Mountains & Monasteries Trip Notes

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Last Modified: 16 Sep 2013
Mountains & Monasteries
Trip code: CBST
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012
Satisfy your sense of adventure and spiritual curiosity on this overland journey. From the great capital of China travel across the vast Tibetan Plateau, through remote villages and into the mountain kingdom of Nepal. Riding the world's highest railway all the way to Lhasa witness the intense spirituality of the Tibetan people in remote monasteries, high mountain passes, traditional homes and colourful marketplaces along the way. Sample yak cheese and fresh bread at an organic farm in Shigatse, immerse yourself in atmospheric monastic rituals and marvel at the might of Mt Everest for an extraordinary real life experience.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency funds
ThemesGroup sizeVisas
MapYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
ItinerarySingle travellersWhat to take
We also recommendAccommodationHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMeals introductionSafety
Culture shock rating MealsTravel insurance
Physical ratingTransportResponsible Travel
Physical preparationGroup leaderA couple of rules
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsResponsible Travel projects
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsCarbon offset
Spending moneyFinish point descriptionFeedback
TippingFinish point instructions
Departure taxEmergency contact
Style
Original
  • 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.
Themes
Explorer
Map
Mountains & Monasteries
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. 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.
Join your fellow travellers for a group dinner at a local restaurant of your leader's choice to try some Beijing speciality dishes.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
Walk the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx 2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it's still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity but it's up to you how far you walk once up on the wall.
The only inclusion in Beijing is our trip to the Great Wall so we recommend you arrive a couple of days early to see some of the city's other sights including:
Explore Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
Take taxis to the Beijing West railway station, one of the biggest and busiest in the world, to board our train to Lhasa (approx 45 hrs).
Included Activities
  • Informal Chinese language lesson
  • Welcome dinner
  • Great Wall Experience Urban Adventure
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square - Free
  • Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
  • Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
  • Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY480
  • Beijing Opera - CNY200
  • Beijing Zoo (including Aquarium) - CNY130
  • Lama Temple - CNY30
  • Summer Palace - CNY40
  • Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 3 Train to the Roof of the World
The train to Lhasa is truly one of China's greatest engineering feats in recent years. It's the highest railway in the world, traversing some incredibly mountainous and remote terrain. Our journey takes us through the major cities of Xi'an, Lanzhou and Xining, and across the Qinghai Plateau before arriving in Lhasa.
Train travel in China/Tibet may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's a major form of transport for locals. The Beijing - Lhasa train is one of the newest and best in China. We use hard sleeper class trains for our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) The train has a dining car although meals are of better quality on the first day as by the second day we are travelling at altitude which makes cooking difficult! You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. While we always try to have our groups staying together, there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages, and possibly sharing with passengers who are not part of the group.
On rare occasions it may be possible to upgrade to a different carriage class once on the train itself for an additional cost paid to the train conductor but this can not be guaranteed and and should not be relied on as an option.
Accommodation
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 4-8 Lhasa
Colourful and historic, the holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley 3,650 m above sea level. For many years it was a mysterious place, virtually unknown to the outside world with even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reaching the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. While now welcoming tourists and much modernized, Lhasa remains an intriguing city with deeply fascinating culture, sights and stories.
Altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation will be felt while travelling in Tibet, particularly when arriving in Lhasa. We've allowed five days here to allow for appropriate acclimatisation. For more information about altitude and altitude sickness prevention please see the 'Health' section of these notes.
Due to Chinese government regulations, all foreign tour groups in Tibet must be accompanied by an official licensed Tibetan guide. Depending on the departure, you will either have a Tibetan Intrepid leader from Beijing to the Chinese border and a Nepalese Intrepid leader after making the crossing (as Tibetans are not permitted to travel outside of China) or a Chinese Intrepid leader for the duration of the trip and be accompanied by a local Tibetan guide during your time in Tibet. In this case, while we try to request experienced guides with a good level of English, please note that we often have no control over which guides are assigned to our groups and some may be very new to guiding or have limited English communication skills.
