When I first went to Peru, my dad and I signed up for a guided tour. We lucked out! We saw what we wanted to see, did what we wanted to do, stayed in hotels that were just right, and paid a price within our budget. In addition, we got along well with and enjoyed the company of the other people on the tour.
I didn’t realize that our beginner’s luck was a fluke until I participated in a tour that wasn’t such a good fit. There were times when I couldn’t wait to go home. Based on my experience, here are six mistakes to avoid when booking your guided tour of Peru.
1) Failing to research what you want to see and do. More than likely, you will only visit Peru once. This is why it is important to make a list of what you want to see and do. Is it hiking the Inca Trail? Clambering through the ruins of Machu Picchu? Bouncing on the springy surface of a floating island in Lake Titicaca? Once you’ve made your list, prioritize it. This way if you run out of time, money, or both, you have a place to start cutting. Then, use your list to look for tours that match your ideal itinerary.
2) Choosing a tour based on price alone. When I hiked the Inca Trail, some of my fellow hikers met some people who complained that their outfitter had not packed enough food. They were starving! You want to remember your once-in-a-lifetime adventure for all the right reasons, not because you suffered due to lack of food, run-down equipment, insufficient or poorly treated guides and porters, or roach overrun hotels. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3) Skimming through the fine print. The fine print specifies exactly what is and is not included in the price of a tour. If you don’t read the fine print carefully, you may have an unpleasant surprise. Look for the number of meals that the tour provides. If the tour only includes breakfasts, don’t forget to budget for lunches and dinners. Look for the number of free days. A free day is a day that you are entirely on your own. I recently met someone who spent his entire time in Cusco lost. He missed the Inca ruins on the outskirts of town, the colonial cathedral, the 12-angle stone, and Qoricancha—in other words, everything he would have seen on a Cusco city tour. Look also for the hotel class and type of transportation. Both can affect your physical and psychological comfort. Make sure that you know exactly what you are getting and that you are not making compromises that will adversely impact your vacation.
4) Ignoring the demographics of the people who will be on the tour with you. Part of the enjoyment of going on a tour can be meeting and hanging out with your fellow tour participants. This is why it is important to ask about the demographics of the people who are typically on a tour. When I hiked the Inca Trail, I met a woman who was celebrating her 50th birthday. The rest of the people in her group were in their early 20s. She told me that she felt awkward and uncomfortable—not really a part of the group.
5) Comparing apples to oranges. With so many tours to choose from, you’ll want to compare them and ensure that you are getting the best value for your money. Download our tour comparison grid to get started.
6) Considering only fixed departure tours. If you can’t find a tour that meets your needs, contact the tour operator to see if they might be able to organize a custom tour for you. Llama Expeditions charges the same price for its custom tours as it does for its group tours.If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it’s free!)