As a tour operator we create complete travel programs, which we define as a tour package including least five nights’ accommodation, plus at least one of the following: international airfare, pre-booked excursions or activities, car rental, or arrival and departure transfers.
We specialize in travel in East, South and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, Antarctica and select countries in South America. The countries we specialize in are listed on the destination page.
Generally speaking, travel agents book travel in an “a la carte” style, and may book a variety of travel destinations, cruises, and packages created by tour operators. Tour operators work directly with various suppliers in the destinations where the travel takes place, thereby creating individual and group packages to offer to the general public or to travel agents for their clients. A travel agent can book travel components anywhere you wish travel anywhere and may use a tour operator to help them book destinations they are less familiar with.
Escorted tours are a set itinerary by motor coach, with a tour guide, and include accommodations, entrance and sightseeing, many meals, and luggage handling. Everything is taken care of for you. Group sizes can vary from small group (often 15-20 participants) to larger groups (25-45 participants). An independent tour is a set itinerary where you travel on your own without a guide, but all accommodations, transportation, entrances and sightseeing are pre-booked. Independent tours are more flexible, and you can design your own, or book one of our suggested itineraries. Independent tours use various modes of transportation including train, boat, ferries, bus, rental car and air.
This depends entirely on your carrier and your individual plan. Many carriers offer an international plan, which must be set up before you leave the US. This will allow you to make calls to the US and within the country you’re traveling, and you can receive calls from the US (you pay for your incoming call, or it uses your minutes). Wi-Fi is available at restaurants, hotels, on some trains and buses, which will allow you to check email, messages, and use WhatsApp, Skype, or other service. It’s best to see what your carrier can offer for the countries in which you will travel well before your US departure.
Signature Journeys are premiere tours hosted by a Borton Overseas Destination Specialist. These trips feature unique experiences, special themes and/or events. Generally they are only offered once, and they are always a small group experience. For more information or to see our current programs visit our Signature Journeys page.
We consider a small group tour 20 participants or less.
We always recommend contacting us as early as possible. Availability and budget can become issues the closer we get to your departure date. We generally suggest 6 months to a year for planning purposes depending on your destination.
Yes. We are happy to book your airfare in conjunction with one of our packages. However, we cannot accommodate air only requests or use points/airline rewards programs to book flights.
No. As a tour operator we are under contractual obligation to our partners and vendors to use their confidential rates in a package. Your invoice will be a complete price which includes all the components of your tour package.
No, we do not offer last minute travel deals. However, we do offer early booking discounts on some of our packages. Any discount offer will be denoted in the Tour Details section of the itinerary.
Yes. We would be happy to work with your local travel agent to plan your trip, or you have the option to book directly with us.
This can be as challenging as asking when is the best time to go to North America! We like to say ANY TIME is a good time to go to Africa! If you are including safari, we recommend you plan around this, as seasonality can impact game viewing. We have created a nifty “Best Time to Go Chart” that should help define best times for specific areas. Keep in mind that climate change has impacted global weather patterns, and advising the best time of travel for seeing animals is becoming more difficult in some areas.
For the most part, yes. The destinations that Borton Overseas offers in Africa are all relatively safe for travelers, and we feel that our Africa-bound travelers are just as safe visiting our destinations if not more so than traveling in the US! Our in-country partners have the safety of our travelers as a priority, and they keep us updated of any situations that would impact traveler safety. As is the case globally, visitors are most at risk for crimes of opportunity such as petty theft, so we advise taking precautions such as leaving all valuables at home, using in room safes, handling cash discretely, avoiding becoming intoxicated, etc.
Travel insurance offers not only protection of your trip investment but a variety of coverage benefits that will put you at ease for the unexpected. Benefits include primary coverage for emergency medical, dental, baggage, medical evacuation, trip delay and 24/7 travel assistance services.
For travelers wanting an extra layer of travel security, consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service provided by the US Department of State. Register your trip with STEP so that the US Embassy in your destination country can contact you in the event of an emergency.