Take part in a Tibetan lesson to learn some basic greetings, numbers and phrases.
Learn how to make momos (steamed dumplings), one of the staples of Tibetan cuisine, in a cooking class.
Tour the incredible Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama. Although we're not free to explore the Potala Palace on our own and must stick to a strict schedule of viewing the exhibits and buildings with our guide, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world. Please note this is the most popular attraction in Lhasa, especially among Chinese tour groups, so it can be very crowded and tickets are for a limited time period only.
Please note that inside many of Tibet's monasteries and temples, including Potala Palace, photography is not permitted. In those buildings where it is permitted, often this requires the purchase of a photo permit. Your guide can organize this photo permit for you for an additional fee.
Visit the Sera Monastery where the monks hold dramatic daily debating sessions.
Explore Jokhang Temple, which is often regarded as the spiritual heart of Tibet and one of the region's most active religious sites.
As the majority of the cultural and historical sites in Tibet are temples and monasteries we advise choosing carefully which activities you do in your free time and pacing yourself in order to enjoy the sites we visit as a group as much as possible. Tibetan Buddhism is certainly a fascinating part of the region's culture, however some travellers find that they get 'templed out' quickly as there's just so much information to take in. Take your time, ask our local guide about what interests you most and if you would rather have time on your own instead of joining the group to explore a monastery or temple please let your leader know.
Visit our friends at Braille Without Borders, a wonderful organization that provides support, education and training to visually impaired Tibetans. Blindness and visual impairment in Tibet are very widespread due to the climate and lack of adequate medical care. Braille Without Borders' key message is to give Tibetans the 'right to be blind without being disabled'. We visit their school where young children receive education in Tibetan, Chinese, English and learn to read Braille, as well as prepare for future professions in order to be self supporting. We have a chance to see their classrooms and meet some of the students who are always very proud to show off their language and music skills.
Braille Without Borders is supported by The Intrepid Foundation. If you would like to make a donation to support their programs we recommend donating through The Intrepid Foundation rather than while at the centre. That way any donation you give will be matched dollar for dollar by Intrepid and therefore doubled! You can either pass on your donation through your leader or donate online at www.theintrepidfoundation.org
Head out of Lhasa for a day trip to one of the most stunning natural sights in Tibet - Nam Tso Lake. The soaring Tangula Range with its peaks of over 7000m dominates the south shore of the lake which turns a magnificent turquoise shade in spring. Along the way we'll see nomadic tent camps and sweeping grasslands, as well as devoted pilgrims making the trek to Tashi Do Monastery on foot. While here, you can walk the kora and hike to the top of the surrounding hills for intoxicating views. In the evening we drive back to Lhasa.
This is a long day - the drive will take us to over 4500m and the road is far from smooth. For those who would rather take it easy there is the option of staying in Lhasa for the day. During the months of October through April the road to Nam-Tso can be inaccessible due to snow. We will arrange alternative activities in or around Lhasa for those departures not able to visit the lake.
Included Activities
  • Lhasa - Jokhang Temple
  • Group dinner - Chinese/western
  • Lhasa - Tibetan language lesson
  • Lhasa - Braille Without Borders school visit
  • Lhasa - Cooking class
  • Lhasa - Potala Palace
  • Lhasa - Sera Monastery
  • Lhasa - Nam-Tso Lake day trip
  • Group dinner - Tibetan
Optional Activities
  • Norbulingka - CNY60
  • Ganden Monastery - CNY145
  • Drepung Monastery - CNY60
  • Ramoche Monastery - CNY40
Accommodation
Hotel (5 nts)
Day 9 Samye
Today we begin our overland journey which will take us all the way from Lhasa to Kathmandu. For the Tibetan part of the tour we must be accompanied by a local guide according to the local laws. As foreigners are not permitted to travel by public transport in this region, we will have a private van and driver for the journey.
