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My experience hiring a car and driver

Charlotte, North...
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26 posts
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My experience hiring a car and driver

We had made all the arrangements for hotels, houseboat and car for our 10 day tour of Kerala almost 2 months ago. I used Deepak Dayanandan to arrange the car and houseboat. Deepak is listed as a "destination expert", is a frequent poster here, and was highly recommended.

Unfortunately, Deepak has been absent here since January 7th, and we could not reach him to reconfirm the arrangements. We then booked a houseboat directly with Spice Routes, and with great trepidation we used Silver Lake Tourist & Travelers to book an SUV and requested an English speaking driver. Shina, from Silver Lake posts often on this forum. She gave us a competitive price for a Mahindra Xylo SUV for our 10 day trip including a flat rate for the use of the vehicle without limits on mileage.

Shina contacted me several times before we reached Cochin. Upon landing at the Cochin airport, we were met by a representative and the driver. The SUV was almost new as promised, and the driver said he spoke English. All seemed well as we drive off to the Trident Hotel, an hour away.

It became apparent that communication was going to be an issue as the driver, was having a hard time understanding me and responding. Upon reaching our hotel at 10 pm, I called Shina who answered promptly. I explained my concerns to her and she said she would call me back. Ten minutes later she called me and promised me a new, highly experienced driver the next morning.

The driver arrived promptly, and he spoke excellent English. In addition, he is a safe driver and knows the routes well. We set off to Munnar and have spent 2 days in Munnar so far. Hanish, our driver, is also a great tour guide and suggests our itinerary for the day. Shina also called me the evening that we arrived at Munnar to make sure we were happy. Her parting words were "call me if you have ANY problems".

We could not be happier with how this turned out. Issues are likely to occur, but it takes a good company to promptly make corrections. I would not hesitate to recommend Silver Lake to others - I often see posts of people looking for advice on car/drivers, and I would suggest they get in touch with Shina who posts here as "silverlake16".

I am going to post a trip report in several parts in the coming days.

Kochi (Cochin...
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1. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Dear Sir,

I and my team would like to Extend our sincere Gratitude

for the Report.Our team is committed to offer the best service to our Cherished Guests with the aim of making their holiday a memorable

Experience,

Thanx,

shina

Edited: 5:37 am, February 11, 2011
Charlotte, North...
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26 posts
28 reviews
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2. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

I have to update this post as we have now had the car and driver for a total of 6 days.

We are not as thrilled as we were earlier due to three issues on an otherwise good experience so far:

(1) On our second, and last day at Thekkady, we were asked by our driver if he could take some time to go visit his mother who lived 35 km - an hour bus ride - away. We were a little irritated to be put on the spot, but agreed that he could leave at 1 but we insisted he be back by 7 as we wanted to go out for dinner into town. He texted at 7 that he would not be returning until 9 but that he had made arrangements for another driver to take us to dinner. Although we did not miss our dinner, we did not like being put in this spot, as well his lack of gratitude by not sticking to the timeline. It also left us without a car for impromptu outings for several hours. We have half a mind to not pay for half a days car rental.

(2) We drove the next day from Thekkady to Allepey and got on our houseboat. The car was to be waiting for us when we checkout out of the houseboat the next morning.

I texted the driver at 7:30 am that he should meet us at 9. When we got off the boat, our luggage was carried to the end of the driveway and there was no car. Upon calling him, he said he would be there at 10 as that is when most houseboats end their trip! When I asked him if he got my text, he said yes but that he was at the mosque and could not come until 10. I called and spoke to Shina, and although extremely apologetic, she was helpless to do anything. We waited in the sun as we did not want to leave our luggage unattended.

(3) My arrangement with Silver lake was to pay 50% up front, and 50% at the end. After arriving late to pick us from the houseboat, the driver's first words were " Sir, give me 1500 rupees". When I asked why, he said he had some routine servicing done to the vehicle while we were away on the houseboat and needed to pay the garage. A person was waiting in an autorickshaw for payment. Although we did not mind paying, it should not be our responsibility to carry enough cash for fuel, etc. Sure enough, on the drive from Allepey to Kovalam, he asked us for another 500 rupees - 400 for diesel, and 100 for his expenses for the next 2 days. Incidentally, I had given him 800 rupees in Thekkady as his "batta" (daily tip for living expenses), which he obviously used up perhaps when he went home.

We would still recommend Silver Lake, but next time we would be very careful about making sure that the driver had enough money for fuel and incidentals, and make sure he was told about the need to be punctual, and we would absolutely not give him time off.

3. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

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Removed on: 2:05 am, March 12, 2011
Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Sad to hear about the bad experience you had.

I had recently used the cab operated by Blue Bird Travels. They seemed to quite clear on the terms and conditions..

