Overland between Kunming and Bangkok via Burma

Visiting: Burma ,China,Thailand

Code: DZKB

Kitty: As this trip is an overland trip. it has a kitty on top of the tour price. As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only - please click here to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
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DZKB Kitty Details

This trip is an overland trip run in an overland truck. In addition to paying for your trip, you're require to make a separate payment to your tour leader at the start of the trip, usually in USD. Kitties are flexible and change as prices are updated. Therefore you should check the latest kitty amount on this website before you depart.

A kitty is a group fund which covers all accommodation, meals while camping (not in hotels) and activities listed as included. It's a system unique to overlanding to provide the maximum flexibility and best value on the road (you get everything at cost price!). The kitty is your money, not ours, so any amount left over is divided among the group as a refund.

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Trip CodeStart DateEnd DateCurrencyKitty
ZKBThursday 30 Oct 2014Wednesday 26 Nov 2014USD760.00
ZKBThursday 15 Jan 2015Wednesday 11 Feb 2015USD760.00
ZKBThursday 19 Feb 2015Wednesday 18 Mar 2015USD760.00
ZKBThursday 12 Mar 2015Wednesday 08 Apr 2015USD760.00
ZKBMonday 26 Oct 2015Sunday 22 Nov 2015USD760.00
ZKBThursday 14 Jan 2016Wednesday 10 Feb 2016USD760.00
ZKBThursday 11 Feb 2016Wednesday 09 Mar 2016USD760.00
ZKBThursday 10 Mar 2016Wednesday 06 Apr 2016USD760.00
ZKBThursday 07 Apr 2016Wednesday 04 May 2016USD760.00


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South East Asia between Kunming and Bangkok via Burma (DZKB)

Kunming to Bangkok 28 days.

  • Route: Kunming to Bangkok
  • Length: 28 days
  • Transport: Overland expedition vehicle in China and Thailand, private and public bus in Burma OR Overland expedition vehicle. Note: Rules about taking vehicles into Burma are changing very rapidly. We will keep our trip notes updated with the latest details about how the trip will operate.  
  • Accommodation: Mostly hotels and small guesthouses as well as camping at wild camps.

Countries Visited

Burma (Myanmar)

Burma Highlights

Sandwiched between India and Thailand, Burma encompasses aspects of the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia. You'll find yourself sipping hot sweet tea and munching on cauliflower pakora at lunch (much as you would in India), but in the afternoon heading to a peaceful Buddhist temple to chat with monks in the same way that you would in Thailand or Cambodia. This is a country that has only recently opened up to tourism and NOW is the time to go, before it gets swamped with the kinds of tourist numbers that you find in the neighbouring countries. The sites are incredible - Bagan is truly one of the most remarkable sites in Asia, the people are extraordinarily welcoming and friendly and the scenery is stunning.

 

Join us on one of the worlds first Overland tours to EVER run through Burma! 

China

Tiananmen Square Beijing China

As one of the world's largest countries and the most populous there is so much to discover in China.

Understanding the history of China is key to understanding modern China. The people are proud of it's past, and keen to share it's heritage with the world. In a country that defies superlatives the words 'vast', 'astonishing' and 'variation' don't really seem to cover it - China really does have it all. Jungle in the south, mountains in the west, desert in the north and 21st century cities.. well... almost everywhere.

Beijiing is the hub of political and international focus. With the 2008 Olympic games providing funds to modernise huge ares of the city, it is a truly modern city. However most visitors are most struck by it's old elements from celebrated site such as the Forbidden Palace to simple, traditional hutongs.

There's a lot of China to see and most of it is changing rapidly, so what are you waiting for? Get out there are discover it for yourself.

Thailand

Thailand - Floating Market

Thailand lies deep in the heart of South East Asia, and it is a country brimming with Asian culture. Flowing with beautiful national parks Thailand has long been a favorite destinations for travellers.

The capital, Bangkok has an amazing skyline of glorious buildings. Don't be alarmed by the busy backdrop to this city, as there are many treasures hidden all over. Watch the sunset in a rooftop bar. Take a trip to the Amulet Market and protect yourself from evil spirits by the goods sold. Or visit the huge Buhadda at Wat Po.

Thai cuisine is popular throughout the world and concentrates on including five tastes. Spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The blend of these are important and many dishes concentrate on the right balance to make the perfect meal. A traditional dish of Pad Thai consists of chili spices and lime juices infused with chicken, peanuts and garlic on a bed of stir fry styled noodles.

There is a welcoming feel to this country, and with so many activities to try, there is something for everyone in the wonderful country of Thailand.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Kunming

Welcome to Kunming: There will be a group meeting at 18:00 PM. 

We stay overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Hotel for the night: Jinhua Grand Hotel

Jinhua Grand Hotel

(Also known as Kingworld International Hotel)

No. 96 Beijing Road

Kunming

People's Republic of China.

Tel: 0871-63526666

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight stay in Yunnan's laid back capital, Kunming

Included in Kitty

Kunming

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province is known in China as "the city of eternal spring" due to its temperate climate. It's a thoroughly modern city, home to a population of about 6 million - but despite its size it's actually pretty laid-back and is an enjoyable place to while away an afternoon. The Yuantong temple is definitely worth a visit, at over 1000 years old it is the largest Buddhist temple complex in Kunming, or treat yourself to a hair cut from one of the outdoor barbers who offer their services around the Tang Pagodas.

