Frequently Asked Questions - MAMMAL ECOLOGY

 

 

Terms and Conditions

You can find our full legal terms and conditions here. Below are the answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

 

 

Travel Insurance

Insurance is not just about losing your luggage. You must, must, must take out travel insurance before coming on this tour. Do not just rely on the E111, which may be affected or invalidated by Brexit. If you did have an accident, the health care services in the Balkans may not match what you are used to at home. Anyone can slip and fall, whether walking in the city or on a mountain.

 

You may wish to investigate whether your travel insurance covers the cost of your own termination of the contract with us, or as to the cost of assistance, including repatriation, in the event of accident, illness or death.

 

 

What's included in the price

 

- Full-board, three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner

- Juice, coffee or tea at breakfast (sometimes hotels provide one glass of alcohol with lunch and dinner, but it is not the norm)

- Accommodation (3-star equivalent. There's no EU star system in Albania and North Macedonia, but every hotel is warm, clean, cosy and with Wi-Fi)

- Transport to and from the airport

- Transport during the full itinerary

- Financial Failure Insurance (see section on Package Tour Regulations)

- All expert and local guides

- Entry to any museums, archaeological sites or monuments

- Water and fruit in the minibus

 

 

What's not included in the price

 

- Flights (further information on flights below)

- Travel insurance (do not forget this!)

- Drinks in hotels, or at lunch and dinner

- Snacks

 

 

*Cost and payment

The cost at the top of the page is for this particular itinerary, including or not including everything mentioned in the two paragraphs above.

If you were to customise it, reducing days and activities, naturally the price will change. We'll work with you to keep the trip inside your budget, maybe by enabling you to self-guide yourself.

 

To reserve your place and book onto the tour we request a deposit of £250.00 per person. The remaining balance is due at least 8 weeks before the first day of the tour.

 

 

Termination

Guests may terminate the contract at any time before the start of the package in return for payment of a termination fee. For full details of circumstances for termination by you, us or force majeure, please have a look at our Terms and Conditions.

 

You may wish to investigate whether your travel insurance covers the cost of your own termination of the contract with us, or as to the cost of assistance, including repatriation, in the event of accident, illness or death.

 

 

**Dates & Flexibility for Personalised tours

If you can’t make or don’t fancy one of our set tours, we have a lot of experience customising our tours for private groups.

Nature is best in spring, which is more or less April to June. Dalmatian pelicans start coming back in February, and early plants start coming up. In July you'll enjoy hot weather and you can still see bee-eaters and a good selection of butterflies, but not like in the core months of April to June. Spring here, like in northern and central Europe, can bring rain.

 

So the itinerary here is our suggestion, based on our experience and trying to balance "seeing everything", with still being relaxed and having a holiday. But we're equally happy to do more or fewer days, or to focus on your favourite species.

 

 

Flights

You will most likely be able to find more convenient flights from your local airport than us. But we do have a list of common flights and connections, so do ask us if you're wondering when and where to fly to.

 

The flexibility from booking your own flights also means that you or your group could fly into Athens or Sofia, for example, and meet us in Thessaloniki. Alternatively, you could fly to Thessaloniki, join us on the tour, and then stay on to visit somewhere else.  We know the wider region very well - Kerkini, Meteora, Halkidiki, Athens - so if you'd like to travel somewhere before or after our tour, we can advise you.

 

 

Group size

For us, responsible tourism doesn't work with large or even medium sized groups. We run exclusive tours where you get as much access as possible to the people we meet and the sites we visit. This tour will run with 4 guests at a minimum, and 7 as a maximum.

 

For customised tours, our preference is for couples or small groups of friends, from 2 to 7 people, but we would discuss tours for slightly larger groups.

 

In line with the 2018 Package Tour Regulations, if a guest books on and pays a deposit and/or payment in full, we reserve the right to cancel the tour if we do not receive at least 4 guests on this tour. This will not be later than 20 days before the start of the package. We would write to you to terminate the package travel contract and provide you with a full refund of any payments made for the package.

 

 

Accommodation

If you're interested in eco-tourism in the Balkans you probably don't expect 5-star accommodation, golf clubs or Spa Hotels. The guest houses in our region are small, cosy and family run, and, where possible, we use traditional stone houses converted to accommodation. We have stayed as guests ourselves in all the places on this tour, and we know that they are clean, warm, with hot water, en-suite and have Wi-Fi. If you would like further information on any accommodation used on the tour, please do contact us.

 

We use the following hotels as first choices for this tour. As some of them are small guesthouses, occasionally our group is too big and we need to change. If so, we will inform you.

 

In Thessaloniki and Toxotes we'll stay in hotels that are generally 3-star standard (normally Pefka in the Thessaloniki suburb of Panorama, and Kokkymelon in Toxotes).

 

At the Erymanthou Forest Village in the Rhodope Mountains, the accommodation is 'rustic'. The cabins were made for loggers, but Thanasis keeps them clean and warm. Each cabin has a kitchen/living area, bathroom with shower and two bedrooms, each with two single beds. For individuals, this means that you will share a bathroom and living space, but you won't have to share a bedroom.

 

 

 

Transport & Self-drive

The cost includes a 9 seater minibus (usually 1 driver plus a maximum of 7 guests), which is used exclusively throughout the tour, from picking you up at the airport until dropping you back at the airport. On occasions, with private tours, if there will be more than 8 guests we will either hire a 12-20 seat minibus and driver, or consider whether to bring a second car with us. This will impact a touch on the cost, to be spread of course by all participants.

 

At present we do not know of a Greek rental car company that will give insurance to travel to Albania and North Macedonia. This prevents us from offering self-drive holidays if you fly to Thessaloniki.

