Posted: 2010-07-07 04:11:00
I thought I would take a crack at this answer. Before I do, I wanted to note that I work for Tucan. I'm their North American Sales Manager. So YES, this answer is biased. But NO, it's not advertising.
I worked for GAP as a guide for three years. I can honestly tell you that I left that company because they treat their staff horribly. They have about a 400% turnover. They pay badly, and often then don't even pay on time. If you ask me, the product suffers.
If you don't believe me (which is fair game) check out other comments, and you will see they are overwhelmingly negative: http://www.travelblog.org/Topics/5023-1.html
As for Intrepid. They are a good company. I have traveled with them in Vietnam, and had a good experience. They really do focus on the youth market, and tend to be more budget. They started in Asia (in fact, GAP and Intrepid used to sell into each others' tours) and I would say that is still their strongest product.
So, at the risk of sounding sales-pictchy, that brings us to Tucan. I would argue the company is a bit smaller than the above two, but really do offer a terrific product. The prices are fair, and there are a range of trip styles. Tucan started in South America, so although there are now trips worldwide, this remains one of the company's strongest regions. You won't hear a complaint, and if you do, contact me and I will sort it out for you!
Other suggestions: make sure when you look at these trips and the costs that you are comparing apples with apples. Read carefully to see what is included. For example the Inca Trail costs extra, some companies include excursions that others don't and those costs will add up while you are traveling.
Also, check the transport method. Tucan offers private transport (Discovery) tours, that GAP and Intrepid don't and these are a bit more comfortable than local transport.
Hope this helps,
[edited by inthefuns at 2010-07-07 04:11]