Trekking the Annapurnas Trip notes: ENAS Validity: 01/01/2009 to 31/12/2009 An adventurous trek through the mighty Annapurna range. From ancient kingdoms to majestic white mountain vistas, trek for 12 days through every breathtaking landscape possible. Pass awe-inspiring glaciers and stay on the banks of icy Himalayan rivers, cross mountain pastures and vibrant forests, dip into natural hot springs and encounter mule trains taking supplies to remote villages. Rest and revive in overnight teahouses, meeting friendly locals along the way. Itinerary Disclaimer The information in this dossier has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and Babel Travel. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one that’s featured in the brochure. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal in the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you print a final copy of your dossier to review a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated trip notes please visit our website: www.babeltravel.com Itinerary Days 1-2 Kathmandu Arrive and check into your hotel. Your tour leader will leave a notice in the hotel reception with information for our all important welcome meeting, scheduled for 6pm on day 1. You will need to bring with you your passport, all tour vouchers and a copy of your insurance policy to this meeting so that your tour leader can obtain important details that are essential to the running of the tour. This meeting will give you an overview of all the exciting things you will be seeing during your tour and includes a lot of practical information on how to get the most out of your time in India. Important Note: it is a condition of joining our tours that you are in possession of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. If you do not have a policy you will be required to purchase one from your tour leader in order to join the tour. Kathmandu is a fascinating almost medieval city full of extraordinary temples, monuments, and colourful street life. There are endless small streets jam packed with stalls selling cloth, pots and pans, spices, souvenirs, saris and a myriad of other merchandise. Scooters carrying families of 5, bicycles, taxis and pedestrians all compete for space and there is always something to marvel at. The best way to explore Kathmandu is to spend a few hours wandering through the maze of narrow lanes in the old part of town which are crowded with colourful little shops. Most roads lead eventually to the Durbar Square. Here you find the old Royal Palace, many temples, and you may even catch sight of the Living Goddess, known as the Kumari, as she appears at window of the Kasthamandap, or House of Woods, which gives Kathmandu its name. If you arrive early we recommend you check out Durbar Square, home to the palace of the Kumari Devi, who is considered to be a living goddess. On day 2 we're up with the birds to climb to the Swayambhunath Temple. Situated on a hilltop, the instantly recognisable stupa with its Buddha eyes attracts a steady stream of pilgrims and the views out over the valley are superb. In the heart of the Tibetan community, Bodhnath Stupa is the largest in Nepal. Also, why not explore the network of street markets and alley bazaars and witness the burning ghats at Pashupatinath. For those with a few extra days in Kathmandu, the neighbouring towns of Patan and Bhaktapur are well worth a visit. In the afternoon of day 2 there is time to visit Babel Travels Sustainable Tourism Project - KEEP (Kathmandu Environmental Education Project), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that aims to minimise the negative influences of tourism by advocating and promoting 'minimum impact' trekking. Its aims are two-fold: to provide impartial and independent information to travellers; and to ensure the future ecological and cultural prosperity of Nepal through positive-impact tourism and outreach project work. At the organisation's information centre we will get practical advice about conservation, trekking, mountain safety, causes of deforestation, ecotourism, and the do's and don'ts of Nepalese society. Day 3 Bhaktapur Leaving Kathmandu, we head for the medieval town of Bhaktapur, the 'town of devotees'. Those who want to explore can join us on a wander through the narrow streets from square to square, exploring the temples on the river, checking out the wooden palace and visiting the five storey pagoda. This pedestrian town with very few cars is a perfect place to gradually slide into the Nepali way of life as it is far more traditional than the buzzy capital. This is a great chance to get that camera working - a photographer's dream. Tonight we stay in a small guest house with twin rooms and en suites. It is located in the lane adjoining Durbar Square and Nyatapola (five-storey) Temple and feels more like a home than a hotel. Day 4 Pokhara Leaving the Kathmandu valley behind, we head for the enchanting Nepalese town of Pokhara (7 hours). Leaving the Kathmandu valley behind, we head for the enchanting Nepalese town of Pokhara (8 hours). Pokhara enjoys a delightful setting on a lake beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna range, making it an excellent place to relax and contemplate what lies ahead. Depending on our arrival time, there may be time to hire a small boat for a quick paddle on the lake for sunset. There are also plenty of cafes where you can put your feet up and enjoy international cuisine, while the main street is full of shops and stalls selling a wide range of Nepali and Tibetan souvenirs. If you need to hire some extra trekking gear then there are numerous shops available offering everything you could possibly need. Pokhara is part of a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalayas. This is the land of Magars and Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned world-wide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship. Our hotel in Pokhara is located in the Lakeside district and overlooks the famous Fewa Lake from amongst 100,000 square feet of tropical forest. Rooms have attached bathrooms and air-conditioning. Days 5-14 Annapurna Ranges At 8,091m, Annapurna 1 is one of the highest mountains in the world. Its surrounding sister mountains are equally imposing and create magnificent panoramas from any view point. This trek covers a wide variety of terrain, from lowland pastures and peaceful villages to powerful glaciers and stunning mountain views. In the rugged mountain scenery, we stay in