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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Background Guide

TRAVELLING WITH TERRA CARIBEA

 

  • OUR AGENCY

• Who are we?
• Why travel with us?
• What are our reference?
• Who are you speaking to?

  • OUR TRAVELLING OPTIONS

• « Tailor-made » trips
• « Group » services
• « Theme » trips
• "Multi-country"  trips
• For whom are our trips intended?
• Are all our trips on our website?

  • OUR OPERATING MODE

• Why are the  prices not on the website?
• Which tour / destination choose?
• Which hotels choose?
• Which local airline companies do we work with?
• How to book a tour?
• How to find other travellers?
• When to book a trip?
• How do we calculate the price of a tour?
• How to pay for your trip?
• What is going to be like when you arrive in the country?

  • OUR JARGON

• What are "Road trips" or « Self drive trips"?
• What is a « Private transfer »?
• What are « Groupe services »?

  • CONFORT AND TRAVELLING SPIRIT

• What is security like in the country?
• What is the "travelling spirit"?
• What is the comfort like in the country?
• Respect of local peoples and natural sites

 

Terra Caribea is a receptive travel agency and tour operator based in Central America. Our team has specialised in tailor-made tours as well as adventure and “off-the-beaten-path” travel in Costa Rica and Panama.

The company’s headquarters and offices are in San Joaquin de Flores, around San José, Costa Rica, whereas you will find our operating base in Panama City, Panama.

Travel is our middle name, but we all fell so much in love with Panama and Costa Rica that we decided to take up residence here.

Our team is made up of Costa Rican, Panamanian, and French people who have been living in Latin America for some years now. We are therefore perfectly aware of local realities and cultural aspects, from a personal as well as professional point of view.

We select hotels and other service providers according to serious and quality criteria that are the result of a 12-year experience in the tourist industry.

We personally know all our guides and drivers with whom we have very good working relationships. This enables us to ensure quality services at a competitive price.

At the same time, we regularly go on field trips, what enables us to constantly improve our offer and propose to discover wonderful places as well as off-the-beaten-path sites, often unknown to standard travel agencies.

These, based in France or other countries, go through receptive agencies such as ours to operate their tours. If you decide to contact us directly, you will avoid an additional intermediary (you will get faster answers and get better prices).

We are very proud of our responsiveness. We will answer you by e-mail or Skype within the 48 hours of your request (this does not include requests sent during weekends). You can contact us from Monday to Friday up to 2 a.m. (European time). We have two different numbers at your disposal for you to call at the price of a local conversation.

Terra Caribea is part of Terra Group, a network made of receptive agencies operating all over the world, born in 1998 and managed since then by a French-speaking team.

We are the official receptive agency for several travel agencies in French-speaking countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada) and in the rest of the world. Some of those tour operators are affiliated to an international association that promotes responsible tourism and is known as “Agir pour un tourisme responsable” (ATR).

Furthermore, as we work directly over the Internet, you can see the messages left when our customers come back from their trips in our visitors’ book.

We are registered in the Costa Rican Company Registry: CJ3-101538323.

We hold a professional liability insurance: INS0001494.

We are registered in the Costa Rican National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) under the number 1220.

Lastly, we are a partner to the French and Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The travel adviser who answers to your information and quotation request works from our offices in Costa Rica or Panama. They are trilingual (French/English/Spanish) and perfectly know the field they are working in.

They have a thorough knowledge of the destinations we offer, and you can contact them by e-mail (contact@terra-caribea.com), by phone, or by Skype (terra.caribea) from Monday to Friday. They will be your main adviser throughout the whole preparation of your journey.

This is one of our main strengths: we guarantee that you receive quick and detailed answers, in your language, whatever the complexity of your request. The personalization of each request is the key to making up a programme that perfectly suits your needs and desires.

Therefore, we are the ones who adapt to your criteria and not the contrary.

Once you confirm your journey, your travel adviser will keep you informed about the advances made in the various bookings and they will be available for any question regarding the preparation of your trip.

