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Travel the world safely despite Covid-19

Safer Encounters

Covid Safe

Safe Encounters

Safer Encounters

Audits and risk assessments carried out for each destination before our operations re-start.
We’re also putting enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols in place.

Private travel

Private travel

Prefer to travel only with people you know? All our group tours can now be booked as private departures for solo travellers, couples, families and private groups.

Flexible booking

Flexible bookings

Do you want or need to change your plans? We’ve added extra flexibility to our booking conditions to allow for fee-free cancellations and date changes (conditions apply).

Small numbers

Small numbers

We already specialise in small groups, and along with expecting lower numbers when travel restarts, we are reducing some of our group sizes to ensure better distancing.

Small numbers

Solo Travellers

Travelling on your own? We've removed compulsory single supplements completely from many of our group tours, and are giving a 50% discount on other tours if a room share isn't available.

Small numbers

Responsible Travel

Our focus remains on travelling responsibly, supporting the local economies and communities that we travel through, and designing tours that protect the environment as best we can.

SAFER ENCOUNTERS


Girl Walking Do you have a mix of both excitement and concern about travelling now that many destinations around the world are starting to open their borders?

Don’t worry, we understand, and share both.

To help make things a little easier for you, we’ve launched our Safer Encounters scheme, which focuses on the health and safety of our travellers and local staff, while still providing the memorable experiences, visits and activities that our tours normally include. This scheme will be updated from time to time over the months ahead as things become clearer about how we can travel responsibly and safely in different destinations.

We are also working towards the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 'Safe Travel' protocols for tour operators, following recommendations and advice from the World Health Organisation, and will always adhere to the updated regulations put in place by local health and tourist authorities.

In addition, we have introduced more flexible booking policies and conditions to help our travellers to be able to book with confidence.

More information is given in the FAQs section below.

We wish all our travellers the best of health and look forward to welcoming you in our destinations again soon.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


FLEXIBLE BOOKING CONDITIONS

What happens if I want to change my travel date?

If you would like to change your travel date, you are always able to. However, some charges may apply depending on how long before your departure you make the change. Our flexible booking conditions and reduced charges will apply if you are changing date because of a Covid-19 reason (eg. a positive test for you or a member of your travel party or close family), or because your government is advising against travel to your destination. Your travel insurance may cover any unrecoverable costs, so please check their coverage carefully when taking out the policy. Please check our detailed booking conditions for full details.

Can I transfer my booking to someone else?

Yes, if you don't want to, or can't travel, you can transfer your booking and existing payments to other family members or friends. We are waiving our normal fees for doing this for all departures up to the end of 2022. This applies to bookings you may have moved to a Credit on File as well as those setup on a particular date. Note - not all payments may be transferrable - for example, flight tickets and permits such as Gorilla Permits normally incur 100% fees for name changes.

When is my balance payment due?

For all tours departing in 2020 and 2021, balance due dates are reduced to 28 days. For 2022 departures onwards they will revert back to our standard conditions (60 days).

What happens if I catch Covid just before my trip?

You will not be able to travel if you catch Covid in the 4 weeks before your departure date as you may still be infectious when you are travelling. In this situation you will need to either change your travel date, take a Credit on File option, or cancel your booking. Reduced fees will apply. However, as a small tour operator, we are unfortunately not able to offer 100% refunds right up to the day of your departure, even if you catch Covid. We don't feel that offering this is fair to our local ground partners in your destination (guides, hotels, drivers etc.) as we, and they, won't be able to replace the business lost at such short notice. Instead, we are happy to recommend travel insurance policies that do provide this level of cancellation protection for you. The travel insurance market has developed a lot over the last year, and a range of coverage for Covid-19 related situations is now available. Please check our Travel Insurance page for more information.

What if my government advises against travel to my destination due to Covid-19?

We will normally still be able to run your tour in this situation following all our Safer Encounters procedures and protocols (for nearly all of 2021, the UK government and others have had default advice against travel for Covid reasons to most of the world. We have however still been able to safely and successfully run trips to many countries under this level of advice). However, if you do not want to travel based on your government's advice not to, then the reduced fees in our flexible booking conditions will apply and you can change your date, move your booking to a Credit on File, or cancel completely.

What happens if we cancel your trip due to Covid-19?

If we cancel your trip, you will have several options. You can change your departure to a new date without any additional fees, request a refund, or convert your booking to a 'Credit on File'. In this situation your money stays held and protected with us until you are ready to select a new departure date. If you accept a Credit on File, you will receive a 110% credit for all the payments you have made to us already. Your credit amount only applies to items on your booking which are not non-refundable or recoverable. For example, flight tickets and Gorilla permits may not be changeable or refundable, and we will deduct those amounts before working out your credit. Any refunds or credits for items such as flights or permits will be subject to the rules applied by the relevant service provider. Once you have accepted a Credit on File, our standard booking conditions will apply, including cancellation terms.

How long can I keep my booking as a 'Credit on File'?

For departure dates up to 31 Dec 2020, new bookings need to be made by 31 December 2021, with travel started by the end of 2022. For departure dates from 1 Jan 2021 to 31 Dec 2022, new bookings need to be made within 1 year of your original departure date, with travel started within 2 years of your original departure date.

