Best of Guatemala & Mexico Trip Notes

Best of Guatemala & Mexico

Last Modified: 11 Jan 2014
Best of Guatemala & Mexico
Trip code: QVSB
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2013
Travel from the cobblestone streets of Antigua, through Belize and along the Yucatan Peninsula to the beachside delights of Playa de Carmen on this adventure from Guatemala to Mexico. Discover ancient ruins, explore the pristine shores of the Caribbean coastline, be enchanted by Guatemala's highlands and explore the colourful marine life in laidback Belize. From volcano studded Antigua to the chilled-out charm of Mexico's coast - this trip delivers a slice of action, a dose of history and culture, and some well-deserved relaxation.
Table of Contents
StyleDeparture taxEmergency funds
ThemesImportant notesVisas
MapGroup sizeIssues on your trip
ItineraryYour fellow travellersWhat to take
Also available to purchaseSingle travellersHealth
We also recommendAccommodationSafety
Itinerary disclaimerMeals introductionTravel insurance
Culture shock rating MealsResponsible Travel
Physical ratingTransportA couple of rules
Included activitiesGroup leaderThe Intrepid Foundation
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsCarbon offset
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsFeedback
Spending moneyFinish point instructions
TippingEmergency contact
Style
Original
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Themes
Explorer
Map
Best of Guatemala & Mexico
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Antigua
Hola! Welcome to Guatemala.
You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting tonight at 6pm. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. After the group meeting there is the option of joining the group for dinner.
If you arrive early, make sure you visit Chichicastenango (Thursdays and Sundays only), arguably one of Central America most interesting and varied markets.
The following day is free for you to explore Antigua. As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy carved wood entrances. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful.
While in Antigua, make sure you try tamales, a local dish usually prepared on weekends and served in a corn leaf. Or give the pepian a try, a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork). The best value food you find next to the artesian market close to the bus station.
If you're into salsa dancing or you'd like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to do it. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons that give you the preparation to hit the discos at night and showcase your moves.
Please note we leave Antigua early in the morning of day 3. Antigua is a wonderful city and previous travellers have indicated they could have spent more time here. So we strongly recommend you arrive in Antigua one or two days before trip starts to see all the sights. Please contact us if you need assistance to arrange any pre departure accommodation.
Optional Activities
  • Bicycle tour - USD30
  • Mayan horoscopes - USD60
  • Santiago Zamora Village tour - USD10
  • Coffee / Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD20
  • Volcanoes climb - USD16
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-4 Flores/Tikal
In the city we board a so-called Pullmann bus that takes us to the north of the country, into the hot lowlands, so have your bug spray at the ready... The luxury of the Pullmann bus is that you have your own seat and the chance of you seating next to some farm animals (chicken, pigs etc) is rather small. The bus ride that takes us to Flores is about 8 hours, but there are stops where you can stretch, use the toilet and buy some food. As always, it is a good idea to have drinking water with you.
Flores was officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, but had existed in various forms well before. It has long remained isolated, with locals relying on subsistence farming of corn and beans and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees to produce gum. Many locals still get about in the traditional way, by dug-out canoe. We have time to stroll through the cobblestone streets past pastel-coloured buildings, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.
The following day your tour leader will arrange a tour of the ruins of Tikal.
The ruins of Tikal tower above the jungle of the Tikal National Park. The five main granite temples are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. If you are lucky you will also see the howler and the spider monkeys that live in the area. After the guided tour we head back to Flores, which takes about an hour. When visiting the ruins make sure you bring protection for the sun and plenty of bug spray.
Back in Flores you can enjoy the early evening with a cold Gallo beer (the local brew) sitting on one of the terrace restaurants overlooking the lake. If there are few clouds you will have a spectacular sunset.
Included Activities
  • Tour of Tikal Ruins and National Park
Optional Activities
  • Lake Peten Itza boat tour - USD6
  • Birdwatching boat tour - USD25
  • El Castillo Fort - USD5
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 5-6 San Ignacio
Today it is time to say good bye to Guatemala and head towards the border of Belize. The journey to the border is on a dirt road, so you really feel like an explorer crossing from one country to another. Its about a three hour drive from Flores to San Ignacio.
