Classic Cols of the Tour De France Trip Notes

Tackle the legendary Cols of the Tour de France on this epic cycling adventure. Tour through France on two-wheels and become King or Queen of the Mountains.

    • 8
    • AZXF
    • Total price tool tip
    • Cycling
    • Original
Print Version
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013
Classic Cols of the Tour De France
Trip code: AZXF
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2014
Every year France holds its breath as the multi-coloured peloton winds its way into the Pyrenees, producing some of the most dramatic and memorable moments of the Tour. But the cols are not just the preserve of the likes of Contador, Wiggins and Armstrong. All the mountains can be ridden by anyone who is fit and wants to experience the buzz of cresting a pass, having climbed through some of Europe's most beautiful scenery. This challenging itinerary takes in eight of the most famous cols, including the Aspin, Portet d'Aspet and Peyresourde, and gives you the option of taking on a few more. What goes up must come down and the exhilarating descents are a great reward for your hard work. The support vehicle will urge you along, or give you a lift, and as you conquer each mountain the sense of achievement just gets better and better. Our crowning moment is the ascent of the Col de Tourmalet, at 2115m the most formidable road pass in the Pyrenees and a fitting end to our quest to become King (or Queen) of the Mountains.
The operator for this trip is our experienced sister company Exodus. Your group will therefore be a mixture of Intrepid booked passengers and other international like-minded travellers.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency funds
ThemesGroup sizeVisas
ItineraryYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
Itinerary disclaimerSingle travellersWhat to take
Culture shock rating AccommodationHealth
Physical ratingMealsSafety
Included activitiesTransportTravel insurance
Optional activitiesGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Money ExchangeJoining point A couple of rules
Spending moneyArrival complicationsThe Intrepid Foundation
TippingFinish point Feedback
Departure taxEmergency contact
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Days 1-2 Ax-les-Thermes
Bonjour! Welcome to France.
Your trip normally begins at the hotel in the afternoon of day 1. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the final joining instructions - sent approximately two weeks before departure. These instructions will also include information about where and what time to meet the group.
Once a place where soldiers recuperated after returning from the Crusades, the pretty spa town of Ax-les-Thermes can be found nestled in the Pyrenees at the confluence of three rivers.
After breakfast the following day there will be plenty of time to assemble your bike or make any necessary adjustments to your hire bike. There are many fantastic rides to be done from the doorstep of the hotel, but today is intended to be a gentle introduction. The Col de Chioula (1,431 m) commands big views over the eastern Pyrenees and the ascent from the west has some very agreeable gradients. After lunch there is the option of enjoying a leisurely ride up the stunning U-shaped valley of Orlu, or stepping up the tempo a bit and tackling the stage ending of Bonascre (1,380 m) or the HC climb of the Col de Paiheres (2,001 m).
Easiest route: Col du Chioula (38 km, 830 m ascent)
Basic route: Col du Chioula and Orlu Valley (52 km, 1,030 m ascent)
Harder route: Col du Chioula and Plateau du Bonascre (54 km, 1500 m ascent)
Challenge: Col du Chioula and Col du Paiheres (77 km, 2111 m ascent)
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Route de Corniches/Massat
From Ax we set off on the Route de Corniches (coast road). This has to be one of the nicest roads to ride a bike on in the Pyrenees. It undulates its way along the south-facing side of the valley of Ax with constant views and beautiful villages. This takes us to the market town of Tarascon for lunch. Alternatively, those wanting a real challenge can tackle the Plateau de Beille (1,800 m).
After lunch we take on the Col du Port (1,250 m) before descending all the way to our hotel in Massat - a town that seems to have been lost in the 60s! There is time here to relax, or those with energy to spare could always take on the Col d'Agnes (1,570 m) - worth it for the views and the lakeside cafe. Although make sure you don't snack too much as dinner is huge!
