Baltic Experience Trip Notes

Baltic Experience

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017


Last Modified: 04 Aug 2016
Baltic Experience
Trip code: BMSE
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
Experience the diverse delights of the Baltic states on this adventurous journey through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. From the medieval spires of Tallinn and the funky bars of Riga to the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius, hidden delights await. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and trek past Lithuanian lakes. Join us and discover the rich history and fascinating customs of this region on our journey from Helsinki to Berlin.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationFinishing point instructions
ThemesAccommodation NotesEmergency contact
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionVisas
Why we love itMealsWhat to take
MapMoney mattersHealth
ItineraryGroup leaderTravel insurance
Itinerary disclaimerSafetyA couple of rules
Physical ratingJoining pointResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Important notesJoining point instructionsFeedback
Group sizeFinish point
Your fellow travellersFinish point description
Style
Original
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- As there are potholes and cobblestones in many European cities, it's recommended that you leave any wheelie bags or cases at home and bring a backpack instead.
- The areas visited on this trip can be very cold at night throughout the year, especially at the start and beginning of the season. Please bring appropriate clothing for adverse weather conditions, including base layers, hat, gloves, scarf, coat and anything else that you think may be applicable.
- As accommodation on this trip is multi-share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same sex. This trip is a great opportunity to get to know other like-minded people, so embrace it while you can. However, if you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Also, hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together/apart.
- This trip is designed to give you a fair amount of free time so you can explore each destination at your own pace. We will, however, take you on regular orientation walks, so you'll be on your feet quite a lot. While this may be tiring for some, it’s the best way to get your head around a place and to set yourself up for further discoveries.
- This trip involves some long journeys via bus and train (sometimes up to nine hours). Although this can be a bit tiresome, it's a great way to sit back, relax and take in the passing scenery.
Why we love it
- With its perfectly preserved medieval wall and watchtowers, Tallinn's quaint Old Town is a great place to explore on foot
- Aukstaitija National Park offers unique opportunities for both activity and relaxation. Kayak across pristine lakes, indulge in home-cooked meals and cleanse yourself in a traditional sauna
- Warsaw's Uprising Museum offers a thought-provoking insight into the 1944 Polish resistance against Nazi Germany
- Wander the endless dunes and stunning beaches of Lithuania's Curonian Spit National Park on a full-day guided tour, making a visit to charming Nida village
- History is signposted on every corner of Berlin. The empty shelves of Bebelplatz, the Holocaust Memorial, the confronting Topography of Terror, and of course the remains of the Berlin Wall are just some of the sites paying homage to the city's dark past
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Helsinki
Welcome to Helsinki, Finland. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Your leader will be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have these ready. If in the city early, maybe check out the magnificent Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Senate Square or catch a performance at the National Theatre. You may want to consider purchasing the Helsinki Card – an economical way to travel on Helsinki City Transport (HKL) services, as well as free admission to the main Helsinki sights and nearly 50 museums.

