How long have you been in business and how many clients travel with you each year?
We started in 1982. With over 35 years of operation, we’ve become one of the leaders trailblazing trips to places most other travel companies don’t go.
What assurance do you provide to protect the traveler’s investment?
We know people are concerned about being left high and dry by unscrupulous or unwise travel companies. We want you to know that, first, you may charge your entire trip on a credit card (which offers a de facto form of insurance). Second, we are happy to provide you with recent client and credit references. Lastly, we maintain active memberships in the most prominent trade groups, including the American Society of Travel Agents, the International Airline Travel Agent Network, The Airline Reporting Corporation, the Adventure Collection, and the Golden Gate Better Business Bureau. We also participate in California’s Seller of Travel Consumer Protection Program and our registration number is 1006401-10.
What kinds of trips do you offer?
We offer a full palette of tours, treks, small ship cruises and train journeys, from luxurious to edgy, from mountaineering expeditions to special interest excursions for fine art museums. We have varied travel tastes, so do most of our clients, and we have a lot of fun offering a variety rather than a strict subset of experiences. We are not a your hosteling, low-budget company and we strive to offer the highest quality service in some of the world’s most challenging destinations.
Who will answer my calls and questions when I call you, both before and after I sign up?
We’re very proud of the fact that your primary contact throughout and after your trip will be the Destination Expert who very likely created the trip in the first place, scouted it, and sent the scores of emails and letters it took to hammer it into shape. Our Destination Experts and Operations Managers are hardworking experts, but they’re also enthusiasts, which is why we don’t hesitate to advise you to question them freely.
What is the difference between a tour and a trek?
On a tour we fly, drive, sail, or perhaps take a train to our overnight destination, which will be a hotel as comfortable and luxurious as common sense and the locale allow. We walk in museums and around villages and towns, but on the whole our tours are physically non-demanding, and many of them compare in comfort level to classic European tours.
Our treks are essentially backpacking trips without the backpack (we carry only light daypacks) and the hassle (of cooking, setting up, etc.). First-time trekkers are almost invariably astounded by the high level of creature comforts on trek. Porters or pack animals carry all bags, food, tents, etc., and staff prepares all meals, washes all dishes, puts up and takes down camp, and generally takes care of everything but the walking (which never, unless we highlight it in the itinerary, involves anything more more technical than a hike in the Sierra Nevada, for example).
How difficult are your tours?
When we categorize a tour as Rigorous it’s usually because we attain high altitude (i.e., more than 10,000 feet) at some point, or conditions, i.e., hot water, etc., may not always be optimal. Moderate tours may involve some less-than-five-star conditions and longer drives than Easy tours, which are just that, easy and luxurious.
How difficult are treks?
An Easy trek will generally stay at low (under 10,000 feet) altitudes. Hiking days will be short (less than six hours), and there will not be a lot of elevation gain (a 1,000-foot day is easy, 4,000 feet is a good workout). A moderate trek will likely involve a little more altitude, but will still involve less steepness and altitude gain than a Rigorous trek, which will usually combine altitudes in excess of 15,000 feet with some good steep, long days on the trail.
Who will lead my trip?
Our trip leaders are vetted for three main criteria: First, an ability to prevent and solve problems in the field, the capacity to deal with the various cultures, governments, and business practices in the places we visit. Two, an ability to relate to and enjoy our travelers. And three, a love for and a knowledge of the place.
What is your maximum group size?
Sixteen is our maximum, and our minimum is highly flexible. Many of our custom trips range from one traveler on up.
What kinds of hotels and accommodations do you use?
We stay in top-notch hotels, usually the finest, or, in remote areas, the commonsense best. Sometimes the best is a place like Pakistan’s lovely, Serena Khaplu Palace, or it may be a place like the deceptively modern and grand hotel in Tibet’s Shigatse. We stay in guesthouses in remotest Bhutan where “rustic” is more than travelprose, but where the kindliness of the local people, the calm neatness of things, and the stunning views are consolation enough. In all, though, we strive to stay in the most atmospheric and luxurious properties available.
What land operators do you use?
All travel companies subcontract with companies in the field for transportation, hotels, local guides, and other services. Though almost all our trips also have a “western” leader, we’re very proud of our carefully picked and tested local operators. In Nepal our associates developed the concept of trekking, and uphold the finest professional standards; they are the best. We’ve been taking people to Bhutan longer than any of our competitors, so we’ve built excellent relations and clout with the finest operators there. Many of our staff have lived overseas, and it’s a condition of employment that our Destination Experts regularly return to scout, revise, and get the latest info.
Can you arrange air transportation and post- and pre-trip extensions?
Our in-house air travel department is a full-service agency which can book a full range of domestic and international flights. We are familiar with booking procedures for even the most obscure carriers (e.g., Bhutan’s Druk Air), and we can and very often do arrange the most complex customized travel arrangements and extensions through the world.
Do you include trip insurance?
We automatically include medical expense, 24-hour hotline assistance, and transportation insurance for every trip participant. (Trip cancellation, interruption, and baggage insurance is optional.) Learn more
What should I do if I’m interested in a trip?
We have a lot more to say about our destinations and we’d love to answer your specific questions. So we encourage you to call us at 888-570-7108. We’re eager to talk about our famously detailed trip itineraries, costs and departures dates, and next steps.