We hired this agent and her company to plan our honeymoon. We had never used a travel agent before, but figured an expert would help us plan the trip of a lifetime while we were focused on planning our wedding. As avid travelers, lovers of the undiscovered and savvy planners, we THOUGHT that this agent's company and knowledge of Bali would be a perfect match based on the company's name and client reviews. We could not have been more disappointed with the written communication, specificity and uniqueness of itineraries that we received during the planning phase and during our trip. While our agent was available for phone calls when we requested to clarify our questions, her email and other written correspondence was verbose and incomprehensible. It looked like portions were copied and pasted from elsewhere and not checked for spelling/grammar, readability or relevance. This implied she had not listened during our conversations and lacked attention to detail (both of which we value tremendously!). Based on our initial briefing session, it took a fair amount of time to land on a skeleton itinerary which seemed OK to us at the time. Within this itinerary, we had found one of the three hotels ourselves and recommended an up and coming part of Bali she had not even considered. It felt like we had done the majority of the legwork and were working with her merely for her connections. That said, given our limited bandwidth and unfamiliarity with the region, we decided to trust her 'expertise'. It became more clear during the trip that the places we enjoyed the most, we had found ourselves as our driver and guide both told us they were unfamiliar with these locations as they'd never been there before and even got lost along the way to take us there.
When it came time for payment, our agent declined providing a breakout of costs for our package or even an estimated percentage of what was included as that to her was 'confidential information'. This seemed bizarre to us both as we work with contracts on a day-to-day and terms and conditions require a clear outline of services contracted. Based on our own post-trip research, it appeared that she had maxed out our proposed budget and taken a larger than anticipated commission over top of a la carte costs. We could have repurposed this spend to extend our stay by several days if we had planned it ourselves. To be clear about what we were going to purchase, we even had to re-outline the FINAL itinerary she had sent and confirm back with her that we were aligned as we were extremely confused about what was included and what we would be responsible for upon arrival. There were several vague components including no mention of the name or contact information for services we had contracted (examples include bike tour and spas). Additionally, there were areas we thought were included which were not. As an example, we were excited to receive prep materials which included a note about a reservation at Locavore (famous, hard to get into resto in Ubud); however, this was NOT MEANT FOR US?! We did not have a reservation there at all and our agent was confused as to how we came to the conclusion that we did. Fascinating!
In a following discussion to clarify, her response to our outline to reconfirm what we had been committed to was 'this is great!'; however, it is what ALL clients should receive from HER - a clear, concise itinerary which is easy to follow and sharable with family in case of emergency. A client should NEVER be misled or confused about what they have purchased! So disappointing!!
We had the most fun when we explored on our own without driver and guide. NOT the organized activities within our purchased itinerary. We rented a moped and had the opportunity to be on our own time vs. feel like we had to 'keep a schedule'. What we did appreciate about the guide was his ability to rearrange our schedule on the fly based on what we wanted to do, timing efficiencies to avoid extra car time and feedback we'd given on the lack of clarity of our agent itinerary. Thankfully, we had an 'on the ground' expert who seemed to be WAY more connected than she.
In our agent's defense, she did have a good recommendation to have a driver for the week; however, we were less than impressed with the extremely touristy locations which were included in our itinerary. We had asked NOT to have meals included, but were encouraged by our agent as these were 'uniquely Bali'. We found ourselves in a sea of tourists in many cases, even on the mountain top in the temple which we were assured was 'not for tourists'. We encountered the same crusty buffet over and over (eek!! we are foodies!!) and were thankful when our tour guide was able to get us out of future meals for our trip. That said, we decided to either cancel or skip many things on our 'program' due to this experience. Our guide was helpful, although unnecessary in many cases. He did a bit of explaining, but it was extremely low impact after day 1 as the information was repetitive.
This review is meant to provide folks like us with some perspective about the realities of working with a company which sounds like it'll be more bohemian and eccentric. We found ourselves spending more time and energy on correcting/clarifying things that had been 'scheduled' for us than anything else.
Hope others find this helpful. We will from this point on NOT leverage a travel agent and be organizing our own travel based on this experience.
TRAVEL COMPANY COMMENTS:
Thank you for providing your feedback regarding your trip to Bali. I do appreciate that you are savvy and well travelled, as are most of my clients. I sincerely apologize for any disappointment during the planning process or while on your trip. I will take your feedback into consideration, as this is a collaboration and I am happy to work to improve my services. The itinerary is selected with your feedback, including the hotels. For your time in Ubud, you mentioned a hotel as one of the hotels you liked. I also recommended this particular hotel, and since it fit the overall plan, it was natural to include. Before choosing the other small, boutique hotels in Canggu and Pemuteran, we were thorough in our consideration of a number of other areas in Bali and Lombok. Pemuteran fit your interests of fishing and hiking to waterfalls en route. As you did not mention these hotels / areas of your itinerary, I do hope you enjoyed them as your home bases. I was glad to hear as well that you appreciated I selected a guide who was able to accommodate your requests. At the end of your itinerary, a detailed list of which items were included in the total cost was included. As mentioned, you created a chart format for these items, and it did match with the inclusions for any daily touring, transfers, and activities. A page of hotel contact numbers and dates was also included, to leave with family or anyone else that may have needed to contact you. The restaurant with buffet lunch near Besakih temple (where we had arranged a blessing ceremony for you) was chosen mainly for it’s exquisite views of the rice terraces. This isolated area near Mt. Agung does not have any of the gourmet or ‘foodie’ options you’ll find in Ubud or the south. While I did mention several restaurants in Ubud that were enjoyed by some recent clients, they were listed as suggestions for you to explore on your own, rather than as meals that were included in the cost of your itinerary. I apologize if you thought that meant I was booking these as dinner reservations (which would require your credit card information to confirm). This was a misunderstanding, and I apologize for not being clearer in my communications with you. When I did realize later on that there was a trendy restaurant you wanted to try, I did contact them to add you on the wait list. Going forward, I will improve upon my communications by specifically checking in advance to see if there is one special restaurant that I could help make reservations for. Since the final trip cost was quite close to the cost we discussed while developing the itinerary, I had not realized there were further questions on the cost until this came up when your final payment was due. I am sorry for any misunderstanding regarding either cost or what would be expected for a customized trip. It’s true that a trip may be done for less on one’s own, even possibly with adding a day or two, but this can vary. It would not be the same as a customized experience, with your itinerary coordinated locally and the same driver / guide throughout. I owe you an apology for not continuing to discuss this until it was clear and understood to your satisfaction. I understand as well that my emails and itineraries can occasionally be wordy; I have been working to improve this and will continue to do so. Thank you for your direct and candid feedback. I will take your comments to heart and work to improve the services offered.
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