Tag Archives: Goa

Right Answers to Right Questions: Things to ask Travel Operators

In a continuing effort to bring our clients more close to us and stay put to our policy of transparency, openness and accountability we have compiled a list of 10 posers that you must know from us at IndiaHotelReview.com or for that matter from any online travel agency/travel agent online or otherwise. Asking these right questions before undertaking a travel can save you money and remorse. Here are they.

The total cost of the package: The package part can be fragmented to include the following. (a) Does the quoted price include taxes and surcharges? (b) Whether booking fee for components like tickets (air/train) is applicable separately instead of just single fee for the complete package(c) for payments made through credit cards is there any transaction charge applicable. (d) For any modification / cancellation of the plan is there a fee applicable.

Our take: Let’s come to the answers one by one. (A) Make sure that your travel agent specifies this explicitly. At IHR, currently the packages we sell are inclusive of all the applicable taxes and surcharges including Luxury Tax, Service Tax et al. You need not pay a single penny to any hotel for the inclusions in the package. There are no hidden “T & C” applicable in our packages. (B) Since we specialize in hotel bookings and packages anything extra like airline ticketing or train ticket reservation will be extra over and above the package price currently. (C) Though we have to make a payment of around 2.25% to the payment gateways for processing each transaction through credit card payments but we do not charge any additional transaction fees from our clients. (D) Yes we do charge clients for any modification or cancellation of the original package plan this is currently Rs 250 per modification.

Reading the fine prints: Often overlooked but the following innocuous teasers can seriously impact your travel itinerary, (a) How near is near? (b) Whether entrance fees needs to be paid for the tourist spots in sightseeing.

Our take: This is an area where there is a lot of misinterpretation of facts indulged in by the online travel agents. As an informed traveler you must be aware of these trappings and learn to pose straight questions.
(A) For example take the case of Coastal places. There is a tendency among the agents to pass every property as “on the beach”. “On the beach” essentially means that as you step out of your hotel you are on the beach. This is available only for a few hotels at choicest locations in India like Goa and that too for a few luxury properties. So for a place like say Pondicherry “on the beach” actually means that the property might be beach facing. This is typically a problem associated with every garden/hill/valley facing hotel accommodation.
Another example can be given is for a place like Haridwar. Suppose your package says “Hotel located near Ganga” On actually reaching the place you find the property is actually 5 km away from one of the Ghat. Instead it would have made lot of sense if it had said near “Har Ki Pauri”as it is in close proximity to Ganga. Nearness can be misleading, especially if you are traveling with senior citizens and children. Starting from 500 meters, 1 km to 5 km “nearness is taken for a toss. You must ask specifically for the exact distance or a landmark.
(B) In the IHR packages the fees for entrance to attractions wherever applicable depends on the location and your request. For example say for Corbett wildlife packages the cost of arranging Safari or angling is included in few of the packages or for example the cost of arranging for the permits to access Nathula pass in Sikkim tour. However we do not include the cost of entrance fees for a visit to say a Museum or art gallery until and unless requested by the client.

Price plan of the Package: Do the packages follow a transparent pricing plan. (a) Can the customer get a break up price of the packages (b) Is choice of hotels allowed
Our take: IHR follows a transparent pricing plan. There is transparency in the sense that we strictly follow a “what you see that you pay” kind of structure in our packages. These are all inclusive packages with no additional charges. We do not follow opaque pricing. Now to the questions (A) we do give the exact breakups of different heads that makeup our packages if asked for by the client while booking. It generally consists of the following heads. i. Pickup and drop from station or airport (wherever applicable), ii. Cab for local sightseeing available on disposable our hourly basis and accommodation (B) While booking the properties we give the customer a choice of property among 3 or 4 hotels, once booked it then cannot be altered.
Dealing with the meals: Food plays an important role in the travel plans it can make or mar your travel. Do not forget to ask your travel operator the following questions. (a) Is there a choice between a buffet and a ala carte( b) Is the religious/regional preferences taken care of. (c) In modified American plan, can one switch meals at one’s will?
Our take: (A) Unless it’s a star property specifically 2 star and above Buffet meals are not viable. These too depends on factors like seasons, capacity etc. So in most cases if meals are included it’s a la carte with a restriction on number of dishes and quantity in accordance with average diet.
(B) You must ask clearly to your operator about the religious/regional preferences. Competitive pricing of the hotel mostly does not allow non-veg food. For budget hotels it is mostly vegetarian meals that are provided.In religious places depending upon the preference Jain/Gujarati Thalis can generally be arranged. However you have to put forth your preferences within a reasonable time. (C) Let’s understand the meal plan of hotels first. Essentially there are 4 types of plans. In the American plan or AP 3 meals are offered –breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the Modified American Plan or MAP along with a breakfast there is a choice between lunch and dinner. The 3rd plan is the continental pan or CP where only breakfast is provided. Last is the European plan this is most common with no meals provided.
Now coming to modified American plan as there is a choice between lunch and dinner but switching meals at one’s discretion is generally not advised. This is because most of the hotels especially smaller ones operate with a lot of constraints like, seasonal demands, veg/non-veg preferences of the guests, time needed for preparation. So unless it’s a very big/busy hotel advance information is must. Chances are there that popular Hotels with more footfalls may handle your last minute requests of meals.

