Asia 2009/10 Incl, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand
Inside youâ€™ll find lots of important information about your tour & all the places youâ€™ll visit
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Welcome to Contiki We at Contiki recognise that this may be your first trip to Asia so we have put this booklet together to provide you with as much background detail and information as we can about Asia and importantly, your Contiki holiday. We have included our suggestions and ideas on many questions that you may have as well as providing general information on many of the countries you may be visiting on your trip. We hope this will help you in preparing for and enjoying your holiday. We have found from past experience that our clients enjoy their trip that much more having taken the time to carefully read this booklet before leaving home. Most holidays are as good - or bad - as people make them and ours are no exception. Over forty five years experience and hard work have gone into planning and organising your holiday, and throughout the trip we’ll be doing our best to make it the ‘holiday of a lifetime’. Nevertheless, in the end, the success of your holiday will depend on you, for you will only get out of it what you yourself put into it. Finally, we want to thank you for choosing Contiki together we’ll prove that your choice for enjoyment, quality and value for money was the right one.
Tammy Marshall Managing Director Contiki Australia & Asia
Contents Before you go
• What to pack • Baggage allowance • checklist • Insurance • Passports & Visas • Vaccinations • Money matters • Making phone calls • Flying hints • Travel documents • Tour briefings • If you miss the coach
• Ho Chi Minh City departure point • How to get there • Hanoi end point • How to get there • Useful information • Places of interest
• Bangkok departure point • How to get there • Useful information • Places of interest
• Phnom Penh departure point • How to get there • Siem Reap end point • How to get there • Useful Information
• Useful information • Places of interest
Touring – the facts
• The Contiki team • Accommodation • Meals • Making a difference • Transport • Smoking
General information • • • •
Health and hygiene • Local customs • Local payments Tipping • Shopping • Clothing sizes • Photography Weekends & public holidays Travellers 10 commandments
Stay in touch
Before you go What to pack Clothing Slip-on shoes or sandals are useful for visits to pagodas or people’s houses, as you’ll save time taking your shoes on and off. When visiting pagodas or temples, shorts and tank-tops are unacceptable. Your knees and shoulders must be covered. If your trip includes stops at beaches and mountainous areas, you will need clothes for all temperatures. A swimsuit, sunglasses, a hat, t-shirts, shorts that are not too revealing, long trousers, some light-weight, longsleeved tops and a light jacket that is wind and rainresistant will get you through most trips. If you plan to visit mountainous areas in the winter, you’ll need a warm coat. Destinations at higher altitudes can get chilly; choose clothes that you can layer. If trekking is on your agenda you will need sturdy footwear plus lots of socks. The larger cities like Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok offer some upscale bars and restaurants, so be sure to pack some clothes and shoes for a nice evening out. However it is recommended that you leave any expensive personal items at home to avoid attracting too much attention.
Toiletries & medication While imported beauty products are readily available in major cities, you’d be wise to pack staples like sunscreen, contact lens solution, tampons and mosquito repellent, as well as prescription medication. Many medicines are available in Indochina without prescriptions, but they may be out-of-date or of poor quality. The major cities have department stores which are good places to stock up on Western toiletries and medicines.
Baggage allowance When packing, the golden rule of seasoned travellers worldwide is: Decide how many clothes you want to take – halve the amount and that’s how much you’ll need! Baggage is restricted to one reasonable sized suitcase. Please ensure your suitcase is NO LARGER than 73cm x 50cm x 25cm (29” x 20” x 10”) non-expanding and maximum weight of 20kgs (44lbs). You may also bring one small carry-on bag, but no metal frame backpacks or vanity cases please as they are difficult to pack. Remember, if your tour includes a flight you are also subject to airline baggage restrictions.
Before you go Checklist ❏
Visas (if applicable)
Contiki tour vouchers
Contiki hotel vouchers
Two spare passport-sized photos
Adaptor (for electrical appliances) NB: Don’t pack you passport or money in your suitcase!