Driving times will vary and any times listed here are approximate only. While much of the infrastructure in Tibet has been improved in recent years it still lacks regular maintenance and travel time will rely heavily on weather and road conditions. As we have our own vehicle it may also be possible to make some stops along the way for photos, meals or to chat with locals however we need to aim to complete our drives before nightfall for safety reasons.
Our journey to Samye will take approx. 5 hours.
Samye sits at over 3600m and is home to the oldest and one of the most enchanting monasteries in Tibet. This is where Buddhism was established and the monastery has withstood centuries of invasion and other threats to remain standing, imposing and immense beside the river.
Explore the magical structures that make up the Samye Monastery with our local guide giving some explanations about the complicated religious symbolism and rituals. Go through the assembly hall with its statues and the Jowo Khang inner chapel. Some of the murals here are amazingly vivid and detailed, although you'll need to purchase a permit to take photos. The entire Samye complex is huge so we'll have some time to explore here on our own or you can continue to walk with our guide. In the afternoon we can make the 30 minute climb to the top of Hepo Ri Hill with prayer flags and a spectacular view.
Stay in the monastery guesthouse within the complex walls. The rooms are simple, with shared bathroom facilities. Sometimes hot showers are not available and be prepared for occasional 'romantic candle nights' in the case of a blackout.
Accommodation in Tibet outside of Lhasa can be of a very basic standard and with limited options. The region is still hurting from the riots in 2008 which lead to tourism practically being halted for over a year and many hotels and other businesses are still struggling with the financial loss and unable to pay for regular maintenance or sufficient staff to keep things in good condition. Hot water, when available, can be sporadic and in some destinations hot water and showers are not available at all. Many hotels have shared bathroom facilities and unreliable plumbing. Most places we stay will have twin-share rooms although on occasion we'll stay in multishare rooms on a same gender basis.
Included Activities
  • Samye - Samye Monastery
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 10 Gyantse
The long drive to Gyantse today is spectacular, with unforgettable views of the turquoise coloured Yamdrok Tso Lake from the top of the soaring Kamba Pass (over 4700m). The road takes us along the lake shore, stopping at the town of Nangartse for lunch before climbing again for more views of glaciers and peaks. We aim to arrive in Gyantse (around 4000m) by late afternoon.
As well as many religious sites, Gyantse is a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life in the backstreets where pilgrims, pop music, cows, "cowboys" on motorbikes, kids and monks all mingle in a lively mix of cultures.
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 11-12 Shigatse
Spend time in the unique Gyantse Kumbum, a layered stupa designed as a kind of 3 dimensional mandala and model of the Buddhist universe, each storey representing a step to enlightenment. If you have a head for heights you can wind your way up the pilgrim circuit, the passages steadily getting narrower as you get higher and the air becoming more and more intoxicating with incense and smoke from yak butter lamps.
Drive to Tibet's second-largest city, Shigatse (90 km, approx 2 hrs).
Sitting at just over 3800m, Shigatse is a busy, buzzing and dusty city that's rapidly modernising.
Visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the few in Tibet to have come out virtually unscathed from the Cultural Revolution. With its expansive territory inside thick stone walls it's almost like a town in itself. We visit with our local guide, but if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the myriad monastic buildings each with their own intricate decorations, legends and religious imagery, ask for directions to the tranquil Chapel of Jampa and meditate on the world's largest gilded statue. The courtyard outside of the Kelsang Chapel is one of the best places to observe the pilgrims and monks prepare for ceremonies.
In the evening we can join the pilgrims on their kora (prayer circuit), spinning prayer wheels as we walk around the perimeter of the monastery and taking in the great views and atmosphere. The walk takes around 1 hour to complete.
Drive about 1 hour to the countryside outside of Shigatse to visit the Braille Without Borders organic farm and training centre. Along with a primary school, the training centre is home to music and massage schools, handicraft workshops, a cheese kitchen and cafe, all employing and training visually impaired Tibetans, providing opportunities for future careers and improving their livelihoods. We have a chance to tour the facilities, chat with the trainees and sample some of their delicious organically grown food.
