My name is John and I'm an American who recently contracted services with Sangay Tours for my wife and I for our honeymoon for 20 days in Ecuador. We paid over $10,000 for private tours, airport transfers, superior accommodations in hotels but we were scammed by this company which failed to provide any of the contracted services. For the airport transfers (their excuse was that the airport had been recently opened and therefore couldn't get any transportation to pick us up! We ended up having to take a taxi which had no problem getting us to the city.), they then told us that "private transport with a private english guide" meant we were on shared tours because "private" only implied we were not going to be using public transportation, and finally we were placed in a low-end 3 star hotel in Quito.
Naturally, we wrote the owner of the company directly and demanded that they either fulfill the established contract or provide us with a refund. [continued below]....
..... The owner simply laughed in our face and dared us to go ahead and take whatever measures of justice we felt were appropriate. He was also quick to blame everyone else and provided us with the following ultimatum: If you don't show up for the tours you will be considered "no shows"and will not receive a cent in reimbursement.Let me clear in saying that we have traveled to over 38 countries and have never encountered such a fraudulent tour company. If you are thinking about traveling to and around Ecuador, stay away, far away from Sangay Tours. You're better off booking with a local agency once you arrive in Quito or looking elsewhere for professionalism. It is unfortunate that we have been robbed and scammed in this way but hopefully we can at least help steer others away from the same pitfalls by making our case heard online.
NO ONE takes the time to write a scathing review of a company that has adequately rendered the services for which it was contracted for. What is there to be gained by "defaming" Sangay Touring if as Robin claims, he never met me? In what way do I stand to profit from false accusations by posting a review on TripAdvisor??? Who takes the time during their honeymoon to sit down and write such a review if it is not warranted? It's certainly not my idea of a good time and I'm sure it's not yours either.
I booked this trip in advance with Sangay Touring for two reasons: 1) It offered competitive prices for a two week trip through Ecuador and 2) it stated in writing that the tours would be private tours and all hotel-airport transfers would be included.Let me illustrate for you the nightmare that has been our experience with this agency and then you can decide for yourselves if this is something you want to incur while traveling on your dream vacation to Ecuador. My wife and I are on a two month honeymoon through Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. On March 18, 2013, we took a 6 am flight from La Paz, Bolivia to Lima, Peru where we connected to Quito, Ecuador. After spending 8 hours between flights and airport time, we finally arrived in Quito ready to be received by a representative of Sangay Touring. No one was at the airport to greet us. Our flight was on time, but since we had not received any notification of any changes, we decided to wait for a representative, exhausted as we were and hopeful that perhaps he was just late.
10 minutes went by, then 20, then 30, and finally after 40 minutes I made the call that we should simply take a taxi to the hotel and call the agency to determine what had happened. After all, accidents do happen right? People do get stuck in traffic sometimes. After taking a taxi to the Hotel Sierra Madre ($26), we arrived and checked-in and immediately proceeded to contact the agency. We were briskly informed that we had somehow misunderstood what was written in our email correspondence and voucher with Sangay and that "All airport-hotel-airport transfers included" did not apply to Quito because Quito recently inaugurated a new airport and that rates for transfers had not yet been set by the tourism agency. This seemed a bit odd but still, we weren't about to start a fight over $26 or transfers, especially considering how tired we were from our travels.The following day my wife and I took a marvelous private tour with a guide to Otavalo, a small picturesque town with a bustling market.The guide was freelance and not an employee of Sangay, but nevertheless he was subcontracted by them and provided us with an excellent tour. So far so good and I always give credit where credit is due ... But, on the very next day when we were scheduled to take a tour to the thermal baths of Papallacta, another guide showed up insisting that we please hurry so as not to delay the other passengers on our tour. "Other passengers???" What other passengers???" At first, my wife and I thought there might be some mistake, a mix-up perhaps.We asked the guide to clarify to us what was going on, as we had booked Private tours two months in advance. We are after all, on our honeymoon! He was quick to wash his hands of all responsibility and stated he had simply been subcontracted by the agency to provide a tour and that all issues would have to be taken up with management.
My wife and I decided to do just that, for after paying $5000+/person for services, one feels entitled to at least some answers.A quick, yet very unpleasant phone call revealed the depth of the scam ... No, our tours were not private ... they were shared tours? Shared tours??!?! But how could this be? Our vouchers even say the transportation and guide are private! "ahhh", says the agency.... "Private only implies that neither you nor your guide need to take public transportation, that's all". To add insult to injury, we were then informed of the following: "oh, we can gladly upgrade you to private tours, but it'll double the price." Double the price!?!? And that's not all ... "You can always choose not to take the tours and be "no shows" in which case, you will not be refunded a single penny. I'm sorry but that is our policy as spelled out in the fine print on our webpage." (I highly suggest you read this fine print very carefully)
My wife and I are experienced travelers and are not ones to take things lying down. We know when we are being taken advantage of and are being played as "gringos". The fact of the matter is, every step we come to find a new and unpleasant surprise with this agency and just as Robin pointed out above, the blame is always elsewhere. We discovered too late that we would have been infinitely better off booking with a more expensive, but genuine agency that doesn't screw tourists for an easy buck. There's a reason after all, why they aren't listed as one of the recommended agencies for tourists by Frommer's or Lonely Planet in the 2012 editions of these travel guides.
My advice to you, dear traveler is the following:
1) Buy yourself an updated country guide for Ecuador and look under recommended agencies that have been previously vetted so that you don't fall into the same scam we fell for. My 2012 Frommer's suggests South American Explorers, Metropolitan Touring, or Surtrek. These are accredited agencies that have a reputation for honesty in and outside of Ecuador. A local agency like Sangay might seem like an attractive offer because of its pricing, but in the end, you don't get what you paid for and there's very little you can do in the way of getting any money back.
2) Look at all the nastiness we've had to endure from the owner of Sangay Touring, Robin who while claiming to never have met us, also seems intimately familiar with our case and posted a response just four hours after the original post was put up. Check the times, see for yourself. If you do happen to get into a dispute with your agency, you don't want it to end up a nightmare like this has turned out to be. Be smart, go with the pros.
3) If you're still convinced you want to travel with Sangay Touring, check first with Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism where we will soon formally be filing a complaint and check on the status of this case. See for yourselves how this case turns out and then decide if it's worth the potential hassle. I have a feeling, Sangay Touring won't be around much longer.