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Budapest to Istanbul

Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, oh my! From pastoral countryside to brooding forests and magnificent mountain ranges, experience the romance of eastern Europe on your way from Budapest to Istanbul. In two well-packed weeks, explore the weathered architecture of Budapest and grand Ottoman palaces and mosques in Istanbul for an introduction to the artistic and cultural heights of two very different empires. With an intriguing combination of cultural color and outdoor activities, you'll come away with a real feel for this lesser-explored corner of Europe.


Itinerary

July 13 : Budapest

Arrive at any time.

July 14 : Budapest

Orientation walk of Budapest, overnight train to Sighisoara.

July 15 : Sighisoara

Local guided trip to traditional villages and Romanian countryside.

July 16 : Brasov

Transfer via train to Brasov. Optional visit to the Bran Castle, sometimes called "Dracula's Castle."

July 17 to July 18: Bucharest

Travel to Bucharest via "Dracula's Castle" at Bran, and Snagov. Orientation walk of Bucharest.

July 19 to July 20: Veliko Tarnovo

Hike to Arbanasi village. Optional mountain biking opportunities.

July 21 to July 22: Belogradchik

Visit Kaleto fortress.

July 23 : Sofia

Orientation walk of Sofia.

July 24 : Plovdiv

Day visit to Plovdiv town, onward travel by overnight bus to Istanbul.

July 25 : Istanbul

Orientation walk with your group leader. Options for free time include the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Aya Sofya and the Tokapi Palace.

July 26 : Istanbul

Depart at any time.

Detailed Itinerary

July 13 : Budapest

Situated on a beautiful stretch of the Danube, Budapest consists of two parts: Buda and Pest. Buda is the older and more historical part of the city, with old narrow winding streets and medieval buildings. Here you can find Buda’s most ancient sights: the Royal Palace, St. Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and Castle Hill with its old town. Across the Danube is grand Pest with its vibrant streets such as Váci Utca, which is the bustling main street of Budapest.

As your fellow travellers are arriving throughout the day, there are no planned activities until your Group Meeting this evening, so check-in to the hotel (check-in time is approx 3pm) and enjoy the city.

Check the notice boards or ask at reception for the exact time (Typically 6 PM) and location of the group meeting. After the meeting, you can head out for a meal at a local restaurant with the group (optional).

Please make every effort to arrive on time for this important welcome meeting. If you are delayed and will arrive late, please inform us - contact numbers are provided in these notes. Your Tour Leader will then leave you a message at the front desk informing you of where and when to meet up.

July 14 : Budapest

Today your tour leader will take you for an orientation walk of Budapest. You will have free time in the afternoon for exploration followed by boarding an overnight train to Sighisoara.

July 15 : Sighisoara

Explore Sighisoara's fabulous medieval walled citadel with its many cultural attractions and great restaurants and bars.

On Day 3 we have a half-day guided tour of the area. You will visit centuries-old villages in the beautiful countryside and learn more about the rich heritage and traditions of Romania. Much of Transylvania harks back to a time gone by, with traditional rural villages seeming to have stepped straight from the pages of a fairytale. Enjoy the beautiful rolling scenery as we visit medieval villages, fortified churches, and learn about the life and folklore of olden times from our expert local guide.

Be sure to sample some Romanian cuisine while you are here - the Casa Dracula (original home of Vlad, the model for Count Dracula) is now a restaurant specialising in the hearty meat and game dishes of the region.

Estimated travel time Budapest to Sighisoara 9.5 hours

July 16 : Brasov

Transfer to Brasov (Kronstadt), one of Transylvania’s major cities, beautifully set amidst forested hills. Brasov is a delightful city with baroque architecture and charming squares where you can enjoy the cafe culture and friendly locals.

Brasov has a well preserved medieval center which includes the Black Church (the biggest church between Vienna and Constantinople), the City Council Square, the ramparts erected in medieval times by the Saxon colonists, and one of the narrowest streets in Europe.

Estimated travel time Sighisoara to Brasov 3 hours

July 17 to July 18: Bucharest

Today we travel to Romania's capital via Bran Castle and Snagov.

On Day 5, we visit the picturesque Bran Castle. Impressively situated on a rock outcrop and dominating the valley, this fourteenth-century castle is steeped in history and folklore and is an unmissable highlight. It is claimed to be the home of Count Dracula, and more recently was a favorite summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania.

Bucharest has huge squares and imposing buildings (the Palace of Parliament is the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon!) and is a city of contrasts. You can get a sense of communist times from the grandiose government architecture, visit the magnificent Cathedral, dine in eclectic international restaurants, and check out the burgeoning bar scene - all in one day!

Estimated travel time Brasov to Bucharest 4 hours

July 19 to July 20: Veliko Tarnovo

We cross into Bulgaria today as we travel to the fascinating town of Veliko Tarnovo.
Settled continuously since 4500 BC, Veliko Tarnovo was the capital of the kingdom of Bulgaria in medieval times. The town still retains a medieval feel, with buildings huddled above an S-shaped gorge in the river Yantra. It is a fantastic place to explore, visit the museums, and sample your first Bulgarian food, which is lighter than Romanian and has some similarities to Greek and Turkish cuisine. We strongly recommend you sample some local Bulgarian wine too, the quality of which will come as a pleasant surprise - Bulgaria's wine industry is not well-known outside the country but produces some very fine vintages!

