Real Mexico
from $2520
Duration: 15 Days
Make Mexico your amigo with this 15-day exploration from the sprawling megacity of Mexico City out to the coastal sounds of Playa del Carmen. This overland adventure covers the best of the mex – from colourful colonial architecture and weaving cobblestoned laneways of Oaxaca, the highland culture and charm of San Cristobal de las Casas, the lush jungle and ruins of Palenque, the lively hub of Merida, to discovering the gems of the Caribbean. All of this, with the added bonus of as many tacos, tostadas and tejates you can devour. Experience the real Mexico, by immersing yourself in the culture and history, eating the delicious food and travelling alongside communities of joyful locals. You know, life could be worse.
  • You've never seen true colour until you've been to a Mexican market. Practice your bargaining skills, snap some photos and pick up traditional handicrafts in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Merida.
  • Escape the Mexican heat in the culturally-rich highlands of Chiapas. San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world town vibe, surrounded by ancient tribal villages.
  • Head deep into the jungle and experience the lush wilderness and cultural significance of Palenque and Lacanja – a real Indiana Jones moment.
  • Take an optional tour to the historic site of Chichen Itza to understand why these ancient Maya ruins are one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Mexico City - Leader-led City Tour of Historic Center
  • Mexico City - Leader-led Taco Crawl
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Oaxaca - Leader-led orientation walk
  • San Cristobal de Las Casas - Leader-led City Tour
  • San Juan Chamula - Maya Church (entrance fee)
  • Zinacantan - Maya Church (entrance fee)
  • Agua Azul - Waterfall Visit (entrance fee)
  • Palenque - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Merida - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Izamal - Leader-led walking tour
  • Izamal - Convento de San Antonio de Padua (Entrance)
  • Playa del Carmen - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • Playa del Carmen - Paleteria visit (Mexican Ice-cream store)
  • Day 1 Location: Mexico City
    Bienvenidos! Where better to start a Meh-i-co exploration than in Mexico City – one of the world's largest urban centres. Forget about the crowds and the smog, Mexico City has got museums, galleries and diverse architecture for you, along with pumping nightlife and delicious street food. Let’s kick things off with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. If you arrive into the city early, head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture, or relax in one of the many parks, plazas or gardens. Another great thing to do is to hop on one of the colourfully painted boats that cruise through the canal district of Xochimilco, or head to the National Palace for a look at the intricate murals painted by Diego Rivera. After the meeting tonight, you’re definitely going to want to seek out some tacos for dinner, and with an informal lesson from your group leader, try to place your order in Spanish!
    Day 2 Location: Mexico City
    Maybe grab some chilaquiles (a type of breakfast nachos) in the morning, then join your leader for an orientation walk around the historic centre of the city. Mexico City can feel overwhelming due to its sheer size and volume of people, however your group leader will know where to go. Walking makes you hungry, so it’s time to head on an included taco crawl, sample a couple of tacos from local street food vendors. It’s nothing fancy, but they sure are delicious. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy – if you like art, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a must-see, and for all museum lovers there's the Museum of Anthropology or the Palace of Fine Art. Don’t forget to snack your way around the city too, munching on tostadas, tortas, and chicharrones all day long. Alternatively, you can choose to take an optional day trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, 50 kilometres out of the city. A local guide will lead you down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, pointing out the historic Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.
    Day 3 Location: Oaxaca
    Take a public bus to the smaller but no less beautiful city of Oaxaca (around 7 hours). Pronounced ‘wuh-haa-ka’, this colourful town in the south is full of colonial buildings, colourful arcades and busy markets. Your group leader will provide an orientation walk to get your bearings, before giving you the time to visit at your own pace. With two full days to come, you’ll have heaps of time to explore the narrow, cobbled streets in the city, as well as the culture and natural beauty of the surrounding area. Descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling colourful woven blankets and shawls populate the markets – a great place to shop for textiles, as well as margarita flavours. Here you’ll also find some tasty regional food specialties, everything from cactus fruit, to spicy baked chilli and lime grasshoppers and the heavenly Oaxacan cheese. Make sure you pick up a tejate – a maize and cinnamon flavoured chocolate drink served cold. On your walk, be sure to look out for any reference to Oaxaca’s renowned arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Get lost admiring the spectrum of coloured buildings or sit in the main square listening to a street performer, sipping a mezcal and watching the world pass by.
    Day 4 Location: Oaxaca
