Last Modified: 04 Apr 2016
Xi'an to Bishkek
Trip code: CDVUC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2016
Traverse some of the world’s hottest deserts, highest mountains and wildest tribal lands while retracing the path of ancient traders, armies and explorers along the famed Silk Road. Discover the sublime landscapes of Krygyzstan, ascend the breathtaking Tian Shan mountains, cross the Torugart Pass, and feel the heat of the Taklamakan Desert. Stay with local nomads, hike in spectacular wilderness and recall Silk Road splendour.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
- Our Basix style trips are designed for travellers who want exceptional value, plenty of free time and having the flexibility to choose where and how their time and money is spent. By working plenty of free time into the itineraries and keeping many of the activities optional, we aim to make travel possible for those on even the most slender of budgets. After all, why pay for an activity or excursion you wouldn’t otherwise be interested in? Or a level of comfort you don’t require? As a wise person probably once said, a bed's just a bed when there's exploring to be done.
Is this trip right for you?
“Is this trip right for you” – Dragoman trips (Trip Notes section)
Dragoman tours travel from each destination to the next on one of their purpose-built trucks, this is an overland adventure! There are some long travel days, venturing away from cities and into remote areas, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Dragoman overland journeys are designed to offer freedom, and many of their routes have a degree of flexibility depending on the destination. As they have their own vehicle, they are generally unrestricted in their ability to alter the schedule in the case of unforeseen circumstances.
Dragoman use a broad range of accommodation on their trips from good hotels, basic hostels, family-run guesthouses, well-equipped campsites, local family homestays, or wild camping in more remote areas. Note: some of their routes are non-camping routes, depending on the nature of the destination. Please see the day to day itinerary for more detailed information about accommodation on the trip.
On an overland trip you're more than just a passenger - you're part of the team! Everyone on the journey will get involved to help with setting up camp, pitching tents, shopping for food, and cooking. The more you put it the more you get out!
Days 1-2 Xi'an
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Border Information: If you are joining in Xi'an, you will enter China either at Xi'an or Beijing.
Free time to explore the historic city of Xi'an. There will be a group meeting at 18:00 hrs.
Hotel for the night:
Xi’an Garden Hotel西安唐华宾馆
40 Yanyin Road (to the east of Dayan Pagoda), Xi'an
+86-29-87601111 Fax: +86-29-85261998
This morning we travel on the truck to the place that has perhaps made Xi'an most famous around the world - the site of the Terracotta Warriors. It takes around an hour to get there and we'll hear all about this incredible archaeological find. Once the guided tour is over we will travel back to Xian. The evening is free to explore, perhaps a walk down to the night market to buy souvenirs or catching a cultural show over a dumpling banquet.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Pingliang
In the morning we set off towards Pingliang in China's Gansu Province.
The main reason to visit Pingliang is Mount Kongtong, during our time here we will have the opportunity to explore the mountain.
Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Lanzhou
Today we drive 240kms to Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Xiahe
In the early morning we head to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe. We will arrive in the early evening and settle in to our rustic guesthouse.
Today is free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. Options include a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go horse riding in the surrounding grasslands visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local yak butter tea.
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Day 7 Liujiaxia
Today we continue our journey to Liujiaxia visiting the Binglingsi Caves en route.
Overnight in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 8 Zhangye Bush Camp
Today we will drive to towards Jiayuguan wild camping en route.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 9 Jiayuguan Great Wall
Full day drive to Jiayuguan.
Jiayuguan is the location for the western end of the Great Wall. Tonight will be spent Wild camping at the Great Wall of China.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Dunhuang
In the morning we will visit the Great Wall and the old fort. Once our visit to the wall is complete we will then head off in the truck towards Dunhuang. This is the perfect base to explore the amazing Mogao Caves tomorrow. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
We begin our day with a visit to the Mogao Caves. The afternoon is free to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings, options include a camel ride along the sand dunes or perhaps a bicycle ride out to the White Goose Pagoda. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 12 Hami Bush Camp
We set off in the truck in the early morning and drive approximately 7 hours towards the oasis town of Turpan we will bush camp en route.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 13-14 Turpan
We arrive into the oasis town of Turpan in the early evening, the rest of your evening is free. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
We spend the day exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 15-16 Heavenly Lake
In the morning we drive towards the Tian Shan mountain range, and onto Heavenly Lake. Accommodation at the lake is in Yurts with basic facilities for 2 nights. This is a great opportunity for some relaxation time and there may be an opportunity for horse riding in the area.