The Tsarevets fortress just 1km outside central Veliko Tarnovo is a must-see. This huge complex has been an important stronghold for thousands of years, and you can wander at will around the remains of homes, churches and watch towers, dating from the fifth to the twelfth century.

On Day 8 we enjoy a hike uphill to Arbanasi (5km, approx 90 minutes). This hilltop village was the residence of choice for the wealthy Roman elite and is still a country haven for the high-flyers of modern Bulgaria. The views all around and down to Veliko Tarnovo are amazing. We also recommend you pop into the sixteenth-century Church of the Nativity to see the amazing murals.
Afterwards, we walk down to Veliko Tarnovo again.

Estimated travel time Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo 6 hours

July 21 to July 22: Belogradchik

A long journey into the mysterious and beautiful northern Bulgarian countryside takes us to Belogradchik. We venture off the tourist trail and get a feel for the magnificent natural scenery and stunning historic villages of this little-visited area.

The landscape here, with it's red rock spires, is simply amazing. We make the most of the scenery - both above and underground. On day 10 we take local transport (45 minutes) to Magura and enjoy an underground hiking trail around the stunning Magura cave system past stalactites and rock formations.
Then we take in the mighty Kaleto fortress overlooking the town. Winding stone stairs lead ever upwards to an ancient fortress, a superb vantage point over the rock spires which surround the town.

Estimated travel time Veliko Tarnovo to Belogradchik 8 hours

July 23 : Sofia

We arrive in Sofia by mid-afternoon, giving us enough time for a short orientation walk to explore the city. Enjoy a stroll down Sofia's chic pedestrianized Vitosha street, then take in the eclectic Ladies' Market.

Sofia is an intriguing mix of wide graceful Parisian-style boulevards and Communist-era architecture. Don't miss the stunning gold-domed Alexander Nevski church, honoring the Russian liberators whose contribution saw the end of ottoman rule in Bulgaria.

Sofia is an excellent place to sample modern takes on Bulgarian and international food, with some great trendy dining opportunities. Don't forget to bid farewell to Bulgaria with a glass of the excellent home-grown wine either!

Estimated travel time Belogradchik to Sofia 5 hours

July 24 : Plovdiv

We have time today to take in Plovdiv before continuing by overnight train or bus to Istanbul (dependent on whether the train service is running).

Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city, is amazingly rich in Roman remains and a fascinating place to while away a few hours. Wander the atmospheric streets of the hilly Old Town, visit the excellent Ethnographic Museum which has a great collection of traditional Bulgarian costumes, or go back nearly two thousand years and tread in the steps of Roman legionnaires by visiting the Theatre of ancient Philippopolis.

Afterwards, why not relax over a coffee and a Bulgarian baklava, for which this area is known.

Then this evening we will re-group and after dinner, travel overnight to Istanbul.

Estimated travel time Sofia to Plovdiv 2 hours, estimated travel time Plovdiv to Istanbul 14 hours (overnight bus or train)

July 25 : Istanbul

On the morning of Day 13 we arrive in the city that is part of both Europe and Asia. Steeped in centuries of history, this city of turrets and domes is a highlight for any traveler. From the train station, we'll jump on the metro and tram to get us right into the heart of the city, to our hotel in Sultanahmet.

Day 14 is yours to spend at leisure in this fascinating city - and there is so much to do!
Don't miss those historical icons, the Haghia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Hippodrome and the legendary Blue Mosque, or the chance to grab souvenirs at the Grand Bazaar. In the evening, there are plenty of cool little bars and restaurants where we can celebrate the end of an amazing journey over a raki or two.

July 26 : Istanbul

Allaha ismarladik!

You are free to depart at any time today. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage facilities are usually available.

This program can be combined with our 15-day Eastern Europe program that concludes in Budapest just before this program starts. Together these two trips would allow you to see a great deal of Eastern Europe.

This program can also be combined with both our 8-day Turkey program and our 15-day Turkey Group 2 program that both start in Istanbul after our Budapest to Istanbul trip concludes. This would allow you to explore more of fascinating Turkey!

GEEO will give you a discount for booking more than one program in the same summer! Book two or more GEEO programs and receive 10% off on the lesser value program (up to 3 programs). For more details please click here.

If there is a part of the world that you would like to see that we aren't offering this summer, let us know. We may be able to help you arrange such a trip or we will consider offering it as GEEO program next summer.

Stuff You Need to Know

Terms and Conditions

It is very important for you to visit our Terms and Conditions page before signing up for this program.

