Last Modified: 14 Apr 2014
Explore Eastern Europe
Trip code: WMSY
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Travel across romantic Eastern Europe from Hungary to Turkey and experience the diverse range of cultures and landscapes in between. From beautiful Budapest to the haunted castles of Transylvania, through stunning mountain scenery to Bulgaria and beyond - be enchanted by medieval monasteries, Old World towns and the warm hospitality of this little-travelled region.
ALTERNATE ITINERARY - 27 July 2014 departure only
Due to a large village wedding, the departure on 27 July 2014 will not spend the night at the homestay in Viscri and will instead spend one extra night at the guesthouse in Brasov. We will still make a visit to Viscri as part of the itinerary.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Day 1 Budapest
Szia! Welcome to Hungary.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. 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 ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Since the collapse of Communism, Budapest has experienced something of a renaissance. The grand architecture and boulevards evoke a time gone by, while glamorous stores and glitzy restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe.
With so much to see and do, hire a bicycle for a great way to move between the city sights.
For art and history buffs, Budapest has museums to occupy you for days including the Museum of Fine Arts at Hero's Square, which offers free English tours of the permanent collections (Monet, Manet, Dutch Masters, Gauguin, Goya, El Greco) from Tuesday through to Saturday from 11am daily.
Head out to Statue Park to see all the communist monuments that were removed from the city streets after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
One unmissable activity is a soak in the hot thermal baths. There are several around the city centre ranging from the sumptuous and elegant to simple outdoor types. There are pools of varying degrees - some with whirlpools, chess boards and seats where you can enjoy it all while recuperating in the therapeutic waters.
- Bike ride - HUF6000
- Great Synagogue - HUF2250
- Transport and entry to Statue Park - HUF5000
- Parliament tour - HUF2520
- Museum of Fine Arts - HUF1200
- Thermal bath - HUF2500
- House of Terror - HUF2000
- Hammer & Sickle Tour - HUF7000
- Hungarian State Opera House Tour - HUF2900
- Hungarian National Museum - HUF1100
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Eger
Take a train east to Eger (approx 3 hrs).
The beautifully preserved Baroque town of Eger is surrounded by ranges of hills and is home to some of the most famous vineyards in Eastern Europe, producing such renowned brands of wines as the Egri Bikaver (also known as 'Bull's Blood').
Explore the 13th-century castle, which established Eger's reputation as a patriotic town when 2000 soldiers (including the women) withstood a month-long siege and successfully defended the fortress from 150,000 Turkish troops, hence thwarting the Ottoman Empire's advancement into Western Europe. Also check out the stunning 19th-century cathedral and the Minorite church in Dobo Square.
Visit the wine cellars of the seductively-named Valley of the Beautiful Women to sample some of the town's famous 'Bull's Blood' red wine and perhaps even sing with the local folk musicians.
- Eger Castle - HUF900
- Minaret - HUF200
Pension (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Maramures
Travel by bus to visit the pleasant town of Debrecen (approx. 3hrs). While there, you'll have time to explore Deri Square with its fountains and colourful buildings.
Continue on by train and private vehicle to Romania (approx 6 hrs). Time in Romania is an hour ahead of Hungary so don't forget to re-set your watch.
Please note that Romanian visas are not available at the border. Should you require one, please organise this before you commence this tour.
The region of Maramures ('mah-ra-moo-resh') is a land that seems frozen in time. It's often said that Maramures contains Romania's heart and soul. It's a region of tradition, customs, rich folklore and ancient superstitions that have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. One of the last peasant cultures in Europe continues to thrive here with traditional music, costumes and ancient festivals continuing to flourish. Each village has its own colours for outfits and their own style of straw or felt hats. Maramures is particularly famed for its wooden churches, many of which are World Heritage-listed sites.
Set out to explore the region - visiting the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, the village museum in Sighetu and various other traditional villages.
