Hanoi Old Quarter, home to a plethora of travel agencies of your choosing, from the most reputable and reliable, to the unfortunately scammy ones.
You’ve booked less than 2 weeks off work for that dream vacation to Vietnam. Slightly stressed, a Google search will flood you with images of scenic landscapes and the famed UNESCO sites. You contemplate on traveling from the North to the South in less than 2 weeks only to be told by TripAdvisor forum commentators that it’s not plausible. And there’s the Visa to sort out.
For first time travelers to Vietnam, planning your itinerary can be a daunting process. Bear in mind that Vietnam is a big country. There’s a lot to see, do and quite frankly can be a tricky country to navigate.
That’s why I recommend a TRAVEL AGENT. They can take away the stress in planning, save you a hell lot of time and research. Of course, they aren’t exactly a new thing. At least you’ll know what to expect.
No need for a stress ball. Travel agents take all that guesswork out of your plans, making your trip easy, enjoyable and trouble-free.
How to book a good tour in Vietnam?
Finding a good travel agent shouldn’t be a needle in the haystack. However, you’ve probably heard about the stories of travel scams and awful experiences with Vietnamese travel agencies, they are in fact common. Tales from disgruntled customers range from travelers missing their flight by late airport transfers arranged by the agency, the tour guide not being given any information, and in my case a travel agent booking my transfer to the next destination on the wrong date!
Counterfeit travel agencies
Counterfeit agencies are a common thing, meaning imitation agencies that steal customers from reputable agencies. These mock travel companies use the same name and logo, hoping to book travelers on tours and do not deliver – in some cases travelers find out that there was no tour to begin with, because they were being conned from the outset.
Sinh Tourist Cafe is a well-known travel agency, and is, unfortunately, a victim of copy cat ones. Don’t be surprised to see the name ubiquitously on every corner!
The key is finding someone, a good travel agent that is unbiased in what they offer. That someone who looks out for your best interests. Here are more tips below.
Look for a specialist
Although many agents can book any kind of tour, the best ones have experience with and knowledge about a specific destination. If you’re looking to book a Halong Bay cruise or a trekking adventure to Sapa, search for an agent who specializes in them.
Ask a lot of questions
A good travel agent picks up the phone or gets back to you swiftly. If not, don’t bother. Stating your budget upfront will give your travel agent some parameters to work with. Also, do ask for any extra fees to avoid any nasty surprises.
Do not be cheap
Many travel 10 hours or more just to get to Vietnam expecting a cheap, but quality tour. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t happen. In fact, the more you pay for the tour, the more of smooth sailing experience you’re going to get. Want a cheap cruise to Ha Long Bay for 15 dollars? Expect to be crammed into a rusty junk boat with other budget travel seekers, and then be dropped off to a super crowded and polluted beach.
Signs of a bad travel agent
Reputable travel agencies accept credit cards and other forms of payment. Paying by credit card purchase protects travelers against cases such as a breach of contract in your travel documents, or the agent doing a runner with your money. A good travel agent will never accept cash only! Some agencies may offer discounts for cash payments, but if you choose to, make an effort to check on the agency’s reviews and report.
Dollar seeking travel agents may try to push you to book a trip or holiday which is not within your interests at all, so stand your ground them know what you want.
Travel agents profit from booking fees or by taking a commission cut from your travel fees. Of course, in the world of travel agents, getting higher commissions is desirable, but be wary of those who push you to book with certain tours.
Ask about an agent’s compensation based on your trip, and they should have no problems telling you. If he/she refuses to disclose their fees, it may be a red flag that they’re hiding something or are pushing a hidden agenda.
Check out reviews and online testimonials
Online feedback is usually a good indication of the travel agency’s service. If you can’t find anything credible about them, stay well clear!
unqualified and unlicensed
It is good to look for things that confirm an agent’s credibility. The company website’s about page usually chronicles the travel company’s experience.
Although, travel agents don’t require solid certifications, but having some means that they’re highly vested in their job. The more certifications an agency has, the more it does to distinguish themselves from average ones.
Book in Advance
Booking your tour months or a year ahead gives you something to look forward to, and avoids last minute stress. You’ll have more choices and get a good deal!
The downside to this is if an unforeseen circumstance prevents you from going, a full refund may not be possible, or your booked tour has been withdrawn from operating, you’ll need to consider other options and prepared to be flexible with your travel itinerary.
Book on arrival or last minute
Not all of us are early birds. In fact, a bit of spontaneity can be fun, leading to some unforgettable travel memories.
Operators often reduce the prices of upcoming tours that need to fill up spots to reach full capacity, which is great news for the flexible traveler.
However, you may have limited choices compared to the eager early birds. You may also see an increase in flight prices while waiting for your last-minute tour booking to be confirmed. We suggest you look into other available flight dates, to arrive earlier or depart later, or even look into flights in and out of nearby airports.
If you’re already in Vietnam, you could easily shop around for a tour as there are plenty of travel agencies in the touristic spots, such as the Hanoi Old Quarter or District 1 in HCMC.
Hotel Travel services
If you don’t fancy going tour shopping, your hotel can conveniently fix you up a tour. Quite likely, hotels provide quality tours. Besides their reputation depends on it!
When to Use a Travel Agent
Consider using a travel agent instead of independent travel if:
you’re traveling with a family
you’re afraid of traveling alone
you don’t have a lot of time
you’re traveling in a big group
Travel Companies may change the way you see the world.
They are effectively matchmakers that connect travelers to a variety of people around the world whose passions for travel lead them to another place of discovery- without the stress of planning.
Even if your trip doesn’t go exactly to plan, remaining open to surprises and not being afraid to step outside your comfort zone will make your travel experiences even greater because the most memorable and rewarding experiences are often unexpected.
See here, for some of the best travel agencies in Hanoi.