General travel related questions
Some places have only 4 or 5 tents or rooms, so a group of more than 8 people may need to stay in different larger establishments.
If you are organising a large family trip, the benefits of being together and experiencing the journey as a group outweighs being in small places or otherwise restricting your trip. In this case we will design your journey specially, and select suitable accommodation.
If you are a group of friends or can tailor your group size to the journey, the ideal size may be determined either by the groups interests (for instance hikers on a hiking trip in the Pyrenees should be content to hike the same distance and levels), or by logistical factors such as the amount of available seats in a safari vehicle (usually 4 or 6) or a light aircraft (a Cessna Caravan seats 10 passengers). If your group fills the transport units the cost per person is likely to be less.
We design journeys for many varied groups, but generally groups sizes of 6-12 people are ideal.
In general there is a non-refundable deposit to be paid. For our African safaris and our Kilimanjaro climbs we require a 30% deposit to be paid upon booking, ⅔rds of which is non-refundable. All of our booking fee/initial deposits for our European journeys are also non-refundable, although the amount to be paid is a lot less that our safaris. This is because the camps and lodges we use in the African bush are often very small, sometimes with only 4 or 5 tents, and these ground operators rarely have enough time to fill space once a booking has cancelled. As a result they demand high deposits. The actual conditions depend on the accommodation booked, the country you will be travelling, and other details that will be included in your Trip Contract.
As a result we only accept payment by wire (bank) transfer. This has always been efficient, very economical and simple to do, by wiring the amount to our US dollar bank account in Spain. Recently it has become even more efficient and economical for the payee, as the transfer can now be paid into a local (US or Canadian) bank account if the clients prefers using Transferwise.
Generally the terms for our African safaris are more stringent than our European trips. This is because many of the small lodges / camps and the guides are unlikely to refill the time allotted to your booking easily. Due to demand they often have to decline trips as soon as your booking is confirmed, so a later cancellation results in missed opportunities and business. They usually also have limited short seasons. If you think there is a possibility you may have to cancel your trip, it is advisable to contract a “Cancel for any reason” insurance within 2 weeks of paying the deposit for a trip, and to carefully read the conditions beforehand.
We oblige you to be covered by Emergency medical insurance for the full period of any trip booked by us. We will not be liable for any emergency evacuation or your health treatment costs if you require any of these services while travelling with us.
Be aware that many normal health insurance policies in your home country do not cover you if you become ill or have an accident abroad. In some cases (often in the USA) they do, but they may not cover the costs of evacuation and repatriation while travelling.
Furthermore many insurance policies will not cover Covid-19 cases, or any epidemic. Recently more policies are including cover for Covid-19. It is also advisable to thoroughly check cover for your health and evacuation for the period and locations that you will be travelling, and to buy additional travel insurance to cover that and other costs if necessary.
Before you buy your travel insurance, it is also essential that you know what is included or not in your travel insurance package. There are often exclusion clauses in the fine print. Here are some items that may or may not be covered:
- Flight cancellation or delay (if the airline that you book your international air ticket cancels or delays your flight). Costs of these delays can be particularly expensive in the case of a safari, as in many instances there are limited schedule flights to the camps (such as only twice weekly) and in order to catch up with your itinerary, it may be necessary to charter a private aircraft.
- Delays or cancellations due to labour issues, strikes, terrorism, or other threats.
- Baggage loss or delay while en route.
- Trip cancellation in the event that you have to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen circumstance. This could be a death in the family or of a friend, an illness, jury duty, bankruptcy of a supplier or airline, or other issues prior to your departure.
- Trip interruption due to similar reasons such as health issues to you or people close to you at home while you are travelling.
- Costs incurred when flying or travelling from one place to another, such as theft, and loss of baggage, delay requiring hotel overnight stays if stranded en route to your travel destination.
- Cancel for any reason. This is nearly always an extra insurance, and it is usually only possible to contract this insurance within a limited period (often 2 weeks) of paying the initial deposit and signing the Trip Contract.
Several websites explain the various types of insurance including Travel Insurance Review.
We can offer you various insurances at additional cost if you are a resident of Spain. Unfortunately many countries require that you purchase travel insurance from locally based travel agents or providers, in which case we cannot sell you travel insurance. However these days most travel insurance is bought on-line. Here are links to some insurance providers –
AXA insurance for those living in the Schengen Area of Europe.
Many luxury camps and lodges provide wonderful accommodations, and their clients leave delighted with what they have seen.
However, unless they have travelled on many different safaris with many different operators, they are unlikely to know the difference between one service and another.
We assure you that there is a huge difference in the details of any safari. Unfortunately this is hard to describe to anyone who has not experienced it before.
We design and orchestrate independent safaris, where the guests stay in camps with other guests and share a vehicle and camp guide with other guests. Often this happens with small groups or couples, because the cost of a private guide and private vehicle is high in these cases. This style of safari is also the most common type available, even with many of the most exclusive travel designers and outfitters. However our speciality is designing safari with your own private A Step Ahead guide, who will make a huge difference to your experience.
