Thank you for booking your holiday with Travel The Unknown. We love the Caucasus and we are confident that you will go away with fantastic memories of your tour.
Your final itinerary will include the day-by-day details of your trip, meal plan, accommodation and relevant contacts. If you do not have your final itinerary, or are unsure about it, please contact us by one of the methods below:
Phone (UK): 020 7183 6371
Phone (IRL): 01 254 8657
Itineraries are correct at the time of printing and are updated throughout the year to incorporate suggestions from past travellers, our own research and information from our guides and local operators. Itineraries are also subject to change as a result of local and individual trip circumstances, and are to be treated as a guide rather than a definitive plan. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this. Please ensure that you have read and reviewed the final copy of your final Trip Notes and itinerary at least a week prior to travel in case there have been changes that may affect you.
Health & Safety
It is important to keep a high standard of hygiene when travelling, just as you would at home. Wash your hands with soap and water or antibacterial gel before eating or drinking and after using the toilet.
We recommend that you stick to drinking bottled water and even use it to brush your teeth as tap water may be unsafe to drink. When dining, avoid food which has been left out (especially in the heat), salads and raw vegetables (as they may have been washed in local water) and ice creams (which may have been made with local water or allowed to thaw and re-freeze). Decline ice cubes in cold drinks and remove them when provided, as they may also be made with local untreated water.
When organising your own meals, be selective where you eat. Choose places that seem quite clean and where you see many locals eating. A high turnover usually means food is not left lying around and is made fresh.
All Travel The Unknown travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in the group travel experience. If, in the opinion of our ground handler, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Travel The Unknown reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. Please read the itinerary for this tour thoroughly and pay close attention to the Activity Ratings shown on our website and then realistically self-assess your physical ability to complete the trip as described. Please consult with your doctor if you have any doubts or give us a call with any queries you may have.
An excellent resource for up-to-date travel medicinal requirements is www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. We recommend that you consult your doctor or a travel clinic at least 45 days prior to your departure for up-to-date medical travel information. You should also carry a first aid kit, as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that in some more remote areas you could be some distance away from medical facilities.
Please remember to pack any other additional medication you normally take. For legal reasons, our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drugs, including headache tablets and antibiotics. If you suffer from travel/motion sickness, you may wish to bring your own medication for driving days.
There is rarely any trouble in the areas our tours cover. We closely monitor the safety situation on a continuous basis, using both government sources and our own network of contacts on the ground, and will amend the itinerary if safety concerns require us to. Please check for the latest government advice on travel to the region (see some helpful links below) and please contact us if you have any further questions or concerns about safety issues.
UK - www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
Ireland - www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice
US - https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html
Canada - https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories
Australia - www.smartraveller.gov.au
New Zealand - www.safetravel.govt.nz
When travelling, you are subject to the same dangers that you may find at home, such as theft or pick pocketing in busy places. Travelling with an experienced group leader will help protect your trip from such dangers, but do not let your guard down completely. You are still responsible for your own belongings. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities; however during your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Travel The Unknown itinerary, and Travel The Unknown makes no guarantees about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement. Travel The Unknown cannot be held responsible for any injuries or losses that may occur during any such optional activity. Please also note that Travel The Unknown retains the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
To ensure the safety of your documents and other valuables, we strongly recommend that you use a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, whilst a lock is recommended for securing your luggage. It is not advisable to bring valuable jewellery when travelling.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some people spend a lot of money on drinks, whereas others may spend more on souvenirs or presents. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing money for drinks, shopping, participation in optional activities and tipping.
Tipping is completely voluntary and often not expected. It is, however, almost always appreciated. It is customary on tours to tip guides and drivers if you have been happy with their services.
For restaurants and cafés, we recommend tipping 10%.
We recommend tipping USD 30 per guide per day and USD 25 per driver per day for the entire group. The amount for the person will depend on the number of participants in the group.
Unless otherwise specified, the departure tax will be included in the cost of your tour package when you book your international flights with Travel The Unknown. If you are arranging your own international flights, please check with your travel agent or airline.
Please make sure you have access to an additional £200 ($300), to be used if unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster or political strife) necessitate a change to our intended itinerary. This is not a common occurrence, but it is better to be prepared.
Note: you will be responsible for any additional expenses incurred on your trip which are outside the scope of your tour package (e.g. costs related to personal emergencies, extra meals, phone calls, etc.). Any such costs must be paid in full locally.
Currency exchange rates fluctuate. For the most up to date rates please refer to the following website: www.xe.com.