Basic Route: Route de Corniches + Col du Port (102 km, 1,410 m ascent)
Harder Route: Route de Corniches + Col du Port + Col d'Agnes (108 km, 2,340 m ascent)
Challenge: Plateau de Beille + Col du Port + Col d'Agnes (128 km, 2,980 m ascent)
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Col de Portet d'Aspet/Luchon
With two days under our belt, our legs should now be ready to take on two of the most popular cols in the Pyrenees. Climbing gently through ancient farmsteads, the incline to the Col du Portet d'Aspet (1,075 m) is barely noticeable. A short descent through mixed forest and past the memorial to Fabio Casartelli prepares us for the never-ending Col de Mente (1,345 m). After a pleasant, winding descent we can stretch our legs with a very gentle, almost flat finale into the bustling spa town of Luchon.
There are two optional extras today - one at the start of the day, taking us over the Col de la Core (1,395 m) - famous for its cheese. Then towards the end of the day there is the option of making an excursion to Spain and taking on the Col de Portillon (1,293 m).
Easiest Route: Col de Porte D'Aspet + Col de Burret + Col de Ares (110 km, 1,300 m ascent)
Basic Route: Col de Porte D'Aspet + Col de Mente (104 km, 1,600 m ascent)
Harder Route: Col de Porte D'Aspet + Col de Mente + Col Du Portillon (122 km, 2,270 m ascent)
Challenge: Col de La Core + Porte D'Aspet + Col de Mente + Col de Portillon - East (122 km, 3,050 m ascent)
The following day is free in Luchon, giving you an opportunity to rest aching limbs in the thermal baths. Alternatively, why not try 'Le Hot Dog' (inflatable canoe) or mountain biking. The die-hard tour enthusiasts, and those who can't bear to be separated from their road bike for the day, can take on the stage-end of Superbagneres (1,804 m) or the recently surfaced Port de Bales (1,755 m).
Col du Portillon - West (22 km, 670 m ascent)
Superbagneres (38.6 km, 1,200 m ascent)
Port de Bales (70 km, 1,300 m ascent)
Or try all three - Port de Bales + Superbagneres + Col du Portillon - West (131 km, 3,170m ascent)
Optional Activities
  • 'Le Hot Dog' inflatable canoe - EUR25
  • Paragliding - EUR70
  • Thermal baths - EUR4
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 6 Col de Peyresourde and Col d'Aspin/Aste
We start the day with the Col de Peyresourde (1,565 m). Even the support bus struggles up this one!. The incentive to get to the top comes in the form of a cafe selling fantastic pancakes.
Those that really want to abuse their bodies could take in the Col d'Azet (1,580 m) and the mountain-hugging Pla d'Adet (1,680 m). Alternatively, stick to the basic route where we will next ride up to the beautiful Col d'Aspin (1,490 m) which has been used more often by the Tour de France than any other Pyrenean climb. A spectacular downhill takes us through the small and quaintly bizarre town of Campan and on to our hotel in Aste on the outskirts of Bagneres de Bigorre.
Basic Route: Col de Peyresourde + Col d'Aspin (68 km, 1,750 m ascent)
Harder Route: Col de Peyresourde + Col d'Azet + Col d'Aspin (88 km, 2,315 m ascent)
Challenge: Col de Peyresourde + Col d'Azet + Pla d'Adet + Col d'Aspin (112 km, 3,215 m ascent)
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Col du Tourmalet/Argeles-Gazost
Today sees the ultimate challenge: the punishing Col du Tourmalet (2,115 m). Making it to the top is always worth a photo! From here we can enjoy a 35 km downhill all the way to the picturesque thermal spa town of Argeles-Gazost for an afternoon of justifiable relaxation.
If you still haven't had enough, there are a few optional rides including the Tour de France stage finishes of Luz Ardiden (1,720 m) and Hautacam (1,616 m) or a nice detour up the valley to the village of Gavarnie for a glimpse of the world famous Cirque.
Basic Route: Col Du Tourmalet (60 km, 1,515 m ascent)
Easy optional extra: Trip to Gavarnie from Luz St Sauveur (adds 38 km, 665 m ascent)
Harder Route: Col Du Tourmalet + Hautacam (96 km, 2,700 m ascent)
Challenge: Col Du Tourmalet + Luz Ardiden + Hautacam (125 km, 3,670 m ascent)
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 have time you may wish to visit the marmot sanctuary or tackle one of the optional rides from yesterday.