I had booked the cab for 6 days and they told me that I could use the cab up to 1200 kmts.. I`m very much satisfied with their service and they had assigned me a excellent driver Mr. Abhilash. We had an handbook on Kerala and he drove us around all the places for sightseeing wherever we asked him to go. He was polite and most importantly on time always..

As I stayed at Gateway Hotel, Kochi I went into their office and booked the cab.. I would never forget the hospitality offered by Mr. Jayaram and Mr. Rakesh at their office..

I would recommend their service without any hesitation.

Cheers,

Jas

Kochi (Cochin...
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5. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Hai ,

A very sad report straight from one of my driver who has to face Threatenings from mr.mehtha that he will post bad reports about us & the driver in the Trip Advisor.This happened in the last two days when he was in kovalam because we had asked extra charge for travelling to kanyakumari or Varkala which was not in his itenarary.

The day from cochin where the journey started we newer kept any limitations and given a verygood service providing him a New Suv and a driver/guide.

The Hotel they booked was in Chinnakanal(17 kms away from munnar) and stayed there for three days and travelled daily 3-4 times to Munnar town insearch of restaurants and checking their ‘MENUS’.The driver took them until topstation Via mattupetty,echopoint,kundaladam etc where he was not intrested to either get down from the vehicle to enjoy the beauties.In Thekkady Driver adviced them to go to the Boating which is the main attraction at Thekkady and driver himself got the ticket standing in the long Q from early morning 5.15 .At Allepey the checkout time informed was 10 Am,The driver reached their at 9.45 am and after reaching Kovalam,

Without going to the Kovalam beach they wanted to go to Varkala Beach (which he had mentioned as a local attraction(65 kms) in his above report )which was a very big surprise to Me.On The way The driver showed him the way to the Varkala beach and he didn’t asked to have a look.Inspite of Giving him all the informations about the places of visit and taking him to all the palces he suggested, The last two days he Threaten the driver about reporting badly in Trip advisor and cutting his bata if he doesnt go to Varkala or Kanyakumari which was not included in the itenarary.The Three days he stayed at the hotel in Kovalam without visiting the Kovalam Beach,instead Browsing the restaurants and checking their ‘MENUS’ at Trivandrum 3-4 times daily which ends up in late night everyday and also having a night trip covering the total town.He will not be able to write a good trip report as we can see it clearly on his reports as he has not Visited the places. The Trip Of Mr.Mehtha could be called as a 'COOKERY TRIP' in search of the “MENUS” at different Restaurants in Munnar,Thekkady,Alleppey & Trivandrum.

Dear Sir.I am not here to Threaten anybody using Trip advisor nor to solicit any kind of business, Just give some replies and suggestions with my little knowledge about Kerala as a Keralite.

Thanx.

Charlotte, North...
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26 posts
28 reviews
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6. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Silver Lake, I am afraid you are losing all credibility with your response. As any one who reads this can see, we took time off from our vacation to post your praises and to recommend you - obviously prematurely. The issues that you and your driver caused, are the only reason why we became unhappy. As documented above, many of these issues occurred before we got to Kovalam and have nothing to do with going to Kanya Kumari. You would have been better served by acknowledging the issues, apologizing, and taking your driver to task. Instead, you choose to believe your driver, and post some absurd nonsense here.

Why don't you respond as to why you provided a non-English speaking driver in the first place? And, why was the new driver (a) habitually late (b) leave us without a car for 8 hours in Thekkady (c) left us waiting in the sun for an hour in Allepey? And, why did he run out of money after 5 days and have to keep asking us for money for fuel? You say that he was told that checkout from the houseboat was at 10. Even if this were true - how is this an excuse when we sent him a SMS at 7:30 that morning reminding him that checkout was at 9:00? A good driver would have shown up at 8 and waited.

You say we went to town 3-4 times a day to "check out menus"? So you expect the readers to believe that we drove back and forth into town several times a day in order to eat 2 meals? And, do you think any rational person is going to believe that we came all the way from the USA to spend 10 days in Kerala and did not even get down from the car to see the sights? I suppose the 300+ photographs that we have taken were all taken from inside the car? Your response would be funny if it wasn't absurd.

The discussion about possibly going to Kanya Kumari were directly with you after the driver informed us that this would be an extra charge. The question of threatening the driver makes no sense - it would have been more logical for you to claim that we threatened you. As you well know, we agreed that Kanya Kumari was not in our itinerary and that it was fair for you to charge us if we decided to go there. In spite of our anger with the driver - including his antics on the last day, not only did we pay him his complete "batta" for 9 nights, but we paid for his dorm room for 3 nights in Munnar, and we gave him 150 towards food along the way! Given that we had no driver the first night - he was assigned to replace the non-English speaking driver - we would have been perfectly justified to only pay his "batta" for only 8 nights.

