Non English Speaking Tour Guide

Jun 3rd, 2008, 07:06 PM
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Non English Speaking Tour Guide

We were in the NW and Salta area in the middle of May. Unfortunately our tour guides English was weak. Our daughter is fluent in Spanish and therefore translated the information. We were very disappointed. Surprisingly, he was fluent when he emailed me. Has anyone else had this problem? The other problem that occured was he asked for $250 US per day for his fee. My husband could have easily paid in dollars, but changed the money to pay the guide. Because the guide did not state that he wanted payment in American dollars (we assumed he was just stating the dollar amount so that we would know what he charged) we really made him angry. Has this happened to anyone else?
Jun 3rd, 2008, 08:21 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Could you tell us more, barbaradavis, so other forum members can avoid him?
avrooster is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 10:21 AM
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Here is the guide's words from his email - "The price of US$ 250 per day is for FOUR PEOPLE in a larger and more comfortable vehicle. My services include transport, transfer in and out, guide, fuel and my food and lodging. Water and snacks are available on board." His idea of snacks were crackers. We were a bit surprised. He stated that he paid for his own food, but then chose to eat on his own and it was most uncomfortable because there were times we felt he was very agitated with us without a reason that we could understand. His name is Adolfo Del Castillo but his nickname is Buby. I have mixed emotions writing this because we did love our experience in the NW, but I would not recommend anyone using him unless they were somewhat fluent in Spanish.
Jun 4th, 2008, 12:53 PM
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Thank you, Barbara.

May I ask what or who made you contact him?

Thank you again.
avrooster is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 07:12 PM
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I used your recommendation and contacted Angie. She is a lovely person and we were fortunate to meet her during our travels. She couldn't help us because her car does not comfortably hold 4 passengers plus the driver. She told me in an email that Buby had good English skills.
Jun 4th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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I'm sorry about that, Barbara.
avrooster is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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That is unfortunate.... I would have assumed, like y'all did, that he quoted you the price in the US, but expected local currency (and frankly, I really wouldn't care if that was an issue). I would have also been very disappointed because there are so many neat things to see - and when you don't speak the language (as I don't much either) - you really are dependent on having someone who can communicate with you. I have people that are from Latin America, and it is interesting that some can write English exceedingly well, but their verbal skills just aren't the same. The other thing, is that they may have had someone write the emails for them (I had one guy that did that - when his wife left him, all of a sudden - his English notes became awful....). One thing that has helped me when we schedule any tours is that I always call them, and I put in writing (via email) that excellent English is mandatory, and that I want a phone call to test the English. I'm really nice about it, but too many neat things to see/understand to miss out because the person doesn't speak English well enough for me to understand them. I would also always ask for clarification on what snacks mean.... I'm a bit detail oriented (didn't notice, eh...), and I've just found that getting thing out in the open up front makes me happier because I at least know what to expect..... I hope you have better luck next time...
Debi is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 04:29 PM
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Debi, can I travel with you???? Thank you for "misunderstanding" what the guide wanted in pay. We were taken by surprise. As far as snacks, we told him that our son was gluten free and both our daughter and son were vegetarians. I just assumed it was lost in translation. Eating was tough, but not impossible.
Jun 14th, 2008, 02:44 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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I am speechless about your comments on Adolfo or Angie!

Our family just returned from a trip to NW Argentina. Angie had referred us to Adolfo to help us tour the NW as she was already booked.

The first comment I would make is that WE WOULD HIRE ADOLFO AGAIN! We speak zero Spanish. His English was good and very understandable, his knowledge of the history and the nature was outstanding, he was honest, considerate, respectful, on time, his vehicle was always impecable, he always had water, fruit, and other chips/snacks.

Our email language from Adolfo regarding payment is very much like yours and I think it is perfectly clear the money was to be paid in US$. We asked Adolfo to join us one day for lunch as our guest and it was delightful. Most days Adolfo did eat separately and it was not uncomfortable. If you would have noticed he takes advantage of the meal time breaks to talk with the local people and shop/restaurant owners and take a needed break from being with clients. His days are very long.

We had an outstanding time and all due to Adolfo. We highly recommend him.

