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Galapagos Travel Guide: Cruise, Tours, Last minute deals
ChokoTrip – Your stop for the best budget Galapagos tours
In this blog, we are absolutely going to toot our own horn. Why? Because we’re trying to book tours and cruises here, people! No, but actually, I’m going to break down why ChokoTrip provides the best budget Galapagos tours available. (Yes, we are trying to rank for this keyphrase.)
Recently, we’ve seen a number of customers reserve through other websites / tour wholesalers, like Viator and TripAdvisor, only to lose their reservations (for our EU customers this might be Civitatis and, in Ecuador, this might be BM Tours).
After planning their Galapagos trip months in advance, they lose their spots on tour boats and, as a result, we get a lot of last minute, desperate requests and…it’s really stressful, for everyone!
Here are two examples from just the last two days.
The first part of the conversation is missing in this next one, but basically we warned this traveler (who had booked with Viator) that unless they have the name of the vessel for the tour, it’s likely the tour departure wasn’t confirmed.
Lo’ and behold:
For our Spanish readers, here are a few more examples (translation to English below):
That last three are from a little earlier this year: “I just heard back from BM Tours (Ecuadorian travel agency)…and they’ve cancelled my tour. Do you know anyone [for a new tour]?” and “We booked an excursion through Isla Lobos through a tour wholesaler (Viator and BM Tours) and they’ve only just told us that the tour gets pushed back to 1pm, can you help us find something for the morning?”
I think you get the point.
So, what’s the deal?!: They never had those spots to begin with.
Tours on the Galapagos Islands don’t function the way you might expect. Internet is slow, people are out on boats all day and, while there’s an excess of beer, you won’t find cell phone coverage and definitely no wifi. Not every tour company or boat has an office, let alone office hours.
TripAdvisor and Viator might have great reputations for other tour packages, but there’s a bit of a short circuit when it comes to the Galapagos.
Good personal relationships = best budget Galapagos tours… kinda mostly.
Christian, the owner of ChokoTrip (not me, I just write things in English for him (and you, potentially?), is literally friends with everyone in the Galapagos Islands.
I’m not sure how they communicate with him because he has a really strong Guayaquileño accent, but they love him – he’s very lovable. I don’t understand a word he says either, but I love him too. I even kissed him once, but don’t tell anyone.
Why does this matter? Business is business, right? Nope, not here and, actually, not anywhere.
People like nice people, and because Christian has nurtured personal relationships with everyone there, including ferry owners, hotel employees and even some sea lions, they trust him and respond to his/our WhatsApp messages really quickly.
When there’s a cancellation, they help us out with deals. When space frees up on a tour, they tell us first. They give our customers discounts on a bunch of services, like transfers, only because we bring in business, are honest, professional and very likeable – some might even say sexy.
Why ChokoTrip is one of the best sources for budget Galapagos tours
Fast response rate
Christian and I are obsessively responding to new inquiries and sending WhatsApp messages to our partners in the Galapagos to check about availability, sometimes as late as 11pm on a holiday – they hate us! (Just kidding, they still love us.)
We can guarantee you’ll get a response within 24 hours, even if it’s only to say, “Hey, we haven’t found availability yet, but we’ll get in touch as soon as we do!” or “Do you have some flexibility? This tour is full on X date, but there’s space the day after.”
Tried and tested experiences
We’ve gone on all the tours we sell and can therefore tell you exactly what to expect, first hand. Some tours are 3 star tours, which means they’re more affordable, but service isn’t always top notch. We’ve gone on these tours and know what that difference looks like, and we’ll let you know.
Direct contact with (nearly all) tour operators and boats
When you write to us inquiring about availability, we get on our phone and send Whatsapp messages to the people directly in charge of filling the boats. They can tell us within seconds whether there’s space or not, if the departure is confirmed, if there’s a waiting list etc. There’s literally no lag time, unless they’re out at lunch or I wake up hating the world and never turn on my computer and phone.
Also, we work with nearly every boat and yacht. The ones we don’t work with are owned by other travel agencies and they don’t seem to like us very much…
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We have a fully automated system that facilitates our work, thereby increasing effectiveness and response rate. As soon as you submit a booking form, it enters our system. We can immediately see which boat we should call and start inquiring about availability on your behalf. As soon as a payment link is submitted to you, your spaces are blocked for a limited time until you make the payment…and other stuff like that. It’s quick and snappy.
Tips for booking your (best) budget Galapagos tour
Make sure you know the name of your vessel once you’ve reserved/paid for your tour – with ANY travel agency.
If you’ve already booked through Viator or Trip Advisor, you’ve paid 100% and you still haven’t received the name of your tour vessel, it’s likely that the departure hasn’t been confirmed and that your tour might be cancelled.
Ask us to find availability for your tours and, if we find space, book through us and you will immediately get a voucher detailing everything you need, including the name of the vessel, which means the departure is confirmed for that tour.
Finally, cancel your booking with the other company (the good thing about booking through these larger companies is that everything is 100% cancellable).
Know your dates.
As important as client service is to our team, if you’re constantly changing your travel dates, that means we have to go back and forth with the tour owners about availability and, well, patience runs thin. Sometimes we stop getting speedy responses and have to prioritize other travelers.
Read our dummies guide
There’s a lot of stuff you should be aware of before traveling to the Galapagos. Read them in our Dummies guide (no offense).
This isn’t a marketing ploy; spots get filled fast, especially during high season, and boat/tour operators can only block spots for a limited amount of time.
Book in advance.
If you’re a risk taker (like me), it might be tempting to wait till the last minute for details or try directly on the Islands. That might work for other tourist destinations, but the Galapagos is not your regular tourist destinations. They’re islands, with limited boats and schedules imposed by the Galapagos National Park.
Be aware of high season.
Traveling end of November 25 through January 5th? This is ULTRA high season, boats are chartered and spots are fully booked sometimes 6 MONTHS IN ADVANCE.
We can be funny
Last but not least, we’ve got a sense of humor, which is IMPERATIVE when dealing with stressed out customers. Feel free to use emojis when chatting with us on WhatsApp.
Hopefully all the above information convinces you to book with us and skip those seemingly more reliable websites like Viator. I mean, there’s no way we can compete with them when it comes to digital marketing, ads budget and their brand, but ultimately, that’s not really what works when it comes to booking your budget Galapagos tour.
Please shoot us any comments or questions you might have below, we look forward to working with you!
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS VIDEO – PLAYLIST