shigatse with time to visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Afternoon drive to rural town of Gyantse with optional visit to Gyantse fort. Overnight in a friendly local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit to the stunning town of Gyantse and Baiju Monastery

Included in Kitty

Gyantse

Gyantse is a small agricultural town set at 3950m above sea level, famed for its wool carpets. It has a very traditional feel to it and everyday Tibetan rural life continues here much as it has done for centuries. There are a number of interesting buildings in the town, including the Pelkhor Chode Temple complex, a unique structure built in 1414, with five stories representing the five steps to enlightenment.

Day 13: Yamdrok Tso Lake

Fri 10 May 2013

Leaving Gyantse we drive towards Lhasa stopping at Baiju Temple en route and crosisng the Karo La Pass. Tonight we will stop of en route and wildcamp overnight, maybe close toYamdrok Tso Lake. This is another stunning area of Tibet, with turquoise waters, picturesque islands and small villages - a wide plain surrounded by mountains.

Yamdrok Tso Lake

Separated from Lhasa by the Kampa La Pass (4794m), the Yamdrok Tso Lake is the third largest in Tibet. It is yet another stunning area of Tibet, with turquoise waters, picturesque islands and small villages. This is typical of the places that we like to camp for the night, a beautiful lake and a wide plain surrounded by mountains. The views are unbelievable.

Day 14: Lhasa

Sat 11 May 2013

We have a relaxed start this morning, with time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. It's then a short drive on the Friendship Highway over Kampa La Pass (4794m) to Lhasa, where we will be staying for the next 3 or 4 nights. Whilst in Lhasa we stay in a comfortable hotel.

Lhasa

Lhasa sits at a lofty 11,850ft above sea level and has a pleasant climate. This is the religious, cultural and economic centre of Tibet and home to many interesting buildings include the Potala Palace (the 13 story - 1000 roomed palace of the Dalai Lama), Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka (Ruobolink or summer palace of the Dalai Lama), Barkhur Street and the Drepung Monastery.

Day 15 to 17: Lhasa

Sun 12 May to Tue 14 May 2013

2 or 3 full days to explore the Tibetan city of Lhasa. There will be organised visits to Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, with the option to also visit the Drepung and Sera Monasteries and the Summer Palace. Staying in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore the Potala Palace, Lhasa

Included in Kitty

Guided tour of the Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

Included in Kitty

Guided tour of the Sera Monstery, Lhasa

Included in Kitty

Norbulingka (Summer Palace), Lhasa

USD 10

Ganden Monastery, Lhasa

USD 15

Drepung Monastery, Lhasa

USD 10

Day 18: Amdo

Wed 15 May 2013

Leaving Lhasa we head out across the Tibetan Plateau once again. We will spend the next few days overlanding, crossing the famous Tanggula Pass (5220m) and wildcamping along the way.

Amdo

Stretching from the Yellow River, to the Yangtze River is one of the three traditional states of Tibet, Amdo. The dialect of the traditional Tibetian language changes from tribe to tribe but is still written the same. In Amdo there is many great monasteries, including Kumbum Jampa Ling, Labrang Tashi Khyil and the Kirti Monasteries. It is a state brimming with history, and one to explore!

Day 19: Golmud

Thu 16 May 2013

Once we have crossed the Tanggula Pass, we will have left Tibet behind, entering Qinghai Province. Our destination is the small town of Golmud, where we will stay overnight in a small rustic hotel.

Golmud

Golmud is a mining town, high up on the Tibetan Plateau. The views in this area are stunning, vast mountains surrounding open grassland. Outside the town itself there are few settlements up here and the only people you are likely to encounter are yak-herding nomads.

Day 20 to 21: Qinghai Hu

Fri 17 May to Sat 18 May 2013

For the next couple of days we will be overlanding through Qinghai, climbing high up on to the Tibetan Plateau as we drive. Here we are travelling through an area that is actually a giant basin surrounded by high mountains and en route we will pass the vast and starkly beautiful Qinghai Hu Lake. This lake occupies an area of over 4,500 square kilometres and the water is saline, teeming with fish. Yak graze the grasses and the icy blue waters stretch as far as the eye can see. The population of this part of the Tibetan Plateau is thinly spread and mainly comprises of Kazaks, Moguls and Hui. We will be stopping off and wildcamping along the way. 

