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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

YOUR TOUR

How do I start my tour?

We’ll meet you at the airport (or port, or bus station) and take you to your hotel, simple as that, no matter what time your flight arrives. It’s no fun arriving in a foreign country and having to make your way to your hotel on your own or being hassled by taxi drivers and all the other touts that are a fixture just outside the airport doors. On a Southern Crossings tour, we’ll have one of our representatives there instead, with a big, bright placard with your name on it and secure and reliable transport to your hotel. If for some reason your flight is delayed we’ll be checking your flight status and be there waiting.

Can you make a custom itinerary for me?

Yes we can! We specialize in custom depart any day tours for individuals, friends, families and small groups. We will work with you to put together a perfect itinerary for you including your favorite spots to visit. If you have special interests please let us know. We will work with you until we have the perfect trip for you.

What’s included in the tour? What’s not included?

If you check carefully, you’ll find we include more in your tour than most companies, whether it’s something small like entrance fees or something big like domestic flights. The price of the tour always includes transfers from (and back to) the airport, profesional bilingual Southern Crossings guides throughout your trip, all internal transport including domestic flights, all accommodation, and excursions (including entrance fees). Please refer to your custom itinerary or online itinerary to see a detailed list of what’s included on each tour. You can find this in the What’s Included section of each trip itinerary and details section. You will also find a section called What’s Not Included on each itinerary. We are particularly pleased to always include domestic flights and transfers in the basic price – just one of the things that sets us apart from most other tour companies. If you have air miles or a discount with the airlines and would like to purchase your own domestic flights, let us know.

Is my tour private or will there be other people on the tour?

In general, we try to avoid large group travel. We specialize in private, personalized, leave-any-day tours for individuals, friends and families, so much of the tour is likely to consist of just the people you booked with. However, you may be part of a larger group on excursions such as the Inca Trail, jungle lodges or the Lake Titicaca Islands. Private options are available for these sections as well at an additional cost. If you are not going to the jungle, Lake Titicaca, or on the Inca Trail the tour is always private unless you would prefer group tours, then let us know.

How are the hotel accommodations?

Our tours on our webpages include 3 star accommodations, all are clean and comfortable locally-run hotels located close to the main center of each town you will be staying in. Most of our passengers say the accommodations were nicer and cozier than they expected. Accommodation is based on two passengers with 24-hour hot water and always private bathrooms.

Please ask to see our Accommodations Page where you will find a list of our favorite hotels and more info on upgrading to luxurious 4 and 5 star hotels.

Econo tours include 2 star accommodations which are more basic but still clean and safe and with private bathrooms. 2 star hotels may not have room service, wifi or telephones in the rooms.

Keep in mind if you have a favorite hotel, have been reccomended a hotel by a friend or have seen something you are interested in on Trip Advisor or elsewhere just let us know, we can include the hotel of your choice in your quote.

Is there a local payment?

Yes, only if traveling to Peru. Depending on your tour we sometimes require a $200 per person local payment due in cash upon your arrival in Cuzco ($400 for luxury trips). This payment is used for entrances and services, and helps us keep our trip costs down. It is part of your total trip cost not a fee on top of your tour cost. If traveling to the another country in South America we do not require a cash payment.

If camping, what is the camping like?

Our trekking and camping experiences are extremely well-supported, with cooks that prepare delicious meals and porters or mule teams that carry most of the load and prepare our campsites. Additionally, we always carry a dining and toilet tent for the comfort of the group when facilities aren’t available on the trail.

Can I spend extra time somewhere?

Of course you can! We will work with you to create a customized itinerary that suits all your interests so you get the most out of your trip. We can book you an extra night of hotel accommodation and can do some exploring on your own (or just relax) or we can organize an extra tour or activity for you.

Do I need to be an adventure sport guru for these trips?