Most people understand that all cars have wheels, brakes and headlights. Some have electronic window winders and some have manual ones. Some have leather seats and some have plastic ones. Some have heated seats or air conditioning, and some do not. On safari the accommodation you choose could be correlated with the type of vehicle you buy. And the best safari would be akin to you hiring a car you want with a chauffeur who really knows the area. Your guide is the driver, and no matter how smart or not your vehicle is, the experience you have at the end will depend more on the skill of your driver and where he takes you, than the vehicle itself.
Of course, it may be important to have the right car, especially if you would not be happy with a 4×4 Land-Rover when what you were hoping for was a Rolls Royce! Our custom safaris cater to all kinds of accommodation needs.
More information on the difference between a private guided journey and other journeys are described here.
More information on the difference between a private guided journey and other journeys are described here
In Spain and France a tip is not common, although tipping loose change for meals and taxis is appreciated. However if you are with a guide for more than a day, your guide will appreciate a tip if you have been very pleased with the service you have received. Suggestions will be given to you in the information that you receive once you have booked your trip.
1. to search by including key words in the Search box at the top right of this page, as the results will not only include our main information pages, but also stories from our blog, and
2. to email us your questions by completing the online Contact form.
The main areas of the website are – 1. the headings along the top (About, Accommodation, Destinations, Planning), 2. the blog (link at the top left) and 3. the Resources section (link at the bottom of the page).
Questions specifically about our African safaris
A short safari can be 8 or 10 days (3 or 4 different accommodations), and can also be a fantastic experience. Some people come on a three week safari, see more places, become more overawed by the African bush experience, and still have lots left to do by the end!
Recently some countries now issue combined visas valid for travel in more than one country for multiple entry. These can be great if you are visiting several countries. In 2015 Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda issued a combined visa, and so did Zambia and Zimbabwe issue their own one.
Aside from visa requirements most countries also require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months after the end of your trip, so if it is about to expire, renew it beforehand.
Recently South Africa has introduced special extra requirements for any minor travelling in and out of South Africa. These usually involve carrying an unabridged birth certificate. The latest details are available here – South African Airways page, or US State Department information for South Africa, or South African Consular Services for North America.
Due to the wide variation in latitude and altitude, there is a huge variation in climate at any time of year.
In East Africa (northern Tanzania & Uganda) both December-March (green season) and June-October (dry season) are excellent. In central and southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia & Zimbabwe) June (winter) – early October (dry season) is best. Botswana and Namibia are drier areas than can also be very good earlier in the year as well – in April and May. The Cape Town area has a Mediterranean climate so is good for much of the year, and prime from September (spring) to May (fall, autumn).
Questions related to our Kilimanjaro climbs
Briefly, you will need to bring sturdy and comfortable hiking boots (preferably ones that protect the ankles), all the clothes that you require, a day pack (so that you can carry items you need during the day such as rain gear, your valuables, camera, phone, a snack, water bottles or Camelbak etc), and 2 duffels or bags to contain everything that you will not have with you during the day while hiking.
You need 2 duffels because one is for items that you do not need on the climb (such as items for travelling to and from Africa and to use during a safari). This bag is stored while you are on the climb and delivered to you when you finish the climb. The second duffel is carried by the porter who carries your gear while on the climb. This will contain everything that you do not need during the day. It will include your sleeping bag and sleeping mat (even though we supply these). It will also include items that you need to bring for the climb such as extra clothes, comfortable footwear to wear in camp, a towel, flashlight, spare batteries, perhaps an ipad, or games such as a deck or cards, and any personal health items such as medications.
We provide excellent and well-trained assistant guides, cooks and an experienced head guide. Furthermore all our climbs are custom climbs designed solely for your group. When calculating the climb, the estimated operational cost is divided by the number of people on your climb. Most climbs on the mountain are not custom climbs, and are sold as packages, where you join a group of others. The costs in that case are calculated based on an average group size with a margin. This generally is more economical, but you will be with other people, and the climb will be less flexible to your wishes. We sometimes change the route, or cut or add a day if it works out better for your group.
In the Crater Camp at 5,717m (18,750ft) near the summit, the day temperatures can range from 30°C to -10°C, changing often in a matter of minutes depending on cloud cover and wind! Night temperatures range from -7° to -30° Celsius (20° to -20°F). It can be -5°C (23°F) inside your tent. We only stay in the Crater Camp on our 9 day climb. On all other climbs the highest we stay is at Arrow Glacier 4,905m (16,090 ft) which is considerably lower and warmer.
However the most important factor is how well you acclimatise. If you have never been hiking above 4,500m (14,800 ft), you will most likely not know how well you generally acclimatise. Even if you have done so, there are many factors that can influence acclimatisation. Many of these factors are ones that we can manipulate and thus usually improve your acclimatisation to altitude.
To sum up, if you are in reasonable good health and want to climb Kilimanjaro, ready to take the challenge, you can most likely achieve your goal.
Questions related to travel in France & Spain (including the Pyrenees)
If you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen you can apply to enter the Schengen area without a visa for a period of three months within each 6 period. If you spend 3 months in the Schengen area during any 6 period, you must wait another 3 months before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa. If you do not meet these requirements, you should apply for a visa.