Note: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the welcome meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Ateneum Art Museum - EUR13
  • Cathedral - Free
  • City Museum - Free
  • Design Museum - EUR10
  • Mannerheim Museum - EUR10
  • Museum of Cultures - EUR9
  • Open-Air Museum Seurasaari - EUR9
  • National Museum of Finland - EUR10
  • Suomenlinna Sea Fortress - EUR6
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 2 Tallinn
    Leave Helsinki after breakfast and catch a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to the Estonian capital of Tallinn (approximately 3 hours). Arrive mid-afternoon, check into your hotel and start your time here with a short orientation walk through the city. The rest of your day is then free to enjoy this exceptionally preserved medieval city and all it has to offer. Perhaps head out and enjoy some of the region's culinary specialties, or stop for a drink on the main square for a spot of people watching. With its steep red roofs, spires, pastel-coloured buildings and new restaurants and bars, Estonia's capital is a real treat to explore. Seeing the vibrant streets of Tallinn now, it's difficult to fathom that Soviet occupation only ended 19 years ago.
    Included Activities
    • Tallinn - Orientation Walk
      Accommodation
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Meals
      1 breakfast
      Day 3 Tallinn
      Today is free to do as you wish and an exploration of the Old Town is a must. You'll see the last remaining gothic town hall in northern Europe, Old Thomas; the Raapteek, which has housed a pharmacy since the 15th century; and St Olaf Church, a major landmark of Tallinn. You can head towards Upper Tallinn, home to the noble families, to see amazing views of Lower Tallinn and the medieval spires of the town walls. The 13th-century Toompea Castle, where the Estonian Parliament sits, and the 19th-century orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are some of the main attractions of Upper Tallinn. Alternatively, you could head to Pirita to chill out at Tallinn's most popular beach or visit Kadriorg Palace, a palace built by czar Peter the Great for his second wife Catherine I. Make sure you spend some time in the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace.
      Optional Activities
      • Estonian History Museum - EUR5
      • Kadriorg Palace - EUR6
      • Old Town Audioguide - EUR13
      • Peter the Great Museum - EUR2
      • City Bike Tour - EUR19
      • City Museum - EUR4
      • Kiek in de Kok Tower (Tower Museum) - EUR5
      • TV Tower - EUR10
        Accommodation
        Hotel (1 nt)
        Day 4 Riga
        Cross the border by local bus into Latvia today and travel to Riga (approximately 5.5 hours). On arrival, go on an orientation tour around Riga, renowned for its welcoming locals and a fascinating art nouveau heritage. Some of the sights we see include the Doma Cathedral, St Peter's Basilica, House of Blackheads, the Swedish Gate, Mentzendorff's House, Riga Castle, The Great Guild & Small Guild and the Cat House. In your free time, perhaps pay a free visit to The Museum of Occupation of Latvia. This offers a fascinating insight into the hardships suffered by Latvians during its occupation by, first, the Germans and, later, the Soviets. The Central Market Halls are a must-see and a a great place to haggle for supplies for a picnic lunch if it takes your fancy. It is housed in 4 disused German zeppelin hangars and is said to be Europe's largest market after Rungis in Paris, comprising over 3000 trade stalls.
        Included Activities
        • Riga - Orientation Walk
          Optional Activities
          • The Museum of Occupation of Latvia - Free
          • St Peter's Tower - EUR9
          • Riverboat Cruise - EUR18
          • Beer Spa - EUR98
          • Central Market Halls - Free
            Accommodation
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Day 5 Klaipeda
            Set off by bus after breakfast and cross the border into Lithuania, continuing onto the former Prussian city of Klaipeda (approximately 6 hours in total). Klaipeda used to be a member of the Hanseatic League and is the gateway to the Curonian Spit - a long and narrow sand dune peninsula separating the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Upon arrival head out to the waterfront with it's old brick buildings, and explore the old town centre. Perhaps head out for dinner with the group in the evening, at one of the many harbour-side cafes.
            Accommodation
            Guesthouse (1 nt)
            Meals
            1 breakfast
            Day 6 Curonian Spit National Park
            Today, take an included trip to explore the unique World Heritage-listed Curonian Spit National Park - the second oldest national park of the former Soviet Union. This is a spectacular landscape full of beaches, sand dunes and forested areas. The peninsula is only 400 m wide in parts but 98 km long, 52 of which belong to Lithuania, while the rest is part of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. It formed only 5000 years ago by strong winds and currents which constantly change the shape of the landscape to this day. Only recently a whole village was swallowed by the inexorable sand. According to legend, the spit was formed by the girl giant Neringa, who poured sand into the Baltic Sea to protect the bay from storms and create an embankment for fishermen to live. On our full-day trip with a local guide you will see the famous sundial, a fairy tale forest full of pagan woodcarvings, and the tiny village of Nida. If you are brave you can even take a dip in the Baltic Sea. Look in the distance to see the Russian border. For lunch, perhaps try the smoked pike for which the spit is famous.
            Included Activities
            • Full Day Trip to the Curonian Spit National Park
              Optional Activities
              • Curonian Spit Bike Ride - EUR12
                Accommodation
                Guesthouse (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Day 7 Vilnius
                You'll continue your journey today by bus or train to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius (approximately 4 hours). Having once been occupied by Sweden, Poland, France and Russia, each occupier has left its mark in some way on this picturesque city. Vilnius offers a different picture of the Baltics than Riga and Tallinn, but it's every bit as interesting. On arrival, take an orientation walk with your leader that covers Cathedral Square and its free standing belfry, the famous chapel of Saint Kazimieras and Gediminas Tower. The 16th century Gate of Dawn houses an icon of the Virgin Mary which is said to have miraculous powers, and thus luckily escaped destruction by the Soviets. For a break from Vilnius' historic monuments, take a walk through some of the charming gardens and parks that are dotted around the city or visit the 'republic' of Uzupis, an inner-city quarter that has declared independence from Lithuania in 1997. The inhabitants have even adopted a tongue-in-cheek constitution, and have erected a statue of Frank Zappa, the only one on the world.
                Included Activities
                • Vilnius - Orientation Walk
                  Accommodation
                  Guesthouse (1 nt)
                  Meals
                  1 breakfast
                  Day 8 Vilnius
                  Today is a free day to explore Vilnius. Perhaps take the 40-minute bus trip to Trakai, which is situated on a lake and guarded by an impressive 14th century castle on an island. Rent paddle-boats, swim in the lake, or just wander around the old castle. This is a quaint town that's extremely popular due to its beauty and location. For those who want to uncover the hidden gems of Vilnius, why not go on an Urban Adventure. Explore both the old and new sides of this amazing city, while visiting cafes, bars and attractions that only the locals really know about. One museum that shouldn't be missed is the Museum of Genocide (also known as the KGB Museum). It is located in Vilnius' formed KGB headquarters and is dedicated to the 50-year history of Soviet occupation which has left a visible mark on the city and the country.

