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, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Please note that visa requirements can and do change. It is essential that you confirm requirements with the nearest relevant embassy or check with your travel agent before you travel. At the time of writing, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans, German and British citizens do not require a visa to visit Thailand for stays of up to 30 days if entering by air. However, Australians and New Zealanders will only get 15 days of stay if arriving without a visa at a land border checkpoint from a neighbouring country. Americans, British, Canadians and Germans are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders. Australians and New Zealanders arriving in Thailand by land who are planning to stay in the country longer than 15 days should obtain a Thai visa before they leave home or alternatively a visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB which will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border. All other nationalities should check with the Thai Embassy or Consulate in their country for up-to-date visa information. Please note that those nationalities requiring a visa may need to acquire one before they arrive in Thailand, as obtaining a visa on arrival may not possible at certain land borders.
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 for this trip. Please consult your doctor or a travel health specialist. The choice of vaccinations can depend on a range of issues including the specific destination, the duration of the trip, your personal health and of course what vaccines you have had before.
Routine Background Vaccines: We strongly endorse current public health recommendations that all travellers should be up-to-date with their routine vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria, measles/mumps/rubella, polio and influenza, and paediatric vaccinations for children.
Travel Vaccinations: While the food and water-borne diseases such as hepatitis A and typhoid will apply to most of our travellers, other travel vaccines such as hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis and cholera may apply to select travellers, especially long-term travel. Travel health experts can advise on what is required and also what is not required!
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. To find out which, if any, vaccinations are mandatory or recommended for your destination contact your local doctor, immunisation centre or medical centre for up-to-date information. If you need to arrange vaccinations or a supply of preventative medicine (e.g. malaria tablets), you should contact your doctor at least two months before you depart. Some inoculations require more than one visit and can take several weeks to administer the full course.
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.
You should be issued with an International Certificate of Vaccination booklet that records each vaccination. Always carry this with you on your travels; it could provide essential information for doctors in the event that you fall ill whilst travelling.
Malaria: There is no vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in the tropical areas. 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. 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! You may be buying things as you go, so you should not bring too much from home. Many people find a backpack the most suitable type of luggage for our holidays. Medium-sized suitcases can also be used; however, you should avoid the large, bulky cases that are difficult to carry. The lockable suitcases on wheels are the best types to use. Be aware that some hotels in Asia are not over-endowed with lifts (elevators) and there may be occasions when you need to carry your luggage up stairs or along railway platforms, etc.
When packing, consider cultural differences which may mean that some attire that we wear at home is not appropriate in Asia and may be offensive to the local people. Beachwear in towns is not appropriate, nor is 'short' shorts, particularly for women. Light cotton pants are a better option. When visiting sites of religious significance, modest clothing should be worn. Sandals, thongs, flip-flops or jandals are appropriate footwear in the tropics.
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. Bear in mind that the weather will vary significantly from place to place. The majority of time the weather is warm in South East Asia; however, it may be distinctly cold up in the highlands. If there are specific requirements for a trip, these will be noted in the separate country section, or in the Trip Notes relating to that trip. Please note that in the last few years, the world’s weather pattern has gone somewhat awry. The effects of ‘El Nino’ and ‘La Nina’ are very real and this has resulted in unseasonable droughts followed by unseasonable deluges. Be prepared for the unexpected! 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.
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 unit of currency is the Thai baht. There are 1, 2, 5 and 10 baht coins. There is a new copper and silver 10 baht coin. Notes are in the denominations of 10 (quite scarce), 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht (with the last very hard to change!).
Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
There are plenty of money changing facilities in Thailand's cities and towns. Authorised money changers generally offer the best exchange rates but it’s worth it to shop around. Thailand also has a plethora of ATMs, which can also be used to get cash advances on credit cards. Look for ATMs displaying Maestro, Cirrus, MasterCard or Visa symbols. Traveller's cheques can be changed at most hotels, banks and currency exchange booths. In large cities there is no problem cashing cheques. You should consider where you are heading to, taking into account any public holidays, and cash enough money to see you to your next major town. Your tour leader will brief you at your pre-departure meeting on the specifics relevant to your particular trip. Credit cards are accepted in many shops, restaurants and hotels, but should not be relied on as your only form of funds. There are currency exchange booths in the arrival hall of Bangkok International Airport which offer the standard rate.