Day 2: Kunming

Today is free to relax and explore Kunming. There is plenty to see in Kunming itself of you could consider heading out to the Shilin Stone Forest, a remarkable landscape of strange limestone peaks a couple of hours from Kunming or perhaps stay in town and explore the many temples, museums and parks.

Also make sure that you try a pot of 'over the bridge noodles' a local speciality that will get the taste buds tingling!

Second night in a hotel.

 

Day 3: Dali

This morning we drive approximately 340 kms to the beautiful lakeside town of Dali. The Afternoon is free to explore.

We stay here for 2 nights, basing ourselves at a local hotel.

Dali

Everybody loves Dali. Aside from the beautiful setting with its stunning mountain backdrop, the town is home to the minority Bai people, which makes for some colourful history and culture, not to mention its traveller friendly western style beer gardens and restaurants. With its temperate climate and beauitful natural setting it's the perfect place for some rest and relaxation - be it Cormorant fishing on lake Erhai Hu or enjoying a tradtional Chinese massage.

Day 4: Dali

Today we have a free day in Dali to enjoy the many activities that you can do in and around the town, these includes taking a boat ride out on the lake.

Alternatively kick back, relax and watch the world go by from a friendly cafe in one of the traditional cobblestone streets.

We spend a second night in a local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Time for sightseeing in the lakeside town of Dali, home to the minority Bai people

Included in Kitty

Day 5: Tengchong

This morning we drive towards Yunnan's Baoshan county, famous for its hotsprings and the many volacanoes that surround the area.

Whilst here we have time to explore the hotsprings, volcanoes and waterfalls.

We will bush camp overnight near the town of Tengchong (approx 340kms). 

 

Day 6: Ruili, Tengchong

This morning we have more time to explore Baoshan county. In the afternoon we head to the border town on Ruli (approx 270km), ready for our crossing tomorrow morning.

We aim to stay in a local guesthouse  tonight. 

Day 7: Muse

Border Information: Exit China at Ruili & Enter Burma at Muse.

Goodbye China and hello Burma! This morning we cross the border from China into Burma, spending the night at the town of Muse.

Overnight in a local guesthouse.

Muse

Muse is on the Shweli River, marking the frontier between China and Burma. Ruili the Chinese town across the river is rather infamous in its Las Vegas style lifestyles. 70% of trade between the 2 countries passes over this border.

Day 8: Hsipaw

Today we make our way to the laid-back Shan village of Hsipaw (approx. 260 kms). The afternoon is free to explore this beautiful area.

Tonight we will camp near the village.

Hsipaw

Hsipaw sits in the valley surrounded by hills which makes it a popular place for trekking. It was once the centre of a small, Shan state of its own but is probably one of the most well known, wealthy and powerful 'saopha' states. The Saophas were important in regional and national politics from the 11th century until the 1960's. The old Shan palace where the princes of Hsipaw once lived is in the north of town, although it is closed to the public you may be able to view it from the road or river.

Day 9: Pyin U Lwin

We have a free morning to explore Hsipaw on foot before driving (approx. 140 kms) to the scenic hill town of Pyin U Kwin based in the Shan highlands. We use this as a base for further walks in this area.

We camp overnight.

Pyin U Lwin

The scenic town of Pyin U Lwin is located about an hour from Mandalay and began as a British military outpost. Later, because of its cool and temperate climate it became a hill station and was the summer capital of Burma, where many people (particularly wives and children) would go to escape the summer heat. There are many attractive colonial buildings and an impressive botanical gardens.

Day 10 to 11: Mandalay

We have a free morning to to walk around this enchanting town or perhaps visit the botanical gardens.

This afternoon we drive approximately 75 kms to the former royal capital of Mandalay where we have 2 days to explore the sites. On our second day we have a guided tour that includes a morning visit to Mandalay Hill, the World's biggest book, the Golden Palace and the Mahamuni Pagoda before finishing the day at the beautiful U Bin Bridge for Sunset.  

We stay overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Mandalay Hill

Included in Kitty

Boat trip to Mingun archaeological site, Mandalay

USD 3

Teak monastery, Mandalay

USD

Bicycle hire, Nyaungshwe

USD 2

Mandalay

In 1857 King Mindo founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, from where the city took its name. On the death of the King the monastery in which he died was dismantled and removed from the Royal Palace as it was thought it would bring bad fortune. It was rebuilt outside the palace walls, so when The Royal Palace was destroyed by fire at the end of the 2nd World War the Monastery with its intricate wooden carvings were saved.

The city itself is relatively modern, a hub of economic trading as well as being considered the cultural and religious centre of Burma.

Mandalay is famous for its hill with its abundance of monasteries and pagodas and is a major site for Buddhist pilgrimages. For those that wish to climb be prepared for the 1,729 steps to the top. The climb up takes you past many historic stupas and Buddhas of great significance to the pilgrims. There are many stalls that line the route to the top of the hill and the views from the top are incredible, with far reaching views across the plains of Mandalay and the Irawaddy River.

