Know Before You Go

Alaska

LOCAL TIME

Alaska Standard Time is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 9 hours (one hour behind Pacific Standard Time).

CLIMATE

The Alaskan panhandle has an Oceanic (or Maritime) climate, noted for being relatively mild and consistent. Average summer temperatures range between highs of 60-64° F, and lows of 44-52° F. As an example, Juneau’s average July temperature is 56.9. There is no dry season although it rains the least in June and July.

CLOTHING

Dressing in layers is essential, including a moisture absorbing inner layer, a warm, lightweight middle layer such as a fleece jacket, sweatshirt or sweater, and a waterproof, breathable shell. Gloves are helpful, especially when you’re up close and personal with a glacier, as are a hat or hood. Active wear is essential if you plan to engage in activities such as kayaking. Be sure to bring sunscreen, high quality sunglasses, bug spray, lots of memory storage for your photos, and a backpack or tote bag to carry it all.

SHOES

Bring comfortable, supportive, broken-in shoes to make the most of your exploring time.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and US regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the United States Coast Guard, among others.

GENERAL FACTS

  • The 49th State
  • Area: 663,300 square miles (1.718 million km2) (Largest state, 2.5 times the size of Texas)
  • Capital city: Juneau 32,556 inhabitants (estimated 2012, 4th least populous)
  • Governor: Sean Parnell (2009)
  • Main Cities: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau
  • Purchased from Russia: March 30, 1867
  • Statehood date: January 3, 1959
  • Currency: U.S. Dollars (Euros can be easily changed)

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 731,449 (2012 est.)
  • Population density: 1.2/sq mi Least densely populated US state)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 52.04 % – Feminine 47.96 % (2010)
  • Population forecast: (2020) 802,762
  • Life Expectancy: male: 73.94 years / female: 79.84 years (2008 est.)

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Antarctica

GETTING THERE

Antarctica tours begin in Chile or Argentina. Click on Chile or Argentina for information about passports, visas, etc.

CLIMATE

Summer temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula average about 32° F, but sometimes it will feel colder due to the wind chill.

CLOTHING

it is best to wear several layers of light, warm clothing, with a windproof and waterproof jacket and pants as outside layer. The suggested clothing for Antarctica is very similar to skiing equipment.

  • Thermal socks
  • Thermal underwear, including sweatshirts and turtlenecks
  • Fleece jacket and trousers
  • Waterproof hooded parka
  • Insulated waterproof trousers
  • Thermal gloves or mittens
  • Polar cap, hat or balaclava hood
  • Swimsuit (for possible hot spring dips)
  • Comfortable clothes to wear on board (68°-72° F)
  • Comfortable rubber-soled shoes to wear on board
  • Personal medications and a backpack to carry your belongings during shore excursions

WATERPROOF BOOTS

As most landings in Antarctica are “wet landings”, the best footwear is knee-high waterproof boots. You will not need to carry them with you since Antarctica XXI will provide you with a pair of thermal rubber boots before arriving in Antarctica.

FACE PROTECTION

Good quality UV filtering sunglasses are essential. Glacier glasses have leather flaps at the sides to stop the light from passing through. Due to the high level of reflection of UV radiation, you will also need good sun block lotion for your face (protection factor 30 and above) and lip balm.

GEAR SHOP

Antarctica XXI is pleased to offer to its travelers the exciting opportunity to get equipped for their Antarctic air-cruises through its on-line store, the Antarctica XXI’s Gear Shop. Enjoy browsing and shopping a unique collection of high quality apparel and gear that will help you get ready for your forthcoming polar adventure.

PHOTOGRAPHY

To see the wildlife, you should have a good pair of lightweight binoculars (best degree of magnification 7 or 8X30). If you are passionate about photography, do not forget a good zoom lens to shoot wildlife and which avoids close approaches, and take with you a good supply of film rolls or memory sticks. Do not forget to take with you spare batteries since cold temperatures can reduce their life span.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with international regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), and Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Antarctica is earth’s southernmost and fifth largest continent
  • The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica
  • Area: 5,400,000 square miles (14,000,000 km2) (Twice the size of Australia)
  • Ice coverage: 98% of it’s area, at least 1.2 miles (1.9km) thick!
  • Treaty: The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries; to date, 49 countries have signed. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent’s ecozone.
  • Research Stations: 30 countries maintain permanent or seasonal research staions
  • Research: Biologists, geologists, oceanographers, physicists, astronomers, glaciologists, and meteorologists conduct experiments possible only on Antactica

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: Approximately 1,000 in summer, 5,000 in winter
  • Population density: .00018/sq mi in summer, .00091/sq mi in winter

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Argentina

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the end date of the tour, and have at least one blank page for entry and exit stamps. No visas are needed for stays of up to 90 days. No vaccination certificate is required to enter the country. You must pay the reciprocity online prior to arriving in Argentina.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Spanish is the official language of the Argentine Republic. At least 40 languages are spoken but Spanish is dominant. After Spanish, the most spoken language is English, which is taught since the elementary school; 42.3% of Argentines claim to speak some English (though only 15.4% of those claimed to have a high level of English comprehension).

CURRENCY

Argentina’s currency is the Peso. There are bills of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pesos, and coins of 1 peso and 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. Although US Dollars and Euros are generally taken everywhere, foreign currencies can be exchanged in banks and authorized bureaus. American Express, VISA, Diners and Master Card are widely accepted. There may be difficulties in changing traveler’s check outside Buenos Aires.

TAXES

Argentina has a 21% Value added Tax (VAT). You may obtain a VAT reimbursement to any purchases of local products made for an amount over $70 (per invoice) in shops operating with the “Global Refund” system. Visitors coming from countries not bordering Argentina are exempt from all taxes on travelling articles and new articles up to US$ 300 and an additional US$ 300, if purchased at duty free shops within the national territory. You must pay a $US 160 Reciprocity Fee online before you enter the country; the online site charges a $US 20 Service Fee.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Argentina is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 3 hours.

CLIMATE

The country’s territory offers a wide variety of climates: subtropical in the North, sub-Antarctic in the southern Patagonia, and mild and humid in the Pampas plains. Buenos Aires has a humid subtropical climate. Its average summer (November to March) temperature is 73 °F, 82 to 88 °F during the day and 61 to 70 °F at night. Relative humidity is 64–70% in the summer, so the heat index is higher than the true air temperature. Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, has a subpolar oceanic climate. Its average summer temperature is 48 °F, with highs between 54 and 59 °F, and lows between 38 and 42 °F. Ushuaia gets significant rain throughout the year.

CLOTHING

It’s best to dress in layers, including a moisture absorbing inner layer, a warm, lightweight middle layer such as a fleece jacket, sweatshirt or sweater, and a waterproof, breathable shell.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring.

ELECTRICITY

200-220 volts, 50 cycles AC is used. Two types of plugs are still in use, the typical European rounded two prong plug and the 3 prong plug used in Australia. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Argentina uses the PAL system.

FOOD

Argentina has a rich food tradition and Argentine people have a reputation for their love of eating, and for eating beef in particular. Argentine cuisine is influenced by the blending of multiple cultures – indigenous, Spanish, Italian, and 6.6 million immigrants – and the wide scope of livestock available in the country. Grilled meat from the asado (barbecue) is a staple. The most common condiment for asado is Chimichurri, a sauce of herbs, garlic and vinegar. Breaded and fried meats — milanesas — are used as snacks, in sandwiches, or eaten warm with mashed potatoes — purée. Empanadas — small pastries of meat, cheese, sweet corn, and a hundred other fillings — are a common sight at parties and picnics, or as starters to a meal. Italian staples, such as pizza and pasta, are eaten as commonly as beef. A sweet paste, dulce de leche is another treasured national food, used to fill cakes and pancakes, spread over toasted bread for breakfast, or served with ice cream.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. 10% of the amount of the check is usually left in cafeterias and restaurants. Doormen, porters, and ushers in cinemas and theaters are also generally tipped. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting up to date on all vaccines before traveling, and getting Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines before visiting Argentina.

Argentina’s ozone layer, especially in the southern region and Patagonia, is thinner than in the U.S. or Europe, and you’ll burn a lot faster here, especially if you’re in high altitudes. In Patagonia, “red alert” days (Sept-Nov) mean that fair-skinned visitors can burn within 10 minutes. Protect yourself with sun block, a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Do not take this lightly.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Argentinian regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), and Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Banks and Exchange Bureaus are open Mondays to Fridays from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. Business Offices are generally open from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and from 2.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. Stores in the big cities are open from 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m., although in the outskirts and the provinces they generally close at midday. Saturdays, from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Most cafés, cake shops and pizzerias are open most of the time except between 2.00 and 6.00 a.m. Restaurants serve lunch from 12.30 p.m. and dinner from 8.30 p.m. Fast-food menus are served in many restaurants at all times.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: The Argentine Republic
  • Area: 1,073,518 square miles (2,780,400 km2) (90% of the size of India)
  • Capital city: Buenos Aires 2,891,000 inhabitants (estimated 2013)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007)
  • Main Cities: Buenos Aires, Cordova, Rosary, Mendoza
  • Official languages: Spanish
  • Independence date: July 9, 1816
  • Currency: Peso
  • Religion: 92% Roman Catholic – government supported – home of Pope Francis

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 41,660,417 (2013 est.)
  • Population density: 37.3/sq mi
  • Population growth: 0.98% (2013 est.)
  • Urban-rural population: Urban 92% – Rural 8% (2010 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 49.2 % – Feminine 50.8 % (2013 est.)
  • Population forecast: 43.8 million in 2020 (2013 est.)
  • Birth rate : 17.12 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Mortality : 7.35 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 2.27 children born/woman (2008 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 74.09 years / female: 80.73 years (2008 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 97.9% (population over 15; 2011 est.)
  • Education: Initial, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary
  • Ethnicity: Multiethnic – predominately White, then Arab, Native, Mestizo, Asian

THE COUNTRY

With a mainland area of 1,073,500 sq mi (2,780,400 km2), Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. Its large, long geographic area gives it many climates, ranging from subtropical in the north to subpolar in the south with a temperate climate in between. Similarly, it has very diverse geography and great biodiversity. In the modern period Argentina has become a regional leader with a growing economy, a large share of the high tech sector and “very high” rating on Human Development Index. Its beauty, long coastlines and rich history make it a particularly compelling place to visit.

THE PEOPLE

Argentina’s population and culture were heavily shaped by immigrants from throughout Europe, with Italy and Spain providing the largest percentage of newcomers from 1860 to 1930. Argentina had the second highest immigration of all countries – 6.6 million, second only to the United States with 27 million – Argentina is a melting pot.
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Belize

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport should be valid for six months from the end date of the tour. No visas are needed for US citizens.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

English is the official language of Belize. It is the only country in the area with English as the official language, however an English creole (Kriol) and Spanish are more commonly spoken. 8 regional languages are also recognized, including Kriol, Spanish and 3 dialects of Maya.

CURRENCY

Belize’s currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD). Travelers’ Checks are not recommended due to the difficulty of cashing them. US dollars are widely accepted in Belize, although change will often be given in Belizean currency.

TAXES

Belize has a General Sales Tax (GST) of 12.5%. There is a standard 9% hotel tax that is added to your hotel bil. There is also an US$18.75 international departure tax however it is generally included in the price of the airline ticket.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Belize is Greenwich Meridian Time plus 6 hours, or Central Standard Time (CST). Belize does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

CLIMATE

Belize has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons, although there are significant variations in weather patterns by region. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean. The average daily high temperature in Belize ranges between 81.7 °F in January and 89.2 °F in May. The average low ranges between 67.1 °F in January and 89.2 °F in May. Average rainfall is 12.1 inches in April, as compared to over 56 inches in May and June and 69.8 inches in September!

