Tour leader Nicola tells us what people can expect from a typical day on a Journey Latin America group tour.
As you might imagine, a day in the life of a group tour in the tropical heat of Nicaragua is starkly different from one travelling through the windy plains of Patagonia or the culturally rich Andes. Having, at one time or another, led tours all over the continent, however, the basic structure remains more or less the same wherever you go in Latin America.
Let’s take a day where there is a specified activity, such as a visit to a highlight on the tour or a journey from one destination to another with stops at sites along the way. The rest and travelling days can be quite flexible and people can choose to pass their time however they like – they can even be quite uneventful! – giving everyone the space to simply contemplate where they are and what they have seen.
Rise and shine!
Wake-up time and breakfast on tour is generally fairly early – usually before 8am. We like to think of the packages we sell as ‘trips’ rather than ‘holidays’ as the latter tends to evoke hours of relaxation on a beach with the odd stroll around a nice town. Our tours travel at a sensible pace and aim to offer travellers a real insight into the destinations they are exploring – this means that more often than not we are on the road and out seeing the sites by 9am.
The tour leader greets everyone at breakfast, asking after their night’s sleep and reminding them of what to take with them that day in terms of any extra clothing, money, sun cream, hat, water etc. The group then meets again at the lobby around five minutes before that day’s departure time, ready for the day ahead. Having co-ordinated with the driver (and the guide if the activity needs one) the tour leader shows the group to the van where they take their seats and introductions to drivers and/or guides are made.
The day’s adventures
Depending on where the group is off to, the next half or full day is spent visiting wonderful sites, learning about ancient cultures, spotting soaring birds or walking some intrepid trails. Lunch will normally be taken out during an excursion, either in the form of a picnic at an idyllic spot or a restaurant specialising in the local delicacies, or simply on the go at a roadside café watching the world go by.
The afternoon is spent continuing on with the planned excursions, travelling on to your next destination, taking an optional excursion or just relaxing and exploring the shops and markets a destination has to offer. The tour leader asks the group about what optional excursions they would like to take part in, organising these with the local operators. They’ll also check if any passengers have any particular requests such as getting to a bank, ATM or pharmacy and help them with any queries – they might like to know where the best specialised shops for jade or lapis lazuli is or perhaps they’d like to visit a particular museum of interest.
On arrival at a destination the tour leader makes sure everyone is present and correct at the hotel and handles the checking-in process at reception, allocating keys and copying passports. There is normally around an hour or two to freshen up before meeting again for a quick briefing and dinner!
What’s for dinner?
Restaurants are carefully chosen by the tour leader through experience, preference and recommendations from other tour leaders. They may specialise in the national or regional dishes or may be a hidden gem, away from the normal tourist scene. If anyone in the group decides to take the evening to eat elsewhere, the tour leader is on hand to suggest any alternatives. Just before heading out, a 10-minute briefing is usually given to the group to remind them of the plan for the next day’s travel plans, what they should bring, what they are likely to see and perhaps some news on the day after that, hopefully piquing their interest for what’s to come!
After dinner, depending on the stamina of the group, some of the local nightspots may be tested out, but generally people are happy to fall into bed with memories of a great day out and excited for the next one.
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