Back in the city, if our stay coincides with Market Day a great activity is to head to the Shigatse bazaar and browse the stalls that sell everything from slabs of yak butter and yak wool to prayer wheels and rosaries. Be tempted by antiques, jewellery and fur hats with elaborate gold brocade, or simply watch as Tibetans vie with each other to win a sale. Alternatively, you may be able to visit the carpet factory where hand-woven carpets are made to traditional designs. Don't forget to bargain hard if you decide to make a purchase.
Included Activities
  • Gyantse - Gyantse Kumbum
  • Gyantse - Pelkor Chode Monastery
  • Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery
  • Shigatse - Braille Without Borders farm visit
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 13 Sakya
Continuing our journey along the Friendship Highway, drive to the small town of Sakya, which is situated at about 4300m (approx 4 hrs).
Sakya's monastery and town buildings are quite unique. The monastery is built in medieval 'Mongolian' style and rather than whitewashed, the secular buildings are painted in red and while stripes. With its high imposing walls, the monastery is sometimes nicknamed the "Great Wall of Tibet".
Explore inside the monastery with our local guide. At first the halls may seem similar to other monasteries we've visited, but spend some time here and soak in the atmosphere and you'll soon realise that Sakya has a subtle ancient beauty that is unlike any other.
After the monastery tour you can choose to climb the hill through the Tibetan Village to see what's left of the original monastery complex. Make sure you pick your way through the ruins and remaining buildings in a clockwise direction as this is a kora route.
Tonight for dinner, why not try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants. Stay the night in a basic guesthouse. Please note that there's usually not hot running water available here.
Included Activities
  • Sakya - Sakya Monastery
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 14 Everest National Park
Another early start and an exhilarating drive (approx 8-9 hrs) along what at times seems little more than a yak track brings us to Rongphu - sitting at around 5,000m above sea level and a mere 8 km from Everest Base Camp. The views from here are utterly spectacular.
Rongphu Monastery is the highest in the world. On a clear day you may even get a photo of the monastery's chorten against the backdrop of mighty Everest, or Qomolangma as it is called in Tibetan.
A relatively modern monastery by Tibetan standards, Rongphu was built in the early 1900s and originally housed more than 500 monks. Today around 50 monks and nuns remain. Unusually, they share the same prayer hall although they have separate residences. We are received very warmly by the monks and nuns here and it's often possible to join them for their evening prayers.
Stretch our legs and our lungs on the gentle two hour return hike up to Everest Base Camp. Follow the prayer flags up the slope, hope for a clear sunny sky for amazing photos and even text a friend back home when you reach the camp at 5200 m. Yes, there's mobile reception even here!
In the summer months we stay nearby Rongphu in the Tent City that is sent up along the road that leads to Everest Base Camp. Accommodation here is in nomad-style tents. Tents sleep up to seven people with basic mattresses and bedding provided but we recommend using a sleep sheet and preparing some warm clothes as it can get quite cool in the evenings. There are basic pit toilets nearby. For heating there is a yak dung stove in the central open area of each tent. At such close proximity to the tallest mountains in the world the surroundings more than make up for the basic sleeping conditions.
In colder months when the Tent City is not operational we stay in the monastery guesthouse or in a nearby town. Rooms here are quad-share with very simple, shared facilities.
**During 2012 access to the Everest Base Camp can be closed to non Chinese citizens at any time without notice. Should this occur an alternative itinerary will be run with a stay in Lao Tingri**
Included Activities
  • Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery
  • Everest NP - Base Camp visit
Accommodation
Permanent tented camp (1 nt)
Day 15 Zhangmu
For early risers there may be another chance to visit Everest Base camp this morning depending on group departure time.
