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Terms and Conditions
Rare Bird Club
References to "We", "us" and "our" in these booking conditions means Balkan Tracks Ltd.
References to "you" and "your" in these booking conditions means all persons on the booking (including anyone added or substituted at a later date).
These booking conditions along with any other written information we brought to your attention before we confirmed your booking form the basis of your contract with us for the travel arrangements making up your booking (‘your arrangements’). Please read them carefully as they set out our respective rights and obligations. By making a booking, you agree to be bound by all of them.
You must be 18 years old at the time of booking and possess the legal capacity and authority to act and travel as the lead name on the booking. We will only deal with the lead name on the booking in all correspondence.
Note: We endeavour to ensure the accuracy of all the information and prices on our website and/or in our advertising material. However, occasionally changes and errors do arise and we reserve the right to correct them in such circumstances. You must check the current price and all other information relating to the arrangements that you wish to book before your booking is confirmed.
Covid19 Note: Due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, there is a higher possibility than normal between now and June 2021 that hotels, transport companies and other suppliers that we work with may cease trading or be otherwise limited in some way. Naturally, we will be monitoring this throughout the winter and spring. Our terms and conditions have been amended to emphasise this. We will, of course, inform RBC members who have booked on about any changes.
We will also pause the request for deposits until January 2021. For the moment, we ask only that you complete a booking form online, by email or post.
In these terms, a ‘package’ means the pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following components when sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price and when the service covers a period of more than twenty-four hours or includes overnight accommodation:
(c) other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package.
1. Our agreement
A booking form must be filled in online (or by email or post and returned to Sarah Proud at BirdLife International) to book your holiday.
By signing or submitting our booking forms, that person accepts these terms on behalf of all persons named on the booking. A binding agreement for your arrangements will come into existence between you and us when we issue a confirmation following your booking. Please check all details on the confirmation (or any other document issued) immediately on receipt. It may not be possible to make changes to your arrangements later so you should notify us of any inaccuracies in any documentation within ten days of our sending it out. It may harm your rights if you don’t.
The suppliers whose services make up your arrangements make those supplies in accordance with their own terms and conditions, which will also form part of your agreement with us. Some of these terms and conditions may limit or exclude the supplier's liability to you, usually in accordance with applicable International Conventions. Copies of the relevant parts of these terms and conditions are available on request from ourselves or the supplier concerned.
You must make payment for your arrangements in accordance with the instructions we give you.
Covid Note: Due to the pandemic we have relaxed our cancellation terms for when you cancel (see section 7 below) i.e. should you decide not to travel and cancel, as opposed to a force majeure event such as governments advising against travel. Previously, in order to reserve your place a deposit must be paid at the time of booking. However, in the current circumstances, we will now accept a booking form as the full reservation. A binding arrangement comes into place after we process the booking forms and reply to you with a confirmation email.
Provisionally, we will ask for deposits to be made after 11 January 2021. This date is under constant review – it may move forward - and we will write to any RBC members that submit a booking form should it change. We hope this puts people’s minds at rest as to reserving a holiday without worrying about any financial implications.
Payments of deposits and balances should be made to BirdLife International.
The full balance must also be received prior to any date that we may specify, which will usually be eight weeks prior to your intended departure date. Due to the pandemic, it is possible that we will lower this to, for example, six weeks.
Bookings made eight weeks or less before departure must be paid for in full at the time of booking. If we do not receive any payment due in full and on time, we reserve the right to treat your booking as cancelled by you in which case the cancellation charges set out in clause 7 below will become payable.
It is a condition of our agreement that you are covered by adequate travel insurance for your arrangements.
Such insurance as a minimum must cover your losses sustained as a result of a cancellation, medical issues, and repatriation in the event of accident or illness. Details of a policy suitable to cover your arrangements are available by contacting Campbell Irvine Direct and many other providers.
It is your responsibility to obtain insurance suitable for your needs and the trip concerned. We have no responsibility to and will not check the adequacy of your insurance arrangements. If you choose to travel without adequate insurance cover, we will not be liable for any of your losses howsoever arising, in respect of which insurance cover would otherwise have been available.
Please note that we have no control over the availability or standard of medical and repatriation services and facilities in the areas we visit and that these do not form any part of our contract with you. Please remember that many of the areas we visit on our holidays may not be at a level that travellers are used to at home and that the availability and standard of such services may well be lower.
