Eastern Europe Express Trip Notes

Eastern Europe Express

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 25 October 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017


Last Modified: 01 Sep 2016
Eastern Europe Express
Trip code: WMSI
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 25 Oct 2016
Embark on a spectacular journey from Romania, through Bulgaria and into Turkey, discovering the architectural grandeur and quaint cultural enclaves that make this such an intriguing part of the world. Absorb Bucharest’s austere atmosphere on a guided walking tour, compare age-old places of worship in Sofia and be treated to traditional Bulgarian hospitality on an overnight homestay in Gorno Draglishte. Breathe in crisp alpine air on a hike in the Pirin Mountains, meander back in time in the Old Town of Plovdiv and be dazed and amazed by Istanbul. Relatively short in terms of distance travelled, this eight-day trip is a fascinating study in just how much regions can change as you cross national borders.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationFinish point description
ThemesAccommodation NotesFinishing point instructions
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionEmergency contact
Why we love itMealsVisas
MapTransportWhat to take
ItineraryMoney mattersClimate and seasonal information
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderHealth
Physical ratingSafetyTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining pointA couple of rules
Important notesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Group sizeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Your fellow travellersFinish pointFeedback
Style
Original
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- As there are potholes and cobblestones in many European cities, it's recommended that you leave any wheelie bags/cases at home and bring a backpack instead.
- This trip involves some travel by public bus, including a few long journeys of up to seven hours. Although this can be a bit tiresome, it's a great way to meet locals and relax while enjoying the passing scenery.
- Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection, wear layers to combat the heat and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.
- As accommodation on this trip is multi-share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same sex. This trip is a great opportunity to get to know other like-minded people, so embrace it while you can. However, if you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Also, hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together/apart.
- As you will have the opportunity to visit several mosques on this trip, especially in Turkey, please ensure you cover your legs, shoulders and chest and show the appropriate respect. It's a good idea to bring a light scarf to cover your skin as needed.
Why we love it
- Immerse yourself in the communist past and vibrant present of Bucharest, a city often underrated by travellers
- Travel through the scenic Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, mingling with monks at the 10th-century Rila Monastery
- The mountain village of Gorno Draglishte is home to a rich cultural heritage and a delightful community of welcoming locals. Experience the best of both worlds during a family home-stay (delicious home-cooked dinner included)
- The ancient Roman theatre in Plovdiv’s city centre was only discovered when a landslide uncovered it in the 1970s. Explore the amphitheatre and Plovdiv's other significant sights on a guided walking tour
- East meets west, tradition meets modernity, culture meets commerce - the vast metropolis of Istanbul is a beguiling mix of just about everything. Admire the majestic Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque before shopping to your heart’s content at the famous Grand Bazaar. This is one of Europe's most exciting cities to explore on foot
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Bucharest
Alo! Welcome to Romania. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today – double check with reception to confirm the time. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have this ready for collection. Bucharest, Romania's capital city, likes big things. It's home to one of Europe's biggest squares and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. It's worth arriving into the city a few days early to explore. Perhaps take a tour of the Palace of Parliament (former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of this 12-storied monster, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers), or check out the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. You might even like to partake in one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as the 'Home Cooked Bucharest' tour.
Optional Activities
  • Museum of the Romanian Peasant - RON6
  • Palace of Parliament Tour - RON25
  • Urban Adventures - Home Cooked Bucharest - EUR41
  • Urban Adventures - Bucharest Sites and Bites - EUR52
  • Urban Adventures - Outcast Bucharest - EUR52
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 2 Sofia
    This morning you will have some free time to further explore Bucharest and all it has to offer. While not the most beautiful or stylish city, there are some wonderful art nouveau buildings, ancient churches and monasteries, lush parkland, lakes and elegant boulevards. Around lunchtime take a bus to Sofia (approximately 6 hours), crossing the border from Romania into Bulgaria. Bulgaria's capital is a cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks. The city claims to be Europe’s second oldest at 7,000 years, though it was only first mentioned by name in documents 2,700 years ago. Alongside Communist-style architecture and beautiful Orthodox churches, construction works frequently uncover Roman remains, so it is perfectly normal to walk past Roman brickwork that has been incorporated into a pedestrian underpass. Mingle with locals who hit the parks and beer gardens to absorb the sun, seek out some regional cuisine and a glass of rakia.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Meals
    1 breakfast
    Day 3 Sofia
    Enjoy a free day in Sofia. Maybe begin with a browse around the cured meats and cheese of the Central Market Hall, then take a walk through the city and see the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church. It was built as a memorial to the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting for Bulgarian independence during the Russo-Turkish War – it’s imposingly cavernous, cool, and hushed inside. Other impressive religious buildings to check out include St Nikolai Russian Church, Sveta Nedelya Cathedral and Banya Bashi Mosque, a reminder of years of Turkish rule. There are numerous museums throughout the city, so you might like to get educational at the National History Museum, discover artefacts from the many empires of old that have occupied the city at the National Archaeologiucal Museum, or get cultural at the National Art Gallery. Our Urban Adventure day trips offer some great insight into the local cuisine; try the 'Breakfast with Sofia' or 'Sofia Food, Heritage and Culture' tours.
    Optional Activities
    • Aleksander Nevski Church - Free
    • National Art Gallery - BGN10
    • National History Museum - BGN10
    • Urban Adventures - Sofia Food, Heritage, and Culture - EUR35
    • Urban Adventures - Breakfast with Sofia - EUR27
      Accommodation
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Meals
      1 breakfast
      Day 4 Gorno Draglishte

