A Single Traveler Might Enjoy a Group Trek to Machu Picchu

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Q. I'm looking for a vacation with other intellectual, adventurous singles. I normally hike in temperate forests. I like my own room and bath. I'm in my peak earning-potential years but avoid expensive travel. Any groups or organizations to recommend?

Marty Nielsen, Arlington

A. Okay, I've got you covered on everything but the bath. And really, how important is a porcelain throne when you're traveling with like-minded souls to one of the most stirring destinations in our hemisphere?

Talking about Machu Picchu. A trip on Peru's Inca Trail would fulfill your desire for a temperate-forest hike, it's adventurous for sure and it can be done relatively cheaply. Intrepid Travel, a small group-adventure company based in Australia, has a trip there with an appealing intellectual bent, emphasizing interaction with locals. And the company is solo-travel-friendly: More than half its guests travel alone, said spokeswoman Ashley MontBlanc, and it doesn't charge the dreaded single supplement.

As for having your own room, er, tent, it's possible but not guaranteed, MontBlanc said. But if "there are an odd number of females and males on the trip, then the guest could have [his or her] own tent."

The eight-day trip also visits the Peruvian capital of Lima and the town of Cuzco. The Inca Trail portion is a moderate four-day hike at high altitude. The cost starts at $760 (plus a local payment of $300) and includes accommodations, ground transportation and some meals, but not air from Washington. Details:

I travel regularly from BWI to London Heathrow on British Airways. I notice that the "taxes and fees" are now what I used to pay for a ticket, if not more. I cannot distinguish what is what. Can you break this down?

Marty Cohen, Baltimore

British Airways spokesman John Lampl priced out a typical economy round trip to London for us, for a flight leaving BWI Dec. 23 and returning Dec. 30. Almost half the fare of $1,005.81 consisted of taxes and fees. The breakdown doesn't make the add-ons any more tolerable, but it's interesting to see where your money goes:

· Base price: $596.

· Fuel surcharge: $266, or $133 each way. Lampl said the airline reduced the surcharge Oct. 16 by about $19 each way. "One of our problems is that the pound has lost strength against the dollar, and we have to pay all our fuel bills in dollars. The exchange rates are working against us."

· U.S. customs service charge: $5.50.

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