Today we experience our first official and as we do, we will try to offer you our free luxury travel experts’ caution – based on our experience in this region.
So grab some hot cup of coffee and let’s take a walk on this next phase of single parent travel. We have just had a fantastic time in Arequipa and have booked our own coach to Puno where our tour will begin – well so we think.
Coach to Puno
We are up early and are seated as we wait for the bus.
After we pay our bus terminal tax, we discover it includes one free toilet visit! Please form a habit of visiting the washrooms moments before your family travel departure, as some buses will not have a restroom available on them.
Lots of local ladies come and talk to my son and they touch his hair and give him a smile. I head off to drool over the queso – cheese for $5 for a whole cake or block.
We have a great coach fare – another fabulous deal from Tepsa. Plus, we really like this coach company.
As soon as we are on the coach, breakfast is served and we love this service. It really feels more like we are on a plane than a coach.
We drive through the desert, and I can’t help but admire the cacti. I love them. The road is soon so windy, we are both feeling a little ill. Head up the mountains I realize that altitude sickness creeps up on me. If I had time again, I would be chewing coca leaves.
The vegetation changes and it becomes sandy and rocky. Most plant life has disappeared. However, small pools of water from the mountains soon become ponds and rivers.
Shepherds and herders; mainly local ladies sit in the fields with sheep, donkeys, alpacas, and llamas.
These lovely buses supply pillows and warm blankets. It may be cold outside. But in here, it is sleep time for many, including my son and little, do we know we await a tour scam.
Meeting The Local Sellers
After a while, we stop at the mountaintop. A gorgeous little girl is playing while her mum is busy at a market stall. I so want to rub some ointment into her windburnt cheeks.
This is clearly a tourist spot, with lots of alpaca rugs and hats to buy. We will, however, wait for Bolivia, where we believe things are way cheaper.
To this day I regret that decision. If you see something you love, buy it. We never did see those rugs and blankets again – handknitted and gorgeous. Maybe we will have to go back one day!
We start moving through small towns. I spot a ‘Jesus church’ that I really love. His hands are over the doors. I have no idea of where this town is but I would love to return one day. However, I am really pleased to get a photo of it since I am on a moving bus, leaning over a sleeping child, and I have had to take the photo through the glass window.
Dirt Roads and Dusty Towns
The next few towns are almost completely devoid of bitumen. Dusty streets and roadside repairs are prominent. Old trucks, moto-taxis, and bike cabs are everywhere. Ladies ride side saddle on motorbikes, and I see a family of 4 on a motorbike!
Finally, we reach Puno and Lake Titikaka is in view.
I have grave hopes of our booked tour company ESCANDINAVIA TRAVEL AND ADVENTURES being a good one. My gut feeling tells me I am about to get ripped off and I am tense and uptight as I await this tour scam to commence.
Our hotel is meant to be included in the tour. I am told by several others on the bus that the Copacabana border is closed. Yet we have paid a hefty deposit for a 6-day tour, including going to La Paz via Copacabana.
Trust Your Gut Feelings
My gut feeling is right about the tour scam. We are greeted by a lady at the bus terminal and taken by taxi to our hotel. She is VERY pushy and promptly wants the full balance for our tour.
Yep! It’s A Tour Scam
When I tell her I believe the border is closed to Bolivia, she still insists on the money. Then she tells me all of Bolivia is closed to tourists which a blatant lie!
So we are refused to check into the hotel room until they sort out what we are paying for. However, I have extreme altitude sickness – a massive headache and I want to be sick.
I request the tour company calls me and I send off emails, but of course, there is no reply. The woman has tried to tell me they will give me 3 days of local tours instead of taking us to Bolivia. But we don’t want local tours – we have to get to Bolivia. She sits and insists on this, and we sit and continue saying “no”.
I tell her “no” over and over that we cannot use local tours and I that I will cancel my tour with them as we have to go to Bolivia. She knows I won’t cancel since they already have my 50% of my money. We hate being in this situation. Eventually, I am too sick to wait in the foyer. We’ve sat for 4 hours in that foyer with no food or drink apart from our water until I finally give in and have to go and lie down.
I should have quit the tour, lost my deposit and gone to find another hotel. But when you are sick, and a single Mum, you are trapped and at their mercy.
I head to bed but the room in the hotel is right on the street. It is nothing like the photo we are shown and extremely basic.
So, I lie and stew and spew all night. I hate getting ripped off with this tour scam! Alas, we have to be up at 5:00 a.m. as we still get the first part of our tour.
I’ll let you know if we get to go or not in my next article!
We contacted our travel insurance agency over this scam. They worked on our behalf since ESCANDINAVIA TRAVEL AND ADVENTURES refused to communicate with me directly after we left their office in Arequipa. Never again will I book a tour through a shop vendor.
Comments and Questions
- Have you ever been had a tour scam occur?
- What happened?
- What did you do?
- Do you have any advice for our readers?