From Latin America

How To Prepare For Peru Trekking And The Inca Trail

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 31, 2011

Peru is one of the best trekking destinations in the world, no question. The variety of treks on offer, complete with stunning scenery and wildlife make it a necessity for anyone with a love for the great outdoors and a spirit for adventure.

Here are a couple of important things to consider when planning Peru vacations with the intention of trekking.

Book popular routes well in advance
The classic example of this is the famous Inca trail, a spectacular 4 day trek that ends at the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu. Conservation rules permit 500 people per day on the trail, which works out to about 200 trekkers and 300 support staff. In the case of the Inca trail it isn’t possible to do the route without a guide, making booking through an agency essential. Due to the popularity and fame of this trek permits can sell out months in advance, particularly in high season.

There are a number of different treks on offer around Cuzco as alternatives to the Inca trail, which any good Peru tours operator should be able to point out. However if you’re dead set on reaching Machu Picchu by the re-known classic Inca Trail, try to reserve your space at least three months in advance or longer if planning on trekking in peak season. Remember that the trail is closed in February for maintenance.

Other Peru trekking routes are not as difficult for bookings, but it is still worth making your reservation as early as possible.

Acclimatise
Most trekking that you do in Peru will likely be at altitude. The most popular centers of Cuzco and Huaraz are both above 3,000m so rushing up from sea-level and hitting the trails straight away will make things harder than they should be. Allow for a couple of days to rest and acclimatize when you get to altitude and you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience a lot more.

Independent or Guided?
Apart from the example of the Inca Trail, you may have the option to do a guided trek or to go independently. Whichever option you choose depends on your desire to carry weight, ability to cook on the move and your navigation skills. Trekking groups work with porters or arrieros (mule drivers) to carry supplies, tents, sleeping bags and mattresses. This shrinks the size of your pack from 15-20kg to a small day pack. This saving in weight can make a big difference when at 4,000m! Additionally if you take a supported trek your tents may be put up for you and you will be provided with three meals a day and often afternoon tea, as well as purified drinking water. Finally how are your map reading and navigation skills? If you are trekking in remote areas you could be risking your life if you do not know how to navigate in the mountains – having a guide and crew who know the route removes this worry. They will also know the best alternatives in case of injury or illness whilst on a trek.

Carrying as little as possible
Your tour operator should provide the essential camping items listed above and transport them by porter or mule, which leaves you only to worry about the items in your day-pack. After a few years of trial and error, I suggest the following (some items you will obviously be wearing!):

  1. Long Pants
  2. Some cash in local currency
  3. T-shirts / shirts that you can layer
  4. Warm clothes, including thermals, fleece / sweater & spare socks
  5. A rain jacket or poncho
  6. Original passport – photocopies are not acceptable
  7. Plastic bags to store your spare clothes
  8. Toilet Paper
  9. Flashlight and batteries, pocket knife
  10. A water bottle & water purifying tablets
  11. Good hiking boots or shoes – well broken in
  12. A sun hat and a warm hat to protect you from the sun and the cold
  13. Gloves and scarf for cold nights
  14. Sun block & insect repellent
  15. Tips for porters, guides and cooks
  16. Some extra snacks (biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, sweets)
  17. Towel & wash kit
  18. Swimsuit (recommend for routes involving hot springs)
  19. A small personal medical kit

Are there any routes that you recommend for trekking in Peru? Are there any other preparations, or things that you advise bringing?

 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Advertisements

Latin America Tours – 6 Questions To Ask When Booking

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 30, 2011

There are a lot of tour operators to choose from when planning Latin America tours. Options range from giant international operators offering everything everywhere to the small, locally-based independents.  People searching for their Latin America vacations can quickly get confused.

To make sure you pick a reliable Latin America tours operator that is right for your kind of vacation, be sure to ask the following questions.

Where can I get referrals about your company?
Every operator should be able to point you to a testimonials page on their website, but how can you double check? Easy. Social media is on your side – check out what people have to say about the Latin America tours operator on big travel networks like www.tripadvisor.com to find out what people are really saying. If the operator can’t point you in the right direction for external reviews, maybe they’ve got something to hide…  

Who are your tours designed for?
Find out what kind of people take the Latin American tours on offer. For this you’ll need to do a bit of thinking beforehand – what is it that you want? Do you want to visit Peru, Argentina, Chile or all three? Adventurous travel? Luxury and comfort? Relaxation? Take some time to think about these things and you’ll find it a lot easier to match up a tour operator.