Service Level

Standard:

Step out of the normal tourist mind-set and truly experience the world. Most nights will have you staying in a simple yet clean twin-share hotel or lodge rooms with private facilities, complete with running water and electricity. Occasionally you may have a multi-share night at rustic local guesthouses, with communal bathrooms and the sporadic cold shower. Transportation will be a combination of public transport, private buses and some private vehicles.

Physical Grading

2:

Light walking and hiking that is suitable for most fitness levels.

Minimum/Maximum Group Size

This program has reached the minimum of 6 participants to run and will have a maximum of 15 participants.

Group Leader Description

All GEEO/G Adventures group trips are accompanied by one of G Adventure's group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. Our itineraries often have plenty of free time to explore on your own.

While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting- we think it’s the best of both worlds.

It is important to note that in Europe, all guiding is based around local guides all of whom are licensed to work only in a particular city. As such, our leaders are able to provide orientation walks which will show you the layout of each town and city as well as the location of local services such as post offices and laundromats, but are unable to legally share historical facts and figures in public places. Your tour leader will be able to help you find a local guided tour in each location if you would like one.

Packing List

You will be on the move a lot, so our advice is to pack as lightly as possible. We highly recommend using a backpack or light sports bag, whichever you find easiest to carry, plus a small daypack. Luggage space on public transport is limited. You must be prepared to carry your own bags and be comfortable carrying them between transport and hotels (max. 15-20 mins walking), hopping on and off trains and public buses and up and down stairs.

Suggested Checklist

•Light fleece top
•Light windproof/waterproof jacket
•Small towel and swimwear
•Sun hat
•Personal clothing for mild to hot weather
•Sturdy walking shoes or boots with good grip
•Sunblock
•Sunglasses
•Toiletries (biodegradable)
•Watch or alarm clock
•Water bottle
•Money belt
•First-aid kit (should contain lip salve, Aspirin, bandaids, anti-histamine,
Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, rehydration powder, insect
repellent, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)

Document Checklist

•Passport (with photocopies)
•Travel insurance (with photocopies)
•Airline tickets (with photocopies)
•EUR cash
•Credit or debit card (see personal spending money)
•G Adventures vouchers, pre-departure information and dossier
•Any entry visas or vaccination certificates required

Laundry

Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a charge or ask your group leader where the nearest laundromat is. There will be times when you may want or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring your own non-polluting/biodegradable soap.

Single Travellers

We believe single travelers should not have to pay more to travel so our trips are designed for shared accommodation. Single travelers joining group trips are paired in twin or multi-share accommodation with someone of the same sex for the duration of the trip.

Money

Spending Money

Every traveler is different and therefore spending requirements will vary. Some travelers may drink more than others while other travelers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.

Money Exchange

Credit cards and debit cards are very useful for cash advances but you must remember to bring your PIN number (be aware that many ATM machines only accept 4-digit PINs). Both Cirrus and Plus system cards are the most widely accepted debit cards. Visa cards are the most widely accepted credit cards. While ATMs are commonly available, there are no guarantees that your credit or debit cards will actually work - Check with your bank. You should be aware when purchasing products or services on a credit card, that a fee usually applies.

Do not rely on credit or debit cards as your only source of money. A combination of Euros, traveller’s cheques and cards is best. Avoid relying on traveller's cheques alone as these are less and less readily cashed as clients use them very little.

Always take more rather than less, as you don't want to spoil the trip by constantly feeling short of funds.

Please note that in all countries visited you will need local currency. Below are listed the currencies for each country with an approximate exchange rate.

Hungary - Forint (HUF) - 1 EUR / 288 HUF
Romania - New Lei (RON) 1 EUR / 4.2 RON
Bulgaria - Lev (BGN) - 1 EUR / 2 BGN
Turkey - Turkish Lira (TRY) - 1 EUR / 1.96 TRY

As currency exchange rates can fluctuate often we ask that you refer to the following website for daily exchange rates: www.xe.com

Medical Forms

GEEO travel programs bring together people of all ages. It is very important you are aware that, at minimum, an average level of fitness and mobility is required to undertake our easiest programs. Travelers must be able to walk without the aid of another person, climb 3-4 flights of stairs, step on and off small boats, and carry their own luggage. Travelers with a pre-existing medical condition are required to complete a short medical questionnaire, which must be signed by their physician. This is to ensure that travelers have the necessary fitness and mobility to comfortably complete their chosen trip. While our tour leaders work hard to ensure that all our travelers are catered for equally, it is not their responsibility to help individuals who cannot complete the day's activities unaided. Please refer to the physical ratings above for more information.

The medical questionnaire can be found online at: www.gadventures.com/medical-form.

Optional Activities

Please note: All optional activities are booked and paid for locally in the local currency. You do not have to decide in advance which activities you would like to sign up for. The prices listed are based on the latest information we have received from our participants and G Adventures. They are not guaranteed to be accurate. Please feel free to use them as a guide for budgeting your trip.