Yurt (2 nts)
Days 17-18 Bayanbulak & Aksu Bush Camps
We leave Heavenly Lake and begin our 2-day overland journey skirting the edge of the Taklamakan Desert towards Kashgar, wild camping en route.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Days 19-21 Kashgar
We arrive into Kashgar Early in the morning. There is free to explore and we visit the animal market just outside of town and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar. You will have plenty of free time to explore the town, perhaps heading off to the main landmark of the town, the Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
The last day here is departure day. There are no activities planned and you may depart at any time.
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 22 Karakol
For those of you are continuing to Kyrgyzstan there will be quick pre-departure meeting in order to explain the next 6 days and collect kitty.
We then set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway, our destination is Lake Karakul. This beautiful lake and its surrounding mountains are a highlight on this short trip. We will camp overnight if conditions allow.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 23 Kashgar
The morning is spent at Lake Karakol. Optional activities include horse riding around the lake or short hikes in the surrounding mountains. In the afternoon we will drive back to Kashgar arriving in the early evening in order to prepare for the border crossing tomorrow. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 24 Tash Rabat
Border Information: Exit China at Torugat , enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugat.
Today we overland approx 625Kms along the Silk Route through the Tian Shan Mountains and over the 3752m Torugart Pass crossing into Kyrgyzstan.
Our destination is Tash Rabat, a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyz/China border. During our time here we visit an ancient caravanserai. Tonight we will camp in the area.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 25 Kochkor
Today we will drive approximately 235 Kms to Kochkor. Here we will stay for the night with a traditional Kyrgyz family, living with them and finding out about their daily life, food and family patterns. Accommodation is in home stays, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 26 Bishkek
This morning we will drive approximately 80Kms to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. We will arrive in time for the 10:00am pre departure meeting for the next section of this trip, Bishkek to Tashkent. Accommodation tonight is in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
The afternoon is free to explore. Overnight in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Hotel for the night: Hotel Asia Mountains
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 27 Bishkek
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
We've allowed plenty of room for freedom and flexibility in our trips. In fact, flexibility is one of the ingredients that makes each of our trips so exciting. This style of travel offers us some unexpected circumstances at times, for example, bad weather and road conditions, technical defects of transportation, inconveniences caused by local operators and authorities, and other circumstances beyond our control. Changes in the program may be required to make the best of the unique situations that we encounter.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group. Our described itineraries are to be used as a general guide only.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climates from the hot deserts through to the colds of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.
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.
On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and all included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases.This Kitty price indicated on the trip notes below is indicative only. Please refer to the 'Check availability' page on the website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
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 in Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyzstan Som (KGS).
This can only be obtained within Kyrgyzstan. Conversion of KGS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.
There are many private money changers in Kyrgyzstan, but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully. Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. Some banks in Bishkek will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
In Bishkek you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Kyrgyzstan must be made in local currency.
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 is 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.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: - we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. In China tipping in restaurants is not common practice.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1-2 (Central Asia), CNY5-10 (China) per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest RUB30-50 (Russia)/US$1-2 (Mongolia, Central Asia)/ CNY5-10 (China) per person per activity day for local guides. Adjust the amount accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Porters: In some hotels in China 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 a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of RUB50/US$2 (Russia/Mongolia/Central Asia) or CNY5 (China) per person per day is generally appropriate. Adjust the amount 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 $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, 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.
Please allow approximately US$10 for departure tax from Kyrgyzstan.
Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
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.
PRIOR TO TRAVEL:
Please note that in order to confirm your booking on this trip we require a scanned copy of your passport prior to travel.
CHANGES TO PLANNED DRAGOMAN ROUTES:
We intend following the planned route but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. By their very nature overland itineraries need to be flexible and the regions that we are travelling through are often unpredictable. We run adventure journeys in off the beaten track areas, often in areas without western infrastructure. You should expect that some these areas do not adhere to western safety standards.
Maximum of 21 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.
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.