mountain communities and meet friendly Nepali hill people as they go about their daily lives. The expedition is not only visually superb but also a chance to learn about local cultures. Along the way we see thundering waterfalls of melted snow, cross icy rivers and high mountain passes and reward ourselves with a soak in natural hot springs. While the trekking is challenging, averaging 6-7 hours' walking a day on steep terrain, our Annapurna Sanctuary expedition into the Himalayas allows you to experience 'the roof of the world' without major issues associated with high altitude. The highest point on the trek is Annapurna Base Camp at 4130m, which is optional. Those concerned about altitude sickness are welcome to remain in the Machhapuchhre Base Camp (or even lower) for an afternoon of rest. We stay overnight in small basic teahouses along the track. These remote teahouses are operated by the mountain Nepalese to cater for trekkers, and they provide simple but delicious hot food. Details for the trek are as follows. (Please note, however, that the exact itinerary can vary due to unforseen circumstances including weather conditions or strikes called by the government.) All trekking times are approximate. Day 5 - Pokhara to Tikhedhunga (1,540m/approx. 5 hours) A 2 hour drive (remember driving times are always approximate in Asia - patience is your closest friend!) brings us to Birethanti where we commence our trek. We gear up and follow the Bhurungi Khola until we reach Tikhedhunga. Day 6 - Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani (2,750m/approx. 6 hours) We ascend to Ulleri Village through a pleasant rhododendron forest, much more impressive than the trees your grandmother has in the garden! We stay overnight at the top of Ghorepani Pass - also known as Poon Hill (check out the local disco - but don't get your hopes up in case it's closed!). Day 7 - Ghorepani to Tadapani (2,590m/approx. 6 hours) Early birds can bounce out of bed to witness the sunrise over Annapurna from nearby Poon Hill (1 hour uphill climb) - you have to do this at least once in your life, right? Then the adventure continues as we trek on to Tadapani. Day 8 - Tadapani to Chhomrong (2,170m/approx. 6 hours) We descend to Kimrung Khola before climbing again to Chhomrong village, at the base of Hiunchuli (6441m). There are breathtaking views of Annapurna and Macchhapucchhre from here, plus delicious pizza! By now we will have realised that there are some items we could do without, so excess gear can be left in Chhomrong as we will return through here on day 12. Please note the walk on days 8-12 is flexible according to weather conditions and how the group is coping. Day 9 - Chhomrong to Doban (2,580m/approx. 6.5 hours) On to Kuldi Ghar for about 3 hours' walking, then down to the banks of the Modi River and up again to Doban. Day 10 - Doban to Deurali (3,231m/approx. 4 hours) Passing through Himalaya Hotel, we continue up the narrow valley to Deurali. Day 11 - Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp (4,130m/approx. 4.5 hours) Sticking to the west bank of the Modi River, we enter an open valley near Machhapuchhre Base Camp. This is where you can decide how your legs and your lungs are holding up. You may decide to remain here or press on to the Annapurna Base Camp for the night. The views from both base camps are fantastic - all the hard work to get here is worth it! Day 12 - Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo (2,335m/approx. 7 hours) After seeing the sunrise on the snowy peaks around us we head back down the valley the same way to Bamboo (or further if the knees can handle it). Day 13 - Bamboo to Jhinu Danda (1,780m/approx. 5.5 hours) Passing back through the up and down staircases of Chhomrong we continue on down to Jhinu Danda. From here it's a 20 minute walk down to a hot spring by the Modi Khola for the most well-deserved bath you'll ever have! Day 14 - Jhinu Danda to Pothana (1,650m/approx. 6.5 hours) By now we have thighs of steel and are pretty good at carrying our packs. It's down to cross the river and an ascent to Landruk, Tolkha, Deurali and Pothana. Note - This is a trek that requires a very good level of fitness as there are plenty of ascents and descents (in fact there's hardly anything flat!) and the walking is strenuous. The weather can be harsh in December and January with snow and frosts. Our expedition is led by an experienced local guide who speaks English. Two assistants help with the daily logistics of the trek but they are not there as porters. You are expected to carry your own bag. If you wish to hire a porter this is at your discretion and at your cost. Allow US$100 for the entire trek, payable in Nepalese rupees (although you may be able to share a porter with someone else). Our accommodation along the way is at local lodges, better known as teahouses, which are comfortable without being luxurious, toilets and washing facilities are shared and rudimentary, and the food is plain and filling. In a teahouse, we are provided with small private rooms with twin beds, mattresses and pillows. At times, in high seasons, and in places where there are a limited number of teahouses, we may have some nights in dormitories. In some places, teahouses don't have access to electricity and depend on solar powered lighting. In remoter regions, teahouses don't have running water and toilets can mean just a hole in the ground. Hot shower facilities are available in the majority of the teahouses for a price although in most of the places, a hot shower just means a bucket of hot water! Day 15 Pokhara This is the final day of the trek and it is a short downhill stretch all the way from Pothana to Phedi via Dhampus village... yes, we made it! After lunch it's only about 1.5 hours (driving!) to Pokhara to check into our hotel for a well-earned shower and an end-of-trek celebration to enjoy the good things in life - like cold beer and a steak, or vegetarian lasagne! Days 16-17 Kathmandu The morning is free to explore Pohkara. In the afternoon we'll fly back to Kathmandu where you’ll have some free time for further sightseeing or shopping. Day 17 is departure day and we say 'Namaste' for memories that will last a lifetime. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is at 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. Arrival Complications Arrival transfers are included for all clients arriving in Kathmandu. If you have booked your flights separately from your tour please ensure that you inform your tour booking agent of your flight details at least one month before departure to avoid payment of an administration fee. If you have not made contact with our representative (please look for the Babel Travel Logo and your name) within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, as can occasionally occur as many flights tend to arrive at once, please contact our India representative. Give this person your exact location in the airport (find a landmark) and you will be attended to promptly. In the very unlikely event that this process fails, you can find taxis at the front of the airport and it will cost approximately 4 Euros (NPR400) to take you to your hotel. Please inform your group leader at the initial group meeting if this occurs for a refund. 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. Starting Point Hotel TBA Kathmandu Nepal Starting Point Instructions There is no airport bus service available at Tribhuvan, Kathmandu's International Airport so it's a matter of taking a taxi. This is very easy. There are two pre-paid taxi booths inside the terminal, one on each side as you exit the baggage claim area. They have fixed rates of NPR400 to anywhere in the Thamel area from 6am-8pm and NPR500 from 8pm-6am. If you wish to to entertain the masses you can step outside into the frantic ranks of drivers, touts and hangers on. Bargaining is the order of the day here and if you are good you may be able to get a taxi for NPR200, a massive saving of around 80 cents. It's a 20 to 50 minute journey depending on the time of day and the traffic levels. Normal check in time at the hotel is after 12:00. Please arrive by 18:00 on day 1 as we will have an important group briefing. Finishing Point Hotel TBA Kathmandu Nepal Finishing Point details Please note that private departure transfers are not available for pre-booking through Babel Travel from Kathmandu. There is no airport bus service available to Tribhuvan, Kathmandu's International Airport so it's a matter of taking a taxi. This is very easy. Your Tour Leader can assist you with organizing this for you. Style Babel Travel Adventurer Live and travel like a local. Stay in simple guesthouses, travel on local buses, trains or just about anything that moves. I count my pennies because I know the more money I save means the longer I get to travel. The best value adventures on the planet! On an Adventurer trip, you can expect some amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions or 'extras' that you may not want. These trips are ideal for first time travellers seeking fun and independence with the security of a Tour Leader at hand and for backpackers wanting minimum hassle and maximum flexibility at the lowest possible price. Group Size Maximum of 12 travellers per group. Accommodation Hotels/guesthouses (6nts), teahouse lodges (10 nts) Accommodation at local lodges, better known as teahouses, is comfortable without being luxurious, toilets and washing facilities are shared and rudimentary, and the food is plain and filling. In a teahouse, passengers are provided with small twin share rooms with twin beds, mattresses and pillows. At times, in high seasons, and in places where there are limited number of teahouses, passengers have to make do with dormitories. In some places, teahouses dont have access to electricity and depend on solar powered lighting. In the more remote regions, teahouses dont have running water and toilets can mean just a hole in the ground. Hot shower facilities are available in some teahouses for a price but in most of the places, a hot shower means a bucket of hot water, barely enough to wash your body. Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multi share basis. Please note there may be times when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Babel Travel trips than your own. Accommodation whilst trekking can be very basic, with shared facilities at local squat style toilets. Meals While travelling with Babel Travel you will experience the wide choices of excellent local food available in the Nepal. For us, we aim to provide you with the flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, and as a result not every meal is included in the trip price. Great, when you're on a budget! Usually, the large majority of our groups eat together, enjoying the wide array dishes, relaxing and enjoying each others company - and all those wonderful travel stories! Of course, you are under no obligation to join every dinner. Your group leader will recommend excellent restaurants and eateries throughout the trip for those of you that wish to go it alone. Please check the 'included meals' section of the trip dossier for details of which meals are included. You will find the meal plan for your tour clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier. Breakfast is often provided, and other meals are included in remote areas. Approximate costs for meals not included are shown below, Simple snack: EURO .30 Light meal: EURO 2-5, Three course meal: EURO 5-10 For a guide to the type of food you will find in Nepal see the Local Food and Drink section of this dossier. Drinks Tea and Coffee is always provided with breakfast. All other drinks (i.e. bottled water, soft drinks) are at your own expense. Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below. Note: Prices in restaurants, hotels, and in remote areas can be double those specified. 1.5l of water: EURO .30 EURO, 30cl bottle of soft drink: EURO 1, 33cl bottle of beer: EURO 1-2 It is not recommended that you drink the local tap water in Nepal. However, bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available throughout the country. Allow EUR 200 for meals not included. Included Meals No meals included Solo Travellers If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis - where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. Getting around Plane, bus, walking Included Activities This is a list of included activities on this trip. All other activities are optional and at your own expense. For a list of optional activities and sightseeing available on this trip, see the optional activities section below. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded. Guided city tour of Bodhnath, Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath and Bhaktapur - Kathmandu Trek led by your group leader and supported by assistant guides and porters - Annapurna Ranges Notes to remember Travelling in Nepal Nepal is a land that is without a doubt very different to your own. From the craziness of packed market places, the searing heat, huge crowds, pollution and poverty - this will probably lead to a dose of culture shock. This should be viewed as a wonderful and exciting challenge, rather than a deterrent. From our time in Nepal, we have grown fond of this incredibly diverse and varied land. As a developing country, Nepal has very different philosophies on an all manners of things. From men staring at you in the streets (due to fascination more than anything - you'll probably do the same thing!), semi clean squat toilets (remember, embrace the difference!) or the 'when it happens, it happens' attitude things dont really get much more different than this. Patience, understanding and a sense of humour will see through and you'll no doubt grow this love this amazing place. Alterations to Itinerary Please note that while we operate successful trips in Nepal throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables. Physical Preparation For the trek on this trip the general rule is you will need to be very fit and the more preparation you have done for it, the more you will enjoy it. You will be walking at altitudes of up to approximately 5545 metres above sea level and it will be demanding trekking. You will be walking with your day pack, with the possibility of extreme variations in temperature. We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the months before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Doing mountain walks or climbing long stair cases with a pack is good preparation (try putting a few bricks in your pack for real training). Walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy the trek to its fullest. Physical Rating Activities include extended treks of 8 or more hours a day or extended bike touring, often at altitude and over steep terrain. Even if you're in excellent shape, these trips provide plenty of challenges. Important Notes This trip starts at 18.00pm on day 1. Please be ready for your group meeting. Please bring your completed Personal Information forms (you’ll find the forms on the notice board at your hotel), passport, 1 passport size photograph (for trekking permit) and return flight tickets to the briefing. Weather conditions in the Himalayas can change rapidly and our group leader may be forced to change the trip itinerary accordingly. The months of January and February may see the Everest base camp component of the trip delayed or even cancelled due to the inclement weather. Alternative itineraries will apply if this is the case. Travellers need to be prepared for all weather conditions. For more information please read the 'What to Take' section of this trip notes. While our itineraries are designed to allow for adequate acclimatization, you are likely to feel the effects of altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation whilst on this trek. Please be aware that your group leader may deem it unsafe for you to continue trekking at any time, and arrange for you to descend to a lower attitude. This is a trek that requires an excellent level of fitness as there are plenty of ascents and descents and the walking is very strenuous. The weather can be harsh in December and January with snow and frosts. We stop at tea houses or lodges where accommodation is multi-share, toilet and washing facilities rudimentary and the food is basic, filling and usually vegetarian. Travelling in this area is travelling at its most adventurous but also at its most basic, please be prepared to rough it. Snap bandhs (strikes) can occur in Nepal. If this happens during your tour it may be necessary to fly rather than travel by road. You will need to use your emergency funds for this purpose and then claim the money on your travel insurance. Water whilst trekking– We advise clients to use boiled/filtered drinking water that is available whilst on the trek along the trail. In additional to this and to be on the safer side we suggest that you add some water purifying drops – which you can bring from home or are easily available locally. Use of bottled water is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. For client’s own convenience, please leave your international return flight tickets with the local operator for reconfirmation while you're on trek/tour – all airlines flying out of KTM besides Thai Air requires confirmation. Our office is happy to reconfirm your flight for you whilst you are on your trek but require your ticket to do so. Please hand your ticket to your leader at the group meeting if you would like the office to reconfirm your flight. Please note this Babel Travel trip is operated by our experienced local partners. Breakfasts included There are some simple breakfasts included on this trip which comprises simply of bread, tomatoes, butter, jam, coffee/tea and juice. This is typical of breakfasts in hotels in Nepal. Local breakfasts are available for the more adventurous at nearby markets. Staying in touch Please be aware that telephone calls made from hotel rooms are extremely expensive. We advise you do not rely on hotel telephones to communicate while travelling. Use local phones or call shops, or rely on the internet. Local Transport Babel Travel adventures uses every form of local transport available. We feel that this is the best way to get a feel for the country by travelling the way the locals do. Whether it’s by local train, bus, taxi, ferry or donkey – travelling the local way will not only give you a true taste of the country but will leave you with great experiences to last a lifetime. Accommodation Our main criteria for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties. At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organize the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. Early check-in throughout the trip Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, however this is not always possible which means we will not be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. Additional Accommodation If you have bought, pre or post trip accommodation (only when available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights. Arrival and Departure Transfers Please note that only arrival transfers are included in this trip. Insurance Our tour prices do not include insurance. However, it is a condition of joining our tours that travellers are fully insured for any medical expenses they might incur while travelling. At the start of your tour the Tour Leader will ask to see your insurance documents