Packaged Tours – Our Introduction

At the urging of friends we joined them on a package tour to South America. With the exception of a bus tour featuring Yellowstone this was our first packaged travel tour. It was a 17 day tour with Exoticca from our U.S. airport that include Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu in Peru, Quito, San Cristobal, Galapagos, Guayaquil in Ecuador and back home. The travel package included all hotels, some meals, 7 destinations, 7 sightseeing tours (that included a round trip train to Machu Picchu and admission and a round trip bus into the Amazon for a stay at an eco-lodge), and included 9 flights with all transfers to hotels and airports for a price under $3,000 per person.

While several years ago we planned our own trip trip from Buenos Aries to Iguazu Falls that beat the 1 to 3 day tour prices by over 50% this was way different. For comparisons I tried to duplicate this South American package tour by independently finding hotels and flights with allowances for local tours, transfers and known admission fees. After hitting over $7,200 for the two of us I gave up.

Reviews, Reviewers And A Grain Of Salt

First we have a perspective on travel that is based on decades of
international travel. We’ve come to understand that it’s complicated
and fraught with the unexpected and at times things just go wrong.
Cancelled trains and delayed flights, lost reservations at hotels,
drivers not showing up and worse. Our favorite expression is “I
guess we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

We booked our trip through Exoticca Travel and having not done
this before, we dove into checking reviews online. Some of our
initial research was a bit discouraging. It seemed at the time for
reviews of trips to Greece and North Africa the reviews were pretty
harsh. The biggest complaint was nobody picked them up at the airport
and some thinking the hotels had been downgraded. Looking at reviews
for Exoticca for Peru and Galapagos things were much more positive.
On TripAdvisor some moderators seemed to be holding a grudge that
goes back years so we questioned what was going on with that??
TrustPilot was mostly positive but there are people who don’t trust
the site.

Exoticca appears to be handling a large number of tours for our
destinations. We started in Lima and there were Exoticca people in
the hotel that had just come back from Machu Picchu and others
heading out to the Galapagos the next day while our group was on its
way to Machu Picchu. We also had our share of encounters with people
that didn’t seem to be pleased with anything that happened even
though we all were and I’m sure they all will be writing reviews*.

Taking into account price differences I’ve now put together
several collections of reviews on Exoticca and have decided they lean
into the positive and considering the costs we will probably use them again.

Our Experience

After booking with our friends we did have problems having
Exoticca keeping our itineraries linked. They made a mistake on my
name on official filings and couldn’t seem to correct it after weeks
of trying. Weeks before departing they made some flight changes that
were seriously unacceptable that we struggled to get fixed. I’ll
admit it was a challenge communicating with them and getting fixes

Middle of the Earth Ecuador

With that said, from the time we arrived in Lima we were taken
excellent care of. We were met at every airport, even at 1:00 am and
taken right to our hotel. All the hotels were very good and two were
superior. Scheduled tours featured knowledgable guides and
comfortable vans and buses. The local tour companies made sure we got
to airports and helped us with boarding passes and checked luggage.

The experience at Machu Picchu could not have been better
organized. They took care of railroad tickets, buses up the mountain
and admission. The guide on the site was excellent and maybe they had
something to do with great weather too. The Galapagos portion was
handled very efficiently, the hotel was in a good location, the rooms
clean and comfortable and the staff friendly and helpful.

For a secod opinion from a travel professional click HERE. In our opinion considering the tours cost we got way more than our money’s worth.
We are right now deciding on another tour with Exoticca for Egypt
later this year. We’ll let you know…

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