TIP 1: American dollars are usually the most used foreign currency
TIP 2: We recommend you take out the majority of the spending money you require when you first arrive in a country, distribute it and keep it in secure places for the rest of the trip.
TIP 3: Make sure you inform your bank of the exact dates that you are going away and when you will be in each country to ensure that your card is not blocked when you are travelling.
TIP 4: Slightly torn, faded or badly marked banknotes may be difficult to exchange. Coins are typically not exchangeable.
All goods and services are paid in local currency (Manats). Sterling, US dollars and Euros are easily exchanged. Major hotels, supermarkets and restaurants in Baku usually accept credit cards. There are ATMs in most major towns and cities. Before you leave the UK, let your bank know you are travelling to Azerbaijan.
Cash can be changed at banks and in exchange bureaux. British pounds may be less readily accepted outside Yerevan than US dollars or Euros. Credit cards and UK debit cards displaying the Maestro and/or Cirrus sign are accepted at major stores and restaurants in Yerevan but far less so outside the capital. Prices for goods and services are sometimes quoted in US dollars, but by law payment must be made in Armenian Dram. There are many ATMs in Yerevan. They accept major credit cards and debit cards with the Maestro/Cirrus or Visa sign displayed on the card.
The official currency is the Lari (GEL), which is divided into 100 tetri. Cash is the preferred method of payment in Georgia but major credit cards are accepted in established restaurants, hotels and shops in Tbilisi. Euros, Roubles, GBP or US Dollars can be exchanged at any of the widespread bureaux de change, but other currencies should generally be changed at the bank. Cheques are not accepted. Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm.
Some meals are included in the price. Please refer to your itinerary for information on which meals are provided and budget accordingly for meals not included.
To minimise the footprint our tours leave - both on the environment and the local culture - we keep our group sizes limited to 12 people.
In your group, there may be large variations in age and a variety of nationalities. While this is mostly a good thing, it can occasionally cause some difficulties, so we ask you to be patient with your fellow passengers and realise that everyone likes to travel differently. Please also consider your fellow passengers by respecting scheduled meeting times. If any issues occur within the group please inform your guide who will do his / her best to help to resolve it.
We have gone to great lengths in securing the best guides and drivers available to ensure your trip runs smoothly and you have the best experiences possible in your chosen region.
Travel between destinations is by well-maintained and comfortable vehicles and in some instances by flight. Flights will be indicated clearly on your itinerary.
We can arrange additional tours, hotel nights and airport transfers before or after your chosen tour. Please let us know what you would like to do and we'll be happy to help. Any services, tours or other activities booked, agreed to or paid for locally are undertaken entirely at your own risk and the company will not be liable for any injury or loss incurred from such activities. You will also be responsible for any additional expenses incurred on the trip which are outside the scope of the tour package (e.g. costs related to personal emergencies, extra meals, phone calls, etc.). Any such costs must be paid in full locally.
Our tours typically include any in-country domestic flights. International flights from the UK can also be arranged if required. If you prefer however, you can book your own flights and our representative will meet you at the airport on arrival and take you to your hotel before your tour starts. Please let us know your preference when booking your trip.
Please note, for domestic flights, the typical baggage allowance, unless explicitly stated elsewhere, is 15kg.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. As a minimum, we require that your insurance covers you for medical expenses, including emergency repatriation. We also strongly recommend you are covered for personal liability, loss of luggage and personal effects. You will be required to give details of your insurance prior to departure. Travel the Unknown do not recommend which travel insurance to take out however we do have a partner who offers travel insurance. For clients based in the UK or Ireland you can buy online direct with Accident & General at www.accidentgeneral.ie/traveltheunknown
We or our trusted ground handlers have personally vetted all accommodation. If any of our preferred first choice accommodations are not available, we will organise something of a similar standard. Please check your itinerary for a list of the accommodations on your trip.
Joining and finishing points
Unless otherwise indicated on your itinerary, you will be greeted at your arrival airport by a Travel The Unknown representative and escorted to your accommodation. See itinerary for details. At the end of your trip, you will be escorted to the airport for your departing flight, unless otherwise specified in your itinerary.
If you arrive at your destination and cannot locate our local representative, please contact our local operator using the contact numbers provided to you in your final documentation. If you choose to leave the airport and make your own way to your hotel without speaking to our local operator first, you may not be eligible for any compensation.
In the rare event that you cannot make contact with our local representative or us, and no transfer has arrived, please make your own way to the hotel and keep any receipts referring to transport costs to get there.