At the foot of Mandalay Hill is found the world's largest book; 729 white stupas house the text of the Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism's most sacred text. The world's largest iron Buddha is also found here. 

Day 12: Monywa

This morning we for drive (approx. 220 kms) to Monywa stopping off en route to visit the Thanboddhay Pagoda and the Hpo Win Daung cave temples. 

We will spend the night in a local hotel in Monywa.

Monywa

Monywa is found on the banks of the River Chidwin and is home to the Buddhist temple of Mohnyin Thambuddhei Paya, an incredible site thought to contain over 500,000 images of Buddha.  

The area is also a hub of agricultural production with the surrounding valley producing a wide range of crops, particularly beans and palm sugar. It is also a centre for the production of cotton and the local patterned longyi/sarongs are reknowned for the strength and quality of their material – 80% of Burma's cotton production is from Monywa.

Day 13: Pakkoku, Ayeyarwaddy River, Bagan

After breakfast we make our way to the ancient town of Pakhangyu and the attractive town of Pakokku , where we board a boat to take us on a journey down the Ayeyarwaddy River to Bagan.

We will stay overnight in a hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Boat Ride Ayeyarwaddy River

Included in Kitty

Bagan

Bagan is one of Asia's greatest attractions, easily rivalling the Great Wall of China or Angkor Wat, yet it is very little known. The site consists of a huge plain that is covered with literally thousands of temples that stretch as far as the eye can see, set amidst an attractive landscape of fields, small villages and sandy tracks.

The temples were built from the 9th - 13th century and are ornately covered in beautiful carvings whilst the interiors are decorated with extensive frescoes.

 

Day 14 to 15: Bagan

Bagan is situated on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River and is home to the largest cluster of pagodas, Buddhist temples, stupas and ruins in the world, a place that has to be seen to be believed.

During our time here we have a guided tour of the temple complexes of Bagan and visit the 10th century old town of Bagan including a visit to a local handicraft workshop.

We stay overnight in a local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Dinner & puppet show, Bagan

USD 10

Bagan temple bike tour

Bagan WalkingTour

Included in Kitty

Day 16: Kalaw

This morning we have a short drive to the hill station town of Kalaw (appox. 265 kms) a perfect place for trekking and escaping the heat.

There is plenty of time to explore the town and visit the lively market.

We will camp overnight.

Kalaw

As a former British hill station, Kalaw provides much needed relief from the heat of the lower lying areas while the surrounding hills are the home to various ethnic minority groups, including the Palaung, Danu and Pa-O. The town is situated up in the hills, surrounded by pine forest, and has many attractive colonial buildings. There is also a lively market which is well worth a visit.

Day 17 to 18: Inle Lake

This morning we have a walking tour of Kalaw , visiting the local lively markets before driving to the beautiful Inle Lake, a real highlight of a visit to Burma. The area is full of amazing floating gardens and can be explored by bike or on a long-tail boat.

We have a full day tour around Inle Lake by long tail boat to the floating farms and markets.

We stay overnight in a local guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

Boat trip & village tour

Included in Kitty

Pindaya Caves

USD

Inle Lake

Inle Lake is stunning, surrounded by distant hills which make for a beautiful back drop to the hustle and bustle of lake life. The area is home to the Intha people, who live both in towns around the lake and on the lake itself. Many local houses and temples are built on stilts in the shallow waters of the lake and floating islands are built from water hyacinth and water weeds. These gardens allow the farmers to grow fruit and vegetables – the sight of floating apple orchards are certainly something different!

The produce from the gardens, with rice from the paddy fields around the lake and lake fish means that the people are pretty self sufficient. The local food reflects this self sufficiency and a popular local dish is htamin gyin - rice kneaded with fish and/or potato into round balls, served with hnapyan gyaw - twice fried - Shan tofu, fermented bean cakes, fried onions, tomato, chilli and tamarind.

The local fishermen are renowned for their distinctive rowing style, where they stand at the stern of the boat on one leg whilst the other leg is wrapped around the oar. This style of rowing developed so the fishermen could get a better view and allow them to navigate through the shallow and plant-dense water – something that is far harder to do whilst more traditionally seated. This leg rowing style is however only practiced by the men; women are seated cross legged to row.

Small boats provide the easiest way to get around the lake and lakeside settlements and it can get quite busy at times as people get on with their daily lives.

Tourism has become an important part of the local economy and traditional crafts such as the weaving of Shan–bags, silk longyi (sarongs) as well as cheroot rolling, carvings and work from black and silver smiths are now produced for the tourist trade as well as local use. 

Day 19: Bago

We have an early start this morning as we have a full days drive to Bago (approx. 580 kms). 

We will camp overnight.

Day 20 to 21: Yangon

This morning we will have a tour of Bago and its enchanting temples. This afternoon we have a short drive to Yangon (approx. 95kms) followed by an optional visit to the Scott market.

On our second day in Yangon we have a guided tour of old Yangon, the Kandawgyi Lake, the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda and the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.

