Frequently Asked Questions – click to expand
Welcome to our FAQ page! We hope this page will answer many of your questions about our photo tours/workshops, but please don’t hesitate to reach out via our Contact form or by phone. We’ll make sure all your questions are answered.
The tour industry is filled with scammers, how do I know you are legitimate?
Great question! Yes, there are many unscrupulous providers who will accept your deposit and that’s the last you’ll hear from them. At Juan Carlos Vindas Photo Tours/Workshops, our reputation is our livelihood. We would be happy to provide you with references so that you yourself can speak with customers who have taken our tours.
There are many Latin America tours, why should I pick you?
We believe you’ll get much more out of your trip when you book with us. We keep our group size small so that you are not lost in the crowd – you’ll get plenty of personalized attention and instruction. You’ll enjoy the discussions and debates about technique and gear with others that share your passion for photography. You’ll gain access to private gardens and special places known only to locals and that other tours don’t include. You won’t feel “nickel and dimed” with add-on costs, because practically everything is included in your tour price. You’ll appreciate the expertise of Juan Carlos Vindas, who has over 20 years of experience leading tours and workshops across Latin America.
Developing countries are learning that protecting and managing their natural resources make them attractive destinations for tourists and photographers interested in seeing their amazing natural beauty. This leads to sustainability and economic independence. We believe in supporting our local economies; thus we use local drivers and local guides for our tours. It’s one of the ways we can all give back to the world that we travel.
How many people per tour?
The ideal number of participants for our small group tours is 6, and does not exceed 10 so that you will receive plenty of personalized attention and instruction.
I would like to arrange a private tour, is that possible?
Of course! Please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to discuss your needs and desires, after which we will prepare a custom itinerary and a price quote.
Is airfare included?
Airfare is not included in the trip cost, as participants may be traveling from a variety of locations. As you know, airfare costs can vary widely depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book your tickets – we encourage you to arrange your airfare as soon as you have submitted your deposit.
What about trip Insurance?
We strongly suggest you purchase travel insurance that provides medical and emergency evacuation options, as well as trip cancellation/ interruption and baggage loss insurance. While we never expect the unexpected such as health and family emergencies, they do occur. Travel Guard is one of many companies we recommend: http://www.travelguard.com/. This coverage may offset cancellation charges in the event of illness before or during the trip and/or if you need to cancel for work reasons depending on the coverage provided by the plan.
I don’t want to share a room with a stranger, can I get a private room?
Yes, that is available as an option with a single person supplement (unlike the the USA, Canada and some other countries, Latin American countries charge for accommodation on a per person basis, and if you would like to your own room, you will have to pay a single person supplement). Be sure to let us know you’d like this option when making your trip reservation with us.
Some parts of Latin America have Zika and other diseases, do I have to be concerned?
We recommend that you consult with your physician (or a travel clinic) so that you have the latest information and any needed immunizations prior to travel. Travel health information can be found at the CDC website: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices and https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. Mosquito repellant will be needed. When handling camera gear, Repel Sportsman Gear or a similar repellant is recommended as it will not damage your camera gear: https://www.rei.com/product/783936/repel-sportsmen-gear-smart-insect-repellent
I have food allergies, can these be accommodated?
Sure!, please let us know what food allergies you have and we’ll do our very best to meet your needs.
Can I drink the water?
In many cases yes. We will be sure to let you know at which locations it is fine to drink the water, and bottled water will be provided for those locations where it is best for tourists not to drink the water.
Is Costa Rica 110 volts? How do I charge my camera, laptop and flash?
Yes, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama are 110 – 120 volts, so most North American plugs will fit. Be advised that many outlets are not grounded or polarized, and may not accept the taller vertical blade or the third grounding pin, in which case a plug adapter would be needed. Multi-voltage devices such as laptops, phones, battery charges will not require a transformer, but may require a plug adapter. 220-240 volt appliances will require a plug adapter and a step-up transformer. More info by country here: https://www.adaptelec.com/info-by-country-c-15/?zenid=d8jgf4adsvq8ark3fq457k7n16 We recommend you also bring along some multi-plugs and/or extension cords so that you can plug in multiple chargers simultaneously.
I am a novice photographer, am I welcome?
Absolutely! All skill levels are welcome, and workshop topics will be geared to the needs of everyone in the group. Additionally, one-to-one training and assistance is included at no additional charge.
I’m an advanced photographer, will this be too basic for me?
If you already have good technical skills, our tours will push you to the next level! You’ll be challenged to expand and refine your techniques, and try new skills. We’ll ask you to work just a bit outside your comfort zone, as we believe that’s the best way to improve. We’ll help you come home with awesome photos!
My spouse/partner is not interested in photography but loves wildlife and nature, would this be a good trip for him/her?
While the main focus for most will be on photography, any wildlife and nature lover is more than welcome to attend. There will be optional photo workshops during the tour that you can attend if you choose. Your spouse/partner may choose instead to go on a walk, rest in the shade with a good book, or perhaps take a nap. Meals and the main activities of bird watching and photography, nature hikes, driving tours will all be done together.
What do I wear on the trip?
