Fam(iliarization) trips aren’t all fun and games and good online reviews aren’t always matched by reality. I take my role of researching places for my clients seriously. As part of that I purposefully stayed at different hotels while in Lima. Both are highly rated on multiple internet sites. Both are in desirable areas, both are bed and breakfast style . One was chic, modern, clean, spacious and took pains to make guests welcome. Big things like air conditioning and a nice bathroom plus little things like filtered water, coffee and tea being readily available made for a great stay. The other place was older construction but instead of being quaint it smelled of must, was very noisy, had bugs crawling all over the teeny bathroom, a loud creaky fan, furniture so old you couldn’t safely sit, water for purchase only and forgot about our wake up call and breakfast! 2 similar ratings, similar price, very different experiences- I know which one I would want my clients to experience! My next example of the importance in first hand knowledge came on the journey to/from Lima and Paracas. There are 2 major competing bus companies that tourists take. I rode one to Paracas, the other back. Both companies used large double decker Mercedes brand buses. On the way up we embarked from a clean, organized terminal just was much like an airport experience. On board were pillows, blankets, reclining seats, tray tables, a private screen to watch tv, plug in and use the internet and stewardesses providing a pre departure safety briefing and then later lunch. It was like flying business class! The 2nd bus company departed from a storefront on a dirt road. The bus that pulled up looked just like the first but once on board the seats were torn and ragged. Old pillows and blankets littered the floor. Instead of private screens there was a single tv blaring a horrendous gory zombie movie, no staff ever appeared and the bus was late. I couldn’t wait to be released at the end of the ride! Again, both companies are rated as “the ones” to use but there were clear differences in quality, comfort and experience and only one that I would book for my clients. As I write this I am in the Lima airport awaiting an early flight to Puerto Maldonado- gateway to the Amazon. I had not planned on such an early start but the airline changed the flight time on us – I have since learned that this local airline is infamous for last minute changes, yet another lesson learned through first hand experience. Hopefully there will be no more “negative ” news to share. But be assured that good or bad I will always tell it like it is- my clients deserve no less. My next stop is the Amazon rainforest. No wifi there but I’ll blog again once back in the “real” world.

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