PANDEMIC TRAVEL Colombia trip January 15-April 21.
WOW memory: Standing on my balcony on my suite in Cartagena in the late afternoon and watching the golden waves striking the shore below the colonial era walls. This would be true at any time, but was sensory overload after a year without travel.
There are some important features of travel in Colombia that are independent of the pandemic. Perhaps because Colombia has no obvious famous tourist destinations such as the Galapagos or Machu Picchu, and because it just emerged from a fifty year civil war, it doesn’t get many foreign tourists in most parts. As a result, very few people in the travel infrastructure speak English. That is true for check in agents at airports, and flight attendants even on Avianca, Colombia’s premium airline, and in five star, international class hotels such as the Four Seasons Casa Medina Bogota.
A person should go to Colombia because of the spectacular variety of intimate, beautiful experiences in one country.
In what was an often challenging travel environment, Marc and Boris performed heroically and with the complete finesse of an expert kayaker on the most challenging whitewater. After the pandemic, anyone on a trip with them will find working with them even more of a total joy. Without them, my trip would have been impossible.
To address the questions Wendy asked:
“How did this trip differ from one you might have taken before the pandemic?”
Because of the possibility of a national lockdown or travel ban in the US, I arrived three weeks earlier than in the original itinerary, namely, before January 20. I switched hotels at the end so that I could stay in a hotel with a room more tolerable in a two week quarantine. Historically important churches everywhere and some museums and restaurants were closed because of the pandemic. One region was closed that I would have otherwise visited. Airline travel at every stage was always awkward. Covid procedures were different at each airport.
“Did the trip planner suggest experiences, accommodations, dining options, travel logistics, etc., that felt Covid-appropriate to you? Did he/she solve particular challenges or destination-related problems?”
The answer is yes to every part of the first question. With regard to the second, Marc and Boris’ team wrote letters that enabled the guide to enter airline terminals generally restricted to passengers in order to help me check in with airline agents who spoke only locally accented Spanish. Their team over the phone helped me fill in very confusing forms for pre-registration for arrival and departure and for extending my visa. The outfitter arranged for the hotel to have a doctor test me for Covid in my room within the required three days before departure. To deal with the closure of the region in the previous section, the outfitter rescheduled and expanded visits to other places to fill the gap. The outfitter and the local partners were able to adapt airport transfers to accommodate local lockdowns and curfews. They were always accommodating to my uniquely personal wishes and interests, requests for itinerary changes, and inherent way of doing things. They were easily reachable over the phone and responded quickly to emails
“What did the trip planner do, or not do, to minimize your health risk or financial risk?”
Because my trip was always going to be private and in luxury accommodations and private cars, the health risk was reduced substantially. There really wasn’t any financial risk.
“Did the trip planner add value to your trip? If so, how?”
Being able to negotiate the often changing or confusing or difficult procedures described earlier, being willing to make frequent changes, and knowing the fine details of which rooms in a particular hotel were suitable to my tastes added immense value.
“Did you have certain trip experiences that other travelers should either seek out or avoid?”
In Cartagena, do stay at Sofitel Leyenda Santa Clara. Don’t stay at the Four Seasons Casa Medina in Bogota because they didn’t observe the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room and because the hotel has restaurant staff who don’t understand menus that are printed in English, and don’t stay at Gitana Del Mar on the Caribbean coast because the receptionists were rude or indifferent and because their kitchen staff did not observe basic Covid rules. Marc and Boris do not deserve a scintilla of responsibility for these bad experiences; the hotel staffs do completely. No travel company can be around a client every minute of every day.
A month in Colombia: Marc and Boris’ team are one of the 2 top travel advisors with whom we’ve worked over the last 30 or so years. We highly recommend them because (1) Marc, one of the 2 founders, planned our trip with us – we were not turned over to an associate, (2) the itinerary was as detailed as I have ever seen, (3) the guides + the drivers were superb, (4) their staff were available 24/7 (+ we had problems with 3 of the hotels) and (5) the logistics were excellent and (6) we appreciated their surprising us with room upgrades in many of the hotels.
