smarTours, which was founded in 1996, offers affordable traveling, tours and cruises.
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I booked a tour with SmarTours for October 2018 to South Africa and we paid our deposit earlier in the year. After booking the tour my travelling companion's daughter is having a disabled child in October and she had to cancel the whole tour but she and I were travelling on to Victoria Falls so I had to cancel my extension since she was not going. I was charged a change fee of US$150 yet my friend that cancelled got a voucher of $150 for future travel and yet she was the one cancelling her whole trip. I complained only to be ignored by all. This is highly unfair and Liza that I emailed does not respond. It took 3 emails to even get a correct bill out of SmarTours. Totally incompetent travel people. I can only hope that this is not the kind of service we get on our South Africa tour. I want my US$150 back. It is unreasonable and very bad customer service. I will never travel with SmarTours again.
I was on the 4-city tour in July: Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Helsinki. The itinerary suggested: Four-star hotels throughout but the hotel in Budapest is under renovation with plaster coming off the walls and rust in the sink/bath. Both hotels in Vienna and Prague were very ordinary and not in either city center. The Helsinki hotel is more of a 3 -star: the room was awful (tiny shower with plastic curtain) and the dining room was dirty. The outward bound flight was shown to be from JFK to Budapest when in fact there was a stop in Helsinki with only 40 minutes transfer time. We missed the connecting flight owing to a flight delay so spent 6.5 hrs after the transatlantic leg sitting in Helsinki airport. Missed half a day in Budapest out of 3 nights.
The itinerary is not clear about the amount of time on buses - you don't get as much time in the cities as you might want. I anticipated arriving in Prague around 1-2pm after departing Vienna around 8.30am. We didn't get there until 7pm after leaving Vienna at 8.30 am. A whole day in a bus with a lunch stop at a horrid cafe at the border - another half day in the city lost. SmarTours does not have check ins at the hotels until after 6pm. The three dinners that are included? Don't bother. Very disappointing. About 2 weeks prior to traveling after paying for the booking 3 months earlier, I called SmarTours offices asking for the flight vouchers and detailed itinerary - the representative was very rude telling me "all the information is on the website", which it was not. Only a couple of days later did I learn about the connection in Helsinki - I would not have booked had I known of this flight route.
SmarTours was initially unresponsive to a 2.5 page detailed letter giving them balanced feedback. I acknowledged the extra trips I chose during the tour were worth it and the bus driver was always on time. However, I stated I was disappointed with the overall quality of the tour after it had been advertised as "superior first class". In particular, I felt the tour company was negligent allowing only 40 minutes between connecting flights which resulted in my outward bound trip from Washington DC to Budapest ending up being over 28 hours long instead of 14.
I eventually spoke with someone who implied I was naive about traveling (I actually travel frequently to Europe and elsewhere). I was upset and then annoyed by her constant interruptions and particularly when she told me, "You knew this was a bus tour". I told her I did not sign up for a bus tour although I knew buses were used for transfers between two cities. We actually spent almost 2 full days (out of 11) in a bus when the travel time should have been considerably shorter.
The tour company representative admitted there were issues needing to be addressed - more accurate information before booking, better customer service and improved accommodation and meals. I was offered a $200 credit toward a future tour but I asked for a partial refund. This was denied. My letter was addressed to the two CEOs that head up SmarTours but I did not hear back from either of them: I was unable to speak to anyone beyond middle management.
I attended one of your tours to Israel with my partner, Stephen **, in November 2017. Time passes quickly and I was remiss in giving feedback on my trip. It is never too late to give a compliment, so I would like to convey my opinion here and hope that my feedback is given to my tour director, Dan ** and to the owners of smarTours. Dan greeted us everyday with his passion and wisdom for Israel, its history, culture, politics etc and were inspired by his stories that will remain in our hearts and minds. He is a gem of a man, the guide of guides and smarTours is lucky to have him. Thank you so much.
