Answers to commonly asked questions
We know planning an adventure vacation is no small decision, so we’re here to make the process as easy as possible for you. We've been doing this for quite a while, so we’ve got the answers to everything you need to know! Just click on the specific question you'd like to have answered below, chat to us online, or call us on the number that suits you:
1 800 661 9073 [USA and Canada]
1 800 661 907 [Australia]
0808 234 7780 [UK]
0800 234 726 [New Zealand]
0064 3 450 0414 [from anywhere else in the world].
We'd love to hear from you!
How to book
Whenever you’re ready, it’s easy to book your Active Adventure. When you’ve done your research, driven yourself crazy with the choices and made your final decision, follow these steps:
1. Hold your place
The fastest way to reserve your trip is to give the experts a call.
Alternatively, fill out the Availability Request form and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. To secure your place you’ll need a $500 per person deposit (the remainder of the balance is due 60 days before your trip start date), payable by credit card, cheque or wire transfer, whichever works best for you. Once you’re all signed up, you’ll receive a confirmation email giving you access via a login on our Active Adventures Club page where you can access your booking pages and fill in your trip details online.
2. Check your international flight options
Your booking pages and trip notes will outline where you need to be and when to start your trip, so you can move forward with booking your flights. If you’re lucky enough to have time, it’s nice to arrive a few days early to settle into the new place and get used to your surroundings. If you’re on a tight schedule it’s no worries, the trip start time will be outlined in your trip information.
We recommend using a variety of methods to search for suitable flights from your own research online (e.g. Skyscanner.net), to contacting a travel agent, to see who comes up with the best fares.
3. Complete your booking pages online
By logging into your online booking information via our club page you’ll gain access to your trip notes, destination information, a detailed gear list and all the information you need for your trip. There are a few things to fill in – medical and dietary information, extra accommodation requests, gear hire requests etc. – to ensure you are well prepared for your adventure vacation.
4. You're all set
You can now start packing your bags and crossing the dates off your calendar. We look forward to seeing you soon!
On your South America trip you'll stay in a variety of places depending on the destination and activities. In Peru you'll stay in nice hotels, tents while you're hiking (complete with porters to put them up for you, cook your meals and generally make sure it's the best camping experience ever!), jungle lodges and local homes on Amantani Island (a truly once in a lifetime experience). In Ecuador mainland you'll stay in hotels and jungle lodges, and on the Galapagos Islands you'll stay on dry land, meaning you're free to walk around each evening and get to know the residents of these famous isles. Down in Patagonia you'll lay your head each night in hotels, lodges and the famous 'refugios' in the National Parks. While these may sound basic they actually have incredible facilities (including electricity), the views are out of this world, they have restaurants and you'll meet an incredible array of people that have travelled from far and wide to visit the bottom of the world.
Your transport will be a mixture of bus, plane, boat, bike and your very own two feet on our trips in South America. You'll spend most time on a boat in the Galapagos Islands as you make your way from island to island during the day, and down in Peru you'll travel by boat in the Amazon to get to your lodge. We have domestic flights included in our Galapagos Islands and Peru trips to shorten our travel times and to ensure you have the best experience possible. All your transport is included from the start of your trip and we'll drop you at the airport at the end. The details are all listed in the trip specific itineraries.
All your meals are included as described in the itinerary except on your free days. We have found that people enjoy checking out what is on offer by themselves sometimes, so you can go and see what's out there! On every other day and especially after any long hikes, we've chosen places to eat that can cater for our hearty appetites, work well with our small groups (they know we are coming) and provide us with an authentic destination specific culinary experience. There are always options for you, so you can either be brave or choose something more familiar. On the hiking portion of our trips (such as on the Inca Trail) we work with an outstanding team of cooks who will amaze you with what they can produce on a campsite miles from the nearest town. You can be assured that on all our trips we will make sure you are very well fed.
Our trips are all led by an experienced Trip Leader. Our Trip Leaders are very proud to work with Active Adventures and often lead our trips for many years, for which we are very lucky and very grateful as it means we're able to consistently offer a fantastic level of service. They work closely with our local specialist guides to provide you with a seamless, fun, exciting and memorable trip. They will happily share with you as much or as little as you want to know about the history, culture, social aspects and lifestyle of the country you are visiting. In the Galapagos Islands you will be accompanied by a specialist Nature Guide, qualified to provide you with plenty of information about the species that make their home on the islands.