Not at all. Our cultural tours include moderate walking, but are not exhausting, and all of our trekking, biking and rafting trips are designed for the average healthy person, with or without experience in the specific sport. On the Inca Trail and other treks we offer there is never any pressure to keep up with the group or to slow down and wait for anyone. Our guides will let the faster hikers know where to stop to camp and stay with the slower members. Sometimes the slower people in the group are checking more sites out and taking more photos. When you arrive to camp normally the tents are pitched and our cooks are already preparing lunch or dinner. The idea is to have fun hiking and let us take care of the rest!

Our biking tours are for everyone, all skill levels are welcome. If you are into extreme mountain biking and would like a private tour let us know we’d be happy to arrange a special tour for you.

Should I purchase cancellation insurance for my trip?

Purchasing a trip cancellation policy for your Southern Crossings custom tour is not mandatory although we highly reccomend it. It’s certainly worth getting a quote to see how much it would cost to insure your trip.

TRAVELING IN SOUTH AMERICA

Will I need a passport and visa?

All travelers to Peru and Ecuador are required to have a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry. Visas are not required for E.U., U.S., Canadian, Australian or New Zealand passport holders. For other nationalities, please consult the nearest Peruvian embassy or consulate. An onward ticket and proof of funds may also be required at entry and should be available to show to immigration. Traveler’s checks, currency, or a bank statement, from the bank or printed off the internet, are sufficient for proof of funds.

All travelers to Brazil are required to have a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry. Visas are not required for U.K., New Zealand and most E.U. passport holders (excluding Cypriots, Maltese, Estonians and Latvians). A visa is required for U.S., Canadian and Australian citizens. U.S. citizens, please visit the U.S. state department website Canadian citizens, please visit the Canadian State foreign affairs website and Australian citizens, please visit the Australian department of foreign affairs website. For other nationalities, please consult the nearest Brazilian embassy or consulate. An onward ticket and proof of funds may also be required at entry and should be available to show to immigration. Traveler’s checks, currency, or a bank statement, from the bank or printed off the internet, are sufficient for proof of funds.

All travelers to Bolivia are required to have a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry. Visas are not required for E.U., Canadian, Australian or New Zealand passport holders. A visa is required for U.S. citizens, which costs $135.00 and can be obtained at point of entry. Please visit the U.S. state department website for what you will need to present to obtain your visa. A visa can also be obtained in advance through any Bolivian consulate. For other nationalities, please consult the nearest Bolivian embassy or consulate. An onward ticket and proof of funds may also be required at entry and should be available to show to immigration. Traveler’s checks, currency, or a bank statement, from the bank or printed off the internet, are sufficient for proof of funds.

All travelers to Argentina are required to have a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry. US, Canadian and Australian citizens are required to obtain a Visa or Reciprocity Fee in order to enter the country. This Reciprocity Fee must be obtained prior to entering the country. Airlines will not let you board the plane without a printed copy of the Reciprocity Fee. You must present the Reciprocity Fee at Immigration Control upon entering the country.

Check with us and the nearest embassy or consulate whether your nationality requires a visa for the country (countries) you will be visiting.

Can I spend my currency or will I need to change money?

Foreign currency is generally not accepted and one must change cash or traveler’s checks into local currency, or withdraw local currency from ATM machines. Exchange houses are plentiful in all towns and cities we will be visiting, and the U.S. dollar is the easiest currency to change. It is highly recommended that you use U.S. dollars for cash exchange, but euros and pounds are also exchangeable in most places. PLEASE NOTE: ripped bills are not accepted in Peru for exchange. Please inspect your bills prior to departing for Peru. Ecuador/Galapagos accept US currency. Our guides and representatives can help you exchange money if you’d like.

ATM’s with MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus, and Star logos are in all major cities and dispense local currency at a good exchange rate. You should advise your bank that you will be traveling abroad.

If you bring traveler’s checks, please bring American Express or Visa! There is usually a 7-8% fee to cash them. We don’t reccommend travelers checks because of the high commission fees to cash them.

