Why travel with Untamed Borders?
Fair enough, why us? We are part of a small but growing group of travel companies that are truly dedicated to the place they are taking people to. For many of the regions we guide in we do not pass on our bookings to a local tourism agency, for the simple fact is that no such agencies exist. In regions where there is tourism infrastructure, we work with small organisations or private guides. We do not run the same trip numerous times a year. We, the owners, run the itineraries that we have designed. Between us, we have years of experience as tour leaders in these areas. We take small groups of people (maximum size of 10 in Pakistan, 8 in Afghanistan, 8 in Chechnya and 3 in Mogadishu forexample) which allow us to visit areas and interact with people without being too disruptive to the places we visit. It also allows us to go to areas of Afghanistan where nobody else goes and with 2 tour leaders on all our fixed trips we offer an unbeatable amount of flexibility.
Also, unlike other UK or European based travel companies, we are part-owned by people from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Isn’t Pakistan dangerous?
If you read the headlines you would expect a trip to Pakistan to be walking amongst extremist’s inches away from overthrowing a government and getting their hands on a nuclear arsenal. If you have been to Pakistan you will realise that this is far from the truth. Sure, there is a militant minority who are taking out their frustration on the Government and we do not take this threat lightly. These problems are currently restricted to the Tribal Areas, the Swat valley and the occasional attack on Government targets in larger cities.
The Northern Areas that we visit have not been subjected to any of these problems, however, we do listen to government warnings and the people that live in the areas we visit to get the most up to date security information.
Yeah, but isn’t Afghanistan dangerous?
The South of Afghanistan near to the Pakistan border is not an area we would advise anyone to travel. However, our trips are based in the North and Central areas of Afghanistan where the situation is relatively stable. We are aware that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but urgent travel to some of the places we visit and we do take their advice seriously. However, the job of the FCO is to be cautious and their advice reflects that. We take advice from the FCO but also from NGO’s working in the country as well as local people and even the rumours from the bazaars before we make any decisions on whether to change any of the routes we take.
We take extra precautions in Afghanistan. We often split into smaller groups when walking around cities to keep a low profile. We keep the details of our itinerary to a few selected people. Also, when travelling between cities we take more than one vehicle so that we will not be left stranded in the case of breakdown.
We cannot say that visiting Afghanistan is the same as visiting other travel destinations but the risk of anything happening is very slight and we think this slight increase in risk is easily offset by the rewards for the intrepid traveller.
Should people be going to Afghanistan at all?
To be frank, Afghanistan needs all the help it can get. The aid money promised by the international community is only slowly trickling down to those who need it. Whilst tourism clearly is not the answer to Afghanistan’s problems it can help a little. Putting money directly in peoples pockets definitely helps and we think that by treating Afghanistan as a desirable place to visit and not as a victim cannot do any harm either. If you visit you may well notice the slight look of surprise followed by a perceivable pride when you explain to someone that you are in Afghanistan as a tourist and not as an Aid or UN worker.
Do I need to be fit?
The terrain which we cover can at times be a little rough but unless stated, the itineraries are not designed for the super fit. There will be some walking but generally, the amount of walking will be no more than an hour or two unless the group wants more. We will also be crossing some high passes so those with heart conditions may wish to consult their doctor about the risks before travelling. If in any doubt please contact us.
Do I need special travel insurance?
Anyone coming on an Untamed Borders trip is expected to have full travel insurance for the region they are travelling to. If you are unsure that your policy covers you, please contact us and we can put you in touch with specialised insurers.
How far in advance do I need to book?
A deposit of US$400 will secure your place on any of our trips. The final balance needs to be paid 60 days before departure. This is to allow us time to ensure that all arrangements are confirmed in country.
I am a single person, do I pay a single person supplement?
We welcome single people on our trips. In fact, the majority of our clients are single travellers. They do not have to pay a single supplement but we will ask them to share with another member of the group.
How many people will there be in the group?
We travel with a maximum of 10 people on each trip to Pakistan and 8 people on each trip to Afghanistan. None of us at Untamed Borders have ever worked with groups bigger than this and, to be frank, large tour groups do not sound like much fun for us. Apart from our own self-interest, small groups allow greater interaction with people we meet and result in less disruption to the local population. With 2 team leaders, we have much greater flexibility and the freedom to split the group if people want to see different things.
What is included?
We include all accommodation, transport, guides and breakfast.
Visas, flights and insurance are the responsibility of the client. We can offer advice on routes and companies, just contact us.
Except at specific times mentioned on the itineraries, we do not include lunch, dinner or entrance fees. Usually, everybody sticks together on our trips but we are also happy if you wish to go off on your own adventure for the day. Therefore we offer a basic cost for our trips that excludes these expenses. We try hard to ensure that you know what the trip includes and does not as we are not the kind of company that slips in some hidden charges late in the day.
I live outside the UK, can I still book?
Of course you can. The trips start at the start city listed on the itinerary, just meet us there.
The dates I wish to travel do not fit with the set itineraries, what can I do?
Get in touch. As you may have noticed we only have a few fixed date itineraries listed. This is because we make space in the calendar for trips that we tailor make for other clients. If you have a small group we can create something bespoke for you. Or, we could design an itinerary with you for next year, advertise it and see if anyone else wants to join.
I have travelled independently in the past, how much freedom do I get?
Untamed Borders began by catering for independent travellers who wanted help accessing areas that are difficult to get to so we think our trips are well suited to people who like to think independently. Hopefully, by having small groups and flexible itineraries you will get the best parts of group travel and independent travel.
What do I need to bring?
Toothbrush tucked in your shirt pocket will be fine.
Seriously, it depends a bit on the trip. We have put some ideas down of the basics on our destination pages on this website but if you book with us we will send out a list of things that it would be wise to have.