Helpful hints from a recent returner

Water shoes- The closed type are better than the open type. Close to half of your landings are wet landings - some on sand and some on rock. Some people took the open/sandal off and walked barefoot but that wasn't always a good idea. For those that wore the open style they pick up all sorts of rocks/sand and, even after cleaning them off once, pick up sand again. Something like the TEVA Churn is a better style for keeping rocks out and you just wear them wet (With socks is suggested). The ship takes the wet shoes at night and brings them to the engine area where they dry for the next day.

Snorkel equipment- They have a good selection of equipment including shorty wetsuits that we wore most of the time. Plan to wear socks or some protection in the flippers as they tend to get "hot spots" where you toes stick out and the top of your foot. You often have a "deep snorkle" in the morning and an optional beach snorkel in the PM. You see good things on both. Please don't come planning not to snorkel- you are just missing too much!

Underwater camera/zoom camera- Half of the trip creatures are down under and the quality of video is pretty good with most any underwater camera. Three people had Go-pros - but I had a Fuji-Film XP-70 (Now XP 80) that was only about $150 and it did just as well. I also had a cheap $10 "selfie-stick" to extend my reach and bought an special 18mm wide angle lens ($50) that was great for both Machu Picchu close-in shots and underwater work (It has an underwater mode as well as several others - panoramic, burst, etc). Being waterproof - you could carry it in the rain/wet landings without concern. I would suggest at least 2 extra batteries. With pics and video, I used up just a little over one 32 gig card. Make sure your SD card is a class 10- not class 4 - better for video. Finally- I would suggest at least one additional camera with a 20-30X zoom (The Fuji only had 5x). You can get a good Canon that has that and it's not as big and heavy as those larger SLR types.

Dry clothes - While on the ship they have a dryer but, with 19 other cabins, you have to find time when it's open. With the hot days and multiple snorkeling - you can go through a lot of clothes that don't dry quickly in the room. A couple things that help - bring some (6+) collapsible hangers to hang items from the vent itself as there are few other places to put them where they aren't against the wall= slow drying. Also, put the room vent/air conditioning fan on high - it helps circulate.

Wasps - One island has a little wasp problem if you wear bright color clothes (Orange/red/pink). Be sure to have some green/blue/grey options. Some people had to buy a shirt. Even little accent colors (backpacks/bottle holders) will attract them. Our group was ok, but the wasps were definitely around.

Walking sticks - Our group bought a lot of them- the typical collapsible metal kind that can be brought in luggage. They are as cheap here (<$10) as at home so you could just get it here. If you haven't used on, be sure someone shows you how to set it up - There are three sections (Some thought there were only two) and some people extended the poles too far where they would collapse if leaned on. If you see the word "stop" - You've extended it too far. If you bring some from home, be sure they have the rubber tips on it. They are required in Muchu Picchu and Galapagos.

Lima extra day - We got there a day early because we took a red eye. We just took a 3-4 mile walk through Miraflores (Where the hotel is) to the "Indian market" and through the park along the cliffs. It is a safe area and you can see a "cat park (Kennedy Park)," para-sailing, etc. Others took an official tour of Lima and liked it. The hotel will help with either.

Power- Not only do you want a converter, but you also need a multi-plug adapter so you can plug in more than one things as they often only have one 110 plug if they have one at all. I also got a multi-USB plug which powered up my camera/pad/phone/walkie talkies - all at the same time. Walkie talkies - It was a backup plan if we ever got separated where cell service was lacking. Never used them- but it was just a $24 investment and had a range of 1/2 mile.

After Machu Picchu you only have one hotel stay that is more than one night (Cusco). Most took advantage of getting clothes clean while there. The hotel charges $6/kilo but the guide had a person that did it for <1/2 that price. Have a bag to put your clothes in or you can just use the Tauck bag. If you are super sensitive to smell- bring your own fragrance-free detergent, but for most, it was fine.

