Take an epic adventure through Central America, that combines the volcanic beauty of the highlands, the mystery of the ancient Maya ruins and the perfect beaches of the Caribbean. Travel from the cobblestone streets of Antigua, through blissed-out Belize and along the Yucatan Peninsula to the beachside delight of Playa del Carmen, then venture to deep into the jungles of Mexico to witness the incredible ruins engulfed by rainforest before salsa-ing your way back to the old colonial capital of Guatemala. This three-week journey offers the chance to get out and get active or enjoy a more relaxing pace while exploring the colour, culture and adventure of Central America.
Ages: Over 15
Accommodation: Hotel (19 nights), Lodge (2 nights)
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Antigua! Surrounded by three volcanoes, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that the city became the tourism hub of Guatemala. Today, the city is filled with coffee shops and international restaurants, and is always buzzing with live music and salsa classes. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and travel group. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive with time to spare, why not get a taste of local tradition with a chocolate-making workshop in the ChocoMuseo, or perhaps tour some of the coffee or macadamia nut plantations tucked into the hills that surround the city.
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the colonial-era buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Take an informal Spanish lesson and enjoy a guided wander around the city with your leader in the morning. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy, carved-wood entrances, then take the afternoon to explore at your own pace. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures, hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside – the views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation, are simply beautiful. Otherwise, just grab a coffee from one of the many cafes in central park, sit back and enjoy the beauty of this incredible city. Foodies won't want to miss trying tamales, a local dish usually prepared on the weekend and served in a corn leaf. Pepian – a meal consisting of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork) – is also worth a try. Local tip: you'll find the best value food next to the artisan market close to the bus station.
It’s a long day of travel as you make your way to Rio Dulce by private minibus. Depart early for the eight-hour journey, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. Rio Dulce, which means 'Sweet River' in Spanish, refers to both the Guatemalan river that flows from Lago de Izabal (Lake Izabal) to the Caribbean Sea and the town of Fronteras, which sits at the east end of the lake. Upon arrival, the rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Maybe stretch your legs on a jungle walk, rent a kayak for a bit of exploration or simply curl up in a hammock and enjoy the tropical surrounds.
Use a free day in Rio Dulce to take advantage of the optional activities on offer. Perhaps take a boat ride down the river to Livingston, a laid-back, Afro-Caribbean town that offers a unique taste of Garifuna culture on the shoulder of Guatemala. Located 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Fronteras, the boat ride is quite scenic, taking you past waters clogged with water lillies, tropical forests and a spectacular canyon before arriving in Livingston one and a half hours later. The Garifuna population here are descendants of a community forcibly removed from the Caribbean by the British in the late 18th century. Livingston was one of the towns the displaced Garifuna settled in, and it's relative isolation means the culture has remained undiluted by Guatemalan norms. Spend a little time here and perhaps grab a Garifuna meal like tapou, a creamy soup made with fish.
Travel about four hours to Flores – your base for exploring the Maya ruins of Tikal tomorrow. Upon arrival, enjoy a free afternoon to explore Flores. This tranquil island had a long history before it was colonised by the Spanish in 1697, most significantly as the capital of the Itza people after the fall of Chichen Itza. Perhaps use your free afternoon to wander the town's cobblestone streets, taking in its pastel-coloured buildings and shopping for local handicrafts. It's a tiny island, and walking the whole thing will take less than an hour. At around 4 pm, the lakefront starts to hum with street food vendors, making it a good place to grab a bite and watch the world go by.