Pension (2 nts)
Day 5 Sighisoara
Travelling through the pastoral fields to Sighisoara (approx 9 hrs) and cross into the magical land of Transylvania - the name alone conjures up images of haunted castles, gothic churches, werewolves and vampires. Its connection with the famous Count Dracula, itself a literary myth, is a small part of what makes Transylvania an enchanting, romantic and exciting destination.
The medieval masterpiece of Sighisoara ('Sig-he-shwara') is likely to seduce visitors' hearts more than any other place in Romania. Another World Heritage site, the town was first settled by the Romans but flourished under the Saxons from the 12th century.
There is the option of enjoying a meal at Casa Dracula, a restaurant in the house where the Wallachian prince, Vlad Tepes, whom many identify as the source of inspiration for the literary Dracula, was born.
The more energetic are free to take a walk around the town which includes a 64m-high clock tower that dominates the citadel and cobblestone side streets.
- Casa Dracula restaurant - ALL10
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 6 Viscri
Our next stop is less than an hour away, but it seems that we are in a different world.
Viscri is a small Saxon/Roma town which was originally inhabited by the Saxons from the Luxemburg area.
Visit the fortified church and museum, and learn about the Sock Project which supports the Roma community.
Stay in a very special place in this Transylvanian village. The rooms are in different houses and have shared facilities with our host families. We have dinner with the families to sample the fresh produce, home-made wines and schnapps. This is a fantastic and unique opportunity for local interaction and indulgence.
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Brasov
Take a short train trip to the 13th-century Saxon city of Brasov (approx 2 hrs).
Also known by its German name of Kronstadt, the city of Brasov was a major medieval trading centre with ornate churches and townhouses, protected on three sides by mountains and the massive walls that still remain.
Explore the city's main attraction - the gothic Black Church. This Protestant church was completed in 1477 and took its name from its fire-blackened the walls in 1689. The original statues from the exterior of the apse are now inside and some 120 Turkish rugs hang from the churches balconies (gifts from merchants who went on shopping sprees in Ottoman lands).
For those looking for a little nightlife action, the city has plenty of funky bars and restaurants to enjoy.
- Guided walk - RON60
- Rasnov Fortress - RON15
- The Black Church - RON7
- Bran Castle - RON22
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Day 9 Bucharest
Head south to Bucharest (approx 3 hrs)
Take a guided tour of Romania's beautiful capital city. Bucharest likes big things and we'll stop by the huge Piata Unirii, one of Europe's largest squares. Also see the 'Ceausima', the enormous 12-storey Palace of Parliament, the second largest building in the world (behind the Pentagon).
- Bucharest - Guided walking tour
- Museum of the Romanian Peasant - RON6
- Palace of Parliament Tour - RON15
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Veliko Tarnovo
Travel by train across the friendship bridge into Bulgaria and the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo (approx 6 hrs).
Veliko Tarnovo's history is incredible. Founded in 4500 BC by the Neolithic people, the Romans later built the first fortress walls and in the 6th century, a Byzantine capital was established on Tsarevets Hill by Emperor Justinian. After the foundation of the second Bulgarian empire in 1185, it became the second most important and beautiful city in the region (after Constantinople) and trade and culture flourished for the next 200 years. In 1393 the town fell to the Turks who held the city until the Russians liberated it in 1877. Because of its importance during the second Bulgarian empire, the city was chosen as the place where the Bulgarian constitution was written in 1879 and where the official proclamation of Bulgaria as an independent state was made in 1908.
Explore the City of Tsars and the imposing Tsarevets Fortress which overlooks the city. This once-magnificent fortress was first built in the 7th century and the ruined citadel is a delight to wander through.
Wander through the Old Quarter with its preserved Renaissance houses and handicraft workshops before relaxing in one of the town's cafes or 'vinarnas' (wine bars).
- Tsarevets Fortress - BGN4
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Day 12 Sofia
Travel by bus to Sofia (approx 3 hrs).
Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, is an ever-growing and cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks.
Enjoy a walk through the city and pass some of its most striking buildings, perhaps none more impressive than the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church which dates back to 1912 and was built as a memorial to the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting for Bulgarian independence during the Russo-Turkey war (1877-1878).