Will my electrical appliances work?

Peru runs on 220V, so you’ll need an adapter if your country is 110. Bolivia runs on 220 or 110, depending on the location. Note that many appliances and devices such as laptops are adaptable up to 240V – check the specs on the device. Ecuador uses 120V. Brazil uses mostly 110V but some northern cities use 220V. Argentina and Chile use 220V.

Will I be alright if I don’t speak Spanish?

Don’t worry, you’ll be fine if you can’t speak Spanish and if you wish to learn more you will have many opportunities to practice. While it would be helpful to know and understand a few basic words (like hola, buenos dias, buenas tardes, buenas noches, gracias, por favor,  or baño…), you will be with qualified bilingual guides throughout your trip, and most restaurants and hotels manage at least basic English. If you do speak Spanish and wish to practice or you are a native speaker you will have many opportunities to interact with locals if you wish.

Can I drink the water?

Please don’t drink tap water. There is safe bottled water available for sale in all towns, cities, hotels and sites you will be visiting, normally costing around $1.25 per large bottle. On trekking and other adventure sport excursions, water is provided and boiled or purified. Any restaurants that we reccomend will use boiled or bottled water in lemonade, juices and other drinks.

What is there to eat?

Anything you desire! Some tour companies include meals and add it on to the tour price, but we find this to be a little too restrictive. While we can (and do) suggest some great restaurants, and sometimes dine with our passengers, we recognize that different people have different tastes and different budgets. So we allow you the opportunity to explore this aspect of traveling on your own. South America offers a huge variety of mouth-watering, and sometimes bizarre, cuisines to sample. To be sure, burgers and pizza are available just about everywhere, but how about fresh seafood ceviche from the Peruvian coast, or your sister’s childhood pet, guinea pig, a specialty in the high Andes? There are also vegetarian options everywhere and even vegetarian restaurants in most cities. We are happy to make dinner or lunch reservations, just let us know.

Sections of your tour may include meals. Please see What’s Included on your trip itinerary. All meals are included on the Inca Trail, homestays, and Galapagos cruises. Breakfast is always included at your hotel.

Buen provecho = Enjoy your meal

If you are interested in the culinary arts please have a look at our Peru culinary tour. We’d be happy to organize a cooking class if you have time to add that to your custom itinerary.

 

Can you suggest some things to do if I have extra time?

We have a whole slew of suggestions! From places to visit, foods to try or hidden gems of the city, we will work with you to plan any free time you want to fill. During your initial trip briefing we will suggest a number of things to do and will provide a welcome pack with additional information and maps. Please let us know if you have any special interests or hobbies.

Is it normal to tip in South America? How much?

Tipping is totally at your discretion and is not requirement in South America or on Southern Crossings Tours. It is a great way to show your appreciation to the people serving you and will be warmly accepted. We only suggest tipping if the service is satisfactory to above average. Below are some suggestions:

For your guides, if you wish to tip them we suggest $5-10 per person per day.

On treks or other all day sport activities such as the Inca Trail if you want to tip we recommend US$10-$15 per person per day, to be divided amongst the staff. If every group member on the trek follows this guideline, the porters/horsemen, cooks and guides should all be happy. Normally the head guide will pass around an envelope for passengers to put a tip in and will split the tip with amongst the staff. If you feel a staff member has gone above and beyond to help you out you may give that person an additional tip directly to that person.

If you wish to tip your private driver $5 is acceptable. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers.

A 10% tip at restaurants, 1 sol ($0.30) per drink at a bar.

All 3 to 5 star hotels have already been paid a 10% service fee by Southern Crossings on your behalf.

Hotel porters and bell boys $1 (or equivalent) per bag. A little more if at a 4 or 5 star hotel. If you permit anyone at the airport who is not a Southern Crossings employee to help you with your bags they will expect a small tip.