Embrace an early start for a guided exploration of Tikal National Park. Among the thick, evergreen jungle are some of the most significant remnants of the ancient Maya civilisation. Wonder at the towering granite temples and other monuments set among the thick, green jungle while pondering the mystery of the ancient city's demise. Spend a few hours playing archaeologist and then say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to Belize. As the only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize is a great place to get chatting with locals. You'll reach San Ignacio after a three-hour drive, and since you're leaving tomorrow it's a good idea to plan which optional activities (if any) you want to join before you get there. Nature lovers may be interested in a trip to the Green Iguana Conservation Project, where the scaly beasts are protected. Or perhaps stretch your legs with a short walk to the ruins of Cahal Pech, which was once the residence of a well-heeled Maya family. Tomorrow, you have the option of travelling to Belize City via Actun Tunichil Muknal. In order to take advantage of this optional activity, you will need a group of at least four people, so start asking around now if you’re interested.
This morning, you can choose whether you would like to pay a visit to the caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal (the ATM cave), relax in San Ignacio or take part in some of the other optional activities on offer. A living museum of Maya relics, the ATM cave system is home to ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1400 years. If you choose to explore the cave system (and it is highly recommended), you’ll spend most of the day there before re-joining your fellow travellers at the water taxi in Belize City. If you do not wish to explore the caves, you’ll leave San Ignacio behind in the late morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (about 3 hours). There are very few official stops in Belize and the driver will pick up passengers along the way as they hail the bus, so be prepared for a journey that moves in fits and starts. Use this time to make conversation with the person next to you; Belizeans love to talk about their country! Arrive in Belize City and take a one-hour water taxi ride to Caye Caulker. From here, it is possible to arrange day trips to other nearby cayes (islands). Each island has its own unique character, but all of them have an unmistakable Caribbean pace and charm.
Good morning! Take a deep breath and let it out, you've got two whole days of sandy shores, crystal waters and no schedule to speak of. The beach is calling, of course, but mybe start your day with a Belizean breakfast classic – the fry jack. These deep fried dough pieces are served up with whatever you like, and they go well with everything from fruit to eggs. Then, maybe explore the calm waters on a stand up paddleboard, or rent a bike for a fairly inexpensive way to explore on land. Just remember to follow the super-relaxed law of the island and 'go slow', no matter what you choose to do.
Enjoy another free day on beautiful Caye Caulker. Perhaps hire a local boat and head to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley for a chance to snorkel among colourful corals, tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You could also choose to go manatee-spotting – these huge, peaceful creatures are often quite curious to meet their visitors. If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you can find on the island, but still way less than you'd pay back home! If lobster isn’t available (regulations stipulate lobster can only be caught between June 15 and February 15), some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Rise, shine and shake off the sleep with a 6.30 am water taxi to Belize City. Today you're leaving one paradise behind for another. Hop on a public bus and head for the Mexico border, a journey that will take about four hours. Deal with formalities at the border and then continue to Chetumal, where you will swap buses and hit the road again for Tulum (3 hours). A long day of travel will see you arriving in the afternoon with some daylight to spare. Why not use what's left of the day to soak up the sun on one of the city's many beaches? While Paradise Beach is the most well known of the sandy stretches, it can get a little crowded. Las Palmas Public Beach is (in our opinion) just as beautiful, but with far fewer people.
Enjoy a day on the Caribbean coast. The ruins that Tulum is famous for sit on a cliff-top plateau that overlooks the glittering water below. Choose whether to explore the small site, or find a spot on one of the white-sand beaches and get horizontal with a cocktail. This cruisy resort town is stuffed with cafes and restaurants serving up seafood-heavy Mexican fare, often in the great outdoors so you can catch a sea breeze while you eat.
The last leg of your journey is a short one. Hop on a local Mexican bus and travel about 1.5 hours to Playa del Carmen. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city similar to Cancun, but with a less intense party atmosphere. Take a brief orientation stroll with your leader to get your bearings, then take your pick of a bunch of optional activities. Maybe take a snorkel in the fresh waters of Dos Ojos Cenote, a flooded cave system. Or perhaps head further afield on a ferry ride to Cozumel, where the colourful reefs are perfect for scuba diving. If you'd prefer to stay where the margaritas are cold and close by, you might want to rent a bike to explore Playa on two wheels.
