After a couple of weeks of re-hashing itineraries and having a few issues cleared up, we finally booked our Inca Trail portion of the Peru trip. As you would imagine for the most famous of hikes in Peru, there are an unfathomable amount of tour operators to go with, and plenty of unscrupulous types, no doubt out to con us poor oblivious travellers, of our cash.
Strangely enough, we ended up booking with the first operator I considered, who also happen to be the cheapest option yet. I’m always a little dubious when prices are too cheap, but a few days of research and review reading, put my mind at ease.
Something I’d not even bothered using before, because I had been happy with the guide books, were the on-line reviews. People often forget that the Internet, offers more recent feedback than even the newly published guidebooks, in terms of range of review and cultural issues. With this in mind, I can’t rate Trip Advisor, highly enough. A point to remember, is to use a rule of thumb, to dump the highest and lowest rating, and review what’s left in the middle, so you’re not concentrating on the biased opinion – I also tend to not lean too much on a reviewer, that only has a handful of other postings (more senior reviewers for example, have well over 1,000 posts).
The trustee of our passport and Visa info, ended up being Llamapath (Who could really do with a cleaned up website). The service was fairly prompt for the most part, with just a few days between one or two E-mails, as the longest wait. The dialogue was perfect English and understandable, and the contact pretty thorough in details. Ultimately, we ended up securing the 4-day Trail hike, the train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo (which isn’t the normal included route) and the info for catching a safe bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco (at 10 soles). On top of that, Llamapath has also secured the flights from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado (for our jungle trip) and from Puerto Maldonado to Chiclayo. For the flights, I’m a little tentative until we get the actual tickets, as they seem to have either found us seats on the plane for about 3/4 the LAN Peru website costs, or they’re only covering one person and we’re getting charged $100 more per person. Currently on all E-Mails, they say ‘for two people’, so here’s hoping that isn’t lost in translation; should find out in the next few days.
One last thing to note about the payment process. We decided that everything should be paid by card, wherever feasible. The last thing you need, is to pay cash or transfer a couple of grand, and have it disappear without being covered for fraud.
Llamapath use a third-party payment website for Visa but unfortunately, it has a surcharge of just over 8% for the privilege. After checking the fees for a Western Union wire transfer, there would have been only a couple of dollars difference (still over $90 in charges) so it made sense anyway, to opt for the Visa payment. The good thing about the payment on-line is that the shopping cart is signed and encrypted, and will give you the relevant confirmation codes at the end. A word of warning here; do print each stage of the application out, as there is no confirmation E-mail sent. If your system is set up to do so, always print to PDF, so you have a digital copy to E-Mail to the tour operator, if necessary.