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.
Get in touch with our local representatives and your Embassy as soon as you can, and they will help you. Always take 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.
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 company, us and our local representative know the situation as soon as possible.
In the first instance 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 representative 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.
Take some US dollar cash with you, as this is a good back-up currency in South America if you run out of local currency.
Most countries and cities have plenty of ATMs for you 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).
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.
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 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 letter or by email.
Cancellation charges for standard tours (not including Galapagos, cruises, flights, all-inclusives)::
For some tours conditions are different. For tours involving flights, Galapagos, any cruises, all inclusive hotels and lodges plus one off events payment due dates and cancellation charges may vary.
Cancellation charges for Galapagos bookings (land and cruises):
We will inform you at the time of booking if cancellation and payment conditions are different from the above. 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.
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.
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 (and any other currency we quote in) 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.
To book a tour we require a non-refundable deposit (usually 30%).
The balance of your trip price is due eight weeks prior to departure (120 days for Galapagos, cruises and some all inclusives).
We accept card payments (including American Express) and in GBP sterling and USD. Card details are taken over the phone or through secure payment links (please ask). All card details are then destroyed, for your protection.
We can also accept bank transfers for payments in GBP, USD and a large range of other currencies.
There are several forms of payment protection available to you.
Some holidays are ATOL protected – see above.
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.
All our flight inclusive holidays are covered by ATOL.
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.
Many 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 your booking is not 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 the ATOL website.
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.
You can also get a quote from our Travel Insurance partner.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for your trip. We have full ATOL bonding (UK passengers).
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.
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 nauseous or get headaches, too.
After a few days most people find that they have adapted to the altitude. There are some 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 evenings the temperature can drop quickly, so always have a fleece or jumper handy to put on. Keep warm.
The secret is not to overstrain yourself since you don’t make as rapid a recovery 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.
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).
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.
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.
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 to be considered.
A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is 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.
Yellow Fever can occur in the rainforest and is a often requirement for travel in some South American countries.
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/ .
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.
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 it can be visited year round.
We are South America specialists and offer group and tailor made (custom) tours across the continent, and also in Namibia, Africa.
We offer tours in Peru, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Patagonia, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Guyana, Antarctica, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay and Namibia.
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We chose Andean trails after finding you online. As soon as we got talking about our options, it was clear you guys were hugely knowledgeable and could help us plan the perfect trip. We had an incredible time!
Overall Organisation: excellent, couldn’t have been better!
Highlight: It’s hard to pick just one, but exploring the suspension bridges above Grey glacier was amazing, exploring the French Valley, and watching a huge chunk of glacier carve away were some of our favourites.
Low point: I’m not sure we really had a low point, it was all amazing.
Accommodation: hotel in Puerto Natales was great, really quirky, good service. As expected the refugios on the trek were pretty basic but perfectly ok, the cabin at Cuernos though was brilliant!
Food: Again, as expected the food in the refugios was very basic, but edible. Our food in Cuernos refugio was actually very good, a nice treat in the middle of our trek! In the hotel, our breakfast was very good.
Guides: We didn’t really have any, but the lady that met us at the bus station and took us to our hotel was very friendly and helpful.
We enjoyed spending a short period of time in Puerto Natales, spending money in the local shops and restaurants. All the locals were super friendly. Hopefully we contributed to the tourist economy. We were very aware of our impact on the natural environment in the park, and the clear impact humans are having with erosion of paths etc. We were as careful as we could be to make sure we had as little environmental impact as possible.
What would we do differently? Not much really. Other than do some training for the hike, 32km on the first day was hard going!!
We love hiking and spending time in the outdoors. We had a couple of friends that had done the W trek and their experience sounded amazing. We weren’t disappointed!
Thanks for all your help and advice in making our trip an experience we will remember forever!
Anna Redman, UK, 2019
» Patagonia Self-guided Trekking Tour
Andean Trails helped us organise a memorable family trip through Peru and Bolivia.
We loved exploring the diversity these countries have to offer - coast, desert, mountains, salt flats and rain forests – with a balance of culture, activity and a little bit of R&R!
I generally like to do the research for trips myself but after the initial research phase, it was great to have Tom as an expert partner, focused on delivering what we wanted to get out of the trip, whilst adding value by suggesting things that would enhance our experience.
He provided an invaluable sense check on what was possible, adding support and expertise to make our ambitious plan a reality - e.g, organising private transfers to get us to where we needed to be before the border closed etc. and providing the reassurance of a ‘go to’ person on the ground for help when needed. He was fabulous to work with and it felt like planning the trip with a friend.
Tom really knows the people and places in all the locations and his suggestions for activities to keep everyone in the family interested and entertained were spot on, meaning we had lots of cool things to do with wonderfully knowledgeable guides, including special times on Lake Titicaca with a home stay on Amantanti.
Thanks for helping us create the most memorable family trip.
Lynn Oliver, UK, 2017
» Colca Canyon Condors Tour
Kat was lucky enough to spot a Jaguar in Guyana - have you seen one on your travels?
#jaguar #guyana #wildlife www.facebook.com/Andeantrails.…
About 7 hours ago
Larry and Gillian are coming to the end of their month of travelling with Andean Trails in Patagonia. We put together a tour designed to take them off-the-beaten-track – read the first instalment in their blog – covering Santiago and Aysen and remote border crossings. Once in Argentina, Gillian and Larry trekked to the base of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, and took a day tour to Perito Moreno. They then set off for Torres del Paine on a self-guided trek. Their tour has ended with a few days in Ushuaia and a flight out from Buenos Aires. Check their progress below …
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