Activity Approximate Cost

Journey west through the lower realms of the Tibetan Plateau to the remote Qinghai Lake

Included in Kitty

Qinghai Hu

Qinghai Hu Lake is a vast and starkly beautiful place. This lake occupies an area of over 4,500 square kilometres and is situated at over 3200m. The water is saline and teems with fish, with a resulting sea bird population. Here, yak graze the grass and the icy blue waters stretch as far as the eye can see. The population of this part of the Tibetan Plateau, is thinly spread and mainly comprises of Kazaks, Moguls and Hui.

Day 22: Lanzhou

Sun 19 May 2013

Today we will arrive into the town of Lanzhou, with time to explore in the afternoon. Overnight in a friendly local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided visit to the vast Buddha and cave at Bingling Si near Lanzhou

Included in Kitty

Lanzhou

Lanzhou is the capital of Gansu Province, but holds little of interest for the traveller. It is a sprawling Chinese Town but does have a number of interesting sites in the surrounding area. The most appealing of these are the caves and carvings at Bingling Si. Here, a set of Buddhist grottoes are carved into the cliff of a 60 metre high gorge. They are most impressive especially because they are surrounded on one side by the waters of the Liujiaxia Reservoir. Bingling Si is yet another of the numerous Thousand Buddha Caves that can be found in China, but it is very special. They contain 694 statues and 82 clay sculptures. The highlight of the cave is the 27 metre high seated statue of Maitreya Buddha. Indeed this cave complex is one of the best in China and yet because of its relative isolation, it is less visited than the main Chinese sites.

Day 23 to 24: Xiahe

Mon 20 May to Tue 21 May 2013

From Lanzhou we will have a full days drive on to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe, where we will be staying for 2 nights, giving us a full day to explore. Whilst in Xiahe we will stay in dormitory accommodation in a rustic guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 night detour to the Tibetan town of Xiahe, one of the main pilgrimage sites for Tibetan Buddhists

Included in Kitty

Xiahe

Xiahe has been described as "one of the most enchanting places to visit in China". Certainly it has a wonderful tranquil atmosphere and a beautiful setting. Many Tibetans come here on pilgrimage - and the combination of the many monasteries, saffron-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags and spectacular scenery make this small town feel very like Tibet as well. Indeed, in all but name, you are in Tibet; Xiahe is right up on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and the population here is over 45% Tibetan.

Day 25: Bingling Si

Wed 22 May 2013

Leaving Xiahe, we drive on to Liujiaxia, arriving in the late afternoon or early evening. Tonight we will be staying in a friendly local hotel.

Day 26: Lanzhou, Bingling Si

Thu 23 May 2013

This morning we will visit the Bingling Si Buddha Caves, returning to Luijiaxia for lunch. In the afternoon we will retrace our steps on the short drive back to Lanzhou. Overnight in comfortable local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided visit to the vast Buddha and cave at Bingling Si near Lanzhou

Included in Kitty

Day 27 to 28: Pingliang

Fri 24 May to Sat 25 May 2013

From Lanzhou we head for Pingliang where we will be staying for 1 or 2 nights. From Pingliang we will have the chance to visit Mt Kongtong and time to explore the small town and surrounding area. Wildcamping or staying in a small local guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore the stunningly beautiful Mt. Kongtong and its temples

Included in Kitty

Pingliang

The streets of Pingliang are lined with wonderful shops and you can spend hours exploring them, but the main attraction of this city is the mountain range, which contains the Kongtong mountains, which has been used as a mythical meeting point in the past. If you have the opportunity to climb this mountain, do so, as the views from the top are beautifully rewarding.

Day 29: Xi'an

Sun 26 May 2013

Full days drive from Pingliang to Xi'an where we will be staying in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost

Bell and Drum towers, Xian

CNY 50

Folk house, Xian

CNY 20

Great Mosque, Xian

CNY 25

Shaanxi History Museum, Xian

CNY 25

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian

CNY 50

Bicycle rental on city wall, Xian

CNY 80

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian

CNY 80

Xi'an

The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting  historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls which you can climb and walk or cycle along, a unique way to experience the city. For a different view, haul yourself to the top of the Bell or Drum Towers in the centre of the city. Thanks to Xi'an's long and colourful history, the city is full of beautiful temples and museums and interesting cultural and historic sites, the most famous of which are probably the 2000 year old Terracotta warriors. Home to many Hui people, an ethnic Muslim minority, the city also has a unique Islamic flavour, particularly in the streets surrounding the Great Mosque, best explored by foot. Once you've worn yourself out with a hard days sightseeing, you can head out to the night markets to try some of the many tantalising local specialties on offer. Pao mo is a lamb broth that you break flat bread into, or try hand pulled noodles or hot pot. Later on, try your luck at karaoke, hugely popular here, or head down to the South Park to live it up with the locals as they dance, practice martial arts, play games, fly kites and watch the world go by.