Other impressive buildings include St Nikolai Russian Church, Sveta Nedelya Cathedral and Banya Bashi Mosque, a reminder of years of Turkish rule. At night, the city comes alive with interesting bars and nightclubs.
- Aleksander Nevski Church - Free
- National Art Gallery - BGN4
- National History Museum - BGN10
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 13 Gorno Draglishte
Take a short bus ride to Rila.
Transfer to the small mountain village of Gorno Draglishte.
Explore the most important of the orthodox monasteries in Bulgaria.This World Heritage-listed site is the largest, holiest and most impressive of Bulgaria's monasteries, hidden away in a narrow and forested valley. Founded in 927 by Ivan Rilski, a leader of a monastic colony of hermits, the monastery helped keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during centuries of Turkish rule. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century.
Stay at our local friend's guesthouse. Here we have the chance to learn all about traditional weaving. Our guesthouse accommodation is simple and not all rooms have en suite, but the atmosphere is welcoming and warm and experience Bulgarian cuisine for dinner.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 14-15 Bansko
Travel to the small town of Bansko.
Set at the bottom of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments and many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming 'mehanes' (taverns).
In the evening, we have an opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try some filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), and wash it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).
And if you have the time, you could stretch your legs with a hike up the mountains, home to some crystal-clear lakes, jagged peaks and pine-forested alpine scenery.
- Belitsa Bear Sanctuary - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 16-17 Plovdiv
Travel by train to Plovdiv (approx 5 hrs).
Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. A picturesque town with many parks, gardens, museums and archaeological monuments, its Old Town features many 18th and 19th-century baroque houses dating from the national revival period. These charming homes sit alongside museums, mosques, galleries and Byzantine ruins.
Join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the history of this fascinating town. The most remarkable sight is the magnificent ancient Roman amphitheatre. Built during the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6000 people. From here, wander up the cobblestone street to the site of Nebet Tepe, a former hilltop fortress, for excellent views of the city before heading downhill to the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today.
Be sure to take the time to wander about the workshops of the traditional masters of old Bulgarian arts and crafts on Strumna Street - coppersmiths, farriers and potters are all represented.
Another alternative is to travel 30 km south to the foot of the Rhodope mountains to one of the oldest and richest Bulgarian monasteries - Bachkovo Monastery. It was established in 1083 by the brothers Bakouriani who were military commanders in the army of the Byzantine emperor Alexis Comnenus. The church in the yard of the monastery was built in 1604 while the icon of the holy virgin dates back to 1310. The icons, frescoes and the monastery crypt are especially interesting.
Nb. Taking photographs is not permitted inside the monastery.
You could also visit the many mineral hot springs surrounding the Plovdiv region. Thirteen bath-treatment resorts offering 2000 beds function all year round. One of the most well-known spa towns is Hissarya, famous for its 22 mineral springs.
Take an overnight train to Istanbul (approx 14 hrs). Please note that for our overnight train journey we use very small 3 berth cabins. We choose to travel overnight so you can make the most of your time in Plovdiv and Istanbul rather than spend all day on a train limiting your time to see the wonderful sights of these cities. This train can be fully booked which means there's no room to spread out as we are assigned specific berths. Please take note of the luggage suggestions in the 'What To Take' section of these notes since there's limited room for large suitcases. Please also note that when we arrive at the Turkish border early in the morning, we'll be required to get off the train for a short while to get our passports stamped and to purchase visas for those passengers who need one.
- Bachkovo Monastery - BGN16
- Hot Spings Hissarya - BGN50
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 18 Istanbul
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.
There's so much to explore in this sprawling city of 16 million people you might consider staying on ; admire the marvellous Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace; stand in wonder of the awesome Aya Sofya and shop till you drop in the worlds biggest undercover market, the Grand Bazaar. This is a land of Turkish baths, whirling dervishes and superb cuisine.
