Indeed, when you work in this industry any opinion that supports the work you do will come with its own personal bias – allow me mine, but allow me to define my position.
When you search the various travel forums regarding S.E. Asia, the opinions are increasingly pointed at traveling without assistance from travel companies (doing it yourself). Five to Ten years ago this was certainly not the suggestion. Doing it yourself had been a coming of age tradition reserved to backpackers, who enjoyed endless time, but a restricted budget.
Most of us realize that unfortunately our travel time is limited and all of us, regardless of doing it ourselves or having someone help us, wants to see the most we can in the time we have. There is a growing misconception that our peers (or a bunch of ex pats on travel forums who were new to all this at one time as well) think it is unnecessary to pre-book anything! Never mind "front to back" full tour programs.
Where many of these “experts” fail is that they believe they speak for other Westerners worldwide. Most of these people are not like others
as they are retired and have the ability to live in Vietnam year round or upwards of 6 months yearly. They (luckily) don’t have a flight plan that begins with arrival in Saigon and flying out of Hanoi 14 days later. They have unlimited time and as such if they don’t arrive to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum until 2 pm (it closes at 11am), they can simply return there the next day. The other mistake they make is they give advice as though they have travelled the country several times and “done it all”. When they highly review “Bob’s tour in the Mekong Delta” people get the idea that they’ve also tried Steve’s, Mike’s, Tom’s etc. (Bob must be better!) This couldn’t be further from the truth. This is where booking with a good travel company exposes you to so much more. Ask one of the forum posters when they took that Mekong Delta tour or Mai Chau Tour etc. Many are still recommending companies that opened 5 years ago and haven’t put a dollar back into the company since. Lastly, as they are essentially bloggers/commenters on a travel forum there is little to no recourse from those who took their advice and was unhappy with it.
A few of these posters have tremendous passion and are very dedicated – without question. But it is important to remember that there is no necessary credentials, no licensing and at the end of the day, it is mostly advice based on very limited exposure to other options. In my business, I don’t have the leisure of blindly recommending 1 tour over another year in, year out. I have to constantly reach out to new options to review their service and see if it would be of interest to our valued clients.
The reason for my blog on this is based on feedback from previous clients. Many of them were swayed by the forums, they booked separated tour programs from us – great, but did not book front to back tour programs based on “pressure” to do a lot of it themselves. Instead of having a driver waiting with a welcome board at the airport, they used taxi each time. Instead of having one of our great guides and a private car pick them up, they found their own transport and upon arrival booked a guided tour from a guide at the site. There were numerous comments on the difference between ours vs. other guides. Plentiful time was spent (not relaxing) but finding transfers, entrances and figuring out where to start, daily.
At the end of their time in S.E. Asia, they found that yes, it did cost a bit more to have programs put together for them, but certainly not by very much. Mostly they note that the flexibility of our guides and programs gave them a lot more time to enjoy what they were seeing vs. (and surprisingly) being dropped in the heart of an area and having 4 hours to see it, but still having the feeling you’ve missed things. Our guides spend over 3 years in University and Tourism College, they have vast knowledge and can provide deep insight on areas throughout Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
In summary, doing-it-yourself can be good with extensive research prior and previous travelling experience in countries where (especially outside of the cities) English is not common and generally unspoken. But it is my full assertion that in S.E. Asia, full front to back itineraries are not only reasonable cost wise, but will provide an unforgettable experience. These itineraries are tailor made to you and can still allow time for yourself on your own, but also time with our guides and team. In a company that is 95% born locally, I am proud to say that your money is also going towards the fine men and women who have graduated these local colleges and are looking forward to a chance to showcase their beautiful countries.
S.E. Asia provides an unforgettable Holiday, put our knowledge and experience to the test!
This is a general budget suggestion with regards to a tailor made program: (This fluctuates greatly when you add free days and depending on the areas you tour).
Per person (with 2 travelling) a quality tailor made program including Airport pickups/drop-offs, Accommodation, Private Guided Touring, Daily Breakfast, lunches on touring days, Private Car Service (Cruises when applicable) is:
per person per day for a 3* Standard of Accommodation throughout
per person per day for 4*
and up per person per day for 5*
(Excludes Domestic and International Flights)
Fill out a Form in the Contact Us section, we would love to create a detailed program for your review.
Jay Johnson – Sales and Marketing Director for Come and Go Vietnam