Traveling to Peru during a pandemic – what to expect?

Lori peru 2021The ancient history of Peru is not really that ancient, not the way you may think, but certainly unique. When travelers ask to go to Peru, it is usually all about Machu Picchu, with maybe some other secondary sites of interest. Of course, Machu Picchu is the crown jewel of Peru, and I will talk about it further, but Peru has a rich history well beyond and before the Incas. We will get to all that later.
What I want to share was the experience of traveling to Peru during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. This trip was programmed for 2020 then moved to March 2021 and finally to September 2021. As we neared the date of travel, I became somewhat skeptical that it would actually happen, and thought that it would likely be postponed again. I was in regular contact with my ground team in Peru, and they kept me up to date on the safety protocols. I came to learn that Peru is, in fact, a very safe place with strict protections and a populous eager to provide a safe destination for travelers. With this information in hand, I was able assure our group of 18 that the trip would happen and was safe. In addition, we were able to arrange the vast majority of our services as private to keep us in a bubble as much as possible. Our group was very diligent about wearing masks, sanitizing, and wearing double masks and face shields where required.
We started out in LIMA with a short city tour and a visit to the Larco Museum. Peru has done an excellent job of preserving and documenting the Incas but also the cultures and histories long before the Inca civilization took root. The Incas built their success, technology, and culture from the best of the cultures that came before them. We often think of the Inca’s as ancient, but the empire stood relatively recently, dating to the 1200-1500’s. Learn more by visiting the Larco Museum.
From there we caught our first in-country flight to Cusco. The flights are full, and you must wear a double mask both in the airport and on the flight. The airport and flight staff strictly enforce the rules to provide the safest experience possible. Even though social distancing was not always a possibility, we felt secure throughout the airport and on our flight.
No beverages or food services were provided on flights, which further prevents folks from taking off their masks. Drinking and eating items purchased at the airport was discouraged, and the attendants are diligent in enforcing the protocols for everyone’s protection.
On arrival to Cusco – we whisked out of the airport to our bus that was waiting for us across the street, as they still have not allowed any locals close to the airport to receive flights. Our two hour drive to the Sacred Valley was uneventful and we arrived to the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel near the town of Urubamba. The time of our flight resulted in our initial drive being in the dark, but we were still able to take in some sites. On our way, we saw the future airport being built in this area of Peru. It is still years away from being completed but is much needed for this area due to the growth of tourism.
Pro tip – Drinks lots and lots and lots of bottled water, as that really helps with the altitude. Do not drink the local water, in fact, don’t even brush your teeth with it. You are at 11,000 feet in Cusco and just slightly lower in the Sacred Valley. And although Coca tea really helps to adjust to the altitude, don’t drink it at night, because it will keep you awake! Instead, drink Munya tea.

DAY 1 in the Sacred ValleyMaras salt lori 2021
On our first full day, we visited the Salt Pans of Maras. The viewing point gives you a great place to see the entire salt flats. During this dry season, the terraces looked to be covered in snow, or crystals. The view is truly stunning. This is my third visit here, and now they don’t allow you to walk through the actual flats anymore, due to visitors leaving more than just footprints. The new viewing platforms still offer an up close and personal experience. We happened to be there during a “harvest” of the salt, and it was amazing to see how much salt is produced by a single pan. Of course, I had to buy salt to bring home – from table salt to bath salts to a new black salt for smoking meat. I can’t wait to try it!
Pro Tip: Visit in the dry season for the best views of the flats.
We also visited the Terraces of Moray. Some say they were built by aliens, but once the guide shared his information, it all made sense. The terraces, laid out in a combination of nearly perfect circles and ovals, are the product of Incan ingenuity, using lessons from the pre-Incan civilizations to the south. The terraces were used to acclimatize crops to growing in different altitudes and weather conditions as a kind of agricultural lab. Plant a seed in the lowest terrace, let it acclimate, then for the next planting, raise it to the next terrace, and so on. Pretty soon you have corn that can grow high in the mountains with no problem. There is 55 varieties of Corn, and over 4000 varieties of Corn in Peru!
The highlight of the day, if I had to choose, was a visit to a local community called Misminay, where we learned about their way of life and enjoyed “chicha” a local beer type of drink made of fermented corn. It comes in an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic version. The non-alcoholic version is purple, for those who are interested in trying it, but prefer not to imbibe alcohol. The alcoholic version we tasted is somewhat similar to sour beer but is not for the casual drinker. In my opinion, it is an acquired taste.
It is easy to assume that life is difficult for the people of Misminay, but truthfully, they are happy with their way of life. Their language is the ancient language of Quechua which was spoken during the time of the Incas, and which has seen a resurgence in recent years. It is nothing close to Spanish, so thank goodness our guide could translate! If you really want to immerse yourself, they offer overnight stays. It seemed a bit different to experience this local culture in a remote area of Peru with all of us in masks including the indigenous people, but Peru has mask mandates that require everyone to wear them indoors and out, and the entire populous seems to take these restrictions very seriously. I appreciated this, as I certainly didn’t want to test positive and have to quarantine.

