Eastern Europe in Depth
From the beautiful Baroque churches of Budapest to the remote lands of Bessarabia, this 22-day journey across the haunted heart of Romania's Transylvania, Moldova - unbeknownst to tourism, the breakaway republic of Transnistria – where Soviet values persist – to the eerie wastelands of Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, provides a fascinating insight into an intriguing region and showcases some of the least visited sights in Europe. Become acquainted with traditional Romanian culture and customs in Maramures, tour the medieval churches of Brasov, dine with a local family on an overnight homestay in Viscri and visit the Black Sea Coast of Ukraine. Get ready for adventure.
Ages: Over 18
Accommodation: Hotel (16 nights), Pension (3 nights), Homestay (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Szia! Welcome to Hungary. Since the collapse of communism, Budapest has experienced something of a renaissance. The grand architecture and boulevards evoke a time gone by, while glamorous stores and restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe. After the welcome meeting at 6 pm, you might like to head out to explore the city by night. Perhaps visit the Jewish Quarter for dinner and explore the many options for a nightcap.
Today enjoy a free day to explore Budapest. Hiring a bike is a great way to move between the sights. Perhaps head to Statue Park to see the communist monuments that were removed from the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain. One unmissable activity is a soak in Budapest's hot thermal baths. There are several around the city, ranging from elegant to simple outdoor types. The pools vary in temperature, and some even feature whirlpools or seats where you can play chess while you turn into a prune. You can wander the pedestrianised streets of the old district of Buda with the castle on the hill and the Matthias Church, then perhaps take a cruise along the Danube, discovering the history that unfolded along the riverbanks. Tonight perhaps discover some of the city’s ‘ruin bars’, cool places to grab a drink that are usually located in abandoned buildings in downtown Pest and are filled with thrift-shop décor and mismatched art.
Take a two-hour train east to Eger today. This beautifully preserved Baroque town is surrounded by hills and is home to some of the most renowned vineyards in Eastern Europe. Visit the wine cellars of the seductively-named Valley of the Beautiful Women with the group to sample some of the town's famous 'Bull's Blood' red wine, which supposedly gave the Hungarian army supernatural strength during their battle against the Ottoman Empire. Among the Turkish soldiers it was rumoured that the enemy army drank blood diluted with wine, as the firm resistance they encountered couldn't be explained any other way. In your own time, perhaps explore Eger's 13th-century castle, which was the scene of the historic siege that thwarted the Ottoman Empire's advancement into Western Europe. Here you can explore the Gothic Palace, a gallery of fine Hungarian art, and tour underground passageways of archaeological finds. You may also like to check out the town's 19th-century cathedral, the northernmost medieval minaret in Europe for views of the city, or the Minorite church in Dobo Square.
Travel by bus to the pleasant town of Debrecen today (approximately 3 hours). While here, you'll have time to explore Deri Square with its fountains, colourful buildings, museums, and golden Great Church. Continue on by train and private vehicle across the central plains into the Maramures region of Romania. This second part of the journey should take around six hours. Time in Romania is an hour ahead of Hungary, so don't forget to set your watch. Maramures is also a place that can feel like stepping back in time. The region may be modernising, but among the traditional wooden houses and churches, the traditional music and forests, you can still find parts of life fairly unchanged since medieval times. Upon arrival, settle into your room at the pension, which is run by a local family, and look forward to some hearty home-cooked fare.
Today you’ll discover more about the region of Maramures ('mah-ra-moo-resh') and how it seems frozen in time. Rich in tradition and folklore, the music, costumes, festivals and ancient superstitions of one of the last peasant cultures in Europe continue to thrive here. Each village is distinctive in its colourful outfits and style of hat. Maramures is particularly famed for its wooden churches, many of which are World Heritage-listed. Set out on a guided group tour to explore the region. You’ll visit the unique Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, where the life stories of the deceased – the good and the bad of their lives – are displayed on colourful wooden crosses. There are poems and limericks, and little pictures illustrating how the person died, all single-handedly carved over 40 years by Stan Ioan Patraş until 1977. The work has continued for the last 30 years by his apprentice. You’ll also see the village museum in Sighetu, an assembly of beautiful local wooden architecture, along with stopping by various other traditional villages.
