If any of you fellow cruisers happen to be in Rio de Janeiro and thinking about hiring a private guide there, here is a warning about one of them.
We started our cruise on Holland America Veendam in Rio de Janeiro. We arrived 3 days early and hired a private guide, Pedro Landsberg, for all 3 days through InfoHub Specialty Travel Guide, vacation and tourism, weekend getaway, fishing hunting lodges, guest ranches, diving resort, castle hotels, .... There were 4 of us - myself, my husband and my elderly parents. On the 3rd day we wanted to settle our account with Pedro before leaving the hotel, but he said that we can do it later.
We ended our tour in a big crowded mess of the port for cruise ship embarkation.
There was no place to get some kind of privacy, so we had to do the accounting in front of a big crowd (not pleasant). Pedro presented us with a messy scrambled bill written on a piece of paper. He grabbed cash and left even not saying “good buy” to all of us. The amount seamed too high, so we made the calculations after he left and realized that Pedro intentionally overcharged us $156 for extra time not provided and cheating with the conversion rate. All my emails with an explanation and request to correct the bill and pay back via paypal (he has an account) remained ignored. Be aware of this dishonest man who left very bitter taste of his services.
In Rio I also had a tour guide who wanted to settle the account in the middle of the port building.
I told her that I would not be negotiating or handing over a large amount of cash in the middle of a public place and told her that we should go back to the van and finish the transaction. The van was parked and waiting. She refused and asked for an amount $70 over what we agreed to. I said "No" and if she wished to discuss why the charge was more, we could do it in the van. She hurriedly said: "It's for the driver". I had just given the driver $80 as a tip.
I finally said: "You don't want the driver to know how much you are being paid, do you?" That was it. I walked back to the van, got inside and then gave her the money, that we had agreed to, and then walked off. She said nothing but gave me a pretty dirty look. She didn't swear at me since my wife spoke Brasilian Portuguese.
She probably had agreed to a percentage of the tour cost with the driver and told him a lower number than what we were actually charged. Plus, I wasn't going to give the driver more money when I had already gave the driver a very good tip. The pre-arranged amount was for the whole tour which included the driver.
I have had great experiences with private tours but, even then, you really have to be on your toes.
There was also a tour in St. Petersburg where "I" made an error in the conversion from rubles to dollars and thought I was being overcharged when it was me who actually underpaid the guide. It was resolved quickly and I apologized. However, we had to make a stop at an ATM because the amount of money I brought was just over $100 less than the actual amount in rubles. The ATM was at the pier customs station and getting back through on foot was an "experience". The driver, and my wife, went though in the van with no problem but after getting my rubles it was like a scene out of a Cold War movie for me to get back through. All in all it took less than five minutes but I was wondering if I would end up in a Gulag.
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On the 3rd day we wanted to settle our account with Pedro before leaving the hotel, but he said that we can do it later.
...Pedro presented us with a messy scrambled bill written on a piece of paper. He grabbed cash and left even not saying “good buy” to all of us. The amount seamed too high, so we made the calculations after he left and realized that Pedro intentionally overcharged us $156 for extra time not provided and cheating with the conversion rate....
I am sorry you had a bad experience.
It is not quite clear to me what your agreement with the guide was, but it appears that you had an hourly rate in local currency? Apparently that was where the problem was.
We have booked with many private guides all over the world, and almost universally had no problems whatsoever with the bill. We always ask for a total rate for the tour in US$, not hourly or local currency. I carry with me the email correspondence with the agreed price in it, but really have never had to resort to pulling it out. Then I put that amount in an envelope. In another envelope I have an assortment of bills for the tip, from 20s down to 5s or even 1s, so that I can decide at the end how good the guide was and pick out the appropriate tip. This works out very well for me.
Donna, it appears this was a pre-cruise and not an excursion that could have been booked with the cruise line. While we often book cruise line excursions, we also often book with independent guides. Of course we assume a bit more responsibility when we do that, but it usually works very well for us.