I am writing in regard to a recent 'South America Overland - La Paz to Rio' trip that my girlfriend Rachel Mullaney and I took part in dating from the 8th of June till the 6th July 2009. We feel that various aspects of the trip did not live up to the itineray as sold by Gap Adventure and as such would like to make a complaint concerning the areas we felt we were miss sold, and request a refund for the unsatisfactory aspects of the tour. The areas we are concerned with include transportation, provision for meals and accomodation, all of which at points along the journey did not live up to what was advertised.
Firstly the tour is advertised as an 'overland tour' in an overland truck. However we were actually given two 4x4 vehicles. Every other gap tour group we met had been given a different story as to why an overland truck was not available and the reason we were given that the truck could not get a permit to leave peru is not believable, as if this is the case why advertise this form of transport?
The 4x4's broke down constantly (to the point where their road safety was questionable), allowed in copious amounts of dust, and more importantly one car actually only had space for four people, not five. This meant that if you were at either side you were sitting on both heightened plastic ledge and the lower seat. Given also that the suspension on this 4x4 went halfway through the trip, it was terribly uncomfortable. The journeys were often 10-16 hours long and to be barely able to walk for the next day after such a journey is entirely unacceptable. When booking a tour such as this you expect to be very comfortable, when in fact public transport would have been far more comfortable and a lot cheaper.
The constant theme of the tour appeared to be that whilst the itinary never changed, GAP(or our tour guide, it was uncertain as to which) had cut a lot of costs. The accomodation was an issue here, where in Iguassu falls we were made to camp instead of being in a hotel room for three nights. Our tour leader told us that the hotel we were meant to stay in was 90 reais a night, whereas our camping was only 15. Therefore I would like to be refunded the difference for those 3 nights for myself and Rachel as we had in fact paid for those nights in the cost of the trip. What was also massively hypotrical was the tour guides response to our questioning as to why the accomodation had been changed. He was very rude and abrupt and upset my girlfriend. He also declared that if he had it his way the whole trip would be camping, and then upon arrival at Foz de Iguassu he promptly upgraded himself into a room and left us to camp. The fact that we were offered an upgrade to a room for a fee was even more insulting, as it was clear there were plenty of rooms for everyone that GAP just did not want to pay for.
Another issue throughout the trip was the lack of included meals. We did not recieve half of them, particularly in Brazil. The GAP website advises to bring $400 for food, and we easily spent double that. When we would question our tour guide as to why the meals that were indicated as being included on the itinary were not included he was again very rude, stating that GAP do not give him a budget that would cover all the meals meant to be included in Brazil. If we were travelling for a whole day and arrived at the campsite at night he would also say it was simply too late to cook, again getting out of giving us the food we paid for. In Bolivia on a long journey we were once given a packed lunch, this would have been a satisfactory solution in Brazil also, however the guide said that there simply was not a budget for a packed lunch in Brazil.
The meals that the tour guide did include were often questionable. For example one dinner in Chochis was a plate of horsemeat to be passed around and eaten, the next night a plate of beef. Whilst we were grateful to actually be getting a meal that we were entitled to, many of the group were not keen on just eating 'finger food' meat for every meal. Another example would be the one included meal in Paraty (out of 3 nights where all meals were meant to be included) when he asked us all to be back at 3pm for lunch, but did not cook it until 5pm therefore wasting our day and also avoiding cooking any dinner. It was at this point where everyone in our group had given up asking the guide why things were not included as doing so invited no useful response and generally illicted both rude and confrontational behaviour from the guide.
Even more irritating was the fact that because we did not know which meals would or would not be included it meant that we would sometimes be left with no choice other than to miss meals and go to bed hungry. On journeys we would be left with no choice but to pay for food in expensive service stations/ roadside restaurants or wait until our destination where potentially no food would be offered. If David had been honest and said 'there are no meals included in Brazil' we could have purchased our own food from the supermarket as we would usually do when travelling instead of always eating out.
Myself and Rachel were sold the trip as including a lot of meals, and the itinary indicated every camping meal included and many of the travelling days had meals included too. This is why paying £1150 and a $600 local payment each in total for the trip seemed worth it as we knew we could have a smaller budget as most food was included. However given that half the food was not included and we spent double the $400 estimated food cost, we would both like to be refunded for the food we had to buy.
It is clear that we recieved a cut cost version of the trip that we paid full price for, and this is simply unacceptable.GAPs cost cutting measures for no other reason than to save the company money at the expense of the tour group