Day 30: Xi'an

Mon 27 May 2013

Free day in Xi'an including a guided visit to the infamous Terracotta Warriors. Second night in comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Luxury in Xi'an: civilisation, a great hotel and guided tour of the Terracotta Warriors

Included in Kitty

Day 31: Xi'an

Tue 28 May 2013

Border information: If you are starting in Xi'an, enter China at Xi'an or Beijing.

Welcome to Xi'an: Trip meeting at 10.00hrs in a good quality, centrally located hotel in Xi'an. This afternoon we visit to the remarkable Terracotta Warriors.

Overnight in a hotel.

Hotel for the night: Xi'an Garden Hotel

No. 40 Yanyin Road (to the East of Dayan Pagoda)

Xi'an 

Shaanxi Province

710061

China

Tel: +86-29-87601111

 

Activity Approximate Cost

Bell and Drum towers, Xian

CNY 50

Bicycle rental on city wall, Xian

CNY 80

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian

CNY 50

Shaanxi History Museum, Xian

CNY 25

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian

CNY 80

Great Mosque, Xian

CNY 25

Folk house, Xian

CNY 20

Day 32: Xi'an

Wed 29 May 2013

Today is free to explore. Possibly cycle around the ancient wall, visit the Bell and Drum towers or perhaps walk to the night market to buy some last minute souvenirs or catch a cultural show over a dumpling banquet.

Overnight in a hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Luxury in Xi'an: civilisation, a great hotel and guided tour of the Terracotta Warriors

Included in Kitty

Day 33 to 34: Yan'An

Thu 30 May to Fri 31 May 2013

Today we make our way to Yan'an. Yan'an is famous for being the final resting place for those on the Long March and became the CCP headquarters for a brief period. During our time here we visit the Revolution museum and the Headquarters site.

Overnight in a local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit the Revolution museum and Headquarters site.

Included in Kitty

Yan'An

When the diminished communist armies pitched up here at the end of the Long March, it signalled the beginning of Yan'an's brief peroid in the Sun. For 12 years, from 1935 to 1947, this backwater town was the CCP headquarters. During our time here we will have a chance to step back into history as we explore the area.

Day 35: Lijiashan

Sat 01 Jun 2013

Today we visit the ancient Village of Lijiashan famed for settlement of cave dwellers and still home to more than 600 families.

We stay overnight in a cave room (Please note that some caves include a traditional 'Kang Stove bed'. The Kang bed is a hollow platform made from bricks that is used both as a bed and as a work area, these are common in remote villages in Northern China. In winter a coal fire can be lit under the bed, providing a huge amount of warmth day and night and it is very common for the whole family to sleep on one large bed. This means there may be times that members of the group may have to share 1 large bed with others in the group. 

Lijiashan

Lijiashan, located in China's Shanxi province is famed for its cave houses. This remote 550-year-old village, hugging a hillside set back from the Yellow River, has hundreds of cave dwellings scaling nine storeys.

Day 36 to 37: Pingyao, Lijiashan

Sun 02 Jun to Mon 03 Jun 2013

We set off early this morning for a visit to the Black Dragon Temple. We then drive to China's best-preserved ancient walled town of Pingyao. There will be plenty of time to explore this ancient town during our time here.

We stay in a comfortable hotel for the next 2 nights.

Activity Approximate Cost

wander around the Black Dragon temple

Included in Kitty

Pingyao old town.

Included in Kitty

Bike hire in Pingyao.

USD 3

Shuanglin temple.

USD 4

Pingyao

Pingyao is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century. Its urban fabric shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China over five centuries. Of special interest are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which Pingyao was the major centre for the whole of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Day 38 to 39: Wutai Shan

Tue 04 Jun to Wed 05 Jun 2013

This morning we make out way to the stunning mountainous area known as the five terrace Mountains or Wutai Shan. Tomorrow we will have a full day to explore the area.

Accommodation for the next 2 nights will be in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit temples in the area known as the Taihuai Temple Cluster.  There are many opportunities for Hiking in the area.

Included in Kitty

Wutai Shan

The sacred mountain Wutaishan, located in Shanxi Province, is believed to be the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, and for a thousand years it has been a focus of transnational pilgrimage for the Chinese, Tibetans, Mongols, and Manchus alike. This multi-culturalism, endemic of Himalayan art, is reflected in the objects in the exhibition coming from Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and China, including paintings, sculptures, masks, book covers and features a six-foot wide woodblock print, a panoramic view of Mount Wutai filled with temples and miraculous visions.