Notebook/I-pads/computers - If you like to track the events, bring a couple small notebooks for writing notes. Many people brought pads/computers and you could get WiFi at most hotels, but the ship only had it in the lounge/sundeck areas and it was sssslllllooowwww! No sending large pics/skype/etc. Cell service was non-existent on most of the Galapagos portion.

Rain gear - We had raincoats, ponchos, umbrellas, backpack covers, etc. We didn't get a lot of rain but when we did, the ponchos ended up being the easiest to work with - covering backpacks, better ventilation, etc. Again - having the water camera also helps if rain threatens where all the SLR people were spending all their time juggling umbrellas. One other thing - head gear - not all comes waterproof but you could get a spray-on water-proofing that will help - putting that on before you leave.

Altitude sickness - Wife used prescription meds (Acetazlamide) and I used something a skier friend used (Oxygen Max). I had problems, she didn't. I think I didn't cut back on my eating (They say metabolism slows down) and that was my problem which left me fairly ill for just one day and then I was ok. Neither of us had any alcohol for the first couple days. Guide also seem to think the fact I am a runner (~5 miles a day) that he has found that runners have more problems- which I found odd. I did find I felt find when moving, it was when I was sitting still (I have a runners low heart rate) that I felt the need to take deep breathes.

Suitcase size/luggage issues- We followed all the rules and size and weight and in the end, if you were below 50lbs checked and 20lbs carry-on, they didn't seem to worry about size. Leave room for all the goodies you are bringing home. One couple had their bags get drenched at the Miami stop-over - consider hard-sided or putting a lot of plastic around your stuff on the inside/outside. TSA locks - Only to be used for the US flights, not for all the Tauck tour flights. When leaving Ecuador, plan on a special bag search of some sort. They will call your name and take you to a area underneath the concourse and have you pick out your bag and then they will go through it. Not a big deal if you aren't doing anything wrong, but get it done when they call you (They may really botch your name so listen for it) or they hold you from boarding and you might miss your flight.

Endurance - None of the walks was more than a mile and only a couple that went up any sort of hills. Go for it if you can, the views are great.

Overall - Good accommodations/food and even though they downplay the ship as an expedition ship, we thought the room and food was good there as well. This was my wife's dream trip, not mine. But I found I really enjoyed it and especially the wildlife in the Galapagos. We had both good guides and a group that was on time and had no divas to deal with- just good people interesting in learning and experiencing all there was. Have fun!!!!!


  • Super report! Thanks!

    What were your tour dates? Could you give a little weather summary for your trip, especially rain/fog/clouds at Machu Picchu and air and water temps in the Galápagos.
  • What a great review! We only did the Galapagos tour and it was a while ago. I'll just say again that when we took the tour there was very little opportunity to snorkel, it just was not offered so much, so no problems trying to dry clothing, though we did get through a lot of clothes anyway.i enjoyed the snorkeling but would not want to do it every day. What I want to ask you if you are still looking at the forum is, were there still two excursions a day on the islands or were some substituted for snorkeling? My personal preference would be walking, I actually remember the visibility not being that great under water compared to other places I have snorkeled. I want to visit again in the near future, the last time it was perfect so I hope there would be little changed in the itinerary.
  • Our trip was June 30-July 14. Galapagos - There were pretty much 2 activities in the morning and 1-2 in the afternoon (Usually one an optional snorkel or sit on the beach)

    Snorkeling - The water quality did vary from place to place. The more you were near a beach/rocks, the poorer it was, but if you were along a cliff area, water was pretty clear. But once 30' from shore no matter what, it was pretty good again. The "official" snorkeling was usually a morning "deep dive" that was after, but separate (You went back to the ship), from a morning walk. Deep dives are where you take a Zodiac from the ship and snorkel right from that - never going ashore - which was logistically easy as you just brought your snorkel gear and nothing else. This almost always had clear water. At least three other days there were options for a 2nd beach dive where, usually, you could proceed a PM walk with about an hour of snorkeling (Or just relax on the beach - or stay on board and just come for the walk). Logistically that was more of a challenge because you had to have your gear and clothes to change into for the walk, but again we often saw a nice variety of fish/turtles/sea lions. My wife and I wanted to maximize the opportunities to see things so I went on all and the wife 2 out of 3. There were always a few others as well.