CLOTHING

ON BOARD
Generally, the atmosphere aboard ship is informal and relaxed. Cruise wear should be lightweight and easy to care for. Sportswear is acceptable for both men and women. Because the air can be chilly when the ship is moving at full speed, it is also advisable to bring a windbreaker or fleece to wear on the deck of the ship.
ON EXCURSIONS
Clothing that can be layered is essential, as our destinations vary in temperatures. We recommend bringing lightweight long‐sleeved cotton shirts and trousers to protect against the sun. Although clothing made out of cotton is the traditional choice, you may also want to consider clothes made of wool or new synthetic materials. A windproof jacket is an essential outer layer, especially for evenings. A light windbreaker or fleece will allow you to wear multiple layers underneath so that you may easily adjust to indoor and outdoor temperature changes. You may also want to bring a sweater, since nights can be chilly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for wet landings and rocky shorelines. Please be certain that your footwear is properly broken in before the trip.

ELECTRICITY

110/220 volts, 60 cycles AC is used. Belize uses the B (North America) and G (British 3 prong) type plugs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Belize uses the NTSC system.

FOOD

Belizean cuisine encompasses the foods of the wide variety of ethnicities in the nation. Breakfast consists of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that are often homemade. Fry jacks are eaten with various cheeses, refried beans, various forms of eggs or cereal, along with milk, coffee, or tea. Midday meals vary, from lighter foods such as rice and beans or beans and rice with or without coconut milk, tamales (masa – a starchy, usually corn-based dough, filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, chilies, etc., and steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper), panades (fried maize shells with beans or fish), meat pies, escabeche (onion soup), chirmole (soup), stew chicken and garnaches (fried tortillas with beans, cheese, and sauce) to various constituted dinners featuring some type of rice and beans, meat and salad or coleslaw. Mealtime is a communion for families and schools and some businesses close at midday for lunch, reopening later in the afternoon.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. 15% is common in restaurants and hotels may add a 10% service charge to your bill. A 5-10% tip for hotel staff is appropriate in hotels that do not add a service charge. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. The CDC recommends that most travelers get the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines as well. The areas you will be travelling in are malaria regions. We suggest that you speak to your physician or healthcare provider and take the action he/she recommends as there are various differing ideas about which prophylactics to take, if at all. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Drink bottled and purified water only. The water aboard ship is safe to drink, and bottled water will be provided on group excursions. Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is available at all hotels, ships and lodges.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Belizean regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE), among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Banks are generally open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. However, in many small towns, villages, and tourist destinations, bank hours may be limited with banks closing at 1 or 2pm. In very few instances, banks have begun opening on Saturday. Belizean businesses tend to be open Monday through Friday from 8am to noon, and from 1 to 5pm. Some businesses do not close for lunch, and some open on Saturday. Most bars are open until 1 or 2am, although some go later.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Belize
  • Area: 8,867 sq mi (22,966 km2) (the size of the state of New Jersey)
  • Capital city: Belmopan 13,931 inhabitants (2010 census)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • Governor General/Prime Minister: Colville Young (1993)/Dean Barrow (2008)
  • Main Cities: Belize City, San Ignacio, Belmopan, San Pedro Town
  • Official language: English. Kriol and Spanish are also widely spoken
  • Independence date: September 21, 1981
  • Currency: Belize Dollar (BZD)
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 39.3% – Protestant 30.9% Jehovah’s Witness 1.6% – Other 9.9% – Irreligious 15.2%

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 334,297 (2013 est.)
  • Population density: 37.7/sq mi
  • Population growth: 1.92% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 52% – Rural 48% (2010)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 50.7 % – Feminine 49.3 % (2014 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2025) 450,000
  • Birth rate: 25.14 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality: 5.95 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Fertility: 3.02 children born/woman (2014 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 66.8 years / female: 70.17 years (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 76.9% (population over 15; 2000 census)
  • Education: Kindergarten, Secondary, Tertiary, University
  • Ethnicity: mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)

THE COUNTRY

Belize is a country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It has the lowest population density in Central America. Belize’s abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. Inland from Belize’s Punta Gorda, is a rarely-visited ancient Maya site, Lubaantun. Located on a high ridge, Lubaantun flourished between A.D. 730 and A.D. 890. Two major pyramids remain; their most significant feature is that the structures are mostly built of large stone blocks laid with no mortar, primarily black slate rather than the limestone typical of the region. Tourism has become the mainstay of the Belizean economy. It is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments.

THE PEOPLE

Belize has a diverse society, with many cultures and languages. Originally part of the British Empire, it shares a common colonial history with other Anglophone Caribbean countries. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854 until it won independence in 1981. Migration continues to transform Belize’s population. About 16% of Belizeans live abroad, while immigrants constitute approximately 15% of Belize’s population. The emigration of a large share of Creoles (Afro-Belizeans) and the influx of Central American immigrants, mainly Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans, has changed Belize’s ethnic composition. Mestizos have become the largest ethnic group, and Belize now has more native Spanish speakers than English or Creole speakers, despite English being the official language. Belize’s history as a melting pot have contributed to their welcoming culture that makes visitors feel immediately comfortable.

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Brazil

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the end date of the tour. Citizens of the United States and Canada are required to acquire Tourist Visas to enter Brasil.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

The language of Brazil is Portuguese, and English is not widely spoken. Learning and using a just few, simple Portuguese phrases can go a long way in demonstrating respect for Brazilian life and culture.

CURRENCY

Brazil’s currency unit is the real (plural = reais) and is made up of 100 centavos. It is not a good idea to use traveler’s checks unless only visiting major cities. Visa and Master Card are widely accepted. American Express is not as widely accepted, but in most hotels as well as many restaurants and stores (especially in the larger cities) do accept it.

TAXES

Brazil has a 19% sales tax. There is also a $US 39 international departure tax that must be paid in U.S. Dollars at the airport.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Brzail’s Amazon region is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 4 hours (Central Time in the United States). Most of Brazil observes daylight savings from November to February (as compared to Aril to October in the US).

CLIMATE

The climate of Brazil comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a large area and varied topography, but most of the country is tropical. The different climatic conditions produce environments ranging from equatorial rainforests in the north and semiarid deserts in the northeast, to temperate coniferous forests in the south and tropical savannas in central Brazil. Manaus has a tropical monsoonal climate with relatively dry season (June to October) and a heavy monsoon the rest of year, and no cold season. The average temperature is 79-82°F throughout the year, with an average high of 87-91°F and an average low of 73-74°F.

CLOTHING

It’s best to dress in light layers, including a waterproof outer layer. Essentials include shorts, long- and short-sleeve lightweight shirts, bathing suit, a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and a wind breaker or light jacket for evenings. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, lots of memory storage for your photos and a day pack or backpack to keep them in. Waterproof backpacks are especially useful, as they enable you to have your arms free.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for wet landings and rocky shorelines.

ELECTRICITY

Electric current in Brazil varies widely—from 100 to 127 volts or 220 to 240 volts and from 50 to 60Hz—even within the same city, building, apartment or office. Be aware before you plug in any electrical device. Some cities in Brazil only use 220 volts. While many hotels clearly label electrical outlets, others don’t. If you’re in doubt, ask first. Also be aware that many electrical outlets in Brazil will only accept a standard Brazilian two round prong plug. You may need a plug adapter. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Brazil is the only country using the PAL-M system.

FOOD

Brazilian cuisine has European and African influences. It varies greatly by region, reflecting the country’s mix of native and immigrant populations, and its continental size as well. This has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences. The Brazilian feijoada (feijoada brasileira) has been described as the national dish of Brazil. It is prepared with black beans, a variety of salted pork or beef products, such as pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, and at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue). Typical regional dishes include vatapá (bread, shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts and palm oil mashed into a creamy paste), moqueca (salt water fish stew in coconut milk with tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and some palm oil), polenta (cornmeal boiled into a porridge, and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled) and acarajé (peeled black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê (palm oil)). Other typical dishes are caruru (okra, onion, dried shrimp, and toasted nuts (peanuts and/or cashews), cooked with palm oil until a spread-like consistency is reached0, and moqueca capixaba (slow-cooked fish, tomato, onion and garlic, topped with cilantro; and linguiça, a mildly spicy sausage).

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. The standard tip for waiters in restaurants and botequims is 10% and is often included in the bill.

All provided components of your EXPLOR CRUISES tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry however a yellow fever vaccination is advised for travel to areas in the north, northeast or center west of the country. Because of the tropical climate of Brazil, occasional cases of Yellow fever, Dengue fever and Chagas disease are reported in various parts of the country. In addition, cases of hepatitis A, B, C and D are not unknown. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines, and that most get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid as well. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Almost all Brazilian cities have treated water supplies. Those that don’t, use artesian well water. Either way, you’re probably not going to get sick from drinking the water, anything washed in it or ice cubes made from it. But if the taste of chlorine is not your favorite, it’s probably best to drink only água mineral sem gás (non-carbonated mineral water) or com gás (carbonated) which is readily available almost everywhere.

Because Brazil is a tropical country, it’s very easy to quickly become dehydrated. Brazilian doctors recommend drinking at least two liters of water per day. You should also consider drinking coconut water which is readily available at many beaches and in cities from street vendors as well as restaurants and lanchonetes (snack bars). Coconut water is a natural isotonic beverage with the same electrolytic level as human blood. It contains no cholesterol, is naturally sterile and is full of natural sugars, salts and vitamins to ward off fatigue. It’s nature’s own ‘sports drink’ and far better for you than any commercially produced product.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Brazilian regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Brazilian Maritime Authority, among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Brazilian bank hours are from 10-4, Monday to Friday. Business hours are typically 8-6. ATM Machines of banks are generally open from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm (although it is common for the locks on the doors to be not operational). Generally, ATM machines that accept international credit cards are readily found in large cities. However, if travelling outside the city or to remote areas, it will be much more difficult to find an ATM machine.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Federative Republic of Brazil
  • Area: 3,287,597 sq mi (8,515,767 km2) (5% larger than the 48 contiguous United States)
  • Capital city: Brasília 2,789,761/4,041,042 city/metro inhabitants (estimated 2013)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Dilma Rousseff (2011)
  • Main Cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasília
  • Official language: Portuguese
  • Independence date: 7 September 1822
  • Currency: Real
  • Religion: Roman Catholicism 65%, Protestantism 22%, No religion 8%, Spiritism 2%, Other 3%

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 202,656,788 (July 2014 est.)
  • Population density: 61.5/sq mi
  • Population growth: 0.8% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 87% – Rural 13% (2010 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 49.49% – Feminine 50.51% (2008 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2025) 215,032,000
  • Birth rate : 14.72 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality : 6.54 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 1.79 children born/woman (2014 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 69.73 years / female: 77 years (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 90.4% (population over 15; 2008 est.)
  • Education: Kindergarten, Elementary, Medium, University. The constitution reserves 25% of the state budget and 18% of federal taxes and municipal taxes for education.
  • Ethnicity: white 47.7%, mulatto (mixed white and black) 43.1%, black 7.6%, Asian 1.1%, indigenous 0.4% (2010 est.)

THE COUNTRY

Brazil is the largest country in South America and in the Latin America region. It is the world’s fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 km (4,655 mi). It borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile. Brazil was a colony of Portugal from the landing of Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 until 1815. Since independence in 1822 it has grown to become the world’s sixth largest economy by nominal GDP and the seventh largest by purchasing power parity (as of 2011). Brazil is one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. Brazil is also one of the 17 megadiverse countries, home to diverse wildlife, natural environments, and extensive natural resources in a variety of protected habitats.

THE PEOPLE

Brazil is home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds, primarily descendants of colonial settlers and post-colonial immigrants, African slaves and Brazil’s indigenous peoples. Most of the immigrants were Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards and Germans, also with significantly large numbers of Japanese and Lebanese people. Brazil is home to the largest Italian, Portuguese, Lebanese and Japanese (c. 70-145 million) diaspora, and holds the biggest number of multiracial people (Pardo) in the world. However the ethnic composition of Brazilians is far from uniform across the country. The vast majority of Brazilians live in cities along it’s coast, over 11 million in Sao Paulo alone. Brazil’s diverse history shows in its rich culture and customs. They are a warm, friendly, hospitable social people. Although Brazil is an important agricultural and industrial power, rich in natural resources, and a middle income country with the strongest economy in Latin America, poverty is widespread in Brazil (51% of the population). Poverty levels and human development indicators in poor rural areas are comparable to those in the poorest countries of Latin America.
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Chile

PASSPORTS & VISAS

No visa is necessary for US citizens travelling to Chile, only a valid passport. When entering Chile (By cruise, vehicle or plane), at customs, you’ll need to fill out a Tourist Card that allows visitors to stay for up to 90 days and will allow multiple entries. . You’ll need to show this Tourist Card to Customs when leaving the country as well, so be sure you don’t lose it.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Chile’s official language is Spanish. Chilean Spanish is a dialect that is sometimes difficult for speakers of the Castilian variant of Spanish to understand. English fluency is not widespread in Chile, however many Chileans in the tourism industry and in major cities are able to speak some words of basic English. Try to learn even a dozen basic Spanish phrases before arriving.

CURRENCY

The currency in Chile is the peso (CLP), with coins of one, five, 10, 50, 100 and 500 pesos and bills of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 pesos. Carry small bills with you; it can be difficult to change bills larger than Ch$1000 in rural areas. Exchange rates are usually best in Santiago. Generally, only Santiago will have a ready market for foreign currencies.

TAXES

Chile has a 19% Value Added Tax (VAT). Many hotels waive the VAT applied to rooms when the guest shows their tourist card and pays with U.S. dollars or a credit card.

There is a reciprocity fee (entry fee) of US$160 dollars to be paid in cash (U.S. dollars) or credit card. The one-time charge is good for the life of your passport. There is also an $US 18 international airport departure tax to be paid at the airport. On domestic flights airport tax is included in the airline ticket.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Chile is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 4 hours (an hour earlier than Eastern Standard Time in the US). Chile observes Daylight Savings Time, however as it’s the Southern Hemisphere DST starts in September and ends in April.

CLIMATE

Due to its extensive length, Chile features a variety of climates. The presence of the sea gives the country a predominantly Mediterranean-style climate, with moderate temperatures and a wide range between the highs of the day and the lows of the night, creating fog and cool winds. Santiago has relatively hot dry summers (December to February) with average highs between 77 and 85 °F and higher highs are not uncommon. Summer lows average between 48 and 53 °F. Punta Arenas (in Patagonia) has an oceanic climate with average summer highs between 54 and 58 °F and summer lows between 40 and 44 °F. Unlike Santiago with it’s dry summers, Punta Arenas gets significant rain throughout the year. Among Chileans Punta Arenas is also known for its strong winds (up to 78 mile/hour). Winds tend to be strongest during the summer.

CLOTHING

The range of climates in Chile as well as the change in temperature during the day make dressing in layers essential. Layers should include a moisture absorbing inner layer, a warm, lightweight middle layer such as a fleece jacket, sweatshirt or sweater, and a waterproof, breathable shell. Dressing in layers is ideal. Essentials include sneakers, sandals, shorts, long- and short-sleeve lightweight shirts, bathing suit, a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and a wind breaker or light jacket for evenings. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring.

ELECTRICITY

Chile’s electricity standard is 220 volts/50Hz. Electrical sockets have two openings for tubular pins, not flat prongs; adapters are available from most travel stores. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Chile uses the NTSC system.

FOOD

Chilean cuisine stems mainly from the combination of traditional Spanish cuisine, Chilean native culture and local ingredients, with later influences from other European cuisines, particularly from Germany, Italy and France. Chilean cuisine is notable for the variety of flavors and ingredients, with the country’s diverse geography and climate hosting a wide range of agricultural produce, fruits and vegetables. Chile yields some of the world’s finest and most varied seafood, and many of its traditional plates are specialties from the sea. Vineyards nestled between the ocean and the Andes on rich volcanic soil are comparable to the best of Mediterranean Europe and California, and Chileans of every economic background enjoy their fine wines. Chileans eat four meals a day. Lunch, the day’s main meal, is generally served between about 1 and 3 pm, when some restaurants offer excellent fixed-price specials in addition to their regular menu. Onces (afternoon tea) is between about 5 and 7 pm, and dinner is rarely earlier than 9 pm.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. It’s customary to leave an extra 10% of the bill as a tip in restaurants, except in family-run places, which rarely expect a tip. In general, waiters and waitresses are poorly paid, so if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip, and even a small “propina” will be appreciated. Taxi drivers do not require tips, although you may round off the fare for convenience. Bellhops typically receive $2 to $3. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

Chile poses few health risks to travelers, and no special vaccinations are required. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines, and that most get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid as well. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

Chile’s ozone layer, especially in the southern region and Patagonia, is thinner than in the U.S. or Europe, and you’ll burn a lot faster here, especially if you’re in high altitudes. In Patagonia, “red alert” days (Sept-Nov) mean that fair-skinned visitors can burn within 10 minutes. Protect yourself with sun block, a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Do not take this lightly.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

The tap water in Chile’s cities is generally clean and safe to drink, but has a high mineral content that can cause stomach upsets; bottled water is a good idea for delicate stomachs and in rural areas. Seek local advice, if you are in doubt; or, to be on the safe side, drink bottled water — it’s widely available throughout Chile.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Chilean regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Chilean Merchant Marine Authority (DGTM y MM), among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Offices are generally open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., although the lunch hour can vary. Banks are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Exchange houses are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores (both big and small) are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (with no interruption in service). Most businesses are closed on holidays. Unlike in some other South American countries, U.S. dollars are rarely accepted in Chile (with the exception of larger hotels, where prices are often quoted only in dollars.). ATM’s are ubiquitous but not all are linked to the Plus and Cirrus systems, and some banks charge rather exorbitant fees for international withdrawals.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Republic of Chile
  • Area: 291,930 square miles (756,096 km2) (A little bigger than Texas)
  • Capital city: Santiago 5,428,590 inhabitants (estimated 2012)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Sebastián Piñera (2010)
  • Main Cities: Santiago Metropolis (Puente Alto, Maipú…), Greater Valparaíso conurbation (Viña del Mar, Valparaíso), Greater Concepción conurbation (Talcahuano)
  • Official language: Spanish
  • Independence date: September 18, 1810
  • Currency: Peso (CLP)
  • Religion: 61% Roman Catholic – 19 Atheist/Indifferent – 17% Protestant – 4% Other

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 17,772,871 (2014 est.)
  • Population density: 56 sq mi
  • Population growth: 0.84% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 89% – Rural 11% (2010 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 49.2% – Feminine 50.8% (2014 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2025) 18,970,000 (2011 est.)
  • Birth rate : 13.97 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality : 5.93 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 1.84 children born/woman (2014 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 75.42 years / female: 81.59 years (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 98.6 % (population over 15; 2009 est.)
  • Education: Pre, Primary, Secondary, Higher
  • Ethnicity: European, Mestizo, Mapuche and indigenous <1%

THE COUNTRY

Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations. It leads Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, state of peace, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. A long and narrow coastal country on the west side of the Andes Mountains, Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,670 mi) north to south, but only 350 km (217 mi) at its widest point east to west. This encompasses a remarkable variety of landscapes. The northern Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, primarily copper and nitrates. The relatively small Central Valley, which includes Santiago, dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. Southern Chile is rich in forests, grazing lands, and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.

THE PEOPLE

Chile is a multiethnic society, home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds. Studies on the ethnic structure of Chile vary significantly from one another but the rough breakdown is 55/40/5, White/Mestizos/Mapuche or Native American. Chile is one of 22 countries to have signed and ratified the only binding international law concerning indigenous peoples, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.

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Costa Rica

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the end date of the tour. For US citizens no visas are needed for stays of up to 90 days. If you are from another country please check with the Costa Rican Tourism Board.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. Mekatelyu, Bribri and Patois are recognized regional languages. The second language for a large portion of the population is English.

CURRENCY

The Costa Rican currency is called Colon. US dollars and traveler’s checks can be changed in banks and hotels. Most major credit cards are widely accepted, and cash advances can be obtained at banks around the country and a variety of places throughout San Jose.

TAXES

There is a 13% sales tax added to purchases. All visitors to Costa Rica must pay a US$17 airport tax upon departure.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Costa Rica is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 6 hours (Central Standard Time in the United States). Costa Rica does not observe daylight savings time.

CLIMATE

Costa Rica’s climate is tropical year round, however the country has many micro-climates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region. There are two seasons, differentiated only by the amount of rain.

Summer, or the dry season, goes from December to April. Average highs are 79-82 °F and average lows are 63-64 °F. Average rainfall ranges from a low of 0.25 inches in January to a high of 1.32 inches in December. Winter, or the rainy season, goes from May to November. Average highs are 79-81 °F and average lows are 63-64 °F. Average rainfall, however, ranges from a low in April of 3.1 inches to a high of 14.0 inches.

CLOTHING

Dressing in layers is ideal as you move between environments and activities. Essentials include shorts, long- and short-sleeve lightweight shirts, bathing suit, a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and a wind breaker or light jacket for evenings. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Sandals are great for everyday. For rainforest romping, many tourists prefer high-cut rubber boots, which provide plenty of protection from the potentially hazardous physical and natural elements. These boots can be purchased in San José and other large towns or rented for about a dollar. Wear high thick socks to avoid chaffing.

ELECTRICITY

110 volts, 60 cycles AC is used with standard US two prong plugs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Costa Rica uses the NTSC system.

