Our RTW Trip » Research & Tips » Tours

Trans-Siberian Train

Monkey Business The tour company we used to book our Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian journey. Generally, this seemed to be the one used to travel East > West. No complaints at all, everything went according to plan. I would absolutely use their services again. See Trains section for more information.

Russia Experience The other tour company through which foreigners booked Trans-Siberian and Mongolian passage. Generally, this seemed to be the one used to travel West > East.

Inca Trail Trek

Llama Path is one of dozens of tour companies operating out of Cuzco. We were extremely happy with this vendor, especially regarding the respect they appeared to accord to their staff. In fact, they were so amazing as to have made an impromtu birthday cake for Marc at some extraordinary altitude with god-knows-what kind of oven-esque apparatus. They were all-around brilliant.

Prepare for the most luxurious camping you’ve ever experienced: hot water for washing on arrival at campsite, hot tea delivery in the morning with the wake-up call. For the record, hiking the Inca Trail ranks among the top 3 things we did anywhere in the world the whole year we were gone. Tied for first with riding motorcycles along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Central Vietnam.

Shoes v. Hiking Boots: I used day-hikers to hike the Inca Trail and was completely fine. It’s a challenging hike because of the altitude, but the paths themselves are quite excellent. There were a couple of young guys in our group who did it in street sneakers. There were also people in hard-core hikers, but I wouldn’t have done it differently, I was very comfy.

C.O.L.D.: Sleeping-outside-in-Kananaskis-in-November cold. That said, we rented the standard sleeping bags from Llama Path (you can get fancier, warmer ones) and were completely fine sleeping at night, with our toques on and still wearing our pants and sweaters. Definitely bring or buy mitts, a hat, warm socks, buy a wool sweater with a hood when you get there (great souvenir) and some long underwear. In hindsight, the long underwear was the key.

A few random tips on what to do/not to do:

  • Buy the coca candies and the coca leaves, use them on the Inca Trail. Very, very good and genuinely helped us struggle against the altitude.
  • If at all possible, get to Cusco as early as you can. I didn’t think the altitude would affect us much, but it absolutely did. The more time spent at high altitude before the hike, the better. We struggled at high points on the trail and we had been at altitude for 2 weeks!
  • If you admit to having asthma, the Lllama Path people won’t let you hike with them.
  • If craving N.American food, visit Jack’s in Cusco.
  • Test out a Pisco Sour or two, or five…

Salt Flats of Uyuni

In general, Bolivia was not a happy country to visit. The poverty can be shocking and people work so very hard. That being said, Uyuni is a place you simply cannot miss. It is astonishing, fanstastic in its capaciousness. We came up from San Pedro de Atacama through Southern Bolivia to the Uyuni flats, and then to Uyuni. It was a 4-day trip and completely easy to arrange because all the tourists are in the same place to do the same thing. In either direction, you’ll have no trouble finding some tour company that will take you to see what you want to see. I can’t remember which company we used, but that is a testament to how many there are and how similarly they operate.

Expect frigid nights, no showers, rough rides, amazing scenery, broken-down vehicles, long waits, bad food, miraculous salt flats.

Motorcyle Through Central Vietnam

Upon arrival at the airport in Dalat, we were approached by gentlemen when we got off the shuttle bus who offered us motorcycle tours of Vietnam. These were the Easy Riders, you can tell by their signature red-and navy wind-breakers. We paid $50 per day each for a 6-day journey by motorcycle from Dalat to Hoi An, not including food and accommodations, neither of which required more than $10/day for both of us.

This adventure – along with hiking the Inca Trail – was the best thing we did in a year spent travelling around the world. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The gentlemen who were our tour guides and drivers were reliable, friendly, knowledgeable and fun, making sure that we were comfortable and informed the whole journey. We stopped, on average, about 10 times per day at various stops along the road to visit farms, local manufacturers of coffee, silk, tapioca, pepper, many things. We saw remnants of the American War and heard first-hand stories of what it was like while standing where it took place. An exceptional experience, I would recommend it to anyone willing to travel light and fast and who wants to learn more about a country than the average visitor.