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We are soon to embark on our fifth trip with SMARTOURS to India. We have previously traveled to China, Thailand, Borneo and South America and always have been more then pleased. You do travel in large groups (up to 40), which we never had a problem with and in fact we prefer better to small groups, and it does add to the savings.

Haven't we already had this discussion -- many times before? In the interest of full disclosure, I took this trip in 2001 -- there were 12 people in the group and the tour was run by SITA. It was a fascinating experience.

John may not have the disposable income that some "seasoned" travelers have.So, if SMARTOURS works for him and he is happy with what he gets, then more power to him.

I think travellers who post on this message board are sophisticated enough to discern the real from the fake, but I always appreciate the assistance we receive in making our decisions relating to persistent enthusiasm, regardless of the source.

Just have to put in my 2 cents worth here......their brochure looks good till I look at the Single Supp. Outrageous!

My sentiments, too. Many travel providers who don't advertise in ITN get good reviews on this Board, yet somehow smarTours is the one singled out as being a suspect non-advertiser. (I've traveled with them, they deserve the kudos.)Certainly many of us who post here pay our ITN "dues" with the magazine subscription; others surely don't. As pointed out, it's an open forun. (Those who have been using the Board for a long time will recall that ITN originally tried to make it accessible only to subscribers by publishing a code in the magazine each month which had to be used for access. That didn't last long and it soon became open to all.) It's a great resource and I hope the new Board works as well.

My husband and I have traveled a lot, and we know there may be others that offer a good tour at a economical rate, but none , I believe, can compare with smartours!No, I do not work for smarTours either. Just like to let beginning travelers know that they offer wonderful tours for a reasonable price and the hotels are very nice--First class or better, many have been Deluxe!The hotel we stayed at in Hong kong is listed as one of the best. It was so fancy, they changed the carpet in the elevaters each morning to show the day of the week embroidered on it. We have traveled with smarTours to Australia and New Zealand--- Thailand- Singapore-Bali-- Hong Kong----- South Africa---- Denmark-Norway-Finland-Estonia and Vietnam and Cambodia.

What commissions do travel agents make booking Smartours? How many other tour agencies refuse to advertise in ITN, but get tons of free publicity here on the net and how does that affect their bottomline? Does this saving really pass on to the tour customer? Or does it just make the company more profitable?

We have traveled with smarTours 5 times and have always been satisfied with them. Our last tour this January was with them to Vietnam and Cambodia. We have traveled with several other tour companies, and we found that smarTours always delivers! Norma, Oklahoma

Well, most of the people who have ADCTUALLY TAKEN smarTours have spoken highly of them on this forum. In my experience the hotels have been high quality and well located, tour guides excellent, they've delivered what they promised. Yes, they give an "overview" rather than off-the-beaten path experiences (call that "generic" if you wish), which is obviously what the people who take them want. And no, I'm not a shill for smarTours--just someone who has traveled for over 40 years (mostly independently) and enjoys good value.

Well, I might just as well keep this thread going. That seems to be what all you "protesters" want, giving SMARTOURS more free advertising than ever! (This gets ridiculous!)We have taken TWO Smartours trips, one to Borneo, the other to Scandinavia. They were both excellent, used excellent accomodations, had excellent local guides, and about 30 people on each. I understand this has changed, however, and that they are now stuffing the buses to the max---45 travelers, to be sure. A sign of the times, as life becomes very difficult for the travel industry. We have taken 10 or 11 OAT trips and always find them excellent. Neither OAT not SmarTours needs to advertise in ITN. Word of mouth has done very well for both companies.All of this protesting against SMARTOURS has become really tiring, and very predictable. You have to admit that their tours are a very good value, and anyone can see, just by looking at their itineraries, that they are designed to give the traveler a general overview. All this ranting and raving against them achieves nothing, except maybe giving them more space here than they ought to have, which is exactly opposite of the protesters intent!Why don't we give SMARTOURS (as well as Adventures Abroad) a rest!Georgia

Please, let John enjoy his trip.I personally thank him for taking the time to share his experience with a company that has worked well for him.I will check Smartours out because we tend to travel independently but sometimes the planning takes us so long that we don't take as many trips as we would like to.It is my understanding that one of the main reasons for this forum is trade this kind of necessary information in order to make informed choices for own trips. Since we tend to feel more confident about companies that advertise here, Acca's suggestion, I think, is OK.Why are making such a big deal out of these? They are only suggestions.Let's go back to sharing travel info.And thank you, John, for bringing a good company to our attention. It helps me sort the wheat from chaff, so to speak.