Remember to bring photocopies of your passport and visa/s (if applicable), plus some extra passport-sized photos if you’re applying for on-arrival visas. While we will do all we can to assist you, it is not Contiki’s responsibility to retrieve items that you leave behind in hotels, etc. while on tour.
Insurance You must take out comprehensive insurance cover for cancellation, medical expenses, personal accident, personal baggage, money and public liability before you travel. You may not be accepted on a Contiki holiday unless you have arranged satisfactory insurance. You also agree to indemnify us against all third-party claims, actions, damages and remedies against us arising from your participation in the holiday. For insurance details, please speak to your Travel Agent or Contiki reservations agent at the time of making your booking.
Passports and visas (please read carefully) All passengers travelling to these countries require a valid passport, valid for 6 months beyond the conclusion of their trip and with appropriate visas. Depending on your nationality, you may require visas to enter certain countries included in your tour. You are responsible for obtaining all necessary visas, as well as to comply with entry, health or other requirements of the countries visited. Please contact your Travel Agent or applicable government authorities to obtain necessary travel information and visas. The Operators and/or their employees and agents are not responsible for passport, visa, entry, health or other requirements of the countries visited or any loss sustained by you for failing to comply with laws, regulations, orders and/or requirements of the countries visited.
Before you go Important: ❏
Visas can take up to six weeks to obtain and a fee is normally charged.
Failure to obtain all necessary visas could cause you to miss part of your tour and may result in you incurring considerable expense and inconvenience.
It is better to apply for all visas through your travel agent or through the consulate before you leave home. It is very important that the entry and exit dates on the visa are correct. Your travel agent will contact Contiki for full details.
Vaccinations At the time that we announced our Asia products (August 2008), the following immunizations were recommended for travellers in Southeast Asia: ❏
Diphtheria and tetanus
Japanese B Encephalitis
Consult your doctor or local health department to discuss which vaccinations you need. Don’t forget to bring with you any medication that you may require en route such as antihistamines, antibiotics, etc. Please note that while malaria is still rare, dengue fever is another disease carried by mosquitoes which is on the increase and commonly contracted by travellers. Although cases usually do not require hospitalization, catching dengue fever would still ruin your trip. There is no immunization available for the virus – just make sure you always sleep beneath a mosquito net in open-style rooms, and always apply mosquito repellent, especially near water, as dengue mosquitoes bite during the day.
Money matters We recommend you carry cash as well as Travellers Cheques in small denominations in United States Dollars (USD) plus a local currency such as Riel (Cambodia), Kip (Laos), Baht (Thailand) or Dong (Vietnam). Please note, Travellers Cheques are widely accepted in big cities but there will be times where it would be wise to bring adequate funds in cash if travelling in remote areas. You will need to allow enough money to cover optional lunches and dinners, souvenirs and shopping, drinks, optional activities, entrance fees to some attractions and evening entertainment. Please do not rely solely on a credit/debit card for cash as they are not accepted in all areas.
Before you go Flying hints Ensure you carry all your travel documentation in your hand luggage, plus your camera, films, toiletries, paperbacks, etc. Make sure you take advantage of Duty-Free shopping but check the current Duty-Free limits that apply in the country of your destination. Don’t carry items packed by others and never accept packages or articles to carry from people not known to you. In each of these countries, penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty. The possession of even small quantities of “soft drugs” for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences and deportation.
Travel documents You should bring a money-belt to safely carry your travel documents and cash, and ensure that your luggage has a lock. Bring photocopies of your passport and visa, plus some extra passport-sized photos if you’re applying for on-arrival visas. When flying into or within Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos you will probably be given baggage claim tags (they will be stuck to the back of your ticket). Keep these, as you may need to show them when leaving the airport.
Tour briefings Here’s your chance to meet your fellow passengers and Tour Manager and receive any new information about your tour. Tour briefings are held at 6.00pm on day 1 for tours commencing in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. At this time your Tour Manager will also collect the applicable tour local cash payment in United States Dollars. Check for information regarding timings and location on the noticeboard in the departure hotel reception area.
If you miss the coach Please contact the reception staff or representative at the start hotel (listed below) as soon as practical. They will give you specific details on how to join your tour.
