Below are some of the most commonly asked questions you may have when planning your trip to South America.
If you cannot find the answer you need, would like more information or have a different question, please contact us and we'll be happy to help.
We are South America specialists and offer group and tailor made (custom) tours across the continent, and also in Namibia, Africa.
There are many countries and variations of seasons across South America, ranging from short, sub-zero days to tropical, 100% tropical humidity to warm beaches great for sunbathing.
Different seasons offer different benefits and options to the traveller and we're happy to help and advise. Contact us for more.
Speaking very generally, the Andes in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador are best for trekking between April and October.
Patagonia's summer is the best time to visit (October to March), while the Galapagos Islands are pretty much a year-round destination.
The Amazon rainforest main 'dry' season is April to November, although can be visited year round.
In order to get the most out of the tour you should be in good physical condition.
We offer a very wide range of trips from day trips with hardly any walking at all to 21-day climbing expeditions at very high altitude.
It is not easy for us to grade the fitness levels required for all our trips, since most people's fitness is a subjective matter.
However, we are happy to talk through what is expected of you on each trip we offer so you know what to expect. Having said that, most trips are easily within the reach of most people and the more extreme trips too, with some training.
We recommend that you always make an appointment with your GP/doctor/medical centre or travel clinic before you travel to get the very latest advice.
The NHS Fit For Travel website contains for up-to-date health advice and lists the common vaccinations normally required.
Our Destination Guides for each country have extra information about required inoculations.
In general, courses or boosters for Hepatitis A are usually advised. The course of two ‘Havrix’ injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper but less effective.
Typhoid fever is not common in some parts of South America, but some doctors recommend a typhoid vaccine. Also diphtheria, polio and tetanus or tetanus booster, as well as hepatitis B and tuberculosis are recommended.
A pre-exposure rabies vaccination worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or more than 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies.
Yellow Fever can occur in the rainforest and is a requirement for travel. Other countries, such as in the north east of Argentina, also require Yellow Fever jabs.
Anti-malarial protection (chloroquine) is recommended only in risk areas (Amazon rainforest etc).
In the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laboratory http://malaria-reference.co.uk/ for the latest information.
North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/ .
Before travel we recommend that you check that you have all the correct passport and visa requirements for all the countries you intend to visit, and that includes anywhere you transit (transit is changing plane in a country but not leaving the airport). Please read our section: 'Help with travelling through the USA' if you transit through the United States.
Most countries in South America ask that your passport has at least 6 months' validity remaining on the day you intend to leave that country.
British citizens can find up-to-date information on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.
Citizens of the United States, Canada and Australia (and others) may have to pay a reciprocity fee to enter several South America countries. We recommend that all non-UK nationals should check with their nearest embassies for visa and fee information.
Shortness of breath is normal when first arriving at altitude. Most people are fine the first day they arrive as they still have retained oxygen in the blood system from sea level.
It will take most people a couple of days to adjust to altitude properly. You may notice that if you move quickly, you will have to pause and catch your breath, and so you will probably have to do most things quite slowly. Which is fine, because you're on holiday! But do go carefully and take it easy, especially if you have never been at altitude before. Some people feel a little sick or get headaches, too.
After a few days most people find that they have adapted to the altitude. There are lots more steps you can take to ensure you acclimatise as quickly as possible.
Physical exercise, hot sunshine and dry high altitude air all combine to cause you to lose fluids rapidly. Take a water bottle everywhere and ensure that you drink plenty, possibly 4-5 litres per day.
When you go to the toilet check the colour of your urine. If it is clear like water then you’re fine but if it is dark yellow then you are dehydrated and need to drink more.
Extremes of temperature can also lead to sickness. Try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Use a sun hat and sun cream and protect the back of your neck.
When the sun goes in the temperature can drop quickly so always have a fleece or jumper in your own day sack to put on. Keep warm.
The secret is not to overstrain yourself since you don’t make such a rapid recovery upon resting as you may at sea level. Listen to your heart rate and when it feels as if your heart is going to jump straight out of your chest it’s a sure sign to stop and rest for a few minutes until it returns to normal.
Make frequent rests and take your time to enjoy the scenery/situation.
Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.
International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.
Typically, you fly to a country's capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination. Check our Flight Information page for more information about flying in and around South America.
Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.
Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.
Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers, we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.
Check our Flight Information page for more information about flying in and around South America.
Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets who are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.
Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.
Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America (this is most common for flights to the Galapagos Islands and on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia).
The joining instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.
Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us. If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).
To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.
Some flights with paper tickets (i.e. Galapagos Islands) you are allocated seats at the check in desk at the airport.
The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.
More information can be found here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.
Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available. This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).
Most international airlines offer one piece of hand luggage up to 10kg and one piece of cabin luggage of 20-23kg in economy class.
Internal flights in South America generally offer one piece of hand luggage up to 10kg and one piece of cabin luggage of 20kg in economy class but these can vary, especially in Argentina and on smaller planes operating in remote areas (Amazon/Andes).
If you have concerns about baggage allowances, please ask before booking flights and we'll be glad to help.
All customers must be fully insured for the duration of their tour.
Customers are responsible for arranging their own insurance, which must cover medical expenses, injury, death, rescue, repatriation, cancellation and curtailment.
Customers must provide Andean Trails Ltd. with insurers’ name, policy number and 24-hour emergency telephone number in case there is a need to contact them. You must carry proof of insurance with you.
If you lose any personal items whilst on holiday you are advised to obtain a written police report and/or from a local representative. This will assist with any insurance claim upon your return.