I booked with this company- they later canceled because someone had “chartered the barge.” They refunded my deposit but stated that since the refund had been made, the insurance could not be refunded. In simple terms, they are making me pay for a service that won’t be provided. DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY’S INSURANCE- find your own and insure that trip cancellation. It appears to me that kickbacks or other shady business practices are in effect!
My husband and I booked a tour to Cuba and made a deposit. During the time between our deposit and the final payment I became disabled and now require the use a mobility electric scooter. They said they could not accommodate us and refused to return our deposit. The contract says deposit is non-refundable. We were willing to take the trip, they were unwilling to take us. It seems to me they're the ones cancelling our trip, not us. Nowhere in their ads do they mention this tour is not accessible for wheelchairs, etc. We have used smarTours in the past and enjoyed our previous trips and were extremely disappointed with how they handled this matter.
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My last smarTours was some years back, but I am considering another one. I am a very experienced traveler. smarTours does an amazing job for the money. I went to South Africa with them, and had the best guide ever. One of the safari guides in Kruger Park told us our guide was the one Nelson Mandela used for heads of state! On the other hand, our guide in Australia was so-so, and the one in South America was really bad. So it is like other companies - the luck of the draw! Still, they do an amazing job for a very low price.
South Africa disaster. smarTours went cheap and ruined our vacation. They hired an inexperienced over the hill tour director with a nasty temper. They put us in hotels in bad areas or far from important sights. They did not include many meals to make the price lower by transferring the cost. They skipped sights which the tour director deemed a waste of time without telling us until it was too late. They ignored some of our special needs making have to make our own arrangements for included meals. We have taken many tours and never ran into this terrible atmosphere created by our director Gabriel. This was our first and last smarTours.
We recently came back from South Africa tour (Sept.19 to Oct. 5). My wife had requested vegetarian meal when we sent our payment. smarTours New York office personnel said for me to advise the tour director and they will be able to arrange the special meal. We did let our tour director - Jeremy know. But we were left on our own to make do with whatever was available. There were two other Indian couples with us with same problem. I believe, tourist should not have to worry about food in an organized tour. We have used other tour operators in the past and we have not experienced any problem with special meals. Victoria Falls extension was outsourced to local tour operator who provided transportation to and from hotel to the airport and visit to the falls. No representative from smarTours. That was unusual.
Traveled (smarTours Amazing Thailand) with my 16 year old granddaughter for summer educational experience and fun. Unfortunately, there were sitting problems on the bus which broke out in a fight. The tour guide's answer was singing "You Are My Sunshine". Obviously, this just made matters worse! Also, my granddaughter has a seafood allergy which was totally ignored. The guide was very knowledgeable about Thailand's history, culture, people, etc, but wasn't able to control her "smartpeople". This was my 3rd smarTour, and not willing to say my last... Crap happens.
We just finished (5/2017) a Smart Tour which was excellent. The tour included Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro. The areas visited were well chosen. The hotels selected were excellent. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and personable. Buses were modern with emergency toilets but potty breaks were appropriately timed. All facets of the trip were very well coordinated, even the hotel check-ins. As an added bonus, there was a good mix of those people sharing this journey (14-day tour of the Croatian area) with us.
I called smarTours to address a concern regarding the Dubai trip that I had booked with a friend, and spoke with a supervisor named Marian who verbally berated me for calling. I hardly got a word in during the conversation. Most of the time on the phone was her demeaning me for thinking there would be a problem on the trip. I can only guess that customers are not allowed to express concerns or ask questions about their safety when they book a trip with smarTours. I was extremely insulted by her behavior on the phone. She did most of the talking, and then she hung up the phone on me when I tried to speak. UNPROFESSIONAL.
We have used smarTours about a dozen times over the past 10 years. Their tours are not for the uninitiated traveler. We like them because of the freedom their tours afford, in terms of free time to explore and the ability to choose your own restaurants for most dinners. If you want to be completely coddled and shepherded around for 12 hours every day, this is not for you.
