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Independent travel vs. Private tour--which would suit us?

Independent travel vs. Private tour--which would suit us?

Jun 23rd, 2013, 09:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 612
Yes, I've wondered if they will even let me pick out the hotels--IOT so far has mentioned hotels (or similar) and I've checked them on tripadvisor and they seem nice, with good reviews, and fairly cheap (I asked for 3- or 4-star). But they don't break down any prices, so don't know what kind of markup they're taking on this.

I have a friend who did an Exotissimo tour in north Vietnam--I have his itinerary with price. I've asked him whether they were able to choose their hotels or not. Their trip also did not include a bunch of flights like ours would. They also wanted 5-star all the way--not much difference I think, except for the hotels.
WWanderer is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 09:32 AM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
We (husband and I) were crazy about Chiang Mai, but, then, I have no other cities to compare it to. We stayed in a very nice, very affordable small inn right across from a wat. We were able to sit on the balcony an watch the monks coming and going, wander through the wats and gardens of old city, venture down to the moat, do the amazing night market, eat street food, go to museums and receive massage to soothe our tired muscles. I am curious how other cities compare,but loved, loved our experience here.
Cattail is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 10:09 AM
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They also haven't told me what airlines they would use, except to say that they would be mainstream ones where possible, not budget. Just looking at BKK- SR route. I'm seeing CambodiaAngkorAir which wants 5700 TBH. It's not clear how we would fly from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai without doing the Luang Say boat trip (which in itself looks like it will cost about $1000.) I was told we'd have to fly thru Bangkok, but can't even figure that one out on a single airline. Getting to Chiang Mai would be simpler.

All this is in aid of costing-out a DIY trip versus tailor-made.
WWanderer is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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From LP to Chiang Rai would involve both a change of planes and a change of airlines going through BKK. Probably, you'd fly Bangkok Air from LP to BKK, then Thai Air onward to Chiang Rai.

If you are DIY, you'd want to buy the Bangkok Air DIscovery Pass which would cover Bangkok to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Luang Prabang (on Lao AIr) and Luang Prabang to Bangkok. I don't think they fly to CR. CM is certainly easier to get to, but a different experience than CR. You can buy the Discovery Pass, but I believe the agents could not. It can make a big difference in air fares.

I wouldn't use an agent that wouldn't allow me to choose my hotels. What many people find is the "Hotel X or similar" turns out not only not to be hotel X, but not similar as well. Location is at least as important as star rating. And one company's 4 star is another's 2 star.
Kathie is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 10:37 AM
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Yes, I agree about the hotels. I'll ask them.

As for the Bangkok Air discovery pass, I will have to see how I go about buying that, if we do independent, and factor it into my spreadsheet! Then we'd do BKK-CR return separately I guess.
WWanderer is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 10:41 AM
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Ah, I see, you need an agent. Okay. That means a $60 pp fee or so probably.
WWanderer is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 11:00 AM
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No! You do not need an agent for the Discovery Pass. In fact, I'm not sure an agent can buy it, in fact.

Do a search here on the board for the pass, and you will find explicit instructions on how to get the pass. Many people do it all via email.
Kathie is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 12:06 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 532
Discovery Pass Bangkok Air reservations @bangkokair.com
NY office Bangkok Air 1-212-279-6602

There was a very good discussion about how to go about booking flights with Discovery Pass. Either on this forum or on Trip Advisor. Need to start with Thailand forum here or TA. Type in Discovery Pass in the search box. I'm not using it so I didn't copy down all the info. From what I remember the person said it was super easy. Go to BAir website. Pick your flights and write all the info down. Then e-mail the reservations or call the NY office.

I booked my flight from CR to Bangkok myself on Air Asia website. Be aware though. Fare was $35 pp one way. Sounds great, right? By the time you pay for your baggage (no free checked bags) pay for your seat, pay fuel surcharge, airport taxes, etc. that $70 fare for the 2 of us came to $123.68.
chris45ny is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 12:33 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 532
Ok made an error. [email protected]
For info http://www.bangkokair.com/pages/disc...covery-airpass


Other BA offices:
Chicago 1-312-822-0048
Houston 1-713-626-1905
LA 1-816-501-2098

Once you know your schedule and the flights you want send an e-mail with that info. If everything ok you will get a response with reservation/confirmation # need to make payment arrangements-credit card, money order, etc.-tickets will be e-mailed to you to be printed out. need min. 3 flights.

I would check to see how much the flights would cost just booking each on your own and then compare that price to what the Discovery Pass will cost for same flights.

You could do Bangkok-Siem Reap; Siem Reap to Luang Prabang; LP to Chiang Mai (then take bus to CR), Chiang Mai (get back to CM from Chiang Rai via Green Vip bus) to Bangkok.
chris45ny is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,893
"I like the idea of having an air-conditioned driver waiting for me. Thinking about this decision, for me, it's not about fear of the unknown or being timid--it's about wanting to be comfortable and a bit pampered and being able to come out of the trip refreshed and not exhausted."

Me too.

And you can do that in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Siem Reap. In LP, you don't need that but if for instance, you want to get to the Kaungsi Falls, an a/c car or van is easily arranged through your hotel or through one of the many agencies in town. In fact at most any hotel you can arrange reliable transportation for one day or for several. Note that you can actually drive on your own if you wish from Chiang Rai airport or again make arrangements through your hotel.

For you, it would make sense to pre-arrange a driver through many of the contacts offered on this forum. And unless you are trying to engage Tong in Bangkok, it is relatively easy to do via e-mail. Note that Tong is currently recovering from a fall. We have used Ratt in Bangkok and she has been great - a/c, knows how to get around, and very reliable. We picked a driver off the street in Chiang Mai and were fine but it would be better for you to arrange in advance - there have been a couple recommended here. Siem Reap - you can't go wrong with Ponheary or her brother Dara as a guide. There would also be a separate reliable driver and car or van in this case (a/c, of course).

If you are willing to trust our recommendations, you will have an enjoyable, relaxing trip with no worries. You will save a ton of money and not have to deal with an agency's "agenda"...
Craig is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 05:50 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 10,249
We loved both CM and CR. we could,only betbJermsak for one day in CR and would highly recommend booking him for at least one or two days. We enjoyed spending time wondering around CR though I agree it's not a spectacular town. We took the bus from CR to CM and enjoyed CM a lot. You can read specifically what we did in our TR.

Also agree with the majority that you should defintiely book it on your own.
yestravel is offline  
Aug 11th, 2013, 09:01 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 612
Thanks guys. We've booked our flights, and are considering bespoke private tours. I know we can do it on our own, but I'm not sure I'm up to it. I know that this is disappointing to some of you, but "to each his own".
WWanderer is offline  
Aug 11th, 2013, 09:02 AM
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P.S. Haven't committed yet. I'm working with IOT and Exotissimo.
WWanderer is offline  
Aug 11th, 2013, 10:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You have to do what is right for YOU - not what is right for someone else.

The one caution I would offer is that most of the companies want to set up everything, which adds a lot of expense. Decide which services you want, which you don't. Some people are nervous about airport transfers and want those in their package, even though they will pay 3x as much minimum. That's ok of that is what will make you feel comfortable. Many companies want to give you a guide everywhere. You really only need a guide in maybe one place - Angkor - but decide what you want. Personally, I'm irritated by having a guide all the time. Others want the hand-holding.

So make good decisions for you on what services you want. And enjoy this marvelous trip!
Kathie is offline  
Aug 11th, 2013, 06:55 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 612
Yeh, I don't want hand-holding all the time either, although I like airport transfers, especially when I'm arriving jetlagged at midnight, as I'll be in Bangkok! Thanks Kathie, I really appreciate all your help and advice.
WWanderer is offline  
Aug 12th, 2013, 01:10 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 13
Message for Kathie

Please tell us which hotel you stayed in Luang Prabang.

musvin is offline  
Aug 12th, 2013, 01:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,019
We stayed at La Residence Phou Vao, back when it was affordable. Beautiful place!
Kathie is offline  
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