Cuba Libre!

Cuba Libre!

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15 Days
From

$2080

$2023

Cuba Libre!

15 Days Starting and ending in Havana

Visiting: Havana, Vinales, Santa Clara, Camaguey, Santiago, Saint Lucia, Trinidad, Topes de Collantes

Tour operator:

Explore!

Tour code:

CL

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 18

Physical rating:

Full On

Age range:

Adult

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Vegans

Tour operated in:
English
Trip Styles:

Small Group

Activities:

Sightseeing, Walking

From:
$2080
$2023 (USD) The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$57
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Tour Overview

In timeless Cuba, fifties-style American cadillacs roll through the faded colonial streets, while in the music halls rum flows freely. Beyond the island's iconic cities, find wild landscapes, from forests to dramatic limestone hills, as well as the beautiful Caribbean coastline. Colonial Trinidad - Music bursts from every corner of this colourful old town; explore it from privately run homestays and get a deeper experience of local life Escambray Mountains - Walk through mountain forests, swim in fresh water pools and camp out under the stars Revolutionary history - Get underneath the revolution with visits to Castro and Che's mountain hideout as well as the Bay of Pigs museum.

Highlights

  • Colonial Trinidad - Music bursts from every corner of this colourful, cobbled old town

  • Escambray Mountains - Walk through mountain forests, swim in fresh water pools and camp out under the stars

  • Revolutionary history - Get underneath the revolution with visits to Castro and Che's mountain hideout as well as the Bay of Pigs museum.

Itinerary

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Day 1: Join Trip In Havana
Location: Havana
Accommodation: Hotel

Arrive in Havana. Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive cities in the Americas. It's also one of the most exciting: the modern city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with crumbling tenement blocks and 1950s American Cadillacs rubbing shoulders with grand colonial buildings and monuments to the revolution.

Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, our local Leader plans to do the welcome briefing in the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Havana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (airport code: HAV) which is 23km, around 45 minutes from the airport. A representative from our local partners in Cuba will meet you at Havana Airport and assist you with the transfer formalities.

If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose head out to explore Old Havana, just a short walk from the elegant Capitolio building and the scenic Malecon sea esplanade with fine views of the city. There are several restaurants and bars within walking distance and you're likely to hear the hypnotic rhythms of salsa, trova and son being played along the Paseo del Prado.

Day 2: Visit Havana's Highlights, Rum And Tobacco Pairing
Location: Havana
Accommodation: Hotel

We explore the city this morning, driving past art deco style buildings along the coastal esplanade of the Malecon and through the Vedado and Miramar suburbs. On our travels, we will see many brightly-painted vintage cars - the result of legislation enforced until 2011 ruling that only cars built before the 1959 revolution could be sold. We'll also notice the lack of advertising - nothing but political exhortations are allowed. On foot, we explore the Vieja (old) district, with its baroque cathedral, beautiful neoclassical buildings and the Plaza de Armas (main square).

During your free afternoon you may choose to visit the fascinating Museum of the Revolution, housed in the impressive former Presidential Palace. It's a good place to start delving into Cuba's absorbing history. The City Museum is also worth a visit, exhibiting art and historical artefacts in rooms preserved with their original Colonial decoration. Alternatively, you may prefer to visit the famous cigar factory or relax in one of the many bars of the city.

Later this afternoon, we will get into Cuba's quintessential culture with a rum and tobacco pairing, before having the evening free to sample some of the nightlife of the capital.

Day 3: Travel To The Limestone Landscape Of Vinales
Location: Vinales
Accommodation: Hotel

Travelling west of Havana today, our destination is arguably the most picturesque part of Cuba - the Vinales region. Here, surreal mountains jut out of the landscape, formed by the erosion of limestone over millions of years. These 'mogotes' translate as 'haystacks' - a good word for them considering their steep sides and rounded jungly tops. Around them, the iron-rich, red soil creates a patchwork of fields growing some of the best tobacco in the world - the raw material for Cuba's celebrated cigars. We can look forward to a two-hour easy trek through the valleys of this remarkable landscape to the village of El Palmerito. Mogotes tower above us as we pass through tobacco fields and past drying barns. After our cigar pairing yesterday it's interesting to compare the commercial cigar market with the farmers who actually grow the tobacco, and we'll meet some of these along the way. After this walk you may wish to visit the Cueva del Indio - one of the many caves in this area - or take a swim in the hotel pool.