Vietnam information Ho Chi Minh City departure point Vien Dong Hotel 275A Pham Ngu Lao Street District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Tel: +84 (8) 3836 8941 Fax: +84 (8) 3836 9010 Website: www.viendonghotel.benthanhtourist.com
How to get there: Drive time from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to the Vien Dong Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City is approximately 30 minutes. Metered taxis cost 120,000 to 150,000 dong (usually under $US 10.00). Clients should ensure the taxi meter is turned on and working! Sasco Taxis are recommended.
Hanoi end point Platinum 2 Hotel 57 Nguyen Truong To Str Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: + 84 (4) 3927 4434 Fax: + 84 (4) 3927 4435 Website: www.platinumhotel-hanoi.com
How to get from there: Noi Bai International Airport is approximately 35 km or 45 minutes drive north of the city. Metered taxis cost 160,000 to 190,000 dong ($US 10.00 to $US 12.00). Clients should ensure the taxi meter is turned on and working! Airport, Hanoi and Mai Linh Taxis are recommended.
Useful information Electricity Most of the electrical current in Vietnam is 220V, 50Hz. Round two-plug pins are more common although some places use flat pins or three-pronged pins. Cheap adaptors are sold in local markets. Protect sensitive electronic equipment like laptops from power fluctuations by using a surge protector.
Mobile phones Vietnam uses a GSM mobile phone network and also has a new CDMA network with limited coverage over 12 cities. You can buy a SIM card and/or hand set at any mobile phone shop. â€˜Top upâ€™ credit vouchers are available at most phone shops, particularly ones displaying the network logo, or local post offices (buu dien). To rent a mobile phone in Ho Chi Minh City call: (08) 3824 2382 or (04) 3821 8465 in Hanoi. You can place international phone calls and send faxes at post offices or at most hotels, although hotels often charge extra fees.
Vietnam information Public phones These require phone cards, which are sold at post offices. For the best long distance rate, dial 171 before the country code and number. This line has a flat fee of $1.30 per minute to 50 countries.
Places of interest Hanoi In 1010 Emperor Ly Thai To founded his capital, which he christened ‘Rising Dragon’, on the banks of the Red River. Almost a millennium later, Hanoi remains Vietnam’s political centre, its crowded streets lined with reminders of its long and tumultuous history. You’ll find the Temple of Literature, a bastion of Confucian scholarship founded in 1015; an Old Quarter of winding alleys, crowded markets and traditional shop-houses; tree-lined avenues flanked by imposing French colonial villas; and the Soviet-style mausoleum built in honour of the man who led the country to independence, Ho Chi Minh.
Kayaking in Halong Bay
Halong Bay More then 3,000 limestone islands rise from the turquoise waters of Ha Long Bay, an archipelago that lies 160km from Hanoi. Declared a World heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, Halong Bay is a naturalist’s dream. Sculpted into strange shapes by the wind and weather, the islands hide deserted beaches, many magnificent caves, and hidden lagoons that may only be reached by chinks in the cliffs that are revealed at low tide.
Sapa Set high in Vietnam’s northeast mountains, the hamlet of Sapa offers spectacular views of jagged mountain ridges, terraced rice paddies and green valleys inhabited by people of various minority groups, all of whom congregate in Sapa’s colourful market. Each group has its own distinctive style of dress. Sapa is becoming a bit of Mecca for tourists.
Hoi An waterfront
Hoi An Set near the coast in central Vietnam, from the 16th to 19th centuries the riverside town of Hoi An once drew merchants from as far afield as Japan, India, Indonesia and Europe who bought the areaâ€™s silk, spices and porcelain. A Japanese district and a Chinese quarter were built, to be later joined by a French district. What makes Hoi An remarkable today is that its town centre has been beautifully preserved, the streets still lined with old tileroofed shop-houses, shady pagodas and colourful communal halls. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this little town is a living museum.