You will need to take money with you to cover sightseeing, entrance fees, meals and drinks. Other costs to consider are drinking water, tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional activities during free time 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 could happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and be reimbursed later by your insurance company. How Much Money? In our trip notes we have suggested an appropriate allowance for additional meals. This does not include alcoholic drinks, e.g. beer. In addition to this you should carry sufficient funds for optional activities, additional sightseeing, shopping and tips. As a guideline we suggest that you allow $US15-20 per day (or maybe less!) in Asia would allow you to eat and drink reasonably well. Emergency Funds In the unlikely event of an emergency of a personal nature or unforseen changes to the Gecko's schedule, we recommend you have access to an additional US$300 to cover any costs that may arise as a result of these events.
In our brochure we have suggested an appropriate allowance for additional meals (US$130). As a result of customer feedback we recommend you allow a figure of between US$70-$120 for your DRINK and SNACK requirements, additional to the amount suggested in the brochure for meals. Use a higher figure particularly if you are travelling during the hot season when you will require more fluids.
In addition you should carry sufficient funds for extra sightseeing and optional activities.
Shopping is a personal thing that, again, varies enormously. On average, people spend anywhere between US$50 and US$200 on souvenirs, art, tailor-made clothes etc.
You will be required to pay airport and departure taxes in most countries. Most of these are added to the ticket price on purchase and you will not need to bother further about them. Others must be paid physically at the airport on departure. All airport taxes in Thailand should now be included in the price of your flight ticket and so there should be no need to pay additional tax at the airport. However we recommend that you check with your travel agent for the latest information.
Like in most places around the world, the tourism and hospitality industry in Asia has developed a culture of tipping. Often this is the way where someone such as a waiter in a restaurant makes a living. However, we realise that people of some nationalities still find it quite uncomfortable when confronted by this custom. On our trips your tour leader can advise you on this matter, however, as a guideline we would recommend a tip of 10% in restaurants and US$1 to US$3 per person, per day for a local guide. Taxi, rickshaw, cyclo and tuk-tuk drivers can be tipped according to the length of the journey. 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.
To avoid embarrassment and to protect you from the sometimes seemingly endless soliciting of tips, we have developed a tipping system to help you. At the start of your holiday we collect a tipping kitty. We suggest you contribute US$3 per person, per day. Your leader can then distribute tips along the way, as appropriate. The kitty will be distributed to people such as bellboys, local leaders, drivers and staff on board the cruise. This kitty is not designed to provide a tip for your tour leader, so, if you would like to reward your leader for their services, you can do so individually or make a group presentation at the end of your tour.
It is customary to tip your tour leader, at the end of the trip, if you are happy with the service. A minimum tip of US$3 per day, from each member of the group, is the usual amount expected.
If you have booked an arrival transfer with Gecko's:
On arrival, after collecting luggage and clearing customs, a representative will be waiting at EXIT 6 with a Geckos welcome board
If you have any problems or cannot find our staff, please call the following number: Miss Lyn 081 658 2727 or Klang 081 566 9324 and wait at the Association of Thai Travel Agents. Alternatively ask reception to contact World Travel Idea for assistance.
Bangkok new Suvarnabhumi (pronounced 'Suwannaphoom') International Airport is located in the Samut Prakan District, 30 kilometres east of the city. It is serviced by taxis and buses into downtown Bangkok. If travelling by taxi to your hotel use only authorised taxis and not the touts who frequent the arrivals hall. The meters in metered taxis into town should read no more than 350 Baht, but there is an additional 50 Baht for airport surcharge and 70 Baht for tolls. Allow for a total of just under 500 Baht (approximately US$14). From the arrivals hall in Level 2, passengers should head down to Level 1, where the taxi rank is located. All airport buses, no matter where you get off, cost 150 Baht (approximately US$4) per person. The airport bus is not a recommended option for first-time travellers to Bangkok. Another alternative is the Airport Rail Link that has just been completed. It offers a fast alternative for those wishing to use it. It travels regularly offering a 15 minute express train or a 30 minute journey stopping all stations. It travels (return) from Suvarnabhumi Airport to downtown Bangkok ( Makkasan Station) and offers full check in facilities. It cost 150 Baht per person.