Day 40 to 41: Datong

Thu 06 Jun to Fri 07 Jun 2013

Today we drive to the city of Datong visiting the Hanging Monastery enroute. Tomorrow we will visit the Yungang caves. 

The next 2 nights are spent in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 nights to explore Datong's Hanging Monastery and the stunning Yungang Caves

Included in Kitty

Journey through the remarkable industrial heartland of the north, the powerhouse of modern China

Included in Kitty

Datong

The historic city of Datong dates back nearly 2500 years. The main attraction here is the Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage complex of 21 caves
containing over 50000 statues, some of which are the oldest of this type in China. Looking at the rock art you will be able to pick out influences from an amazing variety of different cutlures, including Greek, Persian, Indian. Close to the caves you can also visit the Hanging Monastery, which dates back over 1400 years, beautifully located right on the edge of a cliff. The monastery consists of over 40 different halls and is home to an impressive array of bronze, stone, clay and iron statues.

Day 42: Jinshanling

Sat 08 Jun 2013

This morning we drive to  the Great Wall. This afternoon there will be time to explore.

Overnight in a local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore the awe inspiring Great Wall of China at Jinshanling.

Included in Kitty

Day 43 to 44: Chengde

Sun 09 Jun to Mon 10 Jun 2013

A relaxing morning spent at the Great Wall. Afternoon drive to Chengde.  Whilst in Chengde we will visit the Puning Temple and the Bishu shanzhuang, or better known as the Imperial Summer resort.

We will stay in a comfortable hotel for the next 2 nights.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore the Imperial city of Chengde, summer home to the Emperor's family

Included in Kitty

Chengde

Chengde is located in Hubei Province, the heavily populated region that surrounds Beijing. Once a royal city, this 18th century imperial resort town has plenty of historic monuments to boast about. The imperial family would have moved here during the hot summer months, because of the cool and refreshing mountain air. There are many historical sites to explore, including the regal gardens (the largest in China), the Imperial Summer Villa and a profusion of temples. Many of the temples and monasteries have a Mongolian and Tibetan feel, this is largely because of the legacy of Emperor Qinlong, who wanted to assimilate both regions into his empire. In recent years, mirroring the city's history, Chengde has become a very popular week-end retreat for the wealthy of Beijing - and so it's home to some excellent restaurants.

Day 45 to 46: Beijing

Tue 11 Jun to Wed 12 Jun 2013

After Breakfast we get back in the truck for our drive to China's capital, Beijing.

Tomorrow morning we will take you on a guided tour of the Forbidden City and then the afternoon is free to explore the many sights, sounds and flavours of Beijing, the difficulty will be deciding just what to do.

We spend the next 2 nights in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost

Beijing Opera, Beijing

USD 28

Acrobat show, Beijing

CNY 250

Guided visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing

Included in Kitty

Beijing Zoo (including Aquarium), Beijing

USD 20

Hutong cycle tour.

CNY 150

Kung fu show.

CNY 250

Lama Temple.

CNY 30

Summer Palace.

CNY 60

Temple of Heaven.

CNY 40

Beijing

Beijing is the throbbing, bustling capital of the vast Chinese universe. It controls the whole country and little goes on without Beijing's authority. It's a great place to visit as a traveller as there's a huge amount to see and do. Take a tour of the Forbidden City and learn about the history of the Ming Dynasty, or discover the wonders of the Summer Palace. With so much on offer we recommend you allowing yourself plenty of time in this amazing city, it's worth allowing yourself a few extra days here before or after a trip with us.

Day 47: Beijing

Thu 13 Jun 2013

Free time in Beijing.

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.

Nepal

All foreign nationals (except Indians) require a visa to enter Nepal.

Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad, at land borders and on arrival at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan airport. If you plan to get the visa at the airport be prepared for long queues. There have been instances when passengers were asked to show return flight tickets. You will also need to provide one passport photo and the following fees in US dollars cash only:

single entry visa valid for 15 days - USD25

single entry visa valid for 30 days - USD40

single entry visa valid for 90 days - USD100

Please note if you are staying in Nepal for less than 24 hours while in transit a transit visa can be issued on presentation of your international flight ticket, there is a nominal charge of USD5 and one photo is required.

China visa - Northbound trips departing from Kathmandu to Tibet

For trips departing from Kathmandu, do not apply for your China visa in advance, as these will be obtained as a group visa in Kathmandu with the assistance from our ground agent in Kathmandu. The Tibet permits will be arranged en route with the help of our local agent. You will need to send Dragoman a quality-scanned copy of your passport in order for us to arrange this approximately 2 months before departure.

