Consumer Reviews and Complaints
I, along with several friends (3 of us being tour directors) went on highly recommended SmarTours. Many aspects of the tour were wonderful--Japan Air, 4 hotels, buses, trains, venues, 2 optional so, and cherry blossoms which reigned supreme. However, our tour guide was deplorably awful. He was a last minute fill in for the original whose father became ill. On day one we complained to the company in Tokyo who had hired him. They promised to replace him and keep us informed which they never did. Our guide had very limited English and worse knowledge! He was totally in over his head.
Our numerous complaints to Smart brought an extremely small monetary compensation and $200 credit toward another trip. Most others on the trip said they had been with this company before and this had never happened. The tour guide is the "nuts and bolts"--we were cheated and their compensation was paltry! I won't say never to going again with them, but I'd be wary.
Both my husband and I have travelled extensively both on self-guided trips and tour guided trips. We found smarTours to be one of the best, most affordable companies to travel with. Arrangements are good; tour guides knowledgeable and professional. Like some whose reviews are posted here, we were a little dubious at first in simply sending off a check to a company who was a virtual unknown to us at the time.
We have travelled to Vietnam, Cambodia,Thailand, Machu Picchu, The Galapagos, China & Hong Kong, Patagonia, and more with this company. Often we found other tour groups on the same path we were on but staying at inferior hotels and paying significantly more. Arrangements are not like those in the States and we were fine with that. We wanted to experience the people in their homes, tastes their foods and understand their culture and we will always be grateful for the guides and their knowledge and desire to have us understand the local cultures. Thank you smarTours!
First time with smarTours. I want to talk only about the booking, as I haven't gone on the trip yet. Will not take a credit card for the initial reservation. Have to send a check and only a check through the mail. Very unsafe practice these days so I had to send it certified. They are way behind the times. Will only take a credit card for an extra $100 and will not take the credit card info over the phone, Must mail it in a form with the credit card number. Very unsafe. For the Australia New Zealand trip, told it was nonstop to first. NO. Actually we start in New Zealand but they have us flying from Sydney, Australia first then to Auckland to start trip adding 7 hours to the already 15 hour flight to Sydney. There are many direct flights from many airlines to New Zealand. Very bad, plus they misrepresented the flights.
Few meals are included mostly only breakfast. Few included tours- many optional tours to purchase. Have to pay cash for tours in dollars or must pay a 3% extra for using a credit. Do not take debit cards. You may ask why I am using them. I wanted to go with some friends and this is the company they were using. If the trip is not absolutely great, I will not be using them again. They need to get with the times. I have never had these issues with any other tour company and I have used many.
SmarTours often requires you to take their flights. When we receive our tickets to New Zealand we discovered with horror that our flight to Auckland went via Sydney, Australia adding 7 hours more to a long trip and losing a day in Auckland. When confronted with this problem smarTours indicated we were on this flight because Sydney was a Quantas hub. Air New Zealand had numerous, inexpensive nonstop flights. This has happened to us before with smarTours. BEWARE OF THEIR FLIGHTS.
We joined smarTours' "Incredible Patagonia" tour in December 2015. The tour in general was very good; however, we were very disappointed that we were unable to see penguins as advertised for this tour. Magellan penguins in the wild can only be seen in this region near Antarctica. We were told that the Otway Bay Penguin Reserve was closed in March 2015 and smarTours had been notified months in advance. Instead, the penguins tour was replaced with a trip to a ship museum. We are unhappy. SmarTours chose not to notify its customers about this in advance.
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Traveled the world in my younger days as an independent traveler. Having discovered smarTours, the days of searching for a hotel room, finding a way to get to some site, and booking flights are over. I've taken smarTours to Vietnam, Thailand, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Cuba, and Greece. I'm currently booked for Dubai. The vast majority of hotels were in categories that I couldn't afford on my own. A few were less elegant, but I've stayed in worse. Don't expect The Ritz in rural areas of third world countries. Guides are NOT employees of smarTours. They are contract workers, usually provided by local tourist associations, and are the same people you'd have with other tour companies. You really get your money's worth with this company. The majority of their customers are seasoned travelers and adapt well. I've only encountered "Ugly Americans" on one tour.
Subject: Cruise of the Czars. Just came back from the cruise on Sept. 8, 2015, this was the worth time I had experienced in my traveling life. And the reasons are as follows. Your advertising of the trip are nothing short of teasing information's at the best, prior to paying in full for the trip you never reveal the true story even though I asked for it and never got it. Old ship with very small rooms included the upgraded rooms. Gratuity amounts and the non-stop mentioning of it. Change of linens and towels schedule. Not an elderly friendly ship, no elevators, steep steps, tight spaces in the cabins and hallways. Credit card payments used on board are charge at high premiums.
