Balkan Explorer


Balkan Explorer

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Notes

Group Tour Essentials

Visas
UK, EU and US visitors do not require a visa for entry to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. However this can change and therefore we recommend that you check with your nearest embassy for the most up to date details.

Passport

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, valid for at least six months after the date of return to the UK. We strongly advise that your passport contains a minimum of two blank pages, as this may be a requirement of the local immigration authorities. In addition certain countries will stipulate that the two blank pages are opposite each other. If you are unable to meet these requirements you may be refused boarding by your airline or denied entry by the immigration authorities.

For specific information about the requirements for your destination please check with the country’s embassy or consulate. Alternatively UK citizens can visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice


Airport Tax
A departure tax of €18 is payable when leaving Bosnia & Herzegovina by air.

Health and Immunisations
There are no compulsory vaccinations required for travel to the Balkan states. However we recommend that you speak with your doctor for the most up to date advice regarding any vaccinations that may be recommended.

Insurance

  • What should my travel insurance policy cover?
  • medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance
  • personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
  • lost and stolen possessions cover
  • cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
  • Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports

The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.

Your policy may also have:

  • personal accident cover
  • legal expenses cover

Common travel insurance policy exclusions
Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:

  • most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents

You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.

Practical information

Local Currency
The local currencies in the Balkan states are as follows:
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Mark (KM)
Serbia – Dinar (CSD)
Montenegro – Euro
For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com. Outside of Montenegro the preferred foreign currency for exchange purposes is the Euro – it is possible to exchange sterling and US dollars but is generally more difficult to do so, especially with pound sterling.

Where currency can be exchanged
There are banks and bureaux de change in the larger cities throughout the Balkan states. In the smaller villages, as well as in the national parks, it will generally not be possible.

Credit cards and travellers cheques
Cashing travellers’ cheques is generally possible but fewer places will do so, and the rates tend to be poorer. The larger cities of the Balkans are generally well equipped with ATMs for obtaining money. Credit cards are accepted in some, but not all, establishments.

Best time to go
Generally speaking, the best time to visit the Balkan region is between May to October. Temperatures are pleasant and in summertime often reach 30ºC. The mountains tend to be cooler. During the summer, the weather is usually hot and dry, with most rain falling outside of the summer months.

Main Language
A number of different languages are spoken in the region, with the official languages as follows:
Montenegro – Montenegrin
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian
Serbia – Serbian
However a number of different languages are spoken, reflecting the cultural diversity of the region including Hungarian, Croatian, Slovakian and Albanian.

Main Religion
The Balkan states harbour a number of different religions, with the principal ones being Islam, Orthodox and Roman Catholic.

Food and drink
The food of the Balkan states is heavily influenced by other Mediterranean countries and has many similarities to Turkish food. Meat is very popular, as well as cheese, and many dishes features a variety of either or both of these. The wines here can be quite good, and are generally less expensive than you would pay at home, while beer is quite cheap indeed.

A reasonable meal will set you back anything from around £3-8, while a beer might cost around £1, depending on where you are of course.

If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.

Transport
Our tour in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro uses private vehicles – typically minibuses, depending on group size.

Local conditions
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.

What to take with you

First Aid Kit
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.

Clothing
When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun, along with at least one piece of waterproof clothing for any days that the weather may be wet or windy. Please note that it can get quite cool in the mountains in the evening.

Footwear
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended.

Luggage
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.

Other
Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have.

Fitness
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.

Cultural and environmental guidelines
You should ensure that you do not leave any litter behind in the national parks – these are protected environments and it is important for the wildlife and for the enjoyment of future visitors that they remain clean. You may come across beggars while on tour. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.

Photography
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.

Tipping
Tipping is commonly recognised as a way of rewarding guides and drivers for good service. If you are happy with your guide and driver, please consider leaving a tip for them. For our group tours, a reasonable amount would be between EUR3-5 per person per day for the guide, and EUR1-2 for the driver (you may have different guides in different countries). If you are travelling privately, then a reasonable amount would be around EUR7-10 per day for the guide, and EUR3-5 per day for the driver.

Waiters and bar staff in the region are generally low paid and it is common practice to leave a small tip – around 10% of the bill.

Foreign Office Advice
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At present there are no warnings against travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.

It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.

Further Information

Public Holidays in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

1 Jan Catholic New Year
7 Jan Orthodox Christmas
14 Jan Orthodox New Year
1 March Independence Day
1 May Labour Day
25 Dec Catholic Christmas

Public Holidays in Serbia:

1 Jan Catholic New Year
7 Jan Orthodox Christmas
27 Jan St Sava’s Day
15 FebConstitution Day
1 May Labour Day
9 May Victory Day
28 Jun St Vitus’ Day

Public Holidays in Montenegro:

1 Jan Catholic New Year
7 Jan Orthodox Christmas
27 Apr Statehood Day
1 May Labour Day
9 May Victory Day
29 Nov Republic Day

Other holidays such as those associated with Ramadan are Islamic holidays and as such follow the lunar calendar, varying year to year. Easter Good Friday and Monday also vary annually.

Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year

Electrical Supply
Electrical supply is 220V/50 Hz and plugs have two round pins.

Recommended Reading

Bosnia and Herzegovina – The Bradt Guide
Tim Clancy

Serbia – The Bradt Guide
Laurence Mitchell

Montenegro – The Bradt Guide
Annalisa Rellie

Balkan Ghosts
Robert D Kaplan

This is Serbia Calling
Matthew Collin

The Death of Yugoslavia
Allan Little, Laura Silber & Aleksandr Ciric

IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ

Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk or contact your local healthcare provider.

In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.

Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.

Issue Date – 5/12/12. For possible changes to this dossier please visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com or call +44 (0)191 296 2674