Hue While imperial rule ended almost six decades ago, the central city of Hue still bears the marks of its royal past. From 1802 to 1945 Hue was home to 13 Nguyen emperors, whose palaces and tombs provide fascinating glimpses into the luxurious and secretive world of the court. Visitors may explore the red-lacquered pavilions of the Citadel, take an evening boat cruise on the Perfume River accompanied by a troupe of musicians performing courtly love songs, or feast on delicacies once served in the royal palaces.
Nha Trang Located in central Vietnam, the sun-washed town of Nha Trang hugs a seven-kilometre-long stretch of golden sand, making this the perfect place to get a dose of sun, surf and fresh seafood. Clear blue seas dotted with offshore islands offer excellent opportunities for diving, fishing and snorkelling, while the town itself is home to some interesting sites, including a massive white Buddha statue and a cluster of Cham towers built between the 7th and 12th centuries. For a truly dirty pleasure try the mineral mud baths warmed by natural hot springs
Vietnam information Dalat Set in Vietnam’s picturesque Central Highlands, this quiet town boasts cool mountain air, some of the best-preserved French colonial architecture in Indochina, and stunning natural beauty. Year-round, the temperature hovers at about 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), making this a favourite destination for outdoor-enthusiasts. Mountain bikers and hikers will delight in the area’s trails, as well as in views of pine-covered hills, fruit orchards and lush tea and coffee plantations.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975, this is Vietnam’s business hub, a city that never stops. There’s a buzz of energy; everyone is buying, selling, building, moving… Beautiful French colonial buildings stand beside newly-built skyscrapers. Women dressed in Vietnam’s traditional ao-dai tunic stroll past fashionable boutiques and crowded cafes. You’ll find great nightlife and some of the best shopping in Southeast Asia in this vibrant, fast-changing city.
Sunset on the Mekong
Mekong Delta Life in Vietnam’s agrarian heartland still unfolds as it has for centuries, as farmers cultivate paddy fields, tend to their orchards of tropical fruit, and fish in the rivers and canals that criss-cross this fertile plain. You can explore the region’s myriad waterways by boat, watch rare storks and sarus cranes, and visit traditional floating markets.
Phu Quoc Island Home to a POW camp holding 40,000 inmates during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1972, Phu Quoc is now a haven for nature and sea lovers looking for a place to unwind. Trekking, diving, snorkelling and fishing are popular activities, and there are a number of resorts offering relaxed dining and evening entertainment. Located off the tip of Vietnam’s south coast, the pristine sandy beaches of this laid-back island are reachable by boat from the Mekong Delta, or a 40 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
Thailand information Bangkok departure point Manohra Hotel 412 Surawongse Road Bangrak, Bangkok, 10500, Thailand Tel: +66 (2) 234 5070 Fax: +66 (2) 237 7662 Website: www.manohrahotel.com
How to get there: Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi International Airport is 30 km from the Manohra Hotel, or approximately 50 minutes’ drive. An Airport Express Bus is available from 5am to 12am and costs 150 baht. The Airport Express counter is on level 1 near entrance 8. Taxis are also available from level 1.
Useful information Electricity Thailand has 220V, 50Hz electricity. Wall outlets are usually the round, two-pin type, although some fit two flat blades. Protect sensitive electronic equipment like laptops from power fluctuations by using a surge-protector.
Mobile phones Thailand has two mobile phone networks: GSM and NMT 900MHz.
Public phones International calling cards called Thai Cards, come in denominations of 300 Baht and 500 Baht and are available at airports, post offices and shops in tourist centres.
Places of interest Bangkok With towering skyscrapers pressed up against Chinese shop-houses and brand-new Mercedes squeezing past vendors with pushcarts, this is a city of sharp contrasts. Culture fiends will delight in the dazzling Royal Palace and the city’s countless pagodas, while shoppers could spend weeks sifting through Bangkok’s malls and open-air markets. Entertainment ranges from highbrow (classical Thai music concerts) to low (transvestite revues) with everything in between. Dining options are equally varied; whether you’re eating French cuisine in a plush hotel restaurant or sampling fried crickets on the side of the road, prepare to have all of your senses engaged. This is the place to eat, drink and be merry.