DAY 2Olly lori 2021
We started early in the morning with a drive from our hotel to the town of Ollantaytambo. I have been there numerous times, but this time there were no crowds, allowing our group to experience the small town without the hassle of hundreds of other tourists. This is where they have the Inca Fortress, an in-point for the Inca trail, as well as the rail station to take you to Machu Picchu. The fortress tour guides you along a series of one-way routes to reduce crossing other travelers not in your group and supporting social distancing. I got a bit winded climbing as it was just day two for us in the Sacred Valley but loved that it was not at all crowded as it has been in my prior visits.
There were not as many street vendors selling their wares either, but instead they offered an organized market to shop for the local goodies, especially their colorful textiles of all sorts. As I mentioned, the train station to Aguas Caliente is also in this town, so we bought our face shields for about $3 and headed to our INKA RAIL train ride.Masked 2021
Pro-tip: Try to buy the shields ahead of time, as this was one area where the sudden crush of vendors made for a chaotic experience. Many hotels and pharmacies offer them around the same price, but if you can’t snag one ahead of time, know that you can always grab one near the station. Just have your money ready and make sure the person you pay hands you the shield first.
Pro-tip: Ensure you have purchased your tickets and assigned seats prior to arrival.
After boarding, it’s a 1.5 hour trip through the valley, traveling from a more arid climate to the cloud forests that surround the citadel just before pulling into Aguas Caliente, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. You actually go down in altitude to 9000 feet. On all my prior trips, this train station was covered up with passengers, but not on this trip – we were it. It felt almost like a ghost town, but once we exited the station, the small town came to life. It was still not at all crowded, but ready for guests to return. We boarded our bus to the citadel of Machu Picchu, and 30 minutes later, we were enjoying a lovely lunch at the top before entering into the citadel.

Our entry time was the last time slot of the day and they limit you to about two hours. The route you take is controlled to keep the numbers to a minimum, so as we reached the top and stood over the citadel of Machu Picchu, I was amazed at its beauty with hardly any people in sight. In fact, there were more Alpaca and Llamas wandering about than humans! It was a spiritual moment for me to experience Machu Picchu this way. I have been six other times, but this entry experience was the best.meditationAlpaca lori 2021
Pro-tip: Skip the morning entrance! Stick to the afternoon!
Our guide was wonderful, and took us around the citadel, pointing out in detail the history of this amazing city. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We returned back to town for a lovely overnight stay at the InkaTerra Lodge. I have also stayed at a number of other hotels in the town of Aguas Caliente, all of which exceeded my expectations.
Pro-tip: Pack just an overnight bag and leave your larger bag behind as the train has VERY limited storage.
DAY 3Machu Picchu Lori 2021
Our third day included a second entrance to Machu Picchu, this time in the morning, and although it was busier, it was still not as crowded as in prior years. Rumors have it that they will keep the post pandemic numbers for entry – they used to allow 6000 people, but now they only allow 3000 per day. By the way, they require a face shield on the bus up and down from the citadel but once in Machu Picchu, just a face mask, which you can take down briefly for pictures.
We then took the train and our bus back to Cusco for two nights.
DAY 4
While in Cusco, we enjoyed a walking tour through the San Blas region and to the beautiful cathedral, and then had free time to shop for souvenirs. Each store we entered took our temperature and provided hand sanitizer.Condor 2021 Lori
The rest of our visit to Peru was an extension to Arequipa and the Colca Valley.
Part of the group left after this basic trip to Peru, and the rest of us extended to Arequipa and Colca Canyon. I have never been to this area of Peru, so it was a must-do for me. I wanted to go to the Condor Cross to watch the condors soar on the thermal air. I was not disappointed – it was beyond my expectations. The Colca Valley is a beautiful region that is 75% agriculture and still uses over 40% of the pre-Inca terraces for farming. The Colca Canyon is home to the condors, which take flight around eight in the morning for a short time at our eye level, before flying higher to scavenge for food. I learned that they don’t flap their wings but rely on the thermals to fly, which is so amazing. We also visited a few local communities, and again, their pride in their lifestyle allowed me to understand a bit better about their way of life. We only spent two nights in this area of Peru before heading back to Lima. We visited the second largest city in Peru, Arequipa. Our time was very limited, so we only had time to visit their historic convent and enjoy a fabulous lunch. If you can add another night to your trip, that would be ideal.
Pro-tip: You cross over 16,000 feet on the ride to Colca, so drink lots of water and go slowly. The drive is a solid three hours on a good highway. Once in the valley, you are back to a reasonable 9,000-11,000 feet. Arequipa is at about 7,000 feet.
In closing, I want to stress that Peru is more than just Machu Picchu. Pre-Inca and Inca history is apparent throughout this country, and you will never tire of seeing Inca terraces and structures. The terrain in the Andes is quite challenging, including the altitude, and they mastered it.

If you are interested in learning more about Peru, reach out to us at Condor Tours & Travel – www.condortoursandtravel.com or email me at info@condortt.com

We have a great promotion to Peru currently. Check out this promo, an amazingly priced package, with air included on our website. Available on select dates in October and November, 2021.

Where to travel as we are ending the pandemic

 

header2There is no doubt that “cabin fever” has hit many of us, especially those of us that love to travel. We are slowly seeing some parts of the world open back up, allowing us to travel there. As a travel advisor, I am called almost daily by folks asking about traveling domestically versus internationally. I hear the phrase “false positive” which causes many travelers to lean towards traveling within the U.S., including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. These are all great destinations – but guess what? They are packed with Americans! Poor service due to shortage of staff, no rental cars to be found, and high-priced hotels due to lack of supply, are just a few of the obstacles faced by domestic travelers. One client who traveled to Hawaii said it took two and a half hours to check into her hotel, and the food at her luau was more like a TV dinner! I have booked folks wanting to travel within the U.S. and have gotten less than stellar comments about their trip experiences. Although we are a worldwide travel company, much of the world has not re-opened so we are focusing on Central and South American travel destinations. I have recently booked guests to Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Belize, and the reviews have all been wonderful. The locals are so excited to have tourists back that they provide fabulous service and have amazing protocols in place for Covid-19 protection.
Here are just a few examples of client feedback. I booked two ladies that love to travel on a trip to Costa Rica. In the days before their trip, they started to get nervous and we gladly offered them the chance to reschedule, but in the end they decided to go for ten days and came back raving. They said the measures taken to keep them away from crowds, personal service, masked drivers and guides when needed, and high standards for cleanliness at the hotels, had them saying they felt safer in Costa Rica than in the U.S. They were even pleased with the ease of obtaining a COVID test to return to the U.S. The going rate in Colombia for testing seems to range from $50 -$150, so do your homework on where to get it done.