4. Special requests
Special requests relating to your arrangements must be advised to us at the time of booking and confirmed to us in writing. Whilst we will try to meet or arrange your reasonable special requests, we cannot guarantee that they will be fulfilled. Special requests that have been noted on your confirmation or any other documentation do not amount to a promise to meet that request. A failure to meet any special request will not be a breach of contract on our part unless the request has been specifically confirmed.
5. Disabilities and medical problems
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your chosen arrangements, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking so that we can try to advise you as to their suitability for you. Acting reasonably, if we are unable to properly accommodate your needs, we will not confirm your booking and/or if you did not give us full details at the time of booking, we will treat it as cancelled by you when we become aware of these details.
6. The price you pay
We reserve the right to amend the price of unsold holiday arrangements at any time and correct errors in the prices of confirmed holidays.
The price of your confirmed arrangements is subject at all times to variations in:
(i) transportation costs, including the cost of fuel;
(ii) dues, taxes or fees chargeable for services such as landing taxes or embarkation or disembarkation fees at ports and airports; (iii) the exchange rates used to calculate your arrangements;
(iv) unavoidable changes to hotels or other suppliers.
Covid Note: Due to the ongoing effects of the Covid19 pandemic, there is a higher possibility than normal that hotels, transport companies and other suppliers that we work with could be negatively affected before June 2021 and not be able to supply us. Alternatives may not always be the same price and we may need to increase the price of the holiday or make changes to the route. We will, of course, inform RBC members who have booked on about any changes.
Prices may go up and down but there will be no changes made within 30 days of your departure.
If your arrangements are a package and if prices go up, we will only charge you any amount that exceeds 2% of the price of your arrangements, (excluding insurance premiums, amendment charges and/or additional services), plus an administration charge of £1.00 per person and an amount to cover any agents’ commission. If that means that you have to pay an increase of more than 8% of the price of your arrangements (excluding any insurance premiums, amendment charges and/or additional services), we will offer you the options in clause 8. If prices go down as a result of the above factors, and that decrease exceeds 2% of the price of your arrangements, (excluding insurance premiums, amendment charges and/or additional services), the traveller has a right to a reflective refund, but we will also charge you an administration fee of £1.00 per person and an amount to cover any agents’ commission and this may extinguish the value of the refund due. Also, note that travel arrangements are not always purchased in local currency and some apparent changes have no impact on price due to contractual protections in place.
We will consider a proportionate refund of insurance premiums you have paid if you can show that you are unable to transfer or reuse your policy.
7. Changes and cancellations by you
If you wish to make any changes to your arrangements after they have been confirmed, including if you wish to cancel all or some of them, you must inform us in writing as soon as possible. Please note that ‘us’ here is Balkan Tracks, and not Birdlife, although we suggest that you copy Sarah Proud at Birdlife into all such correspondence.
Your notice requesting a change or cancellation will only take effect when it is received by email by us or in writing at our offices and will be effective from the date on which we receive it. We can’t guarantee that changes can be met, although we will do our best to assist. Since we incur costs in cancelling or changing your arrangements, all such changes and cancellations will be subject to the charges set out below. Where we are unable to assist with making a requested change, and you do not wish to proceed with the original booking we will treat this as a cancellation by you.
If your arrangements are a package and if any member of your party is prevented from travelling, that person(s) may transfer their place to someone else in the Rare Bird Club (introduced by you and satisfying all the conditions applicable to the arrangements, including an agreement to these booking conditions) providing we are notified not less than 28 days before departure and you pay an amendment fee as detailed below and meet all costs and charges incurred by us and/or incurred or imposed by any of our suppliers. If you are unable to find a replacement, cancellation charges as set out below will apply in order to cover our estimated costs. Otherwise, no refunds will be given for passengers not travelling or for unused services.
Charges in the event of a cancellation
Covid Note: we have relaxed the below dates and percentages as they existed in our Terms and Conditions up until 2019. This reflects the understandable feeling amongst many travellers at the moment that they may book on to a tour and then, at some stage in the future, may not feel comfortable travelling because of the pandemic, even if their government or local governments permit holiday travel. Previously, travellers would lose significant parts of their payments for cancelling for personal reasons.
At present (July 2020), we are not asking for deposits before 11.01.2021. Should that change, we will still offer a no questions refund on cancellations six months before the tour. For cancellations two months before departure (57 days), we will retain only the deposit. Then, with two months to go, we believe that anyone unsure about travelling due to concerns about the pandemic should have already cancelled if they do not feel safe or comfortable travelling. After that, cancellation charges will continue, which are in line with other British tour operators.