Today is a long day of travel (approximately 9 hours) through pastoral fields and untouched Saxon towns to Sighisoara in Transylvania. While the name may conjure up images of haunted castles, gothic churches and vampires, this is only a small part of what makes Transylvania such an enchanting and exciting destination. Medieval Sighisoara is likely to seduce visitors more than any other place in Romania. Another World Heritage site, the town was first settled by the Romans but flourished under the Saxons from the 12th century. Take a walk around the old town, which coils up a narrow hill and is surrounded on all sides by fortified walls, and explore the 64 metre-high clock tower that dominates the citadel. The town is famed as the birthplace of Vlad Dracul III, better known as Vlad the Impaler, whose name was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s iconic Count Dracula. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Ottoman Turks, of which his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000. Maybe have traditional Romanian fare at ‘Casa Dracula’ tonight.
While your next stop is less than an hour away, you'll feel like you've entered a different world. The small Transylvanian village of Viscri was originally inhabited by Saxons from the Luxembourg area, and the whole scene is picture-postcard rural. This idyllic village of red tiled roofs is a World Heritage site, virtually unchanged for 900 years. You’ll visit the town's fortified church (thought to be the oldest in Transylvania). You’ll also learn about the Sock Project, which supports the local Roma community. Time permitting, you may even like to go for a horse cart ride through the area, over pastures and through wondrous woods of oak and hornbeam. In the evening, indulge in a home-cooked dinner prepared by a local family, sampling fresh produce, homemade wines and schnapps. Tonight, stay in rustic houses that the locals rent out to visitors.
Today continue to the 13th-century Saxon city of Brasov (approximately 2 hours). Also known by its German name of Kronstadt, the town is flanked by mountains and city walls was once a major medieval trading centre. Enjoy free time to explore, checking out the ornate churches, townhouses and squares surrounded by gingerbread-roofed merchants' houses. It's worth visiting the town's main attraction, the gothic (Biserica Neagra) Black Church, which took its name from its blackened appearance after a fire in 1689. Stroll along pedestrianized Strada Republicii, take a cable car up to Mt Tampa, or maybe explore the nearby Rasnov Fortress. The fortification is perched on a rocky hilltop above the town of Rasnov, and was constructed by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century as a place of refuge for the common people from Tartar invaders. Otherwise, you could head to Bran Castle, said to be the inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Though not exactly super spooky, it is undeniably impressive, perched on a high cliff top and surrounded by pine trees. For those looking for a little nightlife action, Brasov has plenty of funky bars and restaurants to enjoy once darkness falls.
Head south to Bucharest today (approximately 3 hours). The city is increasingly known for its cosmopolitan vibe and energy, and while not the most beautiful or stylish city, there are some wonderful art nouveau buildings, ancient churches and monasteries, lush parkland, lakes and elegant boulevards. Romania's interesting capital also likes big things. It’s home to one of Europe's biggest squares, and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world – former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of the 12-storied Palace of Parliament, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers. You'll embark on a guided walking tour around town to help you get your bearings, then in free time you can choose to further explore some of the sights pointed out. Maybe seek out some traditional home-cooked Romanian food with your fellow travellers tonight.
Enjoy a free day exploring Bucharest. You can check out the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. Another great way to see the city is by bicycle, perhaps exploring some of the city’s neighbourhoods for a glimpse into the daily lives of Bucharest’s residents. Indulge your inner foodie on a Home Cooked Bucharest Urban Adventure tour. Explore the city by night, or perhaps head out for another group dinner.
This morning there may be some time to explore Bucharest before heading off to the provincial city of Tulcea by local bus (approximately 5 hours) at around noon. Located in Romania's far east on the banks of the mighty Danube River, Tulcea is a typical Romanian working class town. This has been an important harbour city since ancient times, where the Danube empties out into the Black Sea. Its position has seen it under Byzantine, Genoese, and Ottoman rule before being reabsorbed into Romania at the end of the 19th century. In your free time you could visit the Azizie Mosque, an exotic and culturally rich heritage structure with quaint minarets, or enjoy the view form the Victory Monument east of town.