    Most of the walks were basically taking a loop around about the equivalent of a few city blocks either on or near the shore. I would have liked a more hiking as both my wife and I (Avg age 61) had prepared for the trip by walking/running 5 miles a day, but that wasn't what this trip was for and they require you to stay with the guides all the time so there isn't an option to do more on your own. For most passengers, who were not in as good of shape and in their 60s/70s, this was fine.

    Weather - Traveling during their winter gave us quite a variety to prepare for. Lima was very comfortable - shorts/shirt in the 60s in the morning but near 80 in the pm. Cusco - temp dropped at night to high 40s/low 50s but was mid 70s in the day. Machu was moderate - 60s-70s. Galapagos - always warm/humid - 70s-80s.

    Machu rain/fog - We were lucky - the PM visit was overcast till the last 30 minutes as the park was closing and then the sun shined on the city part as we were above it looking down. The pics were amazing and almost unreal looking to have the green areas so bright. The morning was a mixture of rain and fog. We could have gone in at 6am but waited till 7 for the guide. In hindsight, we should have gone in earlier just to have more time and you are free to walk around on your own. The rain was limited and light but the cloud/fog came and went over the 2 hour visit and made for some interesting views as sections disappeared from view then came back. The buses/crowds start rolling in right at 6 and they immediately head to the high areas for the best views.

    Water temp varied from low to high 70s depending on the current affecting the island you were at. Beach snorkeling tended to be on the warmer side. I used the shorty on all but one just so I didn't have to worry about cold/sunburn on back/and it provides easier floating.
  • Lovely clarification, thanks
  • This was an excellent and helpful write up! Thank you so much. We've reserved a place on a 2016 tour and I'm already trying to gather bits and pieces of info so we can best prepare and I think I found almost everything I need to know right here! Of the few other Tauck trips we've done, I've never found such an extensive and detailed post-trip report as this. I plan to save it as a PDF so as to review it offline via my phone when I'm in stores looking for things. Truly a huge help to those of us who are making plans to retrace the steps you've taken. Thank you, again!
  • Patricia- I do something similar. I go through all the forum posts for the tour I am planning or have reserved. I copy and paste those I think that are important and still applicable (some older ones are not) into an MSWord document. As new info like Dave's is posted I add it to our "Trip Notes."

    We review our notes a few months out, then again a few weeks before we leave. A bit OCD? For sure! But I feel much better about a new situation that way.
  • Atlanta Dave,

    Great info!

    We returned from this trip in mid May.
    Both of us enjoyed it very much.

    For the others who are reading this, I have added some additional info/comments.

    Regarding luggage: I managed with a maximum sized, wheeled carry-on and a tote bag. The carry-on was never too large for any of the airplanes.

    Shoes: I used a pair of older, comfortable running shoes (with socks) for all the snorkeling landings - Wet and dry. The shoes kept the sand, etc out of my toes AND provided sun protection for the tops of my feet. I took them off and carried them for one wet landing, but just wore them in the water for the other wet landings.

    Cameras: We took a small Olympus u/w camera that worked quite well - as long as we had the "subject" in the frame... We also had a second "dry" camera for other photos.

    We each took a light rain coat/shell and they were sufficient. But, we had very little rain.

    It was REALLY, REALLY, REALLY humid pretty much every day in both Peru and Ecuador. There weren't any "good" hair days - Unless, of course, you have completely straight hair... :o))

    Lima: We arrived a few days prior to the beginning of the actual tour. We did two private walking tours - One of the Shanty Town and the other of the Barannco District. Both were quite enjoyable. Both were booked online with Haku Tours. You pay, with cash, after each tour.

    I agree with your comments about the fog in MP - It allows for some really cool photos - Surreal, actually.