 

 

Language

The tours are in English, which allows us to translate between the various Balkan languages. But don't worry if you're not a native English speaker, you won't need a high level of English yourself. The many local guides that we use are not native English speakers, so they won't be using complicated words or speaking fast. They will be happy to speak slowly and repeat when necessary. We can also provide printed materials every morning that give detailed information of what you will hear during the day.

 

 

 

Responsible Tourism - how you give back to the region

 

You can read about this in 'Our Philosophy' section or watch our two-minute video about this here.

 

 

Weather

People read Greece and think sun, lemons and olive trees. The border between Greece and its northern neighbours is where the Mediterranean climate meets Central European.

 

The Mammal Ecology tour is in October or November. By the Nestos Delta in early October you may be wearing short sleeves as it reaches 25C during the day, but you need to pack and prepare for autumn in high mountains. Plus, we will be going out in early mornings and at evenings, so hats, gloves and thermals are important.

 

Autumns in the mountains can, of course, bring rain. There's nothing we can do about it, although it would be extremely unfortunate to have 7 days of continuous rain. Autumn, though, is generally drier than spring.

 

If you are customising this tour, then summers are still warm, but in the mountains, at altitude, we have snowy winters and similar springs to those in northern Europe. Nature in the mountains is best seen in spring, before the sun scorches the land and birds begin to migrate back.  There's still a lot to see and enjoy in July, especially birds and butterflies, but by the coast and in the plains it can reach 30-35C in mid-July, so you need to consider if that's too hot for you to be walking around. In autumn, the leaves change and bears are fattening up for winter, so it's a good time for walking.

 

 

What to Bring

  • Good walking boots. When it's wet, walking shoes won't be enough. We also walk on sand near the lake. Boots are best

  • Plenty of good walking socks

  • Waterproof coat and trousers (in really bad rain we will alter the itinerary, but bring them just in case)

  • Hats and gloves.  Even in June and July, if we are above 1,000m, it can get cold very quickly. Not icy cold, but you'll appreciate some light hats and gloves.

  • Phone chargers

  • Plug adapters for UK guests (all three countries have the same plugs and voltage)

 

 

Meals

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the cost.

 

Breakfast is Continental, with the occasional, regional addition of pastry pies (cheese pie, spinach pie etc.).

Lunches alternate between packed lunches from the hotel or a local tavern.

Dinners are in the hotel or a local tavern.

 

We try our best to use small, family-run hotels and restaurants, but even when we can't, we agree on the menu in advance and try to ensure that it's local recipes.

 

Meals are "Balkan style". This means that all the food is in the middle of the table and we share.  So, if you have any requests or allergies, or prefer to have your own plate, you must advise us at least 4 weeks in advance so that we can arrange different menus with each venue.

 

Vegetarians can be catered for, as the region is rich in meze and salads. Vegan has been done a few times too, but we'll contact you to get some ideas for what you'd like to eat each day. It's a more limited menu, as even without meat the regional food revolves around dairy products. But it's possible. We've also done the tour for people with glucose or lactose intolerances.

 

 

Pace, difficulty, mobility

This tour has more walking than our other tours as we stray further from the roads that a minibus can reach. That being said, it's more gentle ramble than a walking holiday. We move at a pace that allows people to enjoy what they see, and for those who like to get their bins on something or take a few photographs to feel that they’re not rushed. 

 

A walk could be from half an hour up to four hours, but as we go at a very slow pace, in four hours we aren’t going to do more than four miles. We'll then stop for lunch and if we do a bigger walk in the morning we'll aim to do a short walk in the afternoon. So it's more a case of you being happy on your feet for a few hours a day.

To try see the best of birds and mammals, we do get out early. So it's often out by 6 or 7am, sometimes with breakfast at 6am or sometimes we take a packed breakfast with us. For example with the jackals in Nestos, it's good to get down there before sunrise, so these days we may take a breakfast with us to save us driving back to the hotel.

Given the early mornings, we often return to our lodgings for lunch and let people have a rest before going out for the afternoon and early evening. For those with unlimited energy, the hotels in both Nestos and Rhodope are surrounded by great habitat so there's plenty to see.

As to terrain and the actual walks, the Nestos area is at sea level and pancake flat. For the Rhodope, one could imagine walks to be similar to those in the Downs, Peaks or Lake District; there won’t be any sections where you need to scramble or use hands, but the gradient can vary and we won't always be on well maintained paths. Underfoot it can sometimes be muddy, sandy or rocky. We recommend walking sticks for those who would use them for walks back in the UK.

 

For further information on each day’s walking, please do email or call us.

 

 

Visas and Passports

 

IMPORTANT: Greece is a member of the EU and the Schengen Zone. Albania and North Macedonia are not.

 

The UK Foreign Office recommends that no British citizen travels without at least 6 months remaining on their passports (this is their advice in light of Brexit on 29 March 2019, regardless of whether there is deal or no deal). Citizens of other countries should speak to their government department for specific advice.

 

All citizens, UK and otherwise, are responsible for having the correct travel documents to enter Albania, Greece and North Macedonia. It is especially important that EU citizens check whether they are able to cross all three borders with their ID cards instead of passports. Either way, we strongly recommend that you bring passports. Old identity cards, especially those which are still handwritten, have been rejected at certain border crossings.

 

Contact Details

The tour is run by Balkan Tracks Limited of 60 Featherbank Lane, Leeds LS18 4NW. Any questions should be fielded to Christopher at info@balkantracks.com and 0044 (0)7506 381 757.

 

 

BALKAN TRACKS

CONTACT

FOLLOW US

info@balkantracks.com

0044 (0)7506 381757

 

 

Unit 8A, Red Lane Mill, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, LS28 5UJ

UK

 

 

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