and will note down the policy number and emergency contact number. We recommend a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers repatriation and evacuation in case of a medical emergency, cancellation and curtailment as well as covering baggage and valuables. If your tour involves certain adventurous activities (i.e. trekking, whitewater rafting, house building or scuba diving etc.) you will need to make sure your policy specifically covers these activities. You may also need specific cover for expensive camera equipment. Many credit card companies offer complementary travel insurance. However, the majority of these policies offer virtually no cover and cannot be accepted as adequate travel insurance. If you are planning on using credit card insurance you must bring along proof that the policy covers medical emergencies. Failure to be able to provide such proof to the Tour Leader will result in you being compelled to purchase a new approved policy before you can join the tour. If your travel insurance was not purchased from Babel Travel or our agents, you will be required to sign a waiver absolving the company and its agents should your policy not be adequate. Any clients unable to provide proof of adequate travel insurance cover will be required to purchase a policy or will not be allowed to join the tour. Most insurers require a local police report to support claims for loss of or damage to personal property. Our office can only issue a letter verifying that personal items have been lost or damaged on tour of 50 Euro in value and the tour leader was informed of the loss or damage at the time that it occurred. Please go to www.babeltravel.com for links to various travel insurance providers. Please also make sure you have access to an additional EURO 400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route. This is a rare occurrence but it is well worth being prepared! Visas It is your responsibility to arrange visas before you travel. Your travel agent can assist. Below are the visa requirements at the time of printing. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your return date. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip. Nepal All foreign nationals (except Indians) require a visa to enter Nepal. Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad or on arrival at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan airport. If getting the visa at the airport be prepared for long queues. There have been instances when passengers were asked to show return flight tickets. You will also need to provide two passport photos and the following fees in US dollars cash only: multi entry visa valid for 15 days - US$25, multi entry visa valid for 30 days - US$40, multi entry visa valid for 90 days - US$100. *Please note if you are staying in Nepal for less than 24 hours while in transit a transit visa can be issued on presentation of your international flight ticket, there is a nominal charge of US$5 and two photos are required. If the visa application form requires a contact address in the destination, please give either your meeting point hotel or the address of our local contact. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of the correct visas for your holiday and onward travel. Babel Travel cannot accept responsibility for anyone who is refused entry to a country because they lack the correct documentation. Please be aware that visas are your responsibility. Visa requirements vary, from what country you are from and where you are travelling to, or where you have come from. We update our visa information regularly, but please understand that rules and conditions can sometimes change. It is essential, that you as a traveller check any possible changes before starting your trip. Health All travellers joining our tours are assumed to be in good health and to have a sufficient level of fitness to complete their chosen itinerary. If you have an existing medical condition or disability you must make this known at the time of booking. If accepted on the tour, you must also make your condition known to the Tour Leader. When selecting your trip please carefully read the Babel Travel brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org should you require any clarification on what is involved on your itinerary. For travellers over 70 years a completed Babel Medical certificate is required. Babel Travel reserves the right to turn away, without recompense, any person who is found, at any time during their trip, to have concealed an existing medical condition. We also reserve the right to turn away any person who we consider incapable of completing the trip. If you are taking any form of medication, please make sure that you bring with you an adequate supply to last the duration of your holiday and inform your Tour Leader at the start of the tour. You might not be able to obtain suitable medication in the countries you are visiting Although, there are no particular health requirements for this trip, is it important for you to get an update from your family doctor or health clinic on what vaccinations may be required. It is your responsibility to bring a small supply of items such as insect repellent, aspirin or plasters for small cuts and abrasions. Some travellers like to bring along their own emergency medical kit which may be used by local medical staff in the case of accidents or illness. Your group leader is fully trained in basic first aid and will carry, at all times a very well stocked First Aid Kit which can be used in emergencies. Drinking water Please DO NOT drink tap water, even in hotels or restaurants as it usually contains high levels of minerals than the water you are used to drinking in your own country. It is fine for a local to drink water from a tap as their bodies are conditioned to it, but for everyone else we highly recommend you drink bottled water at all times. Bottled water is found everywhere and is quite cheap. Upset stomachs generally occur quite quickly if you drink local water, and although it is not really serious - it can hamper your overall enjoyment of a country. Also, please aim to brush your teeth by using bottled water. Are you ready for this adventure? On most of our itineraries there are long travel days and some rough travelling in areas away from main tourist routes. Mountain passes, bumpy and windy roads can sometimes make for some real challenging travel experiences. If you have experienced motion sickness in the past, we highly recommend you consider medication to help ease the discomfort. On some occassions, we depart very early in the morning to make sure we get the most our time in the next destination. Temperatures vary from the very cold (usually in the early morning and late evenings) to the extreme heat in the summer (usually during the day). Please be prepared for these extreme temperatures and dont forgot to pack to correct gear! If you suffer health issues when experiencing these kind of temperatures, consider if this trip is right for you. A decent level of fitness is recommended and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip. Money There are a wide variety of different ways that you can obtain or carry money overseas, including credit cards, ATM cards and cash. Traveller's cheques are a useful back-up which are popular for security reasons but they can be difficult to change in some countries. For more information on what we recommend for the specific destination that you are travelling to, check your Country Dossier. Do carry some cash – a small amount is often useful in more remote regions. It is a good idea to obtain a small amount of the currency of the country you are visiting prior to arrival as this can be very useful for any immediate expenses. If you can’t obtain currency in advance, you will usually find banking services in the Arrivals Hall of the airport, port or border post, though these won’t necessarily be open 24 hours a day. You should try to carry at least some of your money in small denominations so that you can change only the amount you will actually need. EUROS are widely accepted around the world. This is particularly important near the end of your holiday as it is sometimes difficult to change back surplus local currency. We regret that regional Babel Travel offices cannot accept traveller's cheques as payment for services booked while on tour. They can accept Visa and Mastercard, subject to a minimum transaction of 200 EUROS. While some banks and 5 star hotels will change travellers' cheques the process is very time consuming and commissions can be high (up to 10%) and it is difficult to change Travellers' cheques on weekends and public holidays. The easiest cheques to change are Thomas Cook or American Express in USD. Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes. Nepal: The local currency is the Nepali Rupee (NPR). ATMs can only be found in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Bhaktapur. Money exchange facilities are available in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan (only outside the park) and Bhaktapur. Please note that you may find it difficult to access US Dollars once in Nepal. Nepal: The local currency is the Nepali Rupee (NPR). Cash in EUR, CHF and USD dollars are favoured for exchange. Nepal has no black market. Current exchange rate as of March 2009 Nepal: EURO $1 = 105 RPS (Nepali Rupees) Hotels: Service charges have been introduced in Nepal. Hence there is no need for tipping; except for porters, for whom NPR 20-30 is adequate. Restaurants: Please check the bill and if theres an addition of 10% service charge, theres no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, 5-10% of the total bill amount is appropriate. Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$ 1-2 per person, per day for local guides. (Including city tour guides, jungle guides, rafting guides, assistant trek guides) Porters: Throughout your trip you may at times have a porter in addition to your leader. We suggest US$ 1-2 per person, per day for porters. 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 person, per day is generally appropriate. Local transport: For a city tour we suggest US$ 1 per person, per day. For money safety we recommend that you carry your cash and credit cards in a secure money belt or pouch concealed under your clothing. Spending Money Each and every traveller differs when it comes to how much money they spend on their holiday. Some may spend more on shopping, souvenirs or food and drink. Please keep in mind your spending habits when deciding upon how much money you should set aside as spending money. Each trip has specific extra costs that pertain to that particular trip. Please read the trip dossier for more information. Any tip that you wish to give your group leader, local guides or drivers in recognition of service is always appreciated. Optional Excursions All of our itineraries include some free time, the amount of which usually depends on the style of tour you are travelling on. Although we do not arrange any specific optional excursions in India, there is plenty of free time for you to undertake activities not covered specifically in the itinerary. You should allow approx. EURO $15-20 per week for extra activities. Below lists covers for the more popular excursions that past travellers have taken. Hire a porter - allow US$100 for the entire trek, payable in Nepalese rupees (although you may be able to share a porter with someone else) Durbar Square, Kathmandu – NPR200 Trip to Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu – NPR200 Boating in Fewa Lake, Pokhara – NPR 250 International Mountaineering Museum, Pokhara – NPR300 Departure Tax Airport tax for internal flights - NPR170 Airport Departure tax from Nepal to SAARC destinations (Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives) - NPR1365 Airport departure tax from Nepal to other destinations - NPR1695 Please note: for trips which have an included flight during the trip departure taxes are not included. Passengers will need to pay the departure tax upon arrival at the airport. Please allow for this as well as the departure tax at the end of your trip, in your trip budget. Communication Email Internet cafes can now be found almost everywhere in Nepal. The cost for an hour is approx EURO 1. Phone The Nepali phone system is fairly good, although international calls can be expensive. A 3 minute call (to Europe) will cost approx. EURO 8 from a hotel and approx. EURO 3 from a telephone centre. Post The postal service is relatively good and stamps are available everywhere. An overseas stamp for postcards will cost approx. EURO 1. Posting of parcels can be time-consuming however, and contents of parcels normally have to pass customs inspection before they are sealed for posting. We don't recommend that family and friends try to contact you through hotels, as they are subject to change and the reception staff may not speak English. Emergency Contact In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Babel