Budapest

Bike ridet - 5000.00 HUF
Great Synagogue - 1000.00 HUF
Hammer and Sickle Tour - 7000.00 HUF
House of Terror - 3000.00 HUF
Hungarian State Opera House Tour - 1200.00 HUF
Parliament tour - 1700.00 HUF
Transport and entry to Statue Park - 5000.00 HUF
Thermal bath - 2000.00 HUF
Hungarian National Museum - 800.00 HUF
Museum Fine arts - 1200.00 HUF
Danube boat tour - 12.00 Euro

Brasov

Guided walk - 60.00 RON
Rasnov Fortress - 15.00 RON
The Black Church - 7.00 RON
Bran Castle Including Photo Fee - 22.00 RON

Bucharest

Museum of the Romanian Peasant - 6.00 RON
Palace of Parliament Tour - 15.00 RON

Veliko Tarnovo

Tsarevets Fortress - 4.00 BGN

Sofia

Aleksander Nevski Church - Free
National Art Gallery - 4.00 BGN
National History Museum - 10.00 BGN

Plovdiv

Bachkovo Monastery - 16.00 BGN
Hot Spings Hissarya - 50.00 BGN

Istanbul

Archaeological Museum 10TRL
Topkapi Palace 20TRL
Topkapi Palace Harem 15TRL
Aya Sofya Museum 20TRL
Basilica Cistern 10TRL
Mosaic Museum 8TRL
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts 10TRL
Rumeli Fortress 3TRL
Chora Church 15TRL
Dolamabahçe Palace 20TRL
Galata Tower 15 TRL
Entrance to (touristic) hamam 35 EUR

Costs

Please keep in mind this trip is designed to give you the freedom to do whatever interests you. Make sure you look over all of the optional activities and keep in mind these additional costs when deciding whether you can afford this program. Very few meals are included on this trip, giving you the opportunity to eat on your own budget. The prices below are in US dollars and are rough estimates so you can budget your trip.

Tour Company Fee

$1,899 USD

Non-Educator Fee

$100 USD (Educators do not have to pay this fee)

Optional Activities

? USD, See optional activities tab to get a better idea of your budget.

International Airfare from USA

Roughly $1000-$1700 USD, See our FAQ for flight advice.

Insurance

$35- $200 USD
Please note it is mandatory for all of our travellers to have Emergency Medical insurance that covers for both emergency evacuation and repatriation to the sum of $200,000 USD. We also strongly recommend purchasing an all inclusive plan that covers cancellation/interruption insurance as well.
See our FAQ for advice on Travel Insurance.

Tipping

We recommend $60 USD for your G Adventures tour leader.

Meals Not Listed in the Itinerary

Allow €335-440 for meals not included. (About $400-$500 USD)

Laundry, Drinks, Phone Calls, etc.

(Make sure you budget for these types of expenses)

Airport and Departure Taxes

Normally this included in the cost of your flight

Souvenirs

$0-????

FAQ

What should be my expectations for this GEEO program?

Before you decide on travelling with GEEO it is important that you read all of the information about the program you are considering. To summarize, our programs are quite adventurous.

• We use basic, no frills accommodation. The purpose of the accommodation is to provide a safe place for you to sleep. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised, but do not expect luxury.

• The same goes for transportation. We use a mix of transportation that gets our guests from location to location safely. The transportation will often be an adventure in itself.

• You must be able to easily carry or roll your luggage, so do not over-pack. We recommend using a large backpack along with a smaller daypack, which is typically the most comfortable way to carry your possessions.

• Many of our programs occur in locations where it is very hot during the day. Please make sure you have thoroughly read the itinerary and can handle the group activities, which sometime include day hikes with your daypacks.

• We recommend always carrying snacks with you because sometimes meals can be far apart.

• Please make sure you understand the role of your tour leader on this trip as they are not the traditional “guide” you may be expecting. While our trips are educational, they aren’t study/lecture trips. We want you to learn through exploring and much of your experience will be based on how active you choose to be in acquiring knowledge and interacting with locals. In fact, in Europe, all guiding is based around local guides all of whom are licensed to work only in a particular city. As such, our leaders are able to provide orientation walks which will show you the layout of each town and city as well as the location of local services such as post offices and laundromats, but are unable to legally share historical facts and figures in public places.

• We try to set up either a school visit or a meeting with local teachers. Sometimes this is not possible due to time constraints, summer vacations, etc. Please understand this is not a guaranteed part of the program.

Hopefully this is the kind of adventure you are interested in!

Do I need a Passport? Do I need a visa?

All GEEO trips require that the participant have a valid passport that will not expire within 6 months of trip departure. If you have a U.S. passport, but it has expired, or will expire within 6 months of trip departure, click here for information on how to get it renewed. If you have never been issued a passport or have lost your passport, please click here. Processing time for US Passports is 4-6 weeks so please start this process immediately.

Americans do not need a visa for travel in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Americans can purchase a visa for Turkey upon arrival at the border for $20. Non-American participants should check with their government to find out if they need a visa.

Is it OK if I am traveling alone? Do I have to have a roommate?

Half of the people that travel with us are traveling by themselves so please don’t worry if you have no one who wants to join you on our trip. Our pricing is based on double occupancy, in other words, two people to a room. If you do not have someone that you are traveling with that you would like to room with GEEO will find you a roommate of the same gender. You never have to pay for a single room!