FOOD

Costa Rican cuisine is known for being flavorful, yet fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruit and vegetables. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals. Gallo pinto, a breakfast dish of rice and beans mixed together with onions and bell peppers, is often considered the Costa Rican national dish. A typical lunch is the casado, consisting of rice and beans, meat or fish, fried plantains, and a carrot, tomato, and cabbage salad. Arroz is a dish of fried rice which may be offered with chicken (pollo) or shrimp (gambas). Olla de carne is a delicious stew made with beef, potatoes, carrots, chayote (vegetable pear), plantains and yucca. Be sure to try the delicious fruits not common in the US, and of course traditional deserts such as Dulce Leche.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. All restaurants in Costa Rica include a 13 percent sales tax and a 10 percent gratuity for the wait staff. It is not customary to leave an additional tip, but Costa Rican patrons and foreign tourists will extend the gesture for superlative service. On the other hand, gratuities are expected from most service-oriented personnel. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. Costa Rica’s climate, particularly its intense heat and humidity, makes dehydration a serious risk, especially for visitors who are unaccustomed to the weather. Travelers should always drink an adequate amount of water or other clear liquids throughout the day. Bottled water is advised and available everywhere. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting up to date on all vaccines before traveling, and getting Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines before visiting Costa Rica.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is widely available, and will be provided if local tap water is not safe to drink. It is a good idea to inquire at your hotel about the safety of the local water.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Costa Rican regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), and the Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Government offices are generally open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, while banks close anytime between 3:00 and 6:00 pm, according to the bank and its branch. Most shops are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, while some open at 8:00 am and others close at 7:00 pm; most grocery stores close at 8:00 pm. Some shops also close for lunch, between noon and 1:00 or 2:00 pm.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Republic of Costa Rica
  • Area: 19,653 sq mi (51,100 km2) Twice the size of the state of Hawaii)
  • Capital city: San Jose 288,054 inhabitants (2011 est.)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Laura Chinchilla (2010)
  • Main Cities: San Jose, Limon, San Francisco, Alajuela
  • Official languages: Spanish. English is widely spoken
  • Independence date: September 15, 1821
  • Currency: Colon
  • Religion: Roman Catholicism is the official state religion but religious freedom is guaranteed. Protestantism is second largest group.

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 4,301,712 (2011 Census)
  • Population density: 220/sq mi
  • Population growth: 1.27% (2013 est.)
  • Urban-rural population: Urban 64 % – Rural 36 % (2010 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 50.2 % – Feminine 49.8 % (2013 est.)
  • Population forecast: 5,355,592 by 2025 (2012 est.)
  • Birth rate : 16.25 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Mortality : 4.44 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 1.91 children born/woman (2013 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 75.43 years / female: 80.83 years (2013 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 96.3 % (population over 15; 2011 est.)
  • Education: Primary, Secondary, University.
  • Ethnicity: White or Mestizo 83.6%, Mulato 6.7%, Indigenous 2.4%, Black of African descent 1.1%, Other 6.2%

THE COUNTRY

Costa Rica has become one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. It constitutionally abolished its army permanently in 1949, becoming the first and one of the few sovereign nations without a standing army. Instead it spends 30% of it’s budget (6% of GDP) on education, which is free and obligatory by law. Costa Rica has consistently been among the top-ranking Latin American countries in the Human Development Index. Costa Rica’s economy depends on agriculture, especially coffee, and tourism. Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world’s landmass, it contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Its wealth of national parks and protected areas are not to be missed.

THE PEOPLE

Costa Rica’s richness also lies in the cultural diversity of their people. Throughout their history, the indigenous population of pre-Hispanic origins have been joined by movements of immigrants. Populations of European origin, mainly Spaniards, people of African and Asian descent, as well as people from different parts of the Americans have interacted, enriching the Costa Rican culture. Additionally, almost 9% of the population is foreign-born, with Nicaraguans comprising nearly three-quarters of the foreign population.

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Croatia

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the end date of the tour. No visas are needed for stays of up to 90 days. Note that while Croatia is a member of the European Union, it is not yet a member of the Schengen area, and a passport is required for travel between Croatia and other European Union member states.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Croatia’s official language is Croatian. Many Croatians speak English as their second language, but German and Italian are very popular too. English is widely spoken by people in the tourism industry.

CURRENCY

Croatia’s currency is the Kuna.

TAXES

Croatia has a VAT (Value Added Tax) called PDV (Porez na Dodanu Vrijednost). If you buy goods worth more than 740 kuna you are entitled to a PDV tax return when leaving the country. At point of purchase ask the sales person for a PDV-P form. The standard PDV rate is 25% however many items are taxed at the lower rates of 10% (e.g. tourist accommodation, newspapers/magazines, baby food, white sugar, running water, etc.) or 5% (e.g. bread, milk, books, certain drugs, public film screenings, etc.). There are also exemptions, including education, hospital and health care, financial and insurance transactions, cultural services, and betting and gambling.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Croatia is Greenwich Meridian Time plus 1 hour. Croatia observes Daylight Savings Time.

CLIMATE

Most of Croatia has a moderately warm and rainy continental climate. The warmest areas of Croatia are at the Adriatic coast and especially in its immediate hinterland characterised by the Mediterranean climate, as the temperature highs are moderated by the sea. The average temperature in Dubrovnik in January is 38 °F, with an average low of 32 °F and high of 44 °F. The average temperature in July is 72 °F with and average low of 62 °F and an average high of 82 °F. July, August and June are the driest 3 months and November is the wettest. Dubrovnik enjoys 12 – 13 hours of sunshine per day from May through August. Korcula has a somewhat milder climate than Dubrovnik, as one would expect given that it is an island. The average temperature in January is 48 °F and in July it’s 80 °F. Korcula is wetter than Dubrovnik, and enjoys 10 hours of sunshine per day in July.

CLOTHING

ON BOARD
Generally, the atmosphere aboard ship is informal and relaxed. Cruise wear should be lightweight and easy to care for. Sportswear is acceptable for both men and women.
Because the air can be chilly when the ship is moving at full speed, it is also advisable to bring a windbreaker or fleece to wear on the deck of the ship.
ON EXCURSIONS
Clothing that can be layered is essential, as our destinations vary in temperatures. We recommend bringing lightweight long‐sleeved cotton shirts and trousers to protect against the sun. Although clothing made out of cotton is the traditional choice, you may also want to consider clothes made of wool or new synthetic materials. A windproof jacket is an essential outer layer, especially for evenings. A light windbreaker or fleece will allow you to wear multiple layers underneath so that you may easily adjust to indoor and outdoor temperature changes. You may also want to bring a sweater, since nights are often chilly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for wet landings and rocky shorelines.

ELECTRICITY

230 volts, 50 cycles AC is used. Croatia uses the C and D type plugs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Croatia uses the PAL B/H systems.

FOOD

Croatian cuisine is heterogeneous and is known as a cuisine of the regions since every region has its own distinct culinary traditions. Dalmatia (home of Dubrovnik and Korcula) and Istria draw upon culinary influences of Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines which prominently feature various seafood, cooked vegetables and pasta, as well as condiments such as olive oil and garlic. The continental cuisine is heavily influenced by Hungarian, Austrian and Turkish culinary styles. In that area, meats, freshwater fish and vegetable dishes are predominant. Pasta is one of the most popular food items in Croatian cuisine, especially in the region of Dalmatia. The so-called manistra na pome = pasta with tomato sauce is a staple. Other popular sauces include creamy mushroom sauce, minced meat sauce and many others. Charcuterie is part of Croatian tradition in all regions. Pršut is a dry-cured ham, an essential part of every type of celebration in Croatia and every restaurant menu. Main meals typically start with Pršut and Paški sir (a cheese from Pag Island made entirely from milk produced by sheep freely grazing local sparse grass, various herbs and aromatic plants). Other traditional Croation foods include Riba na leso (fish grilled with olive oil and served with blitva (boiled Swiss chard and potatoes)), buzara (sauce made of oil, garlic, parsley, wine), skoljke i skampi na buzaru (shellfish and shrimp stew), Brudet (fish stew made of several types of fish, put in layers in a single pot and cooked in tomato sauce), Janjetina s ražnja (lamb on the spit) and pasticada (larded beef or pork roasted in wine and spices). Food and recipes from former Yugoslav countries are also popular in Croatia. Lunch is the main meal of the day in Croatia.

TIPPING

Tipping in Croatia is becoming more commonplace, especially in upscale restaurants. In the past, tipping was welcome but not expected. Today, an extra 10% or 15% is the norm in upscale establishments and in big cities. Tipping is rare and not expected in informal restaurants and in smaller towns, but most people leave any coins they receive in change for the waiter. Croatian waiters do not depend on tips for living wages. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is available at all hotels, ships and lodges. Tap water in many parts of Croatia may be safe to drink, however not universally. It’s best to drink bottled water until you’ve checked with local people or your hotel.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Croation regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Banking hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. In the larger cities some banks are also open on Sundays. Shops and department stores are open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. A smaller number of stores close between noon and 4 p.m. Many stores are also open on Sundays, especially in the summer, and a smaller number in the larger cities are open 24 hours a day. Public services and companies usually work from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Republic of Croatia
  • Area: 21,851 sq mi (56,594 km2) (A little smaller than the state of West Virginia)
  • Capital city: Zagreb 792,875 inhabitants (estimated 2011)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Ivo Josipović (2010)
  • Main Cities: Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek
  • Official language: Croatian
  • Independence date: October 8, 1991
  • Currency: Kuna
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 86.3%, Orthodox 4.4%, Muslim 1.5%, other 1.5%, unspecified 2.5%, not religious or atheist 3.8% (2011 est.)

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 4,284,889 (2011 Census)
  • Population density: 196.3/sq mi
  • Population growth: -0.12% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 58% – Rural 42% (2008 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 48.2% – Feminine 51.8% (2008 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2025) 4,249,000
  • Birth rate: 9.49 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality: 12.13 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Fertility: 1.45 children born/woman (2014 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 72.81 years / female: 80.2 years (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 98.9% (population over 15; 2011 est.)
  • Education: Elementary, Gymnasiums/Vocational, University
  • Ethnicity: Croat 90.4%, Serb 4.4%, other 4.4% (including Bosniak, Hungarian, Slovene, Czech, and Roma), unspecified 0.8% (2011 est.)

THE COUNTRY

Croatia is at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. It has a rich history dating back to antiquity. With the collapse of the ruling communist party in SFR Yugoslavia, Croatia adopted its present constitution in 1990 and organised its first multi-party elections. It declared independence on 8 October 1991 leading to the break-up of Yugoslavia, and the country was internationally recognised by the United Nations in 1992. Today it is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic. Since 2003, Croatian foreign policy has focused on achieving the strategic goal of becoming a member state of the European Union (EU), which it achieved on 1 July 2013. Croatia can be subdivided between a number of ecoregions because of its climate and geomorphology, and the country is consequently one of the richest in Europe in terms of biodiversity. Croatia is ranked the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. Tourism dominates the Croatian service sector and accounts for up to 20% of Croatian GDP.

THE PEOPLE

Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats (90.4%) and is ethnically the most homogeneous of the six countries of former Yugoslavia. During the final days of the War of Independence in 1995, more than 120,000 Serbs, and perhaps as many as 200,000, fled the country before arrival of Croatian forces during Operation Storm. Within a decade following the end of the war, only 117,000 Serb refugees returned out of 300,000 displaced during the entire war. The total fertility rate in Croatia of 1.5 children per mother, is one of the lowest in the world. Since 1991, Croatia’s death rate has continuously exceeded its birth rate, hence the country is shrinking in population. Croatia has strong focus on development. Literacy in Croatia stands at a very high 99.2 per cent. A worldwide study about the quality of living in different countries published by Newsweek in August 2010 ranked the Croatian education system at 22nd. Croation has a universal health care system, whose roots can be traced back to the Hungarian-Croatian Parliament Act of 1891. The government has invested heavily in infrasructure contributing to the country’s recent growth and development.

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Ecuador

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the end date of the tour. No visas are needed for stays of up to 90 days. Passengers must travel to the Galapagos with their passports. Passport numbers must be furnished one month prior to arrival.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LUGGAGE

Each passenger is allowed two bags of up to 70 pounds (31.8 kilos) each, plus carry-on luggage, photo or video camera, and binoculars. Professional filming equipment, diving and climbing gear require special permits.