Overnight camping or hotel

Activity Approximate Cost

Bogyoke Market, Yangon

USD

Yangon City Walking Tour

Included in Kitty

Shwedagon Paya

Kandawgi Lake - Yangon

Yangon

Although not the capital of Burma, Yangon is its largest and most important city, a bustling and lively place that throngs with people, temples and markets.

Chief of its many attractions is the Shwedagon Paya, an exquisite temple that is covered in gold leaf and which is always full of pilgrims paying their respects. This is the perfect place for people watching and you can spend a wonderful afternoon hear, chatting to monks and local people as you watch the sun set over the city.

There are also a number of beautiful colonial buildings, a lively Indiatown and Chinatown and a great market that is full of many stalls that sell just about anything you could wish for.

Day 22: Mt Kyaiktiyo

This morning we first drive to the War Cemetery outside of Yangon before continuing to one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sites and an important Buddhist pilgrimage shrine, Mt Kyaiktiyo.

We take a pick-up truck up the first two-thirds of the mountain, and then continue the final part of the ascent on foot along a steep and winding path. We end up on the top, next to the Golden Rock.

We will stay overnight at a hotel. 

Mt Kyaiktiyo

The Golden Rock and Pagoda are an inspiring Buddist Pilgrimage site. The Pagoda is perched on top of the huge granite boulder painted gold by the many pilgrims. The boulder is said to be held in place by a strand of the Buddha's hair that stops this huge boulder from tumbling down the sheer cliffs below.

Day 23 to 25: Hpa An, Myawadi

We spend the next 2 or 3 days overlanding through Burma's Mon and Kayin states. We will try and visit Mawlamyine if time allows as well as the mushroom shaped temple rock at Kyauk Kalap and the beautiful Kawgun caves as we travel toward the Thai border (approx. 250kms).

We will camp overnight.

Please note: We are due to cross the border to Thailand tomorrow, however, the border is only open every other day so it may work out  that we cross to Thailand on day 25 of the itinerary instead of day 26.  If this is the case we will camp overnight en route to Kanchanaburi in Thailand instead. The entry and exit points will be the same.

Day 26: Kanchanaburi

Border Information: Exit Burma at Myawaddy & Enter Thailand at Mae sot

This morning we will cross over to Thailand. Once all the border procedures are complete we aim to drive to Kanchanaburi if time allows (approx 700 kms).

We will stay in a local guesthouse this evening.

Please note that it may not be possible to drive all the way to Kanchanaburi today if there are any delays with the border crossing. If this is the case we will stay overnight in a local guesthouse en route.

Day 27: Bangkok, Kanchanaburi

We spend this morning exploring the Thailand-Burma Railway centre, the Allied War Cemetery and the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi. This afternoon we drive to Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok.

The evening is free to explore (and shop!).

Overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore bustling Bangkok

Included in Kitty

Wat Pho, Bangkok

USD

Bangkok

Bangkok

The chaotic headlong pace of Bangkok doesn't match up with many people's idealised vision of the exotic capital of Siam. Scattered with high-rise buildings of concrete and glass, the city is a sprawling plain that's home to a population of at least nine million, and it often feels even bigger. But under the shadow of the skyscrapers you'll find a heady mix of frenetic markets, noisy traffic, hushed golden temples and early-morning alms-giving ceremonies. One way or another, the place will probably get under your skin - and if you don't enjoy the challenge of slogging through jams of buses and tuk-tuks, which fill the air with a chainsaw drone and clouds of pollution, you can spend time exploring the impressive temples and museums or shopping 'til you drop.

Day 28: Bangkok

Free day for optional activities.

Visa Information:

Important Notes

The routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only.

 

We intend following the planned route but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. By their very nature overland itineraries need to be flexible and the regions that we are travelling through are often unpredictable. We run adventure journeys in off the beaten track areas, often in areas without western infrastructure. You should expect that some these areas do not adhere to western safety standards.

Exploratory notes / Warning - this is a new trip for us!

While we have thoroughly researched this area to put together this trip, it still must be remembered that this is a relatively new trip for us. To be frank, we expect some things to go wrong. When we head to new destinations, we usually find there are more pleasant surprises in store than unpleasant ones, but the warning is sincere. If it concerns you then we recommend that you wait for a year until we get any bugs ironed out.

Travel Warning – Burma (Myanmar) 

This trip travels to areas bordering China & Thailand.

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently has no travel warnings in place that will affect this trip for British clients. They do advise travellers to "Take care in the border areas with Thailand, Laos or China." – This advice should not affect your insurance policy, but please read the small print in your policy carefully.

Non-UK clients should check the travel advice of their own governments as this may be different to the British FCO advice.

Current travel warnings by both the Australian, Canadian and the New Zealand Governments warn against travel through parts of Myanmar which border the countries of China, Laos, Thailand and or/India. For all Australian, Canadian and New Zealand travellers, please carefully read and understand the detailed Government travel advice for Australia, Canada or New Zealand (depending on your nationality) at the links provided below;

Australian Government travel warning
 http://smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Myanmar

Canadian Government travel warning

http://travel.gc.ca/destinations/burma-myanmar

New Zealand travel warning
 http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/destinations/myanmar.shtml

If you wish to continue with your travel arrangements, it's important to understand that your travel insurance may be affected by travelling through these border regions and should you choose to embark on your travel without appropriate travel insurance cover, please understand that you undertake this at your own personal risk. Please provide written confirmation of acknowledgement of this advice prior to travel.