In the event of a cancellation, you will have to pay the applicable cancellation charges up to the maximum shown below (the cancellation charge detailed is calculated on the basis of the total cost payable by the person(s) cancelling excluding insurance premiums and amendment charges which are not refundable in the event of the person(s) to whom they apply cancelling):-
Period of written notice prior to your departure Cancellation charge as a percentage of the holiday cost
More than 180 days Full refund
180 - 57 days Deposit
29 – 56 days 30% of total payment
15 – 28 days 50% of total payment
1 – 14 days Full cost of holiday
If the reason for your cancellation is covered under the terms of your insurance policy, you may be able to reclaim these charges. We will deduct the cancellation charge(s) from any monies you have already paid to us.
Charges in the event of a change
In the event we can meet your requested change, you will have to pay £20 per person per change as well as any applicable rate changes or extra costs incurred as well as any costs incurred by ourselves and any costs or charges incurred or imposed by any of our suppliers.
Certain arrangements may not be amended after they have been confirmed and any alteration or cancellation could incur a charge of up to 100% of that part of the arrangements in addition to the charges above.
8. Changes and cancellations by us
Pre-departure changes and cancellations
Covid Note: it is very rare that tour operators make such changes. That said, in light of the pandemic we ask travellers to bear in mind that it is very difficult to predict what will happen to some hotels and other suppliers in North Macedonia and Greece over the next 12 months. There are not too many accommodation options in these remote locations; should one be affected in any way, we may have to use hotels in nearby towns, which may involve slightly longer drive times. Naturally, any significant increases to drive times due to hotel changes may require a change to the itinerary. This is explained in full below. We ask for your understanding and patience in such circumstances.
Because we plan your arrangements many months in advance, in some circumstances we must reserve the right to make changes to them and cancel them. However, we will not cancel your travel arrangements less than 60 days before you are due to depart, except for reasons of force majeure or if you fail to make payment in accordance with these terms.
Please note that our arrangements take place in remote and sometimes undeveloped areas and are subject to disruption, sometimes at short notice.
Most changes will be minor, and while we will do our best to notify them to you or your travel agent as soon as reasonably possible before your departure, we will have no other liability to you in respect of them.
Examples of “minor changes” made before departure include the following:
A change overall length of your arrangements of twelve hours or less.
A change of accommodation to another of the same standard or classification.
Occasionally we may have to make a major change to your confirmed arrangements. ”Examples of “major changes” made before departure include the following:
A change of accommodation area for the whole or a significant part of your time away.
A change of accommodation to that of a lower standard or classification for the whole or a significant part of your time away.
A change of overall length of your arrangements of twelve hours or more.
A significant change to your itinerary, missing out one or more destination entirely.
If we have to make a significant change or cancel, we will tell you as soon as possible and if there is time to do so before departure, we will offer you the choice of:
(for significant changes) accepting the changed arrangements,
having a refund of all monies paid; or
accepting an offer of alternative arrangements of comparable standard from us, if available (we will refund any price difference if the alternative is of a lower value).
You must notify us of your choice within 7 days of our offer. If you fail to do so we will assume that you have chosen to accept the change or alternative arrangements.
If your arrangements are a package and we make a major change or cancel less than 60 days before departure, we will also endeavour to pay reasonable compensation if appropriate. However, please bear in mind that the Covid pandemic is an extraordinary situation that tour operators and suppliers cannot control or fully plan alternatives for. Unlike in previous years, major changes could occur less than 60 days before departure that are necessary to enable the tour to go ahead. We would ask for everyone's understanding in these unusual times.
The compensation that we offer does not exclude you from claiming more if you are entitled to do so.
We will not pay you compensation where:-
your arrangements are not a package;
we make a major change or cancel more than 60 days before departure;
we make a major change or cancel as a result of unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond our control, the consequences of which we could not have avoided even with all due care;
we cancel your arrangements because the minimum number of participants to run them has not been reached. (We will tell you if we have to cancel for this reason not less than 45 days before departure).
We will not pay you compensation and the above options will not be available where:-
we make a minor change;
we cancel as a result of your failure to make payment in accordance with these terms;
where the change(s) or cancellation by us arises out of alterations to the confirmed booking requested by you.
Changes and cancellations after departure
If we become unable to provide a significant proportion of your arrangements after you have departed, we will make alternative arrangements for you, but if it is impossible to do so, or you choose not to accept them for good reasons, we will, where appropriate, provide you with equivalent transport back to your place of departure or another place that we both agree. If your arrangements are a package, and if appropriate in all the circumstances, we will also pay you reasonable compensation but if any such changes or cancellations are caused by "force majeure" (see below), we regret we will be unable to make any refunds, pay you compensation or meet any costs or expenses you incur as a result. The above sets out the maximum extent of our liability for changes and cancellations and we regret we cannot meet any other expenses or losses you may incur as a result of any change or cancellation.