On Sightseeing: This is an area where there is much confusion and a source of potential trouble brewing between the customer and the travel agent. Some questions that arise include (a)What is type of cab offered (b) Is there a choice of places that one can see (c) Are AC cabs available for sightseeing (d) Is there any guide to assist in local sight seeing.
Our Take: (A) Cabs play decisive role in traveling, FYI cabs are available on disposal basis and cabs on km and hourly basis. (B) IHR generally follows the trend of including the most popular options in local sightseeing. These range from the most attractive places. Again, if a customer has given us his preferences beforehand we can consider that also depending on the cost and time factor. Things like location, weather, season and local conditions may play crucial role in the choices. (C) Choice is available for ac/ non ac cars which you need to specify, however for a hill station non ac cars are provided as a thumb rule and air conditioned cabs can be arranged only on special requests (D) Due to constraint of seating capacity of the vehicle and cost, the chauffeur generally doubles up as a guide.
Emergencies and Refunds: (a) Is there anyone to call incase of emergencies (b) No. of days to get refunds
Our Take: (A) We do provide local contact number of the Hotels/ Cab persons whom you can call on emergencies besides we are available 6 days week from 10- 7 pm.(B) The terms and condition of refund is mentioned in the voucher again depending on season the refund process can take additional time.

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Luxury Tax: Lets not ignore the fine prints

When was the last time you were out for a vacation or business? Strong chances are you are already traveling and reading this post on your laptop. Have you ever taken note of a small but mighty thing printed innocuously on one small corner of your hotel Bill? Perhaps you haven’t. You are not alone as tourist fraternity does not give this a thought and only when you have to loosen the purse string an entity called “Luxury Tax” start biting you. It is this tax that sometimes keeps one of your favourite hotel or destinations out of your budget.

Let’s understand what a luxury tax is. Luxury Tax is a tax that is levied by most of the state governments (not all) to fill their coffers at the expense of you and me. And the funniest part is, you have to pay it actually on the official tariff of the room where you had put up. Take a hypothetical situation consider you are on a holiday, say at Ooty and the Hotelwallahs happily gave you a discount of 20 % on the rack rate. The rack rate is the one that is mentioned on the reception and the usual official rate. Supposing accommodation you chose was for Rs 1500 and the reception lady smilingly gave you the room for 1200, a 20% discount as it was off-season. You felt on top of the world to strike a good bargain in the hard times.

Now when it is the time to say adieu and pay the bills you are up for a rude jolt. You find that on the bill a 14% luxury tax has been levied and that too upon the rack rate which in this example was Rs1500.

Furious with anger at the thought of being cheated, you start haggling. Alas, not much headway could be made and you have to pay the tax of 14 % as applicable for hotels in Karnataka on the rack rate.

Coughing the extra amount you felt helpless and started cursing the agency which booked your hotel or the hotel owners. Little did you realize that the LT not only irks the ordinary travelers but is adding to the woes of hoteliers and the travel agents. Hit by recession and terror the hospitality industry is facing a lull, the luxury tax is not making it any easier. Most of the time we at IHR have to face a not so amused client venting his ire at the exorbitant Luxury Tax after the holiday is over.

Luxury Tax is something which varies in India from 5 to as high as 25%. Let’s see which states of “Incredible India” are the worst offenders. In the South the charge is led by Kerala with a whopping 15 % slap of Luxury Tax and then it is Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with 12.50 %, Andhra fares better with a somehow moderate 5 %.

Gateway to north, the capital Delhi fares worst with a levy of 12.5 % on room rents above 1000. Himachal and Rajasthan the two most oft visited tourist destination taxes @ 10%. UP with the Taj Mahal and Uttarakhand is better not only in terms of attractions but also light on your pocket with 5%.

Coming to the west and Central India Maharashtra and MP leads the brigade with 10 % , while Gujarat it seems is not only a good destination for investors it is tourist friendly too with only 4 % as Luxury Tax. In Matheran, a lovely hill station 80 km east of Mumbai inaddition to 10 % luxury tax charges another 5 percent as service charges.

On the eastern front Orissa, Bihar and Bengal does not make life easier for visitors with a 10% LT. Finally the North Eastern States, one had seriously hoped that the State Governments to be as friendly and simple as the local people. Putting all hopes to water the onslaught is led by Asaam, the gateway to the seven sisters of NE with a luxury tax of 20 %. The situation becomes additionally worse in Guwahati with a levy of another 5 % as service charges.

By this time you might feel suffocated under a “burden of statistics” Hold on! After all our intention is not to hurt you or mar your vacations. There is something to cheer about also. The Union territories are not only scenic and make a nice vacation but they are not heavy on your purse also. So Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands have not yet thought of burdening the tourists. They do not have a LT. One exception among the states is the vivacious Goa where good sense prevails and the tourists breathe easy without luxury tax.

The union Government must do something to cap the LT at an uniform rate at all the states. Till that time ignoring the one in fine print can….

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

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12 Escapades into the Konkan Coastline

Escapades into Konkani Territory

Escapades into Konkani Territory

Mumbai to Goa the 582 Km long route with vast coastline on the west and hills in the east is truly a fantastic experience. A journey along the NH17 into the Konkan country is nothing but a self discovery. Infact getting off the highway at periodic intervals and taking detours through state highways, village roads towards the scenic coastline of Arabian Sea is a mission in discovering spectacular virgin beaches, formidable forts of yore, breathtaking sceneries and lot’s more. So be it short or a long weekend, pack your bags and head straight for the Konkan country, this is one journey that you will not easily forget and want to undertake often. Get set and go…..Just one caveat the distances given in the diagram are not to scale.

Alibaug: Gateway to the Konkan Land
Just 113 km from Mumbai and you are into the first stop Alibaug. Alibaug is a perfect concoction of nature, history and religion. Apart from the Alibaug beach with the blackest sand of the region there is the once impregnable Kolaba Fort built by Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj, inside are 2 temples. Then there is Akshi a quiet beach 2 kms away. Nagaon beach is just 7 km from here you can take a boat ride to the twin forts of Khanderi and Undheri.
Kanakeshwar: The Gods in Silence
Kanakeshwar, on the Konkan coast is just 12 km from Alibaug. This is one temple where there is no clamouring, no brokering just peace. The famous old temple of Lord Shiva built in 1764 is the prime attraction here. The temple is atop a hill that is 1200 feet high and one has to take a flight of 700 – 750 steps to reach on top. On the way you will find Nagobacha Tappa and the famous step Devachi Payari. There is also a statue of Nandi, the bull, Brahma Kund and the Maruti Mandir.
Kashid: Mystic Calmness Wedged between the Hills
139 km from Mumbai, Alibaug to Kashid by the coastal state road is an exhilarating journey. The Kashid beach reaching into the seas is not exactly bustling with activities and perhaps that is its forte. Take a casual stroll through Casurina groves and cypress trees and loose yourself by forgetting about mundane life back home. From Kashid you could head for the ruins of the Revdanda Beach fort. This is an old portugese fort overrun by betel nut plantations still a gaping hole made by cannonball fire on the ramparts give a majestic view of the sea. The Korlai Beach and fort is also another nearby attraction from Kashid.
Around 19 km from Kashid is Phansad Bird Sanctuary as you drive inside you will find this place is much more than a bird sanctuary. The sanctuary spread over a 1000 hectares is home to a number of avian species.

