Last Modified: 26 Mar 2013
Xi'an to Kathmandu
Trip code: HDOR
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2013
Take an epic Overland tour across the roof of the world. From China to Nepal, travel through a mountainous, mystic landscape of giant peaks and remote monasteries. From China’s bustling Xi’an, climb to laidback Lhasa and travel to Nepal’s quirky Kathmandu. Cruise the Friendship Highway, explore lush valleys and catch a glimpse Mt Everest on the horizon. Whether you’re after stunning Himalayan panoramas, a taste of rural Tibet or a mythical slice of southern China – this trip serves up more than its fair share of memorable moments.
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
- The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Days 1-2 Xi'an
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Please note that our trips between Xi'an and Kathmandu travel through extreme environments and these itineraries WILL NOT NECESSARILY RUN AS PUBLISHED. We will adjust trip itineraries depending on weather, altitude effects, group make up and road conditions. This day by day itinerary is provided as a rough guide only.
The trip begins with a group meeting at 10am.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
In the afternoon we will have a guided visit to the famous Terracotta Warriors.
The most popular attraction in Xi'an, and the place that has made the city most famous around the world, is the Terracotta Warriors. The Warriors are certainly an incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public. More pits were recently opened so you may even be lucky enough to see archaeologists at work, carefully unearthing and restoring these ancient relics.
The second day here is free to explore the city.
For a different view of the city, climb to the top of the Bell or Drum Towers. The Bell Tower is in the centre of downtown Xi'an where the city's four main roads - Bei, Nan, Dong and Xi Dajie (North, South, East and West Avenues) - converge. Originally built in 1582 and restored in 1739, the tower was used to announce the time of day and serve as a watchtower. The previous Bell Tower, dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), stood two blocks to the west.
The Drum Tower marks the entrance to the Muslim Quarter. It no longer contains the giant drum once used to signal the closing of the city gates, though it does retain some good views, including one of the Great Mosque.
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!
Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.
During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:
- Guided Tour of Terracotta Warriors
- Folk house, Xi'an - CNY15.00
- Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an - CNY80.00
- Great Mosque, Xi'an - CNY25.00
- Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an - Free
- Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an - CNY50.00
- Bell & Drum Towers, Xi'an - CNY50.00
- Cycling on City Wall, Xi'an - CNY80.00
Hotel (2 nts), Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 3 Pingliang
Today we drive from Xi'an to Pingliang. From Pingliang we will have the chance to visit Mt Kongtong and time to explore the small town and surrounding area (time permitting). We will spend the night either wild camping or staying in a small local guesthouse.
The streets of Pingliang are lined with wonderful shops and you can spend hours exploring them, but the main attraction of this city is the mountain range, which contains the Kongtong mountains, which has been used as a mythical meeting point in the past. If you have the opportunity to climb this mountain, do so, as the views from the top are beautifully rewarding.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Lanzhou/Bingling Si
Drive from Pingliang to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province. Tonight we will be staying in a friendly local hotel.
The next morning we have a short drive to Liujiaxia. In the afternoon we will visit the Bingling Si Buddha Caves.
While Bingling Si is one of numerous thousand Buddha caves that can be found in China, these ones are very special. They contain 694 statues and 82 clay sculptures. The highlight of the cave is the 27 metre high seated statue of Maitreya Buddha. Indeed this cave complex is one of the best in China and yet because of its relative isolation, it is less visited than the main Chinese sites.
The caves are a set of Buddhist grottoes are carved into the cliff of a 60 metre high gorge. They are most impressive especially because they are surrounded on one side by the waters of the Liujiaxia Reservoir.
- Bingli Si Buddah Caves, entrance, Lanzhou
Hotel (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 6-8 Xiahe
Most of today will be spent travelling, as we make the spectacular journey from Liujiaxia to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe, where we will be staying for three nights, giving us two full days to explore. Whilst in Xiahe we will stay in dormitory accommodation in a rustic guesthouse.
Xiahe has been described as "one of the most enchanting places to visit in China". Certainly it has a wonderful tranquil
atmosphere and a beautiful setting. Many Tibetans come here on pilgrimage - and the combination of the many monasteries, saffron-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags and spectacular scenery make this small town feel very like Tibet as well. Indeed, in all but name, you are in Tibet; Xiahe is right up on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and the population here is over 45% Tibetan.
