I had always heard good things about Gap (now G Adventures) and had been wanting to try them out for years. When I finally traveled to a truly foreign-to-me country, I eagerly combed their website, finally in the market to buy! Of course, I did my research among other tour companies, but since I had already booked my airfare and knew the two big activities I wanted to do (and specifically knew I wanted to do the Inca Trail first, just in case anything happened to me) and knew the dates I wanted to do them, Gap had the exact tour I wanted starting on the day I needed. I also knew I wanted to mix up my trip a little bit and didn’t want to do something fully inclusive for my entire trip, so my Gap tour only last for the first week, which was perfect.
I had been tracking online when the Inca trail permits were starting to sell out for August and sent an email in April when I realized that I needed my passport number to make my reservation but had forgotten it at home. I got a call at the ass crack of dawn the next day from a 416 number and let it go to voice mail. It was from Gap and I called the adviser back and Ali picked up immediately and started my trip booking. Apparently, even at this point, 4 months prior, the Inca Trail permits were on request which got me nervous, even though according to the website, there were plenty left. I gave Ali all my information and he said he would email me back within 48 hours to confirm the trip and add-on any extras at that time. As promised, two days later Ali emailed me my confirmation and my tour was booked! I was so excited! I replied to his email and booked additional nights before the tour at the same hotel the tour started in, a ride from the airport to the hotel and additional nights at the hotel at the end of the tour. I had to pay a $250 deposit for the tour (the rest to be paid 60 days before the tour starts) and when I got my credit card bill the following month, I noticed an international fee charge. I know it’s my choice on which credit card I use and mine charges international fees, but I was still kind of disappointed! I know Gap is a Canadian company, but with the amount of business they do in the US, these fees should not exist. I was not informed of these fees over the phone nor was it obvious on the website (though I didn’t look through the T&C page) but I was still surprised to see them on my bill. When Ali emailed me, he also said that since I filled out a survey back in January that was attached to my email, I was getting 15% off my tour, which did make up for the credit card fees. I was looking like I was breaking even on everything.
Gap guide and local, both working hard
I was also informed that I would need travel insurance for the tour, which is something that I really had never bought before. Ali emailed me information on insurance through Gap because I would have to show proof at the start of the tour. About 6 weeks before the tour, after doing some minor research on my own, I realized that Gap offered the best price on insurance that I probably wouldn’t use, so I bought their smallest package to cover me for my entire trip, which cost slightly more than what I was quoted because I had it covered for 2 weeks instead of one. It came to $67 for the two weeks, which I found reasonable. (FYI, I didn’t end up using it, of course.)
Out to make a buck (or a sole). Locals selling their wares on the side of the road.
About two weeks before the trip, I was emailed all my vouchers to print out and bring with me. The week before my trip, I was emailed about an alert on Peruvian Airlines, just in case I was flying with them (I wasn’t) but a nice perk. More importantly, I was also emailed regarding a hotel change for after the tour. Apparently the hotel the tour was staying at was booked and they were moving those who booked additional nights to another location. I googled it and checked it out on Trip Adviser and it got pretty bad reviews. I am pretty good about reading between the lines and not take reviews too seriously, but every review for the last 6 months were pretty negative. I hummed and hawed if I should call Gap to see if I could get a refund. The voucher said no refunds after they had been issued, but figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, considering this wasn’t what I technically bought. The person on the phone was very nice and asked why I was asking for a refund and felt bad about saying it was the reviews, but it was true. She went to check with her supervisor and it was approved quickly. I then asked if I could put it on hold while I went to check if I could book somewhere else which i felt bad about saying, but what could I do? I immediately found two cheap, but good looking hostels in town that were nearby and emailed them both. They both got back to me within 2 hours and I confirmed with the first place to get back to me and immediately called Gap and cancelled my additional booking. It was processed the next day and the refund showed up on my next bill, international credit card fees included.
Sacred Valley, Peru
I had a really good experience using Gap and never had a problem with them, but a girl on my tour (or actually not on my tour) had a huge problem with them which would maybe make me think twice about using them, but I really don’t know. When I booked my trip, I didn’t book the single supplement so I had to share a room for all the nights we had in hotels and some of the nights on the trail. Luckily, the first night on the tour, while I was still in Lima, I had the same room I had the first night and I didn’t have to share. When I got to Cusco, we had all day in town and because of the altitude, I crawled into bed around 8pm, no additional roommate in sight. Around 9:30, I was dead asleep and the phone in my room rang, altering me that my roommate had arrived and they were sending her up. I quickly cleaned up my stuff that I had spread everywhere and a very nice German girl arrived. I informed her that we were getting an early start and she then informed me that she wasn’t going on the Inca Trail, but the Lares Trail. Her communication with Gap was very unclear about where she was supposed to go the following day, as according to her tour, she had a free day in Cusco before heading out to the Sacred Valley, but just in case she went back downstairs and picked up a trail bag and packed it up for her trail. And thankfully she did! Our guide told her to come with us, therefore depriving her an extra day in Cusco and he would figure out where she was supposed to pick up her tour. All day and all evening, communication was very unclear about where the rest of her tour was until the following day, right before we were supposed to leave and she was informed that there were going to be just three people on her tour (just her and an Australian couple!) and the guide. And that’s it! Luckily, German girl was super easy-going and it didn’t seem to bother her so much on the lack of communication. She had been traveling around South America for a few weeks already and I guess was used to this lack of communication. But that isn’t even the worst part! During our afternoon in Ollantaytambo, we were just chatting and she told me that she actually booked the Inca Trail back in February but something happened to her reservation. Gap called her in June to tell her that they didn’t get her Inca Trail reservation, so they put her on the Lares Trail. Of course, she checked around to other companies, but by that point, the Inca Trail was all sold out for August and September. I was so mad when she told me that story! She thankfully got a minor refund on the tour, but between that booking error and horrible communication on leaving days, I was so angry for her! That could have easily been me, as I was super nervous when booking my trip because the passport number has to match up to trail permit. But that story! It makes me think twice about booking with Gap.
Gap group at the start of the trail
The employees of Gap were all great though. From everyone on the phone, to the orientation meeting and transportation connections to the main guide from Cusco to the Sacred Valley and Inca Trail. Besides the guide being awesome, he was very up front about meals and inclusions. The tour I chose only included meals on the Trail and everything else I had to pay for out-of-pocket. The guide suggested places on our recommendation, being up front about what he would get from the places we might choose to eat at. He said he wasn’t getting kick backs, but he would get a free meal from the places. He would suggest a place, say a time and if you wanted to show up, you could or didn’t have too. And every single time, the entire group would show up. The places he choose were really good too, not too pricey, but not dirt cheap. And the majority of the group, this tour was their big vacation for the year, so we didn’t mind spending a bit more than we probably would if we had bought street food. We were all on the same page when it came to food.
Gap group in the middle, at the top of Dead Women's Pass
The make up of the group I ended up in was really awesome too. There were three Americans (me and a young couple from the East Coast), three British, three Norwegians, two Irish and a family of four from Canada. And the German girl, who I include, even though she didn’t do the trail. The most shocking part was no Australians! It was a great group because not one nationality dominated and everyone got along really well.
Gap group at the end! We finished!!
Moral: For my first big tour, I had a really good experience with Gap. The guide and all employees were really up front about everything and kept me in the loop through every step of the way in booking and changes in the tour. The group I ended up with was probably the most awesome part and because of the level of the tour, both in price, inclusions and active level, everything just meshed really well. Besides hearing about German girls experience with the company, everything went as planned and was fantastic. But being worry-wort me, I would keep her experience in mind when booking again.