Today, head out on a full-day excursion through the remote Danube Delta. This is a UNESCO protected area of ecologically significant lagoons, channels and marshes – one of the largest wetland areas in the world, and one that’s a paradise for birds. There are around 30 different ecosystems in this area of 4152 square kilometres, putting it just behind the Galapagos and Great Barrier Reef in terms of biodiversity. This is the place where the Danube empties into the Black Sea after journeying 2860 kilometres through ten countries. The Delta is also home to over 300 species of bird, so keep your eyes peeled for the avifauna that live around the floating reed islands, tree-fringed lakes, pastures, forests, sand dunes, and narrow canals lined with trees. The boat ride also gives you the opportunity to see local life from a unique perspective. The delta is home to an estimated 16,000 people, many of whom live isolated with no road access, surviving on traditional activities like fishing. At lunch time indulge in local specialties or the catch of the day. In the late evening, return to Tulcea.
This morning, travel by private transport to Moldova and on to Valeni, our first stop in Moldova. Here you will be treated to a traditional lunch and some live music by a locally famous grandmother. In the afternoon continue to Comrat, the provincial capital of the Republic of Gagauzia. A small strip of land, Gagauzia once vied for independence from Moldova alongside Transnistria, but gave up its aspirations when it was granted a special legal status in 1994. The official name is now Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia. Gagauzia is home to Turkic-speaking people. Theories vary as to why, but many believe that Gagauzians are descendants of Seljuk Turks who migrated here in the 13th century. When you arrive, take some time to wander around the compact town centre. Walk down the main street, still named after Lenin, and see the statue of the revolutionary leader that stands paradoxically near a memorial to the victims of Communist repression. Pass the monument to soldiers who died in the Russian-Afghan War or just absorb the atmosphere of this unique little town.
After breakfast, you’ll make your way towards Chisinau (pronounced Kishi-Now), Moldova's bustling capital (approximately 2 hours). But before entering the city you have the opportunity to taste Moldova's famous wine on a tour of Milestii Mici winery. With more than 200 kilometres of underground passages – 55 of them lined with around 2 million bottles and given street names – Milestii Mici is home to the biggest wine cellar in the world. Enjoy a tour of some of the tunnels (drivable by car!) and sip on exceptional wines. Continue to Chisinau, a perfect example of a city almost entirely rebuilt in a Stalinist style with pre-manufactured concrete slabs, as it was completely destroyed by three events within two years: Soviet occupation and an earthquake in 1940, and then the takeover of the city by the Nazis in 1941. While Soviet high-rise buildings dominate the city, there is a wide main boulevard (named after the great medieval king Stephan the Great of Moldovia) which bisects two large green parks and along which the main museums and sights lie. This evening, be sure to sample some more Moldovan wine, little known worldwide but famed for its quality.
Head out of town to the little village of Orheiul Vechi (approximately 1 hour), where you'll visit the famous14th-century monastery. This is the country’s most important historical site, a World Heritage contender that’s also a place of remote, stark beauty. Here through the ages the Raut River has carved its way through the landscape, creating a valley with high rocky ridges that served as an easily defendable site to settle. Archaeological excavations have uncovered remains of ruins and fortifications estimated to date back as far as the 6th century BC. The most impressive and memorable sights here relate to its use as a religious site. Atop one of the hills is the church of the Ascension of St Mary, which has some interesting murals inside, but the real treat is the cave monastery. Below a squat bell tower is a black door, behind which steep steps lead down to caves that are still used by monks 700 years after the site was dug into the cliff. Admire the views across the valley and another local feast at a family home in a nearby village. Back in Chisinau visit the buzzing local market. You can wander through the central park to the Victory Memorial of the Soviet army, and on to the Eternal Flame, dedicated to the unknown soldiers from the city who died in WWII. The park also houses the Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity, an important gathering point for celebrations or protests. Nearby is the local market, a feast for the senses. Why not shop here for lunch before continuing your exploration of the city. The Museum of Ethnography and Nature has an almost Islamic inspired exterior, while the grand National Archaeology & History Museum has displays from settlements dating back to 10,000 BC up to the Soviet era.