Travel’s Switzerland Office can be reached on +41 (762) 472 326. Alternatively, you can call Babel Travel’s India Office on +91 11 4500 6400 during business hours (9.30am to 6pm) or after hours Tel: +91 9999916229. Your fellow Babel Travellers On group trips you will be exposed to all the wonderful things that comes with experiencing a destination with like minded people. Your fellow Babel Travellers will most likely come from all walks of life, and from different countries. We ask you to patience will all travellers for the sake of group dynamics. We want every one of you to have the best travel experience of your life. Being punctual helps the group. If you are asked to be in a place at a particular time, please ensure that you do so. Being late may mean youll miss that special cultural performance, spend less time with a local family - or in some cases completely miss a local bus or a train journey! The best groups are the ones that work together as a happy Babel Travel team! Tour Leader Your Babel Travel tour leader (whether it be a local or a westerner) is there to ensure that all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co- ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager. At Babel Travel we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit - and who better to hear it from than the locals themselves? If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip. Sustainable Tourism 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. Drugs and the law The possession or use of any illegal drugs is strictly prohibited in all the countries we visit. When overseas you are subject to local laws and the penalties for breaking the law are severe. In order to safeguard the interests of the group as a whole, our Tour Leaders are instructed to insist that any person found to be in possession of drugs leave the group immediately. The Tour Leader’s decision on this matter is final. If you need to carry certain drugs with you for purposes of medication, please ensure that you also carry a copy of your prescription. Babel’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 Tour Leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes. Sustainable Tourism in Nepal In Nepal, the Intrepid Foundation works with the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) which is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation. Its aims are to provide impartial and independent information to travellers, and to ensure the future ecological and cultural prosperity of Nepal through positive impact tourism and outreach project work. Laundry Some of our hotels offer a laundry service however this can be expensive. Self-service laundries are scarce in this region. We recommend you bring bio-degradable laundry soap and hand wash while travelling on your trip. Ask your leader who can point out the best places to do your laundry on the trip. They are usually at any 2 night stop to allow enough time for drying. What to Take What you luggage you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. As a guideline, you should pack as lightly as possible (under 10kgs is a great idea!) On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage over short to medium distances (no longer than 20 minutes) Due to this nature of our trips, suitcases and wheelie bags are not recommended for Babel Travellers! Most group members carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags with wheels are acceptable (if it has carry straps) but you will need to carry these bags up and down stairs, over bumpy roads etc. You will also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day/overnight trips or walking tours. It is very important that your bags can be locked, as on public trains and buses it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag is the better for you and other passengers on local transport, for when it comes to traveling on local buses and trains its usually only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your seat or on your lap. Please note you do not need to take all your gear with you while trekking - we can leave luggage behind at the hotel and collect it at the end of the trek. Porters are provided for the trek. The recommended baggage load to be carried by a porter can NOT exceed 10-12kgs per person. Please see the list below for what to bring while trekking. Try to keep the weight and bulk to a minimum by bringing clothes made from lightweight material. Don't pack too much clothing; one or two changes will be all you need. However, as the weather conditions in the Himalayas are often unpredictable, be prepared for all eventualities, be it rain, unseasonable cold or heat. Bring good walking boots/shoes with ankle support that are well broken-in (this means worn frequently prior to travel because new boots invariably equal blisters and discomfort). Intrepid provide porters to assist with carrying your luggage but you will be expected to carry your day pack and to keep your other luggage to a minimum. Please note that sleeping bags, packs of various sizes, cold weather clothes (for all treks) are readily available to buy or hire in both Kathmandu and Pokhara at very reasonable rates. Most items can be hired for no more than US$2 per day. Your group leader can assist you in hiring gear. If you plan to hire a sleeping bag we recommend that you bring an inner sleeping sheet, which adds another layer of warmth as well as a layer of hygiene. For the trek all of your gear should be packed into plastic bags to protect from rain etc. Dry clothes are essential for your comfort. TEAHOUSE TREKS: A medium size, comfortable daypack will be needed. Your main pack, to be carried by the porters, should be big enough to carry the requirements listed above, including a sleeping bag. Be careful not to pack too much. A sleeping bag is essential while trekking as only blankets are provided in the tea houses. Before departing, make sure you have enough Nepalese currency to purchase meals and drinks during the trek (in the smallest denominations possible, as no one out there is going to be able to change a NPR500 note). Your group leader will go over this before departure. India is very conservative and it is essential that you dress correctly and respectfully. It is absolutely necassary that your shoulders and knees are covered at all times. Checklist The following is a guide to what you should bring along on your holiday and is not meant to be a complete and absolute list. You are