This is a departure day and there are no activities planned. For your comfort and convenience a day room is provided on this day until 12 noon, for luggage storage and an opportunity to have a shower and freshen up. Once settled consider joining the rest of the group in a farewell breakfast. Otherwise you are free to depart any time after our arrival.
We recommend not booking flights any earlier than 3pm to allow for any train arrival delays, time to transfer to the airport and check-in time required at the airport.
- Istanbul - Aya Sofia - TRY20
- Istanbul - Spice Market - Free
- Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - Free
- Istanbul - Turkish baths - TRY30
- Istanbul - Ancient Cistern - TRY10
- Istanbul - Bosphorus boat cruise - TRY25
- Istanbul - Galata Tower - TRY15
- Istanbul - Topkapi Palace (incl. harem) - TRY45
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
- Explore Eastern Europe (WMSY) - Single Supplement (WMSY)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Balkan Adventure (WMSK)
- St Petersburg to Istanbul (WBSIC)
- Dubrovnik to Athens (ZMSM)
- Dubrovnik to Istanbul (ZMSTC)
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. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
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.
At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
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 for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The local currency in Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (HUF)
The local currency in Romania is the Romanian New Leu (RON)
The local currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN)
The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY, although prior to 2005 the currency code was TL)
The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money 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 obtain local currencies easily at airports and major train stations, 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. While travelling we recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. Change can be difficult to obtain so throughout the day, try to gain as many small denominations as you can. You might be advised to take some of your money as travellers' cheques from a major financial institute. Travellers' cheques have security advantages, however please be aware that the exchange rates may not be favourable and that it is difficult to change Travellers' cheques in most countries. Be particularly aware that after hours money exchanges and hotel receptions carry high commissions- sometimes up to 20%. For money safety we recommend that you carry your cash and credit cards in a secure money belt or pouch concealed under your clothes.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
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:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest €1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: 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.
Drivers: You may 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.
Your Tour Leader: 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.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
WILDLIFE IN ROMANIA & BULGARIA:
Romania and Bulgaria are home to large numbers of wild bears.
There is a chance whilst hiking in those countries to experience bears, though this happens mainly in twilight. Please be especially aware should you decide to hike in mountainous areas. Always ask your local operators about the situation and notify your group leader about your intentions.
ALTERNATE ITINERARY - 27 July 2014 departure only
Due to a large village wedding, the departure on 27 July 2014 will not spend the night at the homestay in Viscri and will instead spend one extra night at the guesthouse in Brasov. We will still make a visit to Viscri as part of the itinerary.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
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. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
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.
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information.
The price of the Single Supplement doesn't include the following nights where single rooms may not be available. If a single room becomes available at check-in for these nights, there may be the option to upgrade to a single room and pay the surcharge locally for that night:
Day 17 - Overnight train
Hotel (7 nts), Guesthouse (5 nts), Pension (3 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
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 / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. 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.
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.
Your accommodation may not always have private en suite facilities or air-conditioning. European hotels generally don't provide kettles or fridges.
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. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the 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 other's 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 and salads. Vegans will find it even more challenging. Vegetarians might choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home, e.g. protein bars, dried fruits and so on.
6 Breakfasts, 4 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
There are some basic breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar.)
Train, Bus, Tram, Private minibus, Taxi, Metro, Private vehicle, Overnight sleeper train
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.
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.
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.
Star Inn Hotel
Dessewffy utca 36 - 6. Bezirk
Phone: 36 14722021
Fax: 36 14722010
Joining point description
Star Inn Hotel is a new property located in the heart of Budapest, near the famous opera house. With 24 hour reception, a bar and breakfast area, the rooms include private bathrooms, TV, internet access and hairdryer.
Joining point instructions
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is located 16km southeast of Budapest.
Metered taxis are available from arrivals at all terminals and will cost approximately HUF4800-5500.
Regular trains run between Ferihegy railway station (Budapest Airport Terminal 1) and Budapest Nyugati (West) Railway Station. To transfer to Terminal one from Terminal 2A or 2B take the number 200E bus.