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Days 9-10 Bush Camp
For the next couple of days we will be overlanding through Qinghai, climbing high up on to the Tibetan Plateau as we drive. Here we are travelling through an area that is actually a giant basin surrounded by high mountains and en route we will pass the vast and starkly beautiful Qinghai Hu Lake. This lake occupies an area of over 4,500
square kilometres and the water is saline, teeming with fish. Yak graze the grasses and the icy blue waters stretch as far as the eye can see. The population of this part of the Tibetan Plateau is thinly spread and mainly comprises of Kazaks, Moguls and Hui. We will be stopping off and bush camping along the way.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Day 11 Golmud
Continuing with our overland journey across the high plateau, we will arrive in the small town of Golmud, where we will stay overnight in small local hotel.
Golmud is a mining town, high up on the Tibetan Plateau. The views in this area are stunning, vast mountains surrounding open grassland. Outside the town itself there are few settlements up here and the only people you are likely to encounter are yak-herding nomads.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Bush Camp
Leaving Golmud we head out across the Tibetan Plateau once again. We will spend the next few days overlanding, crossing the famous Tanggula Pass (5220 m) and bush camping along the way.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Bush Camp
Continuing our overland journey across the Tibetan plateau, through the state of Amdo, we will be driving towards Lhasa. If time allows we will make a side trip to Namtso Lake. Spare days have been included in the itinerary as contingency due to poor roads and extreme conditions - they will be used as required. We will be bushcamping along the way.
Stretching from the Yellow River, to the Yangtze River is one of the three traditional states of Tibet, Amdo. The dialect of the traditional Tibetan language changes from tribe to tribe but is still written the same. In Amdo there is many great monasteries, including Kumbum Jampa Ling, Labrang Tashi Khyil and the Kirti Monasteries. It is a state brimming with history, and one to explore.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Days 16-19 Lhasa
Today we will arrive in Lhasa, the religious, cultural and economic centre of Tibet. Whilst here we stay in a comfortable hotel.
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.
We then have 2 or 3 full days to explore Lhasa. There will be organised visits to Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, with the option to also visit the Drepung and Sera Monasteries and the Summer Palace.
- Lhasa - Sera Monastery
- Jokhang Temple
- Lhasa - Potala Palace
- Drepung Monastery, Lhasa - CNY60.00
Hotel (4 nts)
Day 20 Yamdrok Tso Lake
From Lhasa we drive towards Gyantse. Today we will probably just drive for a few hours, maybe stopping at Yamdrok Tso Lake around lunchtime, giving us time in the afternoon to explore the area and enjoy the amazing scenery, bush camping here overnight.
Separated from Lhasa by the Kampa La Pass (4794m), the Yamdrok Tso Lake is the third largest in Tibet. It is yet another stunning area of Tibet, with turquoise waters, picturesque islands and small villages. This is typical of the places that we like to camp for the night, a beautiful lake and a wide plain surrounded by mountains. The views are unbelievable.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 21 Gyantse
Leaving our bush camp we continue our drive to Gyantse, stopping at Baiju Temple en route and crossing the Karo La Pass. Arriving in the small rural town of Gyantse in the afternoon, we will stay overnight in a local guesthouse.
Gyantse is a small agricultural town set at 3950m above sea level, famed for its wool carpets. It has a very traditional feel to it and everyday Tibetan rural life continues here much as it has done for centuries. There are a number of interesting buildings in the town, including the Pelkhor Chode Temple complex, a unique structure built in 1414, with five stories representing the five steps to enlightenment.
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.
- Gyantse - Gyantse Dzong, Gyantse - CNY30.00
- Gyantse - Pelkor Chode Monastery, Gyantse - CNY50.00
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 22 Shigatse
Depending on what time we arrived in Gyantse yesterday, we may decide to have some more time here this morning, before driving on to Shigatse, Tibet's second biggest city. It is only a short drive and there will be time in the afternoon to visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Overnight in a friendly local hotel.
Shigatse is Tibet's second biggest city and an important cultural centre. Having been the capital of Tibet from 1565 to 1642 the city is home to some fantastic architecture including monasteries, fortresses and palaces. The most famous is the Tashilhunpo Monastery - the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism behind the Dalai Lama. Perhaps the most impressive building is the monastery, the Chapel of Jampa, which houses the world’s largest gilded statue. Standing at 26 metres high, the image of Jampa (the future Buddha) took four years to complete and used a remarkable 300 kg of gold in its construction.
- Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 23 Baipa/New Tingri
Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive over high mountain passes towards Baipa (also known as New Tingri). We may have to ford a number of small rivers and the road is rough, but the stunning views and scenery make this one of the world's most visually fantastic journeys. Overnight in a friendly local guesthouse.