Latin America can be hot and humid, but higher elevations can be cool, especially at night. Bring thin long sleeved shirts and long pants, and clothing to layer as needed. Green or tan are the best colors, please avoid bright colors. Have a coat/jacket or sweater for higher elevations. You’ll want a hat, plus always use sun block, and a sturdy pair of walking shoes or hiking boots for trails and hikes. A pair of water shoes/sandals is recommended for taking showers as shower floors can be slippery, and sneakers are nice for around the lodges. Bring a small flashlight/torch as areas around the lodges can be very dark at night.
Is laundry available?
Laundry is available at the lodges for an additional charge, and/or you can rinse out a few items in the evening.
What about medications?
Please bring all necessary medications, prescription and over-the-counter, as we will be in some remote areas. If you are prone to motion sickness, please bring Dramamine or similar medication, and always take it in advance of hilly and curvy road trips. You may want to consider an Epipen or similar product if you are or could be allergic to bites and stings.
What are the accommodations like?
Rooms include a private bathroom and hot showers, a queen bed (where available), three meals per day prepared with fresh and local ingredients, fruit juice, snacks, bottled water. Some lodges are rustic but clean. Most lodges are not air conditioned but do have fans. Lodges in the cooler areas will have a heater. Most lodges are on septic systems and you will be asked to place toilet paper into the provided bins instead of the toilet itself. Wi-fi internet is generally available but there may be outages.
What is included in the trip price?
- Pick up at the airport
- Most meals and snacks, bottled water
- Transportation during the trip
- Gratuities/tips for all support personnel – drivers, local guides, housekeeping, cooks, bell hops, etc
- Entrance fees for private gardens and national parks
- Expert guiding
- Photo workshops
- Personalized photo instruction
- Drop off at the airport at the conclusion of the trip
What is not included in the trip price?
- Travel insurance
- Fees for passports, visas, immunizations
- Laundry, phone calls, items of a personal nature
- Alcoholic beverages
- Gratuity for tour leader
- Evacuation or hospitalization, should they become necessary
- Any additional nights’ accommodation beyond the tour dates
Should I bring any cash?
You might like to bring some small denomination bills – 1, 5, 10 and 20 in US dollars – in case you wish to buy something small; many stores accept US dollars. More rural areas will only accept local currency.
What does a typical day look like?
- Each tour is structured to take advantage of the best light for photography, and each day’s schedule can vary according to the light, weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, and travel considerations. Here is a sample day:
- Meet at or before sunrise for photo gear set up
- Take advantage of the best light for 2 – 3 hours of shooting and viewing
- More shooting and/or workshop/discussion
- Rest break
- Rest break
- Afternoon shooting, typically until dusk
- Meet for pre-dinner drinks with discussion of the day, technical tips, plan for the following day
- Private time and/or workshop/discussion
What sorts of wildlife will I see?
Depending on the tour and region, you are very likely to see a plethora of species. Latin America is known for its vivid birds! Of course we cannot guarantee which species you’ll see, as wildlife behavior and migrations are beyond our control. It is not unusual to view more than 35 bird species during a tour, possibly including tanagers, keel-billed toucans, yellow-throated toucans, brown-hooded parrots, orange-chinned parakeets, collared aracaris, Montezuma oropendolas, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, boat-billed herons, white-collared manakins, and many more. You’ll have the opportunity to photograph birds in the wild, in private gardens, and from viewing areas at the lodges where the birds come close to take advantage of feeders with fruit. You may also see reptiles such as iguanas and snakes, and mammals such as sloths, monkeys, and margays.
What sort of camera gear should I bring?
Here is a general idea about recommended gear. Of course, we are happy to discuss more specifics as they pertain to your particular trip and skill level.
- Main camera body
- Back-up camera body
- Sturdy tripod
- Wimberley head or similar for long lens
- 100 – 400 mm or 80 – 400 mm zoom lens
- Long lens – 500 mm f/4 or 600mm f/4
- 1.4X and/or 2X extenders
- Flash that can be set to TTL and M
- Flash bracket
- Two off-camera shoe cords
- Macro lens
- Smaller tripod with ball head for macro work
- Spare batteries and their respective chargers (and adapter(s), see section on electricity)
- Sufficient media/memory cards and/or laptop/card reader to download files
- Wide angle lens with polarizing filter
- Extension tube(s) if you already own them
- Collar ring and plate for macro if you already own them
- Desiccant to protect your camera gear from humidity
- You might also like to purchase a book on birds of the area to study in advance and to use during the trip.
Do you accept credit cards?
We are not able to accept credit cards at this time. Deposits and final payments may be done via bank wire transfer. We are responsible for the receiving fees, you are responsible for the origination/sending fees (typically about $45 US per transfer, please check with your bank). We will provide you with bank information and routing numbers at the time that you book your trip.
Refund and Cancellation Policy
Registration and Release Form
We make every possible effort to maintain our schedule. However, certain unforeseeable conditions (political, climatic, environmental, cultural, or wildlife migrations) may require changes to the schedule. We reserve the right to alter any schedule at any time if necessary – of course notifying all participants of changes as far in advance as possible.
As with any wildlife tour, we cannot guarantee which species you will see, as wildlife behavior patterns are unpredictable. Rest assured we have selected dates and routes that will provide the best viewing opportunities for you.
Two persons per row of seating in the vehicles.