For travellers willing to step outside their comfort zone, who don’t mind being thrown in at the deep end. Just the ticket for those aged between 18-35 or anyone young at heart with an open mind, an eye on the budget & a nose for adventure.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group.
This document contains essential information that you need to prepare for, as well as information you will need during your holiday with us.
We ask that you read it carefully and that you take the document with you on your holiday. It contains information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, etc, as well as a detailed, day by day itinerary of your trip.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, entrance fees, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
This tour passes through volcanic areas. In the instance a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Geckos will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Geckos.
Australians, Americans, British, Canadian and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Belize. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent. A migration fee of USD20 is payable at the border on departure from Belize. Please ensure you check the validity dates on your passport stamp at the border.
Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Guatemala. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.
Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Mexico. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.
Many governments publish up-to-date travel advice for countries around the world. Information is gleaned from both local and international sources as well as ‘friendly’ governments, and the notices are often on the cautious side. Sometimes there will be conflicting information. For example, the Australian, UK and Canadian governments may agree on the nature of the advice; however, frequently they do not. And sometimes the views expressed by a particular government can be coloured by political considerations. We will monitor these travel advisories closely and may alter itineraries or cancel trips as a result. However, it is also your responsibility to stay informed and form a balanced view. We recommend that you visit the websites or contact the departments listed below. Unless otherwise stated, it is not normally the intention of the relevant government travel advice to dissuade you from travelling. Rather, it is to inform you of where and when you should exercise caution to avoid problems. Please also note that, as a responsible tour operator, we maintain constant links with our ground operators and your safety - at all times - is our paramount concern. You can check your government's latest travel advice at one of the links below:
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
U.S. Department of State New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended
Vaccinations may be required or recommended for this trip so you should consult with your travel doctor to obtain the latest up-to-date information. It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting – or any which may be required by your home country upon your return.
For travellers from Australia and New Zealand, we recommend the Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics (see www.traveldoctor.com.au or phone 1300 658 844 for an appointment in Australia). Travellers from countries other than Australia and New Zealand should contact similar organisations or their travel doctor for advice. General health and vaccination information is available to all travellers at
www.traveldoctor.com.au/travelreport. Some vaccines require more than one dose, so arrange for your visit at least 4-6 weeks before you travel.
Malaria: There is no 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.
We recommend that you photocopy the main pages of your passport, your airline ticket, itinerary, insurance policy, traveller’s cheques and credit card. Keep one set of photocopies with you, separate from the originals. Leave one set of copies at home with family or friends. It is also worth taking some extra passport photos with you in case of additional visas, permits or other unforeseen paperwork.
Remember - the lighter you travel the better! A soft-sided duffel or sausage bag is the ideal form of luggage. It is recommended that you keep your luggage weight around 15kg and certainly no more than 20kg. A small or medium-sized backpack (45-50 litres) is another good option, but preferably one without a frame.
When you pack your clothing, consider the climate at the time of year you are travelling and any specific requirements for your trip as at certain times of the year some of the items suggested in the list that follow may not be necessary. Keep in mind that the weather will vary significantly from place to place. Laundry facilities are available in some destinations.
Below is a list of equipment and documentation that we suggest you take with you. Please use this checklist as a guide when packing for your holiday.
- Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts, final itinerary and this document
- Photocopy of main passport pages, visa (if required), travel insurance and air tickets
- Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card
- Money belt and small padlocks
- Small first-aid kit
- Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries)
- Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com)
- Toiletries/roll of toilet paper/travel wipes/ tissues
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses
- Earplugs and eye mask (for light sleepers)
- Extra pair of prescription glasses (if required)
- 2 strong plastic garbage bags (for laundry and in case of rain) and dry bags
- Refillable water bottle
- Phrase book
- Warm clothes - when travelling in cooler climates
- Wind and waterproof rain jacket
- Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks
- Swim wear
It is a good idea to take a small medical kit with you, and you should consider packing the following items:
Antibiotics, Lip-balm, moisturiser, sunscreen, headache tablets, antiseptic (e.g. Betadine), anti-diarrhoea tablets (for changes in diet and water), laxatives, band-aids/moleskin/dressing strips for blisters, small scissors/tweezers. Note that moleskin is particularly good for blisters and can be obtained from any pharmacy.
It is also recommended to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any less common prescribed medications that you may be carrying.
Diarrhoea Stomach upsets are not uncommon when travelling through new destinations (usually a 24 - 48 hour 'bug') and this may cause diarrhoea, leading to dehydration. Should you develop a stomach upset you should eat only in moderation and drink plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to carry a couple of sachets of rehydrants with you (such as Gastrolite). We also suggest that you carry one of the common anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium.