    Snorkelling: The shortie wet-suits were very sufficient. Some people in our group were in the water without any wet-suits at all. I used a shortie for the added benefits of buoyancy and sun protection. The snorkelling equipment is assigned to each person at the beginning of the cruise and is for your use only for the duration of the cruise.

    Altitude sickness: We both used meds which we started taking the day before we arrived at altitude. We stopped taking them when we were no longer at altitude. We did not have any issues, thankfully.

    Back to luggage: Yes, I am a woman. And, yes I did manage with a wheeled carry-on. However, I must admit that I didn't think it would be possible because we were away from home for three weeks. But, I surprised myself!! It can be done ladies!!

    Water, water, water. Do utilize the bottled water that is available every day.

    Lastly, I strongly recommend that you take a small, day use backpack. We used one (between the two of us) just about every day to carry our cameras, water bottles, sunscreen, hats, rain jackets, etc... Ours is a small, soft sided bag that can fold back into itself. When it is "folded" back, into its own little zippered pouch, it is only about 5x5x1.

    Hopefully this info is useful to someone.

    Travel safely.


  • A couple more:

    Hats - Firmer brimmed hats tended to want to fly off on the sun deck or on the zodiacs more than floppy styled hats (Think Galapagos Flying Nun), but either way, make sure it has a chin strap that can be locked in place. My strap had a slide but it didn't lock so I had to hang on all the time.

    Backpack - The space on the bus over the seats IS fairly small so a small, non-framed back pack works best. If you have water, raincoat, sunscreen, camera gear, extra layer for cooler areas, etc., it fills up pretty quickly. Even though it's "out of fashion" now, I had a back pack and a fanny pack which I wore around the front. In many cases, I would just have the fanny (with only camera gear/water in a pant pocket) with me when we got out of the bus and left the back pack in the bus.

    Water - Was well provided during the whole trip except for the international flight from Peru to Ecuador when they make you remove water (The inter-country flights they let you keep your water - a nice convenience) . When we landed in Guayaquil, it was only a few minutes for bags/customs/immigration - but you just had a small drink on the plane and we were a little parched. I suggest to our guide that, in the future, they have water on the bus that takes you to the hotel - even if it is just a few minutes away. Also, when you fly into Cusco and are at altitude, you do seem to drink more and will want to have water near you at night as you will wake up with a dry throat/cough.

    Warning - The Hilton in Guayaquil has a scale in the restroom! Seems kind of mean after a week of buffets and then again after a week on the ship. I'm just kidding, of course, but it was a touch of dietary reality!

    Assigned seats - Somewhere in the write-ups they talk about assigned seats when traveling on buses. They didn't do that with our group because they didn't need to. It was suggested we rotate front to back/side-to-side and people just did on their own. I presume they do that if there are problems. We had a cooperative group. Of course, on planes/trains they had some assigned seats and even then people worked out if they needed to be sitting forward or had a larger group that wanted to be together.

    Pickpocket? - During our visit to Cusco for the day we were taking a group tour and a man with a shopping bag just seemed to walking nearby around the group. I noticed him and that the guides were watching him as well and the guy moved on. Then the guides shared that he was a likely pick-pocket looking to pick off someone on the outer edge of the group but their eye contact got him to move on. That was the only situation that we had that I heard of and overall felt very safe everywhere we went - but didn't wear jewelry and kept cash well hidden. In the past I have used a "dummy wallet" in my back pocket so that if someone gets me they get nothing. The pants I had were "cargo pants" style with lots of pockets. Some money stayed in a lower front pocket (zipped) and other was in my fanny pack that I wore in front of me.