An early morning drive (approximately 3 hours) takes you across the border to Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway republic of Transnistria. This thin strip of land east of the Dniester River, officially known as the Prednistrovie Moldovan Republic (PMR), declared independence after the Soviet Union broke into pieces, and unlike Gagauzia, is continuing the fight to this day. Transnistria is only recognised as an independent entity by other unrecognised former Soviet breakaway republics. It is, however, 'de-facto independent' from Moldova – with its own parliament, police force, currency and coat of arms among other things – and still upholds Soviet values. In 2014 the head of the Transnistrian parliament asked to join the Russian Federation. Upon arrival, head out on an orientation walk around town along October 25th Street, greeting the Lenin statue standing high on its pedestal outside the Supreme Soviet (Parliament) Building. You’ll see old Russian cars on the street, Orthodox churches, hammers and sickles, memorials, and brand new constructions sitting next to crumbling soviet apartment buildings and homes. This is a place where around one corner it’s the present day, around another it feels like 20 or 30 years in the past.
This morning take a trolley bus (a mix between a bus and a tram) a short distance outside the city to the regional town of Bender, in the buffer zone between Transnistria and Moldova. Drop by the 16th-century Ottoman Tighina Fortress, an impressively stout construction on the right bank of the Dniester River. The three miles of walls are dotted with defensive towers and gates, all topped with bright red conical roofs. Once back in Tiraspol the rest of the day is free for you to experience this unusual city. Explore the memorials and the military-themed Museum of Headquarters, check out the impressive House of Soviets (Parliament) building complete with Lenin's bust out the front, or visit the golden domed Nativity Church. Perhaps head to the bridge at riverside De Wollant Park for panoramic photos of the river and downtown Tiraspol, or embark on a boat tour along the Dniester River itself. Near the university, Pobedi Park, with an old amusement park in the middle, is a great place for people-watching. You may want to check out the Kvint distillery to learn about the famed local rocket fuel, which is available at any bar throughout the territory. At the headquarters of this 1897 company, you can taste award-winning brandies made from grapes from the nearby ancient Bessarabian wine region.
A train or bus ride today will take you across the border to Odessa, Ukraine, an underrated gem located on the Black Sea (approximately 2.5 hours). The city was founded at the end of the 18th century by Russian ruler Catherine the Great, who sought to create an architectural getaway on the sea shore. Russian aristocrats flocked to this city of Baroque and Renaissance buildings and shady tree-lined streets to cool off in the summer, and today many sun lovers still make their way to this cosmopolitan city for the sandy beaches. The great buildings were neglected during the Soviet years, but now much of the fine plaster and marble work has been restored to its former glory. After an orientation walk with the group, wander down Primorskiy Boulevard, where babushkas shuffle alongside fashionable mums. Make sure you check out the famous Potemkin Steps, which lead from the street down to the waterfront. The sweeping stairway is famous for its part in Sergei Eisenstein’s classic 1925 film, ‘Battleship Potemkin’, the scene where Russian soldiers massacre Odessans during a 1905 anti-tsarist uprising. A pram rolling down the steps after the mother has been shot is one of cinema’s most iconic images. Alternatively, spend some time hanging out in the city's parks or the charming Old Town. There are several beaches within the city should you wish to cool down a bit.
Today is a free day to explore the pretty town of Odessa and it's surroundings. Take your time to stroll around the streets and admire the Neoclassical and Baroque buildings – the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is grand enough to rival any in Central Europe, with rococo style columns, arches, sculptures and intricate mouldings. Wander down the pedestrian Deribasovskaya Street and feel the history, then stop at the nearby Sculpture Garden at the Literary Museum, where a new statue is unveiled every year. To see a completely different side to the city, head to the unique underground Museum of Partisan Glory 12 kilometres outside the city. Odessa is built on limestone, and much of it was carved out during the construction of the city in the 1800s. This left some 2500 kilometres of labyrinthine catacombs running beneath it (that’s more than the distance from Odessa to London), which attracted those who wanted to work in the shadows and hide from those in control. After the Nazis forced the Soviets out of the city during WWII, dozens of rebel groups remained in the catacombs, trying to live a normal life and waiting to strike. The catacombs later housed smuggling and criminal groups, and today it’s groups of explorers. A small section of the tunnels are officially open to the public in Nerubayske, offering a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers who lived and fought here. You'll be free until the late evening, when you’ll board an overnight train bound for Kiev (approximately 10 hours). Ukrainian trains are very comfortable, with four passengers per cabin and ample space for luggage.