Passports, Visas & Immigration
All travellers require a passport to travel. Many countries require that your passport is valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of your trip. For help with visas we recommend our partner, the Visa Machine, visit http://ttu.thevisamachine.com for details or call them on +44 20 7148 6402. Any information we provide regarding visas is correct at the time of research. It is always advisable to check the latest information with your local consulate or embassy of the country (or countries) you are to visit.
For Azerbaijan, nationals of most Western countries can obtain an e-visa which you need to print and carry with you throughout your stay in Azerbaijan. You can apply for an e-visa by clicking on this website: https://evisa.gov.az/en/ to apply and for more info. Applications should be made at least a week ahead. Please follow instructions on the site carefully.
British and US citizens do not need a visa for up to 180 days. Australian and Canadian citizens can get a visa on arrival. For nationals of other countries you can check here: www.armeniaevisa.org
British, US, Australian and Canadian citizens do not need a visa for up to 1 year. For nationals of other countries you can check here: www.evisa.gov.ge
The electrical current in the Caucasus is between 220-240 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin attachment plugs and Schuko plugs are in use. If you are travelling with UK appliances, you will need a standard European adaptor.
The international dialing code for Azerbaijan is +994. Telephone communication is not a problem and the Internet is also developing rapidly.
Providers SuperOnline, AdaNet, AzEuroTel, Bank internet and others provide the whole network of internet cafes. Internet cafes are common, not only in Baku but in most cities and towns of Azerbaijan. These facilities are especially popular among young people playing computer games, so it can be noisy and smoky.
In Azerbaijan, there are three mobile operators - Azercell, Bakcell and Azerfon (Nar Mobile). 3G services are provided not only at all the stations of the Baku metropolitan but also in the tunnels.
LTE is available in Georgia from Caucasus Online and Silknet. Fibre Optic line is available from the same companies. In major hotels Wi-Fi service is available and Internet cafés are common and cheap. Some places offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. In Tbilisi, there is free WiFi through most of the central part of the city.
The international dialling code for Georgia is +995. Mobile phone coverage is good in the capital and in coastal regions, but signal strength is not as good in rural areas. Landlines are widely available and internet access is available in the city and at major hotels.
TIP: If you think you will need to make or receive a lot of calls, then it would be worth investing in a prepaid SIM card on arrival at the airport. You have to make sure your handset is unlocked prior to leaving the UK. There are three main providers; Magti, BeeLine and GeoCell. Both, Geocell and Magti have UMTS/3G service including video call and high speed data. Roaming is possible if you own a UMTS capable mobile phone. Geocell has cheapest mobile internet solution over its network.
The international dialling code for Armenia is +374.
Armenia has three main cell phone operators: Vivacell, Beeline and Orange/Ucom. You can go into any one of the many stores each of these have and pick up a phone or, if you’ve already got a GSM phone, a SIM card.
Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia are at GMT+4 hours.
Laundry facilities are offered by some hotels for a charge. In addition, laundry services can be found outside our hotels in all major cities and many smaller ones.
We advise you not to leave doing your laundry to the last minute, as drying times may be required and laundry services will not be available at all stops.
The climate of Azerbaijan can be described as continental influenced with warm Summers and very cold, dry Winters. It can be divided into three different climate zones: one North of the mountainous regions, one South of them, and along the coast of the the Caspian Sea.
Temperatures during the Summer months vary between 20°C and 30°C. Summers in Azerbaijan are often warm and sunny with dry periods, but sometimes heavy cloudbursts and severe thunderstorms can occur and can cause local flash-floods and damage.
During the Winter months,December through March, it gets quite cold with daily temperatures far below zero and snowfall occurs occasionally. The mountainous regions of Azerbaijan are known for severe weather conditions and extremely cold weather that descends upon them during the Winter months, with very strong winds and snowstorms.
The Sheki Zakataly region lies just South of the mountains and has quite different conditions to the Northern regions, with less rain, warmer Summers and a bit milder Winters. The coastal areas are significantly warmer than the Northern mountainous portion of Azerbaijan, due to the tempering effect of the Caspian Sea.
Georgia has a warm, temperate climate. The Likhi mountain range divides the country into Western and Eastern halves, shielding the Eastern part of the country from the influence of the Black Sea, and creating a continental climate.
The average temperature in the East in the Summer ranges between 27°C - 35°C and in the Winter it ranges between 2°C - 4°C. The Western part of the country experiences a sub-tropical, maritime climate and in the Summer the average temperature is 22°C, dropping to 5°C in Winter.
