Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shady Hotel Business: Tambo del Inka Resort in Peru

I spent three nights at Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa and this is my review:




When you go on a cruise they try to sell you stuff everywhere all the time. At least you can see what they are selling and refuse to buy it. At Tambo del Inka at the Sacred Valley in Peru, they found an interesting way (even if it's illegal) to take your money when you are not looking. It may be called "stealing".

But first the great things about this place:

Tambo del Inka is a beautiful resort in Urubamba, in the heart of Valle Sagrado. From the impressive lobby to the inside/outside pool, gardens, spa, restaurant Hawa - everything is immaculate and luxurious.





Service is top notch. Everyone I interacted with was pleasant and helpful.

Our room 330 was large and comfortable with a nice garden view, but in need for a few updates: the shower head was clogged and had low pressure, TV was old and was almost falling out of the wall and more outlets and USB ports are needed.




Now the ugly:

Planning my trip to Peru I found out about the 18% tax for hotels and services FOR PERUVIAN CITIZENS AND FOREIGNERS STAYING IN PERU FOR MORE THAN 59 DAYS.
After several emails to the hotel and to SPG (all now part of the Marriott group), I was "granted" exemption for this tax - that no tourist should have to pay anyway. But apparently, the hotel charges ALL UNINFORMED GUESTS the 18% tax claiming during the booking process that it's "SALES TAX" - hiding any explanation about the true nature of this tax. That was enough to make the scam alarm go off in my experienced traveler mind. What are they trying to do??

The day before my arrival, I got an email from Jennifer Minaya informing that any extras would be charged the 18% tax fee. Wrong, illegal and desperate to profit on traveler's ignorance. 

During my stay, I was able to dispute and remove the 18% tax that was added to two dinners we had at Hawa restaurant and a lunch at the bar, but they refused to remove the taxes from our spa bill. During check out, I signed the final itemized bill but they didn't let me take it. Edwin, Front Desk Manager, said they would email to me. I received through email a manipulated, very confusing version of the final bill, that didn't even reflected the amount I paid. I reached out to SPG and Isaac Pilares, "Guest Relations Manager" at Tambo del Inka sent me emails filled with nonsenses like: "As per Peruvian tributary law we are not allowed to discount the IVA tax". The Peruvian law states that "foreigners staying less than 59 days in Peru are exempt of the IVA tax". All the back and forth just confirmed my suspicion that there is something very fishy going on at Tambo del Inka's accounting!

As a world traveler, I NEVER encountered a hotel with such a sordid behavior. I'm shocked and appalled by Tambo del Inka deceiving policies. I made clear several times before and during my stay but it seems that I'm an exception and they are used to do this to everyone else, with no consequences.

This whole thing is a stain on a property that could come clean to its guests but instead, they try to trick you into paying for something that is illegal. I hope SPG takes action and fix this aberration!

Safe travels!


Friday, June 15, 2018

My experience at United Business Class AKA Polaris

After seeing the misleading advertisement about United Polaris, we decided to try their product on our trip to Asia. 

It was a long flight LAX-NRT (Tokyo Narita) so we were excited that we were able to upgrade using 30,000 United points and paying US$350 per person on top of our Economy rate. It's interesting that United charges for the upgrade even if they cannot confirm it. I guess greed has no boundaries.

When we first boarded the plane, we noticed the old 2-2-2 configuration that most airlines ditched to offer a superior product, but United is selling Polaris class seats and delivering an old and tired product with a cheap facelift. And note that this is the new 787 plane.

So this is what they advertise 1-2-1, new seats:

But this is what you get:


The seat is narrow and short. I'm 6'3, large built man and I could not fit in this cramped seat.
This is my post on Instagram during the trip. It seems funny but actually was the most uncomfortable long-haul flight I ever took.


Service was cordial but cold. Then, the food. They give you a menu to choose from. My partner is Japanese and he chose the Japanese meal. Third row on Business Class: "We are sold out on the Japanese meal." Good planning, United!
Even the regular meal looked more like economy class prepackaged tasteless food.

Overall the Polaris product was a huge disappointment and a waste of money and points. If you compare to other business class products, like American and Cathay Pacific,  United has a lot to learn.

Safe travels everyone!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Hotel Taxes in Peru - SCAM ALERT

Traveling to Peru any time soon? You better read this post if you don't want to overpay your hotel stay!




"Based on local tax laws, Peruvian citizens and foreigners staying more than 59 days in Peru, must pay an additional fee of 18% (IVA and/or VAT). To be exempt from this 18% additional fee your passport must be presented.

This official paragraph is pretty simple to understand. There is an 18% tax that applies to Peruvian citizens and foreigners staying in the country for more than 59 days. This tax law also applies to hotels in Peru.

What is astonishing is the fact that the majority of hotels in Peru add the 18% tax to the room reservation forcing the uninformed traveler to pay for a tax that he doesn't owe. 


Tierra Viva Lima


The Peruvian hotel chain Tierra Viva (https://tierravivahoteles.com/) states during the reservation process: "Rates do not include 18% VAT (sales tax)" That is the only hotel I could find that explains the issue to travelers.



Belmond Hotels (https://www.belmond.com/peru)
does not charge the 18% on their reservation process and doesn't mention it either.



But the majority of  American & European hotel chains and local hotels as well, include the 18% tax as part of the rate, without warning travelers about the law in Peru.

I booked the luxury hotel Tambo del Inka in Urubamba, Sacred Valley (that belongs to SPG/Marriott group that have several hotels in Peru). Let's look at the screenshot of my reservation:



It says "Room Rate Excludes Sale Tax 18% Per Room / Night and Service Charge 10% Per Room / Night" and then it adds to my room total. 