                  Note: For more information about the Urban Adventures available in Vilnius, visit http://www.urbanadventures.com/destination/Vilnius-tours
                  Optional Activities
                  • Gediminas Castle Tower - EUR4
                  • KGB Museum - EUR2
                  • KGB Museum Tour - EUR15
                  • National Museum - Free
                  • TV Tower - EUR6
                  • University Museum - EUR2
                  • Trakai Castle Day Trip - EUR6
                  • Urban Adventures - Flavours of Vilnius - EUR82
                  • Urban Adventures - Undiscovered Vilnius - EUR65
                    Accommodation
                    Guesthouse (1 nt)
                    Meals
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 9 Aukstaitija National Park
                    After breakfast, travel by local train to the town of Ignalina (approximately 2 hours) and then on to Aukstaitija ('Owk-sty-chee-ah') National Park and the charming village of Ginuciai where our home stay is located. As one of the most delightful national parks in the Baltic states, Aukstaitija has 126 lakes, an abundance of waterways, hills and woods. This afternoon you will take a guided kayak ride through the lakes and rivers, past villages and through forests, to an ancient pagan site on top of a hill with a wishing tree. The top affords great views across the surrounding forests and lakes. Transfer back to your accommodation later in the afternoon and enjoy the hospitality and home-cooking of our hosts for the next two days.

                    Notes: The included kayaking activity is weather dependent and may be cancelled in adverse weather conditions.
                    Included Activities
                    • Aukstaitija National Park - Guided Kayak Trip
                      Accommodation
                      Guesthouse (1 nt)
                      Meals
                      1 breakfast, 1 dinner
                      Day 10 Aukstaitija National Park
                      Today is free to visit some of the local attractions, such as the nearby villages that date from the 14th century and consist of traditional wooden houses and farmsteads. The 19th-century Ginuciai Watermill is another point of interest. You can hike to some glorious lookouts, do some fishing, take a swim in the lake or river rapids, or just relax. Perhaps ask our host family to fire up the sauna for the ultimate relaxation and cleansing experience.