BAGGAGE LIMITS TO GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

No more than 20 Kilos (44 pounds) of luggage (one suitcase) may be checked on flights to or from the Galapagos Islands. Additional luggage may be stored for you in Guayaquil for an additional charge. These restrictions do not include small carry-on flight bags or camera cases.

LANGUAGE

Ecuador’s official language is Spanish, but Kichwa, the lingua franca of the Inca Empire, is the tongue of the majority of the Indian population. English is spoken in major visitor centers.

CURRENCY

Ecuador’s currency is the Dollar of the United States of America. U.S. dollars are used for all transactions. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency or travelers checks brought into Ecuador.

TAXES

There is a sales tax added to purchases; hotels and restaurants charge sales tax and service. There is also an international departure tax is to be paid in U.S. Dollars at the airport.

LOCAL TIME

Local time on the mainland is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 5 hours (Eastern Standard Time in the United States). Galapagos time is GMT minus 6 hours.

CLIMATE

Ecuador has a land area similar in size to England or the State of Nevada (USA) and is divided into four different geographic zones: the Amazon, the highlands, the Pacific lowlands and the Galapagos Islands. Since Ecuador is located right on the equator, the country as a whole experiences no extreme weather changes. Rainy seasons vary in each zone.

The Galapagos Islands are located on the equator. The tropical heat, however, is tempered by Pacific breezes, and influences of the ocean currents.

There are two seasons in the islands: the rainy, hot season from December to June when humidity is high and average temperatures are in the 80s F (26°-30° C). There may be occasional showers, but the days are generally hot and sunny.

From June to November, you can expect cool winds, at times bringing with them a light misty-type drizzle called “garúa.” Temperatures average in the 70s F (20°-24° C) during the day and lower at night.

CLOTHING

Lightweight woolens are ideal for the highlands; and warm jackets are essential after dusk at high altitudes. Cottons are good for the Amazon, Pacific lowlands and Galapagos. Dress is informal. Dressing in layers is ideal. Essentials include sneakers, sandals, shorts, long- and short-sleeve lightweight shirts, bathing suit, a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and a wind breaker or light jacket for evenings. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Most walking ashore is over rocky lava terrain. Therefore tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles must be worn. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for the wet landings and rocky shorelines.

ELECTRICITY

110 volts, 60 cycles AC is used. Most outlets are for two flat prongs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Ecuador uses the NTSC system.

FOOD

International cuisine is available throughout the country, but try some of the Ecuadorian specialties: humitas and tamales (made of corn and wrapped in leaves), llapingachos (fried mashed potato patties with cheese), ceviche (a saucy shrimp cocktail), and locro (a soup of stewed potatoes and cheese topped with an avocado). There are many excellent restaurants in the main cities and a restaurant guide is distributed free to all visitors upon arrival in Ecuador.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. Travelers with heart conditions or high blood pressure should check with their physicians about high-altitude travel, as well as preventive measures for visiting tropical areas. Bottled water is advised and available everywhere. For guests traveling to Ecuador’s Amazon Region, a yellow fever vaccination is required.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is widely available, and will be provided if local tap water is not safe to drink. It is a good idea to inquire at your hotel about the safety of the local water. Ecuadorian beer is excellent, and bottled soft drinks are available everywhere. Coffee and tea are usually served at the end of meals.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Ecuadorian regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Ecuadorian Merchant Marine Office (DIRNEA), among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Most city offices and shops open from 9:00 to 18:00 Monday through Friday. Currency exchange facilities are open week days and Saturday morning in major hotels. Banking facilities are not available in remote areas. U.S. dollars are accepted throughout the country. ATM’s are easily found throughout the main cities. Cash advances can be made at most banks or ATM’s.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Republic of Ecuador
  • Area: 110,000 square miles (256,370 Km2)  (Same size as the state of Nevada)
  • Capital city: Quito 1.841.452 inhabitants (estimated 2008)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Rafael Correa EC (2007-2011)
  • Main Cities: Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca
  • Official languages: Spanish and Kichwa. English is widely spoken
  • Independence date: August 10, 1809
  • Currency: U.S. Dollars (Euros can be easily changed)
  • Religion: Majority Roman Catholic

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 13,927,650 (July 2008 est.)
  • Population density: 152.7/sq mi
  • Population growth: 0.935% (2008 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 62.4 % – Rural 37.6 % (2008 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 50.25 % – Feminine 49.75 % (2008 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2010) 15,495,700
  • Birth rate : 21.54 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
  • Mortality : 4.21 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 2.59 children born/woman (2008 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 73.94 years / female: 79.84 years (2008 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 91.0 % (population over 15; 2008 est.)
  • Education: Pre-primary, Primary, Secondary, Superior
  • Ethnicity: Indian 25.0 % – Mestizo 65.0 % – White 7.0 % – Black 3.0 %

THE COUNTRY

Although covering just 256,370 sq. km. (110,000 sq. miles) Ecuador contains one of the most varied geographies in South America. There are four distinct regions: the Andean highlands, the coastal tropical plains, the Amazon Basin and the Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 km. (600 miles) off the coast in the Pacific Ocean. Quito, on the highlands, is the capital city; Guayaquil, on the coast, is the main port and the largest city in the country.

THE PEOPLE

Of Ecuador’s close to 14 million inhabitants, those in the highlands are mainly mestizo, a mixture of European and Native South American extractions. Indigenous peoples live mainly in the Andean highlands and in the Amazon regions. Coastal dwellers are descendants of Native South Americans, Europeans and Africans.

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Galapagos Islands

PASSPORTS

Passengers must travel to the Galapagos with their passports. Passport numbers must be furnished one month prior to arrival.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LUGGAGE

Pack light; there are no formal events! Generally, no more than 20 Kilos (44 pounds) of luggage (one suitcase) may be checked on flights to or from the Galapagos Islands.

Additional luggage may be stored for you in Guayaquil for an additional charge. These restrictions do not include small carry-on flight bags or camera cases.

LOCAL TIME

GMT minus 6 hours in the Galapagos Islands (Same as US Central Time). GMT minus 5 hours – US Eact Coast Time – on mainland Ecuador and Peru.

CLIMATE

The Galapagos Islands are located on the equator. The tropical heat, however, is tempered by Pacific breezes.

There are two seasons in the islands: the rainy, hot season from December to June when humidity is high and average temperatures are in the 80s F (26°-30° C). There may be occasional showers, but the days are generally hot and sunny.

From June to November, you can expect cool winds, ocassionally bringing with them a light misty-type drizzle called “garúa.” Temperatures average in the 70s F (20°-24° C) during the day and lower at night.

CLOTHING

Clothing for Galapagos travel ranges from informal to very informal. Essentials include sneakers, sandals, shorts, long- and short-sleeve lightweight shirts, bathing suit, a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and a wind breaker or light jacket for evenings. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Most walking ashore is over rocky lava terrain. Therefore tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles must be worn. A good waterproof, close-toed sandal, such as Teva or Keen are great for the wet landings.

ELECTRICITY

110/AC. Electric shavers and hair dryers can be accommodated.

PURCHASES ON BOARD YOUR CRUISE

US dollars and credit cards are used on board. Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard and American Express) are also accepted widely.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Ecuadorian regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Ecuadorian Merchant Marine Office (DIRNEA), among others.
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Greece

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport with a blank page available for the entry stamp. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of your stay. No visas are required for U.S. citizens for entry into EU countries for up to 90 days.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Greek is the official language of Greece. English is taught in the schools and is widely spoken in tourist destinations.

CURRENCY

The Greek currency is the Euro.

TAXES

The current Greece VAT (Value Added Tax) rate is 19.00%. Visitors to Greece may be able to get a refund of the Greece VAT tax paid on any goods bought for deportation. There is also a 12 euro international airport departure tax and an 8 euro domestic departure tax.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Greece is Greenwich Meridian Time plus 2 hours. Greece observes Daylight Savings Time.

CLIMATE

The climate in Greece is predominantly Mediterranean. Sunny, pleasant weather is one of the many benefits of traveling to Greece. However, due to the country’s unique geography, Greece has a remarkable range of micro-climates and local variations. Average temperatures in Athens range from 51 °F in January and February to 82 °F in July and August, and there’s little rainfall from June through September. On the opposite side of the country (West) the island of Corfu experiences average temperatures ranging from 49 °F in January to 77 °F in July and August, and particularly dry weather from May through August.

CLOTHING

On board: Generally, the atmosphere aboard ship is informal and relaxed. Cruise wear should be lightweight and easy to care for. Sportswear is acceptable for both men and women. Because the air can be chilly when the ship is moving at full speed, it is also advisable to bring a windbreaker or fleece to wear on the deck of the ship. On excursions, clothing that can be layered is essential, as our destinations vary in temperatures. We recommend bringing lightweight long‐sleeved cotton shirts and trousers to protect against the sun. A windproof jacket is an essential outer layer, especially for evenings. A light windbreaker or fleece will allow you to wear multiple layers underneath so that you may easily adjust to indoor and outdoor temperature changes. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for wet landings and rocky shorelines.

ELECTRICITY

220 volts, 50 cycles AC is used. Greece uses the C, D, E and F type plugs so it is a good idea to bring an adapter kit in addition to a voltage adapter. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Greece uses the PAL B&G systems.

FOOD

Greek cuisine is characteristic of the healthy Mediterranean diet, which is epitomized by dishes of Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. Fresh ingredients are key. Typical dishes include moussaka (layers of sauteed eggplant, tomatoes, and typically meat), stifado (rabbit or hare stew with pearl onions, vinegar, red wine and cinnamon), Greek salad (tomato salad with cucumber, red onion, feta cheese, and kalamata olives, dressed with olive oil), fasolada which is defined in many cookery books as the traditional Greek dish (beans, tomatoes, carrot, celery and a generous amount of olive oil usually served with a variety of salty side dishe), spanakopita (spinach pie) and souvlaki (grilled small pieces of meat served on the skewer for eating out of hand, or served as a sandwich wrapped in pita bread together with tomatoes, onions, tzatziki and tomato sauce). Some dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece like skordalia (a thick purée of walnuts, almonds, crushed garlic and olive oil), lentil soup and retsina (white or rosé wine sealed with pine resin).

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. Restaurants include a 15% service charge, and additional tipping is always welcome, but not required. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Food and water standards in Greece are similar to those in the United States. Most travelers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Greek regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Hellenic Ministry of Mercantile Marine, among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Greek banks have limited hours: Monday-Thursday from 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM and Friday from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM. Some branches are open extra hours in the evenings and on Saturday mornings. It’s important to bring your passport and patience, as you’ll undoubtedly experience at least one long line. Larger hotels, travel agencies and “authorized” bank agents will exchange money, but beware the extra fees and commissions. Travelers’ checks and small-denomination foreign-bank notes are the safest forms of money to carry. You’ll find that most businesses (with the exception of large department stores) adhere to the following opening hours; Mon, Wed, Sat: 09:00-15:00 and Tue, Thu, Fri: 09:00-14:30 & 17:00-20:30. On Sundays, only pastry shops, wine and spirits shops, flower shops and emergency pharmacies are open.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Hellenic Republic
  • Area: 50,949 sq mi (131,957 km2) (Slightly smaller than Alabama)
  • Capital city: Athens 3,074,160 inhabitants (2011 Census)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Karolos Papoulias (2005)
  • Main Cities: Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion
  • Official language: Greek. English is widely spoken.
  • Independence date: March 25, 1821
  • Currency: Euro
  • Religion: 97% Christian – Greek Orthodox

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 10,815,197 (2011)
  • Population density: 212/sq mi
  • Population growth: 0.01% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 61% – Rural 39% (2010 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 49% – Feminine 51% (2014 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2025) 11,491,000
  • Birth rate : 8.8 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality : 11 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Fertility: 1.41 children born/woman (2014 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 77.71 years / female: 83.06 years (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 97.3% (population over 15; 2011 est.)
  • Education: Kindergarten, Primary, Gymnasium , Unified Upper/Technical–vocational, University/Technological
  • Ethnicity: Greek 93%, other (foreign citizens) 7% (2001 census) Note: Greece collects information on citizenship, not ethnicity.

