Silk Route between Xi'an and Beijing (CHM)

Xi'an to Beijing 17 days, departing 02 Aug 2014

Ratings for this trip

Comfort Zone: Moderate

Moderate Comfort Level. These trips allow you to get off the beaten track with a few of your home comforts. On OVERLAND TRIPS expect there may be some wild camps, but with a predominance of campsites with good facilities (often with upgrades to rooms available) or staying in small hotels. Hotels will range from basic up to reasonably comfortable. Sharing will be on a 2, 3 or 4 person basis. On ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS we will have standard style accommodation, usually budget or tourist-class (2-3 star) accommodation with private facilities. Some accommodation may be on a multi-share basis. Transport will be a mixture of local and privately hired.

Physical Challenge: Everyday Activities

EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES: Suitable for most fitness levels. Your itinerary may include easy-paced walks or bike rides, horse riding and other non-strenuous activities. On overland trips you will be camping at least some of the time.

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.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Xi'an

Sat 02 Aug 2014

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

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 2: Xi'an

Sun 03 Aug 2014

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 3 to 4: Yan'An

Mon 04 Aug to Tue 05 Aug 2014

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 5: Lijiashan

Wed 06 Aug 2014

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 6 to 7: Pingyao, Lijiashan

Thu 07 Aug to Fri 08 Aug 2014

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 8 to 9: Wutai Shan

Sat 09 Aug to Sun 10 Aug 2014

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 10 to 11: Datong

Mon 11 Aug to Tue 12 Aug 2014

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 12: Jinshanling

Wed 13 Aug 2014

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 13 to 14: Chengde

Thu 14 Aug to Fri 15 Aug 2014

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 15 to 16: Beijing

Sat 16 Aug to Sun 17 Aug 2014

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 17: Beijing

Mon 18 Aug 2014

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.

China

Please apply in advance for your visa. The visa is valid for 3 - 6 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 tourist visa for either 30, 60 or 90 days depending on your trip.

It is advised that you do not mention Kashgar, Urumqi, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your Chinese visa application form as this may lead to your application being rejected.

Please note Dragoman will require a clear photocopy of your passport as soon as possible after booking.

How to obtain a Letter of Invitation

Dragoman will apply for the Visa Support letter on your behalf. In order to do this we need you to complete the Visa support form found here   http://dragoman.thevisamachine.com/visa-support. Once you have completed this form we will need you to email the supporting documents to  visasupport@thevisamachine.com with your name in the subject of the email followed by 'Dragoman LOI'.

Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa.

Once a letter of support / Letter of Invitation has been authorised a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa.

*Please note that if you decide to obtain your visa in a different location, a new letter of invitation will be required which will delay you obtaining your visa therefore it is vital that you are clear on where you will obtain your visa. *

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.

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.

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.