Adventure Travel Special, January 1997
Remember, It Never Hurts to Interrogate
Questions to ask those outfitters before sending your deposit
By David Noland
Do you run this trip yourself, or do you use a local operator? Some "outfitters" are merely brokers who book trips for overseas outfits. Nothing wrong with that, but a broker's knowledge about its trips--not to mention its responsibility and control over them--is usually limited. In that case, ask to talk to the overseas outfitter who actually runs the trip. A simpler solution: book with a hands-on outfitter.
Who's the trip leader? More than any other person, your trip leader will determine whether or not you have a good time. Is he an American, with whom you share a similar sensibility and communicate well, or a local, who can lend an insider's perspective on the place? How much experience does she have in the country? On this particular trip? Will he be shmoozing and educating the clients, or merely getting the group from A to B? How's her English? If possible, get your trip leader's phone number and call him to get a feel for his background, personality, and expectations of the trip and of the clients.
How fit do I really need to be? Outfitters, loath to turn away paying customers, sometimes underplay the physical demands of a trip. (A few actually prescribe a special fitness self-test and then recommend trips suitable for your fitness level.) Ask for precise numbers--time, distance, and daily elevation gain.
What isn't included in the trip price? Hotel and/or meals in the staging cities? Airport transfers? In-country airfare? Park fees? Port taxes? Evacuation and medical insurance? By doing your homework, you can avoid wiring Mom or Dad or whomever for more rupees.
Will they give out the names and phone numbers of previous clients who've taken the same trip? There's no better resource than a group of impartial people who've been there, done that.