Hotel (14 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (7 nts), Guesthouse (2 nts), Yurt (2 nts), Homestay (1 nt)
Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels, ranging from twin to multishare. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hotels.
In Asia it is often not practical to camp when staying in towns and cities, so we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hotel stops depends on the route and area.
Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
All meals when camping
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.
On an Overland journey you are more than just a passenger, you’re part of the crew - pitching in to set up camp, shopping for food, cooking and generally helping out. We operate a rota system, dividing the group into smaller units of 5 or 6 people, so that these duties are shared equally amongst the group. These jobs will include things like collecting water and firewood, loading the back locker, supervising the kitty and food stores etc. While camping on overland journeys, all meals will be included in the kitty and this means that you will be working as a group to prepare meals and cook for your group. If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting.
A typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, cereal and something hot such as eggs or pancakes as well as tea and coffee. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto, pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit from it.
Roads in Asia can be very rough which makes for long, slow travel days. It is however all worth it for the spectacular scenery and novelty of truck travel!
The step up into the overland truck, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down at least 8-10 times a day, as can the constant setting and packing up of camp.
On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. Dragoman trips use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.
We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders
On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
Skytel International Hotel
NO.325 south Street
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
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.
Hotel Asia Mountains Отель Горы Азии
1a, Lineinaja Street Улица Линейная 1А, (на пересечении с улицой Гоголя)
Phone: +996 312 69 02 34
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
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.
CENTRAL ASIA VISAS (DRAGOMAN):
This trip visits multiple countries for which visas can be difficult and time consuming to obtain. Please ensure that you have enough time to apply for all visas you require before booking this trip.
You will need to plan very carefully how and where you will obtain your visas as some Central Asian destinations may not have an embassy in your country. Some countries also require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Specific information about visas for each destination on this trip can be found in the Trip Notes. Please remember that while Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine are able to provide some advice about visas, it is the responsibility of the individual traveller to ensure that all correct and necessary information and documents are supplied on time for their own Letters of Invitation and visa applications. While it is possible to apply for visas independently, some travellers choose to use a visa service or agent for the process. Your booking agent can advise of a reputable service.
We strongly advise booking this trip on its own or taking it at the beginning of your broader travel plans as the already complicated visa process will only be further complicated by trying to get visas on the road.
LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
This trip travels to one or more countries which may require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Please check the country specific visa information below to see if this requirement affects you and your trip.
In order for Dragoman to apply for the LOI on your behalf through our partners The Visa Machine you will need to do the following immediately after booking:
1. Complete & submit the following form: http://dragoman-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/
2. Email the following documents tomailto: firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name in the subject of the email followed by "Dragoman LOI":
* Clear, colour scanned copy of your passport (+ passport PHOTO scan for Turkmenistan LOI)
* Letter of Employment or Study (Uzbekistan LOI). This must be a letter from your employer or place of study on a business letterhead that states clearly that you are travelling for tourism purposes only. If you are retired or self-employed, please indicate this on the form above.
Submitting this information for your LOI is the responsibility of the traveller. Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa.
Please be aware that LOIs can take up to 30 days to be processed and can only be applied for 3 months before entry in order to remain valid. The Visa Machine will be able to advise you on the expected time frame in which you will receive your LOI. You must indicate where you will apply for your visa on the above form and any changes in this information will result in your LOI being delayed so please plan carefully.
Once the LOI has been processed a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa. LOIs are valid for a 3 months period so you must apply for your visa within 3 months of the LOI being issued.
LOIs are generally included in the trip price unless otherwise indicated, however remember that these are NOT the actual visa. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller and separate from the trip price. Costs will vary depending on your nationality and place of application.
On occasion visa applications or LOIs may be rejected. The reasons for the rejection may or may not be disclosed. While Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine have no control over such situations and cannot be held responsible, should this occur we will do what we can to help you continue your trip or arrange alternative travel plans.
CHINA - DRAGOMAN 2014/15
Please apply in advance for your visa. The visa is valid for 3 - 6 months from the date of issue and has a validity of 30, 60 or 90 days. All nationalities should check with the respective embassies for more information and costs.
You require a single entry tourist visa for either 30, 60 or 90 days depending on your trip.