How do I get to South America?
Various airlines have regular services to South America from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. From the United States, you can fly with any of the following airlines - American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines, Lan Peru or Lan Chile. From the United Kingdom, you can fly with American Airlines, KLM, Continental or Iberia International. From Australia you can fly with Qantas or Air New Zealand.
Arranging your flights to South American is simple. We recommend getting in touch with our travel specialist, Amy Bohling. You can email her directly at amy (dot) bohling (at) nztravelbrokers (dot) co (dot) nz. She knows our trips well and can help simplify your booking needs.
Can I use my frequent flyer miles to get there?
Many of our clients have managed to get the international portion of their airfare or an upgrade to business or first class by trading in miles. There are two rules for doing this:
1. Get in early! Like really early - some fares open up a year or more before travel, so if you feel an exciting adventure coming on, call your airline frequent flier programme NOW!!
2. Things change! If you've called your airline, and they've said there's no availability for your frequent flier miles, don't worry too much. Call them back the next day... and the next... and the next…
What is your cancellation policy?
We require a US$500 deposit per person per trip to secure your place on your chosen trip/s. This deposit is non-refundable and non-transferable to another departure date or trip. In the event that it becomes necessary for you to cancel the trip, the following cancellation charges will apply:
• Cancellation made over 60-days prior to departure date - US$500 deposit per trip
• Cancellation between 60 and 30-days of departure date - 50% of total trip fare
• Cancellation of any trip 30-days or less prior to departure date - 100% of trip fare
A cancellation will be effective from when Active Adventures receive written notification of the cancellation. This cancellation policy includes voluntary or involuntary early departure from a trip. No refunds will be given for missed or unused services such as accommodation, activities or meals. You are strongly advised to take out cancellation insurance that will cover cancellation fees at the time of booking.
Do you recommend buying travel insurance?
As an Active Adventures South America traveller, you're required to have full travel insurance cover - please be aware that some insurance companies requireinsurance to be purchased within 7 days of deposit payment. We recommend a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes medical cover, emergency repatriation, trip cancellation and other travel mishaps (e.g. flight cancellations or delays, trip interruption, theft or loss of luggage and personal effects).
Travel insurance can be obtained through local travel agents, some credit card providers or online brokers such as www.worldnomads.com or www.travelguard.com. These and other insurance policy packages can be compared at www.insuremytrip.com. We recommend keeping all travel papers (invoices, receipts, police reports etc.) when you travel in case you need them later to support a claim.
Do I need a visa?
If you're a citizen of USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European countries - you will be issued a 30- to 90-day tourist visa for all South American countries involved on entry. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of your trip.
What about vaccinations and malaria?
We recommend the following vaccinations for the following countries. Please note that vaccination recommendations change all the time, and they also depend on how long you're travelling for. The following list will give you an idea of which vaccinations you might need but for specific, up-to-date information please consult your doctor or travel clinic prior to travel to discuss which vaccinations are the best for you. Chicken Pox & Measles - if you've never caught it/been vaccinated for it before. Rabies & Malaria medication is not considered necessary in the areas that we travel, but may be required if you are doing further independent travel.
Chile and Argentina (Condor trip): Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Chicken Pox and Measles
Ecuador - mainland (Tapir trip): Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid, Chicken Pox, Measles and Yellow Fever
Ecuador - Galapagos Islands (Tortuga trip): Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid, Chicken Pox and Measles
Peru (Jaguar & Capybara trips): Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid, Chicken Pox, Measles and Yellow Fever
Is there a number to call in an emergency? How can my family, friends or colleagues contact me
Please contact our New Zealand office using the details below. If the office is unattended (outside of New Zealand business hours), please leave a message so we can pick it up and respond as soon as we can.
Free phone 1 800 661 9073 (USA, Canada & Australia)
Free phone 0808 234 7780 (UK)
Free phone 0800 234 726 (New Zealand)
Worldwide +64 3 450 0414, ext 1
Email: info-sa (at) activeadventures (dot) com
Will I have access to the internet?