What will the price be if I change my date or rebook from a Credit on File?

The price for your new trip will be based on our current published price for your new date and/or tour at the time you make the new booking. If you received a discount for your original booking, we will do our best to offer you a discount on your new booking, but cannot guarantee the same amount will be available.

Where can I find more detailed information about these flexible booking conditions?

More detailed information, including full terms and conditions and revised & reduced fees for changing or cancelling your booking can be found on our booking conditions page.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL

Is my departure going ahead?

Please check our Travel Alerts blog post for details. This is updated regularly with details of which destinations our tours are operating in right now.

Do I need a PCR test before I fly to my destination?

The rules for different countries are changing all the time, and they also often vary depending on whether you are vaccinated or not.
We send a detailed document to all our travellers about 2 weeks before departure with the most up to date information about the various requirements for your destination. Please read this carefully and make sure your documenation matches the requirements exactly (for example, PCR test certificates may require your passport numbers on, or your vaccination certificate may need a QR code).

What if I am fully vaccinated?

It is generally always easier, cheaper and less hassle to travel internationally now if you are fully vaccinated. It also reduces your risk of catching Covid while you are on holiday. 'Fully vaccinated' means that you should have completed your course of vaccinations at least 2 weeks before you are due to fly. Most vaccinations require 2 shots, but some (eg. J&J) only need 1.

What if I have symptoms before the tour?

We all have a duty of care to travel responsibly and to act in such a way as to protect both our own health and wellbeing, and that of our fellow travellers and the people we meet while on our travels. We are therefore asking all our travellers to carefully monitor their health in the 4 weeks before your tour starts.
You must notify us if you have a positive test within 4 weeks of your departure, as this may mean that even if you have fully recovered and are not infectious, you still test positive when you leave. This may have implications for whether you are allowed to your destination or not.
You must also notify us if you have any Covid-19 symptoms within 2 weeks of your departure. If you do, you should arrange to take a Covid-19 PCR test and let us know the results. Again, this is for your benefit too, as we really don't want you to get to the airport and not be allowed to board if you have symptoms.
In either situation we can then discuss options for changing or cancelling your tour under our flexible booking conditions. You should also check that your travel insurance policy covers you in this situation.

Can we do one of your group tours by ourselves?

Yes. All of our small group and shoestring tours are also now available as Private departures for people who do not wish to join a group, but would prefer to just travel with their partner or family. Prices for many of these tours will be kept exactly the same as our group dates with a minimum of just 2 people travelling, though some will require a supplement based on the number of people in your party. Please do contact us if you would like to travel on one of our group tour itineraries in a private fashion.

I’m a solo traveller, what happens about room shares?

On most of our group tours, solo travellers may choose to form a temporary 'tour bubble' and share a room with another traveller of the same sex in the group. If a room share is not available then a single room supplement may be payable, with the costs for these kept as low as possible. We have also removed compulsory single supplements from many of our tours, and are reducing the cost by 50% on some tours if we do need to pass a charge to people who want to share but can't - please check individual tours or contact us for details.

DURING YOUR TOUR

How many people will there be?

We are mainly a small-group operator already which helps with our aim of re-starting our operations with lower numbers of people travelling together.

Small group tours: These have maximum group sizes of 12 to 20 people, and average numbers per departure of 8-10 people. Many tour group sizes are being reduced to allow for better social distancing and follow local regulations for maximum vehicle capacity. This ensures you still get a great experience with your fellow travellers and guide, but with lower risks of catching infections too.

Shoestring tours: Some of our cheaper Shoestring tours are based on larger groups, potentially travelling with a full-sized coach and up to 45 people. The country health & safety audits that we will carry out before we re-start operations in each country will consider revised numbers on these tours, and most will be initially restricted to a maximum of 50% capacity.

Overland tours: These have a maximum group size of 20-24 people. As on these tours the group will be travelling together for a long time, hygiene on board has always been a high priority and this will be enhanced further. Group sizes are not expected to increase above 15 people until sometime in 2022.

What precautions are taken on vehicles used?

We will be using larger vehicles than normal for the number of people travelling together, aiming to make sure that single travellers can always have a double seat. Seat allocations will be agreed at the start of the tour and we ask that people stick to these throughout the trip rather than rotating around as they normally would. Touch points such as door handles, head rests, will be cleaned with disinfectant wipes several times a day and the whole vehicle cleaned before the start of each tour and regularly throughout the trip.

What physical precautions will be taken? – eg. Masks & hand sanitizer

Hand and respiratory hygiene is extremely important for all travellers to manage, especially now. We follow the international WHO advice for masks or face coverings which currently recommends that members of the general public wear non-medical, fabric type masks while in public places where maintaining good social distancing may be an issue (for example on public transport or in shops or museums). In addition, local destinations may have their own rules which require their use in other settings. Advice on local requirements and general Covid-19 hygiene precautions will be provided by our guides at the start of our tours. We require all our travellers to follow any local regulations at all times.

