Why we chose to take an organised tour of Peru and Bolivia...
We read that dodgy roads and public transportation are endemic to the region, especially in Bolivia. The transportation provided by a reputable private tour company sounded like a better bet than taking our chances with local buses.
Support and Guidance in the Region
Peru and Bolivia hold some of the oldest and most interesting historical sites and artefacts in all of South America. They are also home to grand protests that are known to disrupt travel and border crossings. We thought it would be nice to have a knowledgeable person on hand for local information and support in case of any unforseen events. While improving, our Spanish language skills still weren't as far along as we would have liked and translation assistance would be an added bonus in sticky situations and for understanding what we were seeing.
So Many Smaller Tours Already
Our plans for these countries included the Salar de Uyuni, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and the Peruvian Amazon, so we would need to book separate tours for all of these places. We figured it would be easier and possibly better value to join a tour that encompassed all of these.
A Holiday During our Travels
We're about half way through our year and thought we might enjoy a break from constant planning. The idea of having all our transport and accommodation booked for three weeks was very appealing. About a month before the tour we already felt excited for it. We wouldn't have to think much, might travel with some cool people for a few weeks and could sit back and relax for a bit. This was going to be fantastic!
... and why we'll never take one again.
Andrea had never taken a group tour before (aside from day excursions). John had done a few in his early twenties and had a pretty good time. After travelling independently to so many places for so many years we were used to doing things at our own pace and with autonomy. While we knew that we would be on someone else's schedule, we weren't prepared for our resistance to early starts, late arrivals and little time in places we would have liked to explore longer. The schedule and pace weren't terrible, but it didn't suit us either, especially when we would rush to be ready by the time designated by the tour leader and find that either the leader, the driver or others in the group were lagging behind.
We have enough to deal with travelling as a couple sometimes that to also have to endure other people's bullshit was frustrating. We joined on a segment of a much longer tour and heard stories and complaints from others within the first two days about this person or that person who hadn't gotten along. A few people in the group were bullying others and otherwise dominating activities. We're easygoing and don't often spar with anyone. We also refuse to take sides in others' disputes and can't be bothered with petty drama and nonsense, especially when we have no issues of our own. That said, our group was pretty good and there weren't any major issues. We got on with everyone and didn't let what one or two people said affect our opinion of another person. But a few times unpleasantness lingered in the air and group dynamics came into play. Let's just say we'd rather go it alone.
Cost and Choice
When you pay a large amount of money upfront for a tour, you expect a certain quality to be provided. Lunches were included on travel days, but ham and cheese sandwiches on the side of dirt roads wasn't what we had in mind. We learned that we are much more efficient with our funds than any company could ever be and could have made much better accommodation choices on our own. This was a 'Discovery' tour and we quickly discovered that our money was not being put to good use.
We chose Tucan Travel and encountered problems that were both numerous and unacceptable. In the interests of keeping this post a reasonable length, we have included our letter of complaint on a separate page.
We hated it so much that we left the tour four days early!
Have you travelled on an organized group tour before? What was your experience?