Today we head for our final stop in Tibet - the town of Zhangmu on the border between China and Nepal. We see the landscape change quite abruptly, from barren plateau to green valleys. As the altitude drops to around 2250m the humidity increases. Depending on the recent rainfall we might even see some amazing waterfalls cascading down the gorges. In the summer, driving time may be longer as with the road often submerged in clouds and fog we may need to take it extra slow. Landslides are also common in this part of Tibet which is why we leave a whole day to get to Zhangmu and stay the night there so that delays do not disrupt our schedule in Nepal.
Zhangmu has the restless feel typical of border towns with a congested city centre, plenty of shops and traders about and many restaurants.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 16 Dhulikhel
Say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver at the Chinese border and go through the immigration procedures. As immigration is often closed in the middle of the day we cross once it opens at 9.30am in order to maximize our short stay in Dhulikhel, our first destination in Nepal.
We get a lift across 8 km of no man's land and then walk across the Friendship Bridge to the Nepali border town of Kodari. After going through Nepalese immigration we meet our transfer and drive the mountain passes to Dhulikel with a stop for lunch on the way (approx 3-4hours).
Arriving in Dhulikhel, we have a chance to walk around the village streets, enjoy the beautiful lush surroundings and the immense views from our guesthouse perched high on the hillside.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 17-18 Kathmandu
Continue on to Kathmandu by bus.
Kathmandu is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development and, with its rich artistic and cultural heritage, it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows.
As there's not much time spent in Kathmandu on this trip we recommend you stay a few extra days to explore. Some great ways to spend your time here include:
Check out Durbar Square, the vast plaza opposite the old Royal Palaces chock full of Newari architecture.
See the ancient Swayambhunath Stupa (known to tourists as the Monkey Temple) - Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal.
Join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa - the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism.
Head to Pashupatinath - a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km north-west of Kathmandu. It's dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - Durbar Square - NPR750
  • Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple - NPR200
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa - NPR200
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple - NPR1000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
    We also recommend
    If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
    • Beijing to Delhi (CBSXC)
    • Lhasa to Kathmandu Ride (CZXT)
    • Tibet Unplugged (CFRE)
    • Trans-Mongolian Express (WBSB)
    Itinerary disclaimer
    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.
    Culture shock rating

    The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
    This is a demanding, overland travel trip, which is suitable for the experienced traveller. The affects of altitude, long days of travel in cramped conditions over extremely rough roads, accommodation in shared dormitories that vary in quality from the basic to the very basic and the possibility of severe and sudden climate changes means that this is definitely not a trip for the armchair traveller. Be prepared for no showers for several days, and in the event of a landslide or heavy snow blocking the road you may be required to walk carrying your own luggage for unspecified distances or the itinerary may change.
    Physical rating

    Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy your holiday.
    Physical preparation
    You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including moving about busy public transport hubs, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable In some locations it may be possible to hire porters. Please ask your trip leader for help to arrange this if possible but be prepared to manage your own luggage.
    Included activities
    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.
    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 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.
    Money Exchange
    The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).
    We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
    ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
    Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
    Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
    The official currency of Nepal is the Nepali Rupee (NPR).
    ATMs can only be found in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Bhaktapur. Money exchange facilities are available in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan (only outside the park) and Bhaktapur.
    The Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes in Nepal. You should ensure you are not carrying these notes on arrival in Nepal as they will be confiscated and you may be fined.
    While travellers' cheques have security advantages exchanging them can be a lengthy process, commissions can be high (up to 10%) and they can be difficult to change in rural areas, on weekends and public holidays. If you choose to bring travellers' cheques, make sure they are a major brand and major currency.
    Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes.
    Spending money
    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.
    Tipping
    CHINA:
    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. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
    Tipping in China is not customary, but in the travel industry it is. Many guides and drivers would usually supplement their income by taking tourists to shops and restaurants from which they receive commission. Intrepid does not encourage this practice as we believe it can be detrimental to our travellers' experience. Instead we try to ensure we pay our drivers, guides and leaders fairly for their services. Tips are still very much appreciated for those situations in which you believe you have received excellent service.
    Please don't tip with coins, notes of or less that CNY1, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
    The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
    Restaurants: Tipping is not common practice at restaurants in China or Tibet.
    Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest CNY10-15 per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
    Porters: In some hotels a porter may offer to carry your bag to your room. We suggest CNY5 per bag for porters.
    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 that you tip only those more involved with the group (for example those that help you with your bags etc). CNY5-10 per person per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
    Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$3-5 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 isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Important notes
    TIBET GROUP RESTRICTIONS:
    All clients will be entering Tibet on a Group Permit arranged by Intrepid Travel and as such it's not possible for anyone to leave the group and remain in Tibet individually. Everybody must enter and leave Tibet with the group. Make sure you read the 'Visas' section for important details on the information you must provide for your group's Tibet permit.
    DALAI LAMA:
    Please note that it's a criminal offence for anyone to carry images of the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan flag - doing so may lead to confiscation of the items, detention, arrest or imprisonment by Chinese authorities. We strongly advise travellers against carrying these items at any time while within China.
    CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
    Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.
    Group size
    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
    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 room (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 (11 nts), Guesthouse (3 nts), Overnight sleeper train (2 nts), Permanent tented camp (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.
    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.
    BEDS AND ROOMS:
    Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. Passengers that require a soft bed should consider bringing an inflatable camping mattress or sleeping mat.
    Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible.
    WIFI, in room, or in public areas of accommodation is not as common as travellers may be used to in other regions.
    HARD SLEEPER TRAINS CHINA:
    We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded berths (6 to a compartment), sheets, a blanket and hot water available. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals or snacks are available. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. While railway services are rapidly being modernised in China, some train journeys in particular between less visited destinations may use older rolling stock and the carriages of a more basic standard.
    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. 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.
    Meals
    4 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 3 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.
    USD 300.00
    Transport
    Private Bus, Overnight sleeper train, Taxi
    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.
    Joining point description
    Centrally located in downtown Beijing's Wangfujing District, the Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel is close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The hotel is also within easy reach of the CBD and Financial Street and a few minutes walk to the nearest subway stations. The hotel offers comfortable rooms including ensuite, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open or use the vanity pack.
    http://baike.baidu.com/view/2599144.htm#3
    Joining point instructions
    Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights arrive at Terminal 3.
    An arrival transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
    If you have pre-purchased an arrival transfer, our local operator, Ms Qi (Ms Chee), will have sent a driver to the airport who will be holding a sign with the Intrepid logo and your name on it. If you arrive at Terminal 2, please meet your driver at the entrance/exit #7 after you go through the baggage claim area. Please note that Beijing Airport is very crowded so please be patient. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk at door #7 and ask them to call Ms Qi on her mobile. If you arrive at Terminal 3, please meet your driver in front of the white jade screen wall with the dragon pattern, after you walk through Exit B. Exit B is the only international arrival gate in Terminal 3. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk on the right side of Exit B and ask them to call Ms Qi on her mobile (+86) 13671299816.
    If making your own way to the hotel:
    By bus, take airport bus route 2 (CNY16) to Dongzhimen or route 3 to Beijing Railway Station, then it's a short taxi ride to our joining point hotel (CNY 15, approx 10 minutes.
    By subway, Take the Airport Express to Dong Zhi Men Station. Change to Line 2 at this station, then to Line 5 at Lama Temple. From Lama Temple station, take the train to the direction of Songjiazhuang, and get off at Dengshikou Station. Turn left from Exit A, and take the first left at Baishu Hutong, which is a narrow lane. Walk down this lane for about 200m, you'll see the Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel on your left (Hotel name is on the top of the building in Yellow )
    Metered taxis are available outside the airport terminal building. The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotels takes about 45 minutes and should cost around CNY80-100 (plus CNY10 for the airport expressway toll). Show the taxi driver the address of the hotel in Chinese characters as shown below. **PLEASE AVOID TAXI TOURS THAT TELL YOU THEY HAVE A METERED TAXI PARKED OUTSIDE THE AIRPORT**
    Check-in time is 2pm.
