OAT: Machu Picchu & the Galápagos

May 12th, 2008, 09:39 PM
  #1  
dht
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Join Date: May 2008
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OAT: Machu Picchu & the Galápagos

Hi guys,

I live in Los Angeles. I'm planning to book this tour for July 2008. Could anyone who is familiar with Ecuador/the Galapagos or have gone on this particular OAT tour please lend me some advise? THANK!

The price starts at $4795 for 18 days...is there a better deal out there?

tour website: http://www.oattravel.com/gcc/general...spx?oid=176054
dht is offline  
May 14th, 2008, 09:43 AM
  #2  
 
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A decade ago I would have said book it but you can easily do the lot yourself on the internet now. When I was in Santiago several years ago, which is further from Galapagos, it was (I think) about $400 for a trip there. You can book a return flight to Ecuador and a side trip to Galapagos yourself very easily and not pay someone to do it for you.
Cyberia is offline  
May 14th, 2008, 04:22 PM
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I'll reply as a 2-time Galapagos visitor who has never been to Peru or on an OAT trip.

You probably could pay less in-country, but I'd still arrange it before leaving home. Trying to combine Peru and Galapagos in this time frame would be hard to do once you got there.

OAT is known for very high value and they include the international flights. One problem I've read about with OAT is that sometimes they cancel or try to switch you to other dates or other trips. This is true mostly for trips with boats that have a set capacity. So I'd check on that unless altering your dates is no big deal and it doesn't matter to you.

I saw the max capacity is 16. If your boat is 16 that's great or are you a group of 16 on a bigger boat with others?

I saw 3 nts Santa Cruz. With that amount of time you should get to the highlands where you can look for free roaming tortoises. This is one of the few places you can see the Galapagos Tortoises outside of the pens at the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz. I'd ask on that. Maybe that's the location of the horseback riding.

I tried to see what islands you go to, but it just give a list of possibilities. If you just want to see some blue footed boobies, sea lions, and some iguanas, then you'll see that on most of the islands. If you hope to see red footed boobies, you'll need to make it out to Tower/Genovesa. Most trips go to the spectacular Hood/Espanola, which has the Waved Albatross, and I'd ensure that you head there. The Albatross be there in July as they are out to sea only Jan-Mar. If Galapagos crows, penguins, or land iguanas are important, then you'll need to ask if you'll be hitting the islands where these species live.

Have a great trip!
atravelynn is offline  
May 15th, 2008, 06:23 AM
  #4  
 
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If you could go in June you'd save some money. That trip is listed on the "last minute deals" on oattravel.com. There are three trips going in early June priced at a bit over $3,000 per person.

I would also advise you to ask the representative when you call where you are on the list, they do overbook so sometimes the last few who registered may wind up having to change their dates.
Luisah is offline  
May 15th, 2008, 09:39 AM
  #5  
 
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June would be great in the Galapagos, just like July. It appears June-Oct is good for Machu Picchu. If June saves money, what a deal.
atravelynn is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 11:15 AM
  #6  
 
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We just came back 2 days ago from this trip. Yes, you can save money doing it individually, but you won't see half as much and you'll spend a lot more time trying to figure out hotels and meals. We had friends who did that last year and strongly recommended going with a tour. We chose OAT because of the variety of things they offer. However, it is a fairly strenuous trip, so get in shape!

OAT prides itself on getting you into the local culture. You will have a home-hosted meal in both Peru and Ecuador, which gets you into a local home and meeting real locals. Our guide in the Galapagos even took us to his home to meet his mother! Much to our surprise, one of the highlights was the concert at Sunanume school in Quito. We saw so much more on this trip than we could have ever done by ourselves. Take the tour!
happytourist is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 07:01 PM
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What a timely endorsement from HappyTraveler.

I had mentioned about OAT sometimes canceling or moving you to different dates. That was just brought up again over on the Africa forum, where no boat is involved. A couple is being asked to change safari dates. I'm not sure if it is their option to change or if they will receive some compensation for changing or if it is a mandatory rescheduling.
atravelynn is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 07:45 AM
  #8  
 
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I've read the accounts about OAT cancelling people at the last minute, and it's hard to know what is really going on, but the best guess is that these people were wait-listed and didn't make the final cut. One Washington Post article said there were 137 complaints filed against GC/OAT over a 3 year period, but at the same time they had almost a half million customers, so the number of complaints is very tiny. When booking, you may want to ask how many have already booked and where you stand on the list.