Enjoy a free day in this beautiful location. Spend your time snorkelling, swimming in sinkholes or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita.
Rise and shine! At 8 am take a private minivan to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza, and on the 3-hour journey you can practice your Spanish and spot charming villages. You’ll have a good couple of hours to explore the remains of Chichen Itza, an ancient city that fuses of religion, architecture and geometry. Then, travel on to the Yucatan capital of Merida for a beguiling dose of old-world charm. After a 2-hour ride, take a brief tour of the town centre and main attractions and then do as you please for the rest of the evening.
Founded in 1542, it still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the twin-towered 16th century Cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th century glory go for a walk along the mansion lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets. It's a great place to try out the local food specialities, like cochinita pibil (barbecue pork) or the head-blowingly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. Merida is also the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal and there is an opportunity to visit these impressive ruins. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around AD500.
Today we have an early start in order to jump on one of the very comfortable first or second class buses heading to Chiapas. These buses are equipped with bathrooms and TVs, though you may want to spend your journey staring out the window. There's plenty to admire in the landscape of Mexico's South, particularly once you reach the mountainous region of Chiapas. There will also be time for an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive at your hotel in the evening and get some rest for tomorrow—a day full of archaeological wonder.
Today we will hit the ruins with a local guide in Palenque to give you all the information that you need on the impressive Maya city state, entry fee included. The pyramids and structures that formed this once thriving hub are now swallowed by jungle. Whilst walking amongst the ruins it is often possible to hear the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle, giving an added dimension to this magnificent site.
After breakfast you'll grab a seat on a bus bound for San Cristobal de las Casas.The roughly 5-hour journey will be broken up with a refreshing dip in the the turquoise waters of the multi-tiered Agua Azul falls. Continue southward to San Cristobal de las Casas and explore this lovely city in a guided tour. With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots. Maybe make a note of any particular points of interest during your tour, which you can then come back to during your free evening.
In nearby San Juan Chamula, you'll find an insular indigenous community where life is heavily informed by a spiritual blend of ancient ritual, animism and Catholicism. Make sure to visit the church, where the floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets with colourful handicrafts for sale. Back in town, why not go for a stroll and try to spot the cafe with the most locals in it for a taste of the traditional 'elote', a corn cob which makes a common snack in the highlands of Chiapas.
Now entering Guatemala! From San Cristobal we head down by shuttle bus. It takes about 4 hours to get to the Guatemalan border, just make sure you have your passport ready and the tour leader will give you detailed instructions on what to do once at the border. Continue on to Lake Atitlan, and settle in Panajachel which has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. The surrounding area is dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. After a leader-led orientation walk, why not pick one and start exploring? In each village the local life has changed little over the last few hundred years. Each village has its own typical dress and make all the textiles themselves in designs passed down through generations.
Today is wide open for you to continue exploring this fascinating region of Guatemala. You could go for a swim or hire a kayak, soaking up the sun and the breathtaking mountain views. If you're feeling adventurous, you could jump on the zipline that takes you through lush forest and spits you out over the lake. Just chat to your leader about the various optional activities you can partake in today.
The old colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua remains the cultural centre of the country. Its cobbled streets, local markets, colonial buildings, and indigenous marimba music emanating from the many bars and restaurants create a fantastic atmosphere. After a 4-hour drive, an orientation walk will get you started in the city, then it's up to you. If you're into salsa dancing or you'd like to learn some steps, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons that give you the preparation to hit the discos at night and show your moves.
The trip ends after breakfast this morning.
- Antigua - Leader-led orientation walk
Hotel El Carmen
3a Avenida Norte #9
Phone: +502 78323850
El Carmen Suites
9 Poniente Street #17
Phone: +502 77910128
Hotel One Playa del Carmen
25 Avenida Norte, Manzana 97 Lote 1
Between Av. 12 Norte y 12 Bis,
Playa del Carmen
Phone: +52 9848773060
Continuing point description
This property is 12 minutes walk from the beach. Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, One Playa del Carmen is located in Playa del Carmen, 800 m from ADO International Bus Station. Every room at this hotel is air conditioned and features a flat-screen TV. The rooms include a private bathroom equipped with a shower. Playa del Carmen Maritime Terminal is 1.1 km from One Playa del Carmen, while Disabled-friendly beach is 1 km away.