If you have NOT pre-booked an arrival transfer, you must find your own way to the joining hotel.
On arrival at your hotel please check the notice board in the lobby for a note from your tour leader, which will advise you of the actual time of the Welcome Meeting. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the briefing.
Generally, your room will be available from around midday as Check In and Out times are midday according to hotel policy. 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 a room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's 'pre-tour accommodation' which will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Please refer to the 'Additional Services' panel in the pricing page of our brochure. When arriving early after an overnight rail journey, it is not always possible to check into your hotel immediately. Please be patient and wait for your tour guide’s instructions. Normally the leader will arrange a day room for guests to share if it is not possible for all rooms to be ready at once. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12.00 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 ensure that you settle all bills (eg mini-bar, phone calls) when you check out. If you are sharing a room with someone who is checking out before you make sure they pay their bills at reception or you collect some money to cover their bills as you will be asked to pay upon check out.
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.
Thailand is wonderfully inexpensive. A meal in a restaurant will cost around THB100-THB300, whereas a street snack is only THB30-THB50. A large bottle of Singha beer is about THB80-THB120 and a litre of water will set you back THB10-THB20.
Please note that on your tour you may link up with passengers booked on other tours in our Asia program.
By employing and training local site guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
Tipping has become an accepted part of tourism in South East Asia. Your tour guide will be able to advise you in this area; however, as a guideline we would recommend tipping 10% of the total bill in restaurants and a small tip to hotel bellboys for carrying your bags.
At you pre-tour briefing your tour guide will discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour guide 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.
It is customary to tip your tour guide, at the end of the trip, if you are happy with the service. A minimum tip of US$2 per day, from each member of the group, is the usual amount expected.
Please note that any travellers of certain nationalities (ie. Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders) do not normally require a visa for Thailand if flying in and staying up to 30 days. However, travellers will only get 15 days of stay if arriving without a visa at a land border checkpoint from a neighbouring country. Travellers arriving in Thailand this way and planning to stay in the country longer than 15 days should obtain a Thai visa before they leave home.
All other nationalities should check for visa requirements with their travel agents. Please note that those nationalities requiring a visa may need to acquire one before they arrive Thailand, as a visa on arrival is not available at certain land borders.
Please remember that our tours are of an adventurous nature. Our style of travelling means that it is more desirable to carry a backpack and a day pack on our tours.
Please note that the accommodation facilities here are basic, but provide you with an authentic experience of how these people live. You may wish to bring an inner sleeping sheet for the train journeys and camping. For light sleepers, we recommend that you bring ear-plugs and eye-patches.
Occasionally it may be necessary to amend this itinerary for reasons beyond our control such as weather and road conditions. Changes to domestic train schedules occur frequently and with little notice: any such changes may necessitate some alterations to this itinerary.
Please note that Thailand is a developing country whose infrastructure may differ from what you expect in your homeland. Expect poor road conditions and be prepared for some inconveniences due to such things as restaurants or tourist sites being closed (especially during festival periods). Some of the accommodation is of a basic nature, as our aim is to enable you to experience how the Thai people live.
This is an 'adventure' trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of Thai culture. Please be open minded while travelling, as this will allow you to truly experience everything that Thailand has to offer.
On this trip you may link up with passengers on other Gecko's tours.
At some of the tourist sites and in the cities it is possible you will come across beggars. This can prove an uncomfortable encounter especially for inexperienced travellers. There are many genuine beggars, however there are also those who find the lifestyle easier than working and these people often see tourists as easy prey. As a general rule, if you feel the impulse to give, you should be discreet in the giving. Never make a show of it, as you will attract a crowd, which brings with it its own set of problems. There are often charities that take care of the needy and it may be wise to give to them rather than to individuals begging.
In places you should dress conservatively to avoid attracting unwanted attention and so as not to offend the local population. This is especially applicable to women travellers. Dress rules also apply at many of the religious sites.