We had always been independent travelers and this was our first tour. We will definitely go with OAT again, probably to Greece and Turkey next spring. We did so much more than we could have ever done on our own.
happytourist is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 09:12 AM
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My husband and I returned from this trip in March of this year - the price starts out at $4795 but you will encounter approximately $500 extra in tipping with the guides - and approximately $200 in taxes at the airport. We had traveled with OAT to Ireland and Costa Rica and were very pleased. But after the trip to MP and Galapagos we will never travel with OAT again - The hotels were way below average - My husband was ready to leave the tour and return to the U.S. because of the accommodations - The tour guide in Peru was excellent - the tour guide in Galapagos was not qualified.
The trip consisted of 16 people - of which everyone had traveled to every country - everyone became sick - Dysentery, colds and severe altitude sickness and everyone was in very good health when we departed.
The ship in the Galapagos was fairly nice - one member of the crew had a cold and several people became ill on the trip or after they returned. We wished we had seen more animals on the islands. We saw the same thing over and over.
If you get a tour guide by the name of Andreas on the Galapagos - please run.
He left the ship unattended at night to stay with his wife on the island of Santa Cruz - We were left in the harbor at Santa Cruz alone and the crew had their girlfriends aboard late at night.

Returning from Galapagos - we boarded a bus at the airport in Quito - heading to the hotel - the driver ran a red light - hit an uneven intersection - no one had seat belts on - most of the seat belts did not work on the buses. My husband and I were thrown up and hit our heads 3 times and landed on our backs - had to go to the hospital - After being checked out for any broken bones and internal injuries we returned to the hotel - I was in the bed for 2 days until we returned to Miami -Had to use a wheelchair to return to the hotel - My husband and I both had bruised ribs.
The insurance we purchased for the trip does not pay for anything until your insurance pays - that is still pending. Never received a phone call from OAT on our condition.
Everyone on the trip said they would never travel with OAT again.
In spite of everything we did see some beautiful sights, bought some wonderful pottery, jewelry, and alpaca, hiked Machu Picchu and experienced the Galapagos Islands but wished we had used another tour group. The trip is very strenous - take antibiotics for dysentery, painkillers for any accidents, pills for altitude sickness - it can hit anyone - my husband and I were lucky in that department.
There are many tour groups out there - Tauck tours has a great trip to this area, Smartours is good - we used them to Australia/New Zealand and Tahiti - Everyone on this trip felt that OAT was saving money with the accomodations and on a trip like this you need nice places at night to get you out of the elements. Hope this helps



iron is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 12:08 AM
  #10  
dht
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iron, I'm so sorry to hear that! Wow, I think I have to look into this tour a little harder. Thanks to everyone for the advice.
dht is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 05:33 AM
  #11  
 
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|>I've read the accounts about OAT cancelling people at the last minute, and it's hard to know what is really going on, but the best guess is that these people were wait-listed and didn't make the final cut.|<

Absolutely not true. I was bumped from one of their trips after having received my final documents, including air tickets!
SusieQQ is online now  
May 18th, 2008, 01:16 PM
  #12  
 
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Wow, sounds like the trip from hell for iron but I'm willing to bet those guides have been fired by OAT. I'm not surprised the insurance doesn't pay until after yours, that is typical and is stated in the documents. I've traveled with OAT and would be very disapointed too if I'd had a trip like this. However, they send so much information before the trips that I'm surprised that people didn't take medication to prevent altitude sickness or that people who done so much travel wouldn't know to do it.

I would also check out other options for this trip considering iron's experience.


<<Absolutely not true. I was bumped from one of their trips after having received my final documents, including air tickets! -- SusieQQ>>

If you weren't bumped because the trip was overbooked what reason did they give? I know people who were bumped and were compensated and offered an alternative date. Participants on my last trip were called and offered $2000 to give up their space and choose another date.

It's always a good idea to ask where you stand when you register for any trip. Ask if the trip is near capacity and if also if it's possible that it might be canceled if there aren't enough participants. I like the way Elderhostel operates and tells you that you are on a waitlist but it's unusual. You have to remember that most OAT trips are from 10 to 16 so if 17 register someone won't make it and if there are only nine, the trip doesn't go.

Luisah is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 03:14 PM
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Luisah, I was told that they always overbook in the hopes that enough people will cancel but this time not enough had so I was bumped. They offered another date, which I refused. I got my money back along with reimbursement, after much ranting and raving, for shots that I had gotten for the trip.
SusieQQ is online now  
May 19th, 2008, 06:32 AM
  #14  
 
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Hi Susie, I'm glad to hear that you were reimburused for your expenses. I enjoyed my OAT trips but do hope that they've changed the policy of bumping people at the last minute. It's especially upsetting when people are required to get shots or visas or are working people who have arranged their vacation time and can't take the alternative date.