Day 4: Drive To Santa Clara, View The Che Guevara Memorial
Location: Santa Clara
Accommodation: Hotel

We have a long drive of 450km today, past Havana and east to Santa Clara in the centre of Cuba. We'll stop regularly to break up the journey, notably at the stunning Soroa Rainforest where we take a walk to see the orchids. Nearer to Santa Clara, we'll visit the Che Guevara monument, with an enormous transcription of Che's last letter to Fidel - your Explore leader can translate this for you - it's fascinating to read about how much the revolution meant to both of them.

The town of Santa Clara was originally a prosperous agricultural area, well-placed on the island's trading route. Now, it is most famous as the site of the last battle of the Revolution in which Che Guevara's troops took the city, causing the Cuban dictator, Batista, to flee into exile. Because of this, the town was chosen as the final resting place for the national hero and we'll explore some more of the Che Guevara sites tomorrow.

Day 5: Visit Sancti Spiritus En Route To Camaguey
Location: Camaguey
Accommodation: Hotel

This morning, we visit the centre of Santa Clara and the Tren Blindado Memorial, before moving on to Che's Mausoleum. Guevara was buried here with full military honours in 1997 after his exhumed remains were discovered in Bolivia and returned to Cuba. A flame lit by Fidel Castro burns eternally to honour a man who played a key role in Cuba's revolution and whose image is routinely displayed throughout the country. We will also visit the museum dedicated to Guevara's life, containing many interesting letters and artefacts.

Back on the road, we continue to Sancti Spiritus, one of the original seven settlements founded by Diego Velasquez when he claimed Cuba for Spain, before continuing our drive across the flattest province in Cuba - Ciego de Avila. We pass through land predominantly used for cattle ranching, sugar growing and citrus fruit production.

Continuing up into the hills of the Sierra de Cubitas, by late afternoon we reach the provincial capital of Camaguey - Cuba's third largest city and a cultural centre for music, ballet and art. Our hotel is near to the Old Town, allowing for easy exploration on foot.

Day 6: Explore Camaguey Before Heading To Bartolome Maso
Location: Camaguey
Accommodation: Hotel

The morning is free to wander around Camaguey. What may strike you about this city is its labyrinth street layout - a fascinating by-product of pirate-fighting. With more similarities to a Moroccan medina than the geometric street planning you might expect, legend has it that it was designed to confuse pillaging invaders and provide cover for its residents.

If the heat gets too much, you might prefer to explore the city's hidden plazas and baroque churches by bicitaxi. However you choose to get around, we recommend a visit to the bustling farmer's market - one of the largest in Cuba.

In the afternoon, we travel to Bayamo, another of the original seven Spanish settlements. However the inhabitants burned it to the ground in 1869 in an act of rebellion against the Spanish, so there is little colonial architecture left to see. Our journey continues east towards the Sierra Maestra Mountains - the highest mountain range in Cuba, where we spend the night in a small hotel either in Bartolome Maso or Santo Domingo.

Day 7: Visit La Comandancia De La Plata, Drive To Santiago
Location: Santiago
Accommodation: Hotel

This morning, a convoy of 4WD vehicles carry us up a steep asphalted road to El Alto de Naranjo, 950 metres above sea level. We then trek for three kilometres through virgin rainforest to La Comandancia de La Plata. The path is uneven and can be muddy, helping us to understand the appeal of its remoteness. It was here that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara took refuge after an unsuccessful uprising against the Cuban dictator, Batista, in 1956. As you walk around this hideaway, which became the revolutionaries' headquarters until Batista fled Cuba in 1959, you gain a real sense of their two year residency here. Castro's simple camp bed and fridge (which someone impressively carted up the mountain for him) still remain, along with a trap door for a speedy exit if under attack. Also, the original broadcast hut for 'Radio Rebelde' still stands, as well as Che's hospital hut where he worked as a doctor. Previously forbidden, it is now possible to take photos around the site for a small fee.

After lunch at Villa Santo Domingo, we drive inland towards the lively former Cuban capital of Santiago, where we check-in to our hotel on the outskirts of the city. If there is time this evening, we'll head to El Morro Fort for the firing of the cannon, happening each night at sunset.

