“ Much more than just a booking site - makemytrip offer the only way to buy train tickets outside India and custom design tours for travellers. „
~Help when you need it~
When you're planning an independent trip to India it helps to have knowledgeable people on your side and the best place to find them (in my opinion) is in the tripadvisor.com Indian forums. Actually regardless of where you want to go, I'd always say the appropriate forum is the place to start. I found out about www.makemytrip.com from some local Indians on the forum when I needed help booking train tickets. The Indian railway booking site had stopped accepting credit cards and someone advised me that makemytrip was the easiest way round the problem. For a tiny booking fee of something like 20 rupees (less than 30p) they could circumvent the whole complicated mess and confusion and process the tickets for us. I was hooked and booked the train tickets. Everything went smoothly and the next year I used them again for the train tickets and a hotel.
For this year's holiday I decided to use makemytrip for a lot more than I'd done before. I booked our flights from Mumbai to Kochi, finding flights with a budget airline that wasn't accessible with the usual European based flight companies. A big plus point for Makemytrip. Admittedly the flight caused some anxiety after I discovered a message on my profile asking me to call the company because there was 'a problem'. I'm old fashioned enough to still freak at making phone calls to India but the lovely man on the phone explained that I hadn't been sent my flight confirmation and quickly arranged to sort it out.
~More than just a flight~
I also booked three train tickets with the company which turned out to be a bit of a miracle since in theory it shouldn't have been possible to do so without an Indian credit card. Because my credit card details were already in their system it worked. I have no idea if it should have done but it did. I was able to check all the details, print off my e-tickets and reconfirm times and stations - it was much easier than using the Indian Railways website.
Whilst I'd been floating around on the website arranging flights and trains I realised that the company organises made to measure tours. I long ago gave up on group tours but I liked the idea of combining the convenience of a tour with the privacy of just the two of us being driven around without a bus-load of annoying fellow travellers. Searching the site for suitable tours was a bit of a drag as the function for narrowing down what you want is very tricky. Eventually I realised that the best approach was to search for holidays that included one of the cities I most wanted to visit - in this case Munnar. I narrowed it down to trips of no more than 5 days (because I'd already booked the train out) and identified a possibly suitable tour. I clicked the button to ask someone to call me to discuss it or to do an online 'chat' about what I needed and absolutely nothing happened - twice. Eventually I sent a request for more info about one of the tours and got a response. I explained which tour I was interested in and when I wanted to travel and soon received an offer for an upgraded version of the trip. The original price had been very cheap but the company up-sold me something that they had clearly worked out would actually be more suitable. Yes, the price went up by about 30% but it had been stupidly cheap to start with.
I received a proposal, told them that the dates were wrong and asked them to do it again. The counter proposal was also wrong - the details and hotels didn't match up due to some bad cut and paste errors. I perservered and eventually we were getting closer to the right tour. They suggested a night on a converted rice barge instead of a night in a hotel which was absolutely the right thing to do, and then they added an extra night in a hotel of my choice at the beginning. I asked to have a half day tour of Kochi added but it was put at the beginning of the tour instead of the end and multiple emails followed and things got a wee bit stressful as half the staff were off for Diwali holidays.
The assistant who helped me and who designed the tour kept trying to ring me but tended to forget the 4.5 hour time difference and call in the middle of the night. Eventually we spoke and she fixed all the little niggles. A week or so before we left for India all the hotel vouchers and the 'car and driver' voucher were all emailed through. I double checked a few things, got reconfirmation and finally everything was done.
The tour cost us a total of just over £400 for 5 nights accommodation and a driver and car to take us around from arrival at Kochi airport through to drop off in Kochi at the homestay which I'd booked. It saved me lots of aggro and probably quite a lot of money as we usually have to book drivers at each hotel to take us to the next and generally get ripped off on hotel commission on top of the pricces.
The driver they provided was very good behind the wheel, looked after us well and kept the car spotless at all times. His love of 1980s and 1990s power ballads got a bit wearing by the second day and the air con was generally set to 'fierce' and his English was good enough to keep telling us about the itinerary but not up to answering any questions. I can't grumble - if you book with an India company you can't expect to demand someone who actually understands you so we took it all in our stride.
The quality of the first hotel - the Westwood Riverside - was excellent. The second hotel was stupidly isolated but spotlessly clean and the final night on the converted rice barge on the Kerala backwaters was the highlight of our trip. I'm very glad that the consultant persuaded me to go with slightly better hotels and to include the boat trip and grateful that they knew what we needed better than we did.
~What Makemytrip can do for you~
The site offers a way to book national and international flights, train and bus tickets, hotels and whole holidays with or without flights. If you need to change train arrangements you can amend or cancel bookings directly online - I used this facility after realising I wanted to stop off at an additional place on the way back to Mumbai so I made a cancellation on one of the trains. The refund was processed quickly and the status of the refund was clear on the site.
Often you can get discount vouchers through the site. For example my first hotel booking last year was made using a discount voucher which they sent because I'd booked the train tickets.
I plan to use makemytrip for another organised tour next time we go to India. Admittedly I can only take a few days of being driven around before I get desperate to escape the sense of someone else being in control. We're keen to go to Kashmir and their local support and knowledge should make it much easier than trying to do it ourselves in a region that's still tricky for foreigners to visit.
Makemytrip did everything they could to make a perfect holiday for us. We didn't always understand what was going on or what was coming next but we just went with the flow and accepted whatever came along. The consultants were really helpful and keen to adapt to whatever I asked for and sent very clear details of what was and wasn't included. I hate to think what I'd have had to pay a UK-based agency to create such a lovely trip for us and I'm more than happy to recommend makemytrip - so long as you have the patience to check and double check the itineraries and speak up if you want something changed.