9. Force Majeure
Travellers may terminate the contract without paying any termination fee before the start of the package and in the event of exceptional circumstances, for instance, if there are serious security problems at the destination, which are likely to affect the package.
Except where otherwise expressly stated in these booking conditions we will not be liable or pay you compensation if our contractual obligations to you are affected by any event which we or the supplier(s) of the service(s) in question could not, even with all due care, foresee or avoid. These events can include, but are not limited to war, threat of war, civil strife terrorist activity and its consequences or the threat of such activity, riot, the act of any government or other national or local authority including port or river authorities, industrial dispute, lock closure, natural or nuclear disaster, fire, chemical or biological disaster and adverse weather, sea, ice and river conditions and all similar events outside our or the supplier(s) concerned’s control. Advice from the Foreign Office or appropriate government ministry or agency in your home country to avoid or leave a particular country may constitute Force Majeure.
Covid Note: As of July 2020, the EU and UK governments are revising the laws in relation to force majeure for package tours. At present, should one of our tours be cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control, we reserve the right to first request that you credit any payment you have made to a re-arranged / postponed tour. Any payments you may have made are held in a trust fund and are 100% protected.
This is a developing area of law due to the Covid-19 situation and we may have to write to you with amended terms and conditions between your booking and the departure date for the tour. We ask for your patience and understanding during these challenging times.
If you experience a problem during your holiday, please immediately inform the guide leading your tour and/or the relevant supplier (e.g. your hotelier) so that they can take steps to put things right. You should also contact us by emailing email@example.com. If your complaint remains unresolved and you wish to complain further, please send formal written notice of your complaint to us within 28 days of the end of your arrangements, giving your booking reference and all other relevant information. Failure to follow the procedure set out in this clause may affect ours and the applicable supplier’s ability to investigate your complaint, and could affect your rights under our agreement.
11. Your behaviour
We expect all customers to be considerate of other customers on the tour and of suppliers and local people they may meet during the tour. We place enormous emphasis on the role our customers play in the conservation of the region through dialogue with the local community. We cannot tolerate our customers’ annoyance towards local people.
Smoking is banned in public places in all countries that our tours visit, but it is not always enforced. However, we expect all our customers to respect the smoking laws and respect non-smokers in their groups. We, therefore, insist that smokers refrain from smoking in the proximity of all other group members, even whilst outsider and whilst watching wildlife, at all times. It goes without saying that smoking indoors or in any confined space is not permitted. Please act as you would at home.
It is vitally important that our tours and our customers do not disturb nature or cultural sites. The national parks that we visit have very strict rules about plant collection or using nets to catch fauna. Customers must respect these rules.
If in our opinion or in the opinion of any person in authority, your behaviour is causing or is likely to cause distress, danger, damage or annoyance to any third party, property or fauna (including the collecting of any specimen from the natural world, for example, any plants or insects), or to cause a delay or diversion to transportation, we reserve the right to terminate your arrangements immediately. In the event of such termination, our responsibilities to you will cease and you will be required to leave your accommodation or another service immediately. We will have no further obligations to you and will not meet any expenses, costs or losses incurred as a result. You may also be required to pay for loss and/or damage caused by your actions directly to the applicable supplier prior to departure from the service. If you fail to do so, you will be responsible for meeting any claims and costs subsequently made against us as a result.
12. Our Responsibilities
Health and safety standards overseas can often differ greatly from those in the UK. Hoteliers and suppliers should meet local and national safety standards, however, these vary across our programme and may not match those standards that travellers are protected by in their home country.
Our responsibilities differ according to what you have booked:
i) In relation to bookings of ‘packages’
We accept responsibility as an “organiser” under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018. Subject to these booking conditions, if we or our suppliers negligently perform or arrange the services which we are obliged to provide for you as set out on your confirmation, we will pay you reasonable compensation. Please note that it is your responsibility to show that we or our supplier(s) have been negligent if you wish to make a claim against us.
ii) In relation to all other bookings
We have a duty to select the suppliers of the services making up your booking with us with reasonable skill and care. Except as stated otherwise in these terms, we have no liability to you for the actual provision of the services, except in cases where it is proved that we have breached that duty and damage to you have been caused. Therefore, providing we have selected the suppliers with reasonable care and skill, we will have no liability to you for anything that happens during the service in question or any acts or omissions of the supplier, its employees or agents.
iii) We will not be responsible or pay you compensation for any injury, illness, death, loss, damage, expense, cost or other claims of any description if it results from:-
the act(s) and/or omission(s) of the person(s) affected;
the act(s) and/or omission(s) of a third party unconnected with the provision of the services contracted for and which were unforeseeable or unavoidable; or
unusual or unforeseeable circumstances beyond ours or our supplier(s) control, the consequences of which could not have been avoided even if all due care had been exercised; or
an event which either ourselves or suppliers could not, even with all due care, have foreseen or forestalled.
