we just got back from peru and i just wanted to warn everybody who wishes to see macchu picchu to avoid the tour operator united mice.
we used them for the Macchu Picchu by train program and paid them $190 apiece for 2 days. they were very hard to reach, their office was always closed. they finally called our hotel at 10 pm the night before our tour, and when my wife asked questions about the tour, the woman with United Mice told her she did not have the time to answer questions so late at night.
when we finally booked they walked us from our hotel to a bus at 6 am and shuffled us between 3 buses. then they let us know that we were not actually taking a bus from cusco to aguas calientes. instead we were to take a 2 hour bus ride from cusco to ollayantambo and then a 1.5 hour train from ollayantambo to aguas calientes.
when we finally arrived at macchu picchu, our guide (willy) forgot our entrance tickets and made us sit outside the entrance for almost an hour while everyone else entered and started their tours.
then he got us in, but only gave us 1 ticket for 2 people (which meant we could not exit and return after eating lunch). when we got in, willy told us that he would be doing our tour in spanish and them dumped us off on another english tour that was already half over. that tour guide was actually quite good.
after the tour, we had to chase willy down and wait another 30 minutes for him to find an extra ticket so we could exit the park and used the bathroom and eat while being able to re enter.
after we were done, they checked us into a hostal with no heat or hot water (fine, we're used to that).
we took a train back to ollayantambo the next day and were reassured that a bus would be waiting there to take us back to cusco.
there was no bus in ollayantambo, so we had to take a cab.
the bottom line is, you dont need a tour operator, just book your own train ticket and find a guide when you get to aguas calientes, there are lots of them. and if you decide to use a tour operator, don't use united mice.
hope this helps, sorry to sound so bitter.
Thanks or this, it is very useful. I have just been reading an email from United Mice for the Inca Trail! I will avoid. Do you know who was running the good tour you joined though?
You might just have had very bad luck... look here, here and here for very positive experiences with united mice. Mind you I'm not promoting them (never travelled with them); just know from experience that even the best companies (and they are frequently referred to as such, even by independent news media for what that's worth) goof occasionally. Still, independent travelling is the way to go for me...
[ Edit: Edited at Jul 6, 2006 7:35 AM by bentivogli ]
I did the Inca Trail at the end of January with United Mice and my experience was a very positive one. We had excellent guides and porters, and the service and food every evening was excellent. I felt that United Mice were worth every penny.
Sometimes you can be just unlucky maybe.
Contrary to your experiences, I recently did the 5 day Salkantay trek with UM and found them to be excellent in all counts.
We booked with them based on many positive reports.
Sounds like you were just unlucky.
We have a lot of travellers from Peru and some of them me recommended this tour operator United Mice in the best form
I think you had a lot of bad luck, it is not possible that so much persons transmit so good experineces especially about the guides.
To your advise to book with free lance guides I have only this advise (specially for National Parks):
An ardent warning: Do not buy tours from people at the airport or on the street. Before arriving and want to book a tour use a reputable registered agency. It is considerd a federal crime all damage to Fauna and Flora inside the park
thanks for all the responses, maybe you are right, we were just unlucky.
but we thought we should put that information out there so everyone can make informed decisions
AVOID UNITED MICE:
I just recently returned from Peru to do the Salkantay Trek. We booked with United Mice online before we left for the trek, about one month prior to our departure. They charged us $385 (student). Upon arriving we realized they RIPPED US OFF. The exact same trek can be purchased for $150. Treks leave everyday from Cuzco. There is NO need to book ahead. Just show up a couple days early and shop around. We ended ditching our deposit, which United Mice was happy to take and went with another operator and still saved $100 a person. AVOID UNITED MICE THEY WILL RIP YOU OFF WITH A HEARTLESS ATTITUDE.
Boy, you take a lot of trouble digging up a 4-year-old thread...
Without wanting to make UM look good (I have never travelled with them myself), the fact of the matter is that they are one of the very few operators in the region who practice sustainable tourism. If you're the kind of tourist who thinks their own wallet is more important than minimal damage to the surroundings and a decent fee for porters and cooks, then yeah, maybe you shouldn't travel with them.
Good post OP.
I found it very difficult to get good information on Machu Picchu so I didn`t go when I wqs in Peru.
I went to other sites of Ollyantaytambo (which I`d never heard about, and that increased the pleasure of it)and Sacsayhuaman.
Also I got sick and tired of the tourist rip off that Peru can be.
You pay to enter a site (and you have to pay more because you`re a foreigner) then you can pay for a guide, as none are paid for with the ticket that you`ve just bought.
Also my camera was stolen in Cusco ( beware anyone going to Cusco) and the police were useless, made me feel like a criminal.
Sorry for the rant