I had high hopes for this tour because of the stellar rating and now I wonder how many less satisfied customers just didn't leave a review. I wish this site allows you to sort by star rating in both descending and ascending order so that you can access bad reviews just as easily. I really wish I had gone through all the bad reviews before the trip. The bottom line is I do NOT recommend this tour!
If you pay attention to the itinerary unfortunately I didn't before the trip, you will see the so called 4-night trip is essentially 1.5 day trip.
Day 1: no signt-seeing
Day 2, 3 : sight-seeing in the morning, 4hr car rides in the afternoon
Day 4: sight-seeing in the morning, no program in the afternoon
Day 5: car ride to airport
So essentially you tour for only 3 mornings, let alone the fact that there were a number of designated stops for pressured shopping in those 3 mornings Sales clerks in those stores can be very rude and aggressive. Now, if you are flying from North America, it takes about 18 hrs or more to travel to India each way let alone wait/check-in time at the Airport and layovers. It just doesn't make sense to go to a country so far away for as little program as this one.
Secondly, just like designated stores, guides will take you to designated restaurants where they take commission and/or free food. Most of them are ok they're not that different from the Indian food you get in north America, my boyfriend did get food poison on the last restaurant in Jaipur. He ordered butter chicken and said to me the chicken tasted a bit weird during the meal. His stomach was upset the whole night. The next morning, he threw up and sweated profusely and stayed in the bathroom for 2 hours.
Thirdly, the hotels are not 5-star. 4-star maybe. The first night in Delhi, the hotel room was quite dusty and the bedding doesn't look clean at all.
Now, the real problem in addition to food poisoning:
The driver is very unpleasant and he is the person that we had to spend the most time with during the tour because the driver is the same throughout the trip though you get different guide in each city.
He communicates mostly by grumbling curt, abrupt commands: Tomorrow 8 O clock or Tips, tips!. Yes, he demanded tips instead of waiting for voluntary tipping. We initially planned to leave him 100 tip at the end of the trip and were sort of forced to tip him 20 daily when his attitude worsened and tone got hostile. We didnt feel comfortable reasoning with him because of how thoroughly we depend on him during the tour what if he decided to drop us off in the middle of a dirt road with no bus or car or even a sign of location in sight ?
In the car rides, he would often abruptly interrupt our conversations, especially when I was speaking I guess because Im a woman. At one time, my boyfriend and I were discussing a podcast episode and I was interrupted three times before I could finish my point. A lot of times, he would complain about guides being smooth talkers and cheaters who take 40 commissions and would grumble something like guides good English and commissions me not good English, only tips.
On the last day of the trip, the driver offered to show us the local market and drove us to a run-down building in a remote part of town and as soon as we got into the store, we realized there were over a dozen Indian male workers in the store who seemed to be waiting for our arrival and a very aggressive store clerk started to push textiles to us. We walked around the store hoping we could get out by buying something small. But the workers followed and surrounded us. Both of us felt very unsafe and afraid. In the end we had to buy something thats marked up at least 5 times. After we got out of the store, I asked the driver about the local market that we were supposed to go and he started to give excuses such as no parking we did park around the local market during the day for the museum and astronomical observatory ! Then he tried to take us to another store selling jewelry and we refused adamantly.
This was a spectacular tour! I can't recommend it highly enough. It's the second time I've done the same tour. This time with a friend of mine. The one and only critizism I have was the first hotel we stayed in in Delhi. I can't remember the name but the hotel was pretty run down looking and the service was not impressive. The first time I went with my husband and we stayed at La Meridian which was exceptional. This second hotel definitely didn't live up to the first, however everything else was great. My least favorite part was that in each city we were taken to shops that clearly had a relationship with the guides and though they kept saying there was no pressure to buy, there was. Also, by the second time I went I had learned that the prices they were selling rugs for was NOT the great bargain they tried to get you to believe. Prices for rugs were better in Jaipur than in New Delhi so if you are wanting to buy, you might consider waiting.
