I’m surprised the ratings are as high as they are for this tour company. That’s not to say there aren’t good parts of the experience; I’ve definitely enjoyed my time but I would not recommend this company to anyone.
Mine was a quick 2-day tour to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur. It may also be worth noting that I am a solo female traveler. I’ll try to give highlights below:
On arrival, the driver and local agent picked me up at the airport. They were pleasant enough but something just felt off. I paid for the tour in cash, on arrival.
The agent was dropped off and my long journey to Agra began with the driver. The roads were quiet and I was exhausted from an overnight flight so I fell asleep for a part of the ride. We stopped at a rest area outside of Agra. It was disgustingly dirty to the point I dry heaved in the bathroom. This is not a fault of the tour group but worth noting.
They accommodated my request for a female tour guide which I appreciated. She was knowledgeable and didn’t pressure me to shop in the area so she could make a commission off of me - appreciated that. My itinerary had a stop at Sheroes Cafe on it and she actually asked me why I wanted to go there. I told her I didn’t ask for the stop, they added it to my itinerary. While I’m all for supporting these women who are victims of the acid attacks, it felt exploitive for me to be there as part of a tour.
The actual tour that day with this guide was lovely overall and then I was passed off to another guide (male) who seemed to only care about getting me to buy crafts from the vendors on-site and getting a tip. He made me uncomfortable.
From there, a drive to Jaipur. The driver insisted he would take me shopping in the evening but I kept explaining how tired I was and didn’t want to. Should have known now he wanted the commission from my purchases.
Day 2 - another female guide in Jaipur who was also very knowledgeable. She, however, was keen to get me to shop ($$$) and made multiple comments about how she is poor and I am rich. For the record, I am not rich and only was able to afford this brief weekend trip here because my work flew me into India that week and I was taking advantage of the weekend before flying back home.
From here, a drive to the hotel near the airport as my tour was over. My driver was pleasant at times, when he wanted to be, but was always a very good and safe driver. I give him a lot of credit for that. He did invite me to his home, which I passed on, as he was showing me photos of other passengers he had as a driver and had them take photos with his family. One part of me (naive?) was extremely interested and thought it was very kind of him to invite me over for tea. Again, I was extremely tired and I was wanted by my boyfriend not to go bc of 1.) Safety and 2.) it didn’t seem genuine
Well, he was right! On my way to the airport, the driver asked how much money I spent at the store the day prior bc he makes 2% commission off of my purchase and wants to make sure he gets paid. I told him I didn’t remember and he insisted I tell him and if I cannot find the receipt, to send him a message once I get home and find it. Seriously?! How is that ok?
They even have you fill out review forms of the guides and driver in front of them! How can you give honest feedback when you are writing it in front of them and they are the recipient of the form?
Again, the driver was safe and I got to see all the sights I wanted so big plus there.
The downside is that I was uncomfortable most of the trip and felt like they were just taking advantage of me as a westerner and tried to squeeze every penny out of me.
If I ever book another tour in India, I will be sure to book with a company that is NOT commission-based, and I recommend you do the same.