Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama Trip Notes

Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama

Last Modified: 15 Jan 2013
Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama
Trip code: QZXU
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Mar 2013
Central America's narrow isthmus lends itself perfectly to exploration on two wheels. Starting in the graceful colonial city of Granada and ending in bustling Panama City, our route takes us into Costa Rica's steamy cloud forests, alongside several active volcanoes and to the tropical island paradise of Bocas del Toro. We visit the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, search for the Howler Monkeys as we take a boat trip on the Tenorio River and take some time out for snorkelling on Panama's reefs. A ride along the impressive Panama Canal is included at the end of the trip - a great climax to an unusual and interesting itinerary.
Table of Contents
StyleYour fellow travellersEmergency funds
ThemesSingle travellersVisas
MapAccommodationIssues on your trip
ItineraryMeals introductionWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerMealsHealth
Culture shock rating TransportSafety
Physical ratingGroup leaderTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining point Responsible Travel
Spending moneyArrival complicationsA couple of rules
Important notesFinish point The Intrepid Foundation
Group sizeEmergency contactFeedback
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama
Days 1-2 Granada
Arrive in Granada in the afternoon and transfer to the hotel. Following a short briefing in the evening, it is time to get some rest before our day's cycling tomorrow.
After breakfast, we will have a briefing on the day's ride and make some last minute adjustments to the bikes before we set off to the shore of Lake Nicaragua. As we reach the lakeshore, we enter into the Asese Peninsula recreation area, a beautiful protected area, where the traffic is kept to a minimum and where several species of exotic birds can be spotted. After lunch we head west with stunning views of the large volcanic mass of Mombacho.
After a break at the hotel, we transfer to the market town of Masaya, famous for its handicrafts, where we will have some time to look at the local products in the artisans' market.
Following our visit to the market, we drive to the Masaya Volcano National Park. The road goes almost to the lip of the crater, and it's possible to see bubbling lava as well as the parakeets which make their nests in the crater despite the constant emissions of sulphuric gas. The park also houses an attractive museum and a butterfly garden.
We drive back to Granada in time for a dip in the hotel pool, and there will be time in the evening for a stroll around the historical centre of the city.
Total cycling distance today is 14 miles. Gradual descent down to the lakeshore, then virtually flat (but bumpy) out to the tip of the Asese Peninsula. The roads are 50% paved, 50% dirt/rock.
Included Activities
  • Masaya Volcano National Park
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Ometepe Island
After breakfast and a half-hour drive, we cycle through the rolling countryside which surrounds the famous 'Pueblos Blancos' (White Towns) which are seen as the birthplace of Nicaraguan culture, as well as General Sandino, the hero of the modern revolution. Each of the small towns is dedicated to different crafts and products, such as pottery, furniture and ornamental plants. Following lunch in San Marcos, we transfer to Jinotepe at the Pan-Am Highway, then continue on to San Jorge on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. The transfer to the ferry dock takes about an hour and a half.
From San Jorge it's a relaxing 1-hour boat trip to Ometepe Island, and the views of its twin volcanoes (Concepcion and Maderas) are spectacular.
If we arrive early enough, we will have the option to ride the 8 miles to the hotel, but this is dependent on the notoriously erratic ferry schedules, and we may need to complete the journey by minibus (approx. 20 mins). If we do ride this section, then it is almost all flat, with just one short climb near the end. We spend the night close to the wildlife-filled Charco Verde Lagoon.
Total cycling distance today is 25 miles. The roads are all paved except for the final half mile to Charco Verde.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 San Juan del Sur
Today we depart the hotel around 10am. Before we depart, you may like to hike the trails around the lagoon to spot more wildlife, or you may simply want to relax on the beach and admire the view.
We cycle to Moyogalpa and get the ferry back to the mainland. We again get in the saddle for a ride to Rivas and then along La Chocolata Road to San Juan del Sur, a Pacific beach town. The road takes us through dry forest where we may see Howler monkeys and large iguanas, and we pass several small villages. If you plan to bring any gifts for local people, the children and teachers in the small rural schools along the way really appreciate pencils, pens and crayons.
San Juan del Sur is a perfect crescent shaped bay with outstanding seafood, a festive atmosphere and good lodgings. This is a popular beach for Nicaraguan families on holiday, so you'll get a chance to observe the locals at play. Join them for a cold Toña beer or Macua, a delicious rum cocktail.
Total cycling distance today is 30 miles, along mostly level roads with some mild climbs. The road is 90% well-groomed dirt, and 10% paved.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Tenorio River/Arenal Volcano National Park
After an early breakfast we ride from San Juan del Sur to the La Virgen junction with the Pan Am Highway. We climb over the ridge which separates the Pacific coast from Lake Nicaragua in the relative coolness of the early morning. A gentle descent takes us to the highway at La Virgen and from here we are transferred with the bus
to the border with Costa Rica. After clearing immigration (this can take a while at the Nicaraguan border post) we will have a brief lunch stop then , another bike ride through the velley between Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes, with beautiful views of the rainforest and more opportunities to spot wildlife.
