Newest Review: ... other Independent travel agents. I had a very pleasant experience booking with Trailfinders and wouldn't hesitate using them again.... more
Trailfinders - a tale of two halves.
Member Name: kama0529
Advantages: Great UK based sales team with expert consultants. Efficient. Good value. Good options.
Disadvantages: Local based tour guides (abroad) can be poor.
I have used Trailfinders on a number of occasions as I tend to travel independently and Trailfinders is very geared towards the independent traveller. All of my bookings have been done through the Birmingham branch and have all be conducted face to face rather than over the telephone or the internet (although you can make bookings over the internet and the telephone). However I personally feel that with these types of holiday its really beneficial to be able to sit down with an advisor and get everything sorted out in one visit - and for this reason this is why I like to go to the Trailfinders office. I have travelled with Trailfinders to Australia, Thailand and Cambodia.
I can break this review down into the service provided in the sales office and the service provided during the trip itself - and unfortunately, in my opinion, the quality of the service provided by the sales team and by the in-field team is actually poles apart. I'm sure this will become apparent in my review.
**The Sales Team**
As I said, Trailfinders is very much aimed at the independent traveller. They tend to focus on worldwide destinations outside Europe - and you can either pick an entire trip or you can pick day trips or trips of a few days and join them together. I tend to opt for the shorter trips and string them together because that way I tend to be able to arrange exactly what I want. Trailfinders will arrange for all of the transportation and hotels if you request it, even if they are not part of a set trip. Its actually quite good to get Trailfinders to book everything to do with your trip because I've found that they are able to give you quite a lot of discount compared to booking accommodation and transport yourself. However, the good thing is that they will do as much or as little of the planning and booking as you want them too.
When you actually go to the Trailfinders offices, it is immediately apparent that the sales advisors know what they are talking about. Rather than just doing what they are told, they are actually very willing to advise you and make suggestions and alternatives regarding your trip. They have sales advisors who are experts on different areas of the world and they really do have a wealth of knowledge. For example, when I was traveling to Cambodia, the expert advised me which route to take through the country because transportation options are limited - and yet by following her advice we were able to travel to everywhere we wanted to, albeit in a different order to which we first thought made logical sense. Some transportation networks don't seem to work on logic!!
The other thing that I thought was great was their continuing service once you leave the office. I basically received regular emails from the consultants with any updates or changes - and where changes were necessary, I was given all of the options available. In addition to this, on one occasion I needed to make major changes regarding my dates and they took care of this without any further charge. It really gave me peace of mind that they seemed able to deal with anything I asked of them.
The documents have always arrived with everything included and details have been full and complete. They tend not to deliver the documents very early and so they can arrive fairly last minute (like a week before the travel date) but they have explained to me that this is so that they can make sure that everything is confirmed before sending it out and so the documents posted are the final and confirmed itineary. In addition to this, everything you've arranged is viewable online and so you always have that back up to refer to at any time should you need to. I personally have always found this very helpful because it meant I could arrange additional things around my Trailfinders iteniary.
**When You're Away**
This is where I can find Trailfinders a little bit more hit and miss. Trailfinders use local guides and companies - and some of these are excellent and some of these are not so great. For example, I had a wonderful guide for my 3 day tour of Siem Reap in Cambodia, but a truly awful guide for my 5 day tour of Bangkok. Luckily having the awful guide didn't spoil things for us because we ditched him and ended up doing our own thing. This pattern has kind of repeated itself time after time - where one guide shines and another is rubbish. Where a guide isn't very good its generally been because their motivation seems zero, although their actual knowledge itself is adequate. It really is a shame because some of these local tour guides that trailfinders affiliate with can let the company down. Trailfinders really do need to spend a bit more time selecting the local guides they use if they want to improve their overall product.
I have complained about the guide on one occasion (the one in Bangkok) and I was given an apology, but nothing in way of compensation which would have gone some way in making up for some of the money we had to pay out on top once we'd ditched him.
The accommodation has always been as advertised. They tend to do the whole spectrum of hotel stars - and they are as they are supposed to be. The lower star hotels tend to offer good value in as much as they are clean and functional, but obviously without the amenities and services that are offered at the higher class hotels. I've always find the fact that you can mix and match the hotel accommodation classes quite useful as it means that one day I can save money and go basic and the next day I can pay more and have some luxury!
Overall, Trailfinders have the potential to be a completely fantastic company. The knowledge and expertise they have at hand is brilliant and business is conducted professionally and effortlessly. However, unfortunately, they seem to fall down on their auditing of the effectiveness of local guides. Because of the experience I've had with some guides, I don't currently use Trailfinders. However, if I could be offered some assurance that they have improved the way they audit their guides then I'd be very happy to go back to them.
Summary: UK operations is excellent. Tour guides mixed opinions.
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