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Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

Your Words – We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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Reviews

This is a great trip - very colourful!

This was a really well -planned full itinerary with little down time and early starts every morning!

The traffic in Mexico City meant that journeys between locations always took a long time but Berto, our driver was very calm.  On the first day you are still recovering from the long day of travel but the visit to the Frida Kahlo House was very worthwhile and the canal boat “dodgems” at Xochimilco was great fun!

It was nice to get out of the City to the site at Teotichuacan the next day – the large pyramids are stunningly impressive but you can no longer climb them.

The best time was in Oaxaca as we spent 4 nights at the same central hotel and we had plenty of opportunity to soak up the festive atmosphere and see plenty of costumes and parades. The food is very good here and, of course, we learned how to make some salsas and mole.

We were lucky enough to spend time at the cemetery with a family where the son was playing the guitar and singing ballads to the dead relatives – very moving and atmospheric.

Monte Alban was my favourite archaeological site, partly because of the stunning views but Palenque was lovely because of its jungle location with the howler monkeys screeching in the background and the fact it was possible to climb the Pyramid of the Cross to have a view across the site.
Unfortunately, we only had less than an hour at Uxmal as we arrived late in the afternoon and our visit to Chichen Itza was quite short as we had to leave for the airport.

We did so many extras and Arturo always ensured we had good places to eat and drink!

Most Inspirational Moment

Difficult to single something out as the trip itinerary was so diverse and enjoyable but my least favourite location was San Cristobal, although I did buy some fabulous hand-painted wooden masks there! We did a sneaky swim in a small cenote too - the water was crystal clear and a pleasant temperature - so refreshing!

Thoughts on Group Leader

Arturo was absolutely smashing! He always had a smile on his face, was super organised and packed so much into the day. He had a great sense of humour and really gelled with the group. He was really charming and kind too. We always had so many questions about the history and culture which he was able to answer very knowledgeably.

Advice for Potential Travellers

The trip notes are somewhat misleading on some points: Currency - really get mostly in Pesos to cover what you will be spending on food and drinks. I only used USD for the tips and the additional boat trip in the canyon. Eating out is relatively expensive and a 15% tip is usually applied. You can use credit cards in the more touristy areas but usually cash is preferred. Packing - I was led to believe a warm jacket and jumper would be required so I ended up taking some non-essential items. It is generally very warm and humid and balmy in the evenings so no jumpers or jackets required. I only wore a fleece when we had to leave San Cristobal at 4am. A denim jacket was fine. But DO take a raincoat - we got absolutely drenched in flash floods in Puebla. Girls - ignore the comments about shorts not being acceptable. They are commonplace both with tourists and locals - and essential when climbing up pyramids! Skirts very impractical.

Suggestions

Yes, there are far too many long bus journeys and the minibus was crammed full - for a large group, couldn't a larger coach be used so there is a bit more space to spread out? There were some bus politics going on which wasn't always pleasant. Unfortunately, the journey from San Cristobal to Palenque was not only on winding mountain roads but was through a lot of community areas where there are speed humps so the drive was quite slow - we were on the bus 8 hours - and also very bumpy and jolty. We seemed to do quite a few "sales" stops. I would prefer these are kept to a minimum as they were quite time consuming and the products so expensive - probably geared for visitors from the US - and they are en route so not optional. I would probably cut out the visit to the tile factory in Puebla and the painted wooden artefacts outside Oaxaca - these tours were quite long. and the wood carvers was full of coach parties and the products 100s of USD! I wasn't keen on the black pottery or the rug weaving either. I don't remember having so many sales visits on Exodus trips before. On the other hand, the hammock maker was very amusing and the Panama hat maker was interesting and both were short and sweet. All the hotels were clean with plentiful hot water and large comfortable beds. However many of the breakfasts were disappointing with few choices.

Mexico Day of Dead Festival started 27 October 2022

Very good trip overall. The local guide was extremely knowledgeable, highly motivated. The hotels were variable good to very good. The bus was somewhat crowded. I managed to find some vegetarian selection at each location. Local people were quite friendly and ready to help, despite my very limited spanish.

Most Inspirational Moment

I enjoyed pyramids at Teotichuacan, especially walking to temples of the Sun and Moon on the Avenue of the Dead. Also Mayan pyramids at Uxmal, Chichen Itza. Wandering the streets of Oaxaca, Campeche, Merida.

Thoughts on Group Leader

The local guide Arturo was extremely knowledgeable and was able to answer most questions in great detail. He was highly motivated, even arranging hotel staff with umbrellas to meet group at the entrance to Hotel Regente in Mexico City during heavy rain, and helping to carry guest bags to the bus. Arturo showed us where there were good restaurants, shops, foreign exchange bureaux. My spanish is quite limited, so Arturo was helpful to translate so that I could find vegetarian selections at the restaurants. The bus driver Alberto was well motivated and able to get group to destination in good time, despite heavy traffic in larger cities like Mexico city, and securing baggage. Good rapport between the local guide and driver. Both were accommodating and ready to assist us travellers.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Try to learn as much spanish as possible, English spoken little outside main tourist areas. Bring sun screen for daytime, and rain gear for nights, still heavy rains in mid-November. Cooler at night in high elevation areas, esp. San Cristobal, Oaxaca, Puebla.

Suggestions

Hotels good to very good. My room at Hotel Regente somewhat small. Few hotels had coffee machines and coffee in rooms (only Chichen Itza provided coffee machine and coffee, Tehuantepec had coffee machine but no coffee). The group bus was fully packed and could be uncomfortable in certain seats, as I have joint pains. The pooling of tips for hotel staff, driver is a very good idea. I found the optional Sumidero canyon boat trip at Tuxtla well worth it!

Mexico Day of the Dead Oaxaca

An excellent introduction to the sights , sounds and culture of Mexico. It involved long days travelling on occasion, and a larger bus would be an improvement. The one provided had the exact number of seats for the passengers so there was no possibility of spreading out, the seats in the back being particularly cramped.

Most Inspirational Moment

I particularly liked the visit to Teotihuacan and walking along the Avenue of the Dead from the Citadel to the Pyramid of the Moon. Chichen Itza Was also spectacular.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Arturo Romero was excellent, very knowledgeable and worked really hard to make everything run smoothly.

Pleasure & Pain.....

A great trip that could have been SO much more! My husband & I mostly enjoyed the first half of this trip, chosen especially to see the Day of The Dead celebrations in Mexico. The accommodation was pretty good throughout with some lovely colonial hotels, some with lovely swimming pools. Unfortunately we often arrived far too late in the afternoon, to enjoy those facilities and the next day we were off again on the tour. Very disappointing.

Travelling for the whole trip in a minibus (this was mentioned in the trip notes to be fair, but we have never had to endure this in any 7 of our previous Exodus trips, always having had much larger coaches) with no spare seats, unable to be fully comfortable or recline our seats, on some very long journeys (albeit with comfort breaks) spoilt the trip for us. Being in very close quarters with our group for several hours each day, some of whom we felt were selfish & insensitive to the needs of their fellow passengers, was at times, a strain & caused a lot of tension.

In retrospect I think the tour could perhaps should be cheaper and split into two separate trips. So that those who wish to experience the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca can and perhaps add on another separate tour with the Yucatan & Mayan pyramids for those that want to experience the history. The first half with maybe more time in Mexico City to experience all that it has to offer.

We are no strangers to ‘full on’ Exodus trips, having been to Peru last year,also China, Russia, Cuba & India twice. However this trip felt exhausting to us, mainly because of the travelling conditions in the minibus, nearly all the road journeys were longer than the ‘estimates ‘ in the trip notes. It was also very unfortunate I was ill in Oaxaca & had to see a doctor for antibiotics and steroids. To be honest we felt that to appreciate the country, more time is need in some of the towns – Merida & Campeche especially.

Most Inspirational Moment

Personally it was experiencing the Day of the Dead in the evening, with the families in the cemetery. The atmosphere was incredible. To see the decorated shrines and just be there with everyone, was a joy! I loved the skeleton figures everywhere and the rich colours of the marigolds on the altars. Oaxaca was a terrific place to see & feel the celebrations. We also had a great time at Frida Kahlo's house,in Mexico City even thought here were long queues, our guide had prebooked so we got in without too much waiting. I wasn't prepared for the scenery to be so varied either-vast plains,mountains, jungles, forests.... Seeing the Gulf of Mexico just as the sun set was magical! Unfortunately in Oaxaca, we were very disappointed when told by our guide that although printed in the itinerary, we were not going to have lunch with a local family, take part in the parade or go to the family's shrine in the evening. Many of the group wanted to dress up, have their faces painted and really immerse themselves in the experience. In fact that was why we had chosen Exodus, because it offered those things. But it was not to be. Perhaps the trip notes should reflect this in future, so as not to disappoint clients.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Arturo was all things to us all. From being a mine of information about his country's history, culture & religion, he was always willing to go the extra mile - from providing medication when we were ill ( a bad cold struck most of us down during the trip) to providing a fruit plate & bananas for my husband when he suffered an upset stomach and was unable to leave the hotel in Oaxaca for 2 days. Arturo took us to some very good restaurants so we could experience the variety that is Mexican cuisine - despite my dislike for chillies! He was always patient and mostly helpful. We especially had a good time with him in Oaxaca watching the dancing in the square from the restaurant balcony.

Advice for Potential Travellers

.Be prepared for long journeys - with little in the way of 'enjoyable' food when travelling from place to place! Motorway services & cafes do not cater for gluten free diets - so take snacks with you - cereal bars, small packs of dried fruit & nuts etc. You can buy snacks but the food is very 'plastic'! . Take Mexican pesos with you - although US dollars can be exchanged, you are not always near an ATM or bank. . If you like crafts, Mexico is a wonderland. Make sure you have room in your case especially for souvenirs of the Day of the Dead. We experienced some VERY heavy rain one day but generally the weather is good in October/November - take a brolly/packable waterproof in your rucksack. . Take headphones, iPad/tablet, Kindle, book etc to pass the time on long road journeys.

Suggestions

Everything is as I mentioned in my overview. Mexico is a fascinating country but having had this experience with Exodus I wouldn't go back.

Brilliant trip

This trip packs a lot in – culture, Mayan sites, eating, seeing local craftsmen at work, and just soaking up the atmosphere in the old Spanish colonial towns. Around and about in Mexico city, beautiful Puebla, San Cristobal and then lots of Mayan sites.
The hotels were all good (had one slight problem in one of them but hopefully Exodus can get that sorted out for future trips).
There are some long travelling days due to the distances which need to be covered, but it’s worth it and a lot of the scenery is just amazing to see.

Most Inspirational Moment

Hahaha - cannot pick just one: climbing the sun pyramid and almost, just almost, making it to the top (vertigo got me); seeing Mayan carvings in an old tomb on top of a hill; some of the restaurants were wonderful; all the Day of the Dead "stuff"; watching the sunset on the seafront; swimming in a Cenote; Teotihuacan; Uxmal; Palenque and Chichen Itze.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Arturo was one of the best tour leaders I've had - from meeting the group at Mexico City airport, with a big smile, he was there for us for the whole time, sorting out any problems, answering millions of questions, and generally making sure everyone was ok. And, that smile never wavered. I'd also like to mention Fernando, our driver. He was brilliant as well.

Advice for Potential Travellers

It's hot and you will get sweaty climbing the pyramids - pack for that. Take a swimming costume - a couple of the hotels have pools which are brilliant for cooling down. I took hiking boots, but didn't wear them, walking sandals were fine for all the sites. I didn't get bitten and didn't use deet, but I did wear long sleeves and I think all the hotels had aircon (units). You can get washing done in Oaxaca (about £1 per item), which might be helpful. A brolly would probably be useful - it did rain a couple of times (the tropical rain that comes down hard, then stops). This trip packs a lot in but there's still a lot more to see and I'll definitely be going back.

Suggestions

This is in no way intended to be criticism: Adding a day onto the end of the trip would be good - so that you can go around Chichen Itze and go back to the hotel, get showered, wash hair and change and pack, rather than going straight to the airport and changing there. It would also give people who wanted to an afternoon to go back into Chichen Itze, if they wanted to. Keep the Cenote - we loved it. If you could do something to shorten the long travelling days and maybe add in some minor Mayan sites (but they may be further along the route), that would be good but, then again, I don't think anyone would have wanted to miss the hotels (especially the one in Puebla) - if shortening the days meant changing the hotels. Arturo did make sure we had banos stops and coffee stops and there were nibbles to buy to eat.