    The city (and state) of Oaxaca is yours to explore on this free day, full of optional experiences. Perhaps head to the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The settlement's terraces, dams, canals and pyramids were literally carved out of the mountain. You’d better have your camera ready, because up here you can get an amazing view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. Alternatively, you could take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins. Mitla (the Nahuatl word for ‘underworld’) is an important Zapotec archaeological site and was the main religious centre for the Zapotec people. For something more relaxing on your way from Mitla, drop by the springs of Hierve el Agua – a series of mineral pools and calcified waterfalls dotted on top of a mountain, providing sweeping panoramic views of the Mexican countryside. Perhaps on the way back to Oaxaca, you could stop into a mezcaleria (mezcal distillery) to learn about the lesser-known but more and more popular hermano (brother) of tequila. It is mainly produced in Oaxaca, but is not for the faint-hearted as it’s generally enjoyed straight-up. Bottom’s up!
    Day 5 Location: Oaxaca / Overnight bus
    Today is another full day in Oaxaca, but be prepared to board an overnight bus later to travel to the mountain-top village of San Cristobal de las Casas. You’ve got today to bask in the colour and sights of Oaxaca, so why not test out your culinary skills at a delicious cooking class? Otherwise, check out the artisan stores in the markets and around town, and head to the historic Templo de Santo Domingo – a grand stone church with a large forecourt. In the evening, hop on a first-class overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas (approximately 13 hours in total). First-class buses in Mexico are quite comfortable. They are equipped with toilets and reclining seats with plenty of legroom. They are always air-conditioned, so make sure you take a warm layer with you, as it may get cold on board. While the bus is very comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections. If you suffer from motion sickness, this will be a good time to have your medication ready.
    Day 6 Location: San Cristobal de las Casas
    Say ‘hola’ to San Cristobal, your pastel-hued highland home for the next two days. Arrive early in the morning – check-in at the hotel isn't usually until midday, so leave your luggage and start exploring the city. Today and tomorrow are at your leisure here. Your group leader will point the main things out on a leader-led city tour, and afterwards, will help you arrange any optional activities. With its winding cobblestone streets snuggled in the Chiapas highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world feel mixed with strong pre-hispanic roots. Wander to a local cafe and check out their baked goods or try some pox – a traditional corn-based liquor, often flavoured with other ingredients.
    Day 7 Location: San Cristobal de las Casas
    Head out of town this morning and take a tour of the nearby San Juan Chamula, a traditional Maya village that serves as a centre for the indigenous folk around here. The villages are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups, who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional dress and customs. Your leader will take you to a church where the floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and chickens. Please be aware of a strict ban on cameras as the local people maintain their traditional customs. Afterwards, there's an option to take a trip to Sumidero Canyon, where you can take a boat down the mighty Rio Grijalva. Or you might like to get things pumping with further exploration of the villages by mountain bike. For something more adventurous, try a canyoning trip to ‘El Chorreadero’. This 6-hour excursion will see you venture a kilometre inside a (dry) cave and return following the river through a number of cascades, pools and rappels. A truly memorable experience, but probably not recommended for the claustrophobic or those with fear of heights.
    Day 8 Location: Lacanja River
    Today travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Lacanja River (approximately 6 hours). You will stop at Agua Azul (blue water) waterfall on the way, where you'll have an option to swim in the cascading pools. Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. There are a few optional activities on offer, including a rafting experience over Lacanja River waterfalls and backwaters and to the nearby archaeological site, then travelling back through the jungle and past the waterfalls of Moctuniha. There are also some awesome guided hikes available to book, so ask your group leader if you would like to organise this. Coming from the city today, you’ll have a much different experience – staying right in the middle of the jungle in an eco-cabana.
    Day 9 Location: Palenque
    This morning is free to explore the Lacanja jungle and surrounding lush trails and waterfalls, before travelling to Palenque in a private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). After arriving, head to the archaeological zone and visit the ruins of Palenque. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you take a self-guided walk among the temples, listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and screeching parrots echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins that are still un-excavated and remain concealed in the forest. You can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle to a hidden waterfall (at an extra fee). The area gives you a great idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they first arrived. This feels like real Tomb Raider stuff.
