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Tonkin Travel

lup
Pieve a Elici, Italy
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62 posts
12 reviews
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Tonkin Travel

We have spent a month in Vietnam and as we approach the end of our trip, I thought it might be helpful to fellow travelers to review our experiences with Tonkin Travel. Though I think that Vietnam is an exceedingly easy country for independent travlers such as ourselves to navigate, I think it helps to have someone who knows the travel industry to help, both in planning the trip and once here, in executing it. After reading a number of comments on Tripadvisor, we chose Tonkin Travel to help us organize our trip, make reservations and arrange transportation. I dealt with Ly, who was very responsive and efficient throughout the entire process. While it did not go completely smoothly (there were a few mishaps) Ly did a great job! During the planning stage, my e-mails were responded to usually within 24 hours, which was very important to me. We chose some of the hotels; she chose others. With regard to the ones we chose, she was usually able to arrange a better rate than we could, even with so-called "internet specials." With the ones she chose, they were perfectly fine and appropriate, given the price parameters I gave her. They are in business to make a profit, but their commissions were minimal and well worth the peace of mind we had, knowing that we had someone "on the ground" managing our trip. As I said, there were a few "misfires" (drivers not showing up at the airport to pick us up as arranged, for example) but Ly and her staff were very apologetic and strived to make-up for the problems by not only reimbursing our payment for those services without question, but also furnishing us with a driver at the end of our trip (at their cost) as a gesture of good will. The second difficulty centered around a Mekong Delta trip that was arranged for us. Ly arranged a private car and driver for a two-day trip that turned out to be (in our opinion) a significant waste of money. The so-called "two-day trip" (which really amounts to little more than a one-day trip with an overnight) can esaily be done for about $20, using one of the numerous tours offered at virtually every travel broker throughout Vietnam, especially in HCM City. We paid well over $150 (including hotel) and we were very disappointed and voiced that diappointment to Ly. While Martin (of Tonkin Travel) was more defensive and more difficult to deal with about what we considered a lack of his firm providing us with the various options available for a trip to the Mekong Delta, Ly did everything in her power to make-up for our dissatisfaction. Specifically, she endeavored to upgrade our Ha Long Bay cruise and succeeded in doing that, a better boat at a significant price reduction, making up for the Mekong Delta experience. Throughout the entire month in Vietnam I felt that Ly was "in our corner" and would help us in any way she could. She was, from beginning to end, very responsive, very efficient, very honest and definitely sensitive to our needs. I highly recommend Tonkin Travel in general and Ly in particular. Our experiences were very positive.

Coolum Beach...
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3,297 posts
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1. Re: Tonkin Travel

lup,

A very interesting and informative post! As I have never used an agent( in 13 trips), I do however respect the position of others who are either first timers( and many of them are going well on TA recently) who may require the some assistance!----There is a GOLDEN RULE rule here---Never book a Southern trip through a Northern based agent and visa versa. Agents have speciality areas and it is not unreasonable to expect they know the whole of VN.

Most agents contract parts they do not know to agents who are ( allegedly ) specialists in their own area---as you found out ,judging by the displeasure and the appalling price you paid!

If I am hiring guides for remote area travelling , I adopt the same rule ----I do not expect a Sapa mountain country guide to know the intricacies of the Mekong!

This post is not meant to be controversial----just basic common sense! ---which in fairness to all first timers may NOT be immediately apparent!

plover

Palm Cove, Australia
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632 posts
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2. Re: Tonkin Travel

Thank you for your report, including the good & bad.

I think it is terrible drivers not showing up. The only excuse for me would be miscommunication. I feel you have every right to be angry with this; I hope you didn’t have any troubles finding your way to hotels. Pleased you happy with Ly’s reimbursement.

The Mekong delta tour. As the written word can be taken different ways, could you please explain a bit more for me?

You are saying the ”Private” tour is the same as “Open” tour? Were you put into a group tour?

As for options, do you mean they didn’t explain you had a choice of private or group?

Oh and which hotel did you stay in?

As I feel the Mekong delta tour would be a Vietnam trip highlight, I have been leaning towards doing a 2 night “Private” tour (spending around the same money). Although we are fairly easygoing I really don’t want to be with a group for 3 days. I have hotels picked out.

All other ½ & 1 day tours I am planning on using a café or hotel & happy if some are open/group tours. Welcoming, some more info and advice.

Alicie

Coolum Beach...
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3,297 posts
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3. Re: Tonkin Travel

Alicie,

You are travelling the right way ---2 nights / 3 days should give you good private tour of Mekong at around that price. You have done your research ---Select your tour operator with great care!!!!---You do not want him in anyway to dominate what you wish to see!

To many travellers run the " Orchestrated trip"---you MUST have flexibility!

Short trips as you say , you do out of hotel!--Easy!

plover

Texas
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898 posts
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4. Re: Tonkin Travel

lup,

Thank you for your balanced review. With all the mishaps and disappointment, would you still highly recommend them for a first time traveler to VN?