What is group travel like?

As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all across the US and beyond and are likely to be of a variety of ages too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.

Is it possible to get references for GEEO?

Over 500 educators have traveled with GEEO since we ran our first programs in 2008. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the quality and value of the life changing experiences that we provide.

To read comments from past travelers, please feel free to visit a website that reviews non-profit organizations called Great Non-profits. Please click here for those reviews.

Please contact us if you would like to communicate with some of our former participants for a reference.

Who travels with GEEO?

GEEO participants are mostly made up of American K-12 teachers. Each group tends to have a good mix of educators in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. About half of our participants are coming alone and do not know anyone in the group prior to the trip. We group single travelers of the same gender together as roommates, unless a participant prefers to pay an additional fee for their own room. If we have an odd amount of one gender we will rotate the single room for free among the participants.

GEEO trips are open to all Kindergarten to University teachers, school staff, school administrators, and soon-to-be teachers pursuing their teaching certificate. Our programs are also open to retired educators. Non-American educators are welcome on our trips.

Each Participant in our programs is permitted to bring one friend or family members who is not a teacher. You must be at least 18 years old to participate and of adequate fitness level for your chosen trip.

What vaccinations do I need for this trip?

You do not need any vaccinations to travel on this program.

Where do I meet the group? What happens when I arrive at the airport?

Our groups meet at the hotel we use for the first night of the trip. Your tour leader will leave a note for you at the hotel's front desk with the introductory meeting time and location.

When you arrive at the airport you can either take a taxi, airport shuttle bus or use public transportation.

For 1-2 people, the official airport shuttle buses can be arranged here http://www.airportshuttle.hu/en/
For 3 or more people it works out cheaper and quicker to get a Zona taxi from the front of the airport.

We will send you more details for public transportation options closer to departure.

Where can we get a list of hotels for this trip?

Other than the first hotel (Typically we use the Star Inn Hotel Budapest Centrum or the Cotton House Hotel), our partner G Adventures does not provide hotel lists for any of their trips.

The reason for this is sometimes hotels change at the last minute. G Adventures does not want to give out incorrect information because in an emergency that can only cause more issues. Instead we give you 24-hour emergency phone numbers where you and your family can reach staff in the country that you are travelling to or in Canada at G Adventure's headquarters. This way at anytime your loved ones can call the emergency contact who can immediately put them in touch with your tour leader no matter how plans have changed.

What are the hotels like?

It is important to note that accommodation in Europe tend to be quite different to other areas of the world you may have travelled in. Buildings and rooms are generally old and may not have been renovated or maintained to the highest standard. Downtown hotels in Europe were not build to be hotels but rich owners houses, which have been changed into hotels. Therefore unusual room sizes are common as large rooms have been partitioned in the past, resulting in rather "thin" walls. Reception areas, rooms and bathrooms tend to be very small as they were often added into an existing room, and may have a hand nozzle rather than a conventional shower head.

Staff can occasionally demonstrate less than perfect customer service. As accommodation is in short supply, especially during the summer months, hotels can charge a premium and there is sometimes little motivation to improve facilities.

On this trip you can expect to stay in small family-run hotels or pensions (with the exception of the start and finish hotels, which are often larger city hotels), which will vary a little in standard and facilities: some may not have elevators, air-conditioning or English-speaking staff, but most importantly all are locally-run, with some traditional character, and in excellent central locations to give you maximum time for exploring the sights. You can expect to find clean, safe, simple accommodation in convenient locations.

In one or two locations we use accommodation with shared bathrooms.

Can GEEO book extra hotel nights for me?

You may want to stay longer in Budapest at the start of the trip or Istanbul at the end, so feel free to arrive a few days early or depart a few days later. We can book your extra hotel nights for you if you wish.

In May G Adventures will contact you to book both airport transfers and extra hotel nights.

What type of transportation do we use on this trip?

Intercity transport on this trip will be by local bus and train. The bus and train systems are generally good, but inevitably travelling by public transport can involve delays and frustrations, and we ask you to keep this in mind.

This tour includes some long travel days, but we believe those hours of travel are more than worth it for the reward of seeing so much of this breathtaking region in a short space of time, so unfold your map, pack in your mp3 player and your phrase-book and get ready to enjoy some beautiful landscapes with your Romanian or Bulgarian neighbour.

Between transport and hotels you may be required to carry your luggage short distances (up to 25 mins walk).

Do you recommend spending any extra days?

Answer from GEEO's Executive Director:

"This itinerary does include enough time for you to get a feel for both Budapest and Istanbul, but if it you have the time it would be worth spending an extra day in Budapest and two more days in Istanbul.

Your trip has one day in Istanbul included in the itinerary. I personally recommend spending an extra two days in Istanbul, giving you a total of three days to explore the city. Many of the sites are closed on Mondays and the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays so make sure you factor that into your planning.