As always with the many viator tours we have taken, the guides were professional and knowledgeable and I felt that by taking the tour we saw and learned far more than we would have on our own.
Another thing I learned the second time around is to request that you go by sunrise to the Taj Mahal. Our first guide only mentioned the option at the end of the day! Not only is the light beautiful though not always the pink that people hope for, but the crowds were lighter.
I have been to India several times for work and have not enjoyed it so when the opportunity came up to go to India on vacation with my daughter, I decided to do a tour to control the chaos and crowds. It was a very well run and organized tour. I recommend staying at the Maidens when staying in Delhi...this was a top notch historic hotel. We stayed at the Trident hotels in Agra and Jaipur and they were also nice although 5 star might be a bit overrated. It turned out the driver stayed with us the entire trip and each day we would pick up a tour guide who was a specialist in each city. PK was our driver and was a very kind and helpful driver and advisor along the trip. Each tour guide was also fantastic and specialist in their city. The only confusion along the way was our driver and tour guides were not very knowledgable about what was or was not included in my package and kept asking me what was included. I had to pull up the Viatour website on my phone to show them and clear it up. I had already given my voucher to the greeting person at the airport but that did not seem to explain anything to them. Hopefully Viatour and Sita, the local tour company, can work on their communications and not put the customer in the middle next time. A few more tips....do not eat in the hotels, they are very expensive and PK will take you to any restaurant you want. Going to the Taj Mahal at 5:30am was a good idea to miss the crowds and get nice pictures with the sun coming up. Yes, the driver is instructed to take you to designated stores to buy stuff. Sita is payed lots of money to do this. We said yes sometimes and no othertimes depending on our interest. I do not feel any stress about going in....you are not obligated to buy and just try to enjoy the experience. I enjoyed the entire tour and would call this a bubble vacation where everything is handled and you are somewhat insulated but if you have never been to India, this is the way to go the first time.
Overall the tour was great. We have tour guides in each city we visited and a very reliable driver, Hamesh who drove us in delhi, Agra and Jaippur. All the tour guides were very knowledgeable about all the interesting cities we visited. The ITC Hotel in Agra is really magnificent and is just 5-10 minutes away from Taj Mahal The ITC hotel is definitely a 5 star. Trident Hotel in Jaipur is also a 5 star hotel and equally clean and beautiful. However, Welcome Hotel in Dwarka located in Delhi is a run-down hotel that needs major renovation and we rate this hotel as 1.5-2 stars. The hotel in Delhi is the only negative part of this tour. Overall, the tour was well-planned with detailed itineraries in each city.
For a first-timer and a solo-traveler in India like me, this tour gave me such a memorable experience, in beautiful way. I was very-well served and accompanied by the tour guide and the driver for the whole trip as if I was a VIP. The whole trip and great places that I visited was in my pace and rhythm so I could really enjoy.... And the hotels....ohhh their service and hospitality were the best!
Although it was costly but really really worth it! This is the best choice if you want to enjoy such a luxury private tour!
The Old/New Delhi portion of the tour was a joke. We were taken to a sweat shop and harassed by the manager to buy something while our guide just sat there and made phone calls. It did not feel comfortable or safe at all. The sites were mostly just drive-by views of the monuments from the road. To go inside the Jama Masjid mosque was extra. Agra and Jaipur were better, but the Jaipur tour involved another stop at some factory with a high-pressure sales pitch. On group tours these aren't as much of a problem, but on a private tour it can be very uncomfortable. The guides only wanted to stick to the itinerary, so there wasn't much opportunity to stop and take pictures of monuments you were passing but not on the itinerary. You would assume on a private tour there would be more flexibility. The hotels were the highlight of the tour, but these same hotels can be booked through an online hotel booking website. If you are looking for flexibility but also the relative safety of a group tour, these are not the tours for you.