When you are booking your trip to Peru, one of the main questions that could arise is should I book with a Travel Agency or should I travel independently? There are certainly pros and cons to each way of travelling and a lot depends on your timescale, budget and travel preferences. Here are some important things to bear in mind when deciding on whether to travel with a Travel Agency or go it alone on a trip to Peru.
Probably your first task is to have clear what type of vacation you are looking for and how much of that vacation you would like to have organized. Often people want to travel more adventurously, setting off with the minimum of arrangements and therefore would only need to buy some tickets such as the entrances to Machu Picchu, trains and domestic flights in advance. This does mean that even though you have most days free to do what you want, you do have to be at certain sites at certain days and some planning ahead is required. If you are coming to Peru with a limited amount of time and a large wish list, the chances are you will be better better to book with a Peruvian travel agency that organizes customizable trips based on your needs and preferences. This way you will not be wasting a large part of your day organizing the next day´s activities and will be able to visit more in the limited time that you have.
The second part of your trip planning is to look at the type of accommodations you may be looking for. In case you would be considering staying in low budget hostels or bed and breakfasts, you may be better off booking this yourself online as there are often online offers that provide cheap accommodations even without reservations. For travellers staying in hotels in the 3* to 5* range you may be better off working with a Peru based agency as agencies in the same country as the hotel can take advantage of confidential hotel prices that can often range up to about 60% off the public (rack) prices. Taking into consideration the popularity of some cities and sites in Peru, it is also recommended to make reservations for higher end hotels as the popular hotels do fill up quiet fast for the majority of the year especially in the high season. In this case it may be safer and less hassle to work with a locally based online Peru travel agency.
In general, if you are more of an adventurous spirit and you have plenty of time to travel, it is an option to travel independently and book your own individual tours in the destination. This way you can choose the ideal activities for your needs and preferences. However, one thing to bear in mind is that certain activities ned to be booked with an authorized agency and way in advance, such as the Classic Inca Trail, for example which should be booked at least 6 months in advance to guarantee permits. Another thing to bear in mind are public holidays and local festivals, which can certainly influence availability in hotels and on public transport. Another important aspect is safety. You will need to keep your wits about you if travelling solo and always try and earn some local lingo, to help you arrange some of the practicalities on your trip.
If you are researching on the internet, you will see a myriad of travel agencies offering the destinations of Peru on the web. Therefore, the question arises, how to choose a Peruvian Travel Agency that you feel comfortable doing business with and who you can trust to create an unforgettable vacation to Peru. As with other online purchases, there are several options and possibilities and all of these have their own prices based on the required level of quality amongst other factors; for Peruvian travel agencies this is the same. You can for instance find agencies that offer all-inclusive Peruvian vacations and you can find agencies offering speciality trips in a specific region and you can find agencies that organize your entire packages according to your preferences.
Taking the above into consideration and you now have decided that you would like to use a local Peruvian travel agency, how those one chose between the many options?
Have a look around and compare different websites and the amount and quality of information they offer. Choose two or three and start researching the information they provide, the packages they work with and the reviews they have on their website. Try to find independent reviews for each of the agencies online (TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc…) Bear in mind it is always possible that the reviews could be biased and therefore it does not always mean the more the better. Contact the Peruvian travel agency you have in mind and see what the communication is like and their response times. How the level of English is, how is the actual knowledge of Peru and the details of your trip. Details such as train times, tour times and destinations and weather tips can give you a good impression of the actual knowledge and how up to date the agencies information is.
Most Peruvian travel agencies will send you a proposal and quote so the next step is to analyse the quote. How clear is the tour and descriptions, how transparent is their pricing and the items included and not included. Have they included flights? A good agency should provide you with elaborated information about the hotels, tours, excursions and of course an overview of what is and what is not included. This you can compare with other quotes to see which is the more transparent combined with the best quote. It is also worth to have a look at the Terms and Conditions that each travel agency offers.
Before deciding on the travel agency also consider the required deposit payment. Agencies need to ask for a deposit of course to secure the trip and purchase certain entrance tickets and hotel reservations. The deposit payments should not be be over 50% of the entire package price and be certain to check the payment terms and options they offer. If after this still in doubt, you can always write straight away to the agency and request some more information and reviews about the agency and their services.
Another important factor when choosing an agency is their commitment to responsible and sustainable travel. Always choose a company with a cooperate responsible travel policy and ideally one who directly contributes to local communities in the regions that you will visit. In this way you can be helping the local communities in a sustainable manner while enjoying your vacations!
Whichever way you decide to travel, one thing that is guaranteed is that Peru is an amazing country to visit and with something to offer all types of traveller, on all kinds of budget. In fact, the only difficult decision you will probably have to make is when you will come back for another visit!