I would spend one full day doing the following: Get in line at the Topkapi Palace (20 Lira entrance) at 8:30 AM. The ticket booth can have really long lines so you will want to get there before it opens at 9AM. As soon as you get into the palace go directly to the line to get tickets for the Harem rooms (15 Lira), which are well worth the extra cost. After seeing the Harem rooms explore the rest of the Topkapi Palace, especially making time to see the treasure rooms which are literally unbelievable. (Like you won't believe some of the relics in there are real, ie Moses's staff.) After Topkapi I would go to the nearby Archaeological museum (10 Lira). You will probably want to get lunch afterwards. Next I would visit the Hagia Sofia (20 Lira) followed by the Basilica Cisterns (10 Lira). That might be a full day in itself depending on how long you waited in lines.

For another free day you can take a Bosphorus cruise up to the Black Sea. For 25 Lira you can get a round trip ticket on a city ferry. The ferry terminal can be found next to the base of the Galata Bridge. Make sure you check the schedule as there are only two ferries that go up the river and two ferries that come down. The schedule can be found here. At the Nothernmost stop of the ferry you should get off the ferry and have lunch in the village of Anadolu Kavagi followed by a 20 minute uphill hike to the remains of a Byzantine castle which has views of the Black Sea. You will then catch a ferry back to Istanbul, ending the cruise where you started at the base of the Galata Bridge. The bridge is a wonderful place to get a fish sandwich and watch the local fisherman. It is worthwhile to climb up the hill to the Galata Tower (15 Lira). Instead of ascending the tower itself you can save some money by going to the rooftop bar of the nearby Anemon Galata Hotel which has a similar view.

You will also have one day in Istanbul where your tour leader will lead you on a morning city walk. This will cover very important sites like the Suleymaniye Mosque, Hippodrome and Blue Mosque. That afternoon I would spend time visiting the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. You could also visit the Chora Church (15 Lira). The walls and ceilings of this nearly 1000 year old church are decorated with beautiful Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. It is pretty easy to get there by the tram lines for 4 lira each way or you could take a taxi from the hotel which should be about 15-20 Lira each way.

There are plenty of other things to do in Istanbul, but this would cover some of the most popular sites."

If I wanted to extend my stay in the region, is there any other tour you would recommend?

GEEO will give you a discount for booking more than one program in the same summer! Book two or more GEEO programs and receive 10% off on the lesser value program (up to 3 programs). For more details please click here.

This program can be combined with our 15-day Eastern Europe program that concludes in Budapest just before this program starts. Together these two trips would allow you to see a great deal of Eastern Europe.

This program can also be combined with both our 8-day Turkey program and our 15-day Turkey Group 2 program that both start in Istanbul after our Budapest to Istanbul trip concludes. This would allow you to explore more of fascinating Turkey!

If there is a part of the world that you would like to see that we aren't offering this summer, let us know. We may be able to help you arrange such a trip or we will consider offering it as GEEO program next summer.

When should I purchase my flights?

This trip is confirmed so you can buy your tickets whenever you please.

The prices for flights go up and down throughout the year so you never know when you will be able to get the best price, but on aggregate, we believe the best time to purchase a flight is about 60 days before departure. Please read this article to understand why.

What cities/airports should I book my flight in and out of?

Your trip begins in Budapest and ends in Istanbul. Please double check our itinerary for the date on which you must arrive in Budapest by. You can arrive at anytime of the day you choose, however we strongly urge you to arrive by 6PM on Day 1 for our group meeting. You can depart from Istanbul anytime on the final day of the trip.

Where can I purchase flights?

We recommend using www.kayak.com to see what is out there in terms of flights. G Adventures also has a wonderful air department, which can be reached at 1-800-708-7761.

You may also want to take a look at the prices at www.flyforgood.com or call 1-877-359-4466 to speak to a person. They get humanitarian rates from airlines and GEEO is registered with Fly for Good as a non-profit. If you purchase a humanitarian rate flight, you will need a supporting document from GEEO. Please request this from us after you purchase the tickets. Note that humanitarian rates are not available for all flights to GEEO destinations, and are sometimes higher than tickets found on on kayak, travelocity, orbitz, etc. Often the layovers are long and sometimes impossible to navigate. Look very carefully at the offer before purchasing your ticket.

Where can I purchase travel insurance?

One of the least expensive options is the "International Volunteer Card." They have a $35 card (The individual plus option) that includes the amount of travel medical, evacuation and repatriation insurance you need for our trip, plus other trip insurance benefits.

To sign up for the card you can follow this link:

http://www.volunteercard.com/.

We recommend purchasing cancellation insurance too, which the IVC offers as an additional option.

Another option is www.insuremytrip.com. They offer different options from many different companies. You can also get your insurance directly through G Adventures if you wish.

Please note it is mandatory for all of our travelers to have Emergency Medical insurance that covers both emergency evacuation and repatriation to the sum of $200,000USD.

Will I be eating on my own? With the group? Why aren't all meals included?

