Arranging Your Travel
Half of the fun in taking an exotic trip is in the planning. Sometimes it can be tedious. We help to make it easy with this section on Trip Planning that covers the basics and more. Scroll down to find the individual country information of your desired tour.
If you do not already have a passport, then you should apply for one now as it can take 4-6 weeks to receive it—or you can pay extra for expedited delivery. See if there is a local US Post Office close to you which will handle Passport applications. You will need photos, proof of identity, etc. Get the up to date info from them or here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/new.html
If you already have a passport, make sure that it does not expire within 6 months of the end of our tour and that it has at least two blank Visa pages.
Finding Your Flights.
Now is the time to research how you will fly to our tour starting point and the cost involved.
If you have enough time (more than 6 weeks) before the beginning of your trip with us, we recommend signing up for a Fare Alert with a few websites. You can plug in your trip origin and destination and you will be alerted to any fare changes. Here is a site www.hipmunk.com which tells you which flights are the most and least desirable based on an “agony factor”.
If you do not have the time to do your own search for fares, work with a local travel agent skilled in international travel. Also, check with us before you purchase as we stay updated on current fares and ticket sales.
Your Insurance: Travel, Medical & Cancellation
On all of our Small Footprint Travels journeys, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel and trip cancellation insurance. Once you have paid your deposit or any money for your tour, you have a limited time period (usually 14-21 days) in which to purchase a travel insurance policy. You can compare and purchase policies online at https://www.squaremouth.com or www.insuremytrip.com or consult with our local independent agent Lucianne Scheid at 828-808-3445. She is knowledgeable and is attentive to our clients’ needs. She can also book your airline tickets.
Your Health: Vaccinations/Immunizations
Approximately two to three months before your trip commences, you should start any vaccinations or boosters needed for the countries you will visit. Visit the Center for Disease Control website http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ to learn what is recommended for the country you are visiting.
The safety of our travelers is our number one priority. We use professional, safe drivers and local guides fluent in English. We keep well informed on what is happening and the current events in each of the countries where we lead tours. We would never expose our travelers to risk or danger. Also, we always register our tours with the US government’s STEP program, which facilitates the local embassy being able to reach us, should a need arise.
Trip Planning for Specific Countries
Tourist Visa. We recommend obtaining your Bolivia Tourist Visa before leaving the US. If you live close to a Bolivian consulate or embassy (Washington DC and New York, NY) you can go in person to make the application. If that is not convenient, then we recommend using a visa expediting service, of which many exist in the Washington DC area. We have had good success using the services of ItsEasy Passport & Visa Services www.itseasy.com 1-866-487-3279. They also have offices in New York, Boston, Washington and other US cities.
The cost of the Bolivian Tourist Visa is $135 and is valid for 5 years. You are able to stay for up to 30 days in Bolivia with this visa, and it is for multiple entries. ItsEasy charges $59 for the service of taking your passport to the consulate and obtaining the visa, allow 5-15 Business Days. So, your total cost is $194, if you use their service for obtaining your visa.
Cash/ATM’s/Spending Money. Though we cover nearly all of your expenses on the tour, you will certainly want to bring some money of your own for drinks/refreshments/shopping, etc. There are ATM’s available in the cities in which we will travel and credit cards are accepted. It is always a good idea to bring some cash in US dollars in small denominations. Notify your credit card companies of your foreign travel.
Country Customs. Bolivians are friendly, warm and pleased to share their country and culture with you. As a preparation for the tour, we will send you detailed information about the Bolivian culture and customs as well as any current event updates.
Travel Items. Once you have booked our tour, we will send you a comprehensive list of items you will need or want on this trip to South America.
Additional Bolivia Information. More information on Bolivia can be found on the following pages of the US Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/bolivia.html
Tourist Visa. You can get a tourist visa on arrival in Laos if you have two passport-size photographs and pay $36 in US dollars at the airport when you fly into Luang Prabang or Vientiane.
Also, you can obtain a tourist visa ahead of time through a Laos Embassy or Consulate.
Alternately, you can use the services of a visa expediting company to help you with this, should you not live close to a Laotian or Cambodian Embassy. The visa services of It’s Easy is recommended for this service: http://www.itseasyservices.com/
Cash/ATM’s/Spending Money. Though we cover nearly all of your expenses on the tour, you will certainly want to bring some money of your own for drinks/refreshments/shopping, etc. There are ATM’s available in the cities in which we will travel and credit cards are usually accepted. Small towns will not have ATM’s. We recommend carrying some cash in US dollars in small denominations. Notify your credit card companies of your foreign travel.
Additional Laos Information. More information on Laos can be found on the following pages of the US Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/laos.html
Tourist Visa. Myanmar now has an online application for their Visa on Arrival service at the Yangon (RGN) and Mandalay (MDN) Airports. We recommend you complete this online application which costs $50 per person. You will receive notice within 5 days about being approved. You bring a print out of that letter to present to the immigration officials when you land at the international airport in Yangon or Mandalay.
Also, you can obtain your tourist visa before departing the US by going to the Myanmar Embassy in Washington DC or their Consulate in New York. If you do not live close those cities, then you can use a Visa Expediter service. You send your passport (via Fed Ex, please, for safety’s sake) along with the application, a copy of your air tickets, and payment. Allow 3 weeks for this process once the expediter has your passport in hand. You can pay an extra fee for their rush service. We have used ItsEasy Passport & Visa Services www.itseasy.com (New York office 1-866-487-3279) to obtain Myanmar tourist visas. Their charge plus the visa cost is approximately $85.
Cash/ATM’s/Spending Money. Due to the prior economic embargo, Myanmar Banks and money changers require that the US bills which you want to convert to their currency be pristine, with old folds, creases or marks on the bills. If the bills look a little used, they will offer a less favorable exchange rate. If the bills look worn and torn and folded, they will not exchange them at all. So, it is imperative that you go to the effort of finding US 100 dollar bills that are in excellent condition. We recommend speaking with your local bank at least 2 weeks before your departure for them to assist you with your hunt for bills in excellent condition!
Fortunately, ATM’s are now becoming more common in Myanmar, but they are by no means prolific. You will find them in the cities in which we travel. And they may have daily withdrawal limits of $300 worth of kyat (local currency) which can be withdrawn. That is why it is wise to carry both US cash and ATM cards. We recommend having two ATM cards on two different bank accounts, if possible, should their be any technical problems in using one of the cards.
Country Customs. As an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, Myanmar has customs unusual to those of us from the West. Once you book our tour, we will send you detailed information on customs and appropriate behavior and style of dress while visiting Myanmar.
Additional Myanmar Information. More information on Burma (Myanmar) can be found on the following pages of the US Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/burma.html
Tourist Visa. American citizens are exempt from needing a Tourist Visa in Thailand. You can spend up to 30 days with the single entry visa exception stamp which is given to you upon arrival at the Bangkok (or other international) Airport. As a result, do not go to the line indicating Visa Applications when you arrive at the BKK airport!
Additional Thailand Information. More information on Thailand can be found on the following pages of the US Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/thailand.html