Latin America & Galápagos

Discover Central and South America.

As soon as you step foot on Latin American soil, the transformation begins, it’s a continent that engulfs you and changes you – your state of mind, your outlook on life.

Our Adventure Associates travelers love Latin America as it’s a place that excites, thrills, challenges and infuriates. Our travel focuses on immersing you in World Heritage colonial towns from Nicaragua to Argentina, the origin of wildlife captured in the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon basin, astounding endless Andean vistas from Machu Picchu to Patagonia, exploring the jungles of Costa Rica to the thundering and magnificent Iguazu Falls or just sitting back, sipping on a fine wine while watching and listening to a Latino rhythm.

As this huge continent stretches over both hemispheres you can comfortably travel year-round, as there really isn’t ‘a best time to travel’.

YOUR GUIDE TO THE SEASONS

CHILE, ARGENTINA and ATACAMA DESERT

Good year-round: in winter (Jun-Aug) a pleasant daytime average temperature falling to lower (5°c) of an evening. In summer(Jan-Mar) mid twenties during the day down to 16°c at night.

LAKES DISTRICT

Year-round, best time between October to April. Extremely cold during winter – June to August.

PATAGONIA

Best time to experience the region at its best – November to March.

NORTHERN ARGENTINA

Best time to visit – April to October. Wet season in summer- December to March, hot and humid Jan/Feb.

PERU (Inca-Trail)

Year-round- Best time to visit April to October. Wet season – January to March. Inca Trail, generally closed during February.

AMAZON JUNGLE (Peru, Ecuador,Brazil)

Year-round – best time April to October (may rain at any time and nights can often be cool). Wet season during summer – December to March, hot and humid.

PANTANAL – Brazil

Birds and wildlife year-round and will differ with each season’s movements. Best time – June to October (winter- be prepared for sudden changes in weather and evenings can be cold). Wet season- December to April with hot, heavy rains and flooding in the lowlands.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Year-round. Despite their sub-tropical location on the equator, the cold waters of the Humbolt Current surround the islands keeping temperatures pleasant. The Galapagos has two main seasons – December to June (warm , hot and humid January-March). July to November – more wind, cooler, mainly dry, with some misty drizzle.

COSTA RICA, GUATEMALA

Best time – winter mid December to late March, the driest time of year. Summer, April to November is the rainy season, with a risk of hurricanes June-November. While all of Central America lies within the tropics, there is a lot of regional variation in climate. Lowlands are hot and humid. Higher altitudes have spring-like weather, with cooler evenings.

MEXICO

Year-round. The wet season is May to October, with the coastal zones receiving the most rain. Temperatures tend to be hot and humid along the coast, with cooler temperatures inland from December to February.

Adventure Associates takes pride in flexibility – all our tours may be modified to suit your requirements, smaller tours combined, or we can tailor make an itinerary for you. Remember – if the area you are interested in is not in these pages, please do not hesitate to ask us – we have many other tour ideas! We also specialise in “Off the beaten track” requests, Incentives, Conventions and Special interest tours.

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Traveller’s Information

Check your programme

Before departure we recommend that all travellers read their itinerary carefully. You will then be aware prior to departure of what to expect in the way of services in Latin America. Please carefully check your vouchers and itinerary to ascertain if there are any variations or discrepancies. For group tour members, it is wise to read the printed brochure as well as the final itinerary to ascertain if changes have occurred.

Transfers

When transfers are included in your itinerary, you will be met at each airport, normally outside the customs and baggage claim area, by a guide who will call out your name or the name of your group and will usually be holding a placard with your name or the group’s name written on it. Identification tags will facilitate making contact with the local guide especially when airports are congested. We have provided baggage tags for this purpose – please use them. Have your passport and airline tickets ready to present to the check-in counter when leaving the country and again make sure that your luggage is labelled correctly.

Reconfirmation of flights

On arrival in each city, passengers must reconfirm their onward flight and time with the airline on which they are travelling. On escorted group departures the escort will handle this for you. Failure to do this may result in the reservations being cancelled. Generally upon arrival in each city the local tour operators will ask for your tickets and undertake to reconfirm the flights for you. Do not be alarmed if the local tour operators keep your tickets for a day or two as often airline ticket offices are closed and the reconfirmation cannot be handled quickly. You can feel confident that your airline tickets are in safe hands. The operator, however, is not responsible for the reconfirmation of your flights. If he/she does not volunteer to reconfirm the flights you may ask him/her if he/she will do so, or reconfirm them yourself.

Tour features

Occasionally tour features may vary – due to local customs, public holidays, opening or closing times of attractions, museums etc. (Especially during festival times such as Christmas and New Year). It is always a good idea to check with your local guide – before departure of your tour for the day, that he/ she is aware of all the places listed to be visited in your itinerary. In this way any misunderstandings or disappointments may be avoided.

