The general impression that I received from Oyster throughout the trip was one of disorganisation. In fact that was also the very first impression that I received on landing in Chile, because I had been given the wrong information on who was going to pick us up from the airport. This lead to my first few hours in Coyhaique being stuck in a local airport with no idea what to do and no internet, the rep in England hadn’t even given me the address of the hostel in Coyhaique. My only option was to call to England to sort the situation out, where it turned out that the rep had gotten the day of my arrival wrong.
Oyster also provided a packing list for the trip which was quite simply wrong. About half of the things on the list are not needed, at all. The list included 5 smart shirts and smart shoes for school, but not even the other teachers wore shirts and I was never asked to wear anything other than jeans and T-shirts. In total I ended bringing about 4 kilos of clothes for no reason thanks to Oyster. In fact the packing list was so unhelpful I have a hard time believing that whoever wrote it has ever even been to Coyhaique.
Once in Coyhaique, we were presented with the opportunity to go on a 3-day camping trip for near on £500. According to the guide we were getting a ‘deal’. I can’t say for certain but I am pretty sure that myself and the rest of the group were basically ripped off on a trip which didn’t even include part of what was claimed to be in it, (we didn’t go to Cerro Castillo). Whilst this trip might be advertised as some kind of bonding experiences, in reality it is just a way for associates of Oyster to glean yet more money out of you. The reason for not going to Cerro Castillo was because it apparently didn’t quite work out with the bus times, but it seems more likely that the the Guide knew that he could get away with it because, it being our second day, how were we to know any better ? When we mentioned this to Oyster they said that the trip is not affiliated with the organisation. Even though the guide who runs the trip is married to the Oyster rep in Coyhaquie.
The trip itself, whether we were overcharged or not, is a complete waste of time. You can do part of it by yourself for much cheaper and the key attraction, the Laguna San Rafael glacier, is hardly impressive compared to the myriad of other glaciers which are accessible from places close to Coyhaquie.
We also had 4 days of ‘intensive’ Spanish lessons. I would take issue with calling them lessons at all. All the rep did was hand out a grammar sheet and then do quizzes,which merely confirmed what everyone knew before they had arrived. So by the end of the 4 days no one had learnt anything. Yet again, a complete waste of time.
I will say that once I was settled in with my family and at school things went much better, mainly because when they say that it is a hands off experience they really mean it. It was roughly two months between are ‘catch-up’ sessions. They couldn’t even get me from the airport to the city of Coyhaique on my first day. The information they provide is misleading at best and at worst completely false. A great example being that they do not mention on the website that Coyhaique happens to be the most polluted city in the whole of South America, and near the top of the most polluted cities in the world.
To summarise, don’t waste your money. I would absolutely recommend doing something similar to what Oyster offer, just not with Oyster.