Again tipping is totally at your discretion and you will never be put on the spot or in an
situation uncomfortable to tip.

If you are scheduled to have the same guide or driver for more than one day you can tip them once at the end instead of several times.

How much money do you suggest I bring?

We would suggest $40 a day, depending on your dining preferences and the purchases you plan on making. If you’re just buying food and non-alcoholic drinks, $40 should be plenty but add on more if you wish to shop and purchase alcohol. Please keep in mind that you can take out local currency or dollars at ATM machines along the way. Make sure to notify your bank that you will be traveling to South America if you wish to use your ATM card.

How can I call home or use the Internet?

To call home, the hotel reception can connect you, or if you want a better rate, phone cards can be purchased in most small stores and pharmacies in all cities. There are different denominations offered and these can be used to make international phone calls from public pay phones or your hotel room. There are also many phone centers, or places with individual, private cabins that charge a variety of rates to call internationally.

Internet is everywhere, and on just about every street corner you can find an Internet Cafe with a good, fairly fast connection for about a dollar an hour. Also, most of the hotels you will be staying at in larger towns will have wi-fi and/or internet access stations if you want to call on skype.

Is safety an issue?

Like many tourist destinations, pick pocketing and other non-violent thefts do occur; but not often. Taking precautions, such as securing your belongings in an inaccessible pocket or money belt is never a bad idea. You can also store valuables in your hotel safe. With Southern Crossings you will be traveling with drivers and guides who will be looking after you during your trip, so there’s no need to worry while you’re here.

How can friends and family get a hold of me?

A few weeks before your trip, you will receive a travel voucher with a day by day break down of all the information you need for your trip including a list of hotels, where we will be staying and their telephone numbers, as well as Southern Crossings’ office and emergency mobile phone numbers.

MEDICAL

How about vaccinations?

A yellow fever vaccination and certificate are recommended to travel to the Amazon basin of Peru and Ecuador and should be received at least 10 days before the date of entry. Travelers should make sure standard vaccinations such as tetanus are up to date and may also want to consider vaccinations for hepatitis and a malaria prophylaxis if traveling to the rainforest. Please consult your physician or local health department regarding these matters.

U.S. citizens are required to have a yellow fever vaccination to enter any part of Bolivia, as part of the visa requirement.

Brazil‘s yellow fever vaccination requirements are posted on the internet and seem to be constantly changing and varies depending on your nationality and where you are arriving from. To be safe, it is highly reccomended to get a yellow fever vaccination before travelling to Brazil.

How high are the places you will visit? What about the altitude?
  • In Peru, you’ll be flying into Lima, which is at sea level, then normally moving on to Cuzco which is at an altitude of 11,200ft./3,400m above sea level. Nazca and the Amazon basin are both near sea level. Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail reaches an altitude of 13,020ft./4,200m, and Lake Titicaca at just under 12,400ft./4,000m. Machu Picchu is a bit lower, at 7,970ft./2,430m.
  • In Bolivia, La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Tititcaca, Potosi and Uyuni are all over 11,000ft./3,548m, while Sucre is at about 8,000ft./2,580m and the rainforest is near sea level.
  • In Ecuador, Quito is at 9,200ft/2,800m.
  • In Brazil altitude is not an issue.

Altitude affects everyone differently, and age and physical fitness don’t have much to do with it. Common symptoms are lightheadedness, shortness of breath, headache and mild nausea. After a day or two of acclimatization most people feel back to normal. The best way to keep from feeling the altitude is to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and eat lightly when you first arrive to altitude. If you feel strongly affected by the change of altitude, there is medication (acetazolamide) that can be purchased inexpensively in pharmacies in Lima, Cuzco, Quito and La Paz, though most don’t find these necessary. (Note that acetazolamide is a sulpha drug.) Coca tea helps, you will be offered a cup at your hotel and can find coca leaf in local markets. Also, oxygen is available at most hotels if you are seriously affected. Most passengers only experience minor symptoms or none at all. If you have any health concerns please consult your local physician regarding these matters.