I think all companies should be upfront about a waitlist when they've reached the maximum number so the person, or people, can decide whether to take a chance they'll make it or make other plans.
Luisah is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 08:34 AM
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I agree that they should notify you if you are waitlisted, as Rick Steves does on his website. I'm wondering if they are dumping singles when a couple comes along. It may not be ethical, but I'll bet it's standard business practice in the industry. This last-minute cancellation seems to be a complaint with a lot of the tour companies.
happytourist is offline  
May 26th, 2008, 08:21 PM
  #16  
 
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In response to the post about the travelers receiving info about the altitude, etc. - everyone on the trip was aware of the altitude - many people had diamox - many of the people had side effects and had to discontinue the medicine - my husband and I did not have a problem with the altitude and our physician advised against the diamox because of the side effects.
Several people could not participate 1 or 2 days because of the altitude.
Most of the group had antibiotics for intestinal problems and pain medication in case of an accident in a remote area.

Our tour guide tried to tell everyone that the altitude sickness was a mental thing and that didn't make everyone too happy.
Our plane was delayed from Lima to Cuzco - so when we arrived in Cuzco - we were taken to lunch and a 2 or 3 hour walk instead of resting as advised for the altitude.
iron is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 10:48 AM
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We have booked this trip for November upcoming. This will be our 4th OAT trip. All these comments however make me want to rethink the trip. I have also traveled with Tauck and highly recommend them.

We have done extensive traveling in "difficult" and "challenging" countries: China, India, Bhutan, Egypt...etc and have escaped many of the maladies so many people seem to deal with such as intenstinal difficulties (we're fastidious about hygiene, careful what we eat, and we take a probiotic without fail every day, and drink a significant amount of water). I have taken high altitude mediation in the Himalayas, and planned to do that again on this upcoming trip.

We are in excellent physical condition, but understand that is just the base starting point when undertaking a trip of this magnitude. Being in excellent shape simply - to me - means that we will be able to withstand, i.e., tolerate, the conditions, rather than we'll feel fantastic and not notice any of the physical demands we will be under when being at altitude, hiking, eating unfamiliar meals and generally being exhausted much of the time.

I've never been bumped from an OAT trip and believe me if it happened, I would likely never book with them again. There is absolutely NO excuse for that. They know precisely how many people to prepare for, they get our money in advance, and if they overbook in the "hopes" of not having people drop out, that is incredibly unprofessional. Perhaps we have just been lucky in the past in not being bumped. Considering we (all of us travelers) spend months planning and arranging our schedules so we can be there, to have an 'oversold' situation thrown at us is unacceptable.

I shall mull this over and decide if I will go forward, or if I will just be brave (or perhaps naive) and carry on with my plans. I am distressed for all of you that have had issues with OAT, and I am horrified at what happened to Iron's party. That is a nightmare.

Thanks to all of you for your opinions and reviews and comments. Fodor's is awesome in that we can all interact and communicate these very important issues.
wanderlust5 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 04:04 PM
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We did this trip in early May and it was wonderful. One couple had to go home a day early (at the last minute) and they were able to get them back without any additional ticket costs. The trip is definitely active and the Galapagos hiking can be fairly strenuous, but it was a fabulous experience. We're looking at an African trip with OAT for next year.
happytourist is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 04:14 PM
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mmmmmhhh!!!!

We have taken 4 OAT tours very recently and all have been more than satisfactory - as a matter of fact, rating 1-10 - we'd give them all a 10.

We just got the new catalog today and were about to book Machu Picchu and the Galapagos for Feb 2009 = now after reading the reviews - we will do MORE research.

This website is so informative.

And we were just recently bumped on an Egyptian Oat tour and were offered $2000 to take the trip two weeks later. We did and it was near perfect!!!

If we got burned, we'd be singing another tune.

Egypt2008 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2008, 07:05 AM
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Egypt, just a note:
We had Machu Piccu booked for next year (2009) as well then suddenly noticed on the web page that the price differentials between 2008 and 2009 were significant. We rescheduled for November of this year because it was a few thousand cheaper per person. We were puzzled about why the 2009 prices shot up so much, my husband's theory is that it could be fuel related. I'm not sure what it is, but I decided to book for this year to say us about 3 or 4 thousand dollars.
wanderlust5 is offline  

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