Upon your early morning arrival into Kiev, drop your luggage at the hotel and embark on a city tour with a local guide around this magnificent city. Many travellers say that Kiev is a diamond in the raw, just waiting to be discovered. The city boasts a vibrant energy through it politics, art and culture - it’s a place where Soviet grandeur is mixed in with medieval architecture and religious monuments. In your free time make sure you visit the 11th-century Lavra Monastery overlooking the Dnieper River. The exterior of the ‘Monastery of the Caves’ is visually stunning, with tiered frescos of Saints and towers topped by bright gold domes that glisten in the sun. It’s also a wonder underneath, with kilometres of catacombs below where reclusive monks worshipped, studied, lived and died, their bodies preserved by the caves' cool temperature and dry atmosphere. To get an insight into the country’s history, a stop at The Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War is recommended. No visit to Kiev is complete without a stroll along Khreschatyk Boulevard, spending time at Maidan square, where evidence of the recent historic events (like the 2014 revolution) are still visible, and then an amble down church-lined Andriivsky Descent. This street lined with vintage stalls, arts and crafts shops, small restaurants and hidden bars is sometimes called Kiev’s Montmartre, and is one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city. Kiev has great places to try Ukrainian food, and is a city that knows how to party, so get out and experience it tonight.
Head out of town on a full-day trip to Chernobyl. At Dytyatky, which sits on the edge of the 30-kilometre exclusion zone (the circle drawn around the town after the 1986 accident) you'll pass the first checkpoint. After a short introductory and safety briefing, embark on a tour of Chernobyl town, passing the robots and vehicles used to clean the radioactive fallout. Then, after another checkpoint, hear the slight click-click of the Geiger counter while you stand in front of Reactor Number 4, now covered by the huge new sarcophagus, the largest moveable land-based object in the world. The undisputed highlight of today is the visit to the ghost town of Pripyat, where Chernobyl workers were rapidly evacuated 36 hours after the disaster. There’ll be time to explore Lenin Street, the main square, the Palace of Culture, Polissya Hotel, a supermarket, the famous ferris wheel, a school and a swimming pool. Wander the eerie, abandoned streets and get a real sense for what happened here. After lunch at the Chernobyl canteen – all ingredients are brought from outside the zone and are ecologically clean – visit the village of Paryshiv to meet the self-settlers (people who chose to come back to their homes after the evacuation), and see the once top-secret Duga 3 (the so-called 'Russian Woodpecker', a military radar). Return to Kiev for your final night of a memorable adventure, perhaps delving in the city’s nightlife with the group.
Today your trip comes to an end. As no activities are planned, you are free to depart your accommodation at any time. There is so much to see and do in and around Kiev, so you may want to consider extending your stay here. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
- Chernobyl - Full Day Trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Star Inn Hotel
Dessewffy Utca 36
Phone: +36 14722021
Ulitsa Institutskaya 4
Phone: +380 445905474
This trip can be enjoyed by just about anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.
Please remember that on the Chernobyl day tour you will be exposed to some radioactivity. Given the short amount of time you'll spend in the area, radiation levels shouldn't be harmful or unsafe (just don't go touching lots of stuff). Long-sleeved clothes and closed shoes are essential. Still, if this is of concern to you, you are free to opt out of this activity. Please also note that the army effectively regulates visits to Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, so last minute alterations can impact the itinerary.
The security situation in Transnistria is unpredictable as the region is not under Moldovan control, and tensions may be heightened reflecting developments in eastern Ukraine. Many Western countries do not have an embassy or consulate in Moldova. Usually embassies in Russia or Romania provide consular assistance to travellers in Moldova, however they do not have any recourse inside the territory of Transnistria, and will only be of very limited or no assistance in the case of an emergency. Medical care is almost non-existent in Transnistria, especially for non-citizens. Please choose carefully when shopping for your travel health insurance, and make sure it is valid in Transnistria. Please also be aware that international credit/debit cards and traveller's cheques are not accepted anywhere in Transnistria.
A Single Supplement is bookable on this trip, subject to availability at the time of booking. The price of the single supplement does not include the following nights, where a single room does not form part of the package. In this case you will be matched up with another traveller of the same gender. If a single room becomes available at check-in for these nights, there may be the option for you to upgrade to a single room and pay the surcharge locally for that night:
- Day 13 Comrat
- Day 19 Overnight Train
Please also note that due to the small properties we use in Europe there is only a limited amount of single supplements available per trip departure. If you would like to book a single supplement and enquire about availability please speak to your booking agent.
