3 Dec 2013

First Timers In Delhi - A Guide To The Travel Agents

Delhi is the starting point for many group and private tours of India and the number of travel agents and touts around Connaught Place is overwhelming. Finding a reliable and reputable agent is confusing, our search for a dream 12 day tour of Rajasthan took almost two days of enquiries and research - thankfully, it was all worth it.

It sounds cynical but you really do need to be wary of scams and you can't trust everybody you meet - be extra careful before you part with your hard-earned cash. Common scams range from being over charged, to handing over your money and never hearing from your travel agent again. Expect to be befriended by persistent touts on the street, in tuk-tuks and even your hotel - their aim is to get you in their agency for a well rehearsed sales pitch. Once you're inside they don't want to let you go before you pay - they will show you 'certificates' from governing bodies, previous happy customer comments, offer you a complimentary driver for an afternoon of sightseeing and even a takeaway lunch in the office. It's all very tempting and their excellent English makes them even more persuasive. 

There is only one official government office, India Tourism, on Janpath, you can't book tours here but they should give you a list of registered travel agents - we were actually given a magazine with classified ads in the back but a few were listed on the Ministry Of Tourism website so we paid them a visit. Eventually our search ended at STIC Travels who have offices all over India, and we instantly noticed the difference on what an established agency should look like! We felt that we got a fair price, a decent driver and our always helpful agent booked us some gorgeous hotels that we would never have thought to book. We really enjoyed our tour of Rajasthan, it's a beautiful part of India with a rich, cultural heritage that's fascinating and sometimes unbelievable!

the taj mahal our final stop
The magnificent Taj Mahal - our final stop!
If you're in Delhi or planning to visit soon we hope that these five steps will help you find your perfect tour:
  1. Visit at least three agencies to compares quotes objectively.
  2. Take a business card so that you can look for reviews online. You'll be surprised how many don't have them and how confusing it is to work out an agencies name - they changes names frequently after fines and negatives reviews.
  3. Visit India's Ministry Of Tourism website to check the agency is registered with the government.
  4. Is the quote fair? A small AC car with a driver costs about 3,000 rps per day, the rest goes on accommodation and agency fees. It's also easy to book your own accommodation as you arrive at each stop.
  5. Once you find the tour for you get written confirmation that you have pre-paid all taxes, road tolls, fuel, parking etc and vouchers for each hotel you are staying at.
Please feel free to share your Delhi experiences in the comments below and let us know if this post has been helpful.

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