We actually recommend this! Just let us know how much extra time you have to explore, and your interests and we can recommend a variety of extensions that will greatly enhance your travels.
Latin American Escapes FAQs
About Latin American Escapes
You’ll find the vast majority of our select hotels, expedition boats, lodges and local offices follow the highest levels of sustainable tourism guidelines. Most are certified through programs offered by companies such as Rainforest Alliance, or Sustainable Travel International. Many also have developed their own local foundations for cultural and economic sustainability nearby communities. Our preference is to work with these leaders in best management practices, as it mirrors our own commitment to sustainable travel. We also offer sustainability that highlight the efforts and successes of our local partners.
That’s our specialty! We’ll work with you to put together the prefect trip for you based on you travel style, budget, interests and expectations. We know all about new places and hotels before they get into the guide books! And can offer you unique tours and experiences to create your best vacation possible.
Several destinations and activities are by nature group style travel. This includes expedition boat trips (Galapagos, Antarctica, Amazon, etc), lodge style places (prevalent in the Amazon basin and tropical destinations such as Costa Rica, Panama, etc) and most adventure activities such as trekking, rafting, etc. We also offer our travelers the option to join established departures of a variety of tours in select destinations such as Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, etc.
Our philosophy is to be able to help all travelers to Latin America. Whether your focus is culture, natural history, adventure, expedition cruising, general interest or a combination of these, we either have a suggested itinerary to suit you, or will work with you to come up with the perfect trip.
Yes, Latin American Escapes is registered and our California Seller of Travel registration number is CST #22023695-40.
Latin American Escapes was founded in January 1996. Our founder, Peggy Newfield, had previously worked as the manger of Latin American Operations for a large adventure travel company that offered only group trips with departures. Wanting to offer travelers more options and flexibility, she founded Latin American Escapes with the goal of helping all travelers wanting to visit this amazing destination. We specialize in both custom itineraries and group departures, offering our guests the best of both options.
All of these are excellent options for families and friends to travel together, and Latin American Escapes will be happy to work with you to handle all the arrangements. We can also arrange adventure trips such as treks or multi-sport activities that specifically target your level of adventure.
Yes, we work with a wide variety of quality accommodations, ranging from 3 star/moderate options to 5 star/deluxe & luxury style hotels. We also offer a variety of expedition cruise, rainforest lodges, and all-inclusive specialty lodging.
We can be as flexible as you like! For all custom itineraries, we can mix and match as you wish. If you want to splurge on one or two special places or destination during your travels, we can do that too.
Absolutely! We pride ourselves on being flexible, and can easily combine itineraries, or re-design them to fit your interests, travel style and budget.
Booking a Trip
Final payment for most trips is due 60 days in advance of your departure. A few specialty lodges and expedition cruises may have a slightly earlier requirement. Please consult the “Book this trip” tab of your preferred itinerary for specific details.
We'll send you a complete packet of confirmation materials that includes a detailed trip itinerary; a trip guide with general information on your destination, including references to information about any required visas or inoculations; a suggested packing list; recommended reading lists; imformation on travel insurance; trip application forms and a trip invooice.
We usually have a response with-in 24 to 48 hours.
We offer a flexible insurance plan through Access America that offers coverage for trip Cancellation and interruption, medical emergency and evacuation, baggage loss and delay including 24/7 Emergency Assistance. There are several policy options, including cancel for any reason, and waivers for pre-existing conditions if your policy is purchased w/in 14 days of our intial deposit payment.
We’ll send you detailed information with your trip confirmation materials, or you can check-out your various options in our “Plan Your Trip” page under the “Insurance” link.
Latin American Escapes accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diner’s Club credit cards, as well as checks or wire transfers for all payments.
A deposit is required in order to hold space for you. In most cases that is $300 per person. If you’re requesting space w/in 60 days of travel, then generally we’ll need full payment from you to confirm any space. For some special destinations such as Peru, Galapagos, and holiday travel this amount can be higher. If you’re requesting space w/in 60 days of travel, then generally we’ll need full payment from you to confirm any space. Please consult the “Book this trip” tab of your preferred itinerary for specific details.