Please seek advice from your travel insurance company to check your coverage for travel in these regions. We recommend taking insurance through an insurer who will cover your for this travel.

 

Physical Preparation

Physical preparation for Asia Itineraries

In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climates from the hot deserts through to the colds of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.

Visa Information

Most countries we visit on our travels will require visas. Some are best obtained before you leave home and others can be obtained en-route. Whilst the ultimate responsibility for obtaining visas is yours, we will endeavour to assist you wherever possible.

The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. The information provided is given in good faith and we do try to keep the visa information as up to date as possible.  Please be aware though that rules do change, often without prior warning, which is why it is important that you check for yourself.

For visas that are needed in advance, you can choose to submit the applications directly to the relevant embassy or consulate.  However, our recommendation is that you use a visa agent to assist you with your applications. While this does increase the cost, it will make the process much easier for you. Dragoman have teamed up with ‘The Visa Machine’ to create a safe, secure, hassle-free way of obtaining visas and visa advice. Our unique link within their website is designed to make the visa process as straightforward as possible.  Simply go to https://dragoman.thevisamachine.com and click on your region of travel followed by your trip route and ‘The Visa Machine’ will advise you about not only the required visas but also the dates by which you should apply.  ‘The Visa Machine’ can then assist you in the actual visa application, thus taking all the worry and hassle out of the process.  This should apply for ALL nationalities and countries of residence.

As you will need to submit your passport together with your applications, we recommend that you avoid making any travel plans in the weeks leading up to your departure. However if you do need to travel in this period please let us know as soon as possible so that we can help you work out the options for your visa application process. 

Burma

VERY IMPORTANT - please send a scan or photo of your passport photo page to Dragoman (info@dragoman.co.uk) as soon as you book on this trip! Also please send a scan of your Myanmar visa as soon as you obtain it. 

Please apply in advance for your tourist visa. Visas are normally valid for 3 months. 

All nationalities should check with the respective embassies for more information and costs. Some nationalities may require an invitation letter before a visa can be applied for. If this is the case, Please contact Dragoman.

Thailand

Citizens of Australia, NZ, UK, USA do not need visas to visit Thailand as a tourist. If entering by air you will be granted a 30 day stay. If entering by land you will be granted a 15 day stay only. In addition for those coming overland and flying into Thailand you will require an onward ticket out of the country or onwward travel itinerary to obtain the visa. A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office and the cost is 1900 THB. Alternately you can obtain a visa before departure at your local Thai Embassy or Consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border.

Citizens of other countries should check with the relevant consulates as to whether a visa is required.

Personal Spending

Based on the range that previous travellers have spent on this trip, we recommend you allow between a minimum of US$15 and a maximum of US$30 per day for Central Asia, China and Burma and between a minimum of US$10 and a maximum of US$20 for India, Nepal and South East Asia.

This will cover individual expenses such as drinks, meals whilst out and also when staying in hotels, souvenirs, tips and personal permits.

Please note:  For trips in Southern India that occur over Christmas and New Year please allow approximately $160USD extra on the kitty for seasonal increases in accommodation costs

Money Exchange

Burma

Although the situation is changing rapidly, Burma currently has no ATMs. Travellers cheques and credit cards are also essentially useless, although some high end hotels do occasionally take credit cards, although this is at the mercy of the internet, and frequently the systems are down.

It is therefore imperative that you bring US dollar cash with you into the country. Dollars can be changed widely throughout the country; in some cases they can also be used to pay directly for services. Please ensure that you bring crisp notes; crumpled or torn notes will not be accepted.

Other currencies may be accepted in major cities but you should not rely on this as you may sometimes struggle to find someone to change them.

Money Exchange

China

The official currency in China is the yuan or renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.

Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.

What else you need to know

Pre and post trip accommodation and connecting flights

At Dragoman we believe you should make the most of the places you visit, so if you would like to see more of your joining or finishing point cities, why not book additional accommodation to extend your stay. Dragoman can take away the hassle of time zones and language barriers by making the booking for you. This accommodation is only available at the joining or finishing city of your trip, immediately before or after the trip you are travelling on. 

While Dragoman is happy to assist with booking your pre and post trip accommodation, it is important that you understand you may be able to book your own room at a cheaper rate directly through the hotel or on the internet.  Our additional accommodation prices are based on the hotel’s rate plus an administration fee. Please note our rates do not reflect last minute walk in rates or internet specials.

We can also book arrival airport transfers for you as long as we have your flight arrival details.  These are normally payable in cash upon arrival, however we do have pre paid transfers in a few destinations. 

Please contact our reservations team for details of the accommodation and transfers that we can offer as not all hotels offer this service.

Accommodation on tour

Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels and therefore do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers will share with people of the same sex for the duration of the trip, in accommodation ranging from twin to multi-share. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. The campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, this allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities. 

Group size?