We have traveled extensively throughout Europe and US/Canada/Mexico. This was our first trip to South America. We will be very fortunate to have as good a guide in the future.

chicagomaria53 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 02:42 PM
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You state that his English was good and very understandable. WOW! My family sat in the second and third seats and we REALLY had a hard time understanding him. I would agree that his knowledge of the history and the nature was as expected for a tour guide. His vehicle was always impecable. He should only spend as much time learning the English language as he does cleaning his vehicle. You stated that he always had water, fruit, and other chips/snacks. Fruit???? All we saw were water and crackers.

As far as payment, he was totally to blame. We paid 1/2 the very first day and if he wanted dollars, he should have TOLD us that at that time. We went out of our way to go to the American Express office to change our dollars to pay him the remainder. NOTHING about the payment was perfectly clear.

Let me repeat that I have only high regards for Angie and in no way hold her responsible. We were fortunate to meet her and we found her to be truly delightful.
We, too, have traveled extensively throughout Europe and US/Canada/Mexico. This, too, was our first trip to South America. We have never run into this problem before. That is why I felt the necessity to let others know. Adolfo did not ruin the experience of the beautiful NW. I would return tomorrow if I could. I just wouldn't choose him to guide.
Jun 17th, 2008, 12:08 PM
Join Date: May 2006
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I dd not want to post but I feel I canīt help it anymore. I know Adolfo since a long time ago, I know how responsible, reliable and respectful He is.
In Adolfo`s defense I will only say that I had lots of good notes about him and this is the first time somebody says something like this.
I expect he gets some time to say something in his own defense. I assume he has something to say, and he must make use of his rights to reply.

flintstones is offline  
Jun 27th, 2008, 03:10 AM
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"My name is Adolfo Del Castillo and would like to make the following statement in my defence in response to the charges made by Ms. Barbara Davis.
1. I have been working for 14 years as tourist guide in the Argentine NW starting with a German agency "Wendy-Pampa-Tours" which deals exclusively with South America. I am also working with agencies in Buenos Aires and Salta and private clients both in Spanish and English.
2. Itīs true that my spoken English is not the best, but I have never, repeat never, had problems with any traveller regarding the language nor for any other reason.
3. I would like Ms.Davis to know that "half truths are also lies" and I say this for the following:
She states that what I offer as "snacks" are only crackers but does not say that on board there were 5 different kinds of crackers (two savoury and three sweet) in packets of 170-200 grs each; there were two types of potato chips, normal and those with ham taste; two different types of "Snack" crackers with pizza taste and parmesan cheese as well as different kinds of candy especially "dulce de leche". All these products of the best brands available in the country (Bagley, Terrabusi and Arcor). Mineral water in half-litre bottles, a brand of Coca Cola as requested, in a small frig during all the trip.
She also does not say that they ate up everything. I would like to point out that I never promised hamburgers or hot dogs.
Ms.Davis says I was annoyed because they wanted to pay me in Argentine Pesos, but she does not say that the amount offered in local money did not add up to the US$ 1000 agreed upon.
Having made this clear, I believe I have the right to answer:
Ms.Davis advises travellers not to hire me as guide. I recommend that NOBODY should ever travel with her and her family for the following reasons:
1. Everything will seem too expensive for them and they will always ask for a rebait.
2. They will never be ready on time but will complain that they get late everywhere.
3. Every morning or evening they will ask for extras (at no extra expense for them), for example, look for cheaper hotels (although reservations were already made), look for clothes that they had been left behind, go pick up special food they had bought in a supermarket, claim a circuit that had not been included in the original plan, drive off the road to chase "vicuñas" (protected by law) so that they could photograph them.
4. They will cancel, at the last minute, bookings made in hotels, not caring for the harm they generate.
5. Not feeling any shame, they filled the vehicle with fetid gases which obliged me to open the windows.
6. I donīt think I need add anything more, just form your own opinion.

Should there be any client of Angieīs who travelled with me, I would appreciate if they would make their comments using this media.
I am completly responsible for the above stated and do not in any way wish to put Angie in a bad light.
delcastillorey is offline  
Jun 27th, 2008, 05:00 AM
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I have not personally met either Barbaradavis or Adolfo but since this thread started shortly before our recent trip to Salta, I did some asking around while we were there.