welcome to bring less, or more than what is mentioned below. Travel documents: passport, visas, travel insurance certificate, air tickets, Intrepid voucher Health requirements arranged Money: traveller's cheques/cash/credit card and money pouch Day pack to carry your personal needs during the day First aid kit Medication/prescriptions (it is a good idea to have a doctors letter if you are carrying a large amount of medication), travel sickness tablets if required Prescription glasses and contact lens solution if required Alarm clock Torch/flashlight Travel plug/international adapter Insect repellent Refillable water bottle and water purification method Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses Swimming costume Lightweight travel towel Ear plugs/eye mask Comfortable walking shoes Local language phrase book Camera, film and/or memory cards with spare batteries Personal audio player with spare batteries Raincoat/umbrella Waterproof jacket Extra warm clothing during winter (December to February) Personal hygiene products such as tampons can be bought locally, but your choice may be limited Recommended to bring for the trek: 4 season sleeping bag (Oct-Feb) - this can be hired locally Several pairs wool blend and thin cotton socks. Bring extra during winter months (Dec-Feb) Running/tennis shoes or sandals, for wearing around tea houses or camps Waterproof, thigh-length jacket of GoreTex or similar material Wool jumper / sweater / fleece. Lightweight during summer, 1 heavyweight or 2 lightweights during winter months. Down jackets are great in winter. Pants: lightweight long trousers, a pair of long shorts, tracksuit pants to wear around tea houses or camps. Warmer trousers during winter months. Jeans are not suitable. T-shirts/shirts: 2 or 3 short sleeved, 1 long sleeved to protect you from the sun Hat: Sun hat or cap for day wear. Wool hat or beanie covering the ears during the winter months Water proof gloves Thermal underwear as they are light and easily washable A sarong is also useful while bathing - can be bought cheaply in Nepal Cotton headscarf/bandanna Basic toiletries Biodegradable soap Hygienic hand wipes Penknife, Swiss Army style Lip balm Plastic/waterproof bags to use as rubbish bag while trekking & to keep clothing dry High energy foods such as nuts and chocolate Waterproof pack cover Local Dress As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In Nepal warmer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. You should bear in mind that Nepal has conservative attitudes towards dress, particularly in remote areas. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women. It is advisable to keep legs, shoulders and upper arms covered, and we recommend that you bring appropriate clothing for this purpose. Your Safety By choosing to travel with Babel Travel you can be sure that your safety and well-being is our prime concern. Over the years we have built up a network of local offices, and a team of Destination Managers, local and non-local staff enables us to maintain constant contact with events on the ground in each of our destinations, and to ensure that every aspect of your tour runs as smoothly as possible. If you find yourself worrying far too much about all the terrible things that might happen to you while travelling overseas, remember that generally overseas travel is very safe and group travel even more so. If you have not done much travelling before, a few simple guidelines may be useful. Enjoy your time in a new environment – don’t worry yourself sick. Conversely, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. The best advice is simply to take the same precautions you would when travelling in your own country. Your Belongings Although it can be traumatic and distressing to lose personal belongings, remember that almost everything can be replaced. Your valuables are your responsibility so look after them. Keep items like cash, traveller's cheques, tickets and passports on your person in a hidden money belt or stored in the hotel safe. Leave all non-essential jewellery at home. Most governments regularly inform their fellow citizens through safety updates on travelling abroad. We highly recommend that you check your own government website before setting off on this adventure. Please also check our news section of the website as it will have regular updates on safety in all of our destinations. Once on the road you will find that most of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. Your group leader will be with you on all included activities, however you will have some free time to pursue your own activities and interests, chill out or explore in your own time. Please be aware that the optional activities you undertake are not part of your Babel Travel itinerary, and Babel Travel makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. We simply recommend them and not endorse them. Saying that, we will warn you if we feel that an activity is dangerous or an operator isn’t reputable. Please use your own good judgment when choosing these optional activities. Please also note; that your tour leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling. Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in India differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit. Pick pockets and personal safety: Please be aware that while travelling in Nepal there is the risk of pick- pocketing, particularly in the more tourist orientated cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well lit roads. Be particularly careful on public transport. Precautions such as carrying your day pack on your chest, not placing your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should being stolen. Traffic and driving on opposite sides 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. Please look both ways before crossing any road - at all times. Traffic can be chaotic and dangerous – far more than what you’re used to at home. Be aware on all roads and even tiny streets and alleyways. Vehicles tend to find their way into small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic! Participation form All group members on a Babel Travel trip are required to sign a participation form on day 1 of the trip. This will take place during the all important welcome meeting. Please be aware that signing this form is an essential part of travelling with Babel Travel and is a requirement of all travelers. Feedback 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 on-line within 1 month.