Lori at Bridge
I booked a single lady to Ecuador and the Galapagos. She said her local guide was attentive to her as a single passenger and helped her navigate within the airport and to her hotel. For her flight to the Galapagos, the guide was there to help with the necessary documentation, including a required negative COVID test. The good news now is, as long as you are vaccinated, you no longer need to present a negative Covid test. Anyway, on her return to Quito after being in the Galapagos, we were able to arrange a rapid COVID test at the airport for her return to the U.S., and she stayed on one extra day to tour a beautiful region of Ecuador including the Otavalo area and also a rose plantation. This was an excellent way to end her Ecuador adventure. She says she felt safe and secure throughout the trip and appreciated the service provided locally to keep her free from any worries.

Machu Picchu
A family of six that I booked to Peru spent most of their time in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and at Aguas Caliente to visit Machu Picchu. From the moment they arrived, they were whisked about safely and securely. Peru does have some strict masking requirements and does still require a COVID test on arrival even if vaccinated, but they no longer require testing to fly domestically, which is simplifying travel throughout the country. For flights within Peru, they provide N-95 masks to all passengers. Also, they are limiting the number of entrances to Machu Picchu, so it is not crowded, which makes it nice to take pictures and explore. Definitely reserve in advance, which we do for all our clients. They are not selling the train to capacity, so reservations are strongly recommended. Two days prior to travel, we had the clinic supplier come to the hotel to do the test for $30 per person.
I personally just returned from Belize. When you arrive to the airport, they have two lines, one for vaccinated guests and one for those that have a negative PCR test. It was very efficient. They also did temperature checks at some locations, and in all public areas masking is still required. My time was spent in country as well as on one of the popular out-islands. At the two properties where I stayed, all staff wore masks but guests were not required to. I found it interesting that virtually all the staff at both properties had recently received their first vaccine, but not their second one. Vaccination efforts internationally are still well behind the U.S. The cases in Belize are low, and this country is listed as a level two for travel. On our second to last day we went to a local clinic to do our COVID test to return to the U.S. They charged us $75 which seems to be the going rate, and we had our results in 15 minutes, provided on a nice form letter from their Health Department and accepted without any questions by the airline.

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Colombia is now allowing arrivals with a vaccine. Panama does still require a COVID test to enter. I will be going to Panama myself in July, so I will be able to share a bit more when I return. Chile, Argentina and Brazil have yet to re-open. Chile’s numbers are quite low, but they are just playing it safe a bit longer. Argentina’s and Chile’s peak travel season begins in September, and all indications are that they will indeed open for travel by then. Vaccination efforts are still a bit behind in Argentina, but Chile is about the same as we are in the U.S.
Using a travel advisor to navigate world travel is the smart way to go, as we have the resources to share and knowledge to arrange services allowing for safe travel. At Condor Tours & Travel, we have come out with a line of “A Safe Escape” travel packages to Latin America, where we have the tools and protocols to help you feel safe while traveling. We are happy to assist you with travel. Contact us at 770-339-9961 or email us at info@condortt.com . You may also visit our web site to see our complete line of destination travel packages at www.Condortoursandtravel.com

Egypt Escape the Cradle of Civilization

All Giza Pyramids
All Giza Pyramids picture provided by Wikimedia

As a longtime travel supplier of travel, I often get asked about safety and weather to different destinations. For this blog, I am focusing on the Middle East and more specifically Egypt. So many of us have Egypt on our travel bucket list and want to see the Great Pyramids and other amazing historic sites. The most asked question on Egypt travel is “will it be safe to travel there” or “what will the weather be like”. Let’s touch on this remarkable destination and its rich culture and history. Egyptian history dates to 6th-th millennia BCE. That is 6,000 years before Christ was born for you Christians. Egypt is considered the cradle of civilizations. The earliest writings, agriculture, and organized religion are said to have begun here. It was once a center of Christianity. Now Islam is the official religion and Arabic their official language. There are over 100 million inhabitants with most living along the Nile banks. Prehistoric and Ancient Egypt have evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces dating to the 10th millennium BCE. Known then as hunter-gatherers and fishers.
I will address safety first. When I research a destination for travel, I put safety at the top of the list. We know that the media tends to cover the negatives about this destination and not how safe it really is. The negative publicity is a result of decades of history associated with government vs the people issues. There is no hiding the facts of instability Egypt has experienced. Complicated politics usually do not involve tourism. There are large regions in Egypt that welcome tourist with open arms. Like any major city there are areas you should avoid. The areas of unrest are generally the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert bordering Libya which are regions not visited by tourist. When you travel to Egypt is it definitely ideal to be with a tour group that has a controlled itinerary and a guide with you during all your sightseeing visits. Some of the advantages are the ability to “jump the line” to the major sights, well trained local guides, air-conditioned busses, the ability to know where to go and not go on any given day on the tour and a list of recommended places to eat or explore outside the group in safety.
Egyptians are very friendly and wanting to please. They are passionate about their country and want to share it with travelers that have an interest in learning their heritage and history. You will see an excessive amount of security everywhere and frequent roadside check points. Could be for show as well as showing that the Government does not want incidents with tourist. Egypt really wants to turn their image around and prove it is safe to travel there.
If you have free time do not rent a car – driving is crazy. If you go out on your own, note no cross walks so just be very careful crossing the roads. Ideally you should stay with your tour group as much as possible. Watch out for scammers and use your local guide to help with exchanges of money, shopping experiences and photo taking. Woman should dress conservatively as keep in mind you are in a Muslim country and you do not want to draw unwanted attention. Men should also respect local standards with their attire choices.
Different regions experience different weather patterns. Egypt is an arid desert and is generally hot and sunny. Winter is just considered November to January and affects just the Northern region mostly. The country has very little precipitation. Cairo, because of its location with the Nile can feel quite humid. The Tour I will be leading the end of February into early March we can expect average highs in the 70’s with 12 hours of daylight. Check out this tour option to Egypt in February 2022.

