We just returned from Santiago and eager to share this unpleasent experience with all members. We booked a private tour for 2 days for our group of 10 people. The 1st day was to pick up the group from the cruise port at Valapariso for a city tour of Vina del Mar and Valapariso, then to drop the group at Santiago hotel. The 2nd day was a full day city tour of Santiago.
After searching all comments from the web, we decided to choose the top-rated private guide, Leonardo Cuzmar, who had all good comments from different travellers. We paid the deposit few months before the trip and everything was set. We also exchanged cellular phone numbers in case there would be any unexpected situation might occur before the tour day.
On the 1st scheduled tour day, at the port of Valapariso, the entire group with luggages were waiting for Leonardo to show up at 9 am. Time past and he did not show up. We called him but the call did not go through. We texted and sent emails to him and had no reply. We then put his name on a piece of paper and walked to the door of the port, which immediately drew attentions from other private tour guides, they all laughed at us because it was unusual for a client to walk around with a guide's name on a sign. Anyway, it worked, a couple of guides told us that they know Leonardo and offered to call him on behalf of us. It was almost an hour after the schedueld meeting time before a person got hold of Leonardo on the phone. They spoke in Spanish and we could not understand. When I took over the phone, Leonardo told me that he had a car accident and could not come. I asked him whether he could arrange some other guide to help us out. He said he could not. He told us to find our way to Santiago. We were in a panic because the port was almost empty and many guides standing by the port already left with their clients. Anyway, we were told by a person to walk out from the port to the street to find a taxi. We were lucky to find 2 vans to pick up the entire group. It was a mess but we got it resolved after 2 & 1/2 hours stress and panic time.
In order to give Leonardo a benefit of doubt on the reason of "car accident", and we in fact also had difficulty to secure another private guide in such a short period of time, after confirming Leonardo had no injury and was fine in the car accident, we decided to continue 2nd day Santiago city tour (full day) with Leonardo. However, Leonardo turned us down and said he had pain on his neck, he wanted to let his associate, Maria to handle the 2nd day tour. We did not care too much at this time, and we also wanted to ensure our deposit would not disappear, we agreed to it.
The Santiago city tour was a joke. As we were staying in a hotel in the city centre, we were taken into a van and drove through the city in a circle again and again in the morning. The guide pointed out different buildings to us while the van was moving. We did not have much opportunities to take pictures unless it was a red traffic light. Everytime we asked for a stop, Maria said that it was not safe. Then, it was lunch hour, and we were taken to Central Market. As soon as we were off the van, we were led to a restaurant. We did not agree and told Maria that we wanted to visit the market and take some pictures before going to eat. She used same reason and said this was not safe. We had a little debate with her and finally she gave in and gave us our "freedom"....... we could choose our restaurant and tour the market on our own....... what a joke!!!!
Our city tour was scheudled to be finished at 4:30pm, it was about 3:15pm and the van pulled into the parking of a jewellery shop (a house in a residential area), Maria then told us we could shop our jewellery there. The entire group was shocked and refused to go in. So the van drove away from the store and we were taken to a garden closed to the jewellery store to see the garden and swans. It was almost 4 pm and we had not yet to San Cristobal Hill (which is a must sightseeing point in Santiago). So we asked Maria and she said it was not in her itinerary. We were very surprised on the answer. After a mild protest, Maria agreed to take us to San Cristoball Hill. Although it was a short stay, we saw the beautiful view of the Santiago city. The tour finished at our hotel at 4:35pm. Maria gave us 5 minutes extra service!
We felt the service that we received on the Santiago city tour was not a private tour. It was almost like a typical big group tour, jailed in a bus and only had city view from the bus, and sale pitch to shopping, and pre-arranged lunch arrangement. The entire goal of having a private tour was down to the drain.
As a top-rated private guide in Tripadvisor, Leonardo's performance was under the par. In another words, very disappointed. I think as a reputable private guide, if he really had a car accident, he should contact us as soon as possible, and he should also try his best effort to find a replacement person to help us out. To allow a group of 10 people with luggages standing helplessly at the port which is a stange place to these group of people, is not a responsible attitude. Further to this, after Leonardo told us Maria would give us the tour, we did not hear further from Leonardo. It is very common that any reputable private guide would not follow up with the clients after the tour is finished (if he was not the person to give the tour).
As a conclusion, our group is very disappointed on our choice on Leonardo.