Frequently Asked Questions Big Elephant Magic Retreats
1) Do I need a VISA?
You will need to check the current VISA requirements from your departure country to the destination country of the retreat. At this time there
is no VISA requirement for Thailand (From the US) but there IS a Visa requirement to enter KENYA, INDIA or CAMBODIA Please be sure you have all of your documentation in order prior to your trip start date. AFE is not responsible for a guests failure to meet current requirements. For information on obtaining a VISA to enter Kenya please visit EVISA KENYA INFO (UPDATE in 2021 Kenya switched to a 100% online VISA process. You must obtain your visa prior to leaving the US. http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html
KENYA VISA INFORMATION: Kenya has moved to an online eVISA system. You should apply for your VISA about 2 months prior to your arrival in Kenya (VISA applications valid for 3 months) at this time they cost $51.00USD paid directly to the Kenya government. You will need to set up an account, apply (the processing usually takes 2 business days) log back into your account and download and print your VISA. You must carry this document with your passport and present it upon arrival in Kenya.
Please note that VISA requirements do change, be sure to check in frequently.
All travelers to Cambodia or India are required to obtain a VISA including all travelers from the US. You can obtain your visa in advance with an e-visa application or upon arrival at your International airport, but the lines and wait times can be long and you will need a passport, completed application and two passport photos. Indian visas must be obtained in advance.
2) How much do I need to put down to secure my spot?
$500 per person.
3) What is the cancellation policy?
90% refundable until 120 days before departure
50% refundable until 75 days before departure
30% refundable until 60days before departure
Non-refundable 45 days or less before departure
4) When is the total amount due?
45 days before departure.
5) Will I be melting or freezing? What is the weather like?
Our destinations and schedules have been specifically chosen to be in typically moderate seasons, based upon their location. That being said, the weather is totally unpredictable the world over and you may experience extremes of heat, humidity, dryness, rain, cold. the best solution is to be prepared. Layers are always best, with at least 1 set of warm clothes and 1 set of lightweight clothing. Remember to that long sleeves and pants are recommended for areas where mosquitos are present.
6) Am I too old/young for this trip? Minimum Fitness Level Required:
All of our trips are open to adults over the age of 18 and younger than 70. Guests over 70 or any guests with pre-existing medical conditions must have a doctor's approval before traveling to Kenya.
Thailand is open for guests 15 and older though all minor guests must be accompanied by their legal parent or guardian at all times.
Please note that there is a minimum level of health and fitness required. All guests need to be able to walk 2 miles in hot, muggy conditions unassisted and be able to get up 2 flights of stairs. If you are not able to do either of these activities then perhaps a different trip would be more appropriate. Arte for Elephants is NOT responsible for guests failure to be aware of the minimum fitness requirement. People with back problems should not travel to Kenya as the roads are poor and there is a lot of bumping. Given limitations in both Kenya and Thailand and the remote nature of our adventures, guests whose general health and fitness are deemed a risk to themselves or other guests may be asked to leave the retreat at the guests expense. Please see the TERMS and CONDITIONS for full information and please note that both medical and cancellation insurance are required for our retreats! For Thailand please note that we may announce a "family retreat" at some point in the future which would allow children 12 and older to participate.
7) Can I bring my significant other?
Absolutely! This is a safe place for all! The activities will be appropriate and interesting for both men and women and please note that Big Elephant Magic Retreats are open to all couples regardless of gender identification or relationship status or preference.
8) How can I pay you?
Once we receive your booking form, you will receive an invoice from our SQUARE payment processing. Square is widely used and secure, it also allows you to pay with all major credit/debit cards. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. If you wish to pay by check please email email@example.com
9) Can I set up a Payment Plan?
Yes! Square makes it easier than ever for us to create a custom payment plan. After your initial deposit please let us know
how many payments you wish to make and when you wish to start. The final trip amount is due 45 days prior to departure.
10) Do I need trip insurance?
Yes, for all retreats it is required that you purchase trip cancellation insurance and medical insurance is required by sanctuaries and safari operators.It is highly recommended you purchase insurance that will pay your upfront costs, please note that proof of insurance is required before departure. We recommend www.insuremytrip.com to get the best rates however it pays to shop around and AAA or your normal carrier may have better rates.
11) I am a die hard meat eater: gluten intolerant, sugar sensitive, kosher etc.
Please note that this experience is vegetarian (though eggs will be served upon request)experience. If you have additional dietary requirements please notify us within 60 days of the trip, we will do our best to accommodate you though we appreciate your understanding that in rural areas all of your normal food choices may not be available.
12) Are these destinations safe?
All of the countries we will be visiting have well developed tourist infrastructure and every effort is taken to ensure your safety at all times. That being said, in urban centers, you will need to be aware of petty crime as in any city environment, use common sense with regards to bringing/locking/storing valuables.
13) Can I drink the water?
Bottled water will be provided and it is not recommended you drink the local water.
14) Will I need vaccinations?
We strongly recommend you check with the CDC website and follow their latest recommendations. (www.cdc.gov) your regular doctor or your local travel medicine clinic. Please note as of June- 2021 all guests to all destinations MUST be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
15) Will I need malaria medication?
Because we will be staying in lovely, picturesque villages away from the main city, malaria medication is strongly recommended, please ask your doctor or visit your local travel medicine clinic: note that some types of malaria medications are not available in in country and it is typically recommended that you start the medication several days before your arrival in Africa or Asia.
16) Will there be Wifi available? Will my cell phone work?
Wifi is generally available at the resorts in major cites (if not in your room, than in the common areas). However in rural bush camping environments,(on the Masai Mara) elephant sanctuaries etc, it will not be. You will need to contact your cell phone provider to see if they can add international coverage to your plan (rates vary and it can really add up). We will be encouraged, however, to UNPLUG!
17) Will there be BUGS or wild animals?
Being near elephants, means being outdoors! Bugs and wild animals are part of the adventure! Mosquito nets are provided when we are staying outside of city center but mosquito repellant is highly recommended.
21) Is this event about shopping, clubbing, meditation, yoga, extreme sports, weight loss or fitness?
Nope, though we will set daily intentions, and take moderate hikes through villages. Please note there are no "forced" shopping excursions however at least 1 day will have some shopping time allocated to it. Whenever possible we will try to visit ethical, fair trade shops, but it never hurts to get your haggle on!
18) I like a glass of wine, or beer with dinner, is that allowed?
Drinks are served at the resorts we are staying at and while it's not included in the package, if a cold beer or drink appeals to you, go for it, we won't stop you!
19) What about tipping?
Tipping is always at your discretion: Loose guidelines are $25 per day/per guest for tour guides $10.00 per person for drivers $5 per day for hotel staff. Your hosts, David and Thyra are NOT accepting tips, but there will be an option to make a donation to Global Sanctuary for Elephants at the end of the Big Elephant Magic.
20) Is laundry available?
It varies by location, generally speaking at least 1 property will have laundry service available. Laundry fees are not included and will be handled through the hotel staff.
21) What is the minimum level of fitness??
All of our adventures require a minimum level of fitness. Participants should be free of back and neck issues as roads in Kenya can be extremely bumpy. We will be traveling in remote areas which may not have ready access to the type of medical care you would have at home. You must be able to walk a minimum of 2 miles up hill, unassisted, over uneven pavement without assistance.
22) What are the accommodations like?
Our hotels have been chosen for their high ratings, lovely decor, friendly staff and location- they are clean and well managed! Please don't expect 5 star hotels and super fancy high end resorts. These are comfortable 3-4Star Resorts! Our camp in the Masai Mara, Kenya is very basic with solar chargers after 4PM, flush toilets and hot showers. This is considered a rustic campsite.
23) What if i wish to get there earlier and/or stay later than the retreat? Can someone help me plan?
ABSOLUTELY! David and my experience in the travel industry (I am a certified International Tour Director) means that we are happy and able to assist you with making future plans. Please note that we are NOT travel agents, but we can absolutely point you in the right direction. We also have a private Facebook group just or retreat participants. It's a great place to share ideas and connect with other BEM retreat participants that are looking for things to do before or after the retreat. Any additional nights or hotel stays will be paid directly to the property and are not included in the package prices.
24) Cell phone SIM cards and all that jazz:
It is possible to pick up an international SIM card upon arrival at most International airports or at street kiosks. While this
may be the most affordable, they frequently work less ideally than we would like. For your safety and convenience it is recommended that you contact your carrier to have, at the minimum, one traveler in your party able to send/receive texts when you disembark the plane. This will allow you to keep our ground crew up-to-date with any unexpected flight changes or unexpected situations (such as lost luggage). Relying on airport Wifi is tricky at the best of times.
25) Airfare: What City to I Fly Into?
For Thailand, we generally recommend flying directly into Chiang Mai Airport (CNX). Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand with a nice (but modest, sized) airport. US traveler's typically depart from a West Coast City- Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. You will likely stop in Asia depending upon your airline. By not going to Bangkok you will save several hours off of your journey, however it always depends upon rates!
For Kenya, we recommend flying directly into Nairobi NBO, which is a very nice, newly updated International airport served by major carriers. You are typically routed with a stop in Europe (for example KLM will have a layover in Amsterdam). There should not be a need to route through Africa unless you are flying on an African Carrier like South African which will route through Johannesburg. As a general rule of thumb, you start looking for airfare around 7 months in advance of your trip. One nice trick is to sign up for airline special mailings- if you keep your eyes open you may find some great deals. If we hear of any, we will post them on the Big Elephant Magic Group Facebook Page, ASAP :). Our FB group is also a great place to find a travel buddy if you are interested!
At ALL destinations we will pick you up upon arrival and take you back at the trips conclusion (though you must have your flight information to us no later than 30 days prior to trip start date). If you are extending your travels after the retreat we will transport you to a central hotel for your onward destination.
26) What is the group size?
10-14 people max (varies by destination and season) on any retreat (plus 2 hosts). We need a minimum of 8 guests for Thailand and 10 for Kenya to proceed with the trip. For any booked retreats that do not meet the minimum. Guests will be notified in writing no less that 60 days in advance and 100% of fees paid will be refunded or transferred to the next available retreat, per the guests request.
27) Are you bonded?
Yes, Arte for Elephants is bonded as a Seller of Travel, License 2145545-50, Bonded through Hudson Insurance.
28) Where can I find the TERMS and Conditions? CLICK
29) I have extra questions- AND/OR I am ready to book!