Tour Map

This 9-day/8-night tour includes a river cruise on the Nile as well as major landmark visits like the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids, Luxor Temple, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Valley of the Kings and Queens and Deir El-Bahri plus much more. At $1699 for the land and cruise – you can’t beat the price while staying in quality 4+* hotels. Your additional costs are the domestic air for $280 and travel protection for $199. International air will vary by origination city so that we will quote separately. If you want to come in a day or two early to get over jet lag and adjust to weather, we can arrange the pre-nights as well.
Now for the question of the year – what is the current COVID-19 situation? At the time of this writing, we have seen the same downturn in cases as with most of the rest of the world. Protocols are in place. RT-PCR certificate within 72 hours before departure of your last direct flight to Egypt. No quarantine is required if you present a negative test. More information can be found online at their tourism board or here. Mask wearing is currently mandatory.

If you are interested in joining me on this tour or want to book a different date reach out to Lori

at info@condortt.com  or call 770-339-9961.  Condor Tours & Travel has been in business since 1991 serving those wanting to experience the world.

 

 

 

Walt Disney World Magic During a Pandemic

Disney castleSo, we decided to take advantage of the incredible deals being offered by Walt Disney World to get folks to return to the happiest place on earth. Since the re-opening Disney has been aggressively working at enhancing their parks to exceed the recommendations for re-opening to the world. We choose to take advantage of the promotional opportunities to stay on property at the Contemporary Resort. Staying in the A-frame was a bucket list hotel for us and when we saw the promo rate we decided to come Thanksgiving week. Prior to our arrival we were able to check into our room via the My Disney Experience App (a must have for Disney trips now). So, as we were nearing the hotel, we notified them of our expected arrival time, and they sent us our room assignment and that it was ready via the app. Our phone along with magic bands were our key. (by the way the magic bands were complimentary but we were told staring in January they will begin charging for them) On arrival to the hotel we were greeted by a porter in a mask and our luggage was whisked away. We headed to our room immediately noticing hand sanitizer stations, signs reminding of the mask mandate, the stickers of where to stand as well as limited # of guest on elevator. The room had a card explaining the cleaning procedure and the remote was in a plastic bag with a “Clean” sticker. They are not offering valet parking so no one else is in your personal vehicle.
Since we arrived in the afternoon we decided to head to Disney Springs for a late lunch and some shopping. After we parked, we were guided to a single-entry point from the parking garage for temperature and security check. Yes, they take your temperature to eat and shop at Disney Springs. They also make sure all are masked. A first for me was a conveniently available vending machine selling mask if you came unprepared. The most recognized store in Disney Springs is The World of Disney which is usually slammed with shoppers. We had to scan a QR code to enter the virtual que for entry at a designated time. There was an alternate line for those that were not in the virtual que for entry and was limited and longer wait so take advantage of the Virtual que option as it is easy to use. Every customer and employee were masked. The registers had plexiglass shields and signs asking patrons not to touch merchandise unnecessarily and no changing rooms open to try on, however, you had a return option within a certain amount of time with receipt. Other stores had controlled entry and exit points to keep counts on number of shoppers in the stores – this was also a feature throughout Disney parks. They had handheld machines on how many entered and exited and kept capacity at the allowable counts keeping crowds to a minimum in the shops.mask sign-small
Experiencing the different parks – prior to entry at each park there was temperature screening and security screening. We were pleasantly pleased to see new metal detectors, so your bags where not handled by a security person as long as the detector didn’t go off. I was able to walk through with my phone in hand and my small purse without any problem. Once in the parks, regular announcements were made about the mask requirement to cover you mouth and nose at all times, non -compliance was grounds for eviction from the park. There was also signage and staff with hand signs reminding all. We heard a few cast members remind guest to cover their nose as their mask slipped down. They were very diligent about this. The only exception was when sitting to eat or drink or the relaxation stations located throughout the park. You were not allowed to walk and drink or eat. Social distancing was well noted in restaurants and seating areas marked as closed to keep distance between tables. Ordering food is almost completely contactless as you can order your food via the same mobile Disney Experience app. You were called to numbered windows to retrieve your meal when ready. You could not access the interior seating or restaurant until you got your notice that your meal was ready. A cast member would then direct you to a table. This was our experience at every quick service restaurant.
Experiencing the rides – There were social distancing markers everywhere. In the switchback areas they either installed plexiglass dividers or would skip rows or position guest so as not to be 6 feet of each other. The lines seem so long but due to the distancing between the markers they are actually not that long and move well. As much as we have loved fast pass feature in prior visits, they were not being used so the line moved well without interruption. We found this distancing comforting and never felt crowded or at risk. We cannot stress enough how quickly the lines moved and we beat most posted wait times. Each ride is not running at full capacity to allow for social or personal distancing. We were a party of 3 and often had a car or boat or vehicle to ourselves. Hand sanitizer stations and hand washing stations were placed throughout the lines. They were also readily available when you got off the ride.sanitizer small
The park capacity is limited to 35% of maximum capacity. Disney does not post parade times so they would randomly have a mini parade. This was so folks would not gather in crowds to maintain personal distancing. Disney is not doing any character meet and greets or live shows or the nighttime fireworks. Because they are not doing these nighttime shows, many leave the parks earlier so wait times are reduced. We walked right on to Haunted Mansion with no wait. They have not published when they will bring those back so if that is why you go to Disney you may prefer to wait until those activities are added back.parade small
None of the protocols put in place by the Disney Company takes away the magic. We cannot express how appreciative we were to the Disney cast for making our experience magical. Both the cast and the guest worked harmoniously to provide a safe escape travel experience.Star wars 1 small
FYI – Park hopper is not available currently but is expected to return in January. At the moment, you have to reserve park entrance by day via the Disney Experience app or on your account you have created electronically on your computer. If you are interested in a Disney experience now is the time to go and your trained team at Condor Tours & Travel is there to help plan your ideal vacation. Based on Lawrenceville, GA 770-339-9961 or email us at info@condortt.com