Adolfo has an outstanding reputation in Salta as a reputable, knowledgeable bilingual guide.

I am sorry that barbaradavis had an unfortunate experience but wish to point out that theirs appears to be the exception rather than the rule.
drdawggy is offline  
Jun 27th, 2008, 08:56 AM
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I have not met Barbara or Adolfo, but, considering what I have read here, I agree with drdawggy, the universally acknowledged TOP Internet Argentina expert and would not hesitate to hire Adolfo, but only if Angie is not available, OF COURSE.

However, I wish to point out that, IMHO, the somewhat aggresive style of his post does not help him.

avrooster is offline  
Jun 27th, 2008, 10:02 AM
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AV, I agree with you about the aggressive post but I ,too, become a bit defensive when I believe i have been wronged so I take this into consideration.

Moreover, I found this comment by Adolfo about his ex-clients downright funny:

"Not feeling any shame, they filled the vehicle with fetid gases which obliged me to open the windows"
drdawggy is offline  
Jun 27th, 2008, 10:20 AM
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Well, Doc, that is where our opinion diverges.

Having formerly worked for several years in the hospitality business, I feel he should not have said that.

avrooster is offline  
Jul 26th, 2008, 04:50 PM
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Our family recently returned from a 3-1/2 week trip to Argentina. The trip included 5 days travleing the NW with Adolfo. We thought he was wonderful. While his English might not be perfect, we were able to communicate easily. In comparison to "English" speaking guides we have had in Rome, Paris, Cusco (Peru), Trujillo (Peru), and Costa Rica; his English was excellent.

Buby was always prompt, courteous, eager to please, and willing to do whatever was necessary to guarantee an enjoyable adventure. His car was spotless and comfortable for our family of 4. He was very knowledgeable of the area and was excited to share this knowledge with us. He eagerly led us on several "off the beaten path" hikes and scrambled over the terrain like the "Engergizer bunny". He gave us many excellent recommendations for restaurants and shops.

Buby joined us for several lunches which we considered a treat as he could help translate the menus as well as give us additional information about the area. We offered to buy him lunch every day, but he insisted to pay his own way.

Our boys think "Buby is the man" and we would highly recommend him to anyone traveling to the Salta area!
foopher is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 05:45 AM
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foopher: forum readers would certainly enjoy hearing about the rest of your 3 1/2 week trip to Argentina.
avrooster is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 07:58 AM
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My 2.5 cents

My wife and I have traveled to Argentina several times [going again this winter], to Chile, and to Costa Rica, New Zealand four times, The Cook islands, Fiji, Western Samoa Hawaii, Mexico and other places I can not recall at this time. Many times for a two months winter vacation.

We have had guides for much of our touring in each place as these guides know where to go and are able to see and experience events that we would otherwise miss out on.

In all that time the only bad tour experience that I can recall was with Baco Tours in Mendoza. We immediately let our Buenos Aires agent know.

At other times the guides usually began with the attitude that they would eat alone. My perception was that this was an effort to not intrude on us nor to suggest that we pay for his food. They often had prearranged accommodation, likely at economical rates. We often invited them to dine with us and to choose what ever they liked. We do not feel that these guides are servants, they are people not different from us, only a sort of 'business' partner to us on that tour. More often, they were concerned with our comfort, safety and health. Mostly we were VERY satisfied, sometimes less but not very often.

English has not always been perfect but we very often got their point. My advantage is that my wife grew up in Buenos Aires so language was not really a problem.

At my age of 77 [soon to be 78 if I am lucky], I have met many people at home and tourists during travel who always want more than they willingly pay for. Others are never satisfied.

I suggest that travelers looking for a guide use their travel agent for references and in reality, perhaps they should not expect more than they would be willing to give, were the situations reversed.

My experience, other than Baco in Mendoza, has been very satisfying and I will continue to use guides in our future travel even though my wife is fluent in Spanish.

Be reasonable,people and remember, when you bad mouth a guide or agent, you are taking bread out of their mouth. Be sure you are justified and that the complaint is more than for a simple inconvenience.

georgewoodie is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Woodie: if you like the idea, we can have a forum members' dinner when you are in BA.
avrooster is offline  

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