My family of two adults and three teens, ages 12 to 18, traveled to Colombia over New Year’s, spending seven days in country. We visited Bogotá, Quindío (the coffee region), and Cartagena. As we were completely unfamiliar with South America, we planned guides, drivers, and activities for most of every day. We have not traveled with so much support in the past, and it was extremely helpful and rewarding. Emily and a few other associates from Marc and Boris’ office were a fantastic help, both during the planning and the trip. They made great choices about which regions we should visit and for how long, what activities we should do, and where we should stay. They even got us into a wonderful boutique hacienda in the coffee region at a very busy time of year. Each of our guides was friendly and attentive, and very knowledgeable about their area. We had Juliana, an artist, in Bogotá share her perspective on museums and the graffiti district. Camilo, a biologist and ornithologist, took us on a hike in the countryside and helped my husband with his birdwatching. Tavo is a musician, and gave us a great perspective on Cartagena. All the tours and activities were fabulous, and the lodging and dining reservations the team set up were perfect for us. We ran into some flight delays on one of our internal flights, and Marc and Boris’ office was very helpful and supportive. Also, the guides mentioned that the company was checking in with them regularly each day, which was so supportive in such an unobtrusive manner. We did so many wonderful activities, but a big highlight was our last day, when we took a private boat trip out to the Rosario Islands and spent some time at a beach club. The kids got so much out of every day of the trip, and continue to rave about it to everyone, a real accomplishment with teens, and the parents accomplished our goal of family time and exposing everyone to a new continent. We want to thank Wendy Perrin for suggesting Columbia as a destination in the first place, based on our parameters, and setting us up with this team. We also would like to thank Marc and Boris’ team for helping us through some initial qualms about the political situation and supporting us splendidly through the planning and the whole trip. It was definitely a trip to remember for a lifetime. In addition, we all plan to return to Columbia, and are evangelizing it as a destination for other Americans.
Marc organized a wonderful trip to Colombia for our family. Marc and his team put together an itinerary that kept my husband and I and two teenagers completely engaged. We loved visiting the very different regions of the country and learning about each area’s distinct history and culture. The guides in each city were fabulous. They all knew a lot about their respective cities and enjoyed sharing their knowledge with us and answering our questions. In addition, they were all wonderfully flexible with our needs and requests. We made some last-minute switches on some days, and Marc’s team was able to deal with them effortlessly and graciously.
I honestly can’t think of anything we would have done differently…although in Cartagena a late checkout could have been requested, as they wanted us out of the rooms before our pickup time. The rafting was probably about an hour too long but we completely understood that the infrastructure of the river didn’t allow for a shorter ride. Marc organized such a terrific adventure!
The best part about working with Wendy’s WOW team are the WOW moments. We were surprised with a cooking class at the best restaurant in Cartagena – Carmen’s. We all enjoyed learning about the local cuisine, preparing, cooking and ultimately eating what we had prepared! The restaurant was truly lovely and the time spent there was one we won’t forget.
Marc and Boris’s team provide top rate service for travel to Colombia. Marc and Ana were a pleasure to work with during the planning stages and executed the trip seamlessly. All of our guides were punctual, knowledgeable and professional. Although Cartagena is an easy city to explore on your own, we felt there was real value in having a local guide explain the history behind the sites and especially in pointing us toward the best street foods that were safe for us to try. When we did encounter a small problem during our stay in Tayrona, Ana ironed it out quickly and painlessly. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Marc and Boris in the future.
I was very pleased with Marc and Boris’s planning and performance during our trip to Colombia. I’ve worked with other specialists, and their execution was very much on par with those established resources. All the guides assigned to us throughout the trip were excellent, hotels/lodges were well appointed, and logistics were on point. There were a few hiccups on transfer pickups during our time in Cartagena, but all was managed and was not really a reflection on their planning.
The planned experiences during the trip were also excellent, with highlights being:
– Bamboo raft float down the La Vieja river in the coffee region–relaxing and very “local” experience
– Visit to the Blue Apple Beach House on Tierra Bomba–stylish island lodging, good food and very cool vibe overall
– The street food tour of Cartagena
I would definitely recommend Marc and Boris as a travel resource for Colombia.
Boris helped me plan a multigenerational family trip (travelers from ages 2 and 3 to early 20s to 40s and 60s) that spanned Medellin, Cartagena, Palenque y Armenia/coffee region). It was the best vacation we’ve ever had! The itinerary was well-planned and well-executed with great guides! We felt entirely safe at every destination as well as in transit between destinations. Accommodations and restaurants were super comfortable and first rate. A meal in Palenque, surprisingly, turned out to be one day of our favorites. Hacienda Bambusa is heavenly, with hands down the best staff ever, and we definitely recommend Casa San Agustin in Cartagena. Can’t say enough great things about this trip — we are extremely pleased and grateful for Boris and his team’s help!
Boris planned the perfect trip for us. He listened to how we travel and followed through with a spot on itinerary. We absolutely loved the entire experience and found each day was different than the day before. Boris was also very available if we had any questions while we were there. This was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken thanks to his great planning. We had friends who decided to join at the last minute and he made that work also. I would highly recommend Colombia and Boris and his team to anyone.