THE COUNTRY

Greece is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Western Asia, and Africa. The country consists of nine geographic regions, 3 of which are islands or island groups. Greece is largely surrounded by water with the Aegean Sea to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It has the 11th longest coastline in the world at 8,498 mi (13,676 km ) in length, featuring a vast number of islands (approximately 1,400, of which 227 are inhabited). Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains, of which Mount Olympus is the highest, at 9,570 ft (2,917 m ). Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of Mycenaean Greece and is considered the cradle of all Western civilization. It is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. Greece also has a long history in other areas; for example the shipping industry is a key element of Greek economic activity dating back to ancient times

THE PEOPLE

The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece and continuing most notably into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its Greek Eastern continuation, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. Other cultures and nations, such as the Latin and Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Genoese Republic, and the British Empire have also left their influence on modern Greek culture, although historians credit the Greek War of Independence with revitalizing Greece and giving birth to a single, cohesive entity of its multi-faceted culture. Theater was born in Greece. The city-state of Classical Athens, which became a significant cultural, political, and military power during this period, was its center, where it was institutionalized as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honored the god Dionysus. Most western philosophical traditions began in Ancient Greece, home of Socartes, Aristotle and Plato. Greek literature has also had a profound historical significance, starting with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, building with the many genres of the classical period (lyrical poetry, odes, pastorals, elegies, etc.), blossoming with the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the comedies of Aristophanes and the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, and continuing into modern times. The first Olympic Games were recorded in 776 BC. The ancient Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, which was essentially rebuilt in 1895, hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

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Italy

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. Your passport should be valid for at least 3 months beyond the end date of the tour. U.S. citizens may enter Italy for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Italian is Italy’s official language. English is widely spoken in the well-traveled touristic areas, however outside of that you will find that most Italians are not conversant in English.

CURRENCY

Italy’s currency is the Euro. Be careful where you exchange money as big, branded foreign exchange stalls that you find in train stations and airports may charge higher commissions and fees and offer poorer exchange rates than smaller stalls found in more touristy areas. Travelers checks are no longer accepted.

TAXES

Unless otherwise stated, prices are inclusive of the VAT (Value Added Tax, called IVA in Italy). The standard IVA rate is 22% for most goods, the rate in restaurants, bars and hotels and for medicines and certain other goods is 10%, and the rate for books, newspapers and periodicals, certain foodstuffs and selected other goods is 4%. Non-EU residents are entitled to at least a partial VAT refund on purchases of goods that will be exported out of the European Union. Shops offering this scheme have a Tax Free sticker outside. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Italy is Greenwich Meridian Time plus 1 hour. Italy observes Daylight Savings Time.

CLIMATE

Italy’s climate is quite diverse, due to the great longitudinal extension of the peninsula and the mostly mountainous interior. In most of the inland northern and central regions, the climate ranges from humid subtropical to humid continental and oceanic. The coastal areas of Liguria, Tuscany and most of the South generally fit the Mediterranean climate stereotype. Sicily has a typical Mediterranean climate with mild and wet winters and hot, dry summers. Total precipitation is highly variable, generally increasing with elevation. In Agrigento, for example, the average low and high temperatures are 48 °F and 60 °F in February, and 73 °F and 83 °F in July. May through August are the driest months, averaging only 1 rainfall day and less than 1/2 inch of percipitation June through August! December is the wettest month, averaging 11 rainfall days. Agrigento enjoys 10-11 hours of sunshine per day from June through August!

CLOTHING

ON BOARD Generally, the atmosphere aboard ship is informal and relaxed. Cruise wear should be lightweight and easy to care for. Sportswear is acceptable for both men and women. Because the air can be chilly when the ship is moving at full speed, it is also advisable to bring a windbreaker or fleece to wear on the deck of the ship.
ON EXCURSIONS Clothing that can be layered is essential, as our destinations vary in temperatures. We recommend bringing lightweight long‐sleeved cotton shirts and trousers to protect against the sun. Although clothing made out of cotton is the traditional choice, you may also want to consider clothes made of wool or new synthetic materials. A windproof jacket is an essential outer layer, especially for evenings. A light windbreaker or fleece will allow you to wear multiple layers underneath so that you may easily adjust to indoor and outdoor temperature changes. You may also want to bring a sweater, since nights are often chilly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for wet landings and rocky shorelines.

ELECTRICITY

230 volts, 50 cycles AC is used. Italy uses the C, F and L type plugs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Italy uses the PAL B/G systems.

FOOD

Modern Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century BC. Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity,abundance of difference in taste, and is known to be one of the most popular in the world, wielding strong influence abroad. The Mediterranean diet forms the basis of Italian cuisine, rich in pasta, fish and vegetables and characterized by its extreme simplicity and variety, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. A key factor in the success of Italian cuisine is the country’s food industry, that rely heavily on traditional products; Italy is the country with the most traditional specialities protected under EU law. Cheese, cold cuts and wine are a major part of Italian cuisine. Sicily also has a long history of producing a variety of noted cuisines and wines, to the extent that Sicily is sometimes nicknamed God’s Kitchen because of this. Sicilian food also has Spanish, Greek and Arab influences.

We all know about popular Italian foods such as pizza, pasta, gelato and espresso, but be sure to experience regional specialties as well. In Salerno, try fresh Mozzarella and Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans – typically cannellini beans or borlotti beans and some type of small pasta such as elbow macaroni or ditalini, in a base of olive oil, garlic, minced onion, and spices, along with stewed tomato or tomato paste). Capri has the distinction of eponymous specialties such as Ravioli alla Caprese (ravioli stuffed with grated caciotta cheese), Caprese Salad (tomato and mozzarella cheese with olive oil, basil and oregano) and Torta Caprese (chocolate and almond or walnut cake). In Syracuse you’ll want to sample Pachino Tomatoes. And be sure to enjoy some Marsala wine before leaving Sicily.

TIPPING

Service is always included, either in the display price or a coperto line on the bill; tipping is thus not necessary, but neither is it frowned upon. Tipping taxi drivers is not necessary, but a hotel porter may expect a little something.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Food and water standards in Italy are similar to those in the United States. Most travelers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Italian regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Italian Coast Guard (Corpo delle Capitanerie di Porto – Guardia Costiera), among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Italian business hours are generally from 8am to 1pm, and from 3pm to 7pm, Monday-Friday, with an afternoon lunch break lasting for approximately 2 hours. This break may be shorter in most major cites. Banking hours are approximately from 8:30am to 1:30pm, then from 3 to 4:30pm Monday-Friday. The afternoon opening hours will vary from city to city. Banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and on national holidays. They may close earlier on the day before a public holiday. Shops in Italy are usually open from 9am to 1pm and from 3pm to 7:30pm, Monday-Saturday. Shops in major cities usually will remain open during lunchtime and may close earlier. Supermarkets and shopping malls stay open all day from 9:00 to 9:00/10:00 six days a week, although some are now starting to open on a Sunday as well.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Italian Republic
  • Area: 116,347 sq mi (301,338 km2) (Slightly larger than the state of Arizona)
  • Capital city: Rome 2,645,907 inhabitants (2013 est.)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Giorgio Napolitano (2006)
  • Main Cities: Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo
  • Official language: Italian
  • Republic Day: June 2, 1946
  • Currency: Euro
  • Religion: Vast majority Roman Catholic

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 61,680,122 (July 2014 est.)
  • Population density: 515.2/sq mi
  • Population growth: 0.3% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 68% – Rural 32% (2008 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 48.2% – Feminine 51.8% (2014 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2025) 60,652,000
  • Birth rate: 8.84 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality: 10.1 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Fertility: 1.42 children born/woman (2014 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 79.4 years / 84.82 years (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 99% (population over 15; 2011 est.)
  • Education: Kindergarten, Primary, Lower Secondary, Upper Secondary, University
  • Ethnicity: Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)

THE COUNTRY

Italy is a very old civilization with an incredibly rich, varied and tumultuous history dating back before antiquity, yet it is a young country. Excavations throughout Italy revealed a Neanderthal presence dating back to the Paleolithic period, some 200,000 years ago, modern Humans arrived about 40,000 years ago. Between the 17th and the 11th centuries BC Mycenaean Greeks established contacts with Italy. Fast forward to the 14th and 15th centuries AD and what is now Italy was a number of warring city-states plus areas occupied by the larger Papal States and the Kingdom of Sicily. The entire Italian Peninsula did not become a single entity until the birth of the Kingdom of Italy in the 1800’s. Italy is a young country as it only became a republic in 1946, after a referendum held on June 2nd, a day celebrated since as Republic Day.

Historically speaking, Italy is arguably one of the most influential countries in the world. Rome, Italy’s capital and largest city, was originally a modest agricultural community conventionally founded in 753 BC, and grew over the course of centuries into a massive empire. Rome has for centuries been the leading political and religious center of Western civilization, serving as the capital of both the Roman Empire and Christianity. The Renaissance, a period of vigorous revival of the arts and culture, originated in Italy. Through the centuries, Italy has given birth to some of the most notable scientific minds, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus, Fibonacci and Enrico Fermi. Italy has a rich musical history and is widely known for being the birthplace of opera. Established in 1088, the University of Bologna was the first university in Europe. Italy also boasts historic contributions in the fields of art, architecture, literature, theater, and of course, cuisine.

Italy is also a very influential country today. In 2012 Italy was the ninth-largest economy in the world and the fifth-largest in Europe in terms of nominal GDP. The country was the world’s 7th largest exporter in 2009. Italy is both the fifth most visited country and highest tourism earner in the world. Despite these important achievements, the Italian economy today suffers from high debt, a slower economy than it’s EU peers, and the ill effects of political turmoil and corruption. Italy ranks as having the world’s 2nd best healthcare system, and the world’s 3rd best healthcare performance. Italy had the 8th highest worldwide life expectancy in 2013. Italian fashion has a long tradition, and is regarded as one of the most important in the world. Milan, Florence and Rome are Italy’s main fashion capitals. In modern times Italy has continued to make significant contributions in a wide variety fields, e.g. Federico Fellini in cinema or Ferrari and AGV Italo, Europe’s fastest trains, in technology.

THE PEOPLE

For centuries divided by politics and geography until its eventual unification in 1861, Italy has developed a unique culture, shaped by a multitude of regional customs and local centers of power and patronage. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a number of magnificent courts competed for attracting the best architects, artists and scholars, thus producing an immense legacy of monuments, paintings, music and literature. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world, and has rich collections of art, culture and literature from many different periods. This legacy has contributed to Italy’s current culture. Italian people are generally known for their localism, attention to clothing and family values. Their beautiful language and engaging style are legendary.