As of March 2014, you will also no longer need to apply for a Guarantee Letter from China to be included on the group visa. I.e., there is no special preparation that you will have to do to obtain your visas for Tibet except for sending us a scan of your passport photo page.

The local costs to the embassy in Kathmandu for the China visa are approximately as follows but please note that visa costs can change and often do without notice for which Dragoman are not responsible for:-

For US Citizens:

3-day service (express) - USD175

1 week service (ordinary) - USD140

For all other:

3-day service (express) - USD85

1 week service (ordinary) - USD50

Please note that working days of the Embassy are Monday, Tuesday and Friday only.

IMPORTANT - SEPARATION COSTS (Chinese visa): The group visa then has to be split in Xian into individual visas in the passport due to passengers different travel plans within China and beyond at the end of this trip. There is an additional cost of approximately USD50 for EU citizens and USD170 for US citizens. Dragoman cannot be held responsible for these additional costs, as it is unfortunately an unavoidable cost due to the laws surrounding the China/Tibet group visa.

China visa - Southbound trips visiting Tibet from mainland China

Please apply for your China visa in advance. Please note that only UK and EU passport holders are able to get this visa in the UK. The visa is valid for 3 months from the date of issue and has a validity of 30, 60 or 90 days. All nationalities should check with the respective embassies for more information and costs.

You require a single entry visa. Please do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form as this is likely to result in your application being rejected.

Name of Host –

Jason Tours,

China YTS.

2 nd Floor, 19

Dongchenggeng Street.

Chengdu,

China.

610031.

Tel: +86-28-89075414

Tibet permits will be arranged en route with the help of our local agent. You will need to send Dragoman a quality-scanned copy of your passport and a copy of your Chinese visa in order for us to arrange this approximately 2 months before departure or as soon as possible.

Please also be aware that a sudden change in the political situation can lead to an immediate change in visa issuance policy, especially in Tibet: This can create unforeseen delays, as the authorities can suddenly require additional information from visitors, or suddenly increase the prices for visa issuance.

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.

This itinerary is liable to change at any time before or during the journey. Although this trip is designed to stay in hotels every night, because of the unpredictable nature of overland travel, we may camp for a night or two and you should be prepared to bring along a sleeping bag and a roll mat.

Tibet authorisation is included in the trip price but we cannot guarantee that everyone will be authorised for travel to Tibet as this authorisation is out of our control.

We advise you to book flexible airfares where possible.

NB: There will be additional costs to obtain a Chinese visa.

Getting to/from Beijing International airport 

The airport is about 40 kilometres away from the hotel, approximately one hour's drive.

It is also possible to take a taxi (use registered taxis only) directly from the airport arrivals area to the hotel (have the address of hotel ready). This will costs approx 100 CYN.

Another option is to take the subway (Airport express) from Terminal 1,2 &3 from Beijing international to Donzhimen Subway station on line 2 (25 CYN). Then transfer to  Line 2 and go to XIZHMEN, then transfer to Line 5 (2 CYN) to Ping'anli subway stop. The Htl is near PIAN'ANLI.

Alternatively, an airport transfer can be booked in advance, this will include an English speaking guide. For more details and prices please contact your agent.

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.

Altitude

Please note that this trip spends time above 2800 metres/9200 feet where it is possible for travellers to experience some adverse effects on your health due to the altitude, potentially including Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).

Because of this it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude and monitor your health during this trip. 

For further information please click here to download our AMS information sheet or check out the following website www.high-altitude-medicine.com

Your leader will also hand you a copy of the AMS information sheet during your trip as well as holding a short meeting prior to travelling to altitudes above 2800m/9200ft for the first time.

If you are starting your trip in a destination above 2800m/9200ft we strongly advise reading this information prior to arrival.

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 or 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. 

Nepal

All foreign nationals (except Indians) require a visa to enter Nepal.
Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad, at land borders and on arrival at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan airport. If getting the visa at the airport be prepared for long queues. There have been instances when passengers were asked to show return flight tickets. You will also need to provide one passport photo and the following fees in US dollars cash only:

single entry visa valid for 15 days - US$25
single entry visa valid for 30 days - US$40
single entry visa valid for 90 days - US$100

Please note if you are staying in Nepal for less than 24 hours while in transit a transit visa can be issued on presentation of your international flight ticket, there is a nominal charge of US$5 and one photo is required.

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.