Once you are in the country, we will give you an emergency phone number where you can reach any member of our team 24/7 in case of need.

 

  • OUR TRAVELLING OPTIONS

“TAILOR-MADE” TOURS go to questions

“Tailor-made tours” is certainly the best way to describe our activity. Our vocation is to fill your journey with emotions. Do not hesitate to send us a quotation request and we will build your trip together.

Whether you want your trip to include the inescapable attractions or you prefer a journey off the beaten path, our team is ready to help you build in minute detail the tour that will ideally suit your desires, needs, and means (dates, season, general or particular wishes, budget, physical condition, etc.).

It is possible for us to suit your personal requirements because we attend personally each one of our customers in the framework of a commercial relationship that we hope to be friendly and rich in interactions.

NB: we have a special phone number at the office that enables you to call us at the same price as in France.

“GROUP” SERVICES go to questions

The experience and savoir-faire acquired along the years enable us to offer group trips which combine competitive prices and logistic completion.

You may choose between packages with fixe departure dates or exceptional tours, agency or business committee, standard programmes or original itineraries. We devote our professionalism to you so that your trip be a real success for you and for the other people in your group.

 

“THEME” TOURS go to questions

Among the various evolutions in the tourist industry, theme tours are a strong travel trend.

They are greatly prized by travellers who prepare their trip in minute detail, willing to favour one aspect of the destination, one means of transport, one particular activity, and so on.

We have worked out a range of theme tours to satisfy those specific requirements: wild life, ornithology, scuba diving, history, outdoor, gastronomy, 4WD adventure, homestays…

“MULTI-COUNTRY” TRIPS go to questions

The physical presence of TERRA GROUP extends now over four continents.

We all dreamed of such a geographic expansion so that we would be able to organise easily trips over various countries.

In Central America, thanks to our offices in Costa Rica and Panama, we have become specialists in trips combining these two countries.

We also organise various tours with other countries: Equator, Mexico, Brazil as well as extensions to Nicaragua (Lake, Granada…) and Colombia.

 

FOR WHOM ARE OUR TRIPS INTENDED? go to questions

Our trips are intended for everybody, including children. According to the level of difficulty, it may occur that some people may not take part in some activities (scuba diving or other water sports, for example).

However, Costa Rica and Panama are very nice destinations, quite easy to discover, and which do not present any particular constraint (weather, altitude, security, and so on).

 

ARE ALL OUR TRIPS ON OUR WEBSITE? go to questions

The tours that you may see on our website are some kind of “display” of the possible tours in Costa Rica and/or Panama.

All of them may be modified according to your desires and your criteria in terms of duration, regions to visit, hotel range, interest… We stand ready to build with you your dream tour.

 

  • OUR OPERATING MODE

WHY ARE THE PRICES NOT ON THE WEBSITE? go to questions

Our website is above all a “display” of our products and therefore only provides ideas over the tours we can offer.

On request, we send you the full leaflet of our programmes as well as the detailed price of an itinerary which drew your attention.

Terra Caribea works mainly upon individual requirements, i.e. the majority of our customers want to make some changes to the proposed programmes, what forces us to reassess constantly the tours according to everyone’s criteria. That is why we chose not to show the prices on our website.

 

WHICH TOUR/DESTINATION CHOOSE? go to questions

You will find on our websites examples of tours, listed according to their duration, theme or particularity. You may like them as such or want to make some changes.

On the other hand, you will find some information about the various regions to discover as well as the activities you can do in each one of them.

Finally, for each country, we have selected some of the hotels we work with.

In the end, you only have to contact us and tell us what you prefer. Our advisers are here to help you build the tour that best suits your needs.

 

WHICH HOTELS CHOOSE? go to questions

We establish our quoted values on a basis of 2-star hotels. These have a very good quality-price ratio and offer private bathrooms. Most of them are human-sized luxury hotels, located around the centre of towns.

Should you prefer a 3-star hotel, you will mainly get additional services as for the facilities offered by the establishment (phone in the bedrooms, mini bar, etc.).