UPDATE: This is my review after staying at Tambo del Inka and dealing with their shady tax scam: click here for review


Doubletree Hilton Lima
That is still a scam in my book. Why room packages must pay the tax and other rates don't?
Why are they requesting the Carta Andina (Immigration Card) since everyone knows that this control was eliminated in Peru?
I contacted the hotel and they informed that the 18% would be removed from my bill after checking my passport. But I think about thousands of tourists that didn't know about the Peruvian law and paid for this tax, without questioning.
                               
 The same applies to the overpriced Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Lima, Best Western, IHC Hotels (Holiday Inn & Crowne Plaza),  the new Hyatt Centric San Isidro that specify the 18% tax as "IGV Peruvian Tax" (although to be fair, they informed after I asked, that the 18% tax would be removed from my bill) and the list goes on and on.


                                    


So beware and don't be afraid to ask about this scam when booking your trip to Peru.

UPDATE: Booking websites like Booking.com and Hotels.com usually don't charge the 18% Peruvian tax, just the 10% service tax.
But always check before booking!


Safe travels everyone! 


Friday, June 1, 2018

Memorable Hotels in Europe


Exploring Europe is an amazing experience. I love the culture, the history behind every monument, plaza, cathedral and so on. In the Old Continent, many hotels are much more than a place to shower and sleep. I stayed in places that have a rich background that enhances the whole experience. Here are three very good examples:

LONDON

This is a building that was built in 1883 and through the years it housed The Metropole Hotel, Government offices, and even the M19, the British Military Intelligence from 1939 to 1945. You can read more about the building history by clicking HERE


The Metropole Hotel 1885

After being unoccupied from 2004-2007, the building was acquired and transformed into the ultra-luxury CORINTHIA HOTEL LONDON that opened its doors in 2011.






During the first years, they offered affordable rates to promote the recently opened property and I had the privilege to stay at this hotel twice, one of them as a guest to write about my experience. And both of my stays were nothing short of phenomenal. 



 "Perfection, top notch, second to none" are a few of the adjectives I can use for this hotel, but for sure, this is one of the best hotels I ever stayed! 


You can read my first review on TripAdvisor HERE and my second review HERE.





VIENNA

Who would think that the 100 years-old building that housed the Bank of Austria would become a luxury hotel? That's exactly what happened when the Park Hyatt Vienna opened for business in 2014.




We spend 3 nights at this property in April 2017 and we were blown away by how they incorporated the hotel into the bank structure. For example, the bank's vault became the pool area, the cashiers' area became the Bank Brasserie & Bar, that is by a long mile the best restaurant I ever been to! The offices became the rooms and suites. We were upgraded to one of the suites and it felt like an apartment that I never wanted to leave!




You can read my review on TripAdvisor and see more pictures by clicking HERE


LORCH IN THE RHEINGAU, GERMANY


Now, imagine going to a school built in 1933 in the Rhine Valley, and meeting your future wife in that school, marring her and years later buying this historical building and turning it into a charming hotel in 2013, but keeping the original structure. That happened to the couple that owns the Hotel Im Schulhaus in Lorch, Germany.


This is a very affordable 3 Stars hotel but with this incredible story behind it and it's in the perfect location for those exploring the Middle Rhine Valley, a unique cultural landscape that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.  

We spent one night in this property in May 2018. The rooms are large and comfortable. They also offer a delicious breakfast every morning. 




You can read my review on TripAdvisor and see more pictures by clicking HERE


Before booking your next vacation, research about the hotels you chose, maybe that is a hidden historical gem that will bring something extra to your experience.

Safe travels everyone!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Most beautiful River Cruise in the World - Li River Karst Mountains

Guilin is a large city in southern China, with a population of 5 million, but it has a colonial feeling to it. Like if time stood still for the city surrounded by limestone karst hills.





How to get to Guilin? It's just a quick one hour flight from Hong Kong. You can fly Dragon Air, that is part of Cathay Pacific, with brand new planes 737-800.

I hired a local company called Guilin Photography Tour to guide us around China and it was the best choice to fully enjoy this trip. Jessica picked us up at the airport and took great care of us for the next five days. 

Where to stay in Guilin? Lots of choices. We stayed at Shangri La but even though I was blown away by their property in New Delhi, India, their Guilin hotel was huge but not up to par with the other hotels of this upscale chain. We spent two nights there, visiting the city and ancient villages in the countryside. It is as magical as it sounds.


Shangri La Hotel Guilin

On our third day, we got in an old and rusty boat heading to another city called Yangshuo. And nothing cold prepare us for the scenic boat ride on the Li River that was ahead of us. The South China Karst is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and for a good reason - it's spectacular!




As the 4 hours boat ride began, we got immersed in the karst landscapes and that is something so unique that literally, it takes your breath away. See the images bellow that I captured along the way...


We arrived in Yangshuo, a remote town in the Guangxi region, but in the heart of the karst mountains. We stayed in a charming rural hotel called Tea Cozy and the warm service and beautiful accommodations added to our unforgettable experience in that region.

Tea Cozy Hotel - Yangshuo

There was one morning in Guilin that I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to be able to capture the sun rising over the karst mountains. It was January, the cold was almost unbearable but the images I captured that morning were the highlight on this incredible journey.


I can't recommend enough a trip to this region of the world that, with New Zealand and Yukon Territory in Canada, they make my list of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth!


Safe travels!