Condor Tours & Travel nominated for Gwinnett Chamber Small Business Award

 

condor new logo different formatGwinnett County (METRO ATLANTA) GA– The Gwinnett Chamber Small Business Awards will showcase those that dare to start, sustain and succeed and the community that supports them. Recognized as an industry leader, Lori Snow, CEO of Condor Outfitters, Inc DBA Condor Tours & Travel has been nominated in two categories – Minority-Owned/Woman-Owned Small Business Award and the Pivot Pro Award.

“Wow, I am humbled and honored to have been nominated in two categories as both are exactly where our company. There is no doubt that hospitality industry has been hard hit during this pandemic and we are working hard to help clients with their unscheduled cancellations and re-bookings as well as future travel hopes for many. To be recognized for our diligence during this hard times is special to me and my team at Condor.”

“At the Gwinnett Chamber, we believe small business is big business,” said Nick Masino, President & CEO, Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett. “We understand that entrepreneurs are the engines of our economy and we are excited to celebrate their contributions.”
Honoring individuals and organizations alike, designations will be given in the following areas.

• Community Contributor Award
• Culture Creator Award
• Emerging Entrepreneur Award
• Founder Award
• Launch Award
• Minority-Owned/Woman-Owned Small Business Award
• Pivot Pro Award
• Small Business Award
• Support System Award

The awards ceremony will be held Friday, November 20 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Infinite Energy Forum. Both in-person and online options are available. For more information, visit GwinnettChamber.org/Small-Business-Awards.
To learn more about Condor, contact Lori Snow 770-339-9961 or info@condortt.com

Re-Opening the World to Travel

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Travel wanderlust is at an all-time high for many that cannot wait to explore the world again. It is important that everyone remembers to travel with respect. As a travel advisor checking and rechecking the protocols and requirements is an essential part of what we offer you. Making certain you know what is open, knowing social distancing and facemask requirements, just to name a few. It goes without saying that we prepare travel responsibly and respectfully. Knowing the protocols and regulations is important and adhering to them is equally important. By adhering to the protocols put in place to protect you at the hotels, airline, on activities we are working to make sure you have “A Safe Escape” travel experience. Working with you and with destination companies also requires you as the traveler to be responsible and demonstrate the respect for traveling. Traveling is a privilege! Reality today is it is at its lowest point ever. But the numbers are rising and folks are beginning to travel again. Depending on where, you may have to be tested so plan ahead to arrange time for testing and results as wait times can hinder your plans.
Good news, countries are slowly re-opening for travel. In many cases a recent (within 72 hours to 10 days) negative COVID-19 test is all they are requiring to enter into those countries. We continue to follow those openings so that you can travel again. We can provide you with each country opening dates if they have been published and their entry requirements for travel. We strongly recommend securing travel protection for your trip just for added security of you travel investment and certainly private customized travel, so you are not lumped on a bus with many others.
I have been following destinations closer to US so that you don’t have extremely long flights and the Central and South America Region along with Caribbean are at the top of my watch list.
Did you know that many of the Caribbean islands have re-opened to travel already? Deals prevail as well with great incentives to travel now as well as booking for 2021 if you just are quite ready to travel.
Here is just one example – Turks and Caicos just about 1.5 hours from Atlanta is open. To travel there they have a travel authorization online form to complete plus a negative COVID19 test. You are required to also secure travel protection which we can assist with. This destination is inherently safe given its spacious stretches of beach on Providenciales and its sister islands, including Parrot Cay, Salt Cay, South Caicos and Grand Turk, among others.

EcuadoFrigate Birdr has re-opened for tourism with 10 days negative COVID-19 test for a trip to visit the mainland and 3 days if you want to go to the Galapagos. From the Amazon to the amazing eco system of the Galapagos you can spend all your time outdoors and away from crowds. Hiking the many trails, bird watching, nature watching is ideal to this part of the world.
ColoZipaquirra 2mbia is to re-open September 21 and the first international flights allowed are to Cartagena. Required a negative test for entry and a from to complete with you itinerary along with proof of Travel Protection coverage specifically for health coverage.
IMG_6783Costa Rica which is 3-4-hour flight has re-opened to certain US states to travel too and is adding more states each week. They too require a negative test and proof of health coverage. There are so many accommodations options away from the major cities that allow you to social distance plus do outdoor activities. They are coming into their best travel weather season so you can likely travel there as soon as November if you want to.

Panama will re-open October 12 – we are still waiting oEmbera men playing instrumentsn their guidelines besides needing a COVID-19 negative test 96 hours prior to arrival,  but are excited to see this remarkable destination re-open so you can see the Panama Canal up close and personal and enjoy many outdoor activities conducive to social distancing.

Although the list of openings is fluid and changing, we do see a trend to more and more opening through the 4th quarter of this year. What is for certain is now is the time to start planning that future vacation. With any trip we must re-emphasis that you need to secure travel protection coverage to protect both your trip investment as well as any health setbacks or service setbacks that could impact your trip.

We understand that each person is in a different place in terms of ability, desire, and willingness to travel. If you are not quite ready to go international but want an adventure, we can arrange US self drives, rail vacations, Disney World and Universal Florida packages, Villa Rentals and other close to home options. By the way, now is the time to book your holiday space especially for villas. Disney and Universal is also perfect now as they limit the number of guests allowed in so no lines…… Hotels & Airlines are being very flexible with changes and cancellations as they know with this pandemic that situations can change at the last minute and in most cases no fees for the changes. In the end please choose and do responsibly and with the utmost care for yourself and others. The team at Condor Tours & Travel is available to answer questions and help you look towards your future travel plans. www.condortoursandtravel.com or info@condortt.com or 770-339-9961.

