A lot of things to say about this company! If you have one thing to take from my review it's: If you want to visit India for the first time then you can definitely hire them.
The service is generally good and they're really helpful but we think some things can be improved so here comes the long version of the review:
We toured north India for 10 days in mid-nov 2018 (Delhi,Agra,Fatehpur Sikri (on the road to Jaipur), Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ranakpur (on the road to Udaipur) and Udaipur).
1) BOOKING: VERY GOOD
We found the company on Tripadvisor highly rated. Our main contact was Dinesh. Compared to other companies, he did not harass us every day with messages to hard sell us their services. He answered our questions and helped us tailor our trip. He added some suggestions along the several exchanges we had (13) and never pushed us to choose anything.
Once the trip proposed was finalized, we had several hotel options on which the price depended (3, 4 or 5 stars hotels). We chose the 4 stars, driver and tour guides for each city.
2) HOTELS: GOOD
Let's say that before approving the last proposition of the company we searched for each hotel ratings in booking.com and tripadvisor.
On the 5 hotels, only one was bad rated : the Picadilly hotel in Delhi (rated 5.8). We didn't want to take it and asked Dinesh to change it but he assured us that he never had any complains from his previous customers.. well let's just say that (as always and based on our experience) booking.com rarely get it wrong. The hotel was bad, really...the bathroom was not clean at all even if the bedroom was well maintained, the service was slow, the receptionists were not nice enough and the cuisine wasn't a plus even if it was a buffet. Plus, as they rent their space for weddings (with the noise that goes with it) you can notice that regular customers are not their priority . I would not advise to choose it even if it is 3 seconds from the metro station.
The other hotels were good, the service great and the rooms really nice. A special mention for Jodhpur and Udaipur hotels: really charming and beautifully set. A really good memory of those and their service.
3) DRIVER: GOOD
Santos was great. Very helpful.. always on time and funny.
He helped us checking in hotels, gave us some advice along the journey and was very patient regarding any of our queries.
Unfortunately he had a personal matter to take care of 3 days before the end of our trip so the tour team had to hire another company driver. This one did not speak english at all which would not have been a problem if he was helpful. We had the impression that he cared more about his car than about giving us a proper ride. He was driving quite dangerously (phone, speed limit, you name it..) and his manners were not aligned to the level of service expected. He was replaced once we called the agency about him for our last day with Hashish who was perfect and managed to get us on time at the airport even if there was an incident on the road that stopped the traffic to the airport. He found a small road that was not even in the GPS to bypass the issue and get us to destination with enough time ahead of us to take a coffee. We also found great that our drivers were always in contact with the agency persons who made sure to follow every step of our trip and to make sure that we were happy and that the service met our expectations. Which lead to the next point.
4) THE AGENCY REACTIVITY: VERY GOOD
We had 3 issues during our trip and we must say that Dinech and his team... were really helpful.
First: our hotel in Jodhpur wasn't the one we agreed on. When we arrived, we found that Dinesh changed our booking. My husband was not happy about that because first they did not tell us about this before hand even if they assured us that we were upgraded. Then, as the hotel was new the gym was not finished yet. My husband who likes to exercise everyday had made sure before we agreed on the price to check that the first days of the trip would be in hotels where he could work out. It can seem a detail which it is undoubtedly but still.. when you pay and agree on a prestation you do not like it changed without notice.
The agency apologized, explained that there has been a problem in the booking and offered us a dinner in any city of our choice for the next days.
That was nice but what made us happy was not the dinner really but their reactivity when we tried to reach them, the fact that they apologized without trying to avoid the problem and that they also tried to see if we wanted to change the hotel for the next day which was not an option (tiring and in fact apart from the missing gym the hotel was ok)
The second problem, the guide in Pushkar. It was a holy day and there were a lot of pilgrims that day which is quite normal. Our problem was that as soon as we arrived the guide was more like "there are a lot of pilgrims.. it will be difficult to visit. Are u sure u want to do that? I do not know, if i were you maybe i'll think about it... etc.." and we really did not feel that he wanted to show us anything. I mean if you are a guide of a holy city and you know in advance that you'll have tourists coming you can clearly prepare yourself to welcome them and maybe not show them the places where it is really crowded and where they can be a bother for the pilgrims but show them something else like the camel fare and the city as a hole as well as the bazaar etc, you can also just talk about the history of the religion, why people are coming from all the regions around on that week.. bref, you can do your job and adapt as nor the holy week nor the tourists were a surprise in your program.
Maybe you are thinking, you should have told him so.Yes, we could have but we did not want to insist with someone who did not seem really into it and as we did not want to force him to go in what he called the craziness.. knowing that anyway he was clear about the fact that we will go there alone.. so why go in one of the biggest temple of a holy city on a holy day without someone to explain to us everything we see .. we would only have been a bother to the people who were there for spiritual reasons. We did not feel that it was right.. again just a personal opinion but really we think he could have been more prepared instead of just insisting on us keeping our money safe like 5 times and that there are a lot of people like 20 times and that it is not a good day like 50 times.. i wanted to say so why did u bother coming? But as the driver saw us coming back after 10 min, he called the agency who asked him to drive around the camel fair so we can see something.. that was again a good and nice reaction.
The third problem was the crazy driver but as said above they changed it as soon as we called them explaining all the problems we faced with him (in less than 8 hours..the problems)
5) THE TOUR GUIDES: AVERAGE for History lovers.
If you love History and know how to read, you do not need tour guides in each city.
Some of them don't give you more information than what you can read in the different tourist docs in the museums and monuments. Plus you have to tip them every time for non adding value for some of them.
I think that the one that we really liked were the ones that in our opinion had an added value for us as tourists (Daljit in Delhi... he was really passionate about how the different religions were coexisting in the city. We visited the sikh temple he loved the most and he was passionate about it . We spent the day with him and he showed us almost everything we wanted to see. Dilip and Kuldeep in Jaipur and Jodhpur were really friendly and knowledgeable. Ali in Fatehpur sikri was funny and had a lot of Bollywood anecdotes to share. Those were the more knowledgeable and they seemed to love their job hence they were the one we tipped the most without thinking twice.
Pushkar in Udaipur was helpful as he saved us some time (as did the others but again in Udaipur we did a lot of walking vs the other cities where the driver dropped us directly in front of the monuments/museums). And we think that this was his plus as a tour guide.
6) TIPS & COST: GOOD
I feel that globally the price was fair. But you have to include the tips in your equation. We live in the UK but we are Moroccans so we did tip using our Moroccan insight as our country is quite touristic and we know that the advised tip is usually proposed using an European scale which is really really high vs the local one. The paper we received at our arrival advised us to give globally between 700 and 1000 roupies of tip depending on if it is a guide or a driver and you have to multiply that by the number of days you spend with the person. We did not follow that advice as we found it (and this is just a personal opinion) irrelevant. A tip should be calculated depending on your personal financial mean, the quality over time of the service you've been provided and the average wage in the country you visit unless of course the tips are officially stated like in London where it is generally 12.5% in restaurants etc... As we think that a tip should not be a wage.
We did tip the tourist guides between 200 and 1100 roupies depending on the quality of the service provided and we did feel this was fair as we did not like the idea of tipping when the service was not good (the guide in Pushkar city cf above).
We tipped the drivers higher as it was a multiple day service. We tipped every time and always at the end of the service respecting the customs.
Do not hesitate to ask us for the prices if needed. We will be happy to answer that in private.
Well that was a long comment but we wanted to tell what we would have liked to know.. hope it was helpful! And good trip to India 😊
Again, we advise you to go with Ecstatic India Tours/ Heritage India Tour and travels!