Each place varies but generally you will be awakened just before dawn to embark on an early morning game drive. These usually last, on average, 3 hours and include a bush coffee break. You return to camp/lodge for a hearty brunch and a few hours to relax, enjoy camp facilities or additional activities such as a bush walk. Mid-afternoon you’ll meet again at the main lodge for tea/snacks before heading out for an afternoon game drive. Depending on the location of your camp/lodge, this may extend into a night drive on the way back to the lodge. Return to the camp/lodge for dinner followed by conversation around a campfire or in the main lodge before you are escorted to your tent/rooms for a welcome slumber.
Not if you speak English! English is widely spoken throughout our Africa destinations, and is the common language used on safari. In fact, in many countries, English is one of the official languages! However, since it is not the first language for most Africans, expect varying degrees of English proficiency. Learning a few words of the local language – whether it’s Swahili or Setswana or Afrikaans – is always appreciated!
No. If you are of good health, you should be up to date on your personal inoculations. If you are traveling to a country that is yellow fever endemic, you will need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. One injection is now good for life. A prescription for anti-malaria pills is necessary for most safari areas and are prescribed by your physician. We recommend that you consider the advice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and consult your doctor or travel clinic for current requirements and recommendations based on where and when you are traveling, what you will be doing, and your current health.
The Big Five animals are lion, leopard, rhino (both black and white species), elephant, and the Cape buffalo. The term “Big Five” was devised by hunters referring to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.
The great migration of over 2 million wildebeest and zebra is actually an ongoing annual cycle that moves as nature demands. The migration area is in the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania and reaches into Kenya’s Masai Mara plains – all part of the Serengeti eco-system. Predicting the exact location at any given time is nearly impossible as animal movements are affected by availability of food and water. While it can vary, we can generalize the movement of the migration based on historical patterns:
January – March – herds are gathered in southern Serengeti region. Babies abound!
April – May – herds get restless and begin moving northward
June – July – herds continue moving north along the western corridor crossing the Grumeti River.
August – October – herds crossing the Mara River in/out of northern Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara
November – December – herds move southward along the eastern border of Serengeti.
Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is a year round destination. However, the water levels vary throughout the year, being at their highest between April and June, and their lowest from October to December. Viewing the Victoria Falls at different times of the year offers different experiences. In high flow, its entire length is a thundering wall of falling water, whereas in low flow the underlying structure can be seen and visibility is clearer. In the dry season, particularly from October to early December, it is recommended that you see the falls from the Zimbabwe side, as there is very little water flowing on the Zambian side.
Most African countries require visitors to have a tourist visa for entry. Many countries allow you to purchase these upon arrival, while others require you to apply for them electronically (e-visa) before you depart home. Your pre-departure packet will provide the latest entry requirements. For non-US passport holders, contact the appropriate Embassy for your entry requirements.
Each itinerary varies as it depends on the type of trip and what type of aircraft you will be flying. For fly-in safaris, you will be allowed 1 checked piece per person, packed in soft bag like a duffle bag. You are also allowed a small carry-on. Total combined weight allowed per person is between 33-44lbs. Your destination specialist will advise your specific baggage allowance. Keep in mind, safari is casual and laundry service is available at most lodges and camps. We’ll provide you with suggested packing lists to help prepare you!
The quality of tap water varies throughout the continent; generally in cities, it is safe to drink, while in remote areas or on safari, you will be advised not to drink from the tap. Bottled water is readily available everywhere. Alternatively, consider purifying your own water to conserve plastic use and cut down on expenses.
While tipping in Africa is commonly described as “optional,” in our experience we have found that it is actually customary and expected, and staff work hard to provide good service to their guests, whether it’s someone carrying your suitcase or a safari guide who takes you out on a game drive. We provide a tipping cheat sheet in your final document holder to make it convenient to figure out who to tip and how much. We suggest budgeting $25 per traveler, per day, but you are free to adjust the amount based on the service received.