    Please note local language address for Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel below which is useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions:
    北京凯创金街商务酒店
    北京市东城区柏树胡同32号

    Arrival complications
    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) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
    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.
    Finish point description
    Hotel Marshyangdi is situated in the heart of Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist mecca. Its variety of restaurants and shops, pulsing nightlife and easy access to major tourist sites and the airport make it a convenient place to stay.
    www.hotelmarshyangdi.com
    Finish point instructions
    A taxi to the airport will cost about NPR400 from 06.00-20.00 and NRP500 from 20.00-06.00. Hotel reception or your leader can help you organise a taxi.
    Normal check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later in the day or evening, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Beijing Office can be reached on Tel: +861064067328. For further contact details please use the following page:
    Emergency funds
    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
    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.
    CHINA - TIBET:
    Australia: Yes - in advance
    Belgium: Yes - in advance
    Canada: Yes - in advance
    Germany: Yes - in advance
    Ireland: Yes - in advance
    Netherlands: Yes - in advance
    New Zealand: Yes - in advance
    South Africa: Yes - in advance
    Switzerland: Yes - in advance
    United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
    USA: Yes - in advance
    CHINA & HONG KONG:
    Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements. Tibet is is a province of mainland China.
    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    Itinerary:
    Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
    Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
    Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
    606 InterChina Commercial Building
    33 Dengshikou Street
    Dongcheng District
    Beijing 100006
    +86 10 6406 8022
    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    * Hotel List - this will be sent to you by Intrepid or your travel agent at time of booking. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that the provided itinerary indicates your trip visits
    * Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
    * Itinerary - this forms part of the Hotel List document from our office in China. Please note that this itinerary may not reflect your actual journey, but is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel in China
    * Photocopy of your passport
    * Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
    * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TIBET PERMIT & TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS
    Tibet permits are be arranged en-route with the help of our local partners. If you are travelling on an itinerary that visits Tibet you will need to email the following documents to us as soon as possible after booking and no later than 30 days before departure:
    * Clear, colour scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport
    * Clear, colour scanned copy of your Chinese visa
    Please make sure that this copy is of the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well. This may also cause significant delays in obtaining your Tibet permit so please plan ahead. If we do not receive these documents from you in time, your name and passport details will not be listed on the group permit and you will not be able to board the train to travel to Lhasa with the group.
    WARNING – TRAVEL TO TIBET
    Please be aware that this is a politically sensitive area of China which has in the past been closed to foreign travellers without warning. A change in the political situation can also lead to unforeseen delays in issuing visas and permits. We aim to keep our travellers as up to date as possible with any changes, however these are often made without any official announcement by authorities and as such are out of our control.
    As your China visa won't specify the areas which you'll be visiting in country it's sufficient to list Beijing as your destination in China on your application form. Your Chinese visa needs to be valid until at least Day 16 of the tour.
    IMPORTANT - TIBET PERMIT:
    Once you have obtained your Chinese visa you must provide a clear colour copy of your passport page and Chinese visa to your booking agent. This should be in JPEG format and Intrepid must receive this at least 30 days prior to travel in order to apply for your group's Tibet permit. Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport please bring your old passport with you as well. If we do not receive these documents from you by this time your name and passport details will not be listed on the group permit and you will not be able to board the train to travel to Lhasa with the group.
    Due to the political sensitivity of this region it is important to understand that there are sometimes unexpected difficulties in obtaining Tibetan permits which are out of Intrepid's control. Three times during 2011 and 2012, and without official announcement by the government authorities controlling permit issue, the region of Tibet has been closed to visitors, or permits denied. It is impossible to predict when or if these sudden changes will occur again in the future. Of course Intrepid and our local ground teams will do everything we can to obtain permits or warn our travellers if they will be affected by last minute closures.