Continuing point instructions
Intrepid offers a pre-arranged transfer service from Cancun International Airport at an additional fee. If you require this service please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip departure. If you have purchased an arrival transfer you will be met after exiting customs. As you exit please look for the Intrepid sign with your name on it. There is only one exit for international arrivals and there will be many signs so please look around carefully.
If you have any problems and cannot locate your driver on arrival, please phone our Intrepid Central American Operators Emergency number, listed under ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your essential information.
One Hotel is about 45 minutes from Cancun Airport. The easiest way to get to your hotel is by taxi. You will need to negotiate the rate with one of the companies located outside the customs exit, you should expect to pay between USD100-120. Alternatively, you can catch one of the mini vans that depart every 15-30 minutes from the curb outside the International exit for approximately US$25.
1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. To have a private room on this trip, a single supplement is bookable; subject to availability.
3. To save your client money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. The leader and the composition of your group may change with the start of each adventure.
4. Please be careful when booking flights to/from Antigua; make sure you fly into/out of Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to/from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
2020 ITINERARY CHANGES
We consistently review traveller feedback to ensure that we are offering the best travel experience possible. As a result, in 2020 this itinerary will no longer visit Caye Caulker, however it will visit new destination Bacalar. As such, the length of the itinerary will be reduced from 23 to 22 days with some minor changes to accommodation and inclusions. There has also been an increase of the maximum group size from 12 to 16.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
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:
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.
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!
BUSES: Due to safety concerns, we don't use 'chicken buses' (i.e. repainted US school buses) in Guatemala and Honduras - inter-city coaches are used instead.
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.
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.
WATER SAFETY: Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
LIFE JACKETS: While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
MONEY WITHDRAWAL: In order to avoid fraud and theft, it is advisable that you withdraw money from ATMs located inside banks or guarded shops during business hours only.
WhatsApp is a popular way to communicate in Latin America. We recommended downloading WhatsApp prior to departure to communicate with by text with your leader and group members during the tour. Once downloaded, please validate your phone number before leaving home as you will not be able to do this once you arrive, unless you have international roaming enabled. Connections for making phone calls through WhatsApp are not reliable, so please do not use this app to make calls to our emergency phone line.
If you receive an immigration card upon entry, please ensure you keep this safe as it may be requested at point of exit. For further information regarding country entry and exit fees, please refer to the 'Money Matters' section of this document.
Mexico - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico for the most up to date information. You will be required to fill out a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) upon arrival. This FMM form must be stamped by Mexican immigration and kept until you leave. The maximum stay is 180 days, but they may sometimes put a lower number unless you specify otherwise.
Guatemala - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Guatemala for the most up to date information. Under the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), foreigners may travel between Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador for periods of up to 90 days without completing entry and exit formalities once per year. The standard length of stay is 30 days, but please ask for the 90-day option before they stamp your passport. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of these countries.
Belize - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Belize for the most up to date information. Although rarely checked, to enter the country visitors are required to have the equivalent of BZ$120 per day for the duration of their stay, as well as a return or onward travel ticket. Visitors generally get a 30-day stamp in their passport upon entering Belize.
USA Visa Waiver - Applicable if arriving via the United States of America.
Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program, meaning a visa isn't required, however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html
All travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14 fee to paid by card. Apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the USA. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding. If there are any discrepancies between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets or even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere.
If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 01 March 2011, you will not longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html
Why we love it
Explore the colonial streets of Antigua
Gawk at jungle creatures from the temples at Tikal
Maybe swim with sharks around Caye Caulker
Become a part of local life at a lakeside homestay
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.