You will need an adapter to plug your appliance into an outlet, but you may not need a converter if your appliance is dual voltage (most cell phone chargers and some camera battery chargers are dual voltage). The type of adapter needed depends on your destination, as countries have different outlet types. Your pre-departure packet will contain helpful details. Skyscanner has a great international travel plug adapter guide on their website.
Different seasons have different advantages. Travel to Antarctica is only between mid-October and mid-March, which is summer in the southern hemisphere. Early in the season (Oct-Dec), you’ll find pristine conditions with lots of snow. Mid-season (Dec-Feb) has less snow and the penguins are hatching. Later in the season (Feb-Mar), you’ll find more rocky headlands, the penguin chicks will be molting, and all the wildlife will be getting ready for the upcoming winter.
On board ship the dress code is casual.
Typically, you’ll disembark twice per day, conditions permitting. You will have one or two shore landings, and there are opportunities to go “ice-cruising” in the zodiacs through the ice floes and icebergs.
If you typically get sea sick, or even if you don’t, it’s best to be prepared. Over the counter remedies can help, like Dramamine. You can also get a prescription for the Scopolamine patch from your doctor.
This is an expedition cruise. You won’t find shows, night clubs or themed restaurants. These cruises are centered on discovery and education. You will often find science labs and libraries on board. There will also be numerous briefings on what to expect the next day as well as presentations about topics relating to Antarctica.
Primarily you are there to experience Antarctica – fill all of your senses with the place. Antarctica looks, smells and sounds like no other place on Earth. You won’t hear anything else but the sounds of your feet on the ground and that of the penguins and seals. However, many cruises offer a few extras. Snowshoeing is common as is kayaking. Some even offer a night of camping. All of these are most often at an extra cost.
The Antarctic summer has temperatures hovering around freezing (32°F, 0°C). It can often be windy with occasional snow showers. There can also be bright sunshine and blue skies, with slightly warmer temperatures (40°F, 4°C).
Each cruise varies, but most do not include international airfare, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, gratuities, and internet access while on board. Activity packages such as kayaking and camping will likely have and additional cost.
Of course! Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile are the gateway cities to fly to Ushuaia, where you embark your Antarctica cruise. Adding extra days there either before or after your cruise is easy, and we can incorporate any extension into your trip. Day trips in Santiago can include Valparaiso on the coast, and several wine regions. Buenos Aires, known as the “Paris of South America,” offers everything from fine dining and drink to Tango shows and lessons. Adventures also await in the embarkation towns of Ushuaia or Punta Arenas. Southern Patagonia is an adventurer’s dream with Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine offering hiking and other outdoor activities.
Yes. Medical facilities and staff are available 24/7 on each ship. However, these clinics and staff are meant to stabilize patients for illness or injury sustained on board, not chronic conditions. You must be in good health prior to departing on this expedition cruise as well as carry appropriate travel insurance that covers medical evacuation and repatriation. Ask your Destination Specialist for more details.
While ship is by far the most common way to get to Antarctica, there is the ability to fly. Fly-in programs also run a bit shorter as they avoid the three days it takes to cross the Drake Passage round trip.
If you are a US citizen, a visa is not required for entry into Chile, Argentina or Antarctica.
Luggage restrictions for airlines often change, so it’s always a good idea to check when purchasing your ticket. The flights from the gateway city (Santiago or Buenos Aires) to the embarkation city (Ushuaia or Punta Arenas) are usually the most restrictive. Currently you are allowed one checked bag, not exceeding linear 150cm (62 inches) or 23kg (50lbs).
Tipping is completely at your discretion. Service charges are included the cost of most voyages. However, should you choose to add further for excellent service on board the suggestion is $12 USD per day per passenger.
As many ships have different configurations, you will receive information specific for your journey from your Destination Specialist prior to departure.