Definitely. Any trips requested with-in 30 days of departure may have additional charges for required payment fees, and document delivery. As long as we feel there is adequate time to reserve and issue airline tickets, and fulfill the needs of your desired itinerary, we’re happy to help. On occasion we have available attractive discounted space for last-minute travelers on group style departures. We’ll charge a “late-booking fee” only if we need to use expedited delivery or special payment costs to confirm your trip and provide timely documents.
We recommend you make your reservations as soon as you are sure of your travel dates. Holiday dates, both in Latin America and the United States, can limit availability for flights, lodging and guides. Our best chance to be able to confirm all f our recommended trip components is early confirmation. 6 months in advance for peak holiday times is not too early! In general we can take reservation requests up to 3-4 weeks prior to travel--as long as we have enough time to receive confirmations and provide airline tickets and travel documents we are happy to help with travel plans close to departure.
We can effortlessly help you coordinate your international and domestic flights with your preferred Latin American Escapes itinerary. We offer discounted contract fares with select airlines, and can easily compare rates with the many carriers to Latin America. We also have extensive knowledge of the best routes and fares to the destinations we visit, and can generally save you both time and money on your airfare. When you book your flights with us, we can easily coordinate airport transfers, and keep track of any schedule changes or re-arrangement of flights that may be necessary during your travels.
As long as the reservation has been made through our airline system, and the carrier allows for pre-assigned seats, we can easily provide this service.
Absolutely! Just provide us with your corresponding mileage numbers, and we’ll be happy to add those to any reservation confirmed through our office. We also are well versed on the various airline partners, so you may be surprised at some of the extra miles you can earn on your trip to Latin America!
In a few instances we do include flights for travel with-in countries such as Costa Rica, Guyana, etc. For destinations where the fares vary, or discounts exist for using specific international carriers, we will book and quote your airline tickets as a separate cost.
Miles that you have on account with a specific airline cannot be used to purchase tickets, or upgrades through Latin American Escapes. The airlines will require that you handle these arrangements directly with their reservations office. However we will be happy to suggest the appropriate international itinerary and coordinate local flights for you so all arrangements match perfectly to our tour arrangements.
Latin American Escapes has special contract and discounted airfares with several airlines that offer business class seats. Generally Business Class is offered for your international flights. If you are traveling with-in, or between countries you may find planes that are configured for coach class service only.
Preparing for Your Trip
We recommend all of our passengers consult with their personal physical regarding both recommended and required shots and medications. In addition to general travel related vaccines you’ll find that Yellow-fever is required to visit several countries, and an appropriate malarial prophylaxis can be recommended for certain rainforest/tropical destinations. The CDC maintains an informative website regarding travelers’ health topics. Specific information for your destination will be included with our confirmation materials.
About 4 weeks before your trip departure, we start preparing your final packet of information. We’ll double check we have received your trip application, and all flight details for any arrangements you have made directly. About 3 weeks before departure you’ll receive form us a final trip itinerary; a contact list of all your hotels and our local offices with their 24 hour emergency numbers; final invoice; electronic ticket details if we’ve arranged your flights; trip vouchers and our “Trip Departure Notes” to help with your final trip preparations.
You will need a passport that has a remaining validity of at least 6 months from your date of entry into any country. If you need to renew your passport, you should do so as far in advance as possible.
There are several countries in Latin America that require a visa from US citizens, such as Paraguay and Suriname. We recommend Travel Visa Pro to our clients to assist with these details, and make your application process as smooth as possible. Entry fees and specifics can change, and complete details for travel requirements will be sent to you once your trip is confirmed.
During Your trip
Email and text via a cost-effective international data plan are the cheapest and fastest way to communicate while traveling in Latin America. All hotels will have WIFI (occasionally for a small fee); and most restaurants & cafes also offer this service as well. WIFI connected telephone apps such as Whats App and SKYPE are also easy and convenient ways to stay in touch while you are traveling.
