My overall impression is neutral to unsatisfied. Initial issue was with price. After being quoted a price, it was increased by more than $1000 per person because the agent "forgot" to include internal airfare. In addition, at the time of payment we were suddenly told of a surcharge to use a credit card which I had never experienced before. Finally, other tours I have been on always included tips to the guides & drivers as well as a non alcoholic beverage with included meals. Not here. The "nickel & diming" really left a bad impression & added to the cost which was significantly higher than your competitors. Also, from the very beginning, we were clear that we wanted flexibility in our tour & days which is why we went with a private tour instead of a large group. I was assured this was possible. It was NOT. The guides often struggled with English, especially the one in Saigon which was a serious issue. In fact, his inability to understand English ended up costing us more than $100 for a dinner that you were supposed to comp & negatively impacted our overall experience there. Things on our itinerary were eliminated without warning or explanation. The written itinerary for the Halong Bay cruise was wrong & had been changed by the cruise company a year before but never communicated to us. The included restaurants were very nice but there were no choices given with regard to included meals which was a real issue especially for me since I have IBD and a restricted diet (communicated to you prior to trip). I was very disappointed with the private blessing in Laos. We didn't visit the monastery as promised & the room where the monk was was dirty & reeked of cat urine. The hotels, except for the Villa Malay, were lovely if a bit dated (Cambodia). The hotel in Hoi An was gorgeous but the transport to/from was a serious issue. We ended up taking a taxi. The driver's were excellent. Overall, I would not recommend you to friends & family who are interested in taking a similar trip. Enjoyed the experience but I really feel we seriously overpaid for an average trip.
The elephant sanctuary in Laos I arranged independently. Halong Bay was magnificent. The cooking class in Hoi An was a lot of fun.
Eliminate Hue, add another night in Hoi An simply for relaxing at the hotel & another night on Halong Bay - it was stunning but too rushed. Eliminate the lantern making class in Hoi An as well as the dinner at the Garden House.
Travel Company's Comments:
We hope you arrived home safely and brought home sweet memories of Southeast Asia. We are so happy that you enjoyed the trip and brought home some great memories of the elephant sanctuary in Laos, the magnificent Halong Bay, and the cooking class in Hoi An.
However, we are so sorry that we did not meet some of your expectations and that you feel that the price you paid was not justified. On reading your review and after what we communicated, we would like to write to explain the situation from our point of view.
Firstly about prices, at the first stage of sending the quotes, we did make a mistake and we emailed you to correct immediately, at that time you haven’t confirmed so you had the chance to work with another company. But you still continue working with us as our price is still fair, I trust. And long later after many changes of itineraries, before confirmation, you said our price was higher than other company by $250 per person and then we discounted again, and you paid for the trip. So we think this is a fair contract between both sides. For the credit card fee, it is the fee if you chose to pay by Credit card, which applies to all banks in the region, the other bank charged 3% but we only charge 2% and cover 1% for the travelers. You can check the condition on our website, and we only mentioned of this fee if you chose to pay by Credit Card. You always can choose to pay by bank transfer to avoid this 2% credit card fee. Overall, we thank you so much that you put your trust in our company and would like to support a local company like us.
In our quotation, we always mentioned what's included and excluded; we never hide that information. In that mentioning, tipping and drinks are always excluded from our packages. Moreover, in the final confirmed itinerary sent to you before the tour starts, we mentioned again about tipping is excluded and also not a must, you do not have to tip the guides and drivers if you do not want to, especially if their services do not meet your expectation. Anyhow, we well noted your suggestion of adding a soft drink into the meals for travelers who share the same style as you.
Compared to traveling in big groups, private travel like your tour offers infinitely more scope for exploring the wealth of scenic, cultural and historical nuances of a country, visiting only those that are of most interest to you, traveling in relaxed spacious comfort, free to make your own choices of destination and determine the duration of your visits, without having to take account of other fellow travelers. After everything is booked and payment has been paid to the suppliers, if you wished to change the dates or activities at a time closer to travel date, we must rely on the contracts and if any charge arises we inform you, you can pay the charges to change. This rule applies to every country.
All of our previous travelers gave great feedback on our guide's English and services, so it comes as a surprise that you had issues with their English. We are sorry that there was a misunderstanding between you and the guide in Ho Chi Minh City which made you miss the last dinner and you ended up paying for dinner at your hotel. We did offer to refund you immediately but you did not respond to us regarding that matter. Again, we regret that our services and performance did not meet your expectation, especially our tour guides’ performance. As well-qualified guides, our guides know to respect clients' requests and decisions. They try their best to accommodate the clients' request or even go extra miles. It's unfortunate that they did not get the best results this time around, which we sincerely apologize for this and promise to assign other guides for you in the future should you return.
We deeply regret that the Halong tour was not run accurately as tour description, which is truly our fault not to update you that they do not go to the floating village anymore due to the authority changes – this happens all the time due to the authority adding additional fees and changing policy all the time in Halong, so we often write the Halong Bay itinerary in general, not in details as it can be changed.
For food reference, we did send you a form to fill your food reference but you didn’t send us that form. When you are here, sometimes you mentioned that you are vegetarian so we put that request everywhere, and our guides always check again with you what you can eat, before each meal. But sometimes you said you can eat everything, which made the guides and restaurants confused. They served you vegetarian meals to avoid mistake. You never mentioned about your IBD, we are sorry that we didn't know.
We are saddened that you did not enjoy your experience at the local house for the Baci ceremony. We have never received comments about the place being dirty. All of our previous travelers loved that house, the ceremony, and Laos people there. We would be happy to send you a video of this house if you wish to see it again.
Finally, we have carefully noted your comments in our customer database in order to meet your expectations in the future, and also for future travelers with your similar travel style and preference. In conclusion, we would like to express our special thanks for letting us have a chance to create the vacation in Southeast Asia for you. We have taken note of both the positive and constructive feedback in your trip review. Overall, your constructive feedback is very precious to us since we always expect our tour to be suitable for all clients.
Again, in light of the missed expectations in your tour, as I wrote to you twice in my emails sent to you in early March but have not received your feedback, we would like to refund US$ 160 for 2 persons total in goodwill, to compensate for the missing of floating village visit in Halong Bay (itinerary changed) and the last dinner in Ho Chi Minh City which we planned on paying for you. We hope this gesture would be accepted in the spirit it is offered and ultimately we hope the bumps in the road will be soon be forgotten and you will have a special and lasting memory of your time together on your Southeast Asia journey.
We would be pleased to refund this to your credit card on file upon your confirmation of the same.
Wishing you all the best and in the meantime we remain at your service here in Southeast Asia.
Each review is written by a verified traveler who was matched by Zicasso to the reviewed agency. Traveler must have purchased and traveled.
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