The guides are usually above par, and most of them are contracted, so they might be the same guide Tauk used the week before. Your colleagues are generally experienced repeaters of smarTours, and are usually well behaved and knowledgeable. Don't crab about paying 3% for foreign credit card charges (use the RIGHT card), or their travel insurance company (We had one trip cancellation claim, and they were great.).
Just returned from SmarTour's trip to Spain: Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia and Barcelona. It was simply majestic. Buses were modern (albeit with no facilities but provided stops every few hours at excellent rest stops). Our guide was respectful, funny and very informative, as were the specific guides to various specific sites we visited. He coordinated each facet of the trip and everything was done on time. Hotels were top notch with memorable meals, often located in the city center. I'm already planning another trip with this company and am totally impressed with the way we were treated and all the accommodations afforded to us.
We recently took your Thailand /Cambodia trip on Nov. 15-Dec. 1, 2016, utterly disappointed by your airline arrangement with Air China. They were rude, crude and did not treat us with respect. Food was atrocious. As you know we paid full fare in Business class ($12000/) and still got lousy treatment. Had we known, we could make our own flight arrangement with other airlines like Singapore, Etihad, Thai, etc. we would have done it and joined the group in Bangkok. You never gave us that option?? There are so many other issues I will have to send you several emails to vent our frustration. Hope you will respond to us.
In response to the many reviews of smarTours I'd like to comment that this is not a truck tour outfit. It's geared to the active traveler who wants bang for the buck, knowledgeable tour guides who help navigate your explorations, very good to tolerable and usually well located hotels. The groups are large - up to 40 but generally peopled by experienced travelers, often well heeled who know how to cope and behave in a group. (Usually.) No fancy extras. The company is above budget level, supposedly a bit better than Gate 1. The number of meals and accommodations depend upon the country visited.
I've visited Turkey, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and South Africa with smarTours. No complaints at all. Didn't love every hotel. I'm a female traveling alone so admittedly, a bit fussy. I was treated well as an older single, love the itineraries. Service is improving by leaps in spite of some of the nonsense noted correctly by reviewers. smarTours goes for the cheapest airfares and routes which can cause ridiculous layovers. Agreed - can be tough. But then, staff killed themselves to help me with a visa problem and made sure I didn't feel abandoned in Shanghai where I got stuck while trying to work on it. We succeeded. Give them a shot but raise your issues.
My previous complaint against SMARTOURS has been satisfactorily resolved and this complaint can be removed and retracted.
On April 16, 2016 we paid (by personal check) a deposit of $600 to hold a place on a SMARTOURS trip to China scheduled for Sept. 15-Oct.1, 2016. On May 24, 2016 we sent a $298 check also to SMARTOURS for travel insurance. Unfortunately, my wife, Diane, who has a history of asthma and significant hypertension, developed a worsening of these conditions raising concerns for her safety on this trip. Because of this she saw her physician on June 16, 2016 who advised that Diane should not undertake this trip. We did not take the trip.
When this documentation was submitted to TRIPMATE, the insuring company, they denied our claim in writing, as well as on my phone call to a supervisor. We would like to recover the $600 deposit. Recently I have learned that the TRIPMATE company has had hundreds of similar complaints against them, and I would strongly recommend that anyone planning travel anywhere not use them for insurance protecting the need to cancel due to illness. Had I known of their reputation I would have purchased insurance elsewhere.
I also blame SMARTOURS for using this unreliable company for travel insurance. When I spoke with a SMARTOURS representative they said they were not responsible, though I pointed out that the $298 check for insurance was made out to SMARTOURS, not TRIPMATE. I find this very troublesome and can only hope SMARTOURS ceases to use TRIPMATE in any capacity.
This letter will be sent to the BBB, the CEO of each of the above companies, as well as Consumer Affairs. I would be surprised to receive any reply from these CEOs. The reason this complaint was delayed is because I wanted my anger to abate and we have had additional personal medical problems to deal with in the interval.
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.
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!
smarTours expert review by ConsumerAffairs
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.
smarTours Company Information
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- 545 8th Ave. Suite 2250
- New York
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- United States