There are internet cafes in the bigger cities such as Lima, Punta Arenas, Quito and Cuzco. As long as you have an internet-based email address (eg. hotmail, gmail etc) you can easily stay connected. WiFi is available at most hotels if you're bringing a smart phone or tablet, though the connection can sometimes be a bit sporadic.
Will I be able to call home?
When we are in larger towns and cities, you will be able to call home from 'Locutorios' - phone call centres which offer international calls at cheap rates, from internet cafe's or from your hotel too (check their rates first).
Your cell phone may or may not work in South America full stop - a lot of cell phone companies say they will though this is not always the case - and there's certainly very little coverage on our trip routes. If I were you, I'd put your phone in a suitcase, and not look at it for two weeks. You may like to bear in mind that a lot of our clients have come on one of our trips to escape phone calls and emails etc.
In Ecuador only cell phones on GSM 850 frequency or higher - quad-band will work though tri-band phones will not. Check with your phone company before leaving home about international access and costs.
Where can I get local dollars?
You can change currency on arrival at most airports in South America, or at a bank of 'Casa de Cambio' in your joining city. You may also be able to change currency at the airport you depart from. Money can also be changed, usually at an unfavourable rate, in most hotels. Your trip leader will advise you on the best places to change currency where ever we go. Usually the easiest thing to do is use your credit or debit card to withdraw money directly from your home account, in local currency.
There are plenty of ATM's and banks in larger towns in South America, and ATM's will accept all major credit cards and many debit cards. Cash advances are the most convenient way to get cash.
Local currencies are:
Peru - Jaguar and Capybara: Peruvian soles
Ecuador - Tapir and Tortuga: US dollars. Tortuga clients please note: It is difficult to change traveller's cheques in the Galapagos Islands, and the only credit cards accepted are Cirrus and Mastercard. You should withdraw cash from an ATM in mainland Ecuador before leaving for the Islands - your Active Adventures South America trip leader will make time for this, and there is an ATM at the Quito airport.
Patagonia - Condor: Chilean pesos & Argentinean pesos
How much spending money should I bring?
You need to spend very little on your Active Adventures South America trip. Our trips include all transportation, guiding, meals and activities (except where indicated on the itinerary). The only things you will definitely need cash for are drinks other than water (all drinking water is supplied, though we don't cover other drinks), souvenirs and tips.
Generally speaking you'll need very little money on our trips, but we can't tell you exactly how much - it really depends on how many souvenirs you decide to buy!
Is tipping expected in South America?
Yes, tipping is expected in restaurants and so on, throughout South America and 10% is an acceptable rate, in either US dollars or local currency. Your guide will take care of tipping local guides, drivers, and waiters during your Active Adventures South America trip. You might want to tip a little extra if you feel someone gave really fantastic service, but it's not really necessary. Many of our people also choose to tip their Active Adventures South America trip leaders, W-trek and Inca trail guides, and Inca trail porters at the end of an awesome trip. We'd like to stress though that tipping is very much your call.
Do I need to bring dress clothes to wear out to dinner?
No. South America is a very casual place and you will be comfortable and appropriately dressed going out to dinner wearing jeans or khakis.
Do I need hiking boots or are hiking sneakers okay?
You will need proper hiking boots - trail shoes are not good enough. We'll be taking you to some awesome places where you'll be hiking over a variety of terrain, therefore your boots should have full ankle support and a stiff sole with a high profile tread. As far as your gear goes it's a great idea to get those boots broken in. For boot type, as long as they have full ankle support and a stiff sole with high profile tread they should be fine. I wouldn't be too worried about gore-tex liners, though if that's the ones you want then go for it!
If you're going on the Tortuga trip to the Galapagos Islands only - hiking sneakers are OK
What should I wear while hiking?
We recommend wearing clothes made from the quick drying, "breathable" fabrics. There are a wide variety of these types of clothes available at outdoor stores such as REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated). Brands such as Marmot, Patagonia and North Face are quite popular, although some "no-name" brands can be just as good and more economical. We recommend you don't wear jeans for any activities as they get very heavy & uncomfortable if they get wet, which you will at some stage during your trip. The same clothing can be worn for hiking, cycling and kayaking. We recommend wearing hiking pants or shorts, and shirts or t-shirts made from these quick drying, "breathable" fabrics. In cooler weather we recommend using thermal underwear - these are worn under your pants & t-shirts for an extra layer of warmth. On top we recommend sweaters made from fleece or wool - again because they keep you warm even when you are wet. As an outer layer we recommend a medium weight waterproof jacket. Jackets made from gore-tex or Marmot's PreCip are highly recommended.