Service charges and taxes

Whether travelling on an independent programme, or as part of a group, service charges and taxes imposed by local hotels are included in your land arrangements and you do not have to pay for them. However, when dining at a restaurant, hotel or bar on your own the waiter will expect a tip in addition to the service charge added to your bill. Ten percent (10%) is generally sufficient in such cases. Some airport taxes are included on your ticket , other airport taxes must be paid prior to flight departures in most countries. Taxes (subject to change), vary between US$2.00 and US$48.00, but these change frequently. Always check with your hotel guide as to the amount of departure tax so you have sufficient local currency or US$ cash left for payment at the airport.

Passport, visa and health documentation required

For entry into most countries your passport must have a validity of at least 6 months from the date of entry. Visa requirements vary from country to country depending on the traveller’s nationality and changes can occur. Please consult your travel consultant for the current requirements. Advice given by Adventure Associates regarding visa is based on current information available to us. However, this advice must be taken as a guide only. It is the passenger’s responsibility to ensure that he/ she is in possession of visa currently required for each country to be visited. Adventure Associates cannot assume responsibility should visa requirements alter either before or during the passengers tour. On occasions these changes may take place without notification to us by the authorities concerned. Similarly advice regarding health documentation, vaccinations etc. will be available but again we can offer this as a guide only as requirements may also vary. Consult your doctor for his recommendations.

Tips and who gets them

The vexatious question of tipping – tipping is a personal choice and at your discretion. We can only give you a guideline as to what may be expected as customary procedure in South America and indeed in most countries of the world. Despite the fact that tips are generally included in the itinerary, it is sometimes impossible to avoid service providers who request additional compensation. Individual travellers will normally have to tip for baggage handling to and from your room at all hotels, whereas group tour members on escorted programmes will leave the escort to handle tipping. Tips to local guides are recommended on all sightseeing tours if the guide has performed well.

Clothing and packing tips

For your journey, casual clothing would be suitable. Bear in mind that you may not be allowed into some churches if wearing shorts. We suggest that you pack an outfit for dining out in major cities, e.g. a sports jacket for men, smart evening wear for women. The seasons in South America are very similar to Australia as we are both in the Southern Hemisphere. However, because of the high altitude of the Andes Mountains it is wise to take a jacket, raincoat and long pants. Nights are cold in Cuzco, La Paz, Bogota and Quito. Take light, long pants and light long-sleeved shirts to wear on jungle walks as well as plenty of insect repellent – tropical strength is recommended. You may be able to purchase this en route. As Mexico City is at a high altitude, the winters (the opposite season to ours, being in the Northern Hemisphere) can be cool as can the summer evenings and it is wise to pack accordingly. On the coastal areas of Mexico and Central America the temperatures are generally tropical to semi-tropical all year round. However in the Highlands, temperatures can drop quite significantly. Travel light to begin with, as you accumulate as you go. Comfortable walking shoes are essential. Take all the film, and other personal items needed for your entire trip, as these items can be expensive in South America. While print film is generally available, slide film, memory cards for digital cameras and specific camera batteries may be difficult to come by in some areas. If using a digital camera, remember to bring an adaptor and/or suitable electrical plugs for recharging batteries. The laundry service and dry cleaning in hotels in the major cities is generally quick and reasonably priced.

Electricity

Electricical plug outlets are mostly two-prong, round pin, similar to European outlets and with a voltage of 220 V – however there are some places with two flat pins and 110V similar to the USA. It is wise to carry both kinds of adapters as variations in current and outlets can occur even within the same country.

Food and water

In most of the cities you will be visiting, dinner is served late in the evening often starting at 9 to 10 p.m.. Latin Americans also eat large and late luncheons and may often have a siesta during the afternoon. In Mexico and Central America the cuisine is an adventure itself! Some of the food is quite hot, but there is also a reasonable choice of interesting and more subtly flavoured dishes. A number of countries in South America, such as Chile, Uruguay and Argentina produce some very good and reasonably priced wines. Local brands of liquor are also reasonable in cost but may not compare in flavour with foreign brands. Imported European and North American brands are generally available, but are expensive. Water varies in purity from place to place. In general it is safer to drink bottled mineral water which is usually available. Be wary of ice blocks, peeled fruit and salads unless served in better class hotels and restaurants.

Purchases

When buying gifts in Latin America, very few reliable places offer the facilities of shipping your goods home. In general, we recommend that you carry all purchases with you to ensure their safe return home.