Amtrak Rail Experience – Great Way To Travel

Travel gets in your blood, and no matter what is going on in the world, those of us that love to explore the world will find ways to do it! I’m an avid international traveler, but COVID-19 has put a stop to that since March of 2020. As we continue to deal with this  pandemic, I feel the urge to explore again with excellent protocols put in place. This time, I am trying a different travel experience – traveling domestically within the United States. As of July 1, much of the world is still not open for tourism for health reasons, and of course, to protect all of us. There are many new protocols in place, like no housekeeping service while staying in a hotel, limiting capacity to allow for personal distancing, and wearing masks on flights, just to list a few. But there is one “Safe Escape” experience we can still have – rail vacations around the USA. Just like a road trip, but without the hassle of driving or locating open restaurants, sanitized restrooms, or aggravations on the road. On a train trip, you just sit back and watch the world go by.

My husband and I decided to try a rail trip from Atlanta. We hopped on Amtrak for a four day, three night trip to New Orleans on the Southern Crescent. We arrived at the station 30 minutes before the train departure and sat in a respectable lounge that had marked off Roomette - LRseats to allow for personal distancing. The staff met us at the entrance to the station and made sure we were on the approved list of travelers for the day. No need to go through those crazy airport security lines. Check-in was easy and informative. Once we headed to our train car, we were directed to our seats. This particular Amtrak package included an upgrade to a roomette. This way we could self-isolate in our small cabin, close the door, and only go out to stretch our legs. The roomette was equipped with a toilet, which was a nice surprise, as again, we didn’t need to share a community restroom. There are also standard train cars with seating and larger sleeper rooms. We chose the middle of the three options offered.Roomette Toilet LR

Once we were in our roomette, we organized our small suitcase and carry-on so they would not clutter our cabin. They also offer an option to check your bag, but ours was small enough to fit under the seat, so we kept it with us. They provided us with bottles of water, hand towels, hand soap, two pillows, a blanket, and toilet paper. As the train left the station, the cabin steward came and asked us if we had questions about what to expect on the train trip. He then took our breakfast order, and returned with it once we were on the rails, so we did not have to leave to go to a dining car.

There is a small drop-down table that we opened up, and while heading towards New Orleans, we played cribbage, did crossword puzzles, and played solitaire. The table has a built in checker board, but you have to bring your own checker or chess pieces if you want to play. Other great features include a private thermostat to cool your car, and there is a bunk-bed style system, so for overnight trips, you can sleep in the car. The seats also recline, so you can nap while riding. It is actually quite comfortable and much roomier than an airplane seat. There is WIFI that allowed us to watch movies or work if necessary. My husband usually does all the driving so he was able to just sit back and relax, which he enjoyed.

We were served lunch around 12:30 and had four choices. This is also currently served in your roomette, as they do not want anyone in the dining car. The meal is like a TV dinner that comes sealed in cellophane. I had the Beef tips with polenta, and Virgil had the shrimp and andouille sausage Jambalaya, both came with a side salad and a brownie. It was decent. With the roomette, you get one adult beverage included, so in the afternoon, I had a glass of Cabernet Red wine (Barefoot brand) and Virgil had Maker’s Mark bourbon. As it turns out, the menu is the same for dinner. I do suggest bringing some snacks, but no need to bring beverages, as they do provide those.

The return trip was in reverse and the cabin attendants were equally accommodating. Overall, the train is not up to the most modern standards – there are no USB ports, but it did have two outlets to charge electronics. The inside of the trains are clean and maintained, so although aged from time, the experience becomes part of the destination. When making a train trip, getting there is part of the adventure. If traveling with kids, bring something for them to do. Remember, there is great WIFI, so they can watch movies or surf the web.

Let me emphasis again the ease of travel – no airport security experiences, no need to arrive two to three hours early, no messing with bags at the gate or baggage claim, and food is included, plus one adult beverage if you so choose. One final note – both ways were close to on-time experiences. We have heard that this is not always the case, but our personal experience was otherwise. We are looking forward to our next rail adventure!

Condor Tours & Travel has just completed the necessary training to be able to offer you a rail experience just about anywhere in the USA, from weekend trips to overnight experiences including national parks. The packages that are combined with hotels and local tours will give you a complete travel experience. Contact us at 770-339-9961 or info@condortt.com, and let us help you plan your next adventure!

Return to Travel

 

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After what feels like forever spent sheltering in place, traveling somewhere for a change of scenery has become more appealing than ever for us that have wanderlust. We’ve had time to learn about new ways to travel and to visit, and to build bucket lists of dream destinations—near and far—to visit in our new normal. We get asked all the time when it will be safe to travel. It has always been safe to travel with the right planning and preparation. Now more than ever, there is much that can be done to insure a quality trip experience while reducing health risks that have affected our ability to seek out and explore the world.

Never having been fans of traveling in crowds, this naturally led us to wonder: will worries of overcrowding and adequate social distancing mean we’ll no longer be able to enjoy some of the most spectacular places on Earth? Will crossing items off our travel bucket lists have to wait?

The good news is, absolutely not!

We would like to share some advice from the experts on how to avoid the crowds when everyone starts to travel again. Follow these pro-tips to enjoy safe escape travel as our world reopens and air travel resumes.

Stay central
Mendoza Enemigo 7 vineyard LREliminate the time spent traveling while at your destination, and instead, wake up exactly where you want to be. Whether that means in the wilderness or in the center of a historic downtown, you’ll be staying among the sights and sounds you came for and will get to experience them without day visitors, from dramatic dawns to silent starry nights.

Lori, from Condor Tours & Travel, has been working with different Latin America destinations to create some amazing “safe-escape” style packages that fit this recommendation.

Go against the grain
Just because the majority of visitors explore a place in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s always the best way. We work to provide unique experiences at each destination you visit and make sure that we are attentive to your needs as well as those of the location. Using a destination expert allows you to know the “do’s and don’ts” of each experience you ask for and those you may not know to ask for. That is how we set ourselves apart.

Pick a private tour
Private tours allow for personal space and let you explore at your own pace.

“Signing up for a public tour of a historic landmark is better than not taking a tour at all, but wouldn’t you prefer to go at your own pace and spend time where your interest is?” asks Lori, who designs custom tours and has launched aIMG_6783 line of “safe escape” travel packages. “If you want an unhurried experience without having to contend with hordes of other visitors, my advice is to travel with a tour operator that offers private tours just for you. In Costa Rica, Condor works with Elements Travel, to arrange destination experiences. They know the destination and always choose a timing that fits well within the day’s schedule, and you can ask as many questions as you like.”

Pat, who designs custom trips at Condor Tours & Travel agrees, “Argentina and Chile have so many ways to experience wine, but a private wine tasting is by far the most i

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ntimate experience. There are no distractions. You can tailor it around

what you like—a walk through the vineyard, a long lunch; you could even do a local cheese or chocolate tasting and pairing. The best part is, with smaller groups, that usually means more wine!”

 

Have a local take the lead
Save the strains of self-guiding, and avoid tours that import tour leaders.

No-one knows the destination like the local guides who were born and raised at those destinations —the days and times to avoid, the trails less trodden, the best back-up plan for crowd control or closures. While everyone else is following the same itinerary their Google search results returned, with a local guide, you can venture deeper and differently. Pat says, “They’ll know the exact times when places are most spectacular and least crowded. And they’ll have awesome stories to share along the way. And you’re supporting the local economy, for which they thank you!”

Go beyond the 10-minute trails
Don’t stop at the nearest, shortest trail. You don’t know what you’re missing!

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“Venture further,” advises Lori. “Ask any guide, and I am sure that they will agree. I’d say 90% of visitors literally park their cars, take a 10-minute walk, snap some photos for Instagram and then leave. Often, they spend longer trying to find a parking space than they do exploring! It’s a shame. Instead, use local services and leave the headache of car rental and liability behind when in Latin America. Think of a destination like Peru. It has so much to offer and you don’t even have to be a super fit backpacker with the stamina for a 5-hour hike up a mountainside when you’re in the Sacred Valley. We can think of so many stunning trails and walks that are easy going, rarely crowded and show you landscapes like you’ve never seen before.”  Another great spot is exploring Patagonia is a great place to hike many different levels of trails.

Look for limits
Don’t be deterred by group restrictions, actively seek them.

Visits to famous sites like the Panama Canal, which can be viewed from visitor centers eiLock and gatether on the Atlantic or Pacific side, allows you to experience the newer and the original locks from open air spots. Or visits into the rainforest by boat in Gatun Lake to see wildlife, while massive ships cross your path. How about fabulously restored ruins that draw folks – best to use our services in small group or private settings, as we know the best times to visit to avoid large bus tours and groups.

Picnic instead of cafeteria
Don’t lose time in the lunch line. Make the dining as delicious as the destination. No rush. No reservation needed.

Exhilarating walks and sights really help work up an appetite, but bear in mind, this will also be the case for every other person visiting. Come lunchtime, people pour into the one or two nearest dining options in the area. Precious time that could be spent exploring is lost as you line up for a free table and wait for your food. Our way around this lets you enjoy good food, at your leisure, while enjoying the destination at the same time. We take you to homes in indigenous communities or bring along a picnic! You’ll have views restauranteurs can only dream of. Our destination guides know amazing spots where you can lunch with no one else as far as the eye can see. And they know incredible local restaurants and delis that don’t draw in the tours, or they will pack you a lunch of hand-crafted specialties, so you can skip that mass cafeteria food.

Hire a guide and driver
Don’t drive, and definitely skip the shuttle. Instead, let a local take the wheel while you sit back and soak up the scenery.

Driving on your own only takes you as far as the parking lot, which can be a nightmare to navigate. Then you have to choose between the packed trails leading from the parking lot or a free shuttle, with its long wait lines and herded-cattle feel, once everyone is piled on. In Ecuador, don’t settle for an over-Land Iguana on rocka-stranger’s-shoulder glimpse of the legendary equator crossing. Doesn’t it sound nicer to sit back with a guide and driver who knows exactly how you like the air conditioning and where to visit?! And, if you spot a view that you can’t miss, your driver will happily pull over so that you can enjoy it.

Lastly, enjoy the sunsets and sunrises
Everyone loves watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset. If you are an early bird, we will take you to the perfect spot to watch the sun rise. If you are a night owl, how about a gorgeous location to watch it set?

Work with a company that knows a destination or has the resources to provide that destination experience. Condor Tours & Travel has been specializing in travel to Central and South America since 1991. They can be reached at info@condortt.com , by phone at 770-339-9961, or check out their web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

