In May, Sodha Travel started planning a customized tour for Jack Haggin and his wife, Ella. Like many worldwide travelers, Jack first referred to the internet and guide books when planning a 3-week trip from Delhi - Rajasthan. However, he started to become overwhelmed at the options and contacted us for assistance. Jack had already booked certain accommodations and day tours online, and we stepped in to coordinate the additional services.
During our conversations, I learned of where Jack and Ella had independently reserved their hotel accommodations in Delhi and Agra. I expressed my concerns, as these properties were very poorly ranked in my files in regards to security and sanitation. Also, the hotel in Delhi was not centrally located, which was important to Ella. However, the guest house came highly ranked in a popular guide book, and he decided to keep the reservations. I was also concerned about the local transport company he had confirmed through the hotel, but he felt if there were any serious issues, the hotel would reimburse his money.
Jack and Ella returned from India in mid-October, and last week I received the following email from Jack. It is reposted with his permission:
Wow, where to start. India was a spectacular country. The colors, the people, the food, the history, and the architecture were mind blowing. It was unfortunate that I missed so many of the positive elements of India the first week of our trip, due to the incompetence of our vendors that I had reserved online. Our hotels in Delhi and Agra were not clean, as you had professionally indicated in an early phone call. We even had bugs in our room in Agra. Lots of bugs. The day tours had "guides" that I seriously question were even guides?? Their clothes were not clean, they asked for money for meals and made us wait in line at the sites. Then there were the vehicles. Our car had no A/C, torn upholstery, and a funky smell. And then our car broke down en-route from Delhi - Agra. We had to wait over four hours until a replacement vehicle was sent, trying to communicate with a driver who spoke no English. To top it off, the hotel would not refund our money for these services. The hotel manager said it was their policy and written in the contract, though we never signed a contract!
Then, as you know, our services started with Sodha Travel. The representative arrived at our hotel to transfer us to the railway station in Agra for our train to Jaipur. He was on time, well dressed, and communicated clearly. The vehicle was clean and the driver was polite. And the good things kept on coming - our hotels and havelis in Rajasthan were just beautiful. The cars were well maintained and the tour guides were knowledgeable on everything regarding the destination. Each representative and guide was on time and it all flowed so easily. It allowed Ella and me to relax and enjoy our surroundings, which is what we are ultimately supposed to do on vacation! They also gave us restaurant recommendations and helped us barter in the markets.
Please keep my email and feel free to share it with other travelers who are considering booking services independently in India. My wife and I have traveled all over the world, including Chile, Bolivia, Morocco, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and many countries in Europe and Latin America. As wonderful as India is, I would not consider it easy to navigate without professional advice and assistance. This is also not to say that my experience should be used as an example for all travelers, as I am certain many people have had good experiences in India when not using a specialized travel agency. But I really, really encourage people to think about what experiences they could be missing out on by trusting the internet and guide books for their information. Don't risk it. If I could do it again, I wouldn't think twice about calling Sodha Travel to plan every detail of my trip. Your team was very professional and reliable and such a relief to Ella and myself, in more ways than words can say.