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Montenegro

PASSPORTS & VISAS

All tours require a valid passport. U.S. citizens with tourist, official, or diplomatic passports do not need a visa to enter and stay in Montenegro for up to 90 days.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

Montenegro’s official language is Montenegrin. Also, Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian (essentially dialects of Montenegrin) and Albanian are recognized in usage. English is widely spoken by people in the tourist trade.

CURRENCY

Montenegro’s currency is the Euro.

TAXES

Montenegro has a VAT (Value Added Tax) of 19%. Many items are taxed at the lower rates of 7% (eg. basic foodstuffs such as bread, milk, flour, sugar, cooking oil, meat, and baby food, drinking water (except bottled water), medicines, textbooks, newspapers, hotels, etc.). There is also an airport departure tax of 15 euros for international flights and 8 euros for domestic flights, paid at the airport.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in Montenegro is Greenwich Meridian Time plus 1 hour. Montenegro observes Daylight Savings Time.

CLIMATE

Montenegro’s temperature varies greatly with elevation. Lower areas, such as Kotor, have a hotter Mediterranean climate. The average low and high temperatures in Kotor are 36 °F and 48 °F in January, and 63 °F and 82 °F in July. July, August and September are the driest 3 months and November is the wettest. Kotor enjoys 9-10 hours of sunshine per day from June through August. Montenegro’s mountainous regions receive the highest amounts of rainfall in Europe.

CLOTHING

ON BOARD Generally, the atmosphere aboard ship is informal and relaxed. Cruise wear should be lightweight and easy to care for. Sportswear is acceptable for both men and women. Because the air can be chilly when the ship is moving at full speed, it is also advisable to bring a windbreaker or fleece to wear on the deck of the ship.

ON EXCURSIONS Clothing that can be layered is essential, as our destinations vary in temperatures. We recommend bringing lightweight long‐sleeved cotton shirts and trousers to protect against the sun. Although clothing made out of cotton is the traditional choice, you may also want to consider clothes made of wool or new synthetic materials. A windproof jacket is an essential outer layer, especially for evenings. A light windbreaker or fleece will allow you to wear multiple layers underneath so that you may easily adjust to indoor and outdoor temperature changes. You may also want to bring a sweater, since nights are often chilly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring. Waterproof, close-toed sandals, such as Teva or Keen are great for wet landings and rocky shorelines.

ELECTRICITY

220 volts, 50 cycles AC is used. Montenegro uses the C and E type plugs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Montenegro uses the PAL B/G systems.

FOOD

Montenegrin cuisine is a result of Montenegro’s geographic position and its long history. The traditional dishes of Montenegro’s heartland, and its Adriatic coast have a distinctively Italian flavor which shows in the bread-making style, the way meat is cured and dried, the soup and stew (čorba) making style, priganice (fritters), raštan (collard greens), etc. The second large influence came from the Levant and Turkey, largely via Serbia with dishes such as sarma (grape, cabbage or chard leaves rolled around a filling usually based on minced meat, or a sweet dish of filo dough wrapped around a filling often of various kinds of chopped nuts), moussaka (casserole of eggplant layered with a spiced meat filling, topped with a creamy bechamel sauce), pilav (rice cooked in a seasoned broth), pita, gibanica (pastry filled with white cheese and eggs), ćevapi (grilled minced, seasoned meat), kebab, and Turkish sweets like baklava and tulumba (fried pastry soaked in simple syrup), etc. Hungarian dishes include goulash, satarash (side dish/sauce of sauteed onions, peppers, tomatoes and spices), and djuvech (vegetables and rice), which are also very common. Last but not least, Croatian cuisine made its mark mostly in the desserts department, including crêpes, doughnuts, jams, myriad types of biscuits and cakes.

TIPPING

Historically gratuities are not customary in Montenegro, but tipping at restaurants is becoming more common; smaller places will expect to keep small change, and posh restaurants to receive up to ten percent of the bill. As always tipping is entirely at the guest’s discretion. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The CDC recommends that all travelers get up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling. Check the CDC web site for more detailed information.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is available at all hotels, ships and lodges. Tap water in many parts of Montenegro may be safe to drink, however not universally. It’s best to drink bottled or filtered water until you’ve checked with local people or your hotel.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Montenegrin regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Maritime Safety Department of Montenegro, among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Business hours in Montenegro tend to be flexible, even when set hours are posted. Banks are usually open 8am-5pm Mon-Fri, and until noon on Sat. Cafes, bars and restaurants are typically open 8am-midnight Typical shop hours are 8 or 9am to 8 or 9pm; often closed in late afternoon. Many shops are open all day Sat. Cafes, bars, restaurants and shops may stay open as late as midnight in high season in busy areas. Some family-run shops close for siesta 1400-1700.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Montenegro
  • Area: 5,019 square miles (13,812 km2 ) (Slightly smaller than Puerto Rico)
  • Capital city: Podgorica 156,169 inhabitants (2011 census)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Filip Vujanović (2008)
  • Main Cities: Podgorica, Nikšić, Bijelo Polje
  • Official language: Montenegrin
  • Independence date: May 21, 2006
  • Currency: Euro
  • Religion: Eastern Orthodox 72%, Muslim 19%, Catholic 3%, Athiest 1%, Other 5%

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

  • Population: 650,036 (July 2014 est.)
  • Population density: 125/sq mi (45/km2)
  • Population growth: -0.49% (2014 est.)
  • Urban – rural population: Urban 61% – Rural 39% (2008 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 49.7% – Feminine 50.3% (2008 est.)
  • Population forecast: (2030) 641,000
  • Birth rate: 10.59 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Mortality: 9.3 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 98.5% (population over 15; 2011 est.)
  • Education: Elementary, Secondary, Tertiary
  • Ethnicity: Montenegrin 45%, Serbian 28.7%, Bosniak 8.7%, Albanian 4.9%, Muslim 3.3%, Roma 1%, Croat 1%, other 2.6%, unspecified 4.9% (2011 est.)

THE COUNTRY

Montenegro has a rich and tumultuous history dating back to Medieval times. Most recently it was part of Yugoslavia until 1992 when it split off from Yugoslavia and federated with Serbia, and then became an independent state in 2006. The economy of Montenegro is mostly service-based (72%), with industry and agriculture making up the rest. Montenegro has both a picturesque coast and a mountainous northern region, and tourism is an important contributor to the Montenegrin economy. Tourism is considered the backbone of future economic growth and government expenditures on infrastructure improvements are largely targeted towards that goal. Approximately one million tourists visited Montenegro in 2007, resulting in €480 million of tourism revenue.

THE PEOPLE

The culture of Montenegro has been shaped by a variety of influences throughout history. The influence of Orthodox, Slavonic, Central European, Islamic, and seafaring Adriatic cultures (notably parts of Italy, like the Republic of Venice) have been the most important in recent centuries. Montenegro has many significant cultural and historical sites, including heritage sites from the pre-Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods. The Montenegrin coastal region is especially well known for its religious monuments, including the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in Kotor. A very important dimension of Montenegrin culture is the ethical ideal of Čojstvo i Junaštvo, “Humaneness and Gallantry.” Another result of its centuries long warrior history, is the unwritten code of Chivalry. Montenegro’s long-standing history of fighting for independence is invariably linked with strong traditions of folk epic poetry. A prominent feature of Montenegrin culture is the gusle, a one-stringed instrument played by a story-teller who sings or recites stories of heroes and battles in decasyllabic verse. T

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Peru

PASSPORTS & VISAS

Valid passports are required for entry into Peru. No visas are needed for stays of up to 90 days.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LUGGAGE

Each passenger is allowed two bags of up to 55 pounds (25 kilos) each, plus a 11 pounds (5 kilos) carry-on luggage, photo or video camera, wheel chair, or baby carriage can be transported free of charge if there is space availability.

LANGUAGE

Peru’s official language is Spanish. Quechua is the second official language, and is widely spoken in the sierra (highlands). English is spoken in major visitor centers.

CURRENCY

The official currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol (S/.), which is divided into 100 centimos. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency or travelers checks brought into Peru.

TAXES

There is a sales tax added to purchases; hotels and restaurants charge sales tax and service. There is also an approximate $30 international departure tax to be paid in U.S.  Dollars at the airport, subject to change.

LOCAL TIME

Local time on the mainland is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 5 hours (Eastern Standard Time in the United States). Valid though all Peru all year around.

CLIMATE

One of the great advantages of visiting Peru is its year-round sunshine. Although most of the world’s climates can be found somewhere in Peru, the weather is generally mild and does not present difficulties for travelers.

Some cities along the coast have a mild, humid climate. In the northern cities, near the border with Ecuador, the climate is pleasant and sunny all the year round. In general, the climate at altitudes between 3,300 and 8,200 feet (1,006 and 2,500 m), such as Arequipa or Ayacucho is cool yet sunny throughout the year.

At 11,500 feet or more (3,505 m), there are only two seasons: the rainy season (December through March) and the dry season with sunny days and chilly nights. The cities of Cusco, Puno, Cajamarca and Huaraz have this type of climate.

In Cusco, the weather is cold and dry for most of the year. Throughout the year, the temperature is quite pleasant during the day, but nights can be very cold. We recommend packing warm clothes and comfortable shoes (especially those with rubber soles).

On the other hand, the whole of the jungle region, from Iquitos to Madre de Dios (Puerto Maldonado), is always hot, with year-round temperatures averaging between 75°F and 83°F (24°C to 28°C).

CLOTHING

It is advisable to bring a variety of clothing, depending on the places to visit. If the traveling is through the coast, it’s appropriate to wear clothing for fall. If traveling to the mountains, winter clothing will be necessary. Be prepared to dress in layers in the jungle. If the plan is to enjoy some time at the beach, bring light summer attire. Comfortable shoes, a hat and sunblock to protect you from the sun’s strong rays in the mountains and from the heat of the jungle are recommended.

ELECTRICITY

Electricity in Peru is 220 volts AC, 60 cycles. Some hotels have 110 volts AC or adapters.

FOOD

Anyone who has been to Peru can vouch for its wonderful cuisine. Sophisticated restaurants, awarded several forks, reflect the diversity of a nation that has blended its native traditions with the cuisine of Europe, the Middle East, China, Africa and Japan. The result: unique flavors that make Peruvian cuisine one of the finest and most varied in the world.

Today the gastronomy bounty can be enjoyed in traditional restaurants and also through the creations of a new generation of chefs who have achieved international recognition for their imaginative use of traditional ingredients and recipes with haute cuisine techniques. Peruvian restaurants throughout the country can be a fantastic and inexpensive treat. Most restaurants take major international credit cards.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

PARK FEES

Visitors to Machu Picchu, archaeological sites, and National Parks and Natural Reserves must pay entrance fees.  Such prices vary and may not be included in tour rates.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry.  Travelers with heart conditions or high blood pressure should check with their physicians about high-altitude travel, as well as preventive measures for visiting tropical areas.  Bottled water is advised and available everywhere.  For guests traveling to Peru’s Amazon Region, a yellow fever vaccination is required. Altitude sickness, known as soroche in Peru, is occasionally a problem for visitors traveling directly from the coast or jungle regions to the high Andes, above 2,500 meters (8,000 feet). The best way to prevent it (headache, dizziness, fatigue) is to eat lightly, and drink plenty of fluids. It is recommended to ascend gradually to become acclimated and rest on the first day of your arrival.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, soda drinks like Inca Kola and Coca-Cola are available in all hotels, ships and restaurants, as well as Cristal, Pilsener and Cusqueña beer. Bottled water will be provided if local tap water is not safe to drink. It is a good idea to inquire at your hotel about the safety of the local water. Coffee and tea are usually served at the end of meals. The “chicha morada” is the typical drink of Peru, and it is generally consumed in the coast.