The maximum group size we take on our overland journeys ranges from 19 to 22 depending on the geographical location, however the average number of passengers is more likely to be around 16. 

Please note that there is an overlap of 2 trips in Zanzibar. This means a group starting a trip in Nairobi for example will visit Zanzibar at the same time as groups starting their trips in Dar es Salaam. In practical terms this means there could be up to 44 group members in Zanzibar at the same time.

Who travels with Dragoman?

Our passengers come from around the world and are always an interesting mix of nationalities and ages. On average there is a pretty even split, males to females and between solo travellers, couples and small groups of friends. We believe that overlanding should be open to as many people as possible and so although we have a minimum age limit of 18, as long as you are fit, healthy and passionate about travel, we are happy to take you, whatever your age is. One of the beauties of group travel is the camaraderie and friendships that are formed along the way and as well as the variety of people that you will meet.

Our Community

At any time before or after you book you can join our community - Dragoland. This is a great place to ask questions before you travel and catch up with your fellow travellers once your trip has finished. You can share photos, videos and stories You can also download a selection of free travel apps. See the home page to sign in, it's free and easy.

We also have a Facebook page where travellers regularly swap info with each other - you can join here

Our crew and guides

Our crew are passionate about travel and always up for adventure. It takes someone special to become a Dragoman leader. Our crew undergo the most intensive training program of all overland companies, spending 10 weeks learning the ropes at our base in Suffolk, UK and then up to six months on the road as a trainee. On all Dragoman overlanding trips two western crew who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation will accompany you. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. On trips South of Nairobi in East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. 

Dragoman endeavours to provide the services of experienced crew however, due to the seasonality of travel, situations may arise where your crew is new to a particular region or training other crew.

Your tour leader has a duty of care to all of their passengers and therefore they have the authority to ask passengers to leave the trip if they require medical assistance, are behaving in an anti-social manner or refuse to comply with local laws and customs. In all matters relating to the trip, the leader's decision will be final and we appreciate your respect of this.

Health

All Dragoman travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in our trips. 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 leader, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Dragoman reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of the trip without a refund. 

You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information prior to travel, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. We also advise you to declare any pre-existing medical conditions to your travel insurers upon purchase. 

For trips that travel to areas of high altitude we also require all travellers to complete an altitude questionnaire. The ratings for each trip are a good indication of how challenging they are and in some cases customers should be prepared for some long driving days and possibly limited facilities. We are always happy to give extra advice if you have additional concerns. 

 

Vaccinations

 Recommended vaccinations and other health protection vary according to regions and recent bulletins issued by health authorities. It is essential to get the latest advice on the region(s) you are planning to travel in. It is essential that you check with either your doctor or travel clinic in good time before you travel.

 In the UK we have been working with Nomad travel for many years and their website has comprehensive, up to date vaccination and health information. Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount off all vaccinations given at Nomad Travel clinics.

A good source of up to date information is the world Health Organisation - http://www.who.int/en/

Malaria

Get expert advice before travelling about types of malaria pills and take them as instructed. Recommended types do change from time to time and from area to area. Consult your vaccination centre for the most up-to-date requirements

The mosquito usually bites between the hours of dusk and dawn and so covering up by wear long-legged and long-sleeved clothing, preferably light coloured and buttoned at the wrists can help. Do not sleep without closing windows, tent doors or, if sleeping out, use a mosquito net. Wear repellent applied directly to the skin or soaked into clothing.

Treating clothes and mosquito nets with a Permetherin solution provides significant protection. It should be available at most travel stores.  Mosquito coils are useful on still nights, in hotel rooms but cannot be used inside the tents.

Meals and group participation

On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger - you're part of the crew. You are expected to pitch in to set up camp, shop for food, cook and generally help out. As part of your trip you will be assigned a truck job which could be collecting water and firewood, sweeping out the truck, loading the back locker, etc.

While camping on overland journeys, all meals are included in the kitty. This means that you will have to work together to cook for everyone in your group. You will be divided into smaller units of 3-4 people and take it in turns to cook for the whole group according to a rota system. When it is your turn to cook you will have to plan the meal, shop for the ingredients in local markets or supermarkets and then prepare the meal for the whole group. The secret to cooking for 20+ people in a basic camping kitchen is to keep it simple! (On trips south of Nairobi we have a cook on board the truck; however you will still be required to help prepare meals).

If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting. An example of a typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, fruit and cereal as well as tea and coffee. When time allows it will also be possible to serve something hot such as eggs or pancakes. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto or pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit from it.

Responsible tourism

Dragoman is committed to ensuring that we have a positive impact on local communities and that we implement policies to minimise any negative impact on the local environment. We are dedicated to making sure that we adopt a responsible attitude to the areas through which we travel and believe that our trips should benefit the local people and their environment. Dragoman recognises that we are guests of local communities and strive to make these communities our partners, so that they benefit directly from our visit. You can find full details of Dragoman’s responsible tourism policy linked from the home page.

A few Rules 

 Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs is not only against the law, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Dragoman customers.  It is one of our core values to treat all people we encounter with respect which of course includes all the local people who make our destinations so special.  The exploitation of prostitutes or children is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes or abuse children.  Equally Dragoman will not tolerate any violence or threat of violence towards local people, other group members or any member of our staff. 