Eating is a big part of traveling. Traveling with GEEO you experience the vast array of wonderful food that is available out in the world. Generally meals are not included in the trip price when there is a choice of eating options, to give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat. It also gives you more budgeting flexibility, though generally food is affordable. Our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There is no obligation to do this though. Your group leader will be able to suggest favorite restaurants during your trip. Please refer to the meals included and budget information for included meals and meal budgets.

Vegetarians should be aware that the cuisine of this region is predominantly meat-based. Although you will be able to find and enjoy vegetarian food, please be aware that there will not be the variety or range of choices that you would find at home.

Is the water safe to drink?

Yes, the water is safe to drink.

What is the weather like?

Weather in all of these countries is similar. Summer is warm but rainy. The mountains are much cooler. Proper walking boots and windproof jackets are recommended for the trekking on this trip.

Is there Internet access? Should I bring a computer? Mobile phone?

There are Internet cafes in all of the places we visit and most of the hotels also have computers that can be used as well as free wifi. Expect to be able to check your email almost every day. You can also bring along your mobile phone if you choose. Make sure you check with your phone company before you leave to find out the rates for calling back to the US and if they have any special international plans that are worth taking advantage of. International roaming rates can be extremely high, so you don’t want to be surprised. You can bring a laptop/netbook/tablet computer if you wish, but remember, GEEO and G Adventures are not responsible for the damage or theft of you valued items.

Is there clothing that is considered inappropriate that I should not bring?

Most clothing is appropriate, however your guide may advise certain dress for your visit to Auschwitz.

Do I need plugs and current converters for my electronic devices?

There are two components to provide external power to your device: adapters and transformers. The adapter is the plug, adapting the prongs on a standard U.S. two to three-pronged power cord to match the prongs required by the local outlets. The transformer changes the local voltage to that required by your device.

All of the countries visited on this trip primarily use a European-style two circular prong plug. Their voltage is 220-240 Volts. U.S. outlets are 120V. Most new devices (phones and laptops) can handle the different voltage rates, but some devices only work on the U.S. standard of 120V. Check your device to see what voltage range it handles. Most transformer blocks will have an "Input" line that defines its voltage capacity. For example, "Input: 100 - 240V" means that it will work on voltages from 100V to 240V. If your transformer can't handle the different voltage, you'll need to purchase a voltage converter. You can find world regional voltage converters power packs at various vendors.

Why are some activities included in the price of the trip and others are not?

We have found paying locally for activities allows our participants to save money. Not every activity is appealing to everyone and we don't want you to pay for services you might not use. Perhaps you feel sick one day and would prefer to rest. This allows you to decide on the spot what you want to do each day with your free time and at the same time control your budget.

How much money in US cash should I bring? Should I exchange local currency in advance?

This is entirely up to you, but we think it is critical for you to bring along $200 USD in cash for emergencies. This is what GEEO's executive director Jesse does in regards to money while traveling:

"I do not exchange any money before travelling to a country but instead bring somewhere between $300-500 US in cash. I go to a bank before I leave the US and take out the cash there rather than an ATM. I make sure each bill is in great condition with no rips or tears. I like to have mostly 20's, but in some countries you are better off with 50's and 100's. In some countries it is also good to have about 20 singles for when you have no small bills in local currency. I divide this money between a money belt and my main backpack and my daypack.

I also bring an ATM card and a credit card. Before I leave the country I call the bank and credit card companies to let them know I am traveling abroad so they don't think the foreign transactions are fraudulent and cancel my cards when I am most reliant on them. Having a second bank account and bank card is pretty handy so that just in case one card doesn't work at an ATM or is lost, you always have a back up account. It's also important to check with your credit card to see if there is an international transaction fee. Some cards charge up to 4% extra for any transactions made out of the US. My Capital One visa card doesn't have any international transaction fee. I just use this card for traveling so if it gets stolen and I have to cancel it I won't have to worry about recurring automated payments. I like to split up my cards between my money belt, wallet and one emergency one hidden in my main bag.

When I arrive at the airport I make sure to go to an ATM before leaving the airport and typically take out the equivalent of $150 USD in the local currency. I find that ATMs give the best exchange rate so throughout the trip I will use the ATM card to draw out my spending cash. I will ask our tour leader for an estimate on how much I will need if I am close to leaving a country so this way I do not draw out too much money.

I try not to use the US cash I brought with me so that I can use it in an emergency. Typically I will come back to the US with most of that US cash unspent. On a recent trip I lost my ATM card and was able to get cash by paying for our group dinners with my credit card and having people pay me their share in local currency. I NEVER take cash advances on my credit card as they charge you an arm and a leg.

I also never use travelers checks, but have heard good things about AAA ATM cards that you can load up with money instead of using travelers checks."

Do you have advice on tipping?

It is customary in Europe to leave a small tip for service providers, such as waiters, if you are pleased with the service (€1-2 for snacks or 10% of a meal bill). Tipping is an expected - though not compulsory - component of your tour program and an expression of satisfaction with the persons who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels.
Also at the end of each trip if you felt your G Adventures Tour Leader did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline €20-25 per person, per week can be used.