Sukhothai The ruins of Sukhothai date back to the mid-13th century, when the site became the capital of Thailand’s first kingdom. Located about 450km from Bangkok, this World Heritage Site features lotus-strewn ponds, pagodas and serene Buddha statues.
Thailand information Ayuthaya Ayuthaya served as Thailand’s capital from the 14th to 18th centuries when it ranked as one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Late in the 17th century its population reached one million, and foreign visitors wrote awestruck accounts of its size and splendour. Located 86km north of Bangkok, the ruins of this World Heritage Site may be visited on foot and include various pagodas and Buddha images.
Chiang Mai Surrounded by hills, Chiang Mai offers both pretty surroundings and architecture. Enclosed by a moat and crumbling walls, the old city features great cafes and shops. An important Buddhist centre since the 14th century, Chiang Mai is home to more than 300 temples. Many visitors come here to attend meditation retreats, massage classes or yoga lessons. It is also a centre of handicraft production, with a long history of silverwork, woodcarving, pottery-making and weaving. Not to be missed is the Night Bazaar, a series of covered markets, shops and stalls that offer the best selection of handicrafts in Thailand.
Chiang Rai The provincial capital of Thailand’s northernmost province, Chiang Rai, is a good base from which to explore the Golden Triangle, the remote area where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet. Mountains form a natural border between Thailand and Myanmar, while the mighty Mekong River divides Thailand from Laos. Populated by diverse hill tribes, this region has long been associated with the opium trade, although poppy fields have now given way to vegetable plots. Visitors can trek on foot or by elephant through the region’s hills, river raft down jungle rivers, and meet the residents of isolated ethnic minority villages.
Phuket Located off Thailand’s west coast in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand with an area of 810 square kilometres. The coastal scenery is magnificent, with tropical rainforests, steep limestone cliffs, and picturepostcard beaches of soft golden sand. Inland lay coconut, pineapple, cashew nut and rubber plantations. Clear water and colourful coral reefs make this area the most popular dive spot in Thailand.
Ko Samui Lying off Thailand’s east coast in the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Samui offers everything you could want in a beach retreat: white sand beaches, coconut palms, fresh seafood and clear water. With an area of 247 square kilometres, Ko Samui is the largest island in an archipelago of around 80 islands. The nearby Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao also offer many beach resorts and great diving. Like Phuket, Ko Samui attracts many visitors yet has plenty out-of-the-way spots for those wishing to get away from it all.
Cambodia information Phnom Penh departure point Hotel Castle #4-6, Street 148 Sangat Pfsar Kandal I Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Tel: +855 2321 1425 Fax: +855 2321 1428
How to get there: The distance from Phnom Penhâ€™s Pochentong International Airport to the Hotel Castle is approximately 8 km and takes 15 minutes. Taxis are available from $US 7.00.
Siem Reap departure point Casa Angkor Hotel Oum Chhay/Oum Khun Street Mondul 1, Svay Dangkum commune, Siem Reap, Cambodia Tel: +855 6396 3658 Fax: +855 6396 3657 Website: www.visit-mekong.com/casa-angkor-hotel
How to get from there: Siem Reapâ€™s small airport is 6km from town and only a short drive from the Casa Angkor Hotel. Best option is to book a taxi or private car transfer to the airport. Prices start at $US 5.00.
Useful information Electricity Electricity in Phnom Penh and most of Cambodia is 220V, 50Hz. Electric power sockets generally fit two round pins. Three-pin plug adaptors are sold in markets in Phnom Penh. Protect sensitive electronic equipment like laptops from power fluctuations by using a surge-protector.
Mobile phones Cambodia uses a GSM mobile phone network, and at present pre-paid SIMs are only available to Cambodian nationals or foreigners with a work permit.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Cambodia information Places of interest Phnom Penh Cambodia’s capital for the most of the last six centuries, Phnom Penh retains a rather dusty, small town feel, with crumbling French colonial buildings, sprawling Wats (as the pagodas are known here), and the imposing Royal Palace. Phnom Penh is also where the well-known memorials and museums of the Khmer Rouge atrocities are located, including Tuol Sleng.