      Today take a short bus ride to journey into the Rila Mountains, where you'll visit the impressive Rila Monastery. Tucked away in a valley, this World Heritage-listed site is the largest and holiest of Bulgaria's orthodox monasteries. It was founded in 927 to keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during Turkish rule. The entire monastery complex is a work of art in itself – check out stunning murals, the 14th-century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original 19th-century monastery kitchen. From Rila, transfer to the small mountain village of Gorno Draglishte (approximately 1.5 hours) and spend the night at our local friend's guesthouse. While the accommodation is simple and not all rooms have an en suite, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming and you'll be treated to a delicious home-cooked dinner. You'll even have the chance to learn about the traditional weaving practices of the area.
      Included Activities
      • Rila Monastery Visit
        Accommodation
        Guesthouse (1 nt)
        Meals
        1 breakfast, 1 dinner
        Day 5 Bansko
        Journey on to the small town of Bansko (approximately 20 minutes). Set at the base of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments. Down its cobbled streets, many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming ‘mehanes’ (taverns). Wander through pl. Vazrazhdane and check out the frescoes of the Church of Sveta Troitsa, or the paintings in the Rilski Convent. If you have the time, perhaps stretch your legs with a hike into the eastern slopes of the Pirin mountains, or visit the Belitsa Bear Sanctuary, home to rescued dancing bears. The sanctuary is the largest of its type in Europe, covering over 120,000 square metres. Here the bears can languish in lush green woods, with a river and pool in each enclosure. Seeing them sleeping in the sun, playing in the water and being free from captivity can be very moving. In the evening, you'll have the opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), washing it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).
        Optional Activities
        • Belitsa Bear Sanctuary - Free
        • Transport to Belitsa Bear Sanctuary - BGN15
          Accommodation
          Hotel (1 nt)
          Meals
          1 breakfast
          Day 6 Plovdiv
          Travel by public bus from Bankso to Plovdiv (approximately 5.5 hours). Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. Join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the town's history. The most remarkable sight is the ancient Roman theatre, accidentally ‘discovered’ after a landslide exposed the site in the early 1970s. Built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6,000 people and is now back in use. From here, wander up to the site of the former hilltop fortress of Nebet Tepe, where you can enjoy excellent views of the city. Head back down to visit the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today. After the tour, why not check out the underground crypt at Bachkovo Monastery or have a wander down Stumna Street to see traditional coppersmiths, farriers and potters at work. Perhaps discover the Bachkovo Monastery, or visit one of the many hot springs in the Plovdiv region. One of the most well-known spa towns is Hissarya, famous for its 22 mineral springs.
          Included Activities
          • Plovdiv - Guided Tour
            Optional Activities
            • Hot Springs Hissarya - BGN50
            • Bachkovo Monastery - BGN16
              Accommodation
              Hotel (1 nt)
              Meals
              1 breakfast
              Day 7 Istanbul
              Today catch a seven-hour bus from Plovdiv, cross the border into Turkey and head on to Istanbul. A bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people, a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored, the only city in the world to straddle two continents – no amount of time here is ever enough to come to terms with this mesmerising ancient capital. Your journey ends on the morning of your second day here, so it's well worth staying on for a few extra days if time allows. There are plenty of optional things to see and do here. You might like to take a boat cruise down the Bosphorus River, lose yourself in the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar, check out the amazing Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, or climb the ancient Galata Tower for great views over the city. In the evening, what better place to enjoy a final meal with your fellow travellers than the foodie paradise of Istanbul. Try some cheesy gozleme or tangy manti (Turkish ravioli with yogurt).