What is expected from me from an educational stand point?

Please take a look at the "Sharing your Adventure section of our website by clicking here.

What should I expect in terms of school visits?

The schools are closed during the summer so instead we try to set up a meeting with local teachers.

Is there any safety advice we should know about?

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers' cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling.

Always keep an eye on your belongings especially in major cities, bus and train terminals.

Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When travelling on a group trip, please note that your tour leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your tour leader will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your tour leader will assist you with options available in a given location please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night. It is our recommendation to stay in small groups and to take taxis to and from restaurants, or during night time excursions.

Protests and Demonstrations- Protests and demonstrations, even those that are well intended, have the potential to turn violent with no warning. Counter protests can also turn violent. Action by security forces to disperse demonstrators and protesters may occur at any time. If you are in an area where demonstrators or protesters are gathering, avoid the temptation of staying for a good photo opportunity and leave the area immediately.

Water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in water based activities when accompanied by a guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any water based activities (in countries with varying degrees of operating standards) have a balanced approach to safety. It is G Adventure's policy not to allow our tour leaders to make arrangements on your behalf for water based activities that are not accompanied by guide(s).

Swimming, including snorkeling, is always at your own risk.

What happens if it becomes unsafe to travel on this trip?

Your safety is our utmost priority and we will cancel a trip if we do not feel our participants will be safe. If GEEO or G Adventures cancels your trip we will issue a full refund of any payments you have made including the deposit. If YOU decide to cancel your trip you will have to abide by the rules of our terms and conditions.

What are the emergency contact numbers for this trip?

Should you need to contact G Adventures during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call their local office. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so that they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible. If you are unable for any reason to contact their local office,

G Adventures Local Office
Emergency Cell Phone: +44 7817 262559

If you are unable for any reason to contact their local office they have a toll-free line within North America (or our regular direct line), which will connect you directly with their Toronto office. In the event that you cannot get through, you can reach a member of their Operations department at the mobile number below.

Toll-free, North America only: 1 888 800 4100
Calls from UK: 0844 272 0000
Calls from Australia: 1 300 796 618
Outside North America, Australia and the UK: +1 416 260 0999

What is the relationship between G Adventures and GEEO? Who is running this trip?

GEEO is an independent non-profit organization that helps teachers travel. GEEO negotiates with tour companies to get great deals for teachers. GEEO customizes these trips for teachers. GEEO provides educational materials to teachers before and after the trip to help bring the participating teacher's experience into the classroom. GEEO markets these programs to convince teachers to explore the world. For more about GEEO, please see our mission statement.

G Adventures is a tour company that GEEO has partnered with to run our trips. For over 20 years G Adventures has been sending hundreds of thousands of people abroad and today they are the largest adventure travel company in the world. They design the trips, provide expert tour leaders, ground logistics and work hard to make sure you have an excellent experience.

How long have we been running this program?

GEEO was founded in 2007 and our inaugural trips were run to Peru and India in the summer of 2008. 2013 will be the first time we run this program in Eastern Europe. G Adventures, who actually handle the logistics of the trip, works with local partner who have been running trips in Europe for many years so you can have faith that your trip will be safe and well run.

Is the itinerary exactly as described on this website?

While it is our intention to adhere to the route described on our website, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. The information on our website is a general guide to the tour and region and any mention of specific destinations or wildlife is by no means a guarantee that they will be visited or encountered.

Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary due to local circumstances.

Is there any advice for finding funding for this program?

The first thing we recommend you do is speak to your school's principal and/or professional development coordinator. They may know of grants that your school district or state offers. Often schools reimburse teachers for professional development expenses. You can also try contacting your school's PTA or professional organizations that you belong to.

We also recommend applying for a Fund for Teachers grant, www.fundforteachers.org. These grants can be used on GEEO trips. Please note that they are only offered to teachers in a limited number of pre-selected school districts around the country.


Want more adventure? Save money by also booking our Eastern Europe program or one of our Turkey programs, 8-day Turkey and 15-day Turkey, through our Multi-Trip Discount.

1899.00 USD

*Based on Double Occupancy, International Airfare not included

Availability: 0

This program has reached the minimum of 6 participants to run and will have a maximum of 15 participants.

What's Included

  • Half-day trip from Sighisoara to Romanian villages and countryside, visit from Brasov to Bran Castle, orientation walk of Bucharest, Hike to Arbanasi village from Veliko Tarnovo, visit of Kaleto Fortress, Orientation walk of Sofia, Day visit to Plovdiv town, Orientation walk of Istanbul

  • G Adventures Tour Leader throughout

  • No meals included (Allow EUR335-440 for meals not included.)

  • Train, overnight train, local bus, metro, walking.

  • Hotels/pensions (11 nts), overnight bus or train (2 nts). There may be shared bathroom facilities in one or two locations.

What's Not Included

  • International air

  • Incidentals

  • Insurance

  • Applicable visas

  • Airport Taxes

  • Tips or gratuities

  • Beverages

  • Meals not mentioned above

  • Optional Tours or optional admissions