Hotel (1 nt)
  • Local Bike Hire - Classic Cols of the Tour De France (MWF) Carbon - Exodus (MWF)
  • Classic Cols of the Tour De France Single Supplement (MWF)
    Itinerary disclaimer
    Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website:
    Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
    Culture shock rating

    At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
    Physical rating

    Our highest physical rating. Get ready for a heart-pumping adventure with plenty of challenges and some extreme conditions. You'll be required to be seriously fit for this trip as difficult activities are included.
    The riding on this trip can be accomplished by any fit cyclist, but it is as much a state of mind as your fitness that will see you up and over the Cols; the secret to making it up the mountains is to plug away at a steady pace and stop whenever you feel tired. We cover the same routes as the Tour de France but this trip is definitely not a race!
    It is likely that there will be quite a distance between the front and back cyclists in the group, and the vehicle will shuttle between them as much as is practical (giving moral support and refreshments), but once you have set off on the downhill side it is possible to get a long way ahead of other people very quickly, so there may be long stretches when you don't see other members of the group or the vehicle. Each day you will be supplied with a map and comprehensive route notes including altitude profiles.
    The roads are good quality - they just aren't flat! Although the gradients do not get much steeper than 10%, they can be long. Daily distances are realistic, and there are plenty of opportunities for stronger riders to add more kilometres if they wish. The support minibus is always available for riders who have achieved their personal goal and require a lift up or down any of the hills.
    On this trip we average 70 km cycling per day, with 100% vehicle support.
    As this itinerary entails some technical road cycling and potential high speed descents, wearing a helmet is compulsory on this holiday. You should also be aware that cycling of all kinds has its dangers and that accidents can happen from time to time. Please ensure that you are properly prepared for the riding you are going to undertake.
    Included activities
    Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
    Optional activities
    A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
    Money Exchange
    The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in the following destinations: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. All other European countries still have their own national currencies.
    The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied.
    You can obtain local currencies easily at airports and major train stations, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning.
    When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place.
    Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. While travelling we recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. Change can be difficult to obtain so throughout the day, try to gain as many small denominations as you can.
    You might be advised to take some of your money as travellers' cheques from a major financial institute. Travellers' cheques have security advantages, however please be aware that the exchange rates may not be favourable and that it is difficult to change Travellers' cheques in most countries. Be particularly aware that after hours money exchanges and hotel receptions carry high commissions- sometimes up to 20%.
    For money safety we recommend that you carry your cash and credit cards in a secure money belt or pouch concealed under your clothes.
    Spending money
    Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
    If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
    The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
    Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - leave the loose change. More up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill.
    Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest EUR1-2 per person per day for local guides.
    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 EUR3 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.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Important notes
    This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
    The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
    Bike hire is not included in the cost of the tour. Bikes can be hired in advance, for more information please speak to our sale team. You can also take your own bike. Please check with your airline on any restrictions.
    You can also take your own pedals and saddle if you prefer. All the hire bikes are adaptable to be fitted with personalised bike parts.
    Group size
    Maximum of 20 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:
    Single travellers
    Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
    Hotel (7 nts)
    We stay in 2-star hotels throughout the itinerary. All rooms have private facilities. Rooms are allocated on a twin (and occasionally triple) share basis.
    There are no laundry facilities in any of the hotels, but if you rinse out your cycling kit at night in the shower, it is normally dry in the morning. There is a laundrette in Luchon.
    No meals included
    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.
    Food is very important on this trip and most restaurants have a special menu for cyclists, ensuring large portions of fine local cuisine. Evening meals are taken in the hotel or nearby restaurants and will generally be 3 courses. Breakfasts provided by the hotels are generally limited to bread and coffee so may need supplementing. Lunches are not included, giving you the flexibility to select your own diet. There are lots of bakeries and small restaurants en route. We suggest that you bring with you your favourite snacks as the choice of energy bars available locally is fairly limited. One of the evening meals in Luchon is not included, giving you the opportunity to try one of the fine restaurants in town.