    NEPAL - FROM TIBET
    Australia: Yes - on arrival
    Belgium: Yes - on arrival
    Canada: Yes - on arrival
    Germany: Yes - on arrival
    Ireland: Yes - on arrival
    Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
    New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
    South Africa: Yes - on arrival
    Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
    United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
    USA: Yes - on arrival
    VISA EN-ROUTE
    Most nationalities can apply for the visa on arrival at the land border crossing from Tibet to Nepal. Please check with your embassy to ensure that this applies to you. Current cost of visa on arrival is US$30, depending on your nationality. You will need 2 passport photos for your application. You may need to know your exact departure date in order to apply for the correct length Single Entry Tourist Visa.
    BORDER CROSSINGS:
    Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:
    Day 16 - Exit China at Zhangmu and enter Nepal at Kodari
    To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website to be very useful - http://www.timeanddate.com
    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
    What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we 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. 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.
    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.
    CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
    The mountainous areas we visit on this trip can be very cold. Bring a warm jumper/jacket, thermals, warm hat and gloves no matter what time of the year, as we travel at altitudes above 5,000 m.
    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.
    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
    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 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.
    Please note that this trip spends time above 2800 metres/9200 feet where it is possible to experience some adverse effects on your health due to the altitude, potentially including Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).
    Altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation is generally felt to some degree while travelling in Tibet, particularly when arriving in Lhasa at just above 3,600 metres/3,937 yards. We have allowed five days in Lhasa to allow for appropriate acclimatisation. We also overnight at above 5,000m near Everest Base Camp.
    AMS (acute mountain sickness) affects people in different ways. It is important to remember that if you are young and healthy, and haven't experienced altitude sickness in the past doesn't mean you are immune to it on future trips. Physical fitness is not necessarily a good indicator, and neither are strength or good health. You may react badly to altitude despite being fit, young and healthy. In fact, the fit, young and healthy have a hidden risk: their general physical capacity leads them to believe that they should handle altitude just fine, which is not always true.
    Bad health, on the other hand, is a risk factor: particularly cardiac or respiratory problems. Healthy hearts and lungs have a hard enough time getting oxygen to your tissues at high altitudes. Naturally, if you have physical problems that make exertion difficult for you, you have reason to think carefully about exertion at high altitude, where it is much harder!
    Because of this it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude and monitor your health during this trip. For further information please refer to the AMS information sheet located on the 'Trip Notes' link for your trip on our website or check out the following website http://www.treksafe.com.au/medical/altitude_illness.htm.
    If you have any concerns about altitude we recommend that you check with a doctor before leaving.
    Your leader will also hand you a copy of the AMS information sheet during your trip as well as holding a short meeting prior to travelling to altitudes above 2800m/9200ft for the first time.
    If you are starting your trip in a destination above 2800m/9200ft we strongly advise reading this information prior to arrival.
    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. 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:
    ACCLIMATISATION AND ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
    Altitude sickness has the potential to affect all travellers from 2500m and higher. We ascend slowly and give our bodies plenty of time to adjust to the smaller quantities of oxygen in the air. However it is important to be aware of the normal altitude symptoms that you may encounter BUT NOT worry about:
    - Periods of sleeplessness
    - Occasional loss of appetite
    - Vivid, wild dreams at around 2500-3800m in altitude
    - Unexpected momentary shortness of breath, day and night
    - Periodic breathing that wakes you occasionally
    - Your nose becomes bunged up
    - Dry cough develops
    - Mild headache
    If you are feeling nauseous and dizzy be sure to let your group leader know so that we can monitor your condition.
    Your leader will conduct a brief safety discussion before our trekking activity.
    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.
    BALCONIES:
    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!
    Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
    SEAT BELTS:
    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.
    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
    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:
    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:
    LOCAL DRESS:
    When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for men and women.
    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 Tibet include:
    * Braille without Borders was Tibet's first blind rehabilitation and training centre. With four major project areas, it aims to implement a blind preparatory school, produce educational materials, facilitate social reintegration programs and conduct vocational training to enable the integration and acceptance of the blind in Tibetan society.
    Carbon offset
    Carbon Offset C02-e 1507.00 kgs per pax.
    Feedback
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.