All Intrepid group trips in Europe are accompanied by one of our local European group leaders. ’Local’ in this context means a leader who is European or lives in Europe. 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 takes care of logistics, 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 also aim to support local guides in the individual cities or locations we travel to. If you are interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend an optional local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight 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 or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD: Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
SCAMS Common scams operating in Europe include ploys to get you fined on the metro without a validated ticket. Ensure that you always travel with a validated ticket (have your ticket stamped). Another common scam is used by children who distract you with a map or a newspaper and while you are attending to them, steal your valuables. You may also come across players offering you to participate in the so-called "shell game". This is a scam and you will most certainly lose your money.
CHERNOBYL EXCLUSION ZONE Please remember that on the Chernobyl day tour you will be exposed to some radioactivity. Given the short amount of time you'll spend in the area, radiation levels shouldn't be harmful or unsafe (just don't go touching lots of stuff). Still, if this is of concern to you, you are free to opt out of this activity. Please also note that the army effectively regulates visits to Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, so last minute alterations can impact the itinerary. TRANSNISTRIA The security situation in Transnistria is unpredictable as the region is not under Moldovan control, and tensions may be heightened reflecting developments in eastern Ukraine. Many Western countries do not have an embassy or consulate in Moldova. Usually embassies in Russia or Romania provide consular assistance to travellers in Moldova, however they do not have any recourse inside the territory of Transnistria, and will only be of very limited or no assistance in the case of an emergency. Medical care is almost non-existent in Transnistria, especially for non-citizens. Please choose carefully when shopping for your travel health insurance, and make sure it is valid in Transnistria. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information on travelling in Transnistria before your departure We have links to prominent government travel advisories and regular updates on issues affecting this trip on our Travel Alerts page - www.intrepidtravel.com/au/travel-alerts.
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.
Visas for Hungary, Romania and Moldova are not required for passport holders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. Ukraine has recently relaxed its visa regime, and citizens of the USA, Canada and EU member countries can now visit up to 90 days without a visa. Australian and New Zealand passport holders still need to obtain a visa before arrival, however an invitation letter is no longer required in order to apply, and since April 2018 it is also possible for these nationalities to apply for an e-visa online. Please find more details here: https://evisa.mfa.gov.ua/Help. Please note that on the visa application form you will still be asked for an 'inviting party'. Once you are confirmed on your trip we will be able to provide you with these details. It’ll normally take at least 14 calendar days for the visa to be issued, so please make sure that you are planning ahead with your visa application, especially if you’ll visit multiple countries on your trip. Please note that visas are not available upon arrival at the Ukrainian border or airport.
Why we love it
Experience peasant life on a full-day tour through the countryside of Maramures, Romania's most traditional and colourful region. Don't be surprised if you see horse-drawn carts along the road
Learn spooky stories while travelling through beautiful Transylvania, famous for its medieval fortified churches and as the birthplace of the inspiration for the world's most famous vampire, Dracula
A home-stay with a local family in the Saxon/Roma town of Viscri will expose you to Romanian hospitality and some finger-licking home-cooked grub
Discover the incredible biodiversity of Romania’s remote Danube Delta. Take a boat through this unique ecosystem to where the river meets the Black Sea, and observe the traditional daily life of its remote communities
Moldova is famous for its wine, so sample the local tipple during a guided tour of Mileștii Mici, sitting on top of 200km of underground cellar tunnels, making it the largest quality wine collection in the world
Become one of the few travellers to visit Transnistria, a breakaway republic in eastern Moldova, where Soviet values are still upheld and locals continue their fight for independence
Explore Ukraine’s atmospheric abandoned Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on a guided tour, wander the eerie streets and among the buildings of the ghost town of Pripyat. Since the devastating nuclear disaster of 1986, nature has taken over the city, and wolves, foxes and other wildlife have been seen walking down the main streets
Is this trip right for you
CHERNOBYL: Please remember that on the Chernobyl day tour you will be exposed to some radioactivity. Given the short amount of time you'll spend in the area, radiation levels shouldn't be harmful or unsafe (just don't go touching lots of stuff). Long-sleeved clothes and closed shoes are essential. Still, if this is of concern to you, you are free to opt out of this activity. Please also note that the army effectively regulates visits to Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, so last minute alterations can impact the itinerary.