It is advised that you do not mention Kashgar, Urumqi, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your Chinese visa application form as this may lead to your application being rejected.
Please note Dragoman will require a clear photocopy of your passport as soon as possible after booking.
HOW TO OBTAIN A VISA SUPPORT LETTER:
Dragoman will apply for the letter of invitation / Visa support letter on your behalf. In order to do this we need you to complete the Visa support form found here:
Once you have completed this form we will need you to email the supporting documents to email@example.com with your name in the subject of the email followed by 'Dragoman LOI'.
Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa.
Once a letter of support / Letter of Invitation has been authorised a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa.
*Please note that if you decide to obtain your visa in a different location, a new letter of invitation will be required which
will delay you obtaining your visa therefore it is vital that you are clear on where you will obtain your visa. *
KYRGYZSTAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
Many nationalities no longer require a visa to travel to Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days, including Australia, Belgium, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, USA and Switzerland. Other nationalities should check with their nearest embassy. Nationals of other countries not listed should check their requirements at their nearest embassy. A LOI is rarely needed, but should it be required by your embassy please follow the instructions for applying through The Visa Machine. If you do require a visa we strongly advise that you obtain it in advance.
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, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
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.
LUGGAGE AND LOCKERS:
Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances, you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker, so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use. Please be aware that due to the constant dust and vibrations your luggage bag will be subject to extreme wear and tear.
The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different-sized lockers, however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is a maximum of 20kg. Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
CAMPING EQUIPMENT / MATTRESS:
A sleeping bag (we recommend a 3–4 season). It can get very cold at night in winter months in desert and mountainous regions. If you're travelling during the hot season you may wish to also pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter the weather. Pillows are NOT provided so please bring a travel pillow along.
We don't provide a mattress so please bring your own (a Thermarest / inflatable mattress is recommended).
A simple plastic bag / waterproof toiletry bag (that can hang on a nail on the back of a door) will be useful to keep your clothes dry inside basic camp shower structures.
You will need to bring a mixture of lightweight clothing, some warm items for the evenings, and long shirts and pants for protection against mosquitoes in the malaria areas. Clothes should be easy to wash and dry. Some people like to take jeans for evenings out but they can be tough to dry and should not be used for trekking. Avoid nylon and other synthetics, which can be very uncomfortable in hot weather. Ex-military or military style clothing and equipment is NOT recommended.
As this trip includes camping and/or bush walking we highly recommend that you take a pair of comfortable, closed-in walking shoes. Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings from dangerous animals in this environment.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. We recommend at least a 1.5litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments.
Most of our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras every couple of days. We always recommend that you carry an extra battery for your camera just in case. Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” socket which may be used at the crew’s discretion, however, do bear in mind that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets. Hotels and many campsites have electricity and charging of batteries is advised before checking out the following day.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe and the safe on the overland truck to store the bulk of your money, passport, and airline tickets. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
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.
There have recently been a number of isolated cases of Bird Flu in Asia. While the risk to travellers is very low, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of local authorities and the World Health Organisation. WHO recommends basic hygiene practices to limit the risk of infection:
• Avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
• Exercise good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing
For further information please visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/index.html
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
• Ensure you know where your nearest fire exit is and check to ensure that it is operative.
• Check the location of the nearest fire extinguisher.
• Study the fire instructions in your room if available.
• Identify how to raise the alarm if a fire occurs.
• If a fire occurs, leave immediately; do not stop to collect your effects.
• Proceed to an assembly point well away from the building.
• Electrics in hotels in many of the places that we visit will not be up to the same standards as at home. Please ensure that you check rooms, especially bathrooms and are aware of any issues that look unsafe. If in doubt inform the crew who will endeavor to sort the situation out.
• Staircases and stairwells are often built to a very different design than under Western building standards. There may be no guard rails, be excessively steep, etc. At all times be aware and take appropriate and prudent care.
• We often stay in homestays and farmstays. These may range from a traditional yurt through to a tree house or a town house. As these are traditional homes they may well not adhere to our western standards of safety and so it is important that you make yourself aware of potential risks.
• If in doubt please inform the crew of any safety issues with the hotels/hostels or home stays
CAMPSITE FIRE SAFETY:
• Ensure you know where the nearest source of water or fire extinguisher is.
