This is my third attempt to post this review - it has been taken down twice already. Here's hoping it stays up.
I'll preface my review for HecTour Service with the fact that I want to rate him in between Poor and Average but you can't do that on TripAdvisor so, when you factor in the cost, I have to rate HecTour Service with a Poor.
After reading all the fabulous reviews about Hector, my husband and I felt we would not go wrong with booking with HecTour Service. I first contacted Hector on Jan 5 (almost a week before our arrival in Santiago) but didn't hear back from him until we arrived in Santiago on Jan 12. I explained when we would be in Santiago and the types of tours we were interested in. He replied with a long list of his services with no indication of how busy he was or apologies for not replying quicker. In any case, I replied a few days later (on Jan15) hoping that we could book a tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar with a wine tasting for Friday, Jan 17. I assumed that he would get back to me within a couple days but I was wrong.
I called Friday morning to see if he even received my email and he just said he was really busy and that he'd call me back in 15 minutes. He did call back and then said he could arrange for the tour that morning with an associate of his. We were surprised and a bit caught off guard since we would have assumed that we wouldn't be able to go on such short notice. His associate, Jackie, was nice. She picked us up around 11am. Her car did not have air conditioning so it got a bit hot at times. She was very knowledgeable and friendly but I don't think it was worth $160 per person.
When Hector called back that morning, we also briefly discussed our desire to go wine tasting on another day, Tuesday, Jan 21. Based on the list of services he provided in his email on January 12, I explicitly asked that we would like to visit the winery, Sanchez de Loria. I explained that it didn't matter which 3 we visited as long as Sanchez de Loria was included. It was a bit shocking to hear after our first winery that our remaining schedule could "maybe" include a visit to Sanchez de Loria. My husband's (and now my) last name is Loria so we thought it would be interesting to visit this winery. This was the ONLY winery I requested so I naturally assumed that this would be on the agenda no matter where the day would take us.
I explained to Hector that it wasn't an "option" to visit Sanchez de Loria - that I had explicitly talked to him about going to this winery and that I didn't understand why we wouldn't go. He said he wasn't sure what time they closed so he would call while we went on our tour of Errazuriz. After a couple phone calls he informed us that in fact Sanchez de Loria was open until about 6 or 7pm so we would have time to visit it. Oh, really? Thanks...I thought this was your job - to check all this out before the day of our tour but he made it seem like he was doing us a favor.
You should also be forewarned about the cost of the tour/tasting at Errazuriz. This was the winery tour/tasting he was really pushing and happened to be the most expensive at $70USD (40,000 pesos) per person for a tour/tasting. After being completely shocked and feeling ripped off, I told him the cost and he seemed surprised but replied with, "I said wine tastings weren't included in the cost". Considering the first winery (Vina San Esteban) we visited was 10,000 Chilean pesos per person for a tour/tasting, I really didn't think that it could be that much more. But yes, it was 40,000 Chilean pesos per person and no, he did not give us a heads up. Instead, he tried to pass the blame on us. He said that we should have asked before hand. My bad for assuming BUT as the highest rated service on TripAdvisor, I really expected a certain level of service and to be better informed. If Hector has been to these wineries before then he should know the costs, if not a simple phone call ahead of time would get the same result. Then when the customer is booking, he/she will know cost of the tour and cost of each winery. Now the customer is fully aware of expenses before the tour even starts. We were already paying ~$147 per person for him just to take us to these wineries, it would be nice to get a little more info about what to expect.
In any case, it turned out that the folks at Sanchez de Loria do not speak English so Hector ended up having to translate for us. I thought I was paying for a bilingual guide but he made it seem like he was doing us a favor (the theme here) by translating. This is why I think he wasn't pushing this winery. Oh, and the tasting (without a tour) was very affordable at 5,000 pesos. With the tour, it was 35,000 pesos. We opted to just do the tasting.
In summary and in no particular order, here are all my pros/cons about Hector. If I were you, I would just think twice about booking his services.
1. Emails weren't returned in a timely fashion (his excuse was that it was really busy).
2. When I did get a reply, it was a long laundry list of tour offerings, helpful but not very specific.
3. When I replied, I didn't get a reply within 48 hours. I had to call on the day we were expecting to go on a tour and he promptly arranged a tour for us to be picked up at 11am.
4. The wine tour we booked he originally said he would pick us up between 9am and 9:30am. We got an email at 8:53am saying the pick up time would be 9:40am.
5. We walked down at 9:35am, he was there but ran down the street to get water. We didn't leave until close to 9:50am. Why wouldn't he have picked up water beforehand?
6. First tour didn't give us much information except we would be joining another group. Did not give us the cost or anything. I asked the wine guide how much just so I was aware (see above for prices)
7. Lunch - he brought us to a typical Chilean restaurant. I told him at he beginning we didn't speak Spanish and that my husband had food allergies. When he brought us in, I asked if the waiters spoke English- he said no and said, "ok, I will stay with you to explain the allergies." It was like he was doing us a favor. We are paying him almost $300USD to drive us and take us on the tour he offered. We paid for lunch on our own- the least he could do is help translate (which I thought was part of his services). Anyway, he explained the allergies and helped us order.
8. More planning would make his services much more worth the price tag.
1. He was very informative about the region, area, where we were going.
2. He offered a lot of info about other areas including Easter island (shared a book and played some music from Easter Island).
3. He seemed like a nice guy and you could tell he enjoyed his job - sharing his knowledge and getting to know people.
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