Siem Reap Built between seven and eleven centuries ago, the temples – about 100 of which are still standing – were devoted to Buddha and Hindu deities. Within the fortified city of Angkor Thom lies The Bayon, the third tier of which is lined by more than 200 huge, carved faced that stare down from 54 towers. Other highlights include the Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm, which looks just as it did when French explorers stumbled upon it in the 1860s, and Angkor Wat, a vast temple complex dedicated to Vishnu in the early 12th Century.
Laos useful information Electricity Laos has 220V, 50Hz electricity. As both two-prong and flat pins are in use you would be wise to bring adaptors. Protect sensitive electronic equipment like laptops from power fluctuations by using a surge-protector.
Mobile phones Laos uses a GSM mobile phone network. It is easy to purchase a pre-paid SIM card in Laos – just make sure your phone is unlocked to accept SIMs from other networks, or buy another handset. Handsets are cheaper in Thailand and Vietnam.
Laos information Places of interest Vientiane Set along a bend in the Mekong River, Laos’ capital is a relaxing place to while away a few days. You’ll find some beautiful old Wats to explore, a large market that holds the best selection of hand-woven textiles in the country, a variety of good restaurants serving an international mix of cuisine, and pleasant riverside bars at which to sip a beer and enjoy the sunset. This is a lovely spot to recover from the rigors of travel.
Vang Vieng Formerly a pit stop between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, now Vang Vieng has became a destination for those keen to enjoy eco tours, trekking, caving and rock climbing activities. The main attraction is the laid-back countryside and intricate rock formations riddled with caves, although the town is popular with backpackers for its river tubing and social cafes and bars.
Luang Prabang The site of Laos’ former royal capital, the little town of Luang Prabang is a gem. Nestled in an elbow of the Mekong surrounded by treed mountains, this remote northern town has long been Laos’ religious centre. You’ll find dozens of historic temples, lovely French-built villas, and streets lined with charming old shop-houses. With its main hall inlaid with a dazzling mosaic of cut glass the Royal Palace is well worth a visit, as are the Pak Ou caves, a Buddhist cave shrine some distance up river.
Xiengkhoang (‘Plain of Jars’) While there are many theories, nobody really knows why hundreds of huge stone jars are scattered across several sites on a barren Laotian plain. Carved from solid rock, most of the containers weigh from 600kg to one tonne apiece; the largest weighs six tonnes. The jars are said to be 2,000 years old but again, nobody knows for sure. Were they sarcophagi, water jars, rice stores? Scientists continue to debate this intriguing find; other visitors just marvel at these mysterious relics.
Pakse Set on the Mekong River, the southern town of Pakse features French colonial architecture and a colourful market stocked with fresh produce grown in the nearby Bolaven Plateau, a highland region inhabited by a number of ethnic minority groups. Pakse is also the jumping off point for a visit to Wat Phu, an exquisite, Angkor-era temple complex built between the 6th and 13th centuries. Even the most temple-weary visitor can’t help but be captivated by the mesmerising beauty of these lonely ruins.
Touring - the facts The Contiki team Tour Managers Contiki Tour Managers have been chosen for the qualities that enable them to make your trip a richer experience. Their knowledge of all the local hotspots ensures you’ll be in the midst of the action day-in and day-out. They’ll also add cultural and historical footnotes along the way, and complete all the ‘behind the scenes’ work of pre-booking, border and customs procedures to make your tour hasslefree. In some circumstances, it may be necessary for your Tour Manager to make decisions on behalf of the group as a whole. In such cases, we ask for your cooperation, bearing in mind the variety of personalities and expectations on board the coach. Being the Tour Manager, his or her decisions and discretion should be observed because they are in your interest and that of all the team. We try to get the right balance of sightseeing and free time.
Local guides Contiki works closely with our ‘on-the-ground’ partner, award-winning Trails of Indochina, to provide local Englishspeaking guides. These professional, local guides help us dig even further into the lie of the land, and they can’t wait to show you what makes their part of Asia hum.