                      Notes: There is a flat fee to start up the sauna, which can be divided by the number of guests who partake.
                      Optional Activities
                      • Sauna - EUR30
                      • Bike Hire - EUR15
                        Accommodation
                        Guesthouse (1 nt)
                        Meals
                        1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
                        Day 11 Warsaw
                        Exit Lithuania today and cross the border into Poland, making the epic journey to Warsaw (approximately 9 hours). Unfortunately, there's no faster way so get comfortable with a good book and take in the sights en route (make sure to bring snacks for the long journey). Warsaw is Poland's large, bustling capital, with a love of culture and art, as well as entertainment. There are numerous theatrical and musical venues, including the prestigious National Opera, the Chamber Opera and the National Theatre. As you won't have much time to explore when you arrive, perhaps head out for dinner with the group in the evening.
                        Accommodation
                        Hotel (1 nt)
                        Meals
                        1 breakfast
                        Day 12 Warsaw
                        Not long after breakfast today, head out on an included visit to the evocative Warsaw Uprising Museum. Opened on the 60th anniversary of the Uprising, this museum recounts the events which saw the people of Warsaw fighting against the Nazi occupation. The museum is a moving tribute to those who fought and died for independence. The rest of your day is free to do as you wish. There are plenty of other museums to browse, including the Ethnographic Museum, Marie Curie Museum and Natural History Museum. The Palace of Science and Culture Observation Deck is a great way of seeing the city of Warsaw in all of its glory. Alternatively continue to explore Warsaw's old town, rebuilt true to the original after WWII had left 85% of Warsaw in rubble. The effort was recognized by UNESCO in 1980 when it was added to the world heritage list. Make sure you also head down the Royal Mile past the university, beautiful baroque buildings and the occasional royal park.
                        Included Activities
                        • Warsaw - Uprising Museum
                          Optional Activities
                          • Palace of Science and Culture Observation Deck - PLN20
                          • Pawiak Prison Memorial - PLN8
                          • Ethnographic Museum - PLN12
                          • Jewish Cemetery - PLN6
                          • Katyn Museum - PLN15
                          • Marie Curie Museum - PLN11
                          • National Museum - PLN20
                          • Natural History Museum - PLN8
                          • Royal Castle - PLN23
                          • POLIN – Museum of the History of Polish Jews - PLN25
                          • Frederic Chopin Museum - PLN22
                          • Copernicus Science Center - PLN27
                            Accommodation
                            Hotel (1 nt)
                            Meals
                            1 breakfast
                            Day 13 Berlin
                            Leave Poland behind and cross the border into Germany today, as you head to Berlin by train (approximately 6 hours). On arrival into Berlin there won't be too much daylight left, but the city has a unique nightlife that presents delicious food, bars, pubs and clubs (if that's your thing). The Brandenburg Gate, Germany's symbol which is minted on the Euro coins, is a great place to visit at night, as the whole area is completely lit up. Other areas great for night life are the inner-city neighbourhoods of Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, perfect for all-nighters. 24-hour public transport makes venturing around the city a breeze.
                            Accommodation
                            Hotel (1 nt)
                            Meals
                            1 breakfast
                            Day 14 Berlin
                            If you're a bit daunted by the size of the city, there are countless bus tours that operate throughout Berlin and they're an ideal way to find your feet. Alternatively buses 100 and 200 are perfect to reach many of the main tourist sites for just the regular bus fare. There are many unique memorials and sites holding significance in Berlin's more recent history, which are all designed to provoke thought as well as commemorate. These include the Jewish Memorial, the empty book shelves of Bebelplatz and the confronting Topography of Terror. The 19th century Reichstag, whose cupola was designed by British architect Norman Foster, holds a special and symbolic meaning outside of its role as the home of parliament. The great glass dome that crowns the building also offers sweeping views over Berlin. Make sure you book your visit early in the morning, as queues can snake around the building for hours on end. Find the crumbling remnants of the Berlin Wall that are scattered all over the city. Checkpoint Charlie is also a significant site in German history, as its museum overlooks the former border checkpoint dividing East and West.
                            Accommodation
                            Hotel (1 nt)
                            Day 15 Berlin
                            Your 'Baltic Experience' adventure comes to an end after breakfast today. There are no more activities planned and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. There are multiple sights and attractions to visit during your stay in Berlin, so it may be worth booking an extra couple of days accommodation so you can fit it all in. Our reservations team will be happy to help (subject to availability).
                            Optional Activities
                            • Reichstag (time slot must be booked online in advance) - Free
                            • Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz - EUR8
                            • Berlin TV Tower - EUR13
                            • Checkpoint Charlie Museum - EUR13
                            • Urban Adventures - Food and Art in Funky Kreuzberg - EUR63
                            • Schloss Charlottenburg - EUR21
                            • Urban Adventures - Hidden Berlin - EUR50
                            • Urban Adventures - Stories From Friedrichshain: An Interactive Theatre Tour - EUR52
                            • Urban Adventures - Storyline of Berlin - EUR50
                            • Story of Berlin Museum - EUR12
                            • Topography of Terror - Free
                            • Jewish Museum - EUR8
                            • National History Museum - EUR8
                            • Bike Tour - EUR20
                            • German History Museum - EUR8
                            • Museum Pass, 3 Day Ticket - EUR24
                            • Berliner Dom - EUR7
                            • Walking tour - EUR30
                            • Pergamon Museum - EUR13
                            • River Cruise Sightseeing Tour - EUR25
                              Itinerary disclaimer
                              ITINERARY CHANGES 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. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! 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. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