    Day 10 Location: Merida
    Today, travel by public bus and head north up to the old-world charm of Merida (approximately 7-8 hours in total). Founded in 1542, this city has a large indigenous population, with approximately 60% of Merida residents of Maya background. Take use of an orientation walk on arrival and wander through the Old Town, checking out some museums and stroll the city streets, which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets, where you can stock up on hammocks and Maya replicas. This is also a great place to sample local food specialities, such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted barbeque pork) or the extremely spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. For a snack, there's a bicycle cart on almost every corner in Merida selling elotes (corn on the cob) doused in salt, chilli, cheese, lemon juice or other toppings. If you haven’t noticed already: yeah, they like corn.
    Day 11 Location: Merida
    Merida is the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal. Perhaps today a tour of the ruins is on the cards, including a guide and shared transport. Little is known about the site’s origins but it’s thought the city was founded around AD500. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. Otherwise, you can also visit a nearby bird sanctuary or a variety of other ruins, or hunt down one of the hidden cenotes (stunning natural sinkholes filled with water) and take a dip in the crystal clear fresh water. If you decide to stay in the city, know that Merida's locals love dancing. Every Sunday the town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor, with salsa and merengue bands providing the music.
    Day 12 Location: Merida
    With a second full day in Merida, make sure that you haven’t missed any of the main sights in the city. Otherwise, there is an opportunity to visit the most well-known archaeological site in Mexico: Chichen Itza. Listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is considered the most important example of a fusion of Maya and Toltec tradition and civilisation in Yucatan. See the Caracol (a circular stellar observatory), the Great Ball Court (the largest field in Mesoamerica) the main sight in El Castillo (a step pyramid dominating the centre of the site) and many more historic ruins. Your group leader can organise transport and entrance fees into the archaeological site, however we recommend getting there early in the morning, as this area gets very busy with tourists during the day.
    Day 13 Location: Izamal
    Today, travel to Izamal by local bus (approximately 2 hours), which is known as the City of Yellow, because of the yellow ochre and white hues painted on many of the buildings, as the local’s way to preserve its light and project it to the future. Enjoy a leader-led city tour with a visit the San Antonio de Padua Convent – an imposing colonial structure at the centre of town adorned in the city’s distinct colour. Enjoy some time to continue exploring the city at your own pace and be sure to get another Mexican fix at a local restaurant tonight.
    Day 14 Location: Playa del Carmen
    Take a public bus to the resort hub of Playa del Carmen (approximately 2.5 hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is relatively close to Cancun but with less of a young party atmosphere. Here you can spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves or in underground caverns, tanning, or strolling along the white sands of the playa (beach). Your group leader will provide an orientation walk to the city, with a visit to a Mexican ice-cream store for an included tasting (of course). You’ll lean more about the fruits, flavours and the traditional combinations. With a free afternoon at your leisure, why not pull up a towel and bask in this tropical paradise? It is also possible to take a ferry from here across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef. In the evening, feast on seafood, kick back with your group and watch the waves with a margarita in hand.
    Day 15 Location: Playa del Carmen
    With no activities and no accommodation planned for the day, you are welcome to check-out at any time. Today is a perfect day to travel south on a half-day tour to the Tulum archaeological site, quite unique because of its placement on the side of a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. If you wish to spend more time in Playa del Carmen, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
    Dates
    Prices
    Availability
    Departure Date:
    04JAN2022
    Return Date:
    18JAN2022
    2720NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    18JAN2022
    Return Date:
    01FEB2022
    2720NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    25JAN2022
    Return Date:
    08FEB2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    08FEB2022
    Return Date:
    22FEB2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    22FEB2022
    Return Date:
    08MAR2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    15MAR2022
    Return Date:
    29MAR2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    05APR2022
    Return Date:
    19APR2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    03MAY2022
    Return Date:
    17MAY2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    17MAY2022
    Return Date:
    31MAY2022
    2625NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    14JUN2022
    Return Date:
    28JUN2022
    2520NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    08 Sep 2021