Drivers With their experience, you are in good hands. The Driver is responsible for the coach and we ask you to remember that they have to keep it clean for everyone’s comfort. Please adhere to the suggestions made to you at the beginning of your tour regarding waster paper, eating and drinking while on board the coach. The Driver, Tour Manager and Local Guide work as a team. You may often see them together planning your days, to give you great variety and choice.
Accommodation Where you stay We have chosen a wide range of accommodation in order for you to best appreciate what Asia has to offer. Our accommodation has been chosen for their particular character, charm, location and style. For the majority of the time, you’ll stay in centrally located 3 star hotels and resorts on a twin-share basis (3 star goes a long way in Asia), but we have included some real Asian experiences too. Like a Home Stay in the Mekong, local stilt houses on an overnight Vietnamese trek, a traditional junk boat in Halong Bay and an authentic local guesthouse in Laos.
Touring - the facts Accommodation cont’d, please note: All contracts for your accommodation are negotiated by Contiki many months in advance. There may be times when hotels will provide alternative accommodation to that advertised in the brochure. Such situations are beyond Contiki’s control and we will do our utmost to minimise any inconvenience.
Meals All breakfasts are included, plus some lunches and dinners too. The rest is about you exploring and finding the best of the best in your free-time. The Tour Manager and Local Guides can also recommend some great places to eat and we offer some great optional dinners too. We want you to try as much traditional food as you can find!
Making a difference Contiki Asia allows you to can give something back to the destination you have visited. Wherever possible Contiki is involved with organisations that support the community – so when you travel Contiki, you also begin helping some of the less fortunate in the countries we visit. In Asia for example, we eat at some restaurants where the youth have been taken off the streets and into a job, training them not only in hospitality but equipping them with life skills. You can eat their cuisine, made using only local ingredients and not only do you support these trainee chefs, you get a fine local meal for a bargain.
Transport In Asia, half the fun is not where you go, but how you get there. So we have mixed up the planes, overnight trains and our air conditioned coaches and mini vans with some funky and fun ways to get from Point A to Point B. On land, you’ll take rides in tuk-tuks and on bicycles; and when you hit the water there are long tail boats, dragon boats, bamboo rafts and traditional Junk boats. Travelling with Contiki in Asia is varied and we make the most of what’s on offer so you get a true taste of how the locals live.
Smoking Smoking is not permitted on the coach, but frequent stops are made when travelling.
General information Health & hygiene Life on a Contiki tour can get quite hectic with early mornings and late nights which make it easy for you to catch a common cold, the flu or aggravate an existing medical condition. Also, different air, water, food and lifestyle can reduce your resistance, so we suggest you take a multi-vitamin course while on tour. Water in some areas is undrinkable, so please take care – your Tour Manager will advise you. Bottled water is cheap and easily found throughout the countries visited. If at any time you feel unwell, your Tour Manager will assist you in contacting a doctor for consultation. Please remember the quality of medical services varies considerably from country to country in Asia and that medications available over the counter at home may only be obtainable on prescription in Asia. If you are on a regular course for medicine/contraception you must bring a supply sufficient for the whole time you are away from home. We also suggest you bring a small supply of antiseptic cream, Band Aids, aspirin, insect repellent, cough mixture and perhaps a supply of antibiotics. These items are your responsibility.
Local customs In some countries visited, revealing clothing may be unacceptable off the beach. Shorts are generally fine as long as they aren’t too short. In terms of behaviour, public displays of affection between men and women are considered shocking in some places. On the other hand, it’s perfectly normal for a pair of men or a pair of women to link arms or hold hands. Upon meeting someone new, people may simply nod to each other or may shake hands. Using both hands to shake someone’s hand is a warm gesture of respect. Beckoning someone by crooking your finger up is very rude. The correct way to call someone over is to extend your hand with the palm down and flap your fingers towards your wrist. To ask for the bill in a restaurant or shop, extend one hand in front of you with the palm raised and pretend to write on your palm with the other hand. The majority of men in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam smoke. While flights are non-smoking, few restaurants or bars offer non-smoking seating. Generally, if the local people see you respecting their customs they are complimented and you are likely to be well received by them. Remember, as an adult you will be held liable for your actions according to the individual laws of each country. Meeting the people of the countries you visit will enhance your enjoyment and increase the value of the memories you take home.