    Getting "Solis" (Peruvian money) - There are ATMs in the airports (Which can charge up to 15%), the hotel can exchange for 10%, or if you are in Lima a day early there are banks and exchanges all over town that don't charge anything. The exchange rate was 3.14 Solis/dollar when we were there. Much of Lima/Cusco takes credit cards or dollars, but as you move "in country" - they prefer Solis. If you bring dollars - don't bring torn/marked/old/even worn dollars - They may not accept them.
  • Restroom - A topic not covered much of anywhere is the fact that everywhere you go (Hotels, restaurants, ship) you will be asked to put your "used toilet paper" in a lidded basket/can near the toilet, not in the toilet. When traveling on land, the buses have toilets, but they really don't want you to use them except for "emergencies" so instead they have stops about every two hours - some a little nicer than others. Have some TP with you, they sometimes run out. If you are having any stomach issues - tell the guide. Things can go from simple to serious pretty quickly.
  • I cannot tell you how informative your post was for me! We booked the trip today departing October 4th. We were waitlisted and got off the waitlist a week ago but did some research by asking people here (in Memphis) that we knew had been there or who might be planning to go.

    I am 75 and in relatively good condition. My husband is 76 and in really good condition. Did you have anyone on your trip in this age range? How as it for them? Do you have any photos you could email me (since one cannot put any on here)?
    ([email protected]).

    This will be our 9th trip with Tauck and today after I made the down payment they send us the very scary waiver!

    Anyone else out there who can shed some light on the trip?


    Kathleen E.
  • We just got back a week ago. I agree with all the above. It is important for everyone to know this trip is not a posh spa holiday. Traveling in the developing world can be very rough for upper class Americans who are used to their creature comforts. The infrastructure is not perfect. Machu Picchu is incredible and the main reason for spending a week in Peru (most people can't name anything else in Peru they are looking forward to seeing) but it is so far out in the middle of nowhere it is difficult to get to. Tauck has made the itinerary to help pass the time on the way to and from, but it is still a difficult week with a lot of long bus and train rides. The flights can be delayed or changed suddenly. There are two days in the middle of the trip to get from Cusco to the Galapagos that they have to pad with a lot of wasted time because there is no direct way to get there and due to the uncertainty of the flights and the danger on the streets of Guyaquil (when you get there the hotel gives you a paper with instructions about how to avoid danger by not going out on your own). We had to be ready to leave the hotel in Cusco at 3:45 AM because of scheduling changes with the airlines, then had a five hour layover in Lima. The altitude was rough to deal with for many of us. Some of the hotels are spectacular (Lima and Cusco), but the night in the Sacred Valley was spent at a place with separate little huts for everyone. The Isabela is quite spartan and we had to deal with sea sickness as well. The Galapagos are not a tropical island paradise as some had expected, but rather quite a barren place where the animals had to adapt to an unforgiving environment in strange ways to survive. That's what makes it such a great place to visit. I'm not telling you all this to complain but rather as a reality check to let anyone preparing to go know that this trip really is an adventure that will not be as comfortable as traveling in Europe. If you go in knowing what to expect and with a good attitude about the possible set backs I guarantee you will love it.
  • edited July 2016
    MLP Thank you for your review and reality check. Since this thread began in July of 2015, we have booked our second tour to the Galapagos. Having researched the Peru part of the tour, we decided back in 2007 I think it was, that we would only do Galapagos then because we were concerned about the altitude, I know it affects the most unexpected peoples, not necessarily those who are less fit. When we were on our Galapagos tour the tour guides remarked that they preferred the Galapagos only people because the Peru crowd were already tired or sick when they arrived.
    I just can't imagine not doing lots of research about the destination, but that clearly is obviously the case. Surely I thought everyone knew the Galpagos islands are not a tropical paradise. If people are looking at the forum ,that does show some kind of preparation, I've picked up no end of help here for my past trips as well as fun stuff and differing points of view. I think Tauck does make it clear that Isabella II is an expedition boat, but I did not find it Spartan, it was clean, sufficent, the staff were amazing, the food tasty. You basically spend no time in your room apart from sleeping. I am a very neat person, but when you have quickly just thrown a piece of clothing on the bed and got come back and it has been nicely folded, you feel really guilty.
    It was quite alarming to read your bit about safety in Guayaquil. Tauck have changed the hotel since we were there, ours was out of the center, it was one of those occasions where we did not arrive a couple of days early, but at some point, either before the trip, or when we returned to the hotel at the end, we had one of the most fun couples massage we have ever had, two women who never stopped talking throughout the whole massage and then just when we thought it was all over, they smothered us in some kind of chocolate substance and then another whole amount of time went by where we basically got another massage. As soon as the women left the room, my husband exclaimed, omg I could not relax, I thought the woman was going to massage me 'all over' because she almost did, my experience was almost similar, we had such a laugh, but would do it again. But I digress, at that time, Tauck included a tour of Guayaquil and then they left us by the river and we walked around feeling safe. I guessed the new hotel is in the center so we will be extra vigilant.
    I am still laughing about your upper class Americans roughing it. It's unfortunate that whenever the tour is one of the more 'Exotic' types, you find the odd diva or two and I pity the poor Tour guide having to deal with their demands. And you know, they appear to be the meanest when it comes to saying thank you, being gracious to the local people, being able to connect with their situation, being mean and trying to offer ridiculous low prices for their crafts or even giving tips to the Tour director. Those have been my observations anyway. Now if you go on a US based tour, the people are the best.
  • Please report on October trip because my husband and I, age 70+ are going to Peru/Galapagos in October of 2017 and are eager for any advice. Thanks for all the advice so far. Lost time? Bring your Kindle, or is that not a good idea.
  • Atlanta Dave, I enjoyed reading your summary of the trip. All your tips were very helpful. We are going on the May 30th 2017 trip, which is coming up quick. I will get back to you as I come up with questions. Just starting to get things together. Really looking forward to the trip!!!
  • Atlanta Dave only posted four times in July 2015. I doubt he is active on the forum these days.
  • edited March 2017
    Atlanta Dave, I enjoyed reading your summary of the trip. All your tips were very helpful. We are going on the May 30th 2017 trip, which is coming up quick. I will get back to you as I come up with questions. Just starting to get things together. Really looking forward to the trip!!!

