Did We Mention We Were On a Tour?

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.

We probably would have fared better on our own with the 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.

Some group members could be as prickly as these cactus.

Group Politics

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.

Tour Company

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?

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11 years ago

I did an organized tour of Egypt once, and really can’t say that it was my favorite travel experience. I would cite many of the same reasons you give here. The big one was not enough time in many of the places we stopped at, and the scheduling. There was also the issue of different personalities trying to get along, and that was a challenge at times. I would be hesitant to take another tour that was longer than a day or two. 

Thanks for sharing your experience =) I’m not sure why tours keep such tight schedules – I feel like they try to pack too much in as well. Ours in question here actually had quite a bit of free time, but that didn’t save the experience…

11 years ago

This is a really helpful post. You have confirmed some things I suspected about organized tours. Thank you for being so candid. (And since I travel with my kids, there’s quite enough drama without introducing other people into the mix!)

Reply to  Mara Gorman

I hope that our experience is an isolated one, but as far as I’m concerned we won’t be trying again! We plan to start a family next year and are interested to see how travel will be with a child in the picture =)

11 years ago

Wow– it’s too bad you guys had such a bad experience & that other travelers on your tour were annoying. I find taking tours are a hit or miss, so I throw my expectations out the window (bc I also do budget tours!).    Recently took a 1-day tour in Ubud, Bali for $15. I basically paid for a driver; on the bright side, it saved me doing it on my own.  Another I took in Taman Negara, Malaysia was decent– saved me time, had some nice packages in there & while accomodations were lacking; in total it all felt… Read more »


Thanks so much for sharing your experiences =) I think we’ll stick to day tours for a very long while…

11 years ago

I know what you mean about the pace and the food.  We had terrible food in Tanzania.  At all the tourist stops we watched other groups get really nice boxed lunches, while ours consisted of stringy chicken (bird was so thin, it was more like a mercy killing!), juice box, random bread products, and hardboiled eggs.  In Egypt we had great food, but an awful, overly-ambitious pace.  We finally gave up on our tour guide and started spending time on our own.  I think we hurt his feelings, but geezo, we’re couchsurfers!  We like to meet people!

Reply to  Katrina

I hear that! The lunches were pretty terrible. We ate ham and cheese sandwiches pretty much every day and no one asked if any of us had special requests. Boooo!

11 years ago

What a terrible experience… and probably more expensive than if you had organized everything yourself. I’ve never done an organized tour, but I have done individual tours before and I really liked that. In most countries you can hire travel guides that organize a tour just for you – and these plans are flexible while you are on the tour and can be changed on a whim. Maybe that could be an option for next time? Anyways, I hope you get a response from the tour company to your complaint letter and they maybe even refund at least parts of… Read more »

Those sound like our kind of tour! We have heard of them – should probably look into those if we feel we need help in a place again. Appreciate your support =)

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