We are sourcing disposable face masks, hand sanitiser and tissues to be provided in all our tour vehicles, but we request that all travellers bring their own as well. This will help protect local stocks and also mean you have your own handy for times when you are away from the vehicle, during your free time, and through your travel between your home and your destination.

Will meal arrangements change?

We recognise that enjoying the local food and drink is a big part of travel – its one of our favourites too. We don’t want to take the opportunity away from anyone to try out local dishes and delicacies, but hygiene during breaks for meals is even more important now. Reminders about hand washing will be given before meal times and should be followed at all times. Most hotels are removing self-service buffets and providing servers at the buffet or arranging table service, which will help to remove the risk of contact infection from sharing serving cutlery & dishes.

Will things be cheaper or more expensive?

We have always tried to offer the best value possible on our tours, including regular discount promotions when we have been able to negotiate special rates with our local partners and suppliers. We’re very aware that times have been financially tough for many people during the Covid-19 crisis and will continue to do our best to offer great prices on all our tours.

We do however ask our travellers to consider that money is also tight for everyone in the supply chain arranging your holiday and in the local tourist industry. Many costs have increased somewhat, due to the extra precautions and protocols being put in place, and the lower number of expected or permitted visitors. Most destinations will also have gone many months without seeing any tourists at all with corresponding drops in income for those affected. You may therefore find that the prices for eating, drinking, shopping, and for some activities in your destination may have gone up a little.

What if I get ill during the tour?

At the group meeting at the start of the tour, or when you meet your guide at the start of a private tour, part of the briefing will include a short health screening section. Should you have any Covid-19 symptoms you will be asked to seek medical advice (we will provide assistance), and for your health and safety, and for the benefit of everyone travelling with you, you will not be able to join the tour.

Should a traveller develop Covid-19 symptoms during a tour we will help arrange for a medical assessment and follow the rules and guidelines put in place by the local health authorities, including on whether a test is required. In this situation travellers should be prepared not to be able to re-join the tour until a negative test has been completed. Many local health authorities are putting procedures in place to facilitate quick testing of tourists and assigning locations for safe quarantining should this be required. Should Covid-19 be confirmed then your fellow travellers will be informed, and deep cleaning and disinfecting procedures carried out. Any expenses for treatment, testing or quarantine,or rejoining the tour, will need to be covered by the traveller, though of course we will provide assistance.

Will my travel insurance still cover me?

Travel insurance has always been compulsory on all of our tours, and this continues to be the case. The insurance industry is still in the process of developing its response to Covid-19 and many policies currently do not provide cover for Coronavirus related issues or for destinations which governments are currently advising against travel to. This has started to change with some insurers now providing additional coverage, but please ensure you check the wording of the policy carefully and are aware of what it does and does not cover. Any expenses for treatment, testing or quarantine, or rejoining a tour, will need to be covered by the traveller, though of course we will provide assistance.Please check our travel insurance page for more information on policies available from us, and from other sources.

What happens if I need a PCR test before I fly home?

Many countries including the UK and USA are setting requirements such as PCR testing and passenger locator forms which need to be carried out before you fly home. Requirements may be different if you are fully vaccinated, and there may also be additional self-isolation requirements when you get home. PCR tests are now readily available in all of our destinations, with results available quickly. We will ensure that if you need to take a test, you can do this an appropriate time and place during your trip so that you have the result available before your flight home. We will advise you of the current price of these tests when we send our pre-departure Covid information letter about 2 weeks before you arrive. Prices can vary widely from country to country from as little as USD 10 to over USD 150. You are responsible for covering the cost of the test, and any additional accommodation that may be required if you test positive and are not able to fly home as planned.

Will there be any changes to the itineraries?

Before we start operating in each of our destinations following the break during the pandemic, we complete a detailed Covid-19 risk assessment and audit of our operations and tours in that country. This process may result in some changes to the way some tours, or parts of tours are run, both to comply with our own best practice requirements and with updated local regulations. Changes may also be made to ensure that you are able to take any required PCR tests and get the results before flying home. So far however, only very minor changes have been required. Information will be provided to all customers before travel about any significant changes.

BOOK A SAFER ENCOUNTER

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POSTS FROM OUR BLOG

Need some travel inspiration or looking for some handy travel tips? Our blog provides excellent insight into our travel destinations - from tour updates to country guides, packing lists to little known things to do, you'll find it all in our travel blog - My Travel Encounters.

https://ucarecdn.com/c66463c2-22f8-4ec8-b160-58e96a0572ba/ By: Ralph Foulds 2020-03-19 19:35:28

Coronavirus - Destinations Update

In News

Please read for up-to-date details of which countries our tours are operating in again, as well as which remain suspended, together with notes on expected restart dates. 

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https://ucarecdn.com/c66463c2-22f8-4ec8-b160-58e96a0572ba/ By: Ralph Foulds 2021-11-05 15:28:51

It's our 10th birthday!

In Egypt Morocco, Nepal, Jordan, Botswana, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece,

It's 10 full years this month since Encounters Travel took its first traveller on holiday! Find out more about our journey & find out how we're celebrating it! 

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