Day 8: See The Sights Of Santiago; Drive To The Beach At Santa Lucia
Location: Saint Lucia
Accommodation: Hotel

Surrounded by hills and looking-out over the Caribbean, Santiago is another of the original seven Spanish settlements, and has a wonderful architectural heritage from Spanish colonial, through to art deco influences. It has quite a different feel to Havana, but retains its own charm. This morning, we'll have a brief tour of the city and will see the Moncada Barracks, which still have bullet holes on the outside after an unsuccessful attack by Castro and 118 students in 1953.

After our short overview of the city, we'll drive the 300km to Santa Lucia, approximately 5 hours, on Cuba's north coast. With 20km of golden sand, Santa Lucia is an idyllic Cuban beach perfect for an afternoon swim. The resorts in the area are typically Cuban - that is to say, somewhat past their best. However, the beach can't be beaten and the calm turquoise water is very inviting.

Day 9: Morning On The Beach; Travel To Trinidad
Location: Trinidad
Accommodation: Casas Particulares

After having a relaxing swim this morning, we leave Santa Lucia behind and head towards Trinidad. We stop at the Valle de los Ingenios, also known as the Valley of the Sugar Mills en route. This was the centre of sugar production for 100 years from the late 18th century, and at its peak, it was home to 30,000 slaves working in the mills and surrounding plantations. Today, the ruined sugar mills and mansions lining the valley bear witness to the previous prosperity in the area. We stop at the infamous Torre de Manaca Iznaga, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This seven floor tower was built to watch over the slaves working in the fields and had two bells. One was rung when the slaves could stop working and take a meal, the other when a slave escaped.

By early evening, we will arrive at our homestay just outside the beautiful Spanish colonial town of Trinidad - our base for the next two nights.

Day 10: Explore Trinidad, The Unesco World Heritage Site
Location: Trinidad
Accommodation: Casas Particulares

This morning, we wander through the cobbled streets of the old centre of Trinidad, discovering its fine palaces, churches and cafes. A paradise for photographers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a perfectly preserved colonial settlement unlike any other. In the early 19th century, French settlers fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti, landed here and started to grow sugar cane in the Valle de Los Ingenios. This crop generated considerable wealth and consequently the town had to be regularly defended from pirates. Nowadays it's a fantastic place to get lost in, with a small centre and shady plazas.

Subject to opening hours, we will visit a local museum before our free afternoon. You may choose to relax on the six kilometres of Playa Ancon's white sand beach, just a 15 minute taxi ride away, or explore some more of Trinidad's museums and local art galleries. There is also the opportunity to take a salsa lesson with a local teacher. Later, the open-air Casa de la Musica is a great place to listen to some live Cuban music, sipping a mojito under the stars.

Day 11: Journey To Topes De Collantes, Forest Walks And Waterfall Swimming
Location: Topes de Collantes
Accommodation: Camping

Today we travel inland to Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve Park, famous for its many endemic species of flora and fauna. We can look forward to a two-night stay here to explore this glorious area.

After a ride in an old Russian military-style truck up a steep, switch-back road into the lush Escambray Mountains, we arrive at the park entrance. Here we meet our local guide who, along with our Leader, will help us to explore the park. -There is an eight kilometre trek to our hacienda accommodation. Those who would prefer not to walk can continue with the truck to the hacienda.

Our hike can vary slightly, depending on the weather and the group, but it is likely to take us into the coffee-growing valley of the Guayanara River. The paths are undulating and can be uneven underfoot, but the views and sense of remoteness are truly rewarding. Along our route, we see Cuba's highest lake, Embalse Hanabanilla, pass rural homes and watch shepherds minding their herds of goats. After about four hours' walking, we arrive at our hacienda, a small farmstead set in a rocky valley, for lunch.
The afternoon is free. However, we recommend the five kilometre circular walk (approximately three hours) to the Salto de Rocio Waterfall - an area flush with trogons, hummingbirds and woodpeckers. To get to the waterfall we follow a riverside track where we are likely to see impressive tree fern, bromeliad and orchid species. On arrival at the spectacular waterfalls and lakes, adventurous swimmers can enjoy a dip, while others may choose to relax on the banks.

The accommodation at the hacienda is simple. After supper, we sleep out under the eaves of the hacienda's veranda or in tents, with male and female washing facilities in a block nearby. Foam mattresses are provided, but you will benefit from bringing a sleeping bag. The fresh mountain air and the peace and quiet of the night, with its canopy of stars, is usually enough to ensure a good night's sleep. Day 5 and 6 may be swapped around.