    Bicycle, Support vehicle
    A minibus will be supporting the group during the riding days. The support vehicle will sweep the group during the day offering encouragement, water and access to your snacks. The bus is equipped with a full tool kit and the driver is a competent bike mechanic. A comprehensive first aid kit is carried and the driver is a qualified first-aider. Lifts up or down the hills are naturally offered, if this is your desire. There is space for 8 people and bikes in the support vehicle.
    There is a limited number of carbon or aluminium framed Cannondale drop handle road bikes available locally. Bike hire should be arranged at the time of booking, and the cost will be added to your invoice. On the rare occasion there is not a bike available, we will inform you of this prior to departure.
    These bikes have gears suitable for the mountains (with the smallest ring on the front has 30 teeth and the largest ring on the back also has 30 teeth - making the lowest gear 28 inches). You will be provided with a mini pump and small saddle bag with spare tube and tyre levers. The hire bikes come with 2 bottle cages, but for hygiene reasons you need to provide your own bottles / hydration system. The hire bikes come with standard flat pedals. If you normally wear bike shoes with cleats, please bring your own pedals with you. If you have a comfy saddle then please bring it - you do not need to bring your seat post. You will also need to bring your own helmet.
    Group leader
    There will be a local leader and drivers and local guides where needed. An experienced English-speaking cycle guide and local driver will accompany all groups.
    Joining point
    Hotel Terminus
    31 Avenue Theophile Delcasse
    Arrival complications
    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.
    Finish point
    Hotel Terminus
    31 Avenue Theophile Delcasse
    Emergency contact
    In the case of genuine crisis or emergency please call our partner EXODUS on their 24 HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER Tel: +44 (0) 1582 644 100.
    For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
    Emergency funds
    Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
    Visas 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.
    Australia: Not required
    Belgium: Not required
    Canada: Not required
    Germany: Not required
    Ireland: Not required
    Netherlands: Not required
    New Zealand: Not required
    South Africa: Yes - in advance
    Switzerland: Not required
    UK: Not required
    USA: Not required
    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.
    Plenty of people choose to bring their own bikes on our cycle trips. If you wish to bring your own bike, please note that we cannot guarantee against small scratches and paintwork damage involved in the loading and unloading from support vehicles.
    Please note that helmets must be worn when riding on all our Cycling holidays. You must bring your own helmet with you for this trip, as they are not available for hire.
    You may like to bring your own saddle (excluding the seat post), or over gel cover to fit to the hire bikes. We encourage this, if it's your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle at the end of the trip. We can't guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.
    A helmet, eye-protection (sunglasses), cycling gloves and water bottles or hydration system (e.g. camelbak). Please note that helmets must be worn when riding off-road on all our Cycling holidays. You must bring your own helmet with you for this trip, as they are not available for hire.
    Padded cycling shorts (with loose 'over-shorts' where recommended), breathable clothing, and a lightweight waterproof / windproof top. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking, but are not essential unless you are cycling long distances. Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting day pack.
    You should bring a small, personal first aid kit with you including items such as high factor sunscreen, lip balm and chamois cream if required.
    You will also need to bring the following equipment with you:
    - Hand pump
    - Spare tubes, patches and glue
    - Tyre levers
    - Multi tool
    - Spare set of brake pads.
    The support van carries a range of tools and 2 track pumps that you are free to use to assemble your bike, and make any adjustments during the trip. Basic spares are also carried but we are never too far from a bike shop in case you need a specialist part. Every night the bikes will be put in a garage/shed but it is best to bring a lock, just to ensure yours is safe.
    At all times of year that we run this trip we can expect to be cycling in just shorts and a t-shirt. The temperature is naturally dependant on the altitude, so on some of the higher cols it can get fairly chilly. Unfortunately rain cannot be ruled out but the showers tend to be fairly short. Snow is even a possibility up on the Tourmalet. It is best that you come prepared for all eventualities.
    Please bring 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.
    Cold tap water in France is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by refilling from the tap or public water fountains.
    All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
    You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
    We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
    Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
    For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
    While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
    Travel insurance
    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
    When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
    If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
    Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
    Responsible Travel
    We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
    In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches that modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted.
    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:
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We realise that our partner company may ask you to complete paper or online feedback following your trip, however we would also like to know what you thought and encourage you to submit your feedback to us too. This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.