It sounds like you have to be a photographer to go on your tours. I only take pictures for fun. Will I fit in?
Yes. Although I’m a professional photographer, there is no photography instruction on these trips. My tours are geared to take in the most photogenic places in the countries we visit. We move at a slower pace, and in a smaller group, than the big motorcoach tours. I allow free time where possible so you can explore, shop, or photograph on your own. The people who sign up range from those who don’t even bring a camera, to those who like to record their travels for memory’s sake, to camera-clubbers who shoot for competitions and exhibits. However, if you have a tendency to obliviously walk right through people’s pictures, my tours are not for you.
I’m an avid photographer. What’s in it for me?
Being a professional travel and wildlife photographer myself, I plan my itineraries to include photogenic places and peoples during times of the year when the weather is most likely to be good for photography (although there are, of course, no guarantees when it comes to weather). We move at a slower pace and the group is smaller than on a standard motorcoach tour with a larger tour operator. I know you don’t want to see everything flashing past a tinted bus window. We may be late for dinner if we find something interesting to photograph; flexibility is the key here. I supply a wealth of photography-related material prior to departure. And I’m always available on tour to discuss problems you may be having, or give advice on composition, etc. The one thing I can’t help you with is your camera; the best I can do there is read the instruction manual for you. Be sure to bring it along!
Do you offer any itineraries in the United States?
No, I prefer foreign travel.
Who leads your tours?
I personally escort every tour. When we arrive at our destination, we have local guides who are knowledgeable about the country and its culture.
How difficult are your trips?
I would say moderate. We usually stay in quite good hotels, often deluxe, but sometimes only the best available. We might stay in a tented camp for a couple of nights to see something really off the beaten track, or in a “rustic” hotel, or we might ride a mule somewhere, or an elephant or a camel, but we never trek or hike long distances. Probably the farthest you’d ever have to walk on one of my trips would be about a mile. And we take our time doing it. Anyone in average physical condition can handle my tours.
How large are your groups?
The tour price is based on a minimum of 15 people traveling together. The maximum for any tour is 20 for all tours but Kenya (which is 21 because, ideally, there are three in a car).
What’s the age range of the people who travel with you?
Most of my clients are active, healthy, well-traveled people who usually range in age from about 45 to 75. Occasionally there are younger and older. The minimum age allowed is 16. More important than age are health and attitude!
Are there any restrictions on smoking on your tours?
Yes. I ask that there be no smoking during meals, in vehicles, or in enclosed areas such as group meetings.
I don’t have a traveling companion and I can’t afford the single supplement. Can you find me a roommate?
I can try. I often get requests from others in the same situation. When you fill out your reservation application, request that I pair you with someone (be sure to specify smoker or non-smoker). It’s easier for me to find women roommates than men, and non-smokers rather than smokers. If I can’t find you a roommate, you’ll need to pay the single supplement. Roommates are usually paired in order of application received.
Can I book your tours through my own travel agent?
No. All bookings must be done directly through me. There is no commission built into the tour for your travel agent, and I find that I can give better personal service if I’m dealing directly with my clients rather than through a middleman.
Are you a travel agent?
No. I’m a tour leader and I book all my trips through a tour operator, Nawas International Travel.
Who is Nawas International Travel?
From a one-man operation begun by Yousef Nawas in 1949, Nawas International Travel has grown into an international travel organization employing more than 300 people. Still family-owned and managed, they have three U.S. offices — in Los Angeles and Menlo Park, California, and in Darien, Connecticut — and are affiliated with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). In fact, the founder of the firm is a former president of the International Division of ASTA.
I’ve worked with Nawas International Travel since 1988. Obviously, I feel very comfortable with them and trust them implicitly. I’m honored and pleased that Soli Nawas, president of the company, personally handles all of my tours. His negotiating power, suggestions, and attention to detail are most appreciated.
What’s included in the basic tour price?
International airfare from the gateway city (usually Los Angeles and/or New York, sometimes Miami), accommodations, most meals, extensive sightseeing, entrance fees, English-speaking guides, transfers between airports and hotels, photography consultation if you request it.
What’s not included in the basic tour price?
Passport and visa fees; airport taxes; passenger facility charges and security charges; airline surcharges; tips to guides and drivers; sightseeing or other services and meals not specifically mentioned in the tour brochure; beverages during included meals; excess baggage fees; any items of a purely personal nature. An estimated amount for airport taxes, passenger facility charges and security charges, and airline surcharges will be specified separately as part of the total tour price.
How do I sign up?
Request a brochure, then fill out the reservation application and send it to me along with a check (made out to Nawas International Travel) for the amount stated in the individual trip brochure (usually $1000 per person). This deposit will hold your space on the tour.
When do I have to make the final payment?
Payment of the remaining balance must be made 120 days prior to departure, unless otherwise stated in the individual trip brochure. You will be billed for this amount three to four weeks before payment is due.
Can I pay with a credit card?
Yes, but the tour price shown in the brochure includes a discount for cash (i.e., check or money order). If you want to pay by credit card, you must add about 3% to the cost of the tour. The initial deposit must be by check or money order; the balance due upon receipt of your final invoice can be charged on a credit card.
What if I have to cancel? How much will it cost me?
Unless stated otherwise in the individual trip brochure, up to 120 days prior to departure there is an administrative fee of $500 per person. From 91 to 119 days prior to departure, you would lose your entire deposit. Cancellation 71-90 days before departure will cost you $2000. If you cancel 40-70 days before departure, you'll lose 50% of the total tour price. And if you cancel within 39 days of departure, you will lose your entire payment. In addition to the above cancellation fees, airline tickets are not refundable once issued, due to the basis of the fares we use. They are, however, good for use within one year of date of issuance. All cancellations must be in writing. In certain special cases, where airlines or lodges charge nonrefundable deposits to hold bookings, we may require a larger nonrefundable deposit. This will be specifically noted in the individual brochure’s Conditions section.
What assurance do I have that my money is safe with you?
Checks are made out to Nawas International Travel, not to me. Money forwarded to Nawas is deposited in a trust account separate from their company funds. The main protection for California residents is the California Seller of Travel fund, which reimburses passengers if a member tour operator goes out of business (Nawas’ CST registration number is 1005405-40). Also, the fact that Nawas International Travel has been in business since 1949 suggests a pretty strong record of reliability and stability.
Can I purchase travel insurance from you?
Included with your deposit receipt will be an application for travel insurance through Stonebridge Casualty Insurance Company. Their Passenger Travel Protection Plan has been designed exclusively for clients of Nawas International Travel.
What documentation do I need if I sign up for one of your trips?
Always a passport, usually a visa. I supply visa applications for U.S. and Canadian citizens and instructions on how and where to apply for the visa. However, we do not obtain the visa for you. If you don’t want to obtain your own visa, you can use a visa service that will do it for a fee.