Day 12: Walks In Topes De Collantes National Park
Location: Topes de Collantes
Accommodation: Camping

This morning, we start with a short drive in our Russian truck to the start of our four-hour trek (approximately eight kilometres). Again, anyone not wanting to make the walk can travel on to the Hacienda with the truck.

We walk through an unspoilt land of forest, water-eroded valleys, rushing waterfalls and underground rivers. We trek through pine forest and along paths bordered by mahogany and hibiscus. If we're lucky, we may see brightly-coloured hummingbirds flash past, darting from flower to flower, searching for nectar. When we reach La Batata, there is an opportunity to swim in an open cave through which an underground river gently carves out rock pools. The water rarely exceeds 20°C, so it's exhilarating! We then trek on through the forest until we reach an isolated, century-old hacienda, set in a lush valley. This is our base for the night and where we will have lunch.

In the afternoon, our local guide takes us on a circular trail (approximately one and a half kilometres), discussing the orchids and medicinal plants that we find en route. We are also taken down through a cave, La Cueva del Altar, emerging on the other side of the hill to beautiful views of the Caribbean.

This evening, we are treated to more Cuban hospitality and we can expect our accommodation to be similar to the previous night.

Day 13: Return To Havana Via The Bay Of Pigs Museum
Location: Havana
Accommodation: Hotel

Leaving the Escambray Mountains behind, we set off west, hugging the coastline with views over the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. We plan to break our journey back to Havana with several stops, the first of which is at the colonial seaport of Cienfuegos. Here, we'll have a walking tour of the town, including the Marti Park overlooked by the grand Italian-style Tomas Terry theatre. Our journey continues to Playa Giron, arriving in the early afternoon, and here we'll visit the museum dedicated to the infamous 'Bay of Pigs' invasion' - a US-supported attack by Cuban exiles which failed to overthrow the Communist regime in 1961. The final stop on the Zapata Peninsula is a wonderful swimming opportunity in a 'cenote' (pool) where the ceiling of an underground river has collapsed. By the evening we'll have arrived back in Havana at our hotel.

Day 14: Free Day In Havana
Location: Havana
Accommodation: Hotel

Today you are completely at leisure to enjoy the sights and sounds of Havana. Visit some of the city's museums, or perhaps one of the famous cigar factories. Walking around the city is easy, but there are also plenty of vintage cars that you can hire to see the city in style.

Day 15: End Trip In Havana
Location: Havana

The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Havana.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Havana at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (airport code: HAV) which is 23km, around 45 minutes from the hotel.

What's Included

  • Meals
    Breakfast: 14 Lunch: 4 Dinner: 2

  • Accommodation

  • Fully Guided

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

  • Airport Transfers at Destination

What's Not Included

  • Country Entry Visas

  • Tipping and Gratuities

Why Book this Tour

This comprehensive tour of Cuba is one of our most popular. You will stay in locally-owned and run private homestays in the heart of colonial Trinidad and sleep out under the stars in Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve Park.

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Check out our Q&As

  • Will passengers from another country be participating in the tour?

    No

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes

  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?

    No

  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?

    No

  • What is the maximum group size?

    18

  • Will there be an escort accompanying this tour?

    Yes

  • I'm going on a walking/cycling trip-do I need to train?

    It will depend on the grade and how fit you already are. Check the trip page for details of the walking or cycling grade and how far you’ll be walking/cycling each day. For moderate or challenging trips in particular we’d recommend doing some walks or cycles before you leave to build up your fitness and prepare you for the distances being covered.

  • Who will be my travelling companions on the tour?

    We have a wide range of ages nationalities on our small group trips and they come from all walks of life.

  • Should I get travel insurance?

    Yes–it is a condition of booking that you are fully insured when travelling with us

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 500 trips to more than 120 countries.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    Yes, but there are no concessions for doing so, and we must have a record in your booking advising as such before the trip departs.

  • Am I contributing to any charity by booking the tour?

    Being a responsible company is a large statement, something that has to be entwined within the very fibre of a company. Discover the charities and partnerships we support as part of this at https://www.explore.co.uk/about/sustainability/charities-and-partners

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    We want to be as clear as and as honest as possible about what happens if you decide to that you no longer wish to travel on your trip. Our booking conditions have details of the costs you’ll incur when you cancel-these charges depend on how long it is before your planned departure.

  • What is the accommodation like?