    Trip title

    Real Mexico

    Trip code

    QBYM

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2021

    Introduction

    Make Mexico your amigo with this 15-day exploration from the sprawling megacity of Mexico City out to the coastal sounds of Playa del Carmen. This overland adventure covers the best of the mex – from colourful colonial architecture and weaving cobblestoned laneways of Oaxaca, the highland culture and charm of San Cristobal de las Casas, the lush jungle and ruins of Palenque, the lively hub of Merida, to discovering the gems of the Caribbean. All of this, with the added bonus of as many tacos, tostadas and tejates you can devour. Experience the real Mexico, by immersing yourself in the culture and history, eating the delicious food and travelling alongside communities of joyful locals. You know, life could be worse.

    Style

    Basix

    Themes

    18 to 29s

    Transport

    Private vehicle,Public bus,Local bus,Overnight public bus,Taxi

    Physical Rating

    2

    Physical preparation

    None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. Cobblestones and uneven roads are common and you may be required to walk in hot and humid conditions. If you are in any doubt, please share these concerns or issues with your sales consultant so that your leader is aware prior and can pre-empt your needs.

    Joining point

    Hotel Posada Viena

    #28 Calle Marsella, Cuauhtemoc

    Zona Rosa

    Mexico City

    06600

    MEXICO

    Phone: +55 55927312

    Joining point description

    This relaxed hotel is a 6-minute walk from a metro station, 18 minutes' walk from the Angel of Independence statue, and 2 km from the Historic Centre. Warmly decorated, Colonial-style rooms offer free Wi-Fi and cable TV. Some have private terraces, living areas and/or sleep up to 4 people. Room service is available. Amenities include an informal restaurant, a lobby bar and a leafy interior courtyard.

    Joining point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged arrival transfer service from Mexico City International Airport [MEX] at an additional fee. If you have pre-booked this service, please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. If you have pre-booked this service, please look for a sign with the Intrepid logo and your name on it; the driver will be located nearby to the Information Desk specific to your arrival terminal. Terminal 1 Domestic Arrivals – Information Desk A1 (in front of door 2) Terminal 1 International Arrivals – Information Desk E1 (in front of door 7) Terminal 2 Domestic Arrivals – Information Desk Q (in front of door 4) Terminal 2 International Arrivals – Information Desk N (in front of door 3) If you have any problems and cannot locate your driver on arrival, please call our Intrepid Emergency number listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document. If you don’t have a device or mobile coverage, Mexico City Airport has a free Wi-Fi connection, so you can call that same number via an online application such as Skype. There are also several information desks and tourist information desks around if you require further assistance. Otherwise, you can travel from the Mexico City Airport to the hotel by taxi. We recommend you use the authorised taxi services organised from inside the terminal. They will charge you approximately MX$250-350 (USD$14-20) for a trip to downtown. The drive to where the hotel is located is approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic.

    Finish point

    SC Hotel Playa del Carmen

    # 33 Avenida 20 between 2nd & 4th streets

    Centro

    Playa del Carmen

    MEXICO

    Phone: +52 (984)8730467

    Fax: +52 (984)8733177

    Finish point description

    SC Hotel Playa del Carmen is located in the heart of Playa del Carmen. The beach, numerous shops, restaurants and bars are located just around the corner from the hotel. Bus and taxi stations are only a few minutes away. All rooms have a private bathroom, ceiling fan, air conditioning, a safe, cable TV and telephone. There is 24 hour reception, laundry service and swimming pool.

    Finish point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged departure transfer service to Cancun International Airport [CUN] at an additional fee. If you require this service, please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip departure. If you have pre-booked this service, your transfer driver will collect you from your hotel 4 hours before your flight time. If your transfer has not arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled pickup time please ask the hotel reception to call our Intrepid Emergency number, listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document. Alternatively, you can travel from the hotel to the airport by taxi. The hotel reception will be able to assist you with a taxi. The drive to the Cancun Airport will take approximately 50-60 minutes depending on traffic and will cost approximately MX$1100-1250 (USD$60-70).