(We may, however, provide you with assistance in the event you experience difficulty arising out of these circumstances if your arrangements amount to a package.)
iv) We will not be responsible or pay you compensation:-
for services or facilities which do not form part of our agreement or where they are not advertised by us. For example any excursion you book whilst away, or any service or facility which your hotel or any other supplier agrees to provide for you.
for any damage, loss or expense or other sum(s) of any description which on the basis of the information given to us by you concerning your arrangements prior to them being confirmed, we could not have foreseen you would suffer or incur if we breached our contract with you; or that relate to any business.
v) Any compensation that is payable will be calculated taking into consideration all relevant factors for example (but not limited to):-
(a) whether or not you have followed the complaints procedure as described in these conditions. It is a condition of our acceptance of liability under this clause that you notify any claim to ourselves and our supplier(s) strictly in accordance with the complaints procedure set out in these conditions.
(b) the extent to which ours or our employees’ or suppliers’ negligence affected the overall enjoyment of your arrangements.
(c) when making any payment, we are entitled to deduct any money which you have received or are entitled to receive from any transport provider or hotelier for the complaint or claim in question.
(Please also note that where any payment is made, the person(s) receiving it (and their parent or guardian if under 18 years) must also assign to ourselves or our insurers any rights they may have to pursue any third party and must provide ourselves and our insurers with all assistance we may reasonably require.)
vi) We limit our responsibility to you in the following situations:-
(a) Luggage or personal possessions and money
The maximum amount we will have to pay you in respect of any claim for loss of and/or damage to any luggage or personal possessions or money is an amount equivalent to the excess on your insurance policy which applies to this type of loss per person in total because you are assumed to have adequate insurance in place to cover any losses of this kind.
(b) Claims covered by an International Convention
When arranging transportation for you, we rely on the terms and conditions contained within any applicable International Conventions. The extent of our liability will in all cases be limited as if we were carriers under the appropriate Conventions, which include The Warsaw/Montreal Convention (international travel by air); The Athens Convention (with respect to sea travel); The Berne/Cotif Convention (with respect to rail travel) and The Paris Convention (with respect to hotel arrangements). You can ask us for copies of these Conventions.
(c) Claims not falling under (a) or (b) above and which don’t involve injury, illness or death
The maximum amount we will have to pay you in respect of all claims not falling under (a) or (b) above and which don’t involve injury, illness or death, is twice the price paid by or on behalf of the person(s) affected in total. This maximum amount will only be payable where everything has gone wrong and you or your party has not received any benefit at all from your arrangements.
13. Jurisdiction and applicable law
These Booking Conditions and any agreement to which they apply are governed in all respects by English law. We both agree that any dispute, claim or other matter which arises between us out of or in connection with your contract or booking will be dealt with by the Courts of England and Wales only. You may, however, choose the law and jurisdiction of Scotland or Northern Ireland if you live in those places and if you wish to do so.
14. Financial security for packages
The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 require travel companies to provide security for the monies that consumers pay for certain types and combinations of travel arrangements booked with them and for consumers’ repatriation in the event of their insolvency. We provide this protection by way of a trust account administered by Travel Trust Services Ltd (click here to visit their website for further information and contact details). This means that in respect of all arrangements requiring protection, in the event of our insolvency, funds will be available to ensure that you are refunded money that you have paid to us.
15. Passport, Visa and Immigration Requirements and Health Formalities
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary, which may include some or all of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and North Macedonia. We can only provide general information about this. You must check requirements for your own specific circumstances with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates and your own doctor as applicable. Requirements between countries may differ and each country’s requirements can change; you must check the up to date position in good time before departure.
Most countries now require passports to be valid for at least 6 months after your return date. If your passport is in its final year, you should check with the Embassy of the country you are visiting.
For British passport holders, further information contact the Passport Office on 0870 5210410 or visit
Non-British passport holders, including other EU nationals, should obtain up to date advice on passport and visa requirements from the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of your destination or country(ies) through which you are travelling.
We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or cannot enter one of the countries on the itinerary, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.