The Tour Operator :

Why choose a local agency:

  1.  because it usually costs much less than a European agency. Except on certain destinations such as Mongolia, United States, Namibia, South Africa , Japan and Bhutan.

When we have chance to find a serious and honest agency, the cost of a circuit or a privatized stay for two or four people is often divided into two or three compared to international rates in large groups.

  1. because sometimes it helps to have better rates in accommodation and inland transport.

because some agencies offer scoops of " out off track " really good and interesting . Some agencies have expert advice to establish a personalized program .

  1. because the intermediary allow to be free of the internet surprises about hotel booking and transport.

Who has not seen a hotel that announcement at the last minute he never received your confirmation email, or that it is complete or endless searching for the bus or train days to wait a match that fails or is removed ?

Without forgetting when using local transport, you can not stop where you want, when you want.

When leaving for 6 months, some" misses " can afford, when leaving for 15 days or 3 weeks this kind of troubles can turn a trip hassle.

Because if there is a problem usually has a dedicated customer security referent, sometimes it 's nice not to feel alone in a health problem or other surprises.

Good to know :

  1. Puce Three situations are possible:

  1. -1 You want to let you "fly" and you rely completely on the agency to establish a circuit and choose hotels. In general it will offer the highest or most profitable package for her.

  2. -2 You want to adapt a tour proposed by the agency and customize by changing a few steps, selecting some hotels. It becomes a matter of negotiation. Depending on the agency succeeds in interesting compromise.

  3. -3 You have prepared your trip alone, after previous experience, with documented travelers guides , or blogs from passionnates. You set your program, choose your hotel and you submit to an agency for a quote. (propose several agencies to compare prices but also quality of responses is better)

  1. - Some agencies respect your choice and offer you a quote that you evaluate as reasonable or inexpensive, and you sign, or you find it a little too high and you start a negotiation to match the project to your budget. Sometimes just change a step or hotel is enough.

These agencies are the real tourism "à la carte".

  1. - Many other agencies will try to discourage you from going to a particular region, to particular activities. Sometimes it is justified. Often it is to get you into their "kit ready for sale", which is a better economic return for them. Others will tell you they do not work with hotels that you have selected, it is because those with whom they work leave them better commissions.

These agencies make false tourism "à la carte".

  1. Many agencies, victims of their success, tend to treat individual tourism as treating mass tourism, changing programs or accommodation at the last minute (so we did not have the choice to refuse) , leaving out a lot of information, increasing rates when paying the balance etc ... treating human beings as parcels taken up and drop from place to place. They should convert back freight agency like FedEx, DHL or UPS.

  1. PuceBeware of agencies who abuse "flattering" terms  in their descriptions as: luxuriant, timeless, fabulous, amazing, unforgettable, far from mass tourism ... transforming the quote in a compilation of historical, geographic, ethnic data etc....Programs sometimes include so much detail that they end up giving the impression that you are going to see thousands of things, often it is arguments of seduction and marketing: what is the reality?

  1. Puce In a quote, it is important to have the most accurate idea possible about the circuit you want to do and dates.

The T.O often give an attractive price initially, any changes (steps, hotels, activities, etc. ...) make  "climb" the quote with inability to return to the original rate, even lowering the hotels category or the number of days.

For example once international flights booked you realize that the last day you still have time to do a city tour or a few additional visits. This will cost you more than if you had included this visit in your original program.

  1. Puce Sometimes when going through the same agency the following year, was surprised to find that the prices have increased. They explain that this is because of the crisis, rising fuel costs and benefits in their country etc ... usually it's because you have benefited from the seduction / marketing operation last year. This sometimes requires change agency for the same destination on another trip. This is not a generalization but it is quite common.

  1. Puce Before paying the reservation deposit , demand that the quote and invoice mention details of everything you plan to do, and that the items "price includes " and " price does not include " are also very detailed ( cost driver , fuel, vehicle insurance , inland transportation, accommodation , meals, entrance fees to the sites or parks etc ...). Do not forget that this is a contract and the contract must be respected. Sometimes a third or half of the activities are not carried out, because the agency did not provide the right information to the driver, because the agency did not consider the distance constraints, time etc ... They can not just be sorry !