    And I'm on tour now. As time allows I will be updating a running commentary in another thread, "The Journey Begins" so follow that and ask away. Things- flight delays, order/time of activities, etc.,etc. can change from tour to tour. Each tour is slightly different as are experiences and impressions of individual travelers.
  • These are great tips and I really appreciate them. My Tauck duffel bag arrived yesterday. It seems rather big and quite heavy to pack. For those who have been on the Peru/Galapagos trip: did you find the duffel useful? Since we only need it for overnight, I would think a lighter (tho less durable) backpack would work and I'm pretty sure I could keep it under 10 lbs. Did you need all the space in the duffel? Thanks for your help.
  • The idea of the Tauck duffles is that we must all use them because they are a uniform size and therefore easier for packing and storing on the provided transport. I don't think the duffles are heavy, they take up very little room in an average suitcase in your checked luggage.
  • edited March 2017
    As British said, plus they all look the same so are easier for local guides and bus drivers to track. We brought both on tour but only used half of one for our night at Machu Picchu (yesterday!) They might come in handy to haul locally purchased clothes and souvenirs. The little cross straps help reduce the size. If you can fit everything in a small backpack, go for it.
  • Thanks for answers re: Tauck duffels. Makes sense that if they all look alike, nothing gets left behind. Appreciate your help.
  • jar742 wrote:
    These are great tips and I really appreciate them. My Tauck duffel bag arrived yesterday. It seems rather big and quite heavy to pack. For those who have been on the Peru/Galapagos trip: did you find the duffel useful? Since we only need it for overnight, I would think a lighter (tho less durable) backpack would work and I'm pretty sure I could keep it under 10 lbs. Did you need all the space in the duffel? Thanks for your help.

    The reason for the Tauck duffels is the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (and from there up to Machu Picchu) has luggage restrictions. You can only bring one bag each and it has to be small, so Tauck keeps all the rest of your luggage safe while you go for two days to Machu Picchu with just the duffel. They must have had problems in the past with people wanting to bring too much and not having the right size. Many people just brought the bag folded up and only used it for those two days.

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