There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip.
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home. It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
There is no commercially available vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in many less-developed tropical areas in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Protection against mosquito bites is essential and where the risk is considered high, anti-malarial medications are recommended. Anti-malarial medications should be discussed with experts as there are different medications available and not all medications suit all people or all destinations. Where malaria is considered prevalent in mountainous regions we prefer that trekkers to altitude try to avoid the use of mefloquine (Lariam) if possible.
Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
Food and dietary requirements
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in this region. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat dinner 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.
Please let us know your diet requirements before your trip starts.
Generally speaking, in bigger cities/towns vegetarians can expect a reasonable range of vegetarian venues and/or vegetarian options within tourist restaurant menus. However, vegetarianism is not the norm in this part of the world so options can be limited when eating at homestays, small local restaurants, street stalls, markets, etc.
More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, coeliac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance etc.) can also be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend that, if possible, to bring your own supply of snacks with you.
For those on strict Kosher or Halal diets we understand your dietary requirements are important, however, sometimes due to cultural and language differences these are not always easy to convey when you are travelling. Your guide will do their best to assist you in translating your needs when eating out, but please be aware that these diets are almost unheard of in much of the continent and the best they may be able to accommodate is no pork and shellfish. If this will be a concern for you you may need to consider opting for vegetarian or vegan meals for the included meals in your itinerary. We recommend researching kosher or halal options in your destination country prior to travel to see if you are able to buy snacks once there, otherwise consider bringing some from home.
When it comes to money matters 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 drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping 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).
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.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to the equivalent of 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.
MEALS NOT INCLUDED:
For this trip we recommend between USD 25 to 50 per day. How do we work this out?
Breakfast - If breakfast is not included, you can expect to pay between USD5 to USD10 at a local café.
Lunch - If you are happy with a quick snack on the go, you may get away with as little as USD5 to USD10 for a set menu at a local eatery or a sandwich and a drink at a café. On the other hand, a lunch meal at a more tourist restaurant can cost between USD10 to USD15.
Dinner - At dinner time, your leader will normally recommend restaurants where you can safely try the local specialties of the region. Expect meals to cost between USD12 to USD25 for a main.
These are indicative prices only. If you are in a tight budget, are happy to eat just local food and are not afraid of an upset tummy every now and then, you can eat cheaper than this. If you want to try just the finest food at the finest restaurants, then you can expect meals to cost as much as in western countries.
CREDIT CARDS & ATMs:
ATMs are widely available in major towns and cities across Latin America. Credit cards are generally available in tourist shops and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred over American Express, Diners, etc. Smaller venues take cash only.
Check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to and what their fees and charges are. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions. Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day. If bringing over cash, please note USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Mexico currency information - The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores but otherwise plan on making cash purchases with pesos. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw pesos from ATMs and over the counter at banks. Few businesses accept US dollars however this is the easiest currency to exchange.
Guatemala currency information - The official currencies of Guatemala are the Quetzal (GTQ) and the US dollar (USD). ATMs are not always reliable although you can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. Banks offer currency exchange but casas de cambio (currency exchange offices) are usually quicker and may offer better rates. The US dollar is the only currency freely exchanged in Guatemala.
Belize currency information - The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. Most businesses accept US dollars without question, but change is usually given in Belizean dollars. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw Belizean dollars from ATMs and over the counter at banks (USD$, GBP£ and CAD$ are exchangeable).
ENTRY AND EXIT FEES:
The below country specific information was correct at time of writing, however please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information.
Guatemala – If you enter Guatemala by air, there is no entry fee. If you exit by air, an airport and security tax of US$3 must be paid in cash at the airport but the USD$30 immigration fee should have been included in your airfare. If you enter or exit Guatemala overland, officially there are no entry or exit fees, however you may be faced with an unofficial fee of GTQ10 or GTQ20 each way (each time).