The 4- and 5-star hotels are provided with luxury comfortable rooms and a better service. You should note that these are often big hotels which sometimes are part of national or international hotel chains.

 

WHICH LOCAL AIRLINE COMPANIES DO WE WORK WITH? go to questions

Regarding domestic flights, we work with all the trustworthy companies (Aeroperlas and Air Panama in Panama, and Nature Air and Sansa in Costa Rica) according to the availabilities at the time of the booking. Should you have any preference, do not hesitate to mention it, given that the service is more or less the same. Flight durations within the countries are seldom more than one hour.

Beware: baggage allowances with those local airline companies are smaller than in Europe (15 kilos in the hold and 5 kilos in cabin). Please contact us about excess baggage fees (not really expensive).

 

HOW TO BOOK A TOUR? go to questions

Once we have established and agreed on a programme together (itinerary, services, and price), we only start with the bookings of the various service providers when we receive a deposit.

It is preferable to really anticipate your arrival date so that we have time to work in good conditions and to book all the necessary services. However, you should know that the process can be rather fast: sometimes, we may accept requests from customers 15 days before they arrive in the country.

We also invite you to look at our sales conditions.

 

HOW TO FIND OTHER TRAVELLERS? go to questions

All our tours are organised in private, whenever the customers want, as soon as one of them confirms their booking. There are no fixed departure dates. Moreover, we do not accept “open” groups (that allow more members to join in).

However, we can recommend you one or two French partners with whom we work if you wish to join a group. They will be able to add you to a group that leaves soon.

 

WHEN TO BOOK A TRIP? go to questions

There is no precise date for a registration.

You should just know that, the sooner you register, the more possibilities you have to get availabilities at the desired dates, in particular regarding the hotels you choose. Furthermore, it would give you several advantages:

  • More interesting price conditions;
  • Anticipated bookings with our service providers (hotels, transfers, planes, etc.);
  • More flexibility to modify or add an activity.

Anyway, even if your departure date is very close, our advisers will do everything they can to offer you quality services that suit your programme.

 

HOW DO WE CALCULATE THE PRICE OF A TOUR? go to questions

We pay much attention to offering you the best quality/price ratio.

The price that you receive on your quotation is always the price per person.

The prices we indicate are those valid for the dates of your trip. You should know that they respect the prices established by our partners, which vary according to the season.

The fares you see in the quotation correspond to the addition of collective and individual costs. The more travellers you are, the less the collective prices will be (transfer, guide, and so on) as they will spread over a larger number of persons.

 

HOW TO PAY FOR YOUR TRIP? go to questions

We consider that you confirm your trip as soon as we receive your deposit.

We offer several means of payment (you will get the details by e-mail): either by secure payment with your card (transaction fees chargeable to you), or by bank transfer on our professional account.

 

WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN THE COUNTRY? go to questions

A (Spanish-speaking or French-speaking) representative of Terra Caribea will wait for you at the airport with a sign stating TERRA CARIBEA and your name.

They will come with you to your hotel to hand you in all your travel documents.

 

  • OUR JARGON

WHAT ARE “ROAD TRIPS”? go to questions

This travel option consists in travelling “freely”, with a rental car. The road-trip tours include overnights in hotels you choose, breakfast, the rental of a 4WD vehicle with GPS, domestic flights, as well as travel documents and some visits (in option).

It is probably the best way to discover Costa Rica and Panama, and to meet their inhabitants.

WHAT IS A “PRIVATE TRANSFER”? go to questions

What we call private transfer is a vehicle driven by a Spanish-speaking chauffeur. The oil, parking, tolls as well as their personal costs (accommodation, meals) are included in our tariff proposal; you do not need to provide anything (unless you want to give tips).

We choose a vehicle that suits the size of your group and which is totally privatised. No stranger is allowed to travel with you.

If you are less than three persons, the vehicle will often be a comfortable car, such as a sedan or a 4WD. On the other hand, if you have a group of more than three persons, you will travel in a van (more or less big according to the number of persons).

