Smartours - any comments

Jul 1st, 2008, 04:14 PM
  #1  
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Smartours - any comments

Has anyone ever booked with Smartours ?? Any problems, complaints - or anything good ???
We are looking to book a 10 day China, Beijing/Shanghai next April.
Any comments would be appreciated.
frugaltraveler is offline  
Jul 1st, 2008, 05:30 PM
  #2  
 
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Have you done a search? Type Smartours into the search box at the top of the page and it will list lots of posts about Smartours.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 12th, 2010, 08:27 PM
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I booked a trip to thailand and missed the flight(missed understanding of the flight time). Smartour personal Linda re-booked a flight for me to catch up with the rest of the tour group in Bangkok.It only cost me extra $76. The tour was very nice and interesting. Highly recommended. One lady from our group have been traveling to Thailand with this tour company again and again for 12 times.
softballmom99 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2010, 08:36 PM
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I cannot speak for operations elsewhere, but China needs to be considered separately. See:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...n-november.cfm

For general information on how to choose a tour company:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...ritz-tours.cfm

and for a recent discussion of problems with tours of which you need to be aware if taking any company, see:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...na-beijing.cfm

In general note that when prices seem to good to be true, that's because they are.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Jul 12th, 2010, 08:53 PM
  #5  
 
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I have been to China, Peru and Thailand with Smartours and if you want a tour, you can't beat it for the money. You'll get very good hotels, professional guides and enough free time to be a bit independent if you want. They keep the cost down (in part) by offering a lot of optional tours - you can take them or leave them, depending on your comfort zone. Besides, the people on the tours have always been interesting and enjoyable - I won't hesitate to take another tour with them. Have a ball.
jahlie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 08:16 AM
  #6  
 
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My husband and I have taken 4 tours with smarTours, and been satisfied with all of them. Norma
Guest is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 07:34 PM
  #7  
 
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For the sake of humanity avoid this subject like the plague. Next question please...
peterad is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 07:03 AM
  #8  
 
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Peterad , I couldn't agree with you more!

Frugaltraveler, I suggest you use the Search above re)SmarTours. You'll find largely positive reviews. Also, many posted comments regarding the "Hot Button" issues common to all tours ( tipping and "shopping stops"). You'll find that many avoided those pitfalls by not even participating in both included and optional excursions, ie.) Took the tour on the merit of the airfare, hotels and transfers costs included in the Smartours package.
LA_Traveler is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 07:08 AM
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Why is "tipping" an issue?
colduphere is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 07:22 AM
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Like they say Back East ... OY ! For a lengthy discussion on that issue, please refer to:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...n-november.cfm
LA_Traveler is offline  
Oct 31st, 2010, 06:19 AM
  #11  
 
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I and many friends have been on many smarTours trips, including China. We are going to Japan in the spring. We compared smarTours with several other tour companies and still picked it.

smarTours does not spend any money at all on advertising or marketing. They get their business through word of mouth and their website. Once you have found them this is, of course, not an issue for a traveler.

They also offer little customer service. It is generally a "take it or leave it" approach. That's an issue for some people who are expecting more. This especially comes up when travelers' flights to the take-off city are delayed and they miss connecting with the smarTours group.

My friends and I always travel to the take-off city at least a day early. (I turn this into part of the vacation. My friends tend to see their east/west coast friends.)

Read the trip description closely. It will indicate whether there are side trips (for which there will be an extra fee). Words like "you may join a tour" are a clue.

Asking on websites like this one are good for finding out if a side trip is worth while. Some are; some are just repetitive of others things you will see. smarTours provides them for people who really don't want free time to fill.

Every traveler with every tour operator pays tips to the guides and drivers. It is just a matter of whether it is included in the prepaid fee or not.

One smarTours guide I had in Thailand calculated tips for the entire trip, being very frugal I thought, and we paid him one lump sum. Other guides let the traveler do it day by day.

Every trip manager/guide I've had was outstanding. Only once, in Barcelona, was the local city guide a waste. His tips probably reflected that too.

How many local guides you will have is generally a dictate of state law. In some countries it is required that locals be hired (even if the traveling guide is from the same location).

I have a friend who only travels with the most expensive tour group. She pays 3 to 4 times what I pay. When we compare notes we have had the same experience. The only difference is that she always stays in places like the Ritz; she could be staying in Manhattan and not know the difference.

Her other mantra is "they take care of everything." My smarTours buddies and I keep trying to figure out what smarTours doesn't take care of and we haven't come up with anything yet.
rbdoeker is offline  
Oct 31st, 2010, 08:06 AM
  #12  
 
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I have to agree with rbdoeker. I just returned from SmarTours trip to Egypt and I was very impressed. I don't "do" group travel but I wanted a group for Egypt and now I am considering another with this company. We had no problems other than crowds. When time was tight we skipped the shopping stop becauce our guide didn't want to cut any of the sightseeing. On the 12 day trip we had only 3 scheduled shopping stops; alabaster, perfume and paparyus. We only made the perfume stop and he kept it very short and it was also the bathroom break.