Before you depart, we'll provide you with the contact information of our local office for each destination that you will be visiting. This will include a 24/7 emergency after hours number. You'll be met on arrival to each destination by our local guides, who will brief you on your itinerary, and answer any questions you may have. From the time you arrive, until your departure you will have the assistance of our trained and professional staff to help with any questions and needs you may have.
It depends on the phone, the provider and the reception in the area where you try to use it. Check with your cell phone provider for the most up-to-date information.
We can easily accommodate special meal requests for vegetarians, or due to allergies and medical requirements. You’ll find a place for dietary restrictions on your trip application. The more specific you can be about your needs, the better we can help.
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands
Each boat has a block of space on their preferred flights for all guests. Once you confirm your dates, your boat automatically confirms the corresponding flights for you. We’ll invoice you for the airline ticket as part of your trip, and your Galapagos boat will provide you with your electronic tickets in Ecuador.
You’ll fly from the mainland of Ecuador, from either the Quito or Guayaquil airport about 600 miles off the coast to either the Baltra or San Cristobal Airport. There are three major airlines that fly this route: TAME, Aerogal and LAN Ecuador. Aircraft all jets, varying in style and size from Boeing 737s to Airbuses. At the airport you’ll meet your guide and crew, and start your adventure.
Both airlines flying to the Galapagos impose a weight limit of 44 lbs. for one piece of luggage. You don’t need much in the islands, so this is a generous allowance. We do recommend you pack all of your “travel” clothes, and items not needed in Galapagos in a separate bag, and leave it in luggage storage at your Quito or Guayaquil hotel.
Absolutely! There are many hotels and eco-lodge options, and we’ll be happy to work with you to select the one best suited to you.
Selecting a Galapagos Boat
There are many things to consider when selecting your Galapagos boat. Most important is your travel style and comfort—do you need lower beds, or are upper/lower berths OK? Size of cabin, extra activities, cabin location on the boat and window sizes are all considerations. Most boats are a pretty casual experience, while some of the larger ones have a more “cruisey” feel. You’ll find details on all of our recommended vessels on our Galapagos Tour page. Our sales staff has traveled on, or visited most of the boats we recommend and are happy to help you narrow down your choices.
Quite a few of our recommended boats offer single travelers the opportunity for a “same sex share” cabin at the per person/double occupancy rate. As long as you are willing to share you will pay this rate, whether you actually have a room-mate or not. If you prefer a single cabin, policies vary per individual boat company as to the single supplement charge. You can find these rates indicated in the “Pricing/Trip Notes” tab for each boat.
All boats recommended by Latin American Escapes are carefully selected due to their safety, quality of crew and guides, and accommodations. There are a few boats, or boat companies, operating in the islands that do not meet our standards, and we are not comfortable putting our valued clients on board. Feel free to ask us about any specific boat you are considering, we usually can offer you a comparable, but recommended vessel. On the other hand, there are some new boats that come on the scene each year. We’ll be happy to check out any options for you!
They will love it! And most trips offer discounts for children under 12 traveling with their parents. Generally we recommend a minimum age of 7 years, although some boats, and any chartered vessel, will let children as young as 4 years on board. Some boats have connecting cabins, or offer fold-out sofa beds offering more comfortable accommodations for families.
There are a select number of vessels that offer cabins with either a fold-out sofa, or an upper berth. In some cases the 3rd passenger is limited to a child, or small adult. You’ll find these details listed “Pricing/Trip Notes” tab for each boat.
All of our recommended boats are carefully selected for their conservation efforts and commitment to sustainable tourism. We promote strict guidelines to minimize the environmental and social impact of tourism, and encourage our guests to become informed and involved in these issues. Most all of our selected boats have earned the “Smart Voyager” environmental certification, and/or are members of the Fundacion Galápagos Ecuador—two of the most worthwhile local efforts supporting sustainable tourism.