 

Do I need medical coverage abroad?

We recommend you have some type of travel medical travel insurance for your Southern Crossings tour. Just a basic travel medical insurance which includes emergency evacuation is required. Any medical plan that covers you abroad is fine. It’s never a bad idea to have trip cancellation insurance as well although we don’t require you have it. If you don’t have a medical plan you can sign a waiver.

WEATHER

What is the weather like in Peru and Ecuador/Galapagos Islands?

Depending on what time of the year your trip is and which tour you choose, the climate varies. The rainy season is generally from mid November to mid April, but rain is possible at any time of year, especially in high mountains and cloud forest, and one should always be prepared. The climate in sites we will visit is as follows:

Quito: days are warm if sunny, slightly chilly if cloudy. Nights are chilly. Temperatures can vary between 46° to 70° Fahrenheit or 8° to 21° Celsius.

Cusco: days are warm if sunny, slightly chilly if cloudy. Nights are chilly to cold.

Machu Picchu: similar to Cuzco, but warmer and with more chance of rain.

Lake Titicaca: similar to Cuzco but much colder at night and when there’s no sun because of the higher altitude.

Lima: warm to hot days, cool evenings, almost never any rain. Beautiful in the summer (Dec-Abril), average temperature is 75°F (24°C). Often overcast the rest of the year with an average temperature of 65°F (19°C). With a wetsuit you can surf all year.

Amazon basin: hot and humid year-round, rain posible all year. Average maximum daytime temperatures are between 30 and 33 ºC (85 – 91 ºF). Night-time average minimums are between 18 and 23 ºC (64 – 73 ºF). We recommend light clothing (in weight and in color) that fully cover arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites.

Guayaquil and Galapagos Islands: hot and humid, rain always possible. Galapagos can have a cooler, more moderate climate depending on current conditions. One should come prepared for outdoor activity with temperatures ranging from 70° to 90° Fahrenheit or 21° to 32° Celsius and for extremes of sun and the possibility of rain. From December to May the average air temperature is between 80°F-90F / 27°C – 32°C and the average water temperature is 70°F-80°F /21°C to 26°C. From June to Novemeber the average air temperature is 70°F – 80°F / 21°C – 27°C and the average water temperature is 65°F-75°F / 18°C – 24°C.

Ica and Nazca: similar to Lima but hotter and sunnier.

Inca Trail: all ranges of weather from hot to possible snow and rain at higher elevations. Most people trek in shorts or light pants (synthetic, fast-drying fibers are preferable to cotton) and a t-shirt, and carry a layer or two (thin fleece and micro-fibers are, again, preferable to cotton), plus a poncho or other rain gear. Sometimes there are small biting insects on sections of the trail, so even in warm weather some people opt to cover more skin with a long sleeve t-shirt and long pants.

Apurimac River/Rafting: warm to hot days, chilly nights with possibility of rain. Rafting gear/wet suits included on the tour.

 

What is the weather like in Brazil?

Brazil has a tropical and subtropical climate. Brazil is an all-year round destination. The Brazilian winter lasts for only three months from June to August. Summer is from December to February . The temperature varies in winter between 55 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit (13 and 18 degrees Celsius). During the summer, temperatures can reach 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 40 degrees Celsius). In Rio de Janeiro and southern regions there are often showers and heavy humidity.

What is the weather like in Bolivia?

Rain is possible at any time of year, especially in high mountains and on the Bolivian altiplano, and one should always be prepared. The climate in sites we will visit is as follows:

La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Tiwanaku, Potosi and Salar de Uyuni: days are warm if sunny, chilly if cloudy. Nights are cold in La Paz and can be extremely cold in Uyuni and Potosi.

Amazon basin: hot and humid year-round. We recommend light clothing (in weight and in color) that fully cover arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites.