Baipa, also known as New Tingri, is a small town in Tibet. This is the junction of the road to Everest and trips to the mountain can be arranged. It is a very small settlement, with a population of under one thousand. Be prepared to be in awe of one of the most famous wonders in the world.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 24 Rongbuk
From Baipa we make the journey to the Rongbuk Monastery & Everest Base Camp. The drive is not an easy one, passing over another 5200 m pass, but the views are sensational and weather permitting, we should have excellent views of Mt. Everest. Once we have reached the Monastery it is about a two hour walk or donkey and
cart ride further to Base Camp.
We will usually camp here in Tibetan tents with pot-bellied stoves which take six to eight people. Hopefully when you open up in the morning, there will be a view of Mt. Everest. From base camp the view of the north face of the highest mountain on Earth is something you will never forget.
- Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery
- Everest NP - Base Camp visit
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 25 Baipa/New Tingri
This morning we have some more time at Base Camp, before making the return journey to Baipa. We will stay overnight here once again tonight in the same local guesthouse as before.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 26-27 Friendship Highway
We will spend the next 2 to 3 days climbing high into the mountains over the Lalungla Pass (5050m) up into the Himalaya. This is part of the famous "Friendship Highway", cutting through gorges, across plateaus and over high passes. On all the passes that we cross you will see the ever present pilgrim prayer flags, cairns and scattered "wind horse" papers. We will bush camp along the way.
The Friendship Highway is the name given to Route 318 between Lhasa and Kathmandu. The route is a rough road through some of the remotest parts of our planet. It cuts through gorges, across plateaus and over high passes. It passes some of the most stunning scenery on Earth. There are a number of high passes that we will have to cross and altitude may become a problem for some. To give an example, some of the passes and their altitudes are Dangjin Shankou Pass (3519 m), Kunlun Pass (4849 m) Fire & Wind Pass (4930 m), Tanggula Pass (5231 m), Kyogche La Pass (4900 m), Shogula Pass (5300 m), Tropu La Pass (4950 m), Gyatsola Pass (5200 m) and Lablungla Pass (5050 m).
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Days 28-29 Kodari
Crossing the border from the Tibetan Autonomous Region into Nepal, we will travel along the Arniko Highway, zigzagging on poor roads past steep gorges towards Kodari. We will be staying in Kodari for 2 nights. This allows you plenty of time for a range of optional activities from bungee jumping to bridge swinging and canyoning - or just sit back and relax and enjoy the amazing views.
The second day is free for more adventure activities.
We spend these nights in permanent tented camps.
- Mountain biking, Kodari - EUR25.00
- High ropes course, Kodari - EUR50.00
- Bridge swinging, Kodari - EUR65.00
- Bungee jumping, Kodari - EUR65.00
- Canyoning, Kodari - EUR50.00
Permanent tented camp (2 nts)
Days 30-31 Kathmandu
From Kodari it is not much further on to Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, however the traffic congestion in and around the city is notoriously bad, so we may not arrive until the afternoon. Whilst in Kathmandu we stay in a comfortable hotel in Thamel.
Kathmandu is the largest (and pretty much only) city in the country. It parts it can feel like any other developing-world city, rushing into a modern era of concrete and traffic pollution, but take a walk in the back streets and the capital's amazing cultural and artistic heritage reveals itself in hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, street markets and a labyrinth of courtyards full of drying chillies and rice.
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.
If you are staying on, perhaps visit the Temple of the Living Goddess, the Royal Palace, the Pashupatinath Hindu temple, Bodnath Buddhist stupa and Swayambunath (the Monkey Temple), all of which are set against the magnificent Himalayan backdrop. When all the sightseeing gets a bit to much, you can kick back and relax in the numerous cafes and bars around the tourist areas of Thamel and 'Freak Street'. If you can afford the time, it's also worth allowing yourself at least a couple of days to explore the surrounding area of the Kathmandu Valley.
- Kathmandu - Guided city tour, Kathmandu - Free
- Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu - NPR500.00
- Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple, Kathmandu - NPR200.00
- Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa, Kathmandu - NPR200.00
- Trekking & rafting, Kathmandu - USD100.00
Hotel (1 nt)
We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed 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. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.
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.
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.
In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate, from hot deserts through to cold of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and 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. You need to judge if you are 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 some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our 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.
Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.
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 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.