Armenia is a mountainous, landlocked country. It has a territory of 29,800sq.km (11,490 sq. miles) and it borders with Georgia on the North, Azerbaijan on the East, and Turkey and Iran on the West and South respectively.
There are more than 100 mountain lakes in the country, the largest being Sevan Lake situated at an altitude of 1900 m above sea level.
Armenia is often described as sunny and it is a fact that the Ararat Valley has almost as much sunshine as Egypt: 2700 hours a year. Its climate ranges from dry subtropical to cold mountain weather.
The mean year temperature goes down one degree for each two hundred meters higher in the mountains. The mean temperature in July is 30°C and -7°C in January.
Azerbaijan: official language Azerbaijani
Some useful phrases in Azerbaijani:
Hello - Salam
Thank you - Təşəkkür edirəm
Yes - bəli
No - yox
My name is (David) - Mənim adım (David)
Good morning - Sabahınız xeyir
Good Evening - Axşamınız xeyir
Goodbye - Sağol/Xudahafiz
How much is this? - Bu neçəyədir?
Sorry - Bağışlayın
Please - Zəhmət olmasa
Thank you - Təşəkkür edirəm
Where's the toilet? - Ayaq yolu haradadır?
Georgia: official language Georgian
Some useful phrases in Georgian:
Hello - gamarjoba
How are you? - rogora khar?
Pleased to meet you - sasiamovnoa tkveni gatsnoba
Good morning - dila mshvidobisa
Goodnight - dzili nebisa
Goodbye - nakhvamdis
yes - diakh
no - ara
How much is this? - ra ghirs?
Sorry - bodishi
Thank you - gmadlobt
Where's the toilet - t’ualet’i sad aris
Armenia: official language Armenian
Some useful phrases in Armenian:
Hello - barev
How are you? - Inch'pes yes?
Pleased to meet you - urakh e handipel dzez
Good morning - bari arravot
Goodnight - bari gisher
Goodbye - ts'tesut'yun
yes - ayo
no - voch'
How much is this? - t'ye vork'an e sa?
Sorry - neroghut'yun
Thank you - shnorhakalut'yun
Where's the toilet - vortegh e zugarany
This is a generic checklist of things to remember before travelling. Not all may apply to you:
- Tell your bank you are travelling, so that they do not block your transactions when you are abroad
- Ensure you have the relevant visas and a valid passport
- Ensure you have any required vaccinations and medications for the trip
- Ensure you have adequate travel insurance and that you have sent the relevant details of your policy to Travel The Unknown
- Make a note of your passport number, take a photocopy with you and email a scanned version to yourself
- Email a copy of your itinerary and trip contacts to any family members who may want to contact you
- Bring some money to cover emergency situations
- Check with your mobile service provider to make sure your phone works abroad (enable roaming if required)
- Check the What To Bring section of these Trip Notes to see if there are any particular items you require
While travelling, please bear in mind the following:
- Think about what you are doing at all times and trust your instincts - don’t take risks that you wouldn’t at home
- Don’t openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
- Find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws - there may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
- Respect the environment – don’t buy wildlife souvenirs, conserve resources (like water) and don’t drop litter
Please note that some of our tours can be physically demanding. A basic level of fitness, mobility and decent health is assumed. Please contact us if you are unsure about your suitability for this trip.
Check the activity rating of your tour on our website and consult the chart below.
* Relaxation. There are no activities scheduled.
** This will typically include some short walking tours and some medium-length car/minibus journeys.
*** This is the standard for most of our cultural tours. It involves city walking, short walks in rural areas and some medium-to-long drives.
**** This typically involves some short hikes or the equivalent, as well as some long-ish drives and city walking.
***** This is typically a hiking or activity itinerary and can be quite strenuous. A good level of fitness is expected.
NOTE: Ratings are inherently subjective and are made using our best judgement. Also, different parts of an itinerary may merit different ratings, so the ratings assigned are an assumed average for the whole trip. In any case, please contact us if you are unsure of the level of fitness required for any given trip.
What to bring
Below is a recommended list of items to bring. It does not claim to be exhaustive.