Travelers typically go November through March.
Regardless of the season most of Southeast Asia is hot all year long. It has a tropical climate, mostly hot, and humid during summer. Some areas do get a cold season, such as northern Vietnam. Weather patterns vary within each country, and some countries experience monsoons and heavy rains (not throughout the country, only in certain areas). Just because it’s the rainy season does not mean travel to SE Asia should be avoided; the rains are brief and the foliage is at its most lush during this time.
Taking in consideration that travel time is three days, two days to reach Asia and one day to return, we suggest no less than 10 days including travel. We recommend two to three weeks if you want a leisurely trip or to visit several countries.
Most countries offer a visa on arrival; Vietnam requires a visa or visa authorization. We will provide information on obtaining a visa prior to your departure.
Luggage restrictions for airlines often change; it’s always a good idea to check when purchasing your ticket. Currently you are allowed 44lbs in economy class for flights within Asia.
The water is not safe to drink; only bottled or purified water. Almost all hotels offer a complimentary bottle of mineral water in the rooms. Alternatively, consider purifying your own water to conserve plastic use and cut down on expenses.
Although tipping is completely at your discretion, tour and excursion guides and drivers expect a tip. We recommend $10 USD per day per traveler for guides and $5 USD per day per traveler for drivers.
You will need a voltage converter and plug adapter in order to use US appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit.
Six to twelve months before you plan to travel is a great time to start planning your trip to Scandinavia. For high seasons and busy periods, a longer planning time is better. Iceland accommodations in particular tend to book up early.
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, can be seen as early as September and as late as April. They are more frequent at higher latitudes, and the best chance of seeing them is at or above the Arctic Circle. For the Nordic region, that means Iceland, Greenland, and the Lapland/Northern areas of Norway, Sweden and Finland.
For more information on the Northern Lights, read our blog post, Secrets of the Northern Lights.
All of the Scandinavian/Nordic countries drive on the right – the same side as in the United States.
Seven nights is the maximum, and it is only possible when flying with Icelandair.
The ICEHOTEL is located in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Iceland actually does not have an ice or snow hotel.
The ships that sail up and down the west coast of Norway travel an historic route, operating all year long; though on Christmas the ships stay in whatever port town they are in that day. Sailings can be done at any time – it depends on which season you would like to experience. Costs are higher in the summer months, but the northbound cruise does sail into Geiranger Fjord. Fares are lower in the wintertime, when one also has a good chance at seeing the elusive Northern Lights, along with beautiful snow-capped mountains. Hurtigruten and Havila Voyages now share this coastal cruise route, alternating days of the week that each cruise line sails.
No. We can create travel packages that include your family farm or other heritage specific sights, but we cannot figure out where those places might be.
Each Scandinavian/Nordic country has its own language: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Icelandic. In Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both Danish and their own language (Greenlandic / Faroese) are spoken.
Most young and middle-aged people, especially those working in tourist industries, are well-versed in English. Many also speak German and/or French. Signs in English can be found many places, especially those that cater to visitors/tourists.
Most rental car categories offer air-conditioning. However, most hotels in Scandinavia do NOT have air-conditioning due to the moderate climate. The temperatures generally do not get very hot. A central ventilation system may be considered air-conditioning. If you like to sleep with open windows but would be bothered by street noise, ask at check-in if a quiet room is available.
The Scandinavia Department at Borton Overseas provides both packages that are already together and custom itineraries, all with a five night minimum, and with or without air. When doing a custom itinerary, the Scandinavia Specialist assigned to you will gather the information needed to create the package and will present a preliminary itinerary, then a quote (estimated package price). Note that we will only provide a package rate – there is no itemization of costs. Due to the work put into customized itineraries, we collect a $200 non-refundable deposit towards your trip. Once the itinerary/trip details are agreed upon, a completed reservation form is required. The specialist will book the arrangements, supply the confirmed trip price, and will charge the main deposit. We accept check or credit card. Final payment is due 90 days prior to trip departure. Final documents will be sent out approximately three weeks prior to departure.
No, if you are a US or Canadian citizen. The country in this region that requires a visa is Russia.
Yes, water is safe to drink in the Scandinavian and Nordic countries. At certain locations in Iceland, the warm/hot tap water may have a slight sulphur odor, due to the high geo-thermal activity in this country, which is also used to heat homes and water. But it is safe to drink.
Tipping in Scandinavia is not traditionally part of the culture. If you feel you have received particularly good service, 5–10% percent is considered appropriate. Tips to taxi drivers are not expected, but if you receive exceptional service or assistance with luggage, you may wish to offer a small tip. Rounding up to the nearest round amount is common (example: if the bill is 46 Kroner, pay 50 Kroner). Tips to guides and bus drivers are not included in guided tours, so your group may wish to take up a small collection.
Depending on the device you want to use, you may not need a converter/transformer at all, but you’ll almost always need a plug adapter. Converters enable safe operation of electric devices in foreign countries, as the voltage is different in the US and Canada (110v) than in Europe & most other countries (220v). Converters and transformers change the amount of voltage going into the device, while adapters change the plug to make it usable abroad.
An adapter simply takes the plug on your device and converts it to a European-style plug. The Nordic countries use the standard European non-grounded and grounded sockets, which require the two round-pronged plugs. This is generally what you will need to charge cell phones, cameras and other electronic devices – though be sure to check the instructions that come with your device.
A converter is needed for electric appliances with heating element or mechanical motor such as a hair dryer (you are welcome to bring your own but most hotels will have these, with correct plugs and voltage), electric shaver, curling or flat iron, etc.
This will depend on where in South America you want to go. The Galapagos Islands, anywhere in Ecuador and most of Peru, which are all near the equator, are good all year. There are rainy seasons and dry seasons, but this shouldn’t impact your experience. Heading south away from the equator means the seasons are reversed from here in the US. In Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, the best time to travel is October through March. Your Destination Specialist will be able assist you in finding your ideal time to travel.
Your packing list will be based on which excursions and activities you’ll participate in, where exactly you’ll be traveling, and the season. We always recommend wearing layers, have solid shoes that are broken in, and prepare for any type of weather. Your Destination Specialist will answer any questions prior to your departure. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
ATM machines, which are plentiful in the larger cities, are the best way to get local currency at the best exchange rate. If you are going straight to a remote area without stopping in a major city it would be best to have some local currency before you leave the US. In some cases, the US dollar would be accepted but change given in local currency. In Ecuador, the US Dollar is the official currency so no exchange is necessary!
Travelers with a US Passport do not need a visa for any countries in South America at this time. If you have a passport from another country, check with the Consulates of the country(ies) you will visit to see if you will need any visas.
It is advisable that you do NOT drink unfiltered water while in South America. Most guides now will supply bottled water or water in which to use your own reusable vessel. Many hotels and restaurants will also have filtered water on hand – but make sure to ask! Alternatively, consider purifying your own water to conserve plastic use and cut down on expenses.
This is discretionary. If you have a guide, $10-20 USD per day per person is typical and $3-5 USD for a driver.
Most countries in South America use 220-volts (the US uses 110). However, most electronics (cameras, phones, computers, CPAP) have a built-in converter (make sure to check!). Also, most countries use different style plugs so an adapter is also necessary. It is possible to buy dual-voltage hair dryers, flat irons and clothes irons in the US before you depart, which is recommended. If these appliances are not dual voltage, they will run too hot on a converter, and we have heard stories of melted curling irons and singed hair. The dual voltage appliances will only need a plug adapter, and you will not ruin it, your clothes or your hair! You can check on line to see what you will need, or we will advise you prior to departure.
Our Destination Specialists would be happy to answer any other questions you have about our destinations or your travel options! Call Borton Overseas today at 800-843-0602 or contact us online.