Murud- Janjira: The story of the Invincible Fort
167 kilometers from Mumbai you reach the unconquerable fort of the Siddis the Janjira fort. The fort built some 350 years ago remains unconquered to this date despite attempts made by the British, Portuguese and the Marathas under Shivaji and Shambhaji. The attractions of the fort are Kalarbangdi, Gaimukh and Chavdi the huge canons, Bala Killa the central point of the fort.
The Murud Beach with white sands is the other attraction here. Once in Murud you can also visit the nearby Garambi falls just 4 km away.

Shrivardhan: The Birth place of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath
Shrivardhan is 208 km from Mumbai and a 6 hours drive. Beaches, temples, historic monuments galore here. The Shrivardhan beach is long clean with black sands. The beach is not rocky and one can go up to a good distance into the water. Shrivardhan has some nice sightseeing on the outskirts. Just 5 km away from the Shrivardhan is the Kondivili Beach and the Shankar temple. The Kondivili beach is clean and unmarked by footprints. You can also take a look at the residence of Peshwa Baji Rao 1 on the Peshwa Smarak Road, though it is under the control of the local administration.

Harihareshwar: The Dakshin Kashi on the Konkan Coast
Very rarely is there a place in India that inspite of being a pilgrimage centre does not loose its pristine charm. Harihareshwar is one such place an ideal beach resort and an ideal pilgrimage point. The famous landmark here is the Shiva Kalabhairav temple built during the reign of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The next attraction is the tranquil Harihareshwar Beach split into two halves north and south by the Kalbhairav temple complex. Bagmandala just 4 km away is another attraction. By the way, Harihareshwar is 219 km from Mumbai.

Harnai and Anjarle: Konkan’s Best Kept Secrets
Harnai is 280 km from Mumbai. If you are done away with all the silence, the hallmark of the Konkani beaches then perhaps gearing up to frantic activities is not all that bad. Harnai is the epicenter of fishing activities. It is crowded with narrow little lanes. In the evenings as the fishermen return with their catches the place becomes very lively with the auctions on to sell the catch to the highest bidders. Tired with the cacophony of Harnai head straight for Anjarle some 15 kms away. Boats take just 5 minutes to reach. Anjarle Beach is quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Harnai. The place is quiet and it would seem that you are perhaps at your own private beach.
Guhagar: Outliving the ‘Enron’s Dream’
Well, we all heard of Dabhol Power Plant isn’t it, the dream project of Enron and how it vanquished after promising to change the local economy forever. The locals did not change but Guhagar 320 km south of Mumbai certainly became more accessible with smooth roads and better hotels. The entry point to the Guhagar beach has an element of surprise in it. Even if you are on its doorstep you will not realize how big it is. This is because the way to the beach is through narrow lanes, mud houses and finally a thick border of tall trees. All give an effective camouflaging to the Guhagar beach. The beach otherwise is calm and quiet with long stretches of white sand. “Nature at its best” that’s what sums up Guhagar.

Hedvi and Velneshwar: The story of the Beach and Temple
Hedvi and Velneshwar set apart by 5 kilometers are very near to Guhagar and around 370 km south of Mumbai. Both the beaches are fine examples of one-temple-one beach entity. Velneshwar is famous for an old Shiva Temple in the village centre, constructed in typically colourful Konkani folk tradition. However the Beach here is not the place’s USP with filth and squalor around.
Hedvi an hour’s drive from Guhagar is also known for the Beach and a temple. Hedvi Beach is nice, clean and desolated. Coconut trees line the beach. On the beachfront you can relax on the shelters made of dried palm leaves. Finished with the beaches you can head for the famous temple of Lord Ganesh. The temple built during the temple of powerful Peshwas houses the idol of lord Ganesha with ten hands. That is why he is known here as the Dashbhuj Ganesh. In close proximity to the beach is the famous Baman Ghal. It is essentially big fissure in the rock. During high tides, the sea water gushes through it making huge splashes.

Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri: God’s own Beach with history lessons
Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri is around 375 km south of Mumbai and well into the south Konkan territory. If Ganapatipule is all about Lord Ganesha, the affable god of good times, then Ratnagiri is walking down the History lane. Ganpatipule is best known for the Swayambhu Ganapati Temple. The lord Ganesha here is one of the Paschim Dwar devtas. Right outside the temple is the beach. The waters are supposed to be safe for swimming, but be careful. Gapatipiule excels in a number of exciting water sports activities which is a must do here. Do not miss out the fruits and sweets with very Konkani flavour. Jaigad Fort now in ruins 20 kms from Ganpatipule is also a must visit.
Ratnagiri a charming seaside town is just 25 kms from Ganpatipule. Other than the vast expanse of black sandy beach with a backdrop of a 15th century fort, it is famous for Alfonso mangoes, coconuts and jackfruits. If you get turned around by Sun Sea and sand Ratnagiri is the place for you. Mandvi Beach, Pandre Samudra, Bhatye Beach and Ganeshghule just 20 km away is the most beautiful of them all with white sands.
Get your history lessons right with Thibaw’s palace- the palace of the exiled Burmese King, Tilak Ali- the birth place of Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak now turned into a museum. You can also visit the Ratnadurg fort a short 10 minute’s drive, though now only in ruins still offers some peek into the past.

Devgad and Kunkeshwar: Gods love Mangoes
Kunkeshwar and the small detour to Devgad is all about Temple, fort, Beaches and the world famous picture perfect Hapus mango orchards.
Kunkeshwar is around 500 kilometers south of Mumbai. The main attraction here is the gorgeous temple of lord Shiva once worshipped by Shivaji Maharaj. The Temple stands majestically on the heavenly beach supposed to have been built by an Arab Muslim in gratitude. The beach clean and clear of any signs of habitat for miles is all yours to grab. The vast expense of the white sand, emerald waters of Arabian Sea with the backdrop of green hills in the east you will fall in love with Kunkeshwar. Devgad just 27 km from Kunkeshwar offers more sightseeings with temples fort and beach and the mangoes- as much as you can.
Devgad literally means the house of god and true to the name the place is lined with up with many temples. The Gajbadevi and Vimleshwar Shiva are the big temples of the place attracting a sizeable number of devotees. The Devgad beach is yet another beach from the storehouse of Konkani coastline offering some moments of solitude. You could spot the windmills in action from the beach. Just south of Devgad, blue waters of clean Tara Mumbri Beach is another attraction. If you are in the mango season get ready to be treated by the king of Fruits, mango. Devgad’s Hapus or Alphoso mangoes are renowned all over the world for sweetness and meaty pulp. By seeing the neat rows of Mango Orchards of Devgad it is hard to resist the temptation of plucking one. Another nearby attraction is Vijaydurg fort and beach.

Malvan and Tarkarli: Jewel in the crown of Sindhudurg
Malvan is around 540 km south of Mumbai and is part of the Sindhudurg district the southernmost part of Maharashtra. The whole area of the place still reverberates with the heroics and valour of the great Maratha – Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The virgin beaches and rows of coconut palms are there to be grasped with both the hands. The main attraction here is the Shivaji’s own Sindhudurg fort that is built on Kurte Island. One of the prime attractions of the fort is the foot and hand imprints of Shivaji Maharaj and the Shree Shivchhatrapati temple. Malvan Beach is one of the active Beaches in the Konkan region with good number of food joints and a bar. Malvan beach is not your typical place to unwind and chill but remains the most easily accessible beach. Other notable beaches in the area include Chivra Beach, Achara Beach (22km north of Malvan) and Tondavali Beach (19km North of Malvan)

Tarkarli beach is around 6 kms from Malvan and can be easily termed as the little heaven by the sea. The white beach and the gentle clean waters would coax you to frolicking. Along with the beach, there a few coastal villages those worth a visit. So laze around, bask in the sun and enjoy Malvani cuisine.

Vengurla: The last of the unspoiled Paradises.
Lying at the foot of a green, crescent ridge, Vengurla 550 km south of Mumbai is our last destination. The state of Goa is very near to this place.
Besides the Sagareshwar beach, Vengurla is replete with historical forts, very old temples and quiet villages. Shri Sateri Devi Mandir and Shri Vithoba Temple are located at the village of Aravali some 10 kms away. Taking an early morning walk in the Casaurina- framed Sagareshwar beach is a heavenly experience.
Lighthouse perched on the hill overlooking the jetty should be your next stop .It offers a splendid view from the top. Vengurla Rocks or Burnt Islands, the fruit research center and the cashew factories of the area should be your next stops.

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