Some agencies charge extra when balance payment, saying that the rate of euro or dollar has changed since writing the contract and invoice. Although it's written in the contract, it is not legal:

  1. - 1 staff salaries, rental vehicles, booking of hotels (apart from international hotels) are paid in the currency of the country. The agency makes money on the exchange rate, in addition to make on the program fee.

  2. -2 When the exchange rate is favorable (sometimes more than favorable), the agency does not refund customers or makes no particular reduction. In this case they do not present the exchange rates of the National Bank as proof !

  3. -3 The fact of claiming this increase at the last minute is an abuse to the extent that the agency knows that you have booked your plane tickets, and that once there, you can not cancel. You're stuck!

  4. In terms of trade law, even international, any substantial modification of a contract of sale, especially at the price of the services, must be the subject of a notice, of a period of reflection, the right of withdrawal, and in this case the refund of the deposit. This is not possible when the change is made at the time to pay the balance.

  5. Preventing client, by a contract paragraph : "the amount may change depending on exchange rates", does not guarantee to benefit from the right of withdrawal when the increase is presented when paying the balance. Airline tickets are paid, and there is no longer the possibility of organizing the trip with another agency, or the circuit is already committed.

  6. - 4 It is important to check the policy of the agency at this level, very clearly, and to choose an agency that respect the customers so as not to have surprises at the last moment.

Ideally, it would be good to pay the balance in the currency of the country, once the contract is completed: the last day in order to have a means of pressure in case of dispute.

Many agencies do not respect contracts knowing that we will not engage in international prosecutions.

All this should not prevent to want to let take care of ourselves from time to time by giving a company the care to plan everything for us from the start

The driver and/or the guide :

  1. When traveling in a private car, 2, 4, or 6 passengers, we get at least one driver / guide for the same region. This is usually someone we do not know with whom we will spend 15 days or 1 month. When crossing different regions of a country,  we get often several drivers.

  1. Some destinations prefer a driver who also serves as a guide. Other destinations impose a driver who only drive, accompanied by a guide. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. We observe that in general, the fact that there is a driver + guide changes the group dynamics and customer relations. Tandems form teams that behave differently. This also has an impact on the budget required for tips. On the other hand when there is no guide we can sit in front of the vehicle to anticipate unplanned stop.

  1. We had the opportunity to observe different types of drivers/guides:

  2. - the paternalistic or sexist driver who invades the autonomy of clients because he wants to take care of everything (often with single women: mothers / daughters, friends , sisters, or couples with children that heckling as if it were his own),

  3. - the boyfriend who behaves as if you had always known, usually quickly familiar the specialist who thinks he is the only one to know everything about his country when in fact his knowledge is quite limited, 

  4. - the mercantile who thinks only go to the shops, to make km or arrive early at the hotel, to treat its commissions and rest time

  5. - the timid who speaks neither English nor French or simply drive without entering into relationship.

It is not easy to be "satisfied", unless you like being taken care of, let it go or to be fooled.

Often being under the charm of a country is associated with the charm of a guide. Everyone "is beautiful and nice" under the sun!

It's is not because you discover a genuine market that the guide is great, it is the market which is great.

It's not because you have attended a traditional festival or a wedding that the guide is great, what's great is that the chance put you in the right place at the right time. Unless the guide was informed and has arranged for you to be on time. Some even pretend to have been informed !

It is true that the way we perceive and respond to customer expectations can turn the trip unforgettable moments or real nightmare.

  1. Puce Many forums reveal email addresses and mobile phone numbers of independent drivers that some find awesome. I do not doubt they may be great, what I doubt is the legality and safety of the process.