I've met a lot of great people on :el groupo" tours, and has been mentioned-- you can always ditch the group. No doubt there are some advantages from time to time- - like the story of the cue buster mentioned above. However... as many travelers and "those in the know" will tell you-- , - you can do a MUCH better job, see more, and realize a significant savings by doing it on your own. Not knocking Smartours- after all- they're in business to make money too and the buck does stop with them -- However, I can assure you they (and any other agency not based in India) simply take a cut and farm you out to local ground operators- to whom they pay much less to provide you the services you paid much more to receive. On average, you usually end up paying at least 35% more than you need to doing it this way. If you want or need to be hand-held, and it's worth the peace of mind to you, then by all means have at it. To each their own. It's your money and you should enjoy your travels at your comfort level. I have put together a 32-day trip to India covering both north and south. I perused the forums **exhaustively** to get ideas and answers to my questions. It was pretty easy to do. I leave in three weeks, but had everything reserved (including intra-India flights) last July. Using the 15-days I've planned for Rajasthanas an example, most agencies have the same trip averaging 150% more p/p -- and my itinerary includes a 2-night stay in a balcony room at the Amarvillas in Agra, (rated #2 hotel in all of Asia by Conde Naste) with suites elsewhere. ( It's a b'day celebrations, so we've splurged there) . These "suites elsewhere" are about $100 per. There's a comparable trip on IExplore that is 300% more (you read that correctly..)than I'm paying, and uses lower level hotels. Smattours' India and Nepal is really 12 days on the ground. It's *unbelievably* rushed and utilizes decent albeit mediocre hotels (to appeal to it everyone, no doubt.) You lose a lot of flavor that way, IMHO. Food is India is cheap cheap cheap! so their included meals is barely significant- but again-- an add-on to make the consumer believe they're really "getting something". Most of those meals are at the hotel- which I'm sure many of you already know. A word of warning about Air India: everything I've read says Air India is bad at best- disgusting at worst. Just be advised. I see taxes are not included --- Factor as much as $300 additional. Budget for the visas you'll need as well (you probably know that) and DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES buy Smartours' travel insurance. No No NO!!!! This is another of those little add-ons that travel agencies put in that is nothing but a huge rip off for the (largely ignorant of these matters) traveling public. No where does it state whether their coverage is primary versus secondary -- a real big deal. Go to and at LEAST compare before you buy their overpriced and (from my quick look) undercovered insurance package. So I'll put my money where my mouth is: Comparing my 15-days in Rajasthan to the 12 days (not 15 remember-- that's an illusion for the customer so they''ll think they actually getting more) works out to $222 per diem p/p. />> with the airfare from the Pacific to Atlanta and on to India -- with much better hotels, our own car and driver, and basically a private tour (there are 4 of us, but I divided by 4 too) The Smarttours' India and Nepal -- adding $300 for taxes is $258 per diem./ per person. that per diem goes up if you live outside of NY. So for about 10%+ more in price -- you're really getting a lot less in terms of overall 'value". There are several agencies offering various itineraries. Use those as a guide to see what path they take and how long they stay there. Read up on the destinations to determine whether it's a place that may hold special interest for you. Be careful of distances and time between destinations. Realize India moves at her own speed and allow time for things to run afoul. Book your hotels and flights/trains yourself and hire a car and driver. Read read READ the forums.... check out Trip Advisor and IndiaMike for solid information from residents-- not those who have visited the destination one time only as a tourist in a group, and base their advice on their singular experience. If you prefer the peace of mind by having one operator to go to; at least use an India based agency. It's entirely up to you, and again-- I'm not knocking it, I am sure they are very nice and several of you have good things to say, but as you can see- it's not necessarily the bargain it's made out to be. With some careful thought, and research/ trip planning, I am confident you'll have a great trip--at a great price. Good luck!

My wife and I just completed a 4 week trip to India. We used Smartours for 2 weeks after we toured the south on our own. We have traveled with other tour companies with all meals provided and that was convienient, however with SmarTours you get to choose whether you want to eat or not. There were nights that we just had a snack and went to bed. They eat very late for us in India, so we chose to eat smaller evening meals. Our tour guide, Agit always gave us suggetions as to where to eat in the area. The hotels they booked were great, first class and above. The advantage any tour company has is experience and buying power. Food is not expensive in India, but the quality is suspect so eat in very good places. Liquor is hard to come to by except in the hotels where it is very expensive. Ask your guide where the Liquor store is, Indian beer is very good. We like to bring things for the kids in the country we visit, they want ink pens. Many of the kids will ask, the hotels only have pencils. Back to the subject, we were in a group of twenty, many of the people we traveled with have taken SmarTours before, several 4 times. This was our first and will not be our last, they deliver what they promise. I would not recommend trying India on your own for the first time. Could we do it now? Yes but I would still get a tour company that worked in India to book hotels, guides, transportation. Our guide has his own company and he was excellent, contact at his name is Amit Chadha. Happy touring!

We have taken a number of Smartours. The value has always been outstanding. Our tour directors have been excellent. If you have taken many tours you know that most tour directors are independent contractors and hire out to numerous companies. This means Mary Ann with Smartours today may be Mary Ann with Globus tomorrow. Anyway, the hotels are usually very nice and the locations visited are usually typical for the country. The size of the group has never been a problem to us, but, one or two bad eggs can spoil a tour of 5 people more easily than they can for a group of 40. Anyway, you have better buses with bigger tours. I personally think Smartours is the best value going but they are inflexable. If you want a few extra days instead of coming on the plane with the tour or a few extra days at the end, forget it or be prepared to pay through the nose.

Great company. Been with them six gtimes and will go again. Itineraries like Globus, Trafalgar, SAGA, Grand Circle and OSAt, but SMARTOURS offers a little bit more for a lot less money. Have been with groups as small as 14.

I think that this is something that everyone who travels should know about Smartours.
A large group of my friends are going to Israel with Smartours. My husband uses a scooter. He can climb on a bus, walk short distances, but needs his scooter to get around.

They refuse to accept Handicapped people on their tours. In my opinion they should be blackballed, in fact, I do not even know if this is legal as they are a US company. I for a fact know that Israel is one of the most handicapped friendly places as I have family there, so their excuse is untrue.

One of their answers to me was "We cannot wait while it takes him longer to get on the bus", Really nice people.

Thanks for letting me vent.


I have not checked this message board for a couple of years. I used to be a regular visitor/poster, but the nonsense over SmarTours became ridiculous.
I am back now looking for info on Cuba trips, but the one thing that caught my eye was the FIVE YEAR thread on SmarTours! I have to say, we have traveled with them twice, albeit a few years ago, and were always more than pleased. In those days their group numbers were "about" 30. I do know that now they combine with Gate One and fill up the bus, which is too much for me. But, if it's a choice of staying home or going with ST, I would go at the drop of a hat. Their service is great!