    Important information

    1. This is an 18-29s departure. 2. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time. 3. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Day 5 (Overnight bus) where you will be in shared accommodation. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.

    Group leader

    All group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious, and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you are interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

    Safety

    Most national governments provide regularly updated foreign travel advice on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all destinations and activities on your trip. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/travel-alerts We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however, during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Intrepid's operational safety policies can be viewed on our website at the link below. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how safety is being managed on our trips.

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety-guidelines

    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

    MONEY WITHDRAWAL: In order to avoid fraud and theft, it is advisable that you withdraw money from ATMs located inside banks or guarded shops during business hours only.

    LOCAL LODGINGS: On this trip you will be staying in some restored houses and local lodges - these are one of the charms of this journey, but their staircases, balconies and passages etc may not always comply with western safety standards. Please do not expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved to their original state.

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

    SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.

    WATER SAFETY: Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.

    Communications

    WhatsApp is a popular way to communicate in Latin America. We recommended downloading WhatsApp prior to departure to communicate with by text with your leader and group members during the tour. Once downloaded, please validate your phone number before leaving home as you will not be able to do this once you arrive unless you have international roaming enabled. Connections for making phone calls through WhatsApp are not reliable, so please do not use this app to make calls to our emergency phone line.

    Visas

    If you receive an immigration card upon entry, please ensure you keep this safe as it may be requested at point of exit. For further information regarding country entry and exit fees, please refer to the 'Money Matters' section of this document.  Mexico - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico for the most up to date information. You will be required to fill out a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) upon arrival. This FMM form must be stamped by Mexican immigration and kept until you leave. The maximum stay is 180 days, but they may sometimes put a lower number unless you specify otherwise. USA Visa Waiver - Applicable if arriving via the United States of America. Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program, meaning a visa isn't required, however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html All travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14 fee to paid by card. Apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the USA. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding. If there are any discrepancies between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets or even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere. If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 01 March 2011, you will not longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html

    Why we love it

    You've never seen true colour until you've been to a Mexican market. Practice your bargaining skills, snap some photos and pick up traditional handicrafts in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Merida.

    Escape the Mexican heat in the culturally-rich highlands of Chiapas. San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world town vibe, surrounded by ancient tribal villages.

    Head deep into the jungle and experience the lush wilderness and cultural significance of Palenque and Lacanja – a real Indiana Jones moment.

    Take an optional tour to the historic site of Chichen Itza to understand why these ancient Maya ruins are one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

    Is this trip right for you

    This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle and public bus with your group, including an overnight bus journey. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates. Mexico's climate is sultry and tropical, so can get really hot and humid. Wear loose clothing and make sure stay hydrated, especially while out on walking tours.

    Health

    GENERAL HEALTH All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to manage and enjoy our style of travel. Please note that if in the opinion of our group leader or local guide any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, we reserve the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained while travelling. COVID-19 The safety and wellbeing of our travellers, leaders, crew, staff, and suppliers continues to remain our highest priority as we travel. You can read more about how we will keep you safe on our trips, including our COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safe-travels HEALTH SCREENING If you are unwell prior to travelling, please stay at home and contact us to make alternative arrangements. At the group meeting, you will be asked to complete a self-screening health form and report any COVID-19 symptoms as well as any close contact with someone who has suspected or confirmed COVID-19. If you are displaying any symptoms or have any health concerns at this time, we will follow the advice of local health authorities to determine whether medical assistance, isolation or further action is required. We ask all travellers to continue to monitor their health throughout their travels and report any relevant symptoms to their tour leader. TESTING & VACCINATION POLICY From 1st May 2021 we introduced new safety measures that apply on all of our trips, except for tours in Australia and New Zealand. On trips departing before 1st September 2021, you will need to show one of the below to your leader at the Group Meeting on Day 1 of your trip: - Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or - Proof of negative COVID-19 test conducted no more than 72 hours before day 1 of your trip, or - Proof of recovery documentation In addition, if you’re aged 70+ or have an existing health condition that puts you at a higher risk of serious COVID-19 disease, you are also required to provide proof of vaccination before you can join a trip. MANDATORY VACCINATION POLICY From 1st of September 2021 we have introduced enhanced safety measures that apply on all of our trips, except for tours in Australia, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands. You will need to show your leader at the Group Meeting on Day 1 of your trip: - Proof of COVID-19 vaccination This policy is in addition to any specific testing or vaccination requirements for entry or exit to a destination or required by your airline. For more information, including a detailed FAQ about this policy, please visit https://www.intrepidtravel.com/covid19 ZIKA VIRUS: There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip. MALARIA: There is no commercially available vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in many less-developed tropical areas in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Protection against mosquito bites is essential and where the risk is considered high, anti-malarial medications are recommended. Anti-malarial medications should be discussed with experts as there are different medications available and not all medications suit all people or all destinations. Where malaria is considered prevalent in mountainous regions we prefer that trekkers to altitude try to avoid the use of mefloquine (Lariam) if possible. DENGUE FEVER: Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent, and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.

    Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in this region. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule, our groups tend to eat dinner together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though. DIETARY REQUIREMENTS Please let us know your diet requirements before your trip starts. Generally speaking, in bigger cities/towns vegetarians can expect a reasonable range of vegetarian venues and/or vegetarian options within tourist restaurant menus. However, vegetarianism is not the norm in this part of the world so options can be limited when eating at homestays, small local restaurants, street stalls, markets, etc. More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, coeliac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc.) can also be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend that, if possible, to bring your own supply of snacks with you. For those on strict Kosher or Halal diets, we understand your dietary requirements are important, however, sometimes due to cultural and language differences these are not always easy to convey when you are travelling. Your guide will do their best to assist you in translating your needs when eating out, but please be aware that these diets are almost unheard of in much of the continent and the best they may be able to accommodate is no pork and shellfish. If this will be a concern for you you may need to consider opting for vegetarian or vegan meals for the included meals in your itinerary. We recommend researching kosher or halal options in your destination country prior to travel to see if you are able to buy snacks once there, otherwise consider bringing some from home. 

    Money matters

    When it comes to money matters on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Also make sure you’ve read your trip details thoroughly so you know what’s included in the trip price and what isn’t. This should make budgeting a little easier. You’ll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that’s this document).  The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting. CONTINGENCY FUNDS: We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to the equivalent of an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved. MEALS NOT INCLUDED: For this trip we recommend between USD 25 to 50 per day. How do we work this out? Breakfast - If breakfast is not included, you can expect to pay between USD5 to USD10 at a local café. Lunch - If you are happy with a quick snack on the go, you may get away with as little as USD5 to USD10 for a set menu at a local eatery or a sandwich and a drink at a café. On the other hand, a lunch meal at a more tourist restaurant can cost between USD10 to USD15. Dinner - At dinner time, your leader will normally recommend restaurants where you can safely try the local specialties of the region. Expect meals to cost between USD12 to USD25 for a main. These are indicative prices only. If you are in a tight budget, are happy to eat just local food and are not afraid of an upset tummy every now and then, you can eat cheaper than this. If you want to try just the finest food at the finest restaurants, then you can expect meals to cost as much as in western countries. CREDIT CARDS & ATMs: ATMs are widely available in major towns and cities across Latin America. Credit cards are generally available in tourist shops and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred over American Express, Diners, etc. Smaller venues take cash only. Check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to and what their fees and charges are. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions. Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day. If bringing over cash, please note USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks. CURRENCY INFORMATION: MEXICO CURRENCY The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores but otherwise plan on making cash purchases with pesos. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw pesos from ATMs and over the counter at banks. Few businesses accept US dollars however this is the easiest currency to exchange. ENTRY AND EXIT FEES: The below country specific information was correct at time of writing, however please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information. Mexico - If you enter Mexico by air, the MX$500 immigration fee is included in your airfare. If you enter Mexico overland, the immigration office will arrange for you to pay this fee at a nearby bank. You will receive an FMM card upon entry which you need to retain and present upon exiting the country. If you exit Mexico overland, there is a Mexican Tourist Fee (DNI - Derecho de No Inmigrante) of MX$558 (US$30). TIPPING If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader. The recommended tipping amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers. We do however recommend that you tip in the local currency - Hold on to your smaller notes and coins to make tipping easier. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: - Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$5. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% of your bill. - Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide. We suggest US$3-5 per passenger per day. - Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We suggest US$3-6 per day for drivers. - Local guides: There might be times during the trip where you’ll have a specialist local guide alongside your trip leader. We suggest tipping these guides about USD$2-3 per day. - Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline USD$2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. In total, we recommend you budget approx USD$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.