Food was at subpar. And to my complaints about it the answer I got is "food is not the main reasons you are on the cruise." Being on the boat for seven days and nights the choice of entertainment was nothing short of a joke. After booking an option tour within few hours you cannot get a refund after cancelation. It felt that in any corners that could be cut to save a dollar it was succeeded. If in fact I knew all the facts and the conditions prior my trip I would never had booked this kind of cruise. Your advertisement as a VALUE cruise is misleading, you only get what you paid for and LESS.
Magical Ireland. This was a perfect trip!!! Our tour guide ** was very knowledgeable and funny. He helped make it an amazing trip. It would be a great addition to include Scotland. We could see it but couldn't touch it!!
I took my first trip with SmarTours 5 years ago. Kenya and Tanzania, a trip of a lifetime! Everything was perfect, we stayed in great game lodges, our tour guides were very helpful and always put our wants first. I have since gone to Ireland with SmarTours and again, another great vacation! Don't let the reasonable cost throw you off....this is a first class travel company. Can't wait to choose my next adventure with SmarTours.
It was a very nice trip and went smoothly. Good food, great guides and tour leader did an excellent job. The hotels were very nice but only 1 had a swimming pool. The environmental hotel/spa was great and got to see many plants, hummingbirds, butterflies and some animals. The Caribe Hotel was very nice and only across the street was the Caribbean ocean.
I recommend you to everyone.
A wonderful trip bringing us into a world beyond our imaginings. Beautiful country, unbelievable people, and incredible scenery made us yearn for simpler times without all the technology of the modern world. We loved every minute of it. Some of the restaurants left a little to be desired, but the lodgings were terrific.
We have enjoyed every one of the tours that we have taken with SmarTours. We are constantly looking at different destinations and look forward to taking our family on a trip with SmarTours in the very near future. Thank you for helping us accomplish our travel goals!
It would have been 5-stars except for 2 things: (1) the number of unnecessary air flights, changing planes when there were direct flights for a total of 11 flights - we lost a lot of vacation time; (2) the absolute chaos when we were dropped at the airport, particularly in Melbourne - we couldn't have been dropped any further away from the check-in point inside the terminal. We had to drag our own luggage!
We have been on several smarTours (from Israel to India). Guides are outstanding; hotels have been great and prices are the best deal around. We have met friends on trips who we have traveled with us on 2nd and 3rd troops with smarTours. I have recommended this company to several people. I love that there are optional tours so that a person can choose to go or not. Our trip this year was to Croatia and we are looking into the Scandinavia excursion.
I have taken both the South African tour and the China Sampler. Both were great trips. I loved the itinerary of activities. I would travel with smarTours again. I noted a couple of items that could be modified. The China Sample was very rushed! All of the guides shuffled us so quickly from place to place, we could barely see anything. On the South Africa tour, the hotel was less than desirable. We were literally put into a closet and had to request another room. It took over an hour to finalize our room after an 17-hour flight. The staff was not pleasant when dealing with the clients. I would not use the hotel again. Also as I have traveled several times with smarTours, there are no referrals discounts or incentives for repeat clients.
I have used smarTours several times. I found them to be an exceptional company.
We were in China with Yangtze Cruise in 2010. Good organize, good hotels, good Guide.
Couldn't have had a better time. All tour guides were very informative and helpful. Hotels were top rate. Everyone on the tour got along wonderfully.
I have enjoyed all of the old offers with smarTours and am now starting in on the new tours. They have all been well planned, fabulous, and for the most part cost-effective. In the old days customer service was rude, abrupt, and unforgivable. I am delighted that most recently that has changed and now one can feel good about the total experience. Before, the tours and customer service seemed like two very different arms on the same body. Customer service needed an implant and got it. Thank the Universe for hospice.
I learned about smarTours from a neighbor who’s a frequent smarTours traveller. When I had my tour with them, the tour guide was a little rough getting started, just in her personal skills. But her knowledge-base was outstanding. Once we got the hang of her, she was great. Interactions with sales and customer service was very good. We had some travel hiccups and ** did a good job. We had a nice time with them and we plan on using smarTours to book our next trip in the future.
We've only been on one trip and it was wonderful. The tour guides and customer service were great. I would recommend them and we might book our next trip with them.