Sunstroke It can be quite easy to get sun burnt when you are not accustomed to the sun in new climates. You should take sensible precautions such as wearing a hat and using a good UV sunscreen. Finally, drink plenty of fluids - preferably water.
Water In general, water is not safe to drink in the areas through which we travel. Bottled Water is widely available and most travellers prefer to drink this. Your guide can assist you in regards to the relative safety of tap water and the availability of bottled water on each tour. When walking, or in hot conditions, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your hydration, drinking as much water/tea as possible to offset fluid loss.
The Belizian dollar (BZ$) is divided into 100 cents. Coins come in one, two, five, ten, twenty-five and fifty cents, while notes come in denominations of one, two, five, ten, twenty, fifty and 100 dollars.
The unit of currency is the Guatemalan quetzal, it is named after their national bird. 1 quetzal (Q) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of Q100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of Q1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos. The US dollar also became an official currency in 2001.
The unit of currency is the Mexican peso. The peso is divided into 100 centavos. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 pesos.
Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
Most businesses accept US currency is cash without question, but change is usually given in Belizean dollars. UK pounds and Canadian dollars are exchangeable at any bank. ATMs for Belizean banks are becoming more common, but they don’t yet accept foreign ATM cards. Banks are generally open Monday-Friday from 8 AM-1 PM and Saturdays, 8 AM-11 AM. American Express also has a representative at Belize Global Travel Services in Belize City.
Only bring US dollars to exchange in Guatemala - any other currency is extremely difficult to change. ATMs are only available in cities and tourist towns. MasterCard is virtually useless in Guatemala, so make sure you bring a debit/credit card with a Visa/Plus sign on it. It is possible to use MasterCard, but it is much more difficult and can be a hassle. The quetzal can be difficult to exchange outside of Guatemala so you should only change what is necessary or convert your quetzals back to US dollars on leaving the country.
Major credit cards are the easiest money in Mexico. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw cash pesos from ATMs and over the counter at banks. This way you will get a good exchange rate and avoid paying the commission that you would with traveller’s cheques. If you have traveller’s cheques, US dollars are the easiest to exchange.
South America & Central America
You will need to take money with you to cover any additional meals/drinks not included in your tour cost. You will also need to budget for bottled drinking water plus such things as tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional sightseeing, optional activities and excursions, and possible delays. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies that can happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and reimbursement is made later by the insurance company. This is a situation where a credit card can be useful.
We suggest that you allow approximately US$30 in Mexico per day for your additional lunches, dinners, snacks and drinking water where necessary. Allow approximately US$15 per day for souvenirs and shopping, more if you are a big spender.
Shopping is a personal thing that, again, varies enormously. On average, people spend anywhere between US$100 and US$200 on souvenirs, art, tailor-made clothes etc.
In addition you should carry sufficient funds for extra sightseeing and optional activities.
Departure taxes and airport fees of BZ$40 (US$20) are levied on all non-Belizean travelers departing from Goldson International Airport to foreign destinations, this must be paid in cash or traveller's cheques.
In most countries you must pay an airport departure tax. Some departure taxes are now added into the cost of your airline tickets and paid for at the time of purchase. Others must be paid at the airport of departure and will need to be budgeted for. The following information was correct at the time of writing, please check the latest information with your travel agent: Guatemala (International) US$30 plus Security Tax US$3.
In most countries you must pay an airport departure tax. Many of the departure taxes are now added in the cost of your airline tickets and paid for at the time of purchase. Others must be paid at the airport of departure and will need to be budgeted for. The following information was correct at the time of writing, please check the latest information with your travel agent. Mexico (International) US$18-US$29.
Although the culture of tipping may not be part of your own culture it is nonetheless part of the culture in this area of the world and it is often the way someone such as a waiter makes a living. On our group touring trips your local leader will advise you on this matter, however, as a guideline we would recommend a tip of 10% in restaurants and US$2 per person, per day for a local guide at a site. If you are unhappy with a service of course you are under no obligation to leave a tip - however if the service has been satisfactory please consider our advice above.
On many of our group touring trips, your tour leader may discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour leader pays the tips and keeps a record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour is returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing what is an appropriate amount to tip. A tipping kitty is not used in every country in Latin America, however where it is used, we find the above system is the easiest and fairest method. The usual amount contributed to the tipping kitty is about US$2-US$3 per person per day.
Your local leader also works hard to ensure that you have a great holiday and a tip for them is appreciated. If you are happy with their service we recommend US$3 per person per day, given at the end of your trip. The same would be applicable for the driver of any private transportation that we use.
Playa del Carmen is approximately 1 hour 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 and should expect to pay between US$50 and $60 per cab. 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$18. If you have pre-booked an arrival transfer please look out for our transfer driver once you clear customs. They will most likely be wearing a blue and white uniform and holding a sign with an Intrepid or Peregrine logo and your name. Cancun is a busy, sometimes chaotic airport and there may be a lot of transfer drivers milling around. It is also common for taxi drivers to approach you and try to tell you that your transfer hasn't arrived, so please ignore touts and have a good look around if you can't immediately find your driver. If you pre-booked a transfer and you can't locate your driver at the agreed time please call (+52 998)167 5011 or (+52 998) 173 8861
Generally, your room will be available from around midday. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until your room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's pre-tour accommodation that will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12 noon unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge.
Please ask first if you want to take someone's photograph. This is just a normal courtesy and if you are refused permission please abide by that person's wishes. At certain ancient sites, and in most museums, photography (video or still) may be forbidden, or may incur an extra charge for camera-use. Do not take photos of buildings, structures and personnel of potential military significance (including airports, bridges, and police stations).
Travelling with us can provide you with some really rewarding travel experiences. Our tours visit countries where travel modes and lifestyles are often not as sophisticated as our own. There is also a laid-back attitude amongst workers and there will often seem to be huge amounts of red tape and bureaucracy when doing the simplest things. You will enjoy your trip much more if you slip into the rhythm of local life and are prepared to take things as they come.
In most countries even the smallest quantity of an illegal substance is considered a very serious offence and can carry lengthy jail terms. Avoid any contact with illegal drugs. Don’t put yourself and others at risk and never carry bags or luggage for other people. Any person found to be carrying or using illegal drugs will be asked to leave the trip immediately without the right to any refund.
Belize is more expensive than you might think of a poor country. A basic fried chicken dinner will cost about US$4 to US$5. 'Beliken’ is the national beer. It should cost you between US$1.50 and $2 a small bottle.
Guatemala is an inexpensive country. A cheap meal will cost about US$3, a beer will set you back about US$1.50 and a litre of water is about the same cost as beer.
1 litre of water US$0.80 Bottle of beer US$1.50 Bottle of soft drink US$1.00
Important - A Word on Central America
Central America is different and that’s what makes it such an fascinating destination. You will find that things don’t always go according to plan or work the way they do back home. Buses and planes often run late and sometimes the water in your bathroom can run cold and the electricity fail. The locals live with these issues everyday. In order to get the most out of your holiday, a degree of patience, good humour and understanding is a definite advantage. If you approach your holiday with an open and enquiring mind, the warm welcome you receive from Central Americans will ensure you a rich and rewarding holiday experience.
Public Holiday Inconveniences
Please be prepared for the inconvenience of sights such as museums and churches being closed to tourists on public holidays (ie. Christmas Day and New Years Day). Throughout Latin America, most museums also tend to be closed on Mondays.
Please note that this tour ends in Antigua, Guatemala. The airport is known as Guatemala City (GUA).
24 Hour Emergency:+502 5778 4052 or + 502 5207 4914
Partner organisations on the ground
Gecko's works with partner organisations in each country we visit. This ensures we provide employment opportunities within local communities, including our experienced local leaders. We minimise the negative impacts of travel and maximise the benefits to the regions we travel, through working with our ethical services providers.
For any assistance prior to travel, please contact your travel agent.
For assistance whilst you are travelling, please contact the local numbers listed on your travel itinerary, as your call will be received in the same time zone. Alternatively, if you have already joined your tour, please direct your enquiries to your local tour leader.
Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
These are some impressive ruins. They're all crumbly and clinging to a cliff-top over a lovely beach. It's an optional visit, but it's a good visit.
Head into Belize and catch a boat to Caye Caulker. Free time to dive/snorkel in the second largest barrier reef in the world or swing in a hammock under a palm tree.
Arrive in Guatemala and stay in Flores, an island town on Lake Peten Itza. There's an optional visit the the Tikal ruins, which is a bit like the set of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto movie, minus the violence.
Meals included: 1 dinner
Meals included: 1 breakfast
With three nearby volcanoes puffing out white smoke, you won't have been to many places quite like Antigua. You'll regret hitting the beach here about as much as you'd regret buying a winning lottery ticket.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact us. We are here to help you!
Your feedback is important to us and to our tour guides and helps shape the quality of our trips. It tells us what we're doing right, what you believe could be done better and what improvements you feel could help future travellers choose and enjoy Imaginative Traveller. Just go to http://on.fb.me/16wYISa for our easy to fill out form. We’d love to hear what you have to say!
24 January 2014
Our tailor made adventure holidays will truly inspire and delight the senses and will live in your memory for ever.
Join us on one of our worldwide adventures coming up over the next few months – all guaranteed to depart, all at up to 20% off.