    What to take

    Most travellers prefer to take a small to medium wheeled suitcase, which is a great size for the packing capacity in our private vehicles. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even walk short distances. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible. You'll also need a day pack/bag for activities and day trips. In terms of weight, airlines generally allow a maximum of 15-20kg for check in luggage and a maximum of 5kg for carry on. Other than the items and clothing you always need on a trip, below we have listed packing suggestions specific for this trip: ESSENTIAL: - Warm as well as light clothing. Central America is often assumed to have hot weather, but it can get cold in the countryside, mountains and at night in the winter so we suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer - Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings - Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses RECOMMENDED: - Soft and/or hard copies of all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, travel insurance etc. and keep the hard copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a copy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary - Water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments - Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com) - Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes and Band-Aids. - Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both - Swimwear - Travel beach towel - Tissues &/or toilet paper &/or wet wipes - Insect repellent - Camera with spare memory card, charger &/or batteries OPTIONAL: - Ear plugs to guard against a potential snoring room-mate - Phrase book VALUABLES: Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your safe if available. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden. LAUNDRY: Laundry is available at many hotels and towns during this trip, although you might need to wait for a two-night stop in order to make sure you get it back in time. While laundry at hotels is usually charged by the item, laundromats usually charge by the kilo, which is generally inexpensive (about USD 2 per kilo).

    Climate and seasonal

    Please note that Hurricane season is June to October, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. You must at all times comply with the laws, customs, foreign exchange and drug regulations of all countries visited, and you also agree to travel in accordance with our Responsible Travel Guidelines. The decision of the group leader is final on all matters likely to affect the safety or well-being of any traveller or staff member participating in the trip. If you fail to comply with a decision made by a group leader, or interfere with the well-being or mobility of the group, the group leader may direct you to leave the trip immediately, with no right of refund. We may also elect not to carry you on any future trips booked. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information. For additional Conditions of Carriage regarding COVID-19, see here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/conditions-carriage

    Feedback

    Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time. BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at: www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us CRISIS AND EMERGENCIES In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office: Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Costa Rica): +506 6022 4721

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable, and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers, and staff are trained on these principles and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

    Accommodation notes

    The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline only and may change. On some occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our preferred accommodation. In these cases, we will use a similar standard of accommodation. Throughout the trip, we request that our properties prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However, this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination or on some trips, have use of shared day rooms until all rooms are available.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all our trips for those travelling internationally. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. Travellers who reside within the European Union or Switzerland receive basic international health insurance, so travel insurance is not mandatory under European Union Law. However, as this does not cover situations such as emergency rescues, private health care, or repatriation to their home country, comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended. European Union or Swiss travellers who decline travel insurance when travelling outside of their home region must sign a Travel Insurance Waiver Form at the Group Meeting. For assistance with travel insurance or other services, please visit the link below: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/booking-resources/our-services

    Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons, we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SOLO TRAVELLERS This is the beauty of our style of travel: many of our travellers join because they are travelling solo and want to meet and share experiences with like-minded people. We pair up solo travellers with another traveller of the same gender as per your passport or the information we have in our booking system, so if you identify differently from the gender marker on your passport, please let us know in advance. We also have a Single Supplement available on most trips for travellers who prefer to have their own room. Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour. Pre-trip and post-trip accommodation booked through us will on a single room basis. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on an open gender, multi-share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any such changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested in the Group Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

    Accommodation

    Hotel (12 nights),Overnight public bus (1 night),Cabin (1 night)

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