"If you're looking for a trip to South America go with the experts" by Journey Latin America client Margaret Small.
In 2014 I took three trips with three different tour companies. The sights and scenery are dependent on the country, timing and to a degree the weather but the travel experience and comfort is the responsibility of the tour company. All three provided various and different means of transport, all of which were acceptable given the locations. Where they differed greatly was the standard of 3* accommodation. All three trips were to remote places where accommodation was limited but where there was still choice.
The three tour companies and locations were:
Explore - Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras & Guatemala (Dec to Jan 2014)
Journey Latin America – Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru & the Peruvian Amazon Rain Forest (April)
G Adventures – Guyana & Cuba (September)
Explore offered the worst 3* accommodation by a long way. No bedside lamps, no hot water (bar two) or plugs in the basins, no hair dryers, noisy air con & dark dim rooms with dirty curtains. Four of us had bed bug bites over our backs and one hotel had cockroaches in the rooms. Four appeared to be ‘rooms by the hour’. Most were so dirty I felt unclean even when I got back to the UK. I wrote to Explore who replied ‘one or two have received comments but the rest all have feedback indicating an acceptable 3* standard’ Explore added ‘a new agent will be running this tour who will have different relationships with suppliers so it’s most likely the hotels may change’. I find this unacceptable as I prefer a western person to decide suitable standards. I was advised by fellow travellers that Explore have in their opinion lost their way since they’ve been sold.
Journey Latin America were the BEST accommodation. It was all 3* but so much better than Explore. Larger bright rooms, CLEAN, clean sinks, curtains, fresh clean sheets and they had furniture! Bedside lamps! Some even had a kettle & hair dryer. Only one didn’t have a plug in the bathroom and one didn’t have hot water (which we were told to expect due to location before we left the UK). I didn’t know 3* hotels could be so delightful.
G Adventures. It’s unfair to mention hotels as I was in very remote Forest Lodges where there weren’t options. My only comment on G Adventures is I didn’t meet anyone who worked for them as both trips were outsourced to the local tour operators so although the tour leaders wore G Adventures T shirts they didn’t work direct. Key facts were missing in G Adventures literature prior to departure such as a limited luggage allowance for an internal flight and ‘take a fleece’ when it was 36c night and day.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a trip in South America go with the experts, Journey Latin America. Initially they may look more expensive than Explore but don’t be fooled as JLA include many more meals so the final costs are very similar. One male traveller with me on the JLA trip said ‘I’d consider Explore if I was on my own but I’d only go with JLA if my wife was with me’. Says it all really, if you like to be clean go with JLA.
Margaret Small, October 2014.
Margaret Small travelled on our Pato Andino: Panorama of the Andes small, escorted Group Tour which visits Buenos Aires, Salta and the northwest Andes in Argentina, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, Uyuni salt flats, La Paz and Lake Titicaca in Bolivia & Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru.