We are a retired couple from the USA in our late 60s. We recently returned from a fantastic five-week tour of India and Bhutan (four weeks in India followed by a week in Bhutan) arranged through this agency, a truly first-rate company. Our travel planner had assured us that our tour would be the "trip of a lifetime," and we were not disappointed. We are veteran travelers and usually tour on our own (renting a car) in Europe–and even in Japan. Our instinct was that we should not attempt this in India–and we were certainly right.
We began our search for a tour company by looking at small-group tours, but these did not offer the length of stay we had in mind. Figuring this would likely be our one trip to India, we wanted to spend at least four weeks and to include as many destinations as possible. We also had the idea of extending the trip by an additional week in Bhutan, since relatives had been there and loved it.
We soon discovered that there are a number of companies offering personalized tours for individuals or small family groups, and that such individual tours are the preferred way to tour India. Having surveyed a number of such luxury tour providers online, we selected three of the top companies and solicited proposals for a three- to four-week tour of India hitting as many of the must-see destinations as possible. We then studied the proposals and followed up with lengthy phone conversations with representatives of the three companies, including our travel planner.
Through this process (which required a good deal of study and work on our part), this travel company emerged as far and away the best choice. First, their pricing was considerably lower than the others. Equally important, of the three company representatives we interviewed, our travel planner was the only one who truly listened and understood our travel style and what we wished to accomplish. He has far-reaching expertise of the many varied destinations in India and helped us put together an itinerary that was ambitious in its pace but not exhausting. He rightly advised allowing sufficient time at each destination to relax as well as to cover all the major sites. He was also attuned to our budgetary concerns and helped us to tailor a selection of hotels that kept expenses under control without sacrificing quality or style.
One advantage of our selection process was that it helped us become aware of the breadth of possible destinations in touring India, since each proposal contained at least two or three suggested destinations that weren't mentioned in the others. Having a list of recommended destinations was a boon in narrowing the focus of our study of the vast amount of information online and in travel guides. We were thus able to sort through the possibilities and select those that were most interesting to us. We worked with our travel planner to expand the itinerary he had proposed to include such places as Ranthambore and Madurai, as well as the one-week extension in Bhutan at the end.
After we signed on with this travel company, we remained in contact with our planner, working out numerous details regarding hotels, internal flights, and the like. We conferred mainly by email, but occasionally talked by phone to discuss more complex matters. Throughout, he was always responsive. We were very concerned about setting the specific dates of our travel, since we wanted to be in Punakha, Bhutan for a festival in early March. This was not easy, since the dates of that festival were not yet firm. Our travel planner called contacts in Bhutan to make sure that we would likely be in Punakha on the right dates (and we were). He recommended a mix of premium and luxury hotels that he felt would offer a special experience (and they did). He took care of booking our seats on the internal flights. He tweaked our itinerary at the last minute to include visits to museums and other sites that we had read about and wanted to see.
This travel company's mission is that their clients "experience destinations rather than visiting them," and certainly our tour was rich in personal experiences that made us feel a true connection with Indian culture. The excellent guides and drivers are essential to this experience. All the guides were fluent in English and very knowledgeable about history, culture, and current events (both in India and the USA). We felt we were able to get to know them personally, and we were particularly fascinated by the variety of people who served as our guides. They represented a range of ages, ethnicities, educational and professional backgrounds, political and philosophical viewpoints, and even genders (one guide was female). Getting their takes on people, places, and events offered a real cross-section of society. And we had the feeling that most of our guides enjoyed getting to know us as well. We didn't get to know most of our drivers so well, since they generally spoke less English. On two extended segments of our tour, however, our drivers served as guides as we traveled around a region. This worked well, and we developed a special bond with them. The guides and drivers were consistently attentive to our needs and adapted readily to our interests and touring style (frequent stops for photo ops was a must!). It was always easy to fine-tune the daily plan (to include a particular site, activity, or restaurant, for instance).
A particularly invaluable aspect of the the travel company's tour is that a company representative is at the airport or station to meet clients upon arrival at each destination to assist with luggage and transportation to the hotel. Similarly, at departure the company representative is there to assist at the station with boarding trains, or at the airport with passing through security and checking in for flights–often a complicated process. This service worked nearly flawlessly. Just once there was a glitch when we had trouble finding the travel company representative upon arrival. I simply called our planner (who picked up instantly), and he put us together with the representative within a matter of minutes.
Just a word on the hotels: For budgetary reasons, we had selected a mix of four-and five-star hotels. All were truly fine, and some were spectacular. This travel company has great knowledge of hotels across India, and those they offer their clients are integral to the experience. In certain instances, our travel planner steered us to a particular hotel that he thought was special and worth the extra money–and he was right in every case.
We fell in love with India–and Bhutan as well. When we planned the tour we thought it would be our single trip to that region. In thirty-three days we covered an amazing number of important and unique destinations. We now realize, however, that India is a huge, immensely varied country and that there is so much more for us to experience. We may very well make a return trip. If we do, we will certainly book our tour with this company. This great company offers its clients excellent personalized tours at a price that, considering the exceptional quality of the services, is remarkably fair.
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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