How much do your tours cost and what choices do I have?
This is a tricky one – some Latin America tours operators overcharge and give you inflated quotes, while others slash their costs and pay their staff and suppliers very poorly. A classic example is porters on the Inca Trail in Peru – some budget operators don’t pay the porters fairly for their work to keep their costs low. You can find out if the operator is overcharging or ruthlessly cutting costs by asking straight questions.

Are there any additional costs?
Be sure before you book if you’re going to have to pay any additional costs for meals, transport, tours, entrance fees…anything. Check what is included and what isn’t.

What safety policy do you have?
Your Latin America tour operators should never compromise your safety. In addition they should provide 24/7 support via telephone so that if you run into any problems they are never too far away to help you out.

How much am I doing for the duration of the tour?
Do you want to spend your whole trip on transport, occasionally jumping off to spend a few minutes before shooting off somewhere else? Probably not. Check that the itinerary is realistic.

With custom designed tours you have complete control over your vacation. In this case, you should ask your Latin America tours operator for help in putting together a realistic itinerary that allows you to enjoy your destination at a reasonable pace.

A final thought…
What is the attitude of the tour operator when responding to your questions? Are they friendly, helpful and enthusiastic? If not, what chance is there that they will be when you’re abroad?

What questions do you ask your Latin America tours operator when you book? What are some of the things to watch out for?

 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Latin America Travel – How To Choose Your Perfect Vacation

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 29, 2011

We all book Latin America vacations for…what, exactly?  

One thing is certain, we’re hoping for a perfect break. We want to be able to come back from the vacation buzzing with the benefits of our time away. If you’re planning to travel with a Latin America tours operator, prepare to be overwhelmed by choice. The best thing you can do to pick the perfect operator for the perfect vacation is a bit of self analysis.

Try asking yourself the questions below when planning to get in contact with a Latin America tour operator for an itinerary. After thinking about your answers, you should have a much clearer idea about your perfect Latin America vacation (with a reality check included).

What is your travelling style?

  • How does the idea of ‘roughing it’ sound? Adventurous travel, camping, going off the beaten track, that sort of thing. Trekking the Inca Trail or five star luxury hotels?
  • Do you prefer to have tours and excursions in a group, or go solo? Both have their advantages. Maybe you like something in between – someone to share the experience with, but no crowds.
  • Do you prefer to follow a set itinerary with everything planned out and customized for you, or do you prefer to have free time to decide on the spur of the moment?
  • Do you enjoy spontaneous travelling with unforeseen challenges, or prefer to know what to expect?

What’s your situation?

  • How much vacation time do you have? Or is this a longer break? If you are short on time having a Latin America tour operator plan your trip to maximize the use of your time is surely the way to go.
  • What’s your budget? Does this fit with your travelling style?

…this is a great time to check if your time, money and holiday aspirations match up…

Can you handle it?

  • What’s your fitness like? You may want to go charging up glaciers in Patagonia, but will you be able to make it to base camp?
  • What is your tolerance to climate? Jungle conditions like those in Ecuador are hot and humid, high altitude places like the Cordillera Blanca in Peru are cold with thin air.
  • You might need to take medication during your trip – does your body have a favorable reaction? Anti-malarial medication is a classic example, required for tropical regions such as the Amazon.
  • What are your language skills like? Can you look after yourself with Spanish or Portuguese?

Are there any other things to consider when thinking about perfect Latin America vacations? What kind of Latin America tours do you prefer?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Escaped to Latin America Travel on the Inaugural LAN Airlines Flight from Lima to Easter Island

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 28, 2011

File:Pano Anakena beach.jpg

LAN airlines opened a new direct route from Lima, Peru to the remote Easter Island last week and the Tour Operator Escaped to Latin America were on board.
 
Previously the main link to the most remote inhabited island in the world had been via the LAN flight from Santiago, Chile but the airline has now added a twice weekly direct flight from Lima. The inaugural flight took off from the Peruvian capital on the 9th of January and carried a contingent of travel agents, operators and hoteliers as well as a large number of eager tourists taking advantage of discounted rates.
 