 We expect all our customers to obey all the laws of the countries through which we pass.  This particularly applies to the smuggling of contraband and possession of narcotic drugs (as above), firearms, antiquities and ivory. 

Any customer found contravening such laws or customs will be required to leave the trip immediately with no refund of the trip price.

Safety and security

One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise passengers to leave any valuable jewellery, watches etc at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice.

Please note: Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.

The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority of Dragoman. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers

Leaders reports from off the road

Local contacts we have built up over 31 years of experience

Dragoman has also teamed up with the UK Foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) in their 'Know before you go campaign' www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougoThis website offers straightforward travel advice, top tips, and up to date country information to help you plan a safe trip.

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel. Below are links to some of the websites

Britain. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country

Australia. http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

New Zealand. http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

United States. http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

Canada. http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/menu-eng.asp

Dragoman has comprehensive passenger liability protection and tour operator insurance. These policies have total indemnities of £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 respectively. This is in addition to local vehicle insurance and your personal travel insurance.

Emergency contact

We have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in theses trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked and the crew informed if necessary.

Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have comprehensive travel insurance. Without evidence of valid travel insurance you will not be allowed to start the trip.

Whatever policy you choose, you must ensure that it is designed for adventure/overland travel. As such it must cover you for adventure activities such as white water rafting, trekking, horse-riding and that the 24 Hour Emergency Assistance Company must be experienced in handling situations in developing countries – for example they have the ability to arrange repatriation from remote areas such as the Sahara or if you were trekking in the Andes. Please double check if you have annual travel and/or credit card policies to ensure they have the cover you require, as many of these policies are not able to cope with adventure travel to remote areas. We recommend that any policy has the following minimum levels of cover: Medical (incl. repatriation) £5,000,000 Personal Liability £5,000,000 Cancellation and Curtailment £5,000 Loss of Baggage, personal effects, money and other inclusions are down to personal choice.

Issues on the 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 partner 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 may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction. If this is the case please contact our customer relations department on customer_relations@dragoman.co.uk. You may also choose to provide details in your feedback questionnaire which we ask you to complete at 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.

Passports

Check that your passport will still be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip - this is important as some countries WILL refuse entry to anyone whose passport is due to expire. A temporary or "visitor's” passport is not valid on our trips. You will need to provide us with your passport details prior to departing for you trip. If you change your passport please remember to inform us.

Luggage & Kit List

Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use.

The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different-sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg.  Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.

Your clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats (except on routes between Nairobi and Cape Town where ground mats are provided).

The clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in, which will vary depending on which part of the world you're heading to. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats*, so you'll need to bring those with you. Think about the climate and altitude of the areas you'll be travelling to, there's nothing worse than being cold at night so it's worth investing in a decent sleeping bag if it's likely to get cold. And remember even when it's warm during the day, it can often get cold at night, particularly in desert regions.

IMPORTANT: Ground mats are provided on all of our overland trips that run in South and East Africa, between Nairobi and Cape Town. This includes our Family trips between Nairobi and Cape Town.

For a general idea of what you need this list provides a guide:

  • Sleeping bag - Check the expected climate en route. Nights in desert and mountain regions can be very cold in winter months
  • Ground mat or compressed foam
  • A day pack is useful for short hikes in the countryside, wandering around cities, etc and also for keeping inside the vehicle for items used during the day
  • 2 sets of comfortable travelling clothes (light, easily washable cotton clothes are best)
  • 1 set of casual but smart clothes for evenings out. Women should bring a skirt that covers their knees and a scarf for visiting places of worship
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • Sun hat or warm hat if trekking
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • Warm sweater/fleeces
  • 1 waterproof jacket with hood
  • 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes/boots (or ankle height canvas jungle boots)
  • 1 pair of sandals or flip-flops
  • Underwear and socks (thermals are also a good idea if you are travelling to altitude or to the desert as it can get very cold at night)
  • Swimwear
  • 2 small towels
  • Washing kit, including a small mirror
  • Clothes washing detergent, small scrubbing brush & washing line (just a length of cord)
  • Head torch/flashlight with spare batteries & bulbs (only the 3 standard sizes of round 1.5v batteries are widely available en route)
  • Passport photos (average of 2 per country for which visas will be applied for en route)
  • Good water bottle at least 1 litre
  • A pouch or money belt worn inside your clothing, or unobtrusive pocket sewn into the inside of a pair of loose fitting trousers, is a must.
  • Alarm clock
  • Pocket calculator (useful when exchanging money)
  • Writing materials & notebook/diary
  • Multi purpose knife
  • Cotton sheet sleeping bag (or sheet folded and sewn up on 2 sides).  It will help keep your sleeping bag clean, and can be used on its own on warm nights.
  • Mosquito net - The tents supplied by us have mosquito netting and you will only need a net if you think you will sleep out under the stars a lot of the time.
  • "Wet Ones" (moistened tissues) and hand gel
  • Toilet paper – this can be purchased almost everywhere en-route but one roll is worth packing
  • Assorted sized plastic bags - protects clothing and equipment from dust and damp
  • Extra batteries for your camera / phone etc as there will not always be opportunities to recharge.

