Mayan Discovery Trip Notes

Mayan Discovery

Last Modified: 09 Dec 2013
Mayan Discovery
Trip code: QVKCC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 18 Jan 2014
Through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, this all-encompassing adventure is a heady mix of volcanic beauty, ancient ruins, pristine Caribbean beaches and colourful colonial towns. Travelling from Mexico’s famous beachside city of Cancun to the idyllic shores of Playa del Carmen, this journey is the perfect combination of cultural highs and active adventures. Discover the secrets of the ancient Mayans and traverse incredible scenery on this fascinating journey through Central America.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency contact
ThemesGroup sizeEmergency funds
MapYour fellow travellersVisas
ItinerarySingle travellersIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseAccommodationWhat to take
We also recommendMeals introductionHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMealsSafety
Culture shock rating TransportTravel insurance
Physical ratingGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsCarbon offset
Spending moneyArrival complicationsFeedback
TippingFinish point description
Departure taxFinish point instructions
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
  • Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Mayan Discovery
Day 1 Cancun
Bienvenido a Mexico! Welcome to Mexico!
You are met on arrival at Cancun Airport and transferred to your hotel (please advise flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to departure if you wish to have this transfer provided). This complementary arrival transfer is available on day 1 of the trip of if booking pre accommodation through Intrepid.
You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting tonight. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when 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.
Cancun is unlike any other place in Mexico. A haven for sun-worshippers, retirees and American spring-breakers, Cancun is full of resorts, bars and shops and there is always something going on. It's strange to think that in the 1970s this was a small fishing village. It's a fun place to check out but don't take it too seriously. If there is time, head down to the beach for a frolic in the surf before playing 'spot the MTV camera' in town.
Arriving in Mexico your body will need to acclimatise to the heat and humidity. Be sure to drink plenty of bottled water and try not to do too much in any one day; you'll soon adjust.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Chichen Itza/Merida
Leaving the modern world behind we make a stop at the extensively restored stepped pyramids of Chichen Itza before heading on to Merida (approx. 5 hours travel time)
The city of Chichen Itza was founded in 432 and aligned with the Toltecs in the 10th century. In the 13th century civil war broke out and the city went into decline. In more recent years it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city is one of the best examples of Mayan architecture and the piece de resistance is El Castillo (great castle), a 91 stepped pyramid. El Castillo is best known for its amazing carved snakes. The temple is aligned so that the diamond back rattlesnake carved along the staircase will be hit by the sun during the spring and fall equinoxes. With the play of light the snakes look as though they are ascending or descending the staircase.
The Ball Court is another impressive site and the largest of its kind. Playing on a field much longer than a football field, two teams would try to score goals with a ball using only their elbows, wrists and hips. This was a sport the Mayans took very seriously and it was often used to settle disputes. Some believe the losers were even put to death. Another site of interest is an impressive sinkhole, just a short walk from the main plaza. It's said that ceremonies of sacrifice and offering to the Mayan rain god were made here.
After a day rambling over the ruins we continue on to Merida, the Yucatan state capital and the area's cultural centre. A busy city full of small parks and colonial buildings every night sees an exhibition or arts performance of one kind or another. There are plenty of musuems, great bars and restaurants specialising in local cuisine.
Included Activities
  • Chichen Itza ruins
Optional Activities
  • Contemporary Art Museum - USD5
  • Merida - Celestún Bird Sanctuary - USD35
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Palenque
We travel to for approximately 9 hours to Palenque. The encroaching jungle trying to reclaim the ruins of Palenque is almost as fascinating as the ruins themselves. The ruins rise up above the wilds, but a climb to the top of any of the towers reveals the great Yucatan plain just down the road. Stroll around some of the 200 buildings that make up the city and admire the temple walls, sculpted with images of gods, rulers and ceremonies.
Imagine yourself in the shoes of the archaeologist Alberto Ruz as you walk down the steps to Pakal's tomb. Pakal was the greatest of all Palenque's rulers and in 1952 Ruz unearthed his tomb, discovering Pakal's sarcophagus decorated with the richest offering of jade ever seen in the Maya world.
Don't forget to bring your bathing suit, nearby are the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls, perfect for cooling off after the heat of the ruins.
Included Activities
  • Palenque ruins entrance fee
  • Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 5-6 San Cristobal de las Casas
Crossing into Mexico's highlands we travel to the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas (approx. 5 hours). Known for its ties to the Zapatista revolution, San Cristobal is an architectural gem and oozes provincial colonial charm. The outlying villages mix tradition with modern religious beliefs with some unusual results. If you take a day trip to San Juan Chamula, make sure to visit the church.
The floor is covered with pine needles and the air heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings using firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets to visit with colourful handicrafts for sale. Take the opportunity to go for a horse ride in the mountains or a day trip to Sumidero Canyon.
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal - Villages tour - USD12
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-8 Panajachel
Today we travel to Panajachel (approx. 10 hours).
Enjoy the view from the shores of Guatemala's most beautiful lake, Lake Atitlan. Ringed by volcanoes and colourful villages Panajachel is a great base to explore the best of this region. Panajachel is a relatively modern town with paved streets and many shops, but it is still easy to explore by foot. Wander the back streets with their many churches to soak up some old world charm.
While in "Pana", we venture out by taxi-boat to visit a women community cooperative dedicated to preserving the skill of spinning natural cotton thread while giving local women the opportunity to sell their creations directly to the public.
The blue/grey mountains, volcanoes and picturesque lake all provide opportunities to fully appreciate Guatemala's great outdoors. Go hiking, kayaking, cycling or take a boat to visit some neighbouring communities.
Included Activities
  • Panajachel - San Juan La Laguna women's cooperative visit
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - Bike rental - USD10
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - USD6
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 9-10 Chichicastenango/Antigua
En route to Antigua we visit the bustling morning market at Chichicastenango, overflowing with colourful handicrafts and intricate weavings to fill up your backpack.
After an approximately 4 hours travel time we arrive in Antigua - 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. We take an orientation walk through Antigua's 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 head out into the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful.
Included Activities
  • Chichicastenango Market
  • Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Mayan horoscopes - USD60
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD20
  • Antigua - Volcanoes climb - USD16
  • Antigua - Bicycle tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Santiago Zamora Village tour - USD10
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 11-12 Flores/Tikal
Today we visit a small coffee farm. Roll up your sleeves and work side-by-side with coffee farmers in their daily coffee processing, pick, pulp, ferment, wash, dry, trilla, sort, and grade the coffee (depending on the season), roast coffee over an open fire and grind by hand on a grindstone before sampling your handiwork. This farm forms part of an organization that helps entrepreneurial men and women from disadvantaged communities to establish independent, sustainable businesses so that they can improve their living conditions and stimulate their local economies.
Later we transfer by minivan to the airport (approx. 1 hour) at Guatemala City for our flight to Flores (approx. 50 minute flight)
Next day we continue on to Tikal (approx. 1 hour). Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal 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. We spend the night in the park for a magical guided visit of the ruins at dawn.
Included Activities
  • Tikal Ruins and National Park
  • Antigua - Coffee farm visit
Optional Activities
  • Flores - Birdwatching boat tour - USD25
  • Flores - El Castillo Fort - USD5
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 13-14 San Ignacio
Today we travel to San Ignacio (approx. 3 hours) in the forested hills of the highlands. Surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Mayan ruins, San Ignacio is an ideal base to explore the region.
Some of the optional activities are a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre with panoramic views over 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 Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach a Mayan ceremonial site. Here you will find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1400 years.
For those who can't get enough jungle fun there are also opportunities to go tubing or canoeing through the region. And for those who would like some time to reflect on the beauty of nature, there is always San Ignacio's butterfly garden.
Included Activities
  • Tikal Ruins and National Park
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Barton Creek Cave day trip - USD80
  • San Ignacio - Bicycle rental (per hour) - USD3
  • San Ignacio - Mountain Pine Ridge day trip - USD75
  • San Ignacio - Canoe rental - USD20
  • San Ignacio - Full-day caving - USD110
  • San Ignacio - Half-day caving - USD55
  • San Ignacio - Caracol Ruins - USD80
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 15-16 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.
Included Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Snorkel trip (half day)
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 17-18 Playa del Carmen
Early in the morning we travel by water taxi and local bus back Mexico and our final destination on the Caribbean coast - Playa del Carmen (approx. 9 hours). In the evening relax on the beach with a margarita before heading out to enjoy the island's vibrant nightlife.
You are free to depart at any time on the last day of the trip.
Please note we arrive in Playa del Carmen late in the afternoon of the second last day of this trip. In order to make the most of what Playa has to offer, we strongly recommend that you stay in Playa del Carmen for one or two days after the trip finishes. Please contact us if you need us to assist you with post trip accommodation.
If you can afford a few extra days in Playa, you may want to spend time snorkelling among the mangroves or strolling along the white sands.
For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, and island famous for its reef diving. And for a taste of Mayan architecture, take a short trip to 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.
Playa del Carmen is located just south of Cancun airport (45 minute drive) so at the end of your trip you can easily head straight to Cancun airport without returning to Cancun.
Optional Activities
  • Playa del Carmen - Cenote Ikil - USD5
  • Playa del Carmen - Xel-Ha Water Park - USD90
  • Playa del Carmen - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD8
  • Playa del Carmen - Dos Ojos Cenote snorkelling tour - USD35
  • Playa del Carmen - Xcaret Park - USD90
Hotel (1 nt)
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.
  • QVKCC - Single Supplement (QVKCC)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Costa Rica Express (QVKR)
  • Costa Rica Express (xxxxQVKR)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website:
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Culture shock rating

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 Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN).
The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ).
The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD).
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.
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.
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$25 for international departure tax from Mexico.
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.
Important notes
Please note that hurricane season is June to November in this region, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors such situations should they arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
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:
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 refer to your booking agent for further information.
Hotel (17 nts)
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.
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.
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.
17 Breakfasts
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 440.00
Plane, Minibus, Bus, Boat
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
Hotel El Rey del Caribe
Avenida Uxmal 24, Manzana 3 Lote 18 Supermanzana 2-A
CP 77500
Joining point description
Hotel El Rey del Caribe is situated in the centre of downtown Cancun. Our traditional, colonial hotel has a swimming pool set in a leafy courtyard and there is also an on-site day spa. The hotel is proud of its ecological efforts including solar hot water, recycling, composting and rain water collection. Rooms open onto the central courtyard, have air-conditioning and en suite bathrooms.
Joining point instructions
An airport arrival transfer is included. This transfer is only valid if arriving on day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel (note - we may not be able confirm request made within 15 days of travel). Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
Your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall holding an Intrepid sign with your name. If you cannot find your pre-booked transfer, please call our local transfer provider on (+ 52) 998) 884 2028.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled please call this number to advise new flight details.
Failing this, taxis are readily available from outside the airport. Taxi fare to your hotel will cost approx. USD 40.
If you miss your transfer please advise your group leader at your group meeting.
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.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operators Emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point description
Playa del Carmen Hotel is located in the heart of Playa del Carmen. Numerous shops, restaurants and bars are located just around the corner from the hotel. Bus and taxi stations are close by, as well as the breathtaking beach, are only a few minutes away. All rooms have a private bathroom, ceiling fan, air conditioning, a safe, cable TV and telephone. There is 24 hour reception, laundry service and swimming pool.
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 are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
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
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
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.
Please note domestic airlines allow a maximum of 20kg check in luggage and 5kg hand luggage. Any excess luggage expense will be your own responsibility.
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.
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
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.
Please bring a photocopy of your passport main page and airline ticket if you will require airline reconfirmation at the end of your trip.
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.
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 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.
The World Health Organisation has countries in Latin America registered as zones affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, rabies and malaria.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
On this trip you will be staying in some heritage hotels and traditional guesthouses, and these are one of the charms of this trip, but occasionally staircases, balconies and passages etc don't always comply with western safety standards. Please don't expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved to their original state.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Horse riding is an option available to groups on this trip. Please note however that horse riding is usually not covered by your travel insurance and helmets are not always available. If riding without a helmet is a concern then you should bring our own.
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.
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 487.00 kgs per pax.
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