General Travel Questions about the Galapagos Islands
By international standards, the waters of the Galapagos Islands are considered to be calm, however if you are susceptible to motion-sickness you may wish to avoid the months when the seas are generally the roughest (August-September) and plan your trip for the calmer months of December thru May, or plan to travel on one of the larger boats (40-90 passengers are most stable) or catamarans.
No matter when you visit the islands, you will overwhelmed by the high concentration of birdlife and wildlife. If you are interested in seeing any specific migrating species, just let us know and we’ll advise you of the best time & itinerary to select to increase your chances of seeing it. Because of the islands’ position on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, storms and other weather related events do not occur here. Our staff has visited the islands virtually every month of the year, and each trip has been magical!
Yes, we can suggest two alternatives. You can stay in one of the land-based eco lodges or camps, and visit the nearby islands by day trips. Or if you want to stay completely off of boats, then we offer some land-based adventure programs, offering a range of accommodations, that let explore the islands by hiking, mountain biking and kayaks. These trips are offered about once per month as a group tour, or you can arrange for a private and/or customized itinerary to suit your travel dates.
Currently the Galapagos National Park charges $100 per person (50% less for children under 12 years) as an entry fee to the park. This fee is used to fund Park management and community and conservation projects in the islands. The beneficiaries are as follows: Galapagos National Park Service (40%), Municipal Governments (20%), the Galapagos Provincial Board (10%), Galapagos Marine Reserve (5%), the National System for Protected Areas (5%), the National Galapagos Institute (10%), the Quarantine and Inspection System (5%), and the Ecuadorian Navy (5%).
In addition, a $10 Transit Control card is also mandatory for all visitors. We generally can prepay these taxes and fees, and you’ll find these amounts included in your trip invoice.
Some boats have fuel surcharges, and/or holiday surcharges added to the cruise cost. If applicable, you’ll see these itemized in the “Pricing/Trip Notes” tab for each boat.
Guides and Itineraries
Always! Wildlife abounds through-out the Galapagos Islands. And since they have very few natural predators, they are not afraid at all of humans. You’ll be stepping around nesting birds, sea-lions and iguanas most everywhere you go. Both on land and in the ocean, you will encounter plentiful species of both birds and animals.
Yes. By park regulation a minimum of one licensed naturalist guide is required for every 16 passengers, and they MUST accompany you on all shore visits. Guides are trained in conservation and natural sciences by the Charles Darwin Foundation and licensed by the Galapagos National Park Service. The guides work as the first line of defense protecting the park's natural resources through education. They accompany visitors ashore interpreting the natural wonders of the islands while enforcing the park rules and regulations. All of our guides are level II or III, meaning they are fluent in English and Spanish, and have a university degree in biology, or a related discipline.
Each boat has a specific itinerary assigned to it by the National Park Service. They are designed to carefully avoid other vessels and crowding at any particular site. You’ll find various itineraries on each vessel, but in general they all visit the same areas of the archipelago. Some itineraries/boats offer more active itineraries, and some are more traditional. You’ll find itineraries offered for as short as 4 days, and as long as 15 days. An average stay on the islands is from 6-10 days.
Each vessel has zodiac boats, which are large inflatable boats operated by skilled boatmen. Called “pangas” locally, these are used for transporting guests to and from the islands. You’ll land either on a beach and wade into knee high water to shore (wet landing) or land at a pier or rocky ledge directly on to the islands (dry landing).
Nature Walks and Activities
A normal day in the Galapagos goes like this: Wake up in a new destination—early breakfast and then to shore for a nature walk with your guide. Alternately some sites are visited by a cruise in the pangas. Depending on location, you could have some independent beach time, photography, exploring and/ or snorkeling too. Later in the morning return to the boat. You’ll either move to a new island, or different location on the same island, and have a 2nd visit to a new destination in the afternoon. Return by late afternoon, with time to relax and enjoy the sunset before dinner. A briefing by your guides generally follows or precedes dinner, with details about your activities and visits for the following day. Evening time is when the vessels travel long distances. You can enjoy star-gazing on deck, or most boats have DVD’s for movies or special lectures as well.
