South America Living

Travel, Dine, Live… Like A Local


Traveling in South America: Tip the Locals Instead of the Tour Guides

by Molly McHugh, Former Editor/Publisher of South America Living.     About the Author

I wasn’t sure at first how to write this post, or if it should be written at all. One day enjoying the sunshine and view of the town square in Chivay, Peru I got a kick out of watching the van loads of tourists come and go.

Lovely Girl Whom I Paid a Whopping 1 Sole For This Photo...

The gal who looked like she was from Australia jumping up and kicking while someone took a ‘soon-to-be-posted’ on Facebook travel pic… the two couples who were panting heavily as they walked/ran to the bus, obviously behind schedule. It was a beautiful day with the over-done, enormous statute of the “Ice Princess” glinting along with everyone else.

Then came a lady with young daughter covered head to toe in intricately-woven vibrant clothing and an Alpaca adorned with matching fabric around its neck, who walked casually up to a group of tourists standing around snapping pictures of the square. What happened next sickened me a bit… the ‘spoiled-rotten we can pay to be chauffeured around South America in private vans’ folks looked away and ignored the locals who had descended upon them to make themselves available for photos.

I saw the little girls face (different than the girl in the photo) turn from gracious smiles welcoming the foreigners to their small town to almost tears. Thankfully, one tourist in the group noticed as well and backtracked a bit, acknowledging the mother and daughter while respectfully taking a photo. Now… was that so hard?

Yes, I was pissed… ranting silently to myself how arrogant some tourists are… and would it be such a hardhship to give 50 centimos or 1 sole to those who have taken the time to give them a bit of the tourist experience they supposely are seeking? Or at least a smile and bit of appreciation? So you are on an over-priced ‘not what you expected’ tour from Arequipa… is it the locals fault you chose to travel that way?

FYI – the tour guides do not pass cash on to the locals… they are in business for themselves and the locals bend over backwards to appease these groups while often getting nothing in return. When traveling in an organized group please keep this in mind and tip the locals along the way. You’ve already paid the tour guide enough.

Note: More information on this issue of “abusive tour guides commissions and authorities corruption” in Caylloma province, Peru can be found by reading this article: Guillermo Rendón Cuadros:the most famous tour guide in Arequipa speaks out .

Photograph by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.