For a comprehensive kit lists take a look at the Dragoman kit list that Nomad Travel have created.  Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount on all equipment purchased either online or in store. Click to see the kit lists www.nomadtravel.co.uk/kitlist/overlanders-kit-list

Water

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.

Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your Overland vehicle. You are free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like. You are helping the environment and your hip pocket!

Personal medical kit

All of our trucks have a fully stocked medical kit onboard for use in emergency situations only.  Therefore in addition to this we recommend that you purchase your own personal medical kit. In the UK we have teamed up with Nomad Travel Stores and Clinics to produce the Dragoman Travel Medical Kit. It has been designed in conjunction with the truck kits  and contains everything you would need for any minor accidents. For more details please visit their website:

nomadtravel.co.uk/catalog/view/dragoman-medical-kit

Electrical equipment

Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt socket so to charge your iPod, MP3 player, camera, laptop and mobile phone you will need a DC 12 volt adapter - the type that can be used from a cigarette lighter in your car. Please be aware that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets and the majority of the campsites we stay at have electricity points so please bring along your normal charging adapters as well. You will need to ensure that you have the correct country adaptor for your specific charger.

For mobile phones, please note that most countries in the Americas operate at 850MHz and 1900 MHz which is not the same frequencies used in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Most modern tri-band and quad-band mobile phones will be able to operate on these frequencies but please check your mobile phone specifications before travelling to ensure that you'll be able to use your phone in the Americas.

The kitty

In addition to the trip price on our overlanding trips you will also be required to pay a kitty specified for your trip. The kitty is payable in instalments at the start of each section of the trip for combination trips, and in full at the start of the trip for individual trips. Each customer joining a trip pays their kitty into a central fund. The fund is managed by the Dragoman crew & kitty accounts can be viewed by all throughout the trip.

The Kitty covers all things that the whole group does, such as:

  • Hotel accommodation and campsite fees
  • Meals whilst camping (not in hotels)
  • Activities listed as included (e.g. National Park entrances, excursions and local guides).

The kitty system is very unique to overlanding and we believe it allows us to have flexibility & transparency on our trips. You can see exactly how your money is being spent and ensure that you are getting the best value by buying locally. It also helps to keep the costs competitive & save on administration costs so that we can pass the saving on to you. Dragoman makes NO PROFIT on kitties as they are the group's fund. 

We constantly update the kitty prices on our website and the kitty advertised in the brochure is an estimate at the time of printing. Prices can go up or down with no notice and exchange rate fluctuations will affect costs. If there is money left in the kitty at the end of your trip then this is divided between the group and you receive a refund.  Once you book your trip it is very important that you check our website on a regular basis and just before departure for any changes to the kitty amount.

At least half of your kitty should be paid in cash in the specified currency on the website (US Dollars or Euros in West Africa). The outstanding amount can be paid in local currency during your trip; your leader will give you the exchange rate.  Most of our travellers choose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.

Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.

Continuing your trip

Having an amazing trip and met a great group of people? Having too much fun to go home yet?  If on your trip you decide you would like to continue, then why not speak to your trip leader who can advise you of the cost and availability of continuing your journey.

Contingency emergency fund

Sometimes, civil or political unrest, or reasons beyond Dragoman's control (e.g. a natural disaster), can mean that an itinerary is disrupted and we have to make a contingency plan. This may involve hiring alternate transport or even the whole group flying over an area. Although Dragoman will help organise travel arrangements, in circumstances outside Dragoman's control you should be prepared to contribute towards the costs and therefore we ask you to bring along a 'Contingency Fund' of USD400. In almost all cases trips run smoothly and this fund is therefore never used. We also recommend that you take along an internationally recognised credit or charge card with a decent limit in case of emergencies, such as medical treatment en route, or even the need to be repatriated; though these occurrences are rare. Remember that travel insurance policies usually only refund you for expenses after you have already paid out.

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary. The Dragoman crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own Dragoman crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person.

Currencies & Cash

It is not really worth trying to buy local currencies before you travel.  Do also bear in mind that many countries have strict regulations about the amount of their own local currency you are allowed to import - if you are found with amounts in excess of the allowed amounts, it may well be confiscated!

For trips in Turkey, South East Asia, India and Nepal, a sensible mix of cash and ATM cards is best. However, most of our past passengers have said they wished they had been told to bring more cash. Apart from the convenience of being able to change money in many more places, you will sometimes get a much better exchange rate for cash.

For trips in Central Asia, China, Burma and Mongolia please refer to the money exchange notes.

You should take a mixture of denomination notes. Banks and moneychangers in most countries will now only accept bills with a metallic strip running top to bottom of the bill and which are dated from 2003 or later. You should not take worn or damaged notes, or any that have been written on. Cash machines are readily available in most areas but are not always reliable therefore we recommend that you do not rely on them as your only source of cash. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most commonly accepted, but be prepared for very high commission charges. Please do not rely on cards for daily use, as they are not always accepted outside of larger towns and cities. Please bring a mixture of small and large denominations as in more remote areas it can be hard to change amounts over USD50.

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