There are many opportunities to purchase souvenirs and handicrafts while on this trip. While we do not make arrangements for specific shopping excursions due to our passengers feedback, there may be opportunities where your local guides can offer services if you are particularly interested. Please note it is customary for local guides (not Intrepid group leaders) to accept commission from the factory or shop in exchange for their service. You are under no obligation to purchase anything from local guides and we do encourage you to enjoy shopping in the markets to compare prices and quality.
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.
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 are 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.
Tipping is entirely voluntary. The crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
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.
Snap bandhs (strikes) can occur at any time in Nepal with very little notice, resulting in your itinerary having to be revised. Although we will endeavour to minimise any additional costs incurred there may be occasions where the traveller will need to cover trip changes, including flights, of which you will need to use your emergency funds and then claim the money on your travel insurance.
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.
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. 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:
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.
Hotel (10 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (10 nts), Guesthouse (7 nts), Permanent tented camp (2 nts), Camping (with facilities) (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.
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.
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 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. In East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. 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.
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
30 Jul 2013 (HDOR130730), 20 Aug 2013 (HDOR130820), 28 Jun 2014 (HDOR140628), 02 Aug 2014 (HDOR140802), 20 Sep 2014 (HDOR140920)
Xi'an Garden Hotel
No. 40, Yanyin Road (to the east of Dayan Pagoda)
Phone: +86 29 8760 1111
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 Tibet is located close to the Royal Palace and walking distance to all major embassies, airline offices, banks, immigration office and the famous shopping centres of Thamel. It is only 8km from the Tribhuvan International Airport and has a panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding hills. Hotel Tibet is renowned for its hospitality and homey environment.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
CHINA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
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
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. If you are applying for your visa outside of your country of residence, or applying for a 90 day visa, you may need a support letter to submit with your application. Dragoman can supply you with a support letter, please contact us if you require this letter once you have checked with the Embassy or visa agent that this would be required.
Please list counties/cities and provinces to visit in China in chronological order. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form as this could delay the process.
Name of Host:
Sichuan China YTS.
2nd Floor, 19
Please note that if travelling to Tibet, in order to confirm your booking on this trip we require a scanned copy of your passport prior to travel. If you require a hotel list for your visa application we will also need a scanned passport copy in order to provide this.
All nationalities require a permit to enter Tibet. Intrepid will arrange for a permit allowing your entry into Tibet however, Intrepid requires you to provide a clear scanned colour copy of the front page of your passport (photo page) at the time of booking in order to do this. This should be in JPEG format and Intrepid must receive this at least 60 days prior to travel. 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.
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.
TIBET to NEPAL:
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
Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad or at the Tibet/Nepal border for a fee of approximately US$30 depending on nationality. Please check with your local consulate and make sure you bring 2 passport photos with you if you plan to apply at the border.
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.
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. You will need to bring your own lock for your locker. We recommend a 20-30mm sized padlock with a long shackle.The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg. Backpacks shouldn't have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
Please bring a sleeping bag (4-season is recommended - check what the weather will be like over the dates you are travelling), sleeping mat and a pillow as these items are not provided.
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.
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.
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 end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
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.
As a rule we recommend you don't drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this isn't serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it's enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available and your leader can recommend safe alternatives when available. Water consumption should be about 3 litres a day. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhoea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!
Before your trip.
Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor
We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatizing to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.
During your trip.
While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.
Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:
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. 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:
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:
ACCLIMATISATION AND ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Altitude sickness has the potential to affect all trekkers 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.
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.
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.
The vehicle has fully lockable doors and windows, which is an obvious advantage, but it will probably be necessary to guard it at times and everyone should be prepared to share in this responsibility.
In most areas there is very little to fear from the point of view of violence. But in all areas 'tourists' are a tempting target for pickpockets and con-men. Always be aware of this and be especially careful when leaving banks or money-changers, in any crowded areas, etc. NEVER leave things lying around - they will almost certainly get stolen. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to always be security conscious and to take all necessary precautions. Great inconvenience and distress can be caused by having your documents or possessions stolen.
A few of our past group members have had the unhappy experience of having their belongings stolen before the trip starts. Beware of carrying your passport and other valuables around with you in cities. We strongly suggest you deposit your valuables in your hotel safe on arrival.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
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. 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 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 Nepal include:
* The Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) promotes positive impact tourism and minimum impact trekking through information services for travellers and locals. They also provide vocational training in hospitality, ecotourism, conservation, first aid and English to ensure the future ecological and cultural prosperity of Nepal.
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.
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 C02-e 949.00 kgs per pax.
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