This is an easier means of transport as you do not need to worry about anything (state of the road, travel time, etc.) and it is safer (your driver knows the region like the back of their hand).

WHAT ARE “GROUP SERVICES”? go to questions

Group services are services that you share with other people. You may find yourself in the same means of transport, following the same guide during the same visit, and so on. The organisation of the activities, as well as the moment and the duration of breaks, are therefore not yours to choose, but decided with the whole group.

On the contrary, private services are booked only for your group (whether it consists of one or more than 30 persons).

The excursions and activities offered as group services are often organised for two or more participants (sometimes four or six). In the event of the non-confirmation of an activity for lack of participants, we can:

  • Invite you to pay an additional cost to guarantee that the excursion will take place, and you will then have a private tour.
  • Propose that you choose another equivalent excursion instead.
  • Reimburse the price of the activity.

In any case, we can always offer you to do the excursion as a private service. You would then need to pay an extra cost to have a guide for your group only.

 

  • COMFORT AND TRAVELLING SPIRIT

WHAT IS THE SECURITY LIKE IN THE COUNTRY? go to questions

We suggest you subscribe repatriation insurance.

Should you have paid your plane ticket with your credit card, you are already insured.

We do not want to deny any risk, but Costa Rica and Panama are rather safe countries. Those destinations do not present any particular danger for travellers who take some basic precautions and who show some common sense. We recommend you:

  • Not to show any exterior signs of wealth;
  • Not to travel with many different luggage;
  • Not to leave your bags and cameras unattended;
  • To use safes in the hotels;
  • To bring a copy of your personal documents (passport, driving licence, etc.).

To keep informed about the news in the country, we advise you to consult the website of Foreign Affairs.

Some activities (rafting, hiking, zip lining, abseiling, biking, and so on) may involve some risks that each participant needs to be aware of. Before starting any activity, you will get some security advice. You will also receive quality and complete equipment.

Finally, when you arrive in the country, we will give you an emergency phone number that you can call 24/7. A member of our team will always be available as long as you are in the country.

 

WHAT IS THE “TRAVELLING SPIRIT”? go to questions

No one can prevent unexpected incidents (plane/train delays, breakdowns, etc.); they are part of the trip. This one may be modified upon decision of the agency or the hotels/guides according to the weather, sailing conditions, or upon request of local communities. For organisational reasons and also in order to respect the environment and save energy in remote regions, some activities and transfers may be organised as group services (boat trips, fixed meals, and so on).

 

WHAT IS THE COMFORT LIKE IN THE COUNTRY? go to questions

Some of our tours (hikes, stays in rural communities, etc.) force travellers to adapt to the rustic character of the local conditions.

Those do not imply athletic exploits but demand a good physical condition and adaptation capacities. In any case, comfort remains one of our priorities when we select a hotel or a camping site.

When we specify “basic comfort” for some overnights, it is mainly for accommodation in local communities (or in shelters) where you will find a dirt or concrete floor and you will sleep in dormitories with basic beds (bed base + mattress + blankets).

It may also be difficult there to have hot showers or electricity all day and all night long. However, you should know that our field teams (inhabitants, shelter owners) will do everything in their power to accommodate you in the best conditions possible.

 

RESPECT OF LOCAL PEOPLES AND NATURAL SITES go to questions

Culture: learn a few words of Spanish so you can communicate with the locals. Always ask before taking a picture. Do not give money, especially to the children. Buy your souvenirs directly from the artisans. Avoid the big points of sale where most of the profits will not return to the artisans. Some people will offer you to buy some sacred objects or crafts made of rare materials; do not encourage this practice.

Nature: the ecological balance of some regions you will travel through is very precarious. The permanence of touristic flows, even in small groups, disrupts it even more quickly. In everyone’s interest, each participant is responsible for the cleanliness and the state of the places they travel through or camp in. The fight against pollution should be everyone’s as well. Take your garbage with you and dispose of them in the appropriate places; some regions of the world do not have the right structures to manage waste.

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