How is the fact that the hotel we stayed in Munnar was 17 km from the town relevant? You knew our itinerary and priced the vehicle appropriately. Also, part of the fun of getting to know a place is to enjoy it's cuisine. Rather than eat the standard buffets at the hotel, we chose to have our meals at different restaurants in town. We did our research here (and on Google) and had the restaurant selected long before we left the hotel. Not once did we enter a restaurant and leave after looking at their menu. Not that any of this is relevant - we are perfectly within our rights to use the vehicle to eat our meals in town.

Learn to manage your business and your drivers better. And, if you don't have the brains to price the vehicle to your satisfaction, don't offer fixed prices without mileage limitations.

Kochi (Cochin...
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7. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Dear Sir,

To be Frank,First of all I am not afraid of telling the truth.The driver was newer late as in Alleppey he was informed the checkout time at 10 am & he was there at 9.45.He was in the nearby mosque as that day was the "Nabidinam" which was a religious festival.He was able to read the message after the prayers at the Mosque.In Thekkady completing all your programmes, he had your permission before leaving you in the Hotel and had arranged another driver if any emergency comes with whom you went to for browsing the restaurants at Thekkady.Running out of money was the problem created not by us,Obviosly all the Tour operaters will either take the full amount from the guest before getting into the cab orelse half at the starting & half at the Middle of the tour.You was not ready to settle the balance in the middle of the tour & we also did not compell the clients

as we had said in above report we newer keep any restrictions for the clients nor we compell them to do. We did respond Quikly to the query for changing the driver at the night itself & No other Queris or compalints are made against the driver for the 9 day tour except from the Last two days which he hesitated to go to Varkala or Kanyakumari without extra payment.

The driver had not only taken to the restraunts in each town as per their research(mentioned above) but also taken to more ones which they couldnt find out in their resarches.

Dear Sir,I am not here to challenge you about your trip,its upto you to visit the places rather than browsing the restaurants,its upto you coming from USA to Kovalam and only visiting Hawah beach,its upto you taking photographs inside or outside the vehicle,Its your trip,you can decide.

People comes here to enjoy the beauty of Kerala which we are offering them with highly maintained fleets with experienced & educated drivers without any limitations according their itinerary.We did taken you to all the nearby places suggested more than the itinerary.The problem was unecessarly created thinking of going to Varkala or Kanyakumari Restaurants which was not in the itinerary,by threatening the driver as to put bad Reports on Trip Advisor. I dont have to lie on it because i had heard it through the phone as it was in the confernce mode when you spoke to him.

Thanx

Charlotte, North...
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26 posts
28 reviews
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8. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Well, somebody is lying, and it is not me! If we were here to bash Silver Lake, there would have been no reason for us to start this post to recommend you!!

I think the readers are smart enough to figure out the absurdity of your statements - we "threatened the driver" about posting a negative report on Tripadvisor. Why should the driver care? Isn't he just a paid employee? Does he even know what Tripadvisor is? And, by the way, we had already posted a negative report on 15/2 (see above) so why would threatening him after the fact be necessary? Yep - the driver was so smart, he had us on conference call while we were "threatening" him, and he did this so surreptitiously that we did not know you were listening in.

We wanted to go to Varkala and Kanyakumari restraurants!! Yep - we wanted to travel 4 hours just to eat a meal in Kanyamumari! I guess we had exhausted the restaurants in Trivandrum after eating multiple meals a day!

As any one can see, the issues started before the last 2 days and were documented in my post of 15th Feb.

I would also be happy to post your email agreeing to take a 50% payment up front and 50% at the end, but I don't think I need to go that far as it clear you are trying hard to cover your backside. I suspect your driver fed you a bunch of bull to cover his faults as well and you find it convenient to believe him rather than admit you provide crappy service to maximize your profits.

Enough said. I have no more time to waste responding to you. You should spend some of this energy taking care of your clients.

Kochi (Cochin...
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9. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Dear Sir,

I do have enough time to spend with my clients.

sorry to inform that we newer had a Brilliant client

like you, who had threatened our driver to drive against

the shcedulded itenerary.According to your above report the last two days when you came to kovalam only you threatened the driver for going to Kanyakumari that is on 15 nth.we are having standard clients

whom we are serving better with our well maintained high class

fleets with the expert drivers,

thanx

Edited: 6:22 am, February 21, 2011
Kochi (Cochin...
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10. Re: My experience hiring a car and driver

Dear Sir,

Please dont Lie more as we newer had sent you a mail

to pay 50% on the beginning and balance at the end,The mail was to pay the balance at the middle of the tour which you where not ready to pay .its our privilege not to insist the client for the payment as we had already given the terms and conditions.we welcomes you to post our mail saying 50% at the end.

Thanx