General information Local payments As is the standard for touring in Asia, Contiki has local payments on each of their tours (except Cambodia extension). Local payments are made on day 1 of the tour, directly to your Contiki Tour Manager in United States Dollars. These local payments cover local services such as guides, tipping, attractions and some transport.
Tipping This is becoming an increasingly accepted practice in all areas of the service and tourism industries, but particularly in restaurants, bars and taxis worldwide. Likewise on your Contiki Tour, if you feel that your Tour Manager has done an excellent job, then as a guide we would recommend tipping up to US$2.00 per passenger per day. However, this is not compulsory. It’s up to you!
Shopping All the countries visited are still developing, and so their people can be very persistent when trying to make money, especially around tourists whom they perceive as very wealthy. People will try to overcharge you, but rather then becoming irritated, join the game and bargain! They are not all ruthless hagglers and smiles and jokes are the best way to agree on a good price. It is also recommended to check prices of the same items in the neighbourhood before reaching a deal. If you are being followed by street vendors and do not wish to make a purchase, often the best course of action is to say “no” firmly and politely, and continue on your way. Do not hesitate or linger, as this will encourage the seller to try and engage you further. Some shops may provide a mail service, but please be aware that it can take up to six months and sometimes longer for the goods to arrive home and, on arrival, perhaps be liable to customs and excise duty. If you choose to ship items home, we highly recommend that you buy shipping insurance and check the policy details. As shops are not responsible for damages incurred en route, it’s better to be safe then sorry. Contiki Holidays cannot accept responsibility for any misrepresented or faulty goods. We cannot take responsibility for following up on merchandise that you choose to ship home.
Photography Taking photos is a great way of remembering your trip to Asia. Your Tour Manager will endeavour to allow as much time as practical to take photographs, however there may be occasions when it is not possible or practical to stop the coach.
General information Photography cont’d: If travelling with a digital camera you should try to carry memory cards with enough storage for at least five days at a time. You may have access to internet cafes in some larger places visited but doing it every couple of days will reduce the free time you have in cities. If you are travelling with a film camera you should bring a supply of film with you as it is generally only sold at the larger tourist centres/cities, and even then it may be out-ofdate or sun-damaged. For peace of mind, skip the cut-price, back-alley photo shops and get your precious pictures developed somewhere you trust.
Weekends & public holidays It is unavoidable to have a touring program that is not in certain places on weekends, public holidays and on days of closure for public buildings, shops and museums. We regret that you may miss certain opportunities but these are kept to a minimum. Your Tour Manager will advise you.
Travellers ten commandments 1)
Thou shalt not expect to find things as they are at home for thou hast left home to find things different.
Thou shalt not take things too seriously, for a carefree mind is the beginning of a carefree holiday.
Thou shalt not let other tourists get on thy nerves as we are all here for the same reason and thou art paying good money to enjoy thyself.
Thou must know at all times where thy passport lies, for a person without a passport is a person without a country
Thou shalt not worry, for he that worrieth hath no pleasure. Few things are fatal.
Remember that thou art a guest in other lands and he that treateth his host with respect shall in turn be respected. To learn to speaketh ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in thy host’s tongue will make thee thy host’s friend.
Thou shalt not judge the entire people of a country by one person who was a poor host.
Thou shalt remember to err is human and to forgive is divine.
When in Rome, thou shalt be prepared to do as the Romans do.
10) Though shouldst remember that if thou was expected to stay in one place, thou would have been created with roots
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contiki.com If you choose to write to Contiki via the Internet, please provide your home address so we are able to reply to you in writing. The information in this booklet was, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of going to print but we cannot be held responsible for any subsequent changes to the contents of it. ÂŠ Contiki Asia. Edition 2009. All rights reserved.