                              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 approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
                              Physical rating

                              Included activities
                              Tallinn - Orientation Walk
                              Riga - Orientation Walk
                              Full Day Trip to the Curonian Spit National Park
                              Vilnius - Orientation Walk
                              Aukstaitija National Park - Guided Kayak Trip
                              Warsaw - Uprising Museum
                              Important notes
                              A single supplement is available on this trip, please see trip notes for details.

                              Group size
                              Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
                              Your fellow travellers
                              GROUP TRAVEL
                              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.

                              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.

                              SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
                              A single supplement is available for the whole tour. Please ask your booking agent for more information.
                              Accommodation
                              Guesthouse (6nt), Hotel (8nt)
                              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 BASIS
                              Accommodation on this trip is on a twin share basis (unless noted otherwise in the day-to-day itinerary). 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.

                              FACILITIES
                              Your accommodation may not always have private en suite facilities or air-conditioning. European hotels generally don't provide kettles or fridges.
                              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.

                              Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables, soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans and those on gluten-free diets may find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for any included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own.

                              There are some basic breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar).
                              Meals
                              10 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners
                              Money matters
                              CURRENCY
                              The local currency in Poland is the Zloty (PLN), however all other countries visited on this trip have now adopted the common currency of the European Union, the Euro (EUR).

                              CASH
                              The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money in Europe 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 withdraw local currencies easily at airports, major train stations and most city centres, 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. We recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services.

                              SPENDING MONEY
                              When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                              BUDGET
                              Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. We suggest EUR 400.00 for meals not included on this trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.

                              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. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: In local markets and basic restaurants and cafes - round your bill up to the nearest €1. In more up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill. Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest €2-€3 per day for local guides. You may also 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 we suggest €1-€2 per day for drivers. You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline €2-€4 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. In total, we recommend you budget approx €5-€10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.

                              EMERGENCY FUNDS
                              Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
                              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.
                              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 and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.

                              We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

                              Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

                              For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

                              http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety

                              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.

                              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!

                              BIKE HELMETS:
                              Please note that helmets are not always provided for sightseeing on bicycles.

                              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 or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

                              SEAT BELTS:
                              Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
                              Joining point
                              Hotel Arthur
                              Vuorikatu 19
                              Helsinki
                              FINLAND
                              Phone: +358 09 17 34 41
                              Joining point description
                              Hotel Arthur is located close to the railway station in the heart of Helsinki. The main sights, shopping district and theatres are just a short walk away. The recently refurbished rooms are cosy and brightly coloured. All rooms have a private shower/toilet, telephone, TV, and hair dryer - some also have a minibar. If you choose to arrange additional accommodation at this location you may be required to change rooms for the nights which are not included as part of your Intrepid itinerary.
                              Joining point instructions
                              Hotel Arthur is located 2 blocks east of the railway station in the centre of Helsinki, right next to Kaisaniemi Park. If you are coming from Helsinki Vantaa International Airport, take public bus No. 615 or the Finnair Bus to 'railway square' (Rautatientori) and walk to our hotel. The bus journey takes 35 minutes and departs every 20 minutes on weekdays, every 30 minutes on weekends. Once at the station, take Vilhonkatu Street which leads off the top left corner of the square with the railway station behind you. You will come to a metro station at the corner of Vilhonkatu and Kaisaniemenkatu, turn left again and head towards the Kaisaniemi Park, our hotel is located on the next corner. From the train station to the hotel it is approximately a 5 minute walk. Alternatively, you can take a taxi direct to the hotel - the cost is approximately EUR30, or EUR20 per person if more then one person.