Our schedule of 3 nights Red Sea, 4 nights Nile cruise and 3 nights Cairo was very well planned and worked well for our group of 42. The group was pretty good and everyone was on time with no issues. On the flight home we talked to other people from different tour groups and they had a lot of issues with their tours.

The basic tour covered almost everything. It was very clear what was optional and how much it cost. On all optional excursions (except the Sound and Light show) our same guide was with us. Costs seemed reasonable; Abu Simbel by air $249, half day old & Islamic Cairo $39 and half day Memphis and Sakkara $59.

As far as tipping, an amount was suggested and it was reasonable. The biggest help was that our guide would suggest what we should tip someone and we didn't have to haggle. He arranged camel rides for $6 and $1 for our walker. For photo ops with camels and animals was $1 per group with several shots. Bathrooms, 1 Egyptian pound. The other plus was that he would get small billls and coins for us and they sold cold water on the bus at 2 bottles for $1.
wildlifepainter is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 12:46 PM
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I have completed six Smartours (Peru, Borneo, India, Thailand, Vietnam/Cambodia, and South Africa), and I have absolutely NO complaints about the trips. In fact, I am ready to book Eastern Europe for this summer. I have traveled with many different tour companies, and there is no comparison when it comes to cost. I looked at just the airfare for a couple of trips, and if I would have booked just the air, it would have been the price of my entire Smartours trip. The hotels have all been good, some better than others. Sometimes you are in a small town, so there are no spectacular hotels.

Their single supplement is also low, and that is important to me since I travel alone.

The trips I took with them had between 13-35 people, but the size was never a problem. Most of these people are very well-traveled, and nearly all the people have been on Smartours before. There have been a variety of age groups.

With all that good has to be a little bad, and that is the customer service reps you get when calling the office. There is one person who is so rude that I just hang up when I get her and call back until my luck changes. There is one very nice one if you are really lucky, but I figure why let that one rude one ruin a trip experience? They don't send flashy brochures, but you do get the necessary information in plenty of time. The first time I went I was worried to death, but it arrives! I always call and get information about the optionals before it is time to get the info from them. I do much research on the internet about the places I will be staying, what there is to do in the city, etc. I also look on sites to determine what I need to do for a visa to see if it matches what they say.

I love to travel and have never had a bad vacation. I learn if the food is bad, I can eat snacks I bring from home. If the people aren't the most fun, I do my own thing. Part of travel is your travel companion--your attitude. I am always ready to go and will definitely travel with Smartours as long as they continue to provide great trips that I have not completed.
maccogirl is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 05:18 PM
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Only problem I can think of..and this goes for any tour...if you are traveling alone and most dinners are not included, you might have difficulty finding dinner company if most travelers are couples or you are not outgoing. I have this from people who have gone with different tour companies.
Elainee is offline  
Jan 4th, 2011, 11:38 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Hi - I just returned from a SmarTours trip to New Zealand and Australia. It was horrendous. Besides making us travel needlessly to destinations by air to save them money at our personal expense, they also did a nightmarish 8 hr. bus trip to Milford Sound in New Zealand for a one hr. boat ride at the Sound. Two of us got very sick with a vertigo/nausea condition, and the other woman ended up in the hospital for several days. There was no supervision unless you booked additional optional tours. We left Sydney at the end of the trip and had to waste hours flying to Auckland to catch an Air New Zealand flight to LA. There are Air New Zealand flights that go directly from Sydney to LA - but obviously it saved them money, even at our health expense.
I DO NOT recommend them. People who had used SmarTours before said it was the worst trip they had ever been on, and would never use this company again.
Barbara_Kaplan is offline  
Jan 4th, 2011, 11:39 PM
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Hi - I just returned from a SmarTours trip to New Zealand and Australia. It was horrendous. Besides making us travel needlessly to destinations by air to save them money at our personal expense, they also did a nightmarish 8 hr. bus trip to Milford Sound in New Zealand for a one hr. boat ride at the Sound. Two of us got very sick with a vertigo/nausea condition, and the other woman ended up in the hospital for several days. There was no supervision unless you booked additional optional tours. We left Sydney at the end of the trip and had to waste hours flying to Auckland to catch an Air New Zealand flight to LA. There are Air New Zealand flights that go directly from Sydney to LA - but obviously it saved them money, even at our health expense.
I DO NOT recommend them. People who had used SmarTours before said it was the worst trip they had ever been on, and would never use this company again.
Barbara_Kaplan is offline  
Jan 9th, 2011, 12:31 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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I did the 10 day tour in Nov. and it was fantastic I'm booked for the amazing Thailand tour for March. It was an amazing trip and i would be glad to answer any questions.
wcopel is offline  
Jan 28th, 2011, 10:37 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
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I just signed up for Smartours Enchanting Peru. Any feedback or reviews on the airlines, hotels, optional dinners or tours, useful tips on do's and don'ts would be much appreciated. I am travelling as a single woman. Even with single supplement, single rooms are not guaranteed. Anybody has any negative experience on this? Should I bring US dollars(for shopping, dinning and tips) or should I use the ATM in Peru for their local currency? Thanks.
LALaw2011 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2011, 03:47 PM
  #19  
 
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You'd do better to ask this on the South America board - use the drop-down "Change Forum" box.
thursdaysd is offline  

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