We recommend you take out your insurance at the time of booking and double check the small print to ensure it covers all activities you are involved in. This is your responsibility.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL Scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with "The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992", all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
WMany of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to:www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate"
There are several forms of payment protection available to you.
They include ATOL protection - see above: What is ATOL protection and is my holiday protected?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account. We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
Some credit cards offer payment protection (please check with your cardholder). You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
We accept card payments (including American Express) and all payments are taken in GBP sterling. Card details are taken over the phone or through our secure web page. All card details are then destroyed, for your protection.
We can also accept GBP sterling bank transfers and USD bank transfers.
To book a tour: send the completed booking form together with a non-refundable deposit.
We will issue a confirmation invoice, at which point we have accepted your booking and a contract exists.
The balance of your trip price is due eight weeks prior to departure.
We accept card payments and all payments are taken in GBP sterling. Card details are taken over the phone or thourgh our secure web site and then destroyed, for your protection.
We can also accept GBP sterling bank transfers and USD bank transfers.
We work in USD and GBP sterling. We set our prices in USD and these do not change once a trip has been agreed (with the caveat below).
The GBP sterling price may change if the currency fluctuates (this can mean a price decrease or increase).
We reserve the right to increase the price of a holiday 30 days before departure by up to 10%, due to fuel costs, taxes or exchange rate changes.
We email you invoices and confirmations as the booking progresses. We also send detailed country information, fact sheets, kit lists etc, so you are fully prepared.
Once your balance has been paid, some 2-3 weeks before your departure, we email you your 'Joining Instructions'. This is a word document that lists all the timings for your trip, flight details, e-ticket numbers etc.
These instructions also have our emergency numbers, and the contact details for our local partners who will be looking after you during your trip. They are your first point of reference for your trip and we strongly recommend that you print them out and take them with you on holiday.
If you wish to cancel you must do so in writing and the following percentages will be charged based on the date of receipt in writing, by fax or by email.
If you choose to make an alteration to your trip after your tour has commenced, we will do our best to implement this, but we cannot guarantee it will be possible.
In the event of such amendments being made you will be liable for any alteration or cancellation charges for services originally booked, and for the booking of revised arrangements. No refund will be paid to those who do not commence or complete a tour.
Please read our Guide to keeping safe, fit and well while travelling.
Our tours involve travel in remote, mountainous regions, at high altitudes, where amenities and medical facilities are few and far between.
South America is a largely under developed continent where standards of quality, safety and hygiene are not as high as in Europe. Passenger seat belt regulations are not widely enforced. Hard hats are not normally provided for horse-riding or mountain-biking, arrangements can and do go wrong, delays and discomfort are common here.
Every effort is made to ensure your safety and well being, but bookings are accepted on the understanding that you appreciate the risks and hazards associated with this sort of travel.
Andean Trails cannot be held responsible for; the consequences of any delays, expenses incurred or alterations caused by illness, weather, war, terrorism, political events, civil strife, strikes, natural disaster, technical difficulties or any event beyond our control.
The services and facilities included in your holiday comply with local regulations that apply or, if there are no applicable local regulations, if they are reasonable when compared to the local standards and customs.
If you have booked transfers with us, you are met at airports/bus stations and taken to your hotel. This may be a driver only, or with the guide. If it's driver only then you will meet your guide at your hotel or when your tour begins. These details are set out in your joining instructions.
For group trips you usually meet up with your group members the day before your trip for a briefing with your guide. We provide the details of where and when.
If you need to contact a guide in country, we will give you the details of how to get in touch.
Take some US dollar cash with you, as this is a good back-up currency in South America as most people will accept this if you run out of local currency.
Most countries and cities have a proliferation of ATMs from which to withdraw the local currency. Let your bank know where and when you are travelling to avoid your card potentially being blocked. It's best to withdraw money in country as ordering in advance usually means a very bad exchange rate.
The currencies are: Ecuador (US dollar); Peru (Sol); Bolivia (Boliviano); Chile (Chilean Peso); Argentina (Argentine Peso); Brasil (Real); Guyana (Guyanese dollar); Uruguay (Uruguayan Peso); Colombia (Colombian Peso); Cuba (Cuban Peso); Namibia (Namibia dollar); Paraguay (Guarani).
In the first instance it is best to call our local partner/representative as they will be able to respond much more quickly and actively than we can.
If the matter is not urgent you can email us too.
If the local rep cannot help, or you cannot locate them, or you wish to speak to us directly, or the matter is urgent, please locate your joining instructions and call us on the office number +44 131 4677086 (during office hours) or the emergency mobile outside of office hours.
We will respond as soon as we can and stay in touch with you until any issues have been resolved.
Please consult your joining instructions and call our local representative. They will be able to help you, advise you etc, and help you find medical attention if required. Most common complaints such as upset stomachs can be resolved swiftly.
If it is an emergency please go to the nearest local hospital. Carry your travel insurance documents with you, and let the insurance firm, us and our local representative know the situation as soon as possible.
Get in touch with our local representatives and your Embassy as soon as you can, and they will help you. Always takes photocopies of your passport with you when travelling. Saving a scanned copy of your passport in a secure email is also a great way to be able to access your passport details should you lose your passport while travelling.
You cannot travel with a photocopy of your passport or with a print out of the scanned copy. You must contact your Embassy to cancel that passport. The copies are useful to have to help the authorities. If someone steals your passport you must also contact the local police and report the theft.