              Note: All travellers to Turkey need to obtain an e-visa before arrival, as visas are not available at the border. Information about the e-visa can be found at the following site: evisa.gov.tr.
              Optional Activities
              • Bosphorus Boat Cruise, Istanbul (Public) - TRY25
              • Turkish Bath - TRY30
              • Topkapi Palace - TRY45
              • Galata Tower - TRY18
              • Grand Bazaar - Free
              • Yerebatan Ancient Cistern - TRY10
              • Spice Market - Free
              • Urban Adventures - Old & New Istanbul - EUR35
              • Urban Adventures - Picnic On Two Continents - EUR35
              • Urban Adventures - Home Cooked Istanbul - EUR39
              • Urban Adventures - Istanbul Conquered - EUR70
              • Istanbul - Night Tasting Trail Urban Adventure - EUR75
                Accommodation
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Day 8 Istanbul
                Today your East European adventure comes to end. There are no activities planned and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. If you would like to stay longer in Istanbul there are plenty more things to see. Perhaps visit the Archaeology Museum, which contains artefacts from the infamous city of Troy, join the hoards of shoppers and revellers along Istiklal Caddesi, or wander down into the quieter, hilly backstreets of Beyoglu where antique shops are aplenty. If all of this makes you a little tired, a visit to a hamam (Turkish bath) will leave you rejuvenated at the end of your journey. Additional accommodation can be booked, subject to availability. Please ask your travel consultant.
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Itinerary disclaimer
                ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

                OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

                MUSEUM OPENING TIMES Please note that many sights, attractions and museums are closed on Mondays.
                Physical rating

                Included activities
                Rila Monastery Visit
                Plovdiv - Guided Tour
                Important notes
                A single supplement is available on this trip, please see trip notes for details.

                Group size
                Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
                Your fellow travellers
                GROUP TRAVEL
                As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.

                SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
                Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
                Accommodation
                Hotel (5 nights), Homestay (1 night), Guesthouse (1 night)
                OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
                The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

                TWIN SHARE BASIS
                Accommodation on this trip is on a twin share basis (unless noted otherwise in the day-to-day itinerary). Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.

                CHECK-IN TIME
                Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

                PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
                If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

                FACILITIES
                Your accommodation may not always have private en suite facilities or air-conditioning. European hotels generally don't provide kettles or fridges.
                Meals introduction
                While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each others company. There's no obligation to do this though.

                Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables, soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans and those on gluten-free diets may find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for any included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own.