Tickets can be purchased at "Tourinform" at Terminal 1 between 8am and 10pm or at platform B at the railway ticket vending machine. The cost is HUF300 with the journey taking approximately 30 minutes.
From the station it is a 10-15 minute walk to the Star Inn Hotel.
Exit the station and head south east onTeréz körút. Follow this road for 400m and turn right into Dessewffy utca
Star Inn Hotel is on the right hand side after 200 metres.
Alternatively take a short taxi ride from the station to the hotel.
Pre booked arrival transfer from the airport:
If you have pre booked an arrival transfer, the driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall, holding a board with your name on.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) please follow the instructions under the "Joining point instructions" in order to find our driver. Should you have any problems locating your driver, please call the number for our transfer company which can be found below. Should you continue to experience any difficulties, please call the emergency number for our local operations team which is available on the 'Emergency Contact' section of these trip notes.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
If you have any issues locating your driver please contact +49 30 6610127 or Hotelbeds on +34 660409789.
Golden Horn Hotel
Hocapasa Mah.Istasyon Arkasi Sk. No:9
Phone: +90 2125141544
Fax: +90 2125111314
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.**
Finish point instructions
Taxis can easily be hailed to the airport and cost approx 50TRY.
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 one of the following numbers:
Office: +90 212 512 7144
Mob: +90 532 641 6514
Mob: +90 532 641 9056
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ON THIS TRIP (EXCLUDING RUSSIA, UKRAINE, TURKEY):
Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: No - Not required
UK: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required
TURKEY (ALL TRIPS):
Please note that many nationalities require a visit to enter Turkey, and the process for obtaining a visa is due to change on 10 April, 2014.
Those planning to arrive in Turkey on or before 9 April 2014 will be able to obtain a visa on arrival. Costs vary depending on your nationality:
Australian & Canadian: US$60
US & UK : US$20
Other nationalities should check the cost via your local consulate or embassy.
For those planning to arrive in Turkey on or after 10 April, 2014, the following will apply:
Australia: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
Belgium: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
Canada: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
Germany: No - not required
Ireland: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
Netherlands: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
USA: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
To apply for an e-visa, please go to https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ at least a few weeks before you go.
The visa costs can change at any time and with little notice depending on the political climate of the region.
A valid passport is sufficient for citizens of most other countries including New Zealand, Argentina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland for stays up to 3 months. All other nationalities please check with your nearest Turkish embassy.
Issues on your 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 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.
What to take
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.
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.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
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
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 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.
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. 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 group 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 group 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:
BEARS & PERSONAL SAFETY:
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. While travelling on overnight trains is generally safe in Europe, we recommend you bring luggage locks to secure your personal belongings.
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.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
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!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
Please note that helmets are not always provided for sightseeing on bicycles.
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 and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
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 group 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.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
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:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative and you should dress accordingly. To respect the local culture and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. As a guideline, shoulders and knees at the minimum (and everything in between including midriff and cleavage) should be covered at all times. Wearing shorts and singlet tops is not appropriate and may well restrict your entry into sites of a religious nature, family homes, and will limit your local interaction opportunities in general. Loose, lightweight, long clothing (3/4 trousers that come to the calf is fine) is both respectful and cool in the predominantly warm climate.
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.
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$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Turkey include:
* Mavi Kalem provides the children of rural immigrants, in the poorer areas of Eastern Turkey, with additional weekly classes through its Children's Education Program. These lessons, by trained teachers in all areas of formal education, give unprecedented educational opportunities in a region where the uneducated face limited prospects.
Intrepid Travel supports the following non-profit organisations:
*Bears Park located in Belitsa, Bulgaria. The Park 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 passengers have the option of leaving a donation.
*Traditzia Handicraft Centre which is helping disadvantaged artists to practice and create their arts. Traditzia supports people from the Roma and ethnic Turkish communities and people with disabilities from eight regions of Bulgaria. 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.
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!
Carbon Offset C02-e 221.00 kgs per pax.
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.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.