Belize – There is no entry fee. If you exit Belize by land, there is a fee of BZ$40 charge plus BZ$7.5 Protected Areas Contribution Trust. These can be paid in US$ or BZ$. If you exit Belize by air, a departure tax of US$35 is normally included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.
Mexico - If you enter Mexico by air, the MX$500 immigration fee is included in your airfare. If you enter Mexico overland, the immigration office will arrange for you to pay this fee at a nearby bank. You will receive an FMM card upon entry which you need to retain and present upon exiting the country. If you exit Mexico overland, there is a Mexican Tourist Fee (DNI - Derecho de No Inmigrante) of MX$558 (US$30).
If you're happy with the service you receive, providing 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 destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The recommended tipping amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers. We do however recommend that you tip in the local currency - Hold on to your smaller notes and coins to make tipping easier. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
- Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$5. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% of your bill.
- Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide. We suggest US$3-5 per passenger per day.
- 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 suggest US$3-6 per day for drivers.
- Local guides: There might be times during the trip where you’ll have a specialist local guide alongside your trip leader. We suggest tipping these guides about USD$2-3 per day.
- Your Tour Leader: 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 USD$2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx USD$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
What to take
Most travellers prefer to take a small to medium wheeled suitcase, which is a great size for the packing capacity in our private vehicles. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even walk short distances. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible. You'll also need a day pack/bag for activities and day trips. In terms of weight, airlines generally allow a maximum of 15-20kg for check in luggage and a maximum of 5kg for carry on.
Other than the items and clothing you always need on a trip, below we have listed packing suggestions specific for this trip:
- Warm as well as light clothing. Central America is often assumed to have hot weather, but it can get cold in the countryside, mountains and at night in the winter so we suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer
- Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings
- Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- Soft and/or hard copies of all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, travel insurance etc. and keep the hard copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a copy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary
- Water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. 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 end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments
- Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com)
- Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes and Band-Aids.
- Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both
- Travel beach towel
- Tissues &/or toilet paper &/or wet wipes
- Insect repellent
- Camera with spare memory card, charger &/or batteries
- Ear plugs to guard against a potential snoring room-mate
- Phrase book
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your safe if available. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
Laundry is available at many hotels and towns during this trip, although you might need to wait for a two-night stop in order to make sure you get it back in time. While laundry at hotels is usually charged by the item, laundromats usually charge by the kilo, which is generally inexpensive (about USD 2 per kilo).
Climate and seasonal
Please note that Hurricane season is June to October, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.
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.
Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/
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.
BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES
For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at:
CRISIS AND EMERGENCIES
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office:
Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Costa Rica): +506 6022 4721
Travelling responsibly is all about making good choices. It's about ensuring you have an incredible trip while also having a positive impact on the local environment, community and economy you're travelling in. How can you be a Responsible Traveller? See our tips below:
- Choose to travel with a responsible travel company like us! We've already offset the main carbon emissions of your trip, so your footprint is already lighter.
- Consider offsetting your flights when you book your trip/flights with us or your travel agent.
- Bring a refillable water bottle and some water purification tablets (or a Steripen) to cut down on plastic bottle waste.
- Be an animal-friendly traveller. Only go to venues that respect animals by allowing them to live normally in their natural environment. Steer clear of venues that use animals for entertainment or abnormal activities and/or keep animals in poor and unnatural conditions.
- Eat at local restaurants, buy from regional artists and support social enterprises so you can contribute directly to locals and their economy.
- Always be respectful of local customs and ask permission if you want to take a photo of someone.
- Learn a few words of the local language and engage with the people around you.
- Carry a cloth or re-usable bag so you can avoid plastic bags.
- Give back by making a donation to a local project via The Intrepid Foundation.
Share your thoughts with us by completing your feedback form after your trip. This helps us to continue to improve our commitment to responsible travel.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our lodgings 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.
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.
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 (20 nights),Lodge (2 nights)