Belize is the only country in Central America where the official language is English, so here it will be a lot easier for you to make conversation with locals even if you don't speak Spanish. The Belizeans are known for their relaxed and easy going way of life. Walk slow and enjoy life is the motto here. You will be amazed how many different cultures live together peacefully in this tiny country.
We have a full day at your leisure to discover San Ignacio. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Mayan ruins, and is an ideal base to explore the region.
Some of the optional activities include a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre with panoramic views of the countryside. The east side of one of the temples has a unique stucco frieze and the central plaza has three carved stelae. Getting to the site is half the fun: you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river.
It is also possible to take a day trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls, warm swimming holes and a huge system of caves. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach the Mayan ceremonial site. Here you will find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1,400 years.
For those who can't get enough jungle fun, there are also opportunities to go tubing or canoeing. And for those who would like some time to reflect on the beauty of nature, there is always the option to visit San Ignacio's butterfly garden.
In the late afternoon and at night, many little barbeque street stalls open and serve huge portions. Make sure you give it a try, sit down next to the road, chat with the locals and enjoy a juicy, tasty chicken leg.
Optional Activities
  • Bicycle hire (per hour) - USD3
  • River tubing - USD95
  • Panta Trail - USD8
  • Canoe rental - USD20
  • Full-day caving - USD110
  • Half-day caving - USD55
  • Mountain Pine Ridge day trip - USD75
  • Butterfly farm - USD6
  • Xunantunich - USD8
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-9 Caye Caulker
Today we leave San Ignacio in the early morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (approx 3 hours). Get ready for stop and go as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. Use this to make conversation with the person next to you on the bus; Belizeans love to talk about their country!
Once in Belize City we will transfer to a water taxi. These water taxis have scheduled services to the different Cayes that are situated in the blue waters of the Caribbean sea. The water taxi takes about 45 minutes and brings us right to our next destination, Caye Caulker.
Caye Caulker is an easy-going island that has a distinctly Caribbean feel. Small and friendly with a sandy main road, the only thing to do here is relax or explore Belize's underwater worlds. Relax on the beach or head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the magnificent Blue Hole and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel, swim or dive among the colourful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. There is also the opportunity to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are curious to meet their visitors.
Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster; not the cheapest of meals but certainly delicious. But always make sure that you respect the season, the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th.
Optional Activities
  • Snorkel equipment rental (per day) - USD7
  • Manatee & dolphin tour - USD35
  • Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
  • Windsurfing (per hour, board and instruction) - USD20
  • Snorkel trip half day - USD35
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 10 Tulum
Very early this morning (about 6.30am) we head back to Belize City by water taxi, and travel by bus to the border with Mexico (approx. 4 hours).
Rarely a country border crossing offers a reason to write home about however, the border between Mexico and Belize can be the exception. Extremely busy at times, with non-existing signals, muddy roads and street sellers everywhere you look, this crossing has it all to become a cultural experience in itself. Please listen to and follow your leader's instructions as if you lose sight of the group, it can be very easy to get lost.
After crossing the border we head to the Mexican town of Chetumal where we swap buses and head to our final destination: Tulum (approx. 3 hrs)
Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast and our home for the next day. Spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For a taste of Mayan architecture take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.
Optional Activities
  • Full day guided bike tour - USD40
  • Tulum ruins - USD8
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 11-13 Playa del Carmen
The last leg of our journey is a short one after all this travelling. We hop on a local Mexican bus that will take us to Playa del Carmen (approx. 1.5 hours), our departure destination.
In Playa del Carmen you will have some time to do some souvenir shopping and enjoy international food in this booming tourist town.
Here you also might spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita before heading out to try the island's vibrant nightlife. For adventures further a field take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, and island famous for its reef diving.
You can depart any time on day 13 as there are no planned activities that day. Please ask your tour leader If you need any assistance arranging transport to the airport.
The closest airport to Playa del Carmen is Cancun Airport, which is located approximately one hour away from Playa. The easiest way to get to the airport is by taxi. Please ask your leader or hotel staff to help you arrange a taxi if needed. You should expect to pay anything between US$50 and $60 per taxi.
Optional Activities
  • Xel-Ha Water park - USD90
  • Bicycle rental (per day) - USD8
  • Xcaret - USD90
  • Ferry to Cozumel - USD25
  • Cenote Ikil - USD5
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • QVSB - Single Supplement (QVSB)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Mayan Highlights (QVSCC)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ).
The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD).
The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN).
With ATMs being widely available in major towns and cities, credit and debit cards are the best way to access money in Latin America (note though that charges are made for each transaction). Please check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions.
Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to US$100 per day.
It's also advisable to carry some cash in small denominations bills, for those times when ATMs may not be available. US$ dollars is the most readily changeable currency.
VERY IMPORTANT:
US$100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other US$ bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping
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.
Restaurants: Tipping is not expected in local markets and basic restaurants. However if you wish to tip, round your bill up to the nearest 5%. In more up-market restaurants we suggest up to 10%-12% of your bill. Some restaurants already include tipping on the final amount, which should be shown on the bill as: propina, servicio or cubiertos.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$2 per person per day for local guides.
Porters (if applicable): While on the Inca Trail, we suggest PEN80-120 for all porters, assistants and cook.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of US$1-2 per day is generally appropriate.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$1-3 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
Please allow US$30 for international departure tax from Guatemala. This may be included in your international flight ticket. If departing by land, please allow US$3 for departure tax.
Please allow US$19 for departure tax from Belize.
Please allow US$25 for international departure tax from Mexico.
Important notes
HURRICANE SEASON:
Please note hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors situations as they arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
WARNING FOR BOOKING FLIGHTS TO/FROM ANTIGUA
Please be careful when booking flights to/from Antigua making sure you fly into/out of Guatemala City Airport (GUA). Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to/from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
2014 ITINERARY CHANGE:
In 2014 this trip is changing and will spend 2 nights in Tulum and only 1 night in Playa del Carmen.
Group size
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information.
Accommodation
Hotel (12 nts)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
CHECK-IN TIME
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Meals
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.
USD 280.00
There are some breakfasts included on this trip. Please note these may be quite simple and be comprised of just bread, butter, jam, coffee / tea and juice (or similar).
Transport
Bus, Boat, Minibus
Group leader
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Joining point instructions
The easiest way to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua is by taxi. The ride will take around45 minutes and cost you about 350 Quetzals (45 USD approx.). Make sure you negotiate the price before boarding the taxi
Alternatively, "Antigua Shuttle" buses are available hourly from Guatemala City airport to Antigua. This service is not provided by one company but by a number of freelance drivers authorized by Antigua Shuttle. The journey time is around one hour and the cost is approximately 80 GTQ (USD 10 approx) . Look for the sign reading "Antigua shuttle" as you exit the main hall
Should you have pre booked an arrival transfer through Intrepid make sure you go outside of the airport arrivals section. The driver will be waiting there with a sign with your name on it
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Finish point instructions
If you have pre booked a departure transfer, please inform your leader and they will notify you of your departure transfer time.
If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception.
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative Viaventure can be reached on +502 5778 4052 or + 502 5207 4914
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
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.
GUATEMALA:
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
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
BELIZE:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
MEXICO:
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
United Kingdom: 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.
WARM CLOTHING:
Temperatures can be low in the winter months, especially at altitude, so bring a set of warmer clothes including thermal underclothes and a fleece jacket.
WATER BOTTLE:
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Health
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
YELLOW FEVER:
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home.
It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
DENGUE FEVER:
Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
WHO REPORTS:
The World Health Organisation has countries in Latin America registered as zones affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, rabies and malaria.
Safety
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
BUSES:
Due to safety concerns, we don't use 'chicken buses' (i.e. repainted US school buses) in Guatemala and Honduras - inter-city coaches are used instead.
SEAT BELTS:
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
WATER SAFETY:
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
LIFE JACKETS:
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
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:
Latin Americans can be very conscious of appearance so try to be casual but conservative in your dress. Outside of beach areas halter tops and very short shorts should not be worn. When visiting churches or religious sites shoulders and knees should be covered.
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:
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 244.00 kgs per pax.
Feedback
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.