TRANSNISTRIA: The security situation in Transnistria is unpredictable as the region is not under Moldovan control, and tensions may be heightened reflecting developments in eastern Ukraine. Many Western countries do not have an embassy or consulate in Moldova. Usually embassies in Russia or Romania provide consular assistance to travellers in Moldova, however they do not have any recourse inside the territory of Transnistria, and will only be of very limited or no assistance in the case of an emergency. Medical care is almost non-existent in Transnistria, especially for non-citizens. Please choose carefully when shopping for your travel health insurance, and make sure it is valid in Transnistria. Please also be aware that international credit/debit cards and traveller's cheques are not accepted anywhere in Transnistria.
Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited on this trip (over 40°C). It’s important to use sun protection, wear layers to combat the heat and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.
As accommodation on this trip is twin-share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same sex. This trip is a great opportunity to get to know other like-minded people, so embrace it while you can. However, if you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Also, please note that hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together.
As this is a combination of 2 trips, your leader and the composition of your group may change in Bucharest.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Medical care is almost non-existent in Transnistria, especially for non-citizens. Even if you have travel health insurance it will often not be valid in Transnistria (even though it is valid in Moldova), and your insurance might not cover you for any expenses incurred or any stolen items. Please choose carefully when shopping for your travel insurance.
We advise passengers carrying important medication to check country laws on the amounts and types of drugs allowed prior to the trip and possibly obtain a translation of their prescription into a local language.
Food and dietary requirements
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. To give you maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables, soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans and those on gluten-free diets may find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for any included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own.
There are some basic breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar).
The official currency of Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (HUF), in Romania it is the Romanian New Lei (RON), that of Moldova is the Moldovan Leu (MDL), and Ukraine uses the Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH). Euros (EUR) are readily exchanged in each of these countries. Please note that the break-away republic of Transnistria has their own currency, the Transnistrian Ruble, which is only available once within the country, and is virtually useless outside of the territory. Please also be aware that international credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Transnistria, as ATMs aren't connected to the international banking network. Your only way to obtain the local currency is by exchanging it at a foreign exchange kiosk.
The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money in Europe is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied. You can withdraw local currencies easily at airports, major train stations and most city centres, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place. Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. We recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. We suggest EUR 650.00 for meals not included on this trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: In local markets and basic restaurants and cafes - round your bill up to the nearest €1. In more up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill. Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest €2-€3 per day for local guides. You may also have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest €1-€2 per day for drivers. You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline €4-€5 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. In total, we recommend you budget approx €5-€10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.
The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.
What to take
PACKING On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips. You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary that your luggage gets stowed separately (and unattended). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
WATER BOTTLE Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation or simply refill with tap water (your leader will advise whether tap water is safe to drink in your destination). When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
IMAGES FROM HOME: During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Climate and seasonal
Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.
In contrast, weather in shoulder season can be unpredictable, and snow is not unheard of at higher altitudes. If you travel at the start or towards the end of the European season please pack accordingly with warm and/or waterproof clothes (preferably layers). The advantage of travelling during this time is that there are less tourists around.
A couple of rules
Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips.
By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund.
If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
GENERAL 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.
For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/
If you have booked an arrival transfer, and you experience severe delays at immigration, baggage collection or customs, or if you are not able to find to the driver, please contact the transfer operator directly on the number listed in the joining point instructions in the section above.
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Europe Operations Team can be reached on the number listed below:
Intrepid's Local Operator: +49 8677 9186 657
Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel.
Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting:
In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted, for both men and women.
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin share basis (unless noted otherwise in the day-to-day itinerary). Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Your accommodation may not always have private en suite facilities or air-conditioning. European hotels generally don't provide kettles or fridges.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Medical care is almost non-existent in Transnistria, especially for non-citizens. Even if you have travel health insurance, it will often not be valid in Transnistria (even though it is valid in Moldova), and your insurance might not cover you for any expenses incurred or for stolen items. Please choose carefully when shopping for your travel insurance.
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.
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 Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour.
A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Hotel (16 nights),Pension (3 nights),Homestay (1 night),Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
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