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.