Israel Pilgramage

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On our first full day in Israel, we took a cruise on the Sea of Galilee. I was awe-struck to realize that I was seeing the same landscape that Jesus had looked at. A tour of Israel is like that. You find yourself looking at something and being swept up in the significance of the view, or church, or artifact. Significance is the word that kept leaping into my mind when we visited sites.
Most locations in Israel are what I call “maybe sites”. That is, they are sites that may be the actual site of an event. We visited the Mount of the Beatitudes on our first day. The ruins of a 4th century Byzantine church are there as well as a modern Catholic Church. The 4th century, or the 300’s, are fairly recent to the life of Christ, however a lot can happen in 200+ years, so we don’t really know the actual locations of many sites. The church of the Holy Sepulcher on the supposed site of Calvary and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are also two churches built two to three hundred years after Christ, so we don’t really know if they are on the actual sites. Nearly two thousand years of worshipers have come to these churches, however, and the power of this worship can not be overlooked. The fact that we don’t know the actual sites becomes irrelevant, as your visit there becomes another act of worship added to the millions that have occurred there over the centuries. I think that is how I ended up thinking of the word “significant” at most of these sites. I was following in the steps of millions of people over 2000 years.
Christ birth place - low resSome locations are not “maybe sites”. Certainty is hard to come by with 2000 year old events, however you will visit a few certain sites. There is a church built over the ruins of a church that was established within 30 years of the crucifixion. This church was built on the site of the house of the apostle Peter. We know with certainty that Jesus slept there. Close by is a synagogue where the Bible says Jesus taught. The tomb of David is in Jerusalem and has been in its current location since the oldest maps of Jerusalem in existence, so it is very likely that this is the actual tomb of David. Another “certain site” is the Western Wall. This is the only surviving portion of the Hebrew Temple known as the Second Temple, built by Herod the Great. This temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD at the end of the last Jewish revolt against Rome. The wall is the foundation wall of the second Temple and is a sacred site for the Jewish people. The location in the Jordan River where baptisms are performed is not the site of Jesus’ baptism. The reason baptisms are performed there is due to the nature of the river today. Nearly all the water in the Jordan River is used by Israel and Jordan for agriculture and consumption. By the time the river reaches the site of the actual baptism, the flow of the river is little more than a trickle and can be stepped across. Baptism in the Jordan is still a highlight of a trip to Israel for Christians.

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Not every site in Israel is significant to Christianity. The roman ruins in Caesarea are extensive. Caesarea was the Roman Administrative capital of the Province of Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. You can walk through Herod’s palace, through a Hippodrome, see a Roman Aqueduct and see the Roman sea wall. The ancient fortress of Megiddo is near Nazareth where Jesus grew to manhood. This is an ancient fortress built to control a very important trade route from the Mediterranean coast to the interior of Israel and Syria. This is also the traditional site of the battle of Armageddon.

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The Dead Sea is a lake with no outlet to the sea. This is the lowest elevation on earth, 1,140 feet below sea level. The water has ten times the salinity of ocean water. Everyone who visits here wants to float in the Dead Sea, because the water holds you up in an amazing way. I was nearly able to sit up in the water! On the road to the Dead Sea, you will drive past the fortress of Masada. This is the site of the death of the last Jewish rebels against Rome. The fortress is on top of a mountain. The defenders and their families were all killed in the siege by murder/suicide. The Romans said that when they entered the fortress all the defenders and families were dead. The Romans built extensive siege works that are still visible and the ruins of Masada are impressive.

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Go to Israel expecting to be awed. Go to Israel expecting to see significant sites. Go to Israel to immerse yourself in your Christian heritage. We can arrange travel for you as a full service travel supplier – Condor Tours & Travel. Reach out to us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or call us at 770-380-5834. We can match your travel interest to an ideal tour that fits your goals, whether it is to Israel or anywhere worldwide.

 

Condor Tours & Travel is relocating!

New office

We, at Condor Tours & Travel,  are excited to announce we have relocated our office space to 470 N Clayton St. Suite #207. We are still in Lawrenceville, GA but a new zip code 30046. The move is effective May 1, 2020. This amazing location was built in 1891 and has a historic feel with the original heart pine floors. The building is fully renovated to include all the modern features needed to run our travel company. We are just two blocks from the historic Lawrenceville courthouse  and square plus an added bonus next to two brewery’s and an event facility called Trackside and a soon to open distillary.  Early in January we evaluated our office layout and decided we no longer needed such a large office space so have downsized. Our team is set up to work from home due to our wonderful phone and computer systems. Plus all our files and info is Cloud based, so working remotely is a wonderful thing. Travel is our business so we can now work from anywhere in the world and do not need to be sitting at a desk at an office all the time.  We can do our part to reduce our carbon footprint  by not driving to and from work.  The new space will be available to meet with clients by appointment and I personally can now walk to work.

At Condor Tours & Travel, as we celebrate 30 years in business, we continue to offer travel worldwide. We have assembled  our travel specialist team and staff  team to cater to worldwide travel request.  We specialize in personalized and customized travel packages to help you achieve your travel interest and discover the world.  Whether you seek to just get away or have a more exotic travel interest, we can make it happen. In this era of online travel you lose the connection and knowledge that we can offer you.  Our sales team combines years of experience as well as destination experience in preparing travel packages.  We use our expertise and vast array of resources to create your travel packages. 

We offer all-inclusive vacation packages or can custom tailor a package for you or a group, and can provide you with tour packages, leisure or adventure travel, safaris, fishing, surfing, cruises – Ocean and River as well as all-inclusive resorts. We can accommodate any number of guests – from one to one hundred – for group tours and special interest travel or unique travel requests. You can spend time researching travel online but when you are ready to book, let us handle the leg work.  As a long time travel company we have connections and inside information that often allow us to improve on anything you secured doing it on your own online.  Also, when circumstances change, we handle all the leg work needed while you go about your daily life.  

Give us a call, and let one of our travel professionals help you plan the vacation of your dreams.

Meet our Team:

Lori Snow – CEO Lori head shot

Virgil Snow – CFO

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Pat Pritchard – Sr Sales Specialist

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Cindy Mahaffey – Sales Specialist

Cindy PR

Susan Nock – Sr Accounting Manager

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Visit our web site https://www.condortoursandtravel.com/about_us.php  to read the BIO for each of our team.  We can also be reached at 770-339-9961.  You are welcome to come to our new office space – just give us a call before you come.  470 N Clayton St. Lawrenceville, GA 30046