MACHU PICCHU ACCLIMATIZATION

Since Cusco is over 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, the rapid ascent from the coast, may cause some discomforts such as headaches, difficulty breathing and nausea. This is known as “altitude sickness” or “mountain sickness.” These reactions occur as a result of low oxygen pressure that exists at high altitudes. If these pains are not acknowledged and treated, people may need medical assistance.

Before traveling it is advisable to drink plenty of water, avoid heavy meals, and avoid heavy physical exercise upon arrival. It is also advisable to drink coca tea and rest a few hours before starting a tour or exercise. Another factor that relieves the discomfort caused by height is oxygen. Breathing 20 or 30% more oxygen, removes fatigue and headache immediately. Rooms at our Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel are equipped with oxygen supplement system for the well-being of guests.

This is why your Explor Tour takes you first directly to the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, which are at lower elevation, allowing your body to acclimatize before spending time in Cusco.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Most businesses and Bank offices are open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., although some banks also open Saturday mornings. You can withdraw money with major credit cards at the principal banks. In major cities, most hotels, restaurants and shops accept international credit cards and travelers checks. Nevertheless, it is always advisable to carry some cash. The use of U.S. Dollars is allowed. You may pay for goods and services directly in US Dollars or in Soles at the daily rate of exchange. ATM’s are easily found throughout the main cities. Cash advances can be made at most banks or ATMs.

GENERAL FACTS

  • Official name: Republic of Peru
  • Area: 498,222 square miles (1,285,215 km²)
  • Capital city: Lima, 7,665,222 inhabitants (estimated 2008)
  • Government: Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • President: Ollanta Humala (2011)
  • Main Cities: Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, Trujillo
  • Official languages: Spanish. English is widely spoken.
  • Independence date: July, 28th 1821
  • Currency: Nuevos Soles S/. (Dollars and Euros can be easily changed)
  • Religion: Majority Roman Catholic

THE COUNTRY

Peru is located on the western side of South America. Its territory borders the Pacific Ocean to the west and bounded on the north with Ecuador, on the northeastern with Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia and south to Chile. Because of its geographic position and its tropical location, the presence of the Andes and both the Humboldt and El Niño currents, Peru is the earth’s most ecologically diverse country. Eighty-four of the one hundred and four ecosystems in the world, and twenty-eight of the thirty-two climates on the planet can be found here. Additionally, it is one of the world’s leading countries in terms of variety of species and habitats.

THE PEOPLE

Peru is a nation of mixed ethnic origins. Throughout its history, Peru has been the meeting ground for different nations and cultures. As a result of this encounter, and later enriched by the migration of Africans, Asians and Europeans, Peruvians emerged as the representatives of a nation whose rich ethnic mix is one of its leading characteristics.

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Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands of the United States – commonly referred to as the U.S. Virgin Islands

  St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas

Virgin Islands – commonly referred to as the British Virgin Islands (BVI)

  Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada

PASSPORTS & VISAS

US Virgin Islands: If you are a U.S. citizen a passport is not required, but it still serves as the best identification when traveling. Otherwise, you must be prepared to show evidence of citizenship when departing the islands, such as a raised-seal birth certificate and government-issued photo ID.If you are not a U.S. citizen, then a passport issued by your country of origin is required.

British Virgin Islands: A passport is required to enter or depart the British Virgin Islands. US Citizens do not need a visa, however a visa is required of citizens of certain countries.

For information on how to obtain a U.S. passport, visit the U.S. State Department’s passport web site at Travel.State.gov.

LANGUAGE

The official language of both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands is English. However, Virgin Islands Creole is the main spoken dialect in informal, daily usage.

CURRENCY

The Virgin Islands currency is the U.S. dollar. Automated teller machines (ATMs) can be found throughout all three islands. Most establishments accept credit cards and travelers checks.

TAXES

There are no sales taxes in the Virgin Islands. The British Virgin Islands have a departure tax of $20.00 per person leaving by air, $15.00 if leaving by sea.

LOCAL TIME

Local time in The Virgin Islands is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 5 hours (Eastern Standard Time in the United States). The Virgin Islands do not observe daylight savings time.

CLIMATE

The splendid climate is perhaps the Virgin Islands’ chief asset. Although they are located in the tropics, the heat is tempered by gentle trade winds that blow from the northeast most of the year. Humidity is low, and there is little pollen. The temperature rarely exceeds 90 °F or falls below 70 °F, and the average temperature is about 78 °F.

CLOTHING

Dress is informal. Essentials include sneakers, sandals, shorts, long- and short-sleeve lightweight shirts, bathing suit, a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and a wind breaker or light jacket. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of memory storage for your photos.

SHOES

Bring comfortable tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles for walking tours and exploring.

ELECTRICITY

110 volts, 60 cycles AC is used with standard US two prong plugs. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, the Virgin Islands use the NTSC system.

FOOD

Traditional Virgin Islands food tends to be spicy and hearty. Many are imported due to an acquired taste for foreign foods. Locally grow fruits, vegetables and meats are sold in local open-air markets, while supermarkets tend to carry only imported foods. Upscale restaurants often cater to tourists, serving a combination of North American dishes with tropical twists as well as local cuisine. Fungi (pronounced fun-gee) is a main staple of the traditional Virgin Islands diet. It consists of cornmeal that has been boiled and cooked to a thick consistency along with okra. Fungi is usually eaten with boiled fish or saltfish. Callaloo (sometimes spelled kallaloo) is a soup made from callaloo bush/leaf, often substituted with spinach. It consists of various meats and okra, and is boiled to a thick stew consistency. Many foods from other Caribbean countries have been adopted into the Virgin Islands culinary culture. For example, a popular dish is roti, of Indo-Trinidadian origin, which consists of curried vegetables and meat wrapped in a paper-thin dough. A popular snack is Pate (pronounced PAH-TEH), fried dough filled with various meats including beef, chicken or saltfish stuffed inside (similar to a Jamaican patty). Be sure to try the indigenous fruits and traditional drinks.

TIPPING

As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest’s discretion. 15% is common in restaurants, more for excellent service. A dollar or two for your taxi driver is fine, more if he or she handles bags. All provided components of your Explor Tour, such as meals, tours, transfers and hotels, include pre-paid gratuities.

HEALTH

No inoculations are required for entry. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting up to date on all vaccines before traveling, and getting Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines before visiting the Virgin Islands.

DRINKING WATER & DRINKS

Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is widely available, and will be provided if local tap water is not safe to drink. It is a good idea to inquire at your hotel about the safety of the local water.

SAFETY FIRST

The health and safety of our guests is a top priority in all aspects of our operations. The vessels we use undergo a number of strict internal and external control inspections. They comply with both international and Virgin Island regulations, ranging from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), Smart Voyager best environmental and social practices, the Virgin Island Shipping Registry (VISR), among others.

BANKS & BUSINESSES

Banks are open 9am to 3pm Monday to Thursday, to 5pm Friday. Bars & pubs are open noon to midnight. Government office hours are 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday in the US Virgin Islands, and 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday in BVI. Post offices are open 7:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, 8:30am to noon Saturday in the US Virgin Islands, and 8:30am to 4pm Monday to Friday, 9am to noon Saturday in BVI. Restaurants serve breakfast 7am to 11am, brunch 10am-2pm, lunch 11am to 2pm, dinner 5pm to 9pm in the US Virgin Islands, and breakfast 7am to 11am, lunch 11am to 2pm, dinner 5pm to 9pm in BVI. Shops are open 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday. Major credit cards are accepted in many but not all establishments. Ask before you make a purchase or order food. ATM machines are located in banks and at other commercial locations on the larger islands; there ar no ATMs nor banks located on the islands of Jost Van Dyke nor Anegada.

GENERAL FACTS

US Virgin Islands

  • Official Name: Virgin Islands of the United States
  • Island Names: Saint Croix, Saint Thomas, Saint John
  • Area: St. Croix – 82, St. Thomas – 31.2, Saint John – 19.6 sqare miles
  • Capital city: Charlotte Amalie 18,481 inhabitants (2010 est.)
  • Government: Insular Areas of the United States. Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • Governor: John de Jongh (2006 – present)
  • Official language: English
  • Currency: U.S. Dollar
  • Religion: Protestant (59%), Roman Catholic (34%), Other (7%)

British Virgin Islands (BVI)

  • Official Name: Virgin Islands
  • Island Names: Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada
  • Area: Tortola – 21.5, Virgin Gorda – 15, Jost Van Dyke – 8, Anegad – 3 square miles
  • Capital city: Road Town 9,400 inhabitants (2004 est.)
  • Government: Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. Democratic based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
  • Governor: William Boyd McCleary (2010 – present)
  • Official languages: English
  • Currency: U.S. Dollar
  • Religion: Christian (84% – Methodist, Anglican, Church of God, Catholic)

DEMOGRAPHIC FACTS

US Virgin Islands

  • Population: 104,737 (July 2013 est.)
  • Population density: 800.7/sq mi
  • Population growth: -0.53% (2013 est.)
  • Urban-rural population: Urban 95% – Rural 5% (2008 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 46.8% – Feminine 53.2% (2008 est.)
  • Birth rate : 10.69 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Mortality : 7.95 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 1.77 children born/woman (2013 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 76.57 years / female: 82.83 years (2013 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 90-95% est. (population over 15; 2005 est.)
  • Ethnicity: Black 76.2%, White 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5% (2000 census)

British Virgin Islands (BVI)

  • Population: 31,912 (July 2013 est.)
  • Population density: 671.8/sq mi
  • Population growth: 2.4% (2013 est.)
  • Urban-rural population: Urban 41% – Rural 59% (2008 est.)
  • Distribution per sex: Masculine 48.2% – Feminine 51.8% (2008 est.)
  • Birth rate : 10.78 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Mortality : 4.89 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
  • Fertility (children): 1.24 children born/woman (2013 est.)
  • Life Expectancy: male: 76.86 years / female: 79.45 years (2013 est.)
  • Literacy rate: 97.8% (population over 15; 1991 est.)
  • Ethnicity: Black 82%, White 6.8%, other 11.2% (includes Indian and mixed) (2008)

THE PEOPLE

Virgin Islander Culture reflects the various peoples that have inhabited the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands throughout history. Though politically separate, the territories maintain close cultural ties. Virgin Islands culture is syncretic, deriving chiefly from West African, European and American influences. The Dutch, the French and the Danish also contributed elements to the islands’ culture, as have immigrants from the Arab world, India, and other Caribbean islands. The single largest influence on modern Virgin Islander culture, however, comes from the Africans enslaved to work in canefields from the 17th to the mid-19th century. These African slaves brought with them traditions from across a wide swathe of Africa, including what is now Nigeria, Senegal, both Congos, Gambia and Ghana. Migration has altered the social landscape of both countries to the extent that in the British Virgin Islands, half of the population is of foreign (mostly Caribbean) origin and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, most native-born residents can trace their ancestry to other Caribbean islands.

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Suggested Reading

For even more information about all our destinations, EXPLOR CRUISES has partnered with Longitude Books, a travel book company, and prepared lists of recommended reading material appropriate to each of our journeys. Longitude Books has been recommending reading lists, maps, and travel guides to travelers for many years. Our reading lists are custom-designed to complement specific EXPLOR CRUISES destinations.

Visit Longitude Books Online

 

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