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.