Total cycling distance today is 36 miles, with several climbs, especially as we climb towards the top of the ridge from San Juan del Sur. The road is fully paved although there are some rough spots on the descent to La Virgen.
The next morning we get out of the saddle for a 2-hour float down the Tenorio River, a haven for birds and wildlife. As our raft takes us gently along the river, we can expect to see several species of monkey, iguanas, coatis, and a wide range of birds. There are also crocodiles along the lower stretch of the river, and our experienced guides will not only handle the oars but will also point out as many species as possible.
We cycle back to Canas for lunch, then drive to the hilly region surrounding Lake Arenal for our afternoon biking stage. This is quite a challenging section, and although the distance is quite short there are several climbs and it can also be rather windy. The rewards are the spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding hills, as well as the micro-brewery and spa at our hotel.
Total cycling distance today is 24 miles. The ride back to Canas in the morning is quite level, but there are several fairly steep climbs in the afternoon. The roads are 50% paved and 50% dirt and gravel.
Included Activities
  • Tenorio River float
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-8 La Fortuna
After breakfast we set off on our bikes towards La Fortuna. This is one of our most spectacular cycling stages, starting in lush agricultural land which gradually gives way to thick rainforest as we approach the dam which forms Lake Arenal. Watch out for monkeys, toucans and the amazingly colourful blue Morpho butterflies as we cycle. If it's clear, the dam is a great place to take a break and watch Arenal Volcano. It is in a state of constant activity, and we can often see hot rocks tumbling down its slopes.
We spend the night in a hotel in the centre of La Fortuna which has observation decks for night time volcano watching (when the mountain is at its most impressive), as well as pools and pretty gardens.
Total cycling distance today is 40 miles, mostly on rolling hills with some short climbs, followed by fast downhill to La Fortuna. The road is 95% paved and 5% dirt or gravel.
The following day's ride follows a circular route through the region surrounding La Fortuna which takes in a great variety of terrain and ecosystems. Starting with a fast descent to the town of El Tanque, we pass through agricultural land devoted to bananas and sugar cane before heading into a rugged hilly zone leading back towards rainforest near the small town of La Tigre. Toucans are especially common here, and there are some incredible views of the jungle and Arenal Volcano. As we approach La Fortuna again, there is one final steep climb before we reach our hotel again.
This evening enjoy a soak in the Eco-Termales hot springs. If the weather is clear, we can head closer to the volcano for a better view of the lava.
Total cycling distance today is 30 miles along paved roads. The road is mostly level for the first half, followed by several challenging climbs.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 9 Cahuita
Another early start today as we head east into the rolling terrain of the San Carlos plains, riding though rich agricultural zones, sugar cane and pineapple plantations and rural villages. We are generally descending on this leg, although there are some short climbs later in the morning when the heat becomes more noticeable. Watch for the stunning neon-blue Morpho butterfly, as well as toucans, as we make water crossings. Our initial destination today is Aguas Zarcas, from where we transfer to Siquirres for lunch (approx. 2 hours). We continue by bus onto Limon (1 hour) where time permitting we start a beautiful 20-mile cycle ride along the Caribbean coast road to our destination of Cahuita.
Cahuita is a typical Caribbean town, complete with a lively reggae music culture and spicy cuisine.
Total cycling distance today is 27 miles along paved roads, or 47 miles if we are able to ride along the coast.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Bocas del Toro Islands
Today, we begin biking south at the base of the towering Talamanca Mountains. We follow the main coast road at first, before turning off to the indigenous community of Bri-Bri, home to members of the Guaymi tribe. We may see some of the traditionally-dressed women in the flowing embroidered dresses as we pass through this area. The ride continues through banana plantations to the border crossing on the banks of the Sixaola River. After a quick lunch we leave Costa Rica and walk across the derelict bridge which takes us to Guabito, the Panamanian port of entry on the Sixaola - the crossing can be a little challenging as the bridge is not in great condition, so caution is required. After the border formalities, we will be back in the bus on the Panamanian highway through the frontier town of Changuinola and then through the steep rainforest hills which are inhabited by indigenous people. We hit the coast and sail into the Caribbean to wonderful Bocas del Toro island, our home for the next two nights.
We stay in the heart of the main town, in a historic building that once served as the main offices of the United Fruit Company.
Total cycling distance today is 33 miles along mostly flat roads, although there are some climbs as we head to Bri-Bri. The roads are paved although there are often potholes and washouts close to the border.
The next day is a free day today to explore the Bocas del Toro Islands, which are rapidly becoming a popular destination in the Caribbean. Today you will get a chance to see why: spectacular palm-shaded white sand beaches, crystal clear water, wonderful snorkelling and diving, lots of wildlife, kayaking, and even great surfing are all available! It's also possible to take boat trips to the other islands, or go on dolphin watching tours. All of these optional activities can be arranged through the hotel or nearby tour agencies. For those who simply have to ride every day, biking is available on the island, and the 20-mile round trip to Bocas del Drago on the island's western tip is recommended. Bikes can be hired locally, as our bikes will stay on the mainland at Almirante.
Optional Activities
  • Dolphin watching and snorkelling boat trip - USD25
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 12 Santiago
After taking the boat to the mainland, we drive for about two hours up into the mountains that separate Panama's two coastlines. The change in temperature, humidity and eco-systems is significant as we gain altitude. At the top of the pass we find beautiful Lago Fortuna, set in a rainforest-clad tropical valley, and we then have a fast downhill ride with great mountain views and several river crossings to Gualaca and the Pan-American Highway beyond. At the junction, we stop for lunch then board the minibus for the drive to the colonial town of Santiago. It is quite common to see indigenous ladies in traditional dress on this section of road, especially near the town of Tole.
Total cycling distance today is 25 miles, mostly fast downhill with some short climbs towards the finish point. The roads are paved all the way.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 13-15 Panama Canal/Panama City
An early start today as we avoid the heat and ride through the Panamanian countryside. We have a short drive to the start point at the small town of San Francisco. Some of the morning's ride takes us along remote back roads past large sugar plantations and through dry tropical forest. We finish biking close to the town of Jaguito, where we have lunch then board the bus for the drive to Panama City (approx. 2 hours). We cross the famous canal where we're very likely to see huge ships as they make the journey between the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Our hotel is located in the suburb of Albrook, where many opulent residences are testament to the days when US military officers and Canal Authority officials lived in the city.
Total cycling distance today is 33.5 miles, with a level start but becoming increasingly hilly during the middle section. The last stage is level again. The road is fully paved.
The next day - our final day of biking - is truly memorable. We cycle along the Panama Canal and will see all of its highlights (please note that access is currently suspended at the Caribbean coast and so we cannot presently cycle the entire length, we will continue to monitor this situation). We start from our hotel, close to the Pacific end of the Panama Canal, and we transfer with the bus (15 minutes) to the Miraflores Locks to view the process of raising and lowering the traffic. Departing Miraflores, we begin biking en route to Soberana National Park which spans nearly the entire width of the country along the East side of the Canal and whose variety of flora and fauna is truly impressive. We head back to our hotel in the afternoon with time to relax and freshen up before perhaps heading out for a last meal together.
Total cycling distance today is 13 miles, and is mostly level along the canal, but with some climbing within the Soberana Park. The main road is fully paved.
The tour ends after breakfast on the final day, and you are free to depart at any time.
Hotel (2 nts)
  • QZXU Bicycle Hire (QZXU)
  • QZXU Single supplement (QZXU)
    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

    Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy your holiday.
    Included activities
    There are no activities included in this itinerary. For a list of optional activities available, please refer to the day-to-day itinerary.
    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.
    Important notes
    If you need to hire a bike please let us know at time of booking. Your sales consultant will be able to provide you with the cost for bike hire.
    - 12 days cycling, average 45km / day
    - 100% vehicle support
    - Terrain: 80% tarmac, 20% groomed dirt road with some moderate climbs.
    This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
    The minimum age of clients on this trip is 16 years. Please note that teenagers aged 16 or 17 must be accompanied by (and share accommodation with) a parent or legal guardian.
    Group size
    Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
    Your fellow travellers
    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
    Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
    Single travellers
    Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
    A single supplement is available on this trip, please refer to your booking agent for further information.
    Hotel (14 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.
    Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
    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.
    14 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 750.00
    Bicycle, Support vehicle, Ferry
    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
    Patio del Malinche
    Calle El Caimito de Alcaldia 2 1/2 cuadras al lago
    Arrival complications
    We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
    If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
    No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
    Finish point
    Albrook Inn
    Calle Las Magnolias No.14
    Panama City
    Emergency contact
    In the case of genuine crisis or emergency please call our partner EXODUS on their 24 HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER Tel: +44 (0) 1582 644 100.
    For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
    Emergency funds
    Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
    We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
    Australia: Not required
    Belgium: Not required
    Canada: Not required
    Germany: Not required
    Ireland: Not required
    Netherlands: Not required
    New Zealand: Not required
    South Africa: Not required
    Switzerland: Not required
    United Kingdom: Not required
    USA: Not required
    Please note that although a visa is not required, holders of British, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and most EU passports are now required to pay US$10 for a tourist card on arrival.
    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: Yes - on arrival
    Belgium: Not required
    Canada: Yes - on arrival
    Germany: Not required
    Ireland: Not required
    Netherlands: Not required
    New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
    South Africa: Yes - in advance
    Switzerland: Not required
    United Kingdom: Not required
    USA: Yes - on arrival
    The cost of a tourist card on arrival varies by nationality.
    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.
    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
    All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
    You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
    We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
    Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
    For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
    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:
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.