Gary Sargent, Managing Director of the travel companies Escaped to Latin America and Escaped to Peru was on board and explains “This new route is very exciting as it offers the chance to combine two ancient cultures in spectacular locations more easily. This five hour direct flight connects the ancient Inca culture with that of the Rapa Nui. Shorter travel times and no extra connections mean that clients can spend more time in each destination and less time in the air and waiting at airports”. 
 
Easter Island is famous for its huge stone heads which were carved and erected all over the island hundreds of years ago by the Polynesian culture that covered the South Pacific triangle. LAN will be flying to and from Lima on Sundays and Wednesdays allowing people to visit for a few days or a full week.
 
Gary also explains that “Easter Island is not just about the stone heads, although they are truly spectacular. Clients can also enjoy sports and active pursuits such as trekking, mountain biking, snorkeling, diving, surfing and deep sea fishing plus there is a picture perfect white sand beach to relax on. You should also try the traditional “Umu” food prepared in the ancient way and enjoy the tribal dancing and music”.
 
LAN say that schedules may change after April so passengers should check with their tour operator or LAN airlines if they are interested in visiting this unusual destination.

Latin America Tours – Will Your Tour Guide Be A Liability?

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 26, 2011

If you’re considering Latin America tours, a very important part of the package are the guides who are used. They can make the difference between an incredible, unique experience and a dull walk-through. Even for sites as popular as Machu Picchu in Peru, a good tour guide can make you feel like no-one else has experienced the same Latin America vacation before.

So how do you find out if your guide-to-be will deliver a great experience? Try asking the five questions below to your Latin America tours operator when getting a quote for your trip.

Question 1: Do you use local tour guides?
There’s no substitute for a well-trained local guide. As well as having a unique perspective of their native country and surroundings, they will probably be more passionate about their home turf than a foreign guide. When asked, they will probably have a few local stories, legends and personal experiences up their sleeve to give a unique twist to your tour.

Question 2: Do your guides speak the local language and English?
Your guide won’t be much good if they can’t communicate in Spanish or the local dialect if you’ve got any questions for members of the community that you’re visiting, or if you run into trouble and need a bit of help.

Fluent English should also be a must, especially if your language skills aren’t up to scratch. At the very least you’ll want to get good value out of the guide that you’re paying for and if you can’t understand them, you’re wasting a lot of cash!

Question 3: Are they qualified in first aid?
Especially important for adventure tours or situations that take you into remote places like Patagonia, you need to make sure you’re covered if something goes wrong. Even basic first aid can stop a simple problem escalating into something major.

Questions 4: What travel experience do they have?
Is your guide a veteran, or fresh out of guiding school? Some guides (especially in Peru) like to make up answers to questions on the spot if they don’t have an answer. Whilst entertaining if you already know the answer and are just testing them, it can be annoying if all your cultural knowledge turns out to be false. It also removes the point of travelling with a guide!

Question 5: What measures does the guide take with local communities and the environment?
Are efforts made to minimize the negative impacts of tourism in your destination? Are members of the communities that are part of the tour treated respectfully? Respect for the local communities and the environment should be a consideration for your guide and tour operator.

Are there any other questions that should be asked about tour guides in Latin America? Have you had any outstanding or disastrous tour guide experiences?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Peru Vacations Essentials – Vaccinations

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 25, 2011

If you’re thinking about Peru vacations, you definitely need to get informed about vaccinations.

Nothing is mandatory to be able to enter the country, but you should receive certain injections to reduce your risks. Check out the advice below to make sure you’re prepared.

The following advice is general. You should check a government website such as the United States Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov). They will give a good overview of local developments and requirements regarding inoculations and outbreaks of disease.

Once you’ve got all the information you need, pay a visit to your doctor or travel clinic to find out which vaccinations you require, or those that need updating. You should visit 4 to 6 weeks in advance to allow time for any required vaccinations or medications to take effect.

Below is a summary of all vaccinations required for Peru vacations.

  • Hepatitis A:    Recommended for all travelers
  • Typhoid:         Recommended for all travelers
  • Hepatitis B:    Recommended for all travelers
  • Yellow fever: Needed for areas east of the Andes mountains.

Note: Yellow fever is not required for Lima, Cuzco or Machu Picchu.

  • Rabies: For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats or at high risk from animal bites
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR): Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given
  • Tetanus-diphtheria: Re-vaccination required every 10 years

Malaria
Despite a lot of medical research, there is still no vaccine against malaria. Whilst uncommon, if you are visiting the following regions in the north and jungle areas of Peru, you need to take precautions: Loreto, Madre de Dios, Ucayali, San Martin, Junin, Tumbes and Piura.

If you are visiting the following parts of Peru, you do not need to take precautions against malaria: Lima and its vicinity, the coastal areas south of Lima, the highland tourist areas (Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca), and the departments of Arequipa, Moquegua, Puno, and Tacna.       

Dengue fever
Mosquitoes can also transmit dengue fever. As with malaria, no vaccine is available. According to health authorities, you should take precautions if you visit the departments of Loreto, Ucayali, Cajamarca, and Piura.

What can you do about Malaria and Dengue Fever?
The best form of treatment is prevention of mosquito bites. Tourists on Peru vacations in affected areas should wear long sleeved shirts and pants. Also recommended is an insect repellant spray that contains 30 – 50% DEET. When sleeping, mosquito nets should be used in the jungle. Nets are available with additional DEET treatment.

It is also recommended that you take a course of anti-malarial medication to reduce the effects of malaria if you should contract it. Speak to your doctor about the best course of treatment, as there are several different options available and not all of them work with all patients and global malaria zones.

Do you know any other good references for Peru vaccinations online? What other precautions do you take before Peru vacations?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Four Major Insults That Peru Has Endured

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 13, 2011

The bigger you get, the more prepared you should be for criticism. With a population of around 30 million, Peru is quite large and gets its share of criticism, both fair and unfair. Here are four memorable insults that Peru and Peruvians have endured – some are recent quarrels, others are long-running grudges.

1) The ABC television network Vs. Peru
The Internet recently lit up with conflict after a joke at Peru’s expense on the popular show “Modern Family” which airs on the ABC network.

The dialogue that resulted in online arguments was between Jay, played by Ed O'Neill, and his Colombian wife Gloria, played by Sofia Vergara.
                                   
"Now, maybe in Colombia …" Jay begins.
"Ah, here we go," Gloria interrupts. "Because, in Colombia, we trip over goats and we kill people in the street. Do you know how offensive that is? Like we're Peruvians!"

Whoops. Some viewers managed to take the comment in the context of the over-the-top tone and ironic closed-mindedness which characterizes the show. Others, not so much.

2) Chile Vs Peru (Round 1)
If you travel in Peru then sooner or later you’ll discover the rivalry with Chile about…almost everything. One of the oldest spats is about the national drink that now belongs to both countries, Pisco, the main ingredient of the Pisco Sour.

A liquor distilled from grapes, Pisco was brought over to Latin America in the 16th century by the Spanish. The first vineyards were planted in the town of Pisco on the south coast of Peru. A fair claim to ownership perhaps?

Apparently not. At some point, Pisco (the drink) made it over to Chile and a bitter legal feud for the right to promote and produce the drink has raged between the two countries which lasts to this day.

3) Hugo Chavez Vs. Peru
Venezuela’s president always has something to say. About everything.

In 2006 on the run-up to the Peruvian elections, Chavez decided to explain his views about electoral candidate Alan Garcia.

"I pray to God that Garcia will not be president, hopefully God hears me," Chavez proclaimed, adding that Garcia was an irresponsible thief, a demagogue and a liar.

“I say it again; we are not going to have any relations with Peru if that 'caballero' is elected president because he is truly irresponsible. He is led by a demon and the North American empire and its dollars, the Peruvian oligarchy and in the mass media. He is going to be a divisive factor, an imperialistic card trying to divide to us, to prevent the union with Peru and to cause problems for Bolivia, Venezuela and any government who is going an alternative way."

Garcia has since been elected to a second term in office. International relations between Peru and Venezuela are a little frosty.

4) Chile Vs Peru (Round 2)
In the War of The Pacific towards the end of the 19th century, Bolivia, Peru and Chile were drawn into an armed conflict in a power struggle for mineral rights, commerce and territory.

Bolivia lost access to the Pacific Ocean and Peru conceded territory on its southern border. Both countries are hotly disputing the spoils of what Chile calls “las Glorias Navales” and the fight has even been taken to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

The territory ceded to Chile is now known as the provinces of Tarapacá, Tacna, Arica, and Antofagasta in the ‘Norte Grande’. Until the provinces are returned, Peruvians will continue to view the results of the War of the Pacific over a century ago as a huge insult against their country.

Do you know of any other major insults that Peru has received over the years? What do you think of the four insults included in this article?

 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Four Fights Between Big Corporations and Latin American Interests

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 12, 2011

Latin America is an incredible place – no question. Anyone who takes a Latin American vacation is likely to have some impressive stories to tell when they get back home. Latin America however has more to it than just being a tourist attraction – for decades foreign companies have seen the commercial potential of the continent.

Naturally this can lead to a conflict of interests, and there’s often a juicy story to tell about an international corporation’s bad behavior or manipulative ways. Here are four examples of conflicts between major corporations and Latino interests.

1) Aluminium Corporation Vs. Peru
Peru is an incredibly mineral-rich country. It is the world’s 3rd biggest exporter of raw copper and a huge proportion of the country’s income stems from mining.

The Chinese mining giant Aluminium Corporation (otherwise known as Chinalco) recently discovered US$50 billion of copper sitting beneath the Toromocho mountain of Peru. The only problem is that they can’t lay a finger on it until they move an entire town.

The residents of Toromocho have so far been offered houses in a completely new town, but the majority are holding out for a better deal.

2) Chevron Vs Ecuador
Petrochemical world leader Chevron has its share of skeletons in the closet, with some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses in history.

From 1964 to 1992, Texaco (now a subsidiary of Chevron) wreaked havoc in Ecuador by leaving more than 600 unlined oil pits in the northern Amazon rainforest and dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste water into rivers used for bathing. The toxic crude oil and formation water seeped into the subsoil, contaminating surrounding freshwater and farmland.

As a result, local communities suffered severe health effects, and large areas of rainforest were destroyed to make way for the  creation of oil refineries and pipelines.

Any attempts by the Ecuadorian government to gain compensation from Texaco failed as it transferred all its assets in the nineties and was sold to Chevron in 2001.

3) United Fruit Company Vs Guatemala
The United Fruit Company is possibly the defining example of manipulative corporate interests in Latin America. The company grew to be a powerful entity towards the end of the 19th and into the 20th century. Its influence became so great with regional governments that many countries in Latin America in which United Fruit had plantations came to be referred to as “Banana Republics”.

The company eventually became too ambitious for its own good when it used its influence to prompt an invasion of Guatemala by United States armed forces. Land reforms by a democratically elected president threatened the company’s land holdings, so using the premise of a growing Communist influence, United Fruit persuaded the US government to oust the administration and install a more sympathetic leadership.

4) Coca Cola Vs Colombia
We’ve probably all heard something unpleasant that the Coca Cola company has done overseas. One such example was the assassination of eight workers union leaders between 1989 and 2002 for protesting against the company’s labor practices.

Many other Coca-Cola workers who have joined (or merely considered joining) the Colombian union SINALTRAINAL suffered a similar fate, with stories of kidnappings, torture, and detainment by paramilitaries who intimidated workers to prevent them from unionizing.

Do you know of any other examples of bad corporate behavior in Latin America? Or perhaps you consider this to be a bit pessimistic – what are some examples of good work done by corporations in Latin America?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to latin America

Essential Checklist – 10 Things You Don't Want To Forget On Your Latin American Vacation

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 4, 2011

It’s time for your Latin America vacation! Perhaps you’ll be checking out turtles in Costa Rica, or trekking in Patagonia. However you’re spending your vacation, there’s some things that just have to be done. With the useful ten point checklist below, make sure that you’ve remembered to cover the essentials and try and get through the list as soon as possible to avoid any nasty last minute surprises!

[  ] Check the local news for any problems to avoid in your destination country
[  ] Purchase travel insurance that as a minimum covers cancellation, medical costs and repatriation
[  ] Check visa requirements for your destination and any additional paperwork that you may need
[  ] Get a credit or debit card with low overseas withdrawal rates – ask your bank for options
[  ] Purchase local currency in cash – buy a small amount to be covered when you first arrive
[  ] Check airline baggage rules and allowances to avoid big surcharges
[  ] Check vaccination requirements for your destination with your doctor or Travel Clinic
[  ] Purchase a portable phrasebook and learn a few key words before you leave
[  ] Confirm your flights two days before departure to ensure there have been no changes
[  ] Bring different forms of personal identification (and make sure you have copies)

Bonus tip – do your destination research!
Remember that you’ll get as much out of your vacation as you choose to put in. All the above are essentials that will help you avoid problems when you leave home but it doesn’t mean you’ll be any wiser about how to get the most out of your destination.

Check out a website with a good selection of country-specific travel tips, like Escaped to Latin America’s “Travel Info” or "Destinations" sections and put a bit of time into researching the history and customs of your tour destination. Latin America is an incredibly varied place – what works for you in Guatemala may not be very useful in Chile!

Are there any other useful ways that you can prepare for your Latin America vacation? Can you recommend any other good sources of information for vacationers heading to Latin America?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Latin America Tour or Independent Travel? Check Out The Benefits of Both!

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 4, 2011

It’s a big question on the lips of any traveler planning a vacation to Latin America. Do I go with a tour operator, or travel independently? As for most issues surrounding travel, the answer depends on the person. Have a look at the benefits of both options below to decide if your Latin America vacation will be best done as a tour, or by your own efforts.

The Benefits of Independent Travel in Latin America

Flexibility during your vacation
This is the big one. With a tour you’re on a fixed schedule moving along a fixed route. If you want to stick around in a particularly beautiful Latin American spot for longer or miss somewhere out, it’s very unlikely that you will be able to make major changes to your tour without incurring costs.

Take the travel experience head-on
If the idea of arriving dazed off a bus and straight into a fierce haggling session with a horde of local taxi drivers gets you excited, independent travel is for you. Maybe you enjoy overcoming Spanish or indigenous language barriers and the challenges that the road throws at you, even if it means the going gets tough sometimes.

Seek discounts and save money where-ever possible
Independent travelers aren’t generally looking for comfort, they’re trying to stretch their budget as far as possible. If the idea of dormitories, packed public transport or self catering are worth the effort for an extra month on the road through Latin America, go independent.

The option for experienced Latin America travelers
Maybe your Spanish is good, or this isn’t your first time in Latin America. You’ll be familiar and comfortable with the country, and probably able to get around to the places you want. Remember though, that Latin America is a diverse place and, for example, your experiences in Mexico may not leave you well prepared for a Bolivian vacation!

The Benefits of Organized Tours in Latin America

See a lot in a short space of time
Many of us don’t get a lot of vacation days in a year, which puts more pressure on time than finances. Independent travel, while potentially cheaper, bears the burden of requiring more time to plan and move between Latin American locations without being part of organized transportation. If you don’t know how to get from one place to another there is a good chance that days will be lost through missed connections or underestimating journeys. By traveling with a tour operator you can sure they will know how to make the most of your time.

Security
On a tour, you’ll be looked after by the company who (provided they are a reputable operator) should never put you in a dangerous situation. Additionally if something unexpected occurs such as a strike or natural disaster, a professional tour operator will be much better placed and have the experience and contacts to get through. Independent travelers have only one person to look out for them – themselves.

Comfort
You’ll very rarely end up in budget accommodation with a tour – operators like to choose places that their clients will talk favorably about afterwards. Transportation should be private and comfortable, unless specifically requested otherwise! A good tour operator will be able to offer a range of tours, both shared and private as well as a wealth of hotels from your simple three star to the very best available.

Local experts with historical and cultural knowledge
Forget flicking through guidebooks or head-scratching conversations with locals where you don’t understand a word. With a good tour operator you’ll be accompanied by native speakers and guides who’ll be on hand to translate or answer any questions with expert knowledge.

An unexpected surprise – tours can work out cheaper!
Many independent travelers like to visit popular tourist sites as part of their journey, or sign up for tours to cover larger regions as part of their trip like the volcano region in Guatemala or the wine-growing regions of Argentina. Tour operators, due to booking in bulk, can get wholesale prices on many tours that work out much more expensive when independently purchased in-country. See for yourself – get in touch with a tour operator today for an obligation-free quote!

Do you prefer to travel independently or as part of a tour in Latin America? When have you felt satisfied or disappointed with your decision to travel independently or with a tour?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America