Do I really need everything on the gear list?
Yes, you really do need everything on the required gear list! We can hire you a sleeping bag if you let us know in advance. The gear list is carefully thought out to provide you with everything you need to be warm and happy, or cool and relaxed, whatever the weather! If you don't bring everything you need, we can't guarantee your comfort. On the other hand, if you bring much MORE than you need, lugging around all that luggage can be uncomfortable too! That's why our gear list is so specific - if you follow it to the letter, you will be equipped just right.
I need to bring extra luggage with me to South America, where can I store it?
If you're on a trip where you start and end in the same location then you can store excess luggage in the hotels where your trips begin, or alternatively you can store luggage at the airport too. If you're not finishing in the same location then you may be able to leave it in the back of the luggage compartment of your vehicle, depending on the trip, so please check this with us.
What luggage should I bring?
We recommend bringing one medium sized piece of luggage and one daypack per person. While you're trekking on the Inca trails or the W-trek we'll store any extra gear for you - you don't have to lug it with you! You may wish to bring a soft overnight bag to store this extra gear.
We also recommend that you wear your hiking boots while travelling, and pack all essential items in your carry-on luggage (including your passport, money, eye wear, change of clothing, and medications) in case your luggage is delayed along the way.
What type of plugs and voltage do you use in South America?
CHILE and ARGENTINA operate on a 220V AC system and a plug with two round prongs side by side.
ECUADOR operates on a 110V AC system and uses the same type of plug as the USA (two vertical prongs side by side)
PERU operates on a 220V AC system and the same type of plug as the USA (two vertical prongs side by side)
Plug adapters are readily available from travel stores and airport shops, and you may need two - one for the plug shape and one for the voltage converter, or sometimes you can get an all-in-one plug for both reasons too. If your country doesn't use the same AC system (eg. USA = 110V AC) you may need some kind of converter, however many appliances have in-built ones these days (eg. iPods, iPads, laptops and camera chargers). If in doubt, ask at your nearest camera or electrical store before you leave home.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
A little would be helpful, especially on arrival and for ordering food in restaurants, but it's certainly not required. Our trip leaders are all fluent Spanish speakers so if you don't have time to learn a little Spanish before arrival you don't have to worry... they will take care of everything.
Will the altitude affect me?
On our Jaguar, Capybara and Tapir trips we get to some higher altitudes (for instance, 14,200ft on Amantani Island). On the other trips, while you'll find yourself on top of a few mountains, we don't get to the sort of altitudes that cause some people problems.
Over the years we've found that if you take it easy on arrival in higher locations, you'll be just fine. Sure, we get straight into our activities at the start of our trips, so our itinerary takes altitude into account and there is plenty of leeway to relax during the first couple of days. Your trip leader and team of local guides will make sure you're doing fine.
How fit do I need to be?
In general, you must have a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy yourself on our trips. Having said that, our trips are designed for real people, not triathletes! You don't have to be young or extremely fit (although if you are, you won't be bored), though you should be in the habit of doing at least some regular exercise. Age and experience are not important - we would rather have an older person with a good attitude, than a 22-year-old couch potato!
What are the accommodations like?
You'll love the places you'll stay, though our trips are not designed as a tour of the world's fanciest hotels! We also occasionally make changes to the night stops (i.e. accommodation) because the nature of the places we use is such that they are not always available.
The accommodation we use varies depending on the trip you take. For instance, the Jaguar is an uncompromising adventure-orientated trip - so you'll stay in a combination of comfortable hotels, family homes and tents.
How many people are there on each trip?
We generally take no more than 14 people on our trips, and we have an experienced trip leader, fluent in Spanish, there to look after you. We get a variety of both singles and couples, with ages ranging from 20s to 60s, and because of the nature of what we do down in South America, we find that our trips tend to attract all sorts of interesting people. In fact, many of our clients have said the social scene was one of the highlights of their trip!