Advice on booking holidays to Central and South America through a tour operator, and how to go about choosing a company.
Booking a holiday itinerary through a tour operator usually works out marginally more expensive than piecing all the sections together yourself, however it’s far simpler to book with an operator and you’ve the added security that if something goes wrong, the operator will have to sort out the problem rather than you yourself.
There are various tour operators offering tailormade itineraries to countries all over Central and South America. The safest, and simplest option is to book through a specialist in your own country. In UK, Journey Latin America leads the way as being the best Latin America specialist tour operator. Other Latin America specialists include Last Frontiers, Steppes Travel, Select Latin America or the likes of Audley Travel (who do tours to the world rather than just Latin America). I’m not so familiar with specialist tour operators from USA, but considering the weakness of the pound compared to the dollar at the moment, it’s probably much cheaper for you to book with a UK based specialist anyway.
Most people would book their complete itinerary with a tour operator based in their home country, but it’s almost always going to be cheaper to book with a local tour operator in the country(s) that you visit. Booking the flights separately, you’ll find the cost of your holiday itinerary is anything from ten to twenty percent cheaper if you select a local tour operator. After all, UK based tour operators generally just book everything through local tour operators (their suppliers), so by going straight to the local operators, you cut out an extra middleman. Having said this, the service you receive may not be quite so good, and the local operators are unlikely to be fully bonded.
Anyway, there will be occasions when it’s best and cheaper to book directly with the local tour operators. How should you choose such an operator? My advice would be to only deal with English speaking operators who are well established. If in doubt ask them how old the company is. You definately don’t want to end up with a dodgy operator as it will be a complete disaster. Here is a list of country specific operators, almost all of whom are suppliers to tour operators based in UK:
Brazil - Try Turismo Classico or Terra Brazil (who also have local branches in many other countries in Latin America.