Sucre: warm days, cool evenings.

LUGGAGE, PACKING AND STORAGE

What do I need to bring with me?

International airlines limit baggage to approximately 48 pounds (23 kilos) per passenger. Southern Crossings doesn’t have specific regulations on how much luggage you can bring with you. However, due to space limitations and the fact that there will be some traveling from town to town, we advise you not to pack too much. In general, one suitcase and one day pack should be sufficient. In our experience, light packers are happy travelers! If you are returning to the same hotel later on in your trip you can always safely store anything you have purchased or don’t need at that moment in hotel storage.

Here is a basic list of what we recommend you bring with you. As always, if you have any questions about something specific, feel free to email us.

  • Passport and, if necessary, visa
  • Cash and/or ATM card (notify your bank that you will be travelling to South America)
  • International Airline ticket
  • Photocopies of airline ticket and documents (passport, credit cards, etc.)
  • Wearable pouch for documents and money
  • Sturdy backpack or suitcase
  • Smaller, comfortable day pack
  • Trekking/walking boots or sneakers, comfortable and worn-in
  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Rain poncho or jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Sun hat
  • Hat for cold weather
  • Good, warm clothing for cold weather (think layers!)
  • T-shirts
  • Socks (thin wool or biking socks are best), undergarments
  • Swimsuit for hot springs, pools or Ocean
  • Camel-back or Nalgene bottle (optional)
  • Flashlight and/or head lamps
  • Sunscreen (biodegradable & eco-friendly)
  • Insect repellent (biodegradable & eco-friendly)
  • Lip balm
  • Earplugs
  • Alarm clock or watch
  • Sanitizing hand wipes or gel
  • Camera and film/digital memory cards
  • Camera batteries
  • Reading material
  • Toiletries

Note that common clothing, batteries, film, and such toiletries are available in South America. It is best to bring from home such items as prescription medications, eyewear and care, shoes, unusual film and camera batteries. Most of the hotels you will be staying at in larger towns will have wi-fi or internet access stations.

Will I be able to leave my luggage at a hotel that i’m returning to?

Yes you can. You don’t have to bring everything with you, unless you’re not coming back to the same hotel. All hotels where you will be staying will have a deposit for luggage that you’d like to leave.

There is luggage storage in the Lima airport. If you are going into the Miraflores district for a few hours prior to your international flight on your departure day you will be asked to leave your luggage at the airport storage lockers located directly outside the domestic terminal to your right. The cost is approximatley US$4.50.

When traveling to a jungle lodge you will be asked to leave the majority of your luggage in the main office and only bring what you need to the lodge. A porter will carry 22lbs or 10 kilos for you to the lodge. You may also carry a day pack.

You won’t be able to bring all your luggage to Machu Picchu. Please leave the majority of your luggage at your hotel and only bring a backpack or a carry on size suitcase.

Do I need fancy clothes?

No, fancy clothes are by no means necessary but might come in handy in cities. Most passengers’ focus is on travelling light but if you have room bring what you are comfortable with. There are some swanky spots in Lima, Quito, Cuzco, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and La Paz where you could get dressed up, but they’d let you in if you weren’t, and in most places the “dress code” is casual. Even upscale restaurants have a fairly casual dress code, especially for foreign tourists.

Will I be able to do laundry during the trip?

Yes, if time permits. If you are returning to a hotel after a trek or a trip elsewhere you can leave your laundry at a local laundromat or have the hotel reception take care it so you will have some clean clothes waiting for you when you return.

Do I need to bring my own sleeping bag or mat for trekking?

No. If you really prefer your bag or your Thermarest, bring them, but otherwise go ahead and save space when packing – we include quality sleeping bags and Thermarest mats on our treks.

Trekking poles are NOT included, but can be rented for a fee of approximately US $20 for the entire trek. Many people find them to be helpful on the steeper sections of trail. They are not allowed to be used while in archaeological sites.