                There are some basic breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar).
                Meals
                7 breakfasts, 1 dinner
                Transport
                Public Bus, Private vehicle, Metro, Taxi

                TRANSPORT IN EUROPE
                Half the fun of travel is the travelling itself, that's why we like to travel the local way – whether that means mingling with commuters on a train in Spain, cycling past a historic chateau in France, or encountering the world's most extravagant public transport system on the Moscow Metro. In Europe, you are guaranteed to travel by genuine local public transport wherever possible, which puts you right in the centre of the action.

                LONG TRAVEL DAYS
                As we cover lots of ground on this trip, expect some long travel days on local trains and buses. This is an opportunity to mix with the locals and enjoy the scenery out the window. Travel schedules are known to change with little notice. Not all transport may have air conditioning.
                Money matters
                CURRENCY
                The local currency in Romania is the Romanian New Lei (RON), while Bulgaria uses the Bulgarian Lev (BGN). The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY), although prior to 2005 (when 6 zeros where removed due to large inflation) the currency code was TRL.

                CASH
                The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money in Europe is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied. You can withdraw local currencies easily at airports, major train stations and most city centres, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place. Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. We recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services.

                SPENDING MONEY
                When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                BUDGET
                Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. We suggest EUR 250.00 for meals not included on this trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.

                TIPPING
                If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: In local markets and basic restaurants and cafes - round your bill up to the nearest €1. In more up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill. Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest €2-€3 per day for local guides. You may also have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest €1-€2 per day for drivers. You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline €2-€4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. In total, we recommend you budget approx €5-€10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.

                EMERGENCY FUNDS
                Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
                Group leader
                All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.

                Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
                Safety
                Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.

                We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

                Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

                For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

                http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety

                BEARS
                Romania and Bulgaria are home to some of the last remaining populations of European Brown Bear. These beautiful and endangered animals are generally nocturnal and feed mainly on berries, fruit, and small animals. It is not unknown for people to come across wild bears whilst hiking in the mountains. Whilst the danger to humans is minimal there are some simple steps you can follow to ensure your safety. Never stay out in the mountains after dusk, always stick to the path, make plenty of noise (for instance by talking or whistling) as you walk and never approach or take photographs of a wild bear. Take particular care around mothers with cubs or injured bears. Handled carefully, a chance sighting of a bear can be a highlight of a trip to Bulgaria or Romania, as long as these simple rules are followed.

                FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
                Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

                TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
                Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!

                SEAT BELTS:
                Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.

                PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
                While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

                SCAMS
                Common scams operating in Europe include ploys to get you fined on the metro without a validated ticket. Ensure that you always travel with a validated ticket (have your ticket stamped). Another common scam is used by children who distract you with a map or a newspaper and while you are attending to them, steal your valuables. You may also come across players offering you to participate in the so-called "shell game". This is a scam and you will most certainly lose your money.
                Joining point
                Trianon Hotel
                9 Cobalcescu Grigore Street
                Bucharest
                ROMANIA
                Phone: +40 213 11 49
                Joining point description
                Trianon Hotel is centrally located and near Cișmigiu Gardens. The hotel has 35 rooms all of which have private facilities, air conditioning, mini bar, wifi, TV, hairdrier and 24hr reception. http://www.hoteltrianon.ro/en/
                Joining point instructions
                Trianon Hotel is located 20km from Bucharest Henri Coanda Otopeni International Airport. Take bus 783 from the bus stop underneath the arrivals hall. It departs every 30 to 40 minutes. The closest bus stop to the hotel is Piata Universitatii. From there it is a 15 min walk to the hotel. Alternatively you can travel by train from the airport to the main railway station Gara de Nord. You will need to take a bus from the airport to the airport train station. Please look out for the Bilete CFR sign in the arrivals hall to purchase tickets. The train station is located a 20 minute walk from the hotel.