Your trip starts today with your arrival in Bangkok. No activities are planned until your evening group meeting, so you may arrive at any time. Please check the noticeboard in the hotel lobby, located on the ground floor, for a notice containing details of your tour. This will advise you of your tour guide's name, telephone number and the time and location of your group meeting. Normally this meeting takes place around 6pm. Until your meeting we encourage you to get out and discover the delights that Bangkok has to offer, including Thailand's famous cuisine. Make sure that you take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back to the hotel.
In the morning, we introduce you to some of Bangkok's most famous sights, including the impressive Grand Palace and the adjoining Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). We also visit Wat Po – the temple of the famous Reclining Buddha. From near our hotel we jump on board a local khlong (canal) boat, before catching a public bus to these sites. This is a great way to sample a couple of the more popular forms of local transport. You have a free afternoon to make your own discoveries, do some shopping in the many excellent shops and markets for which Bangkok is renowned. In the evening we catch the overnight train to Surat Thani, in the south of Thailand.
Our train arrives in the early morning and we transfer by bus to the ferry terminal (approximately 2 hours) for the two-hour ferry trip to the beautiful island of Koh Samui. In the afternoon we take a trip around the island in a songthaew, visiting the 15-metre tall Big Buddha. There's time to take a dip in the cool tropical waterfalls of Na Muang and also to drop in to see the Mummified Monk. After this we head back to our secluded fan-cooled accommodation, situated in the north of the island. The rest of your time on Koh Samui is free to choose amongst a multitude of activities. Swim, laze in the sun, ride an elephant, dive or snorkel, take a optional day tour to the breath taking Ang Thong National Marine Park - the decisions are yours. In the evenings you can relax, dine on the beach at the water's edge and soak up the pleasant tropical atmosphere.
We take the ferry back to the mainland and then continue to Khao Sok National Park by local songthaew (the ferry ride is approximately 2 hours and the drive to Khao Sok approximately 3 hours). This is one of Thailand's best-kept secrets, containing the country's finest and largest rainforest and home to a rich variety of wildlife. From our jungle guesthouse, we head down to the river for a canoeing trip. There is every chance of seeing monkeys playing by the waters edge during your excursion. Please note that we generally need to be lucky to spot other wildlife, due to the thick jungles and the nocturnal nature of many of the species. We also have the option of going for a walk along the many interesting trails and beside the many waterways that exist within the park.
In the early morning we first take a bus from Khao Sok to Takua Pa (approx 2 hours) where we transfer to another local fan cooled bus bound for Bamboo Island. A songtaew transfer and then longtail boat takes us to the beautiful and secluded beach area of Ao Nang, where we spend two days appreciating the peace and tranquillity. This is a great place to kick back, relax and swim in the warm waters of a hidden tropical paradise. Our accommodation is in comfortable but basic fan-cooled bungalows. There are plenty of optional activities to fill your time, you can choose from cave exploring, sea kayaking, diving and rock climbing.
Meals included: 1 dinner
We catch a local fan-cooled bus towards beautiful Phang Nga Town (approx 2 hours), which set in the stunning Phang Nga Bay is full of spectacular limestone islands jutting out of the water. A longtail boat takes us out in the midst of this beautiful area, which was used as a setting for the James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. We pass traditional southern Thai Muslim villages, built on stilts, and spend a night camping on a beach, on a small and secluded island. Don't let the seclusion fool you as you have the option to visit a rubber plantation, school, take a Thai cooking class or watch some Thai kick-boxing. You may even be lucky to have a Thai kick-boxing lesson. (N.B. During the months of May to October inclusive, weather conditions may mean that we are unable to reach the island. If this occurs, we would change our accommodation to the nearby Muslim fishing village of Koh Panyi.)
Our final stop is Phuket, the largest island in Thailand. Here is a great place to finish our journey, as we can along the streets and indulge in the numerous shopping opportunities or wander through a local market in search for some delicious Thai food. Our tour finishes after breakfast on the morning of Day 10; however, you may wish to extend your holiday and stay longer in Phuket. There are many facets to this island, especially in Phuket Town, which was a major port over the centuries visited by Portuguese, Chinese and Malay traders. Here, historic remnants of the island's past are reflected in its eclectic architecture.
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!
14th January 2014
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