In Asia, as in Africa (and now in France), many drivers are improvised guides: they rent a car, and offer their services to tourists. With experience, they acquire some basic knowledge about the area they are visiting. Many tourists are content, not having prepared their trip details without asking questions such as the vehicle and passengers are they well insured as tourist transport vehicle? Is the driver in good standing with the authorities of the Ministry of Tourism? Does he know some other places that essential? Did he  get a License? With undeclared and uninsured driver in case of problems which are the recourse? As long as all goes well no one asking the question. Or who pays for his meals ?

On all forums, everyone has "the must driver" and the email address that everyone pulls. Which completely obscures it takes to be two to enter into a relationship and someone who is great with some people can be unbearable for other temperaments.

I note that those who share the good spots rarely give details of why it's great, or a good plans or on what there is sspecial to do and see! They just say that it was "great"!  What is an extraordinary guide, an extraordinary program, a nice stay ?

  1. Puce Based on our experiences and observations we classify drivers / guides in 4 categories with intermediate shades:

  1. The excellent driver / guide: he is polite, discreet, attentive, honest, reliable. He is educated and sometimes done studies. He has humor without becoming familiar. He knows quite well his country and is happy to share with you: he helps to discover the daily life and culture of his people through music, food, markets, crafts, religion, customs and customs, ethnic particularities, a bunch of little everyday things that escape us and that make you feel more "rich" and "smarter" at the end of a trip. He is on the lookout for anything that might interest us.

He is a real initiator. (look at this, taste this, feel this, hear this, observe this etc ...)

Good psychologist he quickly realizes what you like and what you dislike. He identifies quite well your centers of interests and moves to make your journey interesting and even memorable. He adapts his comments, his information and his way of doing to the personality of his customers, making each trip unique. Interested in all, he is a mine of good plans, and when it does not know what you need, it inquires. He has confidence in what he knows and what he does.

  1. The good driver / guide: he has the same qualities as the exceptional driver, but certain personality traits, some behaviors, some misunderstandings and sometimes a lack of initiative or lack of tact are that he can be slightly disappointing or annoying at times, requesting a particular effort to adapt from the clients, which does not detract from all the other qualities.

  1. The medium  driver / guide: he is polite, kind, anxious to give a good opinion of him (perhaps in order to get a good tip).He often lacks confidence in himself or in his profession. Lack of motivation, apart making money or doing a job.

Het is not really passionate about his culture and his country, he only gives basic information that we found in all the brochures. He is more accompanist than initiator. He squire customers in markets, in villages, in temples and pagodas, on sites, museums without being himself very interested in what is discovered. Sometimes he discovers same time as the customers. He is waiting to ask him questions. When he can not answer, he does not seek to know and sometimes responds anything.

Generally he just follow the program to the letter and when he is in difficulty or fails to respect the program he discharges by saying that it is the agency that does not know the ground realities. He sometimes lacks tact in making comparisons between its national particularities and those of his customers: "we........ are.... while you the French...are ...."

He often speak of his "poor living conditions" and those of his country, heavily emphasizing all the charges he has to bear (children's education, rental charges, grandmother' disease, etc ... probably to get a good tip)

If it happens something interesting or unexpected it is this guide who enjoy the wonder effect of certain individuals who discover a destination, making the confusion between the country visited and the guide. While he is for nothing!

  1. The mediocre driver / guide: either he is incompetent (beginner or tired veteran) either he is fast-talking, disrespectful, manipulative, lying, interested, sometimes rude. He can be taciturn, shy, or invasive, authoritarian and even vindictive.

He simply drive customers from one step to another, sometimes trying to impose stop or steps relating something: commission, visiting friends, family, a mistress.

He get addictions: tobacco, imposing untimely stoppages to customers for smoking, sometimes alcohol, generally  addict to his mobile phone: he spends more time giving and receiving calls, receiving and sending MSM or playing to arcade games than take care of his customers.

He does not know much about his country out of results of football or hockey match. He is eager to finish his day, or take his rest time.

He rarely respects the planned program, and still discharge by saying that the agency did anything.

He likes to point out that you discovered unforeseen things from the program and hope that you will consider in the tip. While it is not him but chance that made you have discovered these things.