    We choose comfortable accommodation in the best locations possible. We opt for small, local and family-run accommodation where we can, as opposed to large chain hotels. We typically use hotels that are the equivalent of European 3-star, and you’ll usually have an en suite room. Occasionally, where we want to get off the beaten trail we may stay in more basic accommodation.

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    Sustainability is embedded within the fibre of Explore, it emanates from the inside out. But as we enter a new decade it is clearer than ever that our world needs help, and Explore has created a sustainability strategy based on the 2015 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Our flexible booking and safety policies mean you're protected before and during your travels with us. Receive a full refund if your trip is cancelled, transfer your trip free of charge up to 10 days before departure minus any irrocoverable costs.

  • Do I need to be very fit to book with you?

    All our trips require some level of active participation. This could be on a cultural trip, trek, safari, expedition or voyage. It is in the interests of all members of the group that everyone should be capable of fully participating in the activities of their chosen trip.

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Final documents will include a comprehensive trip itinerary, climate and country information, budgeting and packing advice visa and passport information and details on optional activities available.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Yes on most of our trips. Most trips are based on customers sharing twin-bedded rooms. If you book a group trip as an individual, you will share a room with someone of the same sex. However, on many trips we offer the opportunity to pay a supplement to pre-book a single room, known as our single room option. On some trips a single room will be provided every night, on others it will be provided o

  • Do we have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel

    It’s now a condition of booking a trip with us that customers should have one of the following before they travel - — Be vaccinated against COVID, having received the full recommended course, and allowing enough time for immunity to take effect. Full vaccination includes any booster required to keep the vaccine valid. — Have taken a negative test (rapid antigen or PCR) within 72hrs of departure.

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Explore will only offer hotels that have specific COVID-19 protocols in place and comply with local government guidelines. We will ensure these measures include; enhanced room cleaning, ventilation, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touch points in public areas, food safety, staff re-training and minimising contact within the properties.

Reviews from Travellers on this Tour

Caroline  

Cuba Libre!

28-Nov-2018

Excellent trip due to small group, great tour leader, driver and local guides.

Margaret  

Cuba Libre!

19-Dec-2018

A brilliant holiday, enhanced by the standard and personality of our guide Glenda

Angus  

Cuba Libre!

11-Jan-2017

A lot of ground covered on this trip in a short timeframe, but that was know beforehand, and needed to ensure all of Cuba could be covered. Sufficient free time also provided and the beach day was a bonus

Karen  

Cuba Libre!

20-Nov-2017

This was only our second trip with Explore and we will impressed and pleased with the whole experience. It was an excellent itinerary with plenty of variety and the local guides really brought the history of Cuba to life and interacted with the group well. The variety of accommodation with the Casa particulares and the option to sleep out under the stars in Topes de Collantes was very special.

Sarah  

Cuba Libre!

02-Dec-2019

We loved Cuba and this very comprehensive trip.

Karen  

Cuba Libre!

11-Mar-2017

The trip was amazing. I am so glad I chose it, Cuba is such a beautiful country with such a rich history. I am still amazed and grateful for what we covered. Yes it's a lot of travelling and the food can be very samey but I would prefer that to a more touristy Cuba.

Joseph  

Cuba Libre!

18-Mar-2018

A reallyod trip giving an all round view of Cuba and its history. Busy but satisfying.

Sarah  

Cuba Libre!

20-Dec-2018

It was a great trip - thanks to everyone who made it so

Read all 8 reviews

Dates & Availability

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Mar 09, 2024 - Mar 23, 2024
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Mar 30, 2024 - Apr 13, 2024
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Apr 20, 2024 - May 04, 2024
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May 11, 2024 - May 25, 2024
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Oct 05, 2024 - Oct 19, 2024
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Oct 19, 2024 - Nov 02, 2024
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The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$67 (USD)

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Oct 26, 2024 - Nov 09, 2024
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The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$67 (USD)

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Nov 09, 2024 - Nov 23, 2024
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The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$67 (USD)

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Nov 16, 2024 - Nov 30, 2024
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The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$67 (USD)

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Dec 21, 2024 - Jan 04, 2025
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Book with Confidence

  • Free Date Changes

    Explore! allows you to make 1 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 60 days before the start of the tour.

  • Low Deposit

    Explore! requires a minimum deposit of 10% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 60 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of explore! charges.

    Up to 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 59 days before tour starts: Forfeit 30% of booking price.

    At 41 days before tour starts: Forfeit 60% of booking price.

    At 27 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 13 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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