Documents and money

Each country in South America has its own currency and it will be necessary for you to obtain local currency on arrival in each country. For this reason we recommend that you take U.S. dollar travellers cheques in small denominations. A supply of US dollar notes is also recommended as every country in South America, Mexico and Central America accepts them and you may get a higher exchange rate for cash. US dollar notes should also be in small denominations ($1’s and $5’s are the best if you don’t mind the bulk). This way you will be able to pay the exact amount and avoid the need for change, as change is generally given in local currency. However, be aware that cash does not have the same replacement advantages as travellers cheques in case of loss or theft. When cashing travellers cheques, keep the cashiers receipt as this may be required when you leave the country and wish to change your local currency back to US dollars at the airport bank.

As it may not always be possible to change local currency back to US dollars on departure, we recommend that you only cash the amount of money that you require for that day. This will ensure that you are not left with a surplus amount of local currency that you may not be able to use at the next destination. Credit cards such as Mastercard, Visa and American Express are generally accepted in the larger hotels, stores and restaurants. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in many cities, however care should be taken with regards to security of personal numbers. Having more than one access card may be an advantage to protect against the risk of loss or damage of a card at an ATM. It is wise to write down the serial number of your passport including the date and place of issue (or a photocopy of the front page of the passport), and place this information in your wallet or another safe area. On arrival in each city make sure that you deposit your passport, travellers cheques, airline tickets and other valuable items in the hotel safe.

Involuntary itinerary changes

In the event of flight cancellations or delays causing a change in the itinerary, it is the passenger’s responsibility to telephone or fax the tour company and/ or hotel for the next cities to be visited, advising them of the new arrival date, time and flight. This communication is at the passenger’s expense and should be sent via fax. Failure to advise the adjusted arrival information may result in “no-show” charges imposed by the local representatives and/ or hotels, as well as confusion with transfer arrangements.

Cancellations or delays

Please carefully check the cancellation provisions in the General Terms, Conditions and Booking Contract section of your brochure. In general, refunds in full or part cannot be obtained after departure or within the periods shown on the Booking Contract, for cancellations or variations caused by non arrival or delays due to any reason, including: Illness or delays caused by aircraft or other transportation strikes; flight cancellations and rescheduling; or altered arrival or departure times. We strongly urge you to take out Travel Insurance which may in certain circumstances, subject to the conditions of the individual Insurance Policy, cover you for such exigencies.

Baggage and baggage insurance

Baggage is limited to 20 kilos per person in Economy Class, 30 kilos per person in Business Class and 40 kilos per person in First Class. However, different limitations apply on flights to and from the USA and occasionally on smaller planes and charter flights. Light airline luggage should be used. Please note that the baggage allowance between Australia and Buenos Aires or Santiago is actually 2 pieces up to 32 kilos each. Each airline has differing rules so this must be checked before departure. Please note that Adventure Associates is not responsible for any loss or damage to luggage or its contents before, during or after the tour programme. In this respect, we strongly urge each tour member to take luggage insurance prior to departure. Check with your travel agent the last updated information about luggage allowance.

Personal insurance

We strongly recommend that you check your personal insurance policies for health and medical insurance well before departure, to be certain that you are covered outside of Australia. Your Travel or Insurance Agent can assist you with these matters. Please note that Adventure Associates cannot be held responsible for accidents or any injuries that might occur en route.

Important notice

Adventure Associates reserves the right to adjust or alter any travel programme when necessary for the protection, safety or improvement of the itinerary or when local conditions do not permit operation of the programme as published. Adventure Associates also reserves the right to accept or refuse any person as a tour passenger should such person’s health, physical infirmity, mental condition or general deportment impede the operation of the tour or the rights, welfare or enjoyment of other tour passengers all at the discretion of Adventure Associates and/or their agents. Adventure Associates is acting as a booking agent only on your behalf and outside of our own negligence we cannot be held responsible for problems, variations and delays that may occur or for your level of enjoyment on any particular tour programme or part thereof. However, we will bring all our experience and expertise to bear and try and ensure that you have a wonderful and fulfiling travel experience.

The rough spots

Certain areas of Latin America are extremely interesting but still remain remote and primitive and the tourism infrastructure is often still largely undeveloped. When visiting South America and especially some of the remote or less visited areas such as, Patagonia, the Galápagos, the Pantanal, the Amazon, Angel Falls, Machu Picchu etc. you must accept that variations to tours, transport, hotels, facilities, food standards and quality of guides may and sometimes do occur.

Mexico and Central America are extremely interesting historically and geographically and their archaeological sites are outstanding. The hotel accommodation can be incredibly modern or charmingly colonial, sometimes basic and simple. It is truly a land of contrasts! To fully enjoy your tours, we urge you to be flexible and tolerant especially if travelling outside the major cities. The tourism infrastructure in country areas may not always be sophisticated or well developed, however, the pace of life is pleasantly less frantic. Travellers who are tolerant, good-natured and understanding of foreign ways of life and attitudes, and can adjust to different customs, habits, and standards of living, and relish the fun of “off-the-beaten path” touring will find their Latin American experience the most rewarding.

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