                              Pre booked arrival transfer from the airport: If you have pre booked an arrival transfer, your transfer driver will be holding a board with the Intrepid Logo or your name at the arrivals hall, in front of the airport's exit doors. In case of flight cancellations, changes, if you experience severe delays at immigration, baggage collection or customs, or if you are not able find the driver, please contact the emergency phone number: +358 50 545 5454

                              Travelling from St Petersburg or Moscow: The train from Moscow to Helsinki costs about EUR100 one-way per person in 2nd class (4-berth sleepers) or EUR140 in 1st class (2-berth sleepers). If you're over 60, the fare is EUR80 in 4-berth, EUR115 in 2-berth. The train from St Petersburg to Helsinki costs EUR60 one-way in 2nd class, EUR90 in 1st class. If you're over 60, the fare is 50 euros 2nd class, EUR80 1st class. There are daily and overnight trains. If you are on an Intrepid trip in Russia prior to your trip commencing in Helsinki, your leader can organise tickets through our agent in Moscow and St Petersburg and you can pay directly to our agent. Alternatively you can buy tickets online: http://www.waytorussia.net/Services/TrainTickets.html or at the train station. There are also daily bus services, costing approx USD35-50 and taking 7 hours. Savavto Buses depart from St Petersburg, Pulkovskaya Hotel, Pobedy square (P loschad), Metro Moskovskaya. Please be aware that the above prices can change without notice.
                              Finish point
                              Hotel & Hostel Friedrichshain
                              Warschauer Str. 57
                              Berlin
                              GERMANY
                              Phone: 49 (0)30 970 020 30
                              Finish point description
                              Hotel and Hostel Friedrichshain is situated around a peaceful courtyard, all rooms have private bathrooms & TV. The hotel is in a funky, artsy area of East Berlin, and there are lots of restaurants, cafes and grocery stores within walking distance.
                              Finishing point instructions
                              If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Public Transportation to the airport is straightforward. Please ask at reception.

                              Pre booked departure transfer to the airport: You will be collected at the hotel reception 3 hours before your flight departure time. In case of flight cancellations, changes or if you are not able find the driver, please contact the emergency phone number: +49 30 2016 3040.
                              Emergency contact
                              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.

                              For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

                              In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Europe Office can be reached on the number listed below:

                              Peak Europe: +49 8677 9186 657
                              Visas
                              Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                              Visas for Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany are not required for passport holders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. All other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

                              CROSSING BORDERS
                              With the so called "Schengen Agreement" border controls between many European countries have been abolished. However in special situations passports may still be checked. Passport stamps are no longer issued.
                              What to take
                              PACKING
                              On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly 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 to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. 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.

                              http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/trips/packinglist.pdf

                              TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT
                              It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary that your luggage gets stowed separately (and unattended). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.

                              CLOTHING & CLIMATE:
                              The climate in this region is extremely varied. From October until May you can expect temperatures close to and below zero, while from June until September temperatures can reach well above 30 C. For departures October to May you'll need to bring a warm windproof jacket, scarf, gloves, warm hat and waterproof footwear. On all other departures it can still get quite cool at night especially when in the countryside, so we recommend that you bring a warm jacket or fleece.

                              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.

                              TAP WATER
                              Cold tap water is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by refilling from the tap. It may be better to boil water before use in some areas, please check with your group leader.

                              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 Travel 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.
                              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 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.

                              http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php
                              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.

                              Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
                              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.

                              http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

                              DRESS CODE
                              In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted, for both men and women.

                              The Intrepid Foundation
                              Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

                              The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:

                              http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

                              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.

                              http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback