Private photo tour in Santiago, Chile-- a good value?



Anyone familiar with the Santiago-Valparaiso-Vina del Mar area of Chile? We'll be spending 3 days there, and I've been emailing with a local photographer/photo tour guide. He's proposing a custom, 2.5 day-tour, and I have no idea if his proposal is a good value or not. Can/would anyone care to weigh in with an opinion? Here's the skinny:

Day 1, 4-1/2 hours touring Santiago city scenes. "Use a photographic point of view to uncover a new way to enjoy Santiago. We’ll start at Cerro Santa Lucia and get a bird’s eye view of the city. Then we’ll walk around the bustling downtown area getting to understand Santiago from a historic and social point of view. The sun will set while we stroll through Plaza de Armas. During a gourmet tasting of Chilean cuisine at a trendy restaurant, we’ll look over and comment the photos from the day. Includes: Transportation from hotel, tasting and dinner at restaurant, snack, photographer guide."

Day 2, 14-1/2 hours touring Valparasio and the Vineyards. "Getting up before dawn we will head to Casablanca Valley, where Chile produces its best white wines. The sun will rise late over the rolling green hills and we’ll capture the essence of wine-making all morning. After lunch and wine tastings, we’ll head to Valparaíso. Walking through “cerros” Alegre and Concepción, we’ll set our sights and trying to understand the magic of Valparaíso, finding photographic opportunities in it’s colors, streets and people. We’ll ride the famous city elevators and have dinner overlooking the bay and vivid city. Includes: Transportation from hotel, lunch and wine tasting at vineyards, dinner at Vaparaíso restaurant, snack, photographer guide."

Day 3, 12 hours touring the Andes. "An early start will have us on our way through the Maipo River. We’ll visit Morado National Park, home to some of the most beautiful mountains in the region. There we’ll capture the flora and fauna that abound through the len. After photographing the imposing scenery and the rich colors of the earth, we’ll have a gourmet picnic surrounded by glaciers high on the mountains. Afterwards we will enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Andes. Includes: Transportation from hotel, gourmet picnic, snack, photographer guide."

This is a private tour at $650 USD per person. That's a chunk of change, but at the same time:
  • our Spanish is abysmal.
  • we would have to rent a vehicle if on our own, and don't know the driving laws.
  • The tour is pretty darned inclusive, including transportation, petrol, any entrance fees, and meals whilst we're out and about.
A friend of a friend lives in Santiago, and whilst he's not a photographer, he says we "might be getting ripped off" and that he could show us around, but we'd have to do a car rental as his car is not up to an extended trip. I know it sounds like he's trying to just steal business away from the other guy, but my friend vouches for him, and he's not wanting any $$ to do it, beyond our paying for his meals, with regards to his recompense.

Bottom line is, I don't know squat about the area, prices, or what's a good value. I like traveling with a local photographer versus a local friend of a friend, because you know how much we all lust for perfect light and such, which is something a local 'tog should be able to be at the right place at the right time. Still, I want a warm fuzzy knowing I'm doing the right thing and getting a decent price, and not being a stupid tourist paying way too much... know what I mean? Or am I overthinking the whole thing, and should I just pull the trigger on using the expertise of a local photographer and be done with it? BTW, he has some pretty cool images, not just generic postcard stuff.

Anyways, your thoughts and comments are appreciated... thanks in advance... Dave


May 19, 2008
St. Louis, Missouri
I have not been to Chile, and have never been on a photography tour, but here are my thoughts:

You are receving a total of 31 hours of service for $650. That comes out to $20.96/hour, and for that rate you are receiving a privately escorted tour with a Spanish speaking guide who apparently knows the area and the best places (sounds like from your description) to shoot. That rate also includes transportation, fuel, wear and tear to his vehicle, his time away from his home, meals, and entrance fees to attractions. To me, that sounds pretty darn reasonable, and the fact that you would be receiving personalized service from someone who shares an interest in photography and probabaly has a good grasp on the local flavor of the country is an attractive option. Have you checked his references?

Your doing this tour is definitely a more viable option than you renting a car, as you may end up paying more than $650 just to rent a vehicle (do you know what the daily rates are? And...what of insurance...? Also...what if you are in a wreck - what are the laws pertaining to Chile in that regard? ). You also, by your own admission, do not speak Spanish well, and have no idea about the laws of the road, which indicates to me that you would have no idea of where to go once you're on the road, and do you want to spend your time trying to figure out what you should be seeing and where you should be going?

Your "friend of a friend"? Is he a photographer? Does he know of places to shoot? Does he have experience with getting up before dawn in order to catch the sunrise and where to go to capture the best view? He wants to take you around, but has no reliable transportation?? You're right - to me, it does sounds as though he's trying to take business away from the tour guide.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, of course. Me, personally, once I checked the tour guides references, I would go with him over the friend. get what you pay for. You may end up saving money with your friend of a friend, but your total experience may cost you more in the long run than it might have had you paid the $650.

Again, these are just my thoughts...have a safe trip!!

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