• Any required medicines
• Basic first aid kit, insect repellent and sunscreen (min. factor 15)
• Day pack (useful for carrying basic items)
• Basic toiletries and tissues
• Clothing for both hot and cold conditions (practical clothing is strongly advised, especially long-sleeved tops, long trousers and a sun hat)
• Sandals and walking shoes
• Binoculars, torch, sunglasses, small towel and electricity adapter
• Waterproof bag for documents and electronics
• Notepad, pen and book
• Watch (strict time-keeping is required at times)
• Money for meals, souvenirs and contingencies
• Drinking bottle
• Travel plug (for sinks without plugs)
• Travel pillow (can come in handy for longer journeys)
Most importantly, come with an open mind!
• Camera – don't forget your accessories: memory cards, battery and charger
• If you use a film camera, bring film, lenses, batteries, etc.
• Mobile phone and charger
• Plug adaptors
• Music player and charger
• Laptop or tablet and charger (useful if you want to keep a blog and upload photos)
Please see below a list of recommended reading for the Caucasus:
- The Crossing Place by Philip Marsden
- An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman
- The Caucasus: an Introduction by Thomas de Waal
- Visions of Ararat, Writings on Armenia by Christopher Walker
- Armenia with Nagorno Karabagh by Deirdre Holding
- Bread and Ashes – A Walk through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson
- From the Holy Mountain: A journey in the shadow of Byzantium by William Dalrymple
- Georgia: In the mountains of poetry by Peter Nasmyth
- The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London by James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello
interesting cultural pieces from the Caucasus
As regular travellers, one thing that never ceases to amaze and inspire us is the kindness and generosity of people, often people who have very little to their name. We firmly believe that the people who make these places special should also benefit from our visit. Therefore, as first preference, we use local guides and locally-owned lodges, shops and eateries. We do our best to ensure that the benefits of our tours reach as widely as possible into the communities where they operate. We also support a small portfolio of charities and local grassroots organisations which you can see on our website at www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible.
Please be mindful of the environment in which you travel. We ask you to be vigilant about disposing of your waste. Dispose of all rubbish correctly and do not leave litter or cigarette butts in natural environments.
Help us to reduce single-use plastics
We are very happy to announce our tie-up with WaterToGo - https://www.watertogo.eu/traveltheunknown.
This will give you the chance to help us to reduce single-use plastic usage on our trips - and as such we would encourage you to buy reusable water bottles from the link above. This will not cost you any more, in fact you can get a 15% discount by entering the code "TTU15" at the checkout - and we will get a small percentage commission too which we will donate to WaterAid - https://www.wateraid.org/uk/. They have many amazing water-related projects ensuring clean water, decent toilets and sanitation are something everyone can access. Thank you for helping us to make a little difference.
Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible for further information on our responsible travel initiatives.
We go to great lengths to ensure our tours have minimal impact on the environment and the people who live there. We ask you to respect the culture of the people and to familiarise yourself with local laws and customs prior to travelling with us.
If you would like to photograph someone, ask their permission first to avoid causing offence. In some countries, photographing officials, the army, police, government buildings and borders may be illegal and may result in having your equipment confiscated.
Most of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim. Azerbaijan is a largely secular society, and religion is usually considered a private matter. Local and foreign women usually dress in western-style clothing. It is frowned upon for men (and to some extent
women) to wear shorts, even in summer. While homosexuality is not illegal, LGBT people in Azerbaijan tend to keep a low profile as it is not acceptable to a large part of society. This is particularly true outside Baku and among the older generation. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, especially outside of Baku. Physical contact between men (holding hands, embracing etc) is usually a sign of friendship.
Homosexuality is legal in Georgia, but not widely accepted in society. Tbilisi is a cosmopolitan city, but more conservative attitudes exist in rural areas. You should dress and behave modestly in these areas and avoid open displays of affection. Visitors should not be surprised if offered drinks by complete strangers while dining at a restaurant or sitting at a bar. If visiting a church, suitable clothing should be worn - shorts are inappropriate and women should cover their heads.
Armenia s a conservative country and conservative norms apply here too, especially in rural areas.
Stay in touch
If you would like to find out about new tours and all that is happening with Travel The Unknown, please sign up to our newsletter on our website, www.traveltheunknown.com, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 7183 6371 (UK) or 1 347 329 5524 (US).
We have spent much time and effort to make your trip a memorable experience for all the right reasons. However, we are constantly looking to improve our tours and any feedback you can give us or suggestions you may have would be very much appreciated. Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/feedback to share your thoughts with us.
We prefer to use real photos taken on our tours on our website and in our print material, so we actively encourage you to send us your photos. Happy snapping!
If we use your pictures we will be happy to credit you as the photographer - just let us know you would like us to do so when you send in your photos. You can also share your photos on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/traveltheunknown
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