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Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

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Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

I have long used tripadvisor to plan trips, but this is the first time I feel compelled to write in the forum. San Pedro is a wonderful place, with so much to see and do, but you have a totally different experience if you go on a good vs. crappy tour.

When I got there I was told by a local to just go for the cheapest tour since they were all the same. This is not true. The most common is large buses, but there are definitely smaller group tours. Price does not equal quality, so know what questions to ask. How big are the tours, how are the tours run (do guides explain or are they just babysitters)? Some tips for a good tour...

1. Go for small group tours! In my experience the 20 plus people bus tours did not provide much explanation, just very basic facts like the mountains and how tall they were. Not very informative. You can get much smaller tours (6 to 15 people) that are not much more expensive (in fact some are the same price as the big tours). Imo it is well worth it to pay $6 more for a 6 person tour. Big tours you end up spending a lot of time waiting for people to go to the bathroom, which is annoying. Especially important for the geyser tour where you have to get up super early (4am), with big groups you sometimes have to wait an hour to get picked up with the big tours since they have to pick up everyone else. Not fun, especially when you are tired.

2. A good tour guide is key to a good experience. On my bad tours the guide did not explain things thoroughly, and was more like a babysitter, just there to make we were shuttled from place to place at the appropriate time. Often I was the only person on the tour who did not speak spanish, and on the big tours they pretty much forgot I was there. You have to be persistent, and ask them to explain in English if they forget. All tour guides spoke English, but I found on the big tours they consistently ¨forgot¨to explain in both languages, especially when there was only one English speaker on the bus. On my good tours, even though I was the only English speaker, they never forgot about me. On a tour of about 15 people the good guide sought me out to explain things before he went to other parts of the group.

One of my good guides actually stopped by the road and had us sample wild plants and told us about their history. He gave us interesting facts and stories about the area. More than just spitting out facts, the good guides told stories or facts that stuck with me. The hard thing is, you do not know whether you will get a good guide or not. Seems that agencies often consolidate their tours, so you may buy a tour from one agency, but end up going with a guide from a different agency. For this reason...

3. Don´t buy all your tours in bulk at one company. Book one tour, see if the company runs tours that you like, and then buy another one. I made the mistake of buying several tours from the crappy company. I was only saved because my last tour with them was consolidated with another group, and we got a good guide. I was really upset about the crappy tours I went on compared to the good one. So I actively sought a different company (and asked these questions about group size, and thoroughness of the guides).

4. Consider getting a private guide. If you have two or more people, it may actually be cost effective to hire a private guide. I have the contact info for two really great guides, please msg me if you want their info. They are both freelancers and run group tours as well (that´s how I met them). I went on a private tour that was AMAZING, just me and a friend and the guide on a great hike to Death Valley from San Pedro city, definitely off the beaten path and a reasonable price. It is definitely cost effective if you have more than 2 people, it can be the same or a little bit more than what you would pay for a group tour for the same length of time. We did not need extra transportaton since we were hiking, so I am not sure how much more transportation would be if the destination is far away.

Bottom line: San Pedro is a beautiful place, which you can appreciate best with a good guide. Good luck, and please msg me if you have any q´s.

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Death Valley
Death Valley
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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
San Pedro Atacama Tours
Sightseeing Tours, Cultural Tours
Sorbac
Sightseeing Tours, Bike Tours
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Private Tours, Multi-day Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Eco Tours, Day Trips
124 replies to this topic
Valparaiso, Chile
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51. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

Another recommendation which I unfortunately found out too late, was to check out the site:

www.travelsanpedro.com

before booking anything with any agency. That page lists all tours of the agencies and compares them!

Calgary, Alberta...
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52. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

We just returned from San Pedro where we spent 4 days touring and enjoying the area. I can highly recommend our guide Mauricio Urrea. He was always on time. He drove a Rav 4 (which is reliable and safe and comfortable). His package included snacks, or meals and drinks. We personalized our tours so we could enjoy what we preferred. He also thrives on photography so he is patient with stopping the car for you to take pictures AND he takes pictures of you! Hi English was very good, and being a native of the area, he knows a lot of the little tricks and the good restaurants.

Hope this helps!

Email: contacto@atacamaphototour.cl

Tel: Cel: 56-9-82284934

http://atacamaphototour.cl/

vermont
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53. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

How does one find a private guide in San Pedro? We are 4 adults traveling in March for 4 days of tours. If it is less expensive or the same as regular tours we would like to find a private tour guide. We arrive in SPA around noon and plan to take the Valle de la Luna tour later that day.

Calgary, Alberta...
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32 posts
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54. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

We just returned from San Pedro where we spent 4 days touring and enjoying the area. I can highly recommend our guide Mauricio Urrea. He was always on time. He drove a Rav 4 (which is reliable and safe and comfortable). His package included snacks, or meals and drinks. We personalized our tours so we could enjoy what we preferred. He also thrives on photography so he is patient with stopping the car for you to take pictures AND he takes pictures of you! Hi English was very good, and being a native of the area, he knows a lot of the little tricks and the good restaurants.

Hope this helps!

Email: contacto@atacamaphototour.cl

Tel: Cel: 56-9-82284934

http://atacamaphototour.cl/

Novosibirsk, Russia
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55. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

Hello. We are in Chile now and we spent 6 days in SPA.

The original plan was to go to 2-3 regular tours and then hire a private guide for more complicated ones.

We contacted Felipe Staig (he was already mentioned in this forum thread)

He explained the whole thing about SPA and where to go/what to see. Also recommended an agencies with small group tours.

1. 3 days of regular tours like: valley de la luna, lagunas altiplatiques, Salar de tara. With Cosmo, Latchir, Cosmo respectively. With consistent altitude increase.

Private tours with Felipe Staig

2. Lascar volcano trek (5550m). 2 groups only in that day including ours. Amazing & stunning view from the summit. Felipe provided all necessary information, controlled the right pace and provided all equipment.

3. Geysers del Tatio with overnight stay at rangers house (!) you cannot take that option in a regular tour :) we explored area a lot, also helped machuka man to get to his town, and he showed us a petroglifs (!)

We stopped with Felipe where we want and as much as we want during the trip. We were able to reach and take a photos of wild vicunias and viscachas ( without hurting the grass, sure). Felipe take care about the food & equipment. And the cost was really reasonable.

So my recipie of success in SPA was, ordinary tours with regular agencies, big exploration tours with private guides! Feel free to contact if any questions.

Edited: 2:20 pm, January 18, 2014
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Chile
Chile
South America
Seattle, Washington
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56. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

I'd be grateful if you shared the name of a private guide with access to transportation or if you know of a tour company that takes no more than 6 in a group.

Thanks in advance.

Jade

Santiago, Chile
1 post
1 review
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57. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

Hello! Have just read your post on tripadvisor for San Pedro. Thanks for your info - most useful! I´m a female singleton and would like to know the contact details of the private tour guides you mentioned in San Pedro. I shall be there from 19th Feb 2014 and hope to meet others who would opt for a private guide so await your reply with some urgency!

Thanks! Nan

Toronto, Canada
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58. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

i am going to Atacama with my two 20+ yr old daughters in May can u remember the names of the guides u recommend

Calgary, Alberta...
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59. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

Mauricio Urrea

Email: contacto@atacamaphototour.cl

Tel: Cel: 56-9-82284934

http://atacamaphototour.cl/

london
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149 posts
56 reviews
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60. Re: Tips for a happy tour experience in San Pedro de Atacama

Veyr good advice thank you, but can you recommend a good company/guide/trip? We want to go stargazing, moon valley, rainbow valley etc. Thanks

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