They sell you on goods more than the culture and history.
Private Taj Mahal at Sunrise and Agra Day Tour from Delhi | Dec 2019
The Agra tour by Trip Advisor was overall a huge disappointment. Our guide Tony made our experience feel unsafe, shallow, and aimed at making you spend money at every turn.
I asked if we could eat breakfast at a well-reviewed south Indian restaurant, and our guide avoided the question and acted like we had to eat at the Trident Hotel (a place that is part of a more expensive trip advisor package). Our guide said the south Indian restaurant was disgusting, and we shouldn’t go. I then asked what his favorite local restaurant was, as he was from Agra, and he said Trident Hotel was the best. This was our first red flag.
Before visiting Agra, I reached out to trip advisor about the itinerary, and explained that we were not interested in shopping. I read several reviews saying that other people were taken to shops by their tour guide so if they bought something the guide would get a portion of the money. I received feedback from trip advisor saying we didn’t have to go shopping, and we could in fact go anywhere in Agra, even if it wasn’t on the tour, we would just have to pay the entrance fees.
During the entirety of our tour at the Taj our guide Tony talked about the stonework and the inlaid gemstones at the Taj. He took us to a shop afterwards that specializes in this kind of gem and stonework. While the craftsmanship at the shop was high quality they have a display area out front with workers displaying how they supposedly make everything by hand. It felt like a tourist display and the prices for the goods were very high. After the marble shop we went to Agra Fort, which was the least appealing of the forts we visited in India and he talked endlessly about tapestries they would hang that are of course no longer present. After telling us a little about the fort and a focus on the tapestries he then insisted we go to a tapestry shop to see their wares. We told him we were not interested and did not want to buy a tapestry but he insisted. Only after telling him a second time we did not want to go to a shop and instead wanted to visit the gardens across from the Taj did he concede and the mood of the tour changed entirely. He became distant and reluctant to respond to our questions and you could hear a level of scorn in his voice for us not wanting to do things as he had planned. This not only made us uncomfortable riding with him but also having all of our belongings in a car with him as we walked the gardens on our own....Read more