• Know how to raise the alarm.
• Extinguish all camping fires fully before retiring to bed.
• Observe any regulations regarding fires and bushfires in dry conditions.
• Proceed to an assembly point away from the tented accommodation/affected campsite.
OTHER CAMPSITE SAFETY
• Familiarise yourself with the campsite and any known hazards.
• Group tents around our vehicle wherever possible.
• No open flames, smoking or flammable liquids in or near the tents.
• Ensure cooking area is well away from the tents.
• Ensure all water for cooking and drinking is purified first.
• Ensure any soil toilets are min 50m away from tents & cooking area.
• All food waste should be burnt or buried – min 100m away from the site.
• Ensure local advice is followed concerning any wildlife.
• Keep valuables locked in the vehicle.
• Be aware of any local security issues that might be important.
• Do not set out tents close to perimeter fences which may be a security risk.
• Be aware of the security arrangements and local guards for campsite and if in doubt ask them where and where not to pitch tents.
• If in doubt please inform the crew of any safety issues with campsite.
• When wild camping, ensure that you do not wander away from the camp alone. If you do leave camp ensure that you have notified the leader or other members of the group.
• We prepare many meals during the tour and our crew are hygiene trained; however, some general tips can help in order to avoid the possibility of stomach upsets;
• Make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked.
• Hot food should be hot, cold food should be cold.
• Avoid any uncooked food, except fruit and vegetables, (notably those you can peel or shell yourself).
• In many countries you should only drink bottled water or purified water and ensure any seal is intact when purchasing bottles.
• On the Dragoman vehicles we have a tank of drinking water that is kept purified by the crew.
• Avoid ice in drinks as this can cause upset stomachs in hot climates.
• Make sure you wash your hands in antibacterial product when preparing and/or eating food.
• Restaurant Food: This is grassroots travel and many of the restaurants that you will eat in, either as a group or as
individuals, will NOT have the same standards of food hygiene as we have in the Western World. Unfortunately this is
part of travel in these regions. Therefore think carefully about what food you order and be aware of the risks.
DRAGOMAN TRANSPORT SAFETY
• Our own vehicles have fully fitted seat belts; make sure you always belt up.
• If you find a safety belt inoperable or missing on one of our vehicles, please inform the crew immediately.
• Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that other vehicles we may use or recommend in some countries will be fitted with seat belts on every seat as it is not a legal requirement in much of the world.
• Please remain seated on board vehicles at all times when the vehicle is in motion
• Never place luggage in the aisles or foot wells
• Ensure you know where your nearest Emergency exit is; this may be a designated emergency exit, a window or a roof hatch.
• Check the location of the fire extinguisher and first aid kit.
• Follow any safety instructions provided by the crew/driver
• Our vehicles are fitted with roof seats which can be used in certain conditions, such as when driving at low speeds, off main tarmac roads, etc. They can only be used with the express permission of the crew and you must never sit in them without seat belts.
DRAGOMAN PERSONAL SAFETY:
One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling.
There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise you to leave any valuable jewellery, watches, etc, at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice. We have come up with a few pointers that we recommend you follow:
• Follow the crew’s specific safety advice in each destination.
• Be aware, stay away from situations where you do not feel comfortable.
• Avoid carrying too much money.
• Use of a money belt / neck wallet or is encouraged at all times while travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport,
air tickets, cash and other valuable items.
• Avoid walking in poorly lit areas.
• Ensure your valuables are left secure when you go out.
• In any hostels/hotels, place all valuables in a safety deposit box, where available or with reception or locked away
by the crew.
• Do not take any valuable jewellery/watches etc. away with you.
• If possible avoid walking around on your own; it is always safer to explore with others.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
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:
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 by wearing sleeves and long trousers. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
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 or local representative 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$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in China include:
* Beijing Huiling offers innovative services to youths and adults with learning disabilities and teaches people to respect what those with disabilities can do, rather than what they can't. Their activities and training facilitate independence and improve daily living and employability skills in a family-like group home environment.
* Xi'an Huiling provides adults with learning disabilities opportunities to develop their personal abilities and life skills, enabling them to achieve independence as a fully integrated member of the community.
Carbon Offset C02-e 1107.00 kgs per pax.
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