Would you honestly use their service again for your next trip?

Many thanks

Melbourne, Australia
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603 posts
177 reviews
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5. Re: Tonkin Travel

Having travelled to numerous countries nothing ever goes to plan with even the most experienced travel guide or agent. A driver not turning up is not a huge disaster and probably not Tonkins fault.

I am sure if you have ever had experience employing people it is hard to find reliable staff, especially drivers. Travelling is about adventure and mishaps do happen and we learn to deal with them otherwise we would stay at home. I think Tonkin has done the right thing and it should between you and Tonkin not the whole Forum......

Coolum Beach...
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6. Re: Tonkin Travel

Hi holidaytime,

Your last sentence is probably the wisest suggestion of the day!

plover

florida & QC
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757 posts
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7. Re: Tonkin Travel

There is no simply excuse for no-show at the airport. I don't get it. "Drivers not showing up at the airport to pick us up as arranged". Very inconsiderate. Hanoi airport to town 10US, Saigon to town 5US. After a long flight, driver did not show up - this is arranged through TT. You got an apology and a taxi reimbursement? I'd love to have a customer like you.

It pays to use a travel agent only if you know a *good* one. A good travel should be able to save you TIME and money -- not just punch in the computer to give you the lowest initial quotes, jack up the next ones, & generate an invoice. Who fault is this? The driver's fault? Your fault to chose a wrong travel agent? Miscommunication -- perhaps you may have been a second/third priority. Me, I like to be FIRST priority when I pay a high price. Lame excuse. Please educate me.

From my Business 101 rules, customers switch company not due to price, its customer service. I paid 256US for 2 Victoria train tix sharing a 4 berth cabin. After I had paid TT, a local Viet agent offered me much lower if my booking total >1000US. Mind you, my invoice was far bigger than that amt.

I booked a long trip through a highly recommended travel agent whose name still appears weekly in this forum. Once leaving the Northern region, I felt like bothering him. Everytime i called him, I was promissed a return call by his staff -- I had to wait several hours in the room for a reply from his staff -- a great buck passing system.

Those who book a short excursion to Sapa, HLB junk, or a couple hotel nights, likely you have a good experience. As I said before, each travel agency has certain contract with a given hotel.

Well, I learned the hard way. Why did i pay high prices for a bad customer service? This forum was totally different a year ago. Now many are benefiting from this forum. You don't have to stay home to avoid mishaps from travel agents. Travel the right way, give CORRECT information to help each other.

VN is well designed for DIY, alphabet character, people speak English in major tourist areas, clear street signs, fixed airfares, great for long term travelers.

PS: I don't recommend TT unless booking a short trip to Sapa, HLB but other local agents can do the same thing.

hawaii
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19 posts
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8. Re: Tonkin Travel

I would be very mad if the driver does not show up at the airport. I would fire the travel agent whoever he or she is. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Something is fishy about tonkin, his name pops up frequently. So much controversy, when in doubt stay away.

lup
Pieve a Elici, Italy
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62 posts
12 reviews
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9. Re: Tonkin Travel

I have read with interest the responses to my original posting re: Tonkin Travel. My strongest response is to diagree with Plover and the original writer that unsatisfactory service should remain between the consumer (in this case, me) and the agent (in this case, Tonkin Travel.) If that were to be the case, then this kind of a forum is useless. I, and many independent travelers, use this website to gain knowledge and advise from people just like ourselves, and I think it is useful to give feedback about places and services, both positive and negative. In my review of Tonkin, I tried to be balanced and accurate for the sake of future consumers. For us, the minor annoyances of drivers not showing-up at the airport was just that, a minor annoyance. We are seasoned travelers and quite independent. We found a taxi and handled it without difficulty. However, for others, this may have been a disturbing or uncomfortable event. Tonkin Travel received my feedback directly; they would not have had to read it for the first time on this forum.

As I said in my original review, Ly and her staff were very apologetic and did what they needed to do to make us happy. They assured me that while a number of things went wrong, it was unusual that this would happen so many times to a client; and I believe them.

As to the person who inquired whether or not I would recommend them, I would say "yes," but readers of this forum can judge for themselves, based both on our experiences and their own comfort level.

Melbourne, Australia
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102 posts
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10. Re: Tonkin Travel

I really have to say if you are a first time travellor to Vietnam, I would highly recommend Tonkin Travel. We spent four weeks in Vietnam last June/July 2006 and spent months upon months prior to our trip planning with Ly and Martin ... boy I could not fault them one little bit. We tortured them with endless questions, price bargaining, etc .... they were so professional, patient efficent and giving throughout our entire correspondence. We were so privledged that they both hand delivered our tickets to our hotel in Hanoi .. if you ever get a chance to meet them, they are the most amazing people you will ever meet. NO exaggeration!

We love Tonkin Travel !!!!

Danni and Sean :)