You’ll have an opportunity to swim or snorkel most every day. Some boats provide snorkel equipment, and others have it available for rent. Many boats have kayaks on board for use in designated areas.
Generally the trails on the islands consist of sand, dirt or lava rock. They are mostly flat, with some occasional up-hills. Passengers who are able to walk a few hours a day unassisted will be able to fully enjoy the Galapagos Islands. Some of the excursions require more physical activity than others, involving short steep climbs or long walks in hot weather. However, most excursions require moderate activity. To enter and exit the dinghies, one must be reasonably fit, sure-footed and in good health. Passengers who are concerned about their ability to do any particular day hike can discuss the situation in advance with on-board the naturalist beforehand. A few of the larger boats offer glass bottom boat excursions, and due to multiple guides on board can better accommodate less mobile passengers with panga rides, or beach visits. Kayaks are also offered on most boats, and can be used only at sites the park service has designated for this activity.
The Galapagos were named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the world (CEDAM International). Scuba diving is possible for an additional fee and with pre-arrangement on most of our Galapagos Cruises. We can offer this experience when the boat is near to an island that offers dive services. Usually you can plan on 1-2 dives, although this will usually be at the expense of a shore visit. All dive equipment is provided and you must be bring your certification card. Please see the trip notes for your planned vessel for their dive information, or ask our staff for advice.
For the serious diver, we also offer a select number of boats operating concentrated dive trips. For someone wanting to experience a few days of diving, we suggest you add a few days on to your Galapagos sailing and stay in one of the hotels or lodges. Then you can easily take advantage of a variety of half-day and full-day dives offered by the local dive shops. We’ll be happy to help with all the arrangements!
Safety and Boat Amenities
All boats are equipped with basic first aid kits for any minor mishaps. Boats with 38 or more passengers generally carry a medical doctor on board with more sophisticated medical equipment. Serious medical conditions will be handled in the best way possible considering your boats location, and the accessibility to a doctor or clinic. Due to the remoteness of the destination, passengers are advised to obtain medical or travel insurance that covers medical evacuation.
Yes, all boats have life vests in each cabin for use during any emergency. In addition, a separate set of life vests are provided for the panga excursions and transfers. You’ll have a safety drill your first day on board, where all passengers are briefed on safety procedures, and the location of life vests.
A few of the larger boats do offer this service when they are in port at either San Cristobal or Pto Ayora. Please do try to bring sufficient clothing to last for the duration of your trip—dress on board the boats is quite casual, so you do not need much! You’ll probably want to purchase souvenir T-shirts during your trip. Fresh water is very precious in this island community, and anything you can do to conserve usage will be greatly appreciated!
There are 220 & 110-Volt electrical outlets on most boats, plugs are the same as you find in the US. Most larger and luxury boats provide hair dryers for guest use.
There is full phone and cell phone service in the Galapagos Islands, however signals may be weak or non-existent when you travel far from the populated islands. Several boats have computers for use for a fee. Be aware both phone and internet service is extremely expensive in this remote area, so be sure to check the charges in advance.
Pto Ayora and San Cristobal have plenty of internet cafes, etc should you wish to make international calls during your stops in these towns. Personal cell phones may function depending on your own provider and the reception in the area where you try to use it.
When cruising the islands boats maintain communications by way of radios and or satellite phones 24/7.
Yes, most vessels have large containers of fresh drinking water at designated areas on board. We recommend you bring your own sturdy refillable water bottle with you.
By park law, smoking is not allowed at any visitor site. Each boat has a separate policy for smokers, but in general you are not allowed to smoke in the cabins, and a designated place on deck is provided.
We can easily accommodate special meal requests for vegetarians, or due to allergies and medical requirements. You’ll find a place for dietary restrictions on your trip application. The more specific you can be about your needs, the better we can help.