Sometimes, enjoying the good reputation of the agency which employs him, or the fact that customers are generally less vigilant during the holidays, he can become dishonest : he charges his meals and sometimes accommodation by customers, while these costs are included in the contract, he can steal money, valuables, or become violent when reframed.

  1. Puce The real independent driver / guides are often people who have worked or are working for tour operators well-known. Between contracts or in low season, they take over tourists independently (freelance). They have experience,   driver or guide license, and sometimes have good deals.

Good to know :

  1. Puce When we are not satisfied, we ask the local agency to change driver / guide, even conflict. This is your holiday and you have paid expensive enough that they deserve to be respected

  1. Puce Some guide drivers are both agency, driver and guide: they are said to "freelance". They take care of booking your hotels, and your program. As agencies, they offer tours "turnkey" or circuits adapted to your project.

As there are no intermediaries  they are generally less expensive than local agencies, which are cheaper than international agencies. When we have the chance to know someone reliable is the best solution. By cons in case of problems, we have to keep him until the end of the program.

  1. Puce About tips, we recommend to consider the standard of living of the country visited: many guides and many agencies advance figures unrelated to any reality: they suggest to give between 4 and 5 euros (6 to 8 $) per day per person.  For a couple sharing 20 days that gives the minimum (4 x 2) x 20 = 160 euros, if we are 4 = 320 euros, in countries where the average monthly salary varies between 80 and 120 euros. Knowing that the wage is already included in the price.

Tips must remain a bonus and not a substitute for a salary. Some agencies offer low wages to drivers / guides, and often do not repay their expenses for meals and accommodation, because they know that tips will compensate, which is not normal.

Lexicon and language :

  1. Travelling individually implies to have a little more adaptability than when traveling in groups. Already about communication level: drivers/guides speaking our language are rare, because usually mobilized by the agencies selling group tour. This implies that we speak a little English, which is more international than French.

  1. Travel individually or "à la carte" suppose more meetings of local people, who generally do not speak French.

While some speak English, most speak their national language.

We found that to make the effort to learn some common phrases in the language of the country visited opened many doors and gave access to more friendly relations.

It even happened exceptionally to communicate with extraordinary people, each speaking in his own language, and understanding as if we were equipped with instant translators.

  1. Puce Learn some common words to make contact with other cultures is a brand of compassion and a gift that we made ​​to our guests.

Cooking :

  1. Cooking is as important as historic sites or ethnic meetings way to discover a country.

It extends the journey through the flavors, scents, smells, textures, colors. New vegetables, new fruits, new spices, it is more intimate than what is given to us to see, since we ingest, we impregnate in ourselves.

It is the signature of a culture : sometimes in the same country, depending on region, depending on ethnic group, the diversity of food changes expressing the particularity of each.

It seems a shame to remain confined to western food. Change of scenery passing through all the senses whose nature has equipped us.

  1. We try, whenever possible, to taste all that is special about a country if possible at local restaurants  under certain conditions:

  1. - minimal hygiene is respected, so as not to put our health and travel in danger. Knowing that sometimes some small restaurants are healthier than larger kitchen facilities .

  2. - Sometimes we ask to visit the kitchen, and it happens to observe incredible things like this restaurant in South India where we saw the cook repot oil fryer donut by melting directly plastic oil containers in hot oil. Toxicity warranty. We bet he does not do this at home!

  3. - We prefer vegetarian meals, while being vigilant about raw vegetables. Many Asian countries have a very good vegetarian food. Generally vegetables are fresh and good quality: fruits and vegetables markets are more appetizing.

  4. - After watching the fishmongers stalls we do not eat fish inside the earth, but only the sea, and provided that it is derived from the catch of the day. We do not eat seafood

  5. - After seeing the butchers and meat stalls in different latitudes, we do not eat meat other than chicken, provided it is slaughtered and cooked the same day.

  6. - We avoid ice cream and dairy products (except curds Sri lanka) we prefer fruit.

  7. - We avoid monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer) used in Asian cuisine because potentially dangerous.

  8. - We do not feel guilty to say that we do not want chili although local people tend to laugh at Westerners who do not like chili (it has nothing to do with spices and spicy food).

  9. -Although it is presented as a good relationship ritual, we do not feel guilty of refusing to drink alcohol.

  1. We always try to learn how to make at least one dish of countries visited, in order to bring into our menus once back. Some agencies exploit this trend by offering semi-private courses in restaurants, 30 to $ 80 a course where there is 10 people fighting around three burners.

The ideal is to learn with a family in a Home Stay or Guesthouse. This is more authentic and less expensive.

Hygiene, health, safety, indemnity,

  1. General informations: we consult the information on the site:

  1. Mosquitoes and malaria, everyone is responsible to distinguish between the reality of a country and suggestions from various experts. We carry spray repellents (recognized by OMS and the Ministry of Health) and diffusers insecticides platelets: one working with battery, the other to connect to the mains.

Having noted that most Mosquito nets are in poor condition, we travel with our own, we use if needed. Compact and easy to install, provide different types of attachment to adapt: Totem PHARMAVOYAGE

Good to know : Malarone (anti-malaria) is found in pharmacies from 40 to 80 euros a box of 12 tablets. Pure madness !

At my pharmacist it is 25 euros a box, and the generic 20 euros the box. It can only be obtained on prescription even if it is not reimbursed.

  1. Drinking Water : we drink only filtered, boiled or bottled water. We use an isothermal sleeve to have a relatively fresh water available. Tea and coffee when they are good, this is rarely the case, unless you use coffeepads of a certain brand. Vietnam G7 instant coffe is a good one.  When traveling in unfilled mineral water regions, we use a Katadyn filter

  2. In case of Tourista:  we use Tropic'aroma from Salvia Nutrition. Very effective on the digestive system but also in cooling although this is not his first indication.

Probiotics "Lactibiane Voyage" from PileJe are also very effective.

  1. Angina, chills, small infections: we take tea tree, Ravintsara essential oil Phytosun, oregano tablets A.D.P. Of Energetica Natura (real antibiotic natural) (in pharmacy).

  2. Health and Safety: we share meals, snacks, drinks, offered by indigenous encountered in temples, in the street or in transportation only after taking the time to get know, and when it is a family. We never accept products from men alone or in groups.

  3. Money and valuables: we place our cash reserve, passports and credit cards in a holter in waterproofed cotton worn under the shirt. We never let our camera equipment in rooms, or in vehicles, except in some Home Stay we trust. We avoid to pay with a credit card.

We forgot our bag in our car once in Vietnam, somebody (the driver or a friend) has robbed us 400 euros during a village visit.

Most agencies recommend to never let anything of value in vehicles, although the guide says there is no problem. The 100% confidence does not exist.

  1. Delayed flight: a decree of the European Court of Justice states that any delay of more than 3 hours on a flight from Europe leads to compensation of 250 to 600 euros per passenger. EC No. 261/2004. The carrier may invoke force majeure (breakdown, weather etc ...) always to check.The consumer protection Association Que Choisir has created a website to help passengers to claim their rights:

  1. We always buy our flight tickets directly from airlines Company, the comparators (Opodo, Go Travel, Travel Easy, eDreams and others ...) often pinned by the DGCCRF for fraud.

  1. Accommodation and reservations:

  2. Puce Avoid making reservations through rental companies like Agoda, Expedia, Booking etc ...

These rental agencies purchase priority places from Google so that they are always placed first when you type a hotel name, so the hotel's own website comes much further when these agencies do not prohibit accommodation to remove their sires web so as to have the exclusivity of reservations.

They impose quotas and tariffs on hosts, when hotels with more than 30 rooms, this is manageable, when it comes to small family hotels or even guesthouses with only a few Rooms, they find themselves trapped in a system that goes beyond them, with the impossibility of renting to individuals because these plants impose a virtual monopoly on their availability or their priorities of reservations, with blackmail to the key of breach of contract They derogate. Which eventually requires us to go through them to get accommodation. It is an attack on the freedom of individual tourism.

They ask for accommodation commissions if they want to be better placed in their rankings. It is not the opinion of the guests that is taken into account but the commissions paid by the hotels. They sell the rooms a few euros more expensive than the hosts, while requiring them to return them sometimes up to 50% of the price of the room. See Que Choisir n ° 520 December 2013 -  Que Choisir n ° 537 June 2015 - Que Choisir n ° 559 June 2017 - M6 19/45 - 01/06/2017.

The advice of Que Choisir, M6 and TF1 is to consult the rental agencies to have an idea about the services of the hotel and to reserve directly with the hotel.

If we want to continue to travel freely, It is our responsibility not to support this kind of drifts

  1. Poverty and security: many people, on some forums write that it is normal there is delinquency in poor countries, suggesting that the attack of tourists would be "justified" because of the difference in resources and standard of living!

Make such statements is reductive, stigmatizing, dangerous:

1- all the poor are not criminals and that's not because we are poor that we become delinquent. There are offenders in all social classes, in all countries of the world. It is true that one shows less finger those who practice economic crime, political, legal, etc ... this type of crime makes much more victims, but we talk less!

2- poor countries are not always as poor as they say: India, Brazil, Sri Lanka is not in poor countries.

India boasts of having the largest number of billionaires and 200 million new rich ! This is the gap between the rich and the little people and the non-redistribution of wealth that create poverty. 

The United States is a country "rich", there are as many if not more delinquency and crime than in developing countries

3- In many countries, the rich are more numerous and richer than the majority of tourists who visit them. Resources that are being built thanks to the country's resources, including tourism part, thanks to the exceptionally low wages in these countries through other forms of enrichment (speculation, corruption, slavery)

4- All travelers are not "rich". Many tourists are "low salaries" who have saved a year or several years to afford the trip of a lifetime. The older had to wait for children to be adults and autonomous in order to put some money aside for travel. Generally they are the ones are the victims of assaults, robberies, scams because traveling in more precarious conditions. The "more fortunate" who stay in luxury hotels, go to the luxury boutiques, use luxury cars, do not be attacked. Ensure security services.

5- Travelling does not mean that we are fortunate. With paid holidays, democratization long-haul flights, and the fact that in many families men and women working, distant destinations are more accessible.

This is not because we have a digital camera, even known brand on the belly, that we are rich and that this justifies the fact of being attacked. This is not because we are abroad we must be raped or be dispossessed of his savings.

This is not tourism that generates crime, but globalization, ease, fragile situations, sometimes laziness.

As with drugs, it earns more money illegally that in going to work in a factory or in a hotel.

Tourism generates many jobs in the hotel industry, trade, crafts, services, agriculture, animal husbandry, maintains sites, roads, museums, transport etc ... If many people live legallyby working, many others seek to live illegally, without much fatigue.

On the other hand, if the states and "rich" of these countries do not redistribute riches it is not the fault of the tourists!

6- The attackers did not attack the big hotels, do not attack the groups nor "burly" men. Their victims are isolated, not too "burly", weakened by the context change, the loss of references, often gullible because unaccustomed or sensitive to anything that is new.

Usually the attacks are not intended to feed a family in distress, but to feed the fantasies due to globalization or to hypertrophy of ego: have a party, make easy money, impress friends,  get devices in fashion, buy a motorbike, buy a narcotic dose, "fuck"a Western lady.

Attacking a tourist or a woman could be similar to that underlying genocide, slavery, rape: it is only a stranger, a foreigner, a "different and insignificant thing" who can be robbed, ripped off, abused or eliminate.

Local judges and local police are generally less severe about tourists aggression, when they really grab the folder ! By cons if the tourist consumes drugs or is pedophile, local justice is very expeditious. Find the mistake !


Sharing some experiences....

Back to Travel booksCarnets_de_voyage.html