                Pre booked arrival transfer from the airport: If you have pre booked an arrival transfer, your transfer driver will be holding a board with the Intrepid Logo or your name at the arrivals hall. In case of flight cancellations, changes, if you experience severe delays at immigration, baggage collection or customs, or if you are not able find the driver, please contact the emergency phone number: +4 0721 133 577.
                Finish point
                Golden Horn Hotel - Istanbul
                Hocapasa Mah. Istasyon Arkasi Sk. No 9
                Sirkeci
                Istanbul
                Istanbul
                TURKEY
                Phone: +90 212 514 15 44
                Finish point description
                Centrally located in the heart of the Historical Peninsula, the Golden Horn Hotel is within walking distance of many of the area's main attractions such as: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and Basilica Cistern.

                **Please note that there is a hotel of a similar name 'Golden Horn Hotel' located just around the corner. Please check the address carefully if you are making your own way to the hotel.**
                Finishing point instructions
                Taxis to the airport can easily be hailed, or alternatively reception can be of help organising one for you.

                Private airport transfers are available for pre-booking through Intrepid. Contact your agent for details. Be sure to advise which of Istanbul's two airports you will be flying from at the time of booking. Sabiha Gokcen is on the Asian shore, while Ataturk airport is on the European side (and closer to our hotel). If you have any problems with departure transfers please contact our Intrepid Istanbul office on +90 212 512 7144.
                Emergency contact
                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 representative 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/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

                You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of 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.

                For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

                In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Europe Office can be reached on the number listed below:

                Peak Europe: +49 8677 9186 657
                Visas
                Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                Visas for Romania and Bulgaria are not required for passport holders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. All other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

                Turkey requires nationals of Australia, Canada, the UK, the US and many European countries (such as Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands) to apply for an e-visa. Please go to https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ at least a few weeks before you go to submit your application. A valid passport is sufficient for citizens of New Zealand, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland for stays up to 3 months. All other nationalities please check with your nearest Turkish embassy.
                What to take
                PACKING
                On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips. You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.

                http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/trips/packinglist.pdf

                TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT
                It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary that your luggage gets stowed separately (and unattended). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.

                WATER BOTTLE
                Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. 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 ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

                CLOTHING & CLIMATE
                The climate in this region is extremely varied. From October until May you can expect temperatures close to and below zero, while from June until September temperatures can reach well above 30 C. For departures October to May you'll need to bring a warm windproof jacket, scarf, gloves, warm hat and waterproof footwear. On all other departures it can still get quite cool at night especially when in the countryside, so we recommend that you bring a warm jacket or fleece.

                IMAGES FROM HOME:
                During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
                Climate and seasonal information
                Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection, wear layers to combat the heat and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.
                Health
                All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. 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 group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

                You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
                Travel insurance
                Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

                When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.

                If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

                http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php
                A couple of rules
                Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, 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 Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes 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.

                Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
                Responsible Travel
                We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.

                http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

                DRESS CODE
                In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted, for both men and women.

                The Intrepid Foundation
                Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

                The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:

                http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

                VISCRI
                Viscri is a Saxon village located near Sighisoara in Romania. This village was originally inhabited by the Saxons who returned to Germany in 1989. Our groups have the chance to have dinner at a traditional Saxon house, to visit the fortified church and to learn about various projects set up to help the local community. The most famous of these, the Sock Project, involves approximately 125 women knitting 10,000 pairs of socks a year earning around 45,000 Euro for the village!

                BELITSA BEAR PARK
                This park in Belitsa, Bulgaria was founded in 2000 and its main aim is to rehabilitate the Dancing Bears of Bulgaria. As these bears have suffered intolerable cruelty there is no option for their release back into the wild, so the Park aims to recreate a life as close to nature as possible. A guide takes the groups through the park, explaining the rehabilitation process involved and visitors have the option of leaving a donation.

                TRADITZIA HANDCRAFT CENTRE
                Traditzia supports people from the Roma and ethnic Turkish communities and people with disabilities from eight regions of Bulgaria and helps disadvantaged artists to practice and create their arts. Their efforts are focused on helping them grow to become self-sufficient by developing their artwork into attractive high quality handicraft products. Our groups can visit the handicraft centre, and make purchases which in turn is supporting the organisation.

                Feedback
                After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

                http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback