Tour Companies vs. Doing it Yourself

If you are planning a vacation to Peru, and thinking about using a tour company to book your trip, as many seem to be doing lately, there are a few things you should know. In an effort to compare pricing and pre-booking service, I had a friend send out detailed itineraries to several tour companies. I have taken the information received from the companies and put together a comparison, not only comparing them to each other, but also to doing the trip on your own.

Let me first start by saying that this is by no means an attack on tour companies, I have nothing against them and, I think they provide a valuable service. As there are those that can’t afford to spare the time to plan their own trips, tour companies fill an important niche. That said, I think the average person would rather take a longer vacation, than pay somebody to plan it for them.

So let’s start with the itinerary. For this comparison I created a 12 day trip, hitting all the major sights in the Cusco area including Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, I also included several sights not normally visited by the tour companies, as well as a visit to Lake Titicaca. For lodging I used our property for the nights in the Cusco area, but left Lima, Aguas Calientes and Puno open.

The itinerary was sent out to 15 different tour companies, many with high recommendations on Trip Advisor. Out of the 15 companies contacted, 4 provided quotes with itineraries, 4 failed to respond at all, 4 responded initially but never followed up with a quote, 2 had bad contact information and one company declined to quote due to the detailed nature of the itinerary.

Doing things yourself is of course a little bit of work, but will also save you a lot of money. Adding up the total cost for the trip I put together, including domestic airfare, all the tours, transportation, and food, the per person cost for the entire 12 day trip would be $856.08. The closest a tour company was able to get to this figure was almost two times as much, or to be more precise $1,704.12/pp. As the tour companies did not include all of the things that I did in their quotes, I took each individual quote and added the costs of any missing items, mainly lunches and dinners, but a few sights as well. So the quoted prices I will be referring to are an adjusted price, in US Dollars, not the exact price given.

So I imagine you are wondering who were my most and least favorites of the bunch. Let’s start with the bad and save the best for last shall we? On the bottom of my list is Class Adventure Travel or CAT as they are sometimes referred to on Trip Advisor. While they did respond with an itinerary and quote before the end of the day the initial request was sent out, it was obvious that they just sent a standard, off the shelf package. It definitely appeared as though no one paid much attention to the request as it not only was nowhere near what was requested, but it was only for 9 days, when 12 days were requested. I will say that the e-mail did indicate that the itinerary was fully customizable; but I don’t see why a customer should have to go back and forth customizing it, when a detailed itinerary was sent in the first place. While their Quote was not the highest one received, their adjusted price came out at $2,490.57/pp, quite a bit more than doing it yourself.

Now for the top of my list, if I were to decide in the future to use a tour company to plan a trip (which is not likely), I would want one like Peru Trek 4 Good. After receiving the request for a quote, they responded that due to several of the requests (our property and some of the sights), this would be an expensive trip and they recommended a few changes. After responding with a few reasons to keep the itinerary as is, they provided an itinerary that included all of the requested sights and lodgings. The only changes made were to the order of the sights to help with flow. This company received high marks in my book because they listened to what the customer wanted and responded accordingly, not to mention the fact that their adjusted quote was the second lowest at $1,834.71. While the price is still more than double the cost of doing it yourself, their high recommendations on Trip Advisor and their response to my request puts them on the top of my list.

So if you find yourself planning a trip to Peru, and you just don’t have the time to plan it yourself. I would suggest contacting Yure Chavez at Peru Trek 4 Good, I believe you will be well taken care of, for a reasonable price.

One final note: please don’t confuse this with an evaluation or endorsement of actual service; I have not personally used any of these companies’ services, although both companies mentioned in this blog do have very good reviews on Trip Advisor. I would advise anyone planning a trip to do some research and always seek more than one quote and opinion.

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About Lyle

I love travel and currently own and operate a Bed and Breakfast called GringoWasi with my beautiful Peruvian wife, the property is located in the small town of Huarocondo, and about 30 minutes West of Cusco Peru.
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12 Responses to Tour Companies vs. Doing it Yourself

  1. Aisling says:

    Thanks for sending me your link!!! This is a huge help
    Would you ever share your itinerary or a suggested itinerary?
    Thank you!

  2. Steve Lucas says:

    Thanks Lyle! Great information. If I were to DIY, how/where do I begin? For example, do I book a hotel and work through them?
    I would also be interested in your sample itinerary if you can share it. Steve

    • Lyle says:

      Hi Steve, if you want to DIY the itinerary is where you should start; I just recently did a blog on site groupings https://agringoslifeincusco.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/planning-the-perfect-cusco-trip/ that may have some information you can use. Additionally I would be happy to help you where needed, If you e-mail me with the number of days you will be in Cusco I will send you a rough itinerary outline, and help you fine tune it if that would help. My e-mail is gringowasi2012@hotmail.com

      • kewluke says:

        Hi Lyle! My e-mail to you “bounced”. What I said in the e-mail was that we were planning the trip for late September/early October 2016. There will be 4 of us in the party. We are currently planning 3 nights in Cusco, one night in Sacred Valley, 2 nights for Machu Picchu, and 4 nights for Tambopata (or Lake Titicaca if that offers “more”). Our hope is that with this much advance planning we can make any recommended changes to our itinerary. Thanks for your interest and advice. Regards, Steve

      • Lyle says:

        No problem, I tried sending an e-mail to you, let me know if it does not come through.

  3. Estella Payne says:

    What a wonderful informative blog, thank you Lyle!! My husband and I just moved to Lima, Peru. we are retiring in Peru, but we plan to travel throughout South America and explore. Four friends are coming to visit in May and all six of us want to make a trip to cusco, sacred valley, MP and lake titicaca. I think our time frame would be 10 days Would you also share with me your itineraries that you had made for yourself and the time frame we should stay in each of the places that I mentioned? Thank you for any advice you could offer, gracias!

    • Lyle says:

      Thank you Estella, I am glad that you found my blog informative, and welcome to Peru, my wife and I love it here.

      Here is a generic itinerary that many past guests have done, this could easily be modified to fit your preferences.

      Day 1 – Pick-up in Cusco and transport to GringoWasi, Dinner in the evening
      Day 2 – Cusco ruins tour by private car (Saqsaywaman, Quenqo, Pukapukara, & Tambomachay) , Drop off at main Plaza, Evening pickup, Dinner
      Day 3 – Hill top tour by private car (Salineras de Maras, Moray & Chinchero), dinner in evening
      Day 4 – Southern Valley tour by private car (Tipon, Pikillacta & Church of San Pedro in Andahuaylillas) , dinner in the evening
      Day 5 – Sacred Valley by Private car (Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, Pisac, Inkariy Museum, & Ollantaytambo) ending in Ollantaytambo, 7:20pm IR train to AC, Evening in AC
      Day 6 – Machu Picchu, 7pm IR train to Ollantaytambo, Transport back to GW
      Day 7 – Open day to relax
      Day 8 – Morning Tourist bus to Puno, night in Puno
      Day 9 – Day tour of Lake Titicaca and Islands.
      Day 10 – Flight from Puno (Juliaca) to Lima

      Hope this helps and feel free to direct any future questions to gringowasi2012@hotmail.com Additionally you can find a variety of individual tours and full packages on your website http://www.gringowasibnb.com/

      • Estella Payne says:

        Gracias Lyle for all of the information. Your place sounds lovely. I will speak with my amigos in Norte America and see what and how they want to plan this great trip. We will be making a decision in early January. I have a feeling because they are coming from so far to a new Country that they might feel more comfortable this time partaking in a Tour with a guide, etc., but we shall see. My husband and I are now living permanently in Peru, so if we don’t come with our friends to stay this time, some other time when we come to Cusco area by ourselves, that would be nice. I will keep your information on file.

        Feliz Nuevo Ano 🙂

        Estella and Charlie Payne

      • Lyle says:

        No problem, we could arrange this with either a private guide or with group tours that would include a guide, but the group tours would have a slightly different itinerary. Just let us know if there is anything we can do.

  4. Estella Payne says:

    Hi Lyle…does your bed and breakfast have room for three couples, six people? Is it far from cusco? do you have photo’s of your bed and breakfast? Is there transportation from your place to Cusco? Thank you for all of your help.Estella

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