The first time I went on a trip with smarTours was 12 or 13 years ago. My travel experience on the trips I've taken with them have all been excellent. The guides are wonderful and the hotels are excellent. I'm looking into taking one of their trips to France this summer. I haven't taken any trips for several years since I went to London in 2012. But they are my first choice.
I was looking through the internet for some kind of trip that will best suit our intention of touring and we really enjoyed it the first time with SmarTours. The second time was in Greece, with my daughter–in–law and my son. And then last time was LaRue. I highly recommended SmarTours to my friends and families. However, when I refer something, I don’t get anything. But with others I got $100 or $200 per referral.
They were reasonable but they're not the best. We had no bad experience as far as the tour was concerned except that the tour guide was not very good. He was supposed to be the coordinator but it looked like he had no interest in the job. So a lot of people wrote to them and they sent back a letter to us saying that they will fix the problem and offer a $100 credit plus a subsequent travel. So we signed up with smarTours again for a Yangtze, China cruise to give them another chance and I hope they do the best this time. Although certain information seemed a little bit fuzzy since when I talk to them about the $100 credit, they say they don't have any letter and asked me to write them an email about it.
Also, there were some other things that could have easily been resolved and done but was not very efficient. For instance, when the money was collected 75 days in advance and everybody is a couple, why couldn't we get the seats together in the plane? But when I contacted the airline directly, they were able to give it to me. But in coming back, we were so mad about the seating so they called the airlines already and they were able to give us the seats, so there was no problem there. I've never had an experience before like this with anybody but there were certain areas they can definitely improve on. These small things make you start getting a bad taste in your mouth on a vacation. A couple is spending about $8000 to $9000 and that's not a small amount to get that kind of a treatment.
We had a wonderful, thrifty tour with smarTours. We found out about them in 2001. We took a tour in Bali and it was wonderful. The travel part of it was great as far as getting there, and they really are cheap. The tour guide we had in Turkey was phenomenal. He was with us the whole time for the full-fledged tour and he was excellent. He was actually a professor of economics, so we got a lot of interesting background.
Their sales team was also great. They have their little quirks, know what they want and what price they're able to offer. The service was done very well, too. There was a time we were even questioning whether we should go to Turkey because of what was going on in Syria but smarTours kept track of their ground team there in Turkey and knew that there was no problem and stated so to us. It was one of the best tours we've ever had.
I recommend smarTours to a lot of people. They were excellent. We went to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The tour guide who was with us most of the way was fantastic. Every once in a while they would pick up someone more familiar with the local area and all of them were great.
SmarTours is excellent. I have taken them twice, in 2004 and 2005. The hotels and the tour director I had in Southeast Asia and South America were excellent. I would use them again but have been doing a lot of cruises.
I've traveled to China, the Adriatic and India with smarTours and have recommended the company to many friends, all of whom raved about their experiences. smarTours is a great value -- excellent itineraries, accommodations and guides. Identical to other more expensive tours. The average group is about 40 people, larger than some other group tours, but the size never affected my enjoyment.
I've taken like 18 trips with smarTours, and they've all been wonderful. The directors and the tour guides have all been very professional and easy to understand, they didn't start spouting off with a foreign language in the middle of the tour like some tour companies I had taken before. Everything was in English and easily understood. Also, their drivers are the best ones I've ever had. I've gone all over the world with smarTours and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, that's why I've taken them so often. The only time I'm not going is this year because I'm going all over the United States and have weddings all over the place I have to go to. They're the best tour company for the best price, and I would recommend them.
ConsumerAffairs Research Team
The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.
The smarTours company has been in business since 1996, offering low-cost group vacation tours to exotic worldwide locales. To date, more than 150,000 satisfied travelers have used smarTours to book their holiday.
- Expert guides: Local, English-speaking guides enhance the tourist experience by providing local knowledge of destination sites to smarTours guests in the language guests are most comfortable with. This allows travelers to enjoy traveling without the frustrations of a language barrier.
- Deluxe accommodations: smarTours offer group booking options, which make it possible to enjoy bigger savings at both deluxe and first-class hotels.
- Roommate services: Since traveling alone often comes with increased costs with many prices based on double occupancy, smarTours offers 'Find a Roommate' services to help keep travel costs low.
- Airfare is included: Rather than incur additional expenses, international airfare is included with discounted packages through smarTours.
- Industry certification: The smarTours company is a member of United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), which allows travelers peace of mind since certified operators carry at least $1 million of professional liability insurance to cover issues and problems that may arise.
- Best for SmarTours is best for groups needing to travel on a budget while still experiencing exotic locales.
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smarTours Company Profile
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- 501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1402
- New York
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- United States