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Friendly Planet reviewed: One traveler’s experience on the Taj Mahal Express tour

We recently relaunched our Taj Mahal Express tour with a significant discount and more features. I wanted to share with you what one of the first travelers to go on the tour just told me. You know we could send you marketing literature until the cows come home. But when I’m buying something, nothing has more value to me than what other people say. And I believe nothing has more value to you, the traveler, than what our customers say.

With that, here’s a testimonial from Nancy of Union Mills, N.C. These are her exact words. If there are any typos, my apologies, but we don’t edit these reviews.

“My husband George and I returned last Tuesday from the Taj Mahal Express (03/15/10 to 03/23/10) and we could not be more pleased with the outcome of the trip! Every aspect of the tour FAR EXCEEDED OUR EXPECTATIONS!

The itinerary went so smoothly from start to finish. The hotels were excellent, the food was great, and the sightseeing package could not have been better! Now let me sing the praises of our tour guide- Ravi Shanker Tiwari. There are not enough positive adjectives in the English language to describe the exemplary treatment our group received from Ravi, but I will try.

Ravi is extremely intelligent, knowledgeable in all aspects of his job, super organized, warm & witty, and relates well to all types of individuals. He was with us 24/7 and we felt like we were with a family member. Ravi went ABOVE AND FAR BEYOND the call of duty to ensure we had the best possible experience and he succeeded in spades.

Examples of this were extra side trips that were not included and spending every one of his own free evenings with the group so that we could experience different dining and social experiences that we would not have been able to on our own. George and I have traveled all over the world, and have never had such a great experience with a tour coordinator. I’ll also add that the bus driver and helper were also top notch.

Please make sure a copy of this email goes to the President of Friendly Planet, as well as a copy to Ravi’s supervisor. We have already recommended Friendly Planet to friends/family and will continue to do so. We will definitely be using your services for future trips (I just wish we could have Ravi as our tour coordinator everywhere in the world!)

Again, thank you for a utterly memorable adventure to India!”

Thanks Nancy! Your e-mail made me smile ear to ear. Your experience is what we’re in business for. :)

Weekly wrap up: Taj Mahal Express marveling travelers

Last week I told you about Friendly Planet’s hot new deal to India on the Taj Mahal Express tour for only $1,099. If you didn’t hear about it, I encourage you read the post to see all of the new features we added. Travel editors have been kind enough to feature the Taj Mahal Express in their publications and I want to say THANKS to them all. Go ahead and take a gander:

National Geographic: Daily Radar: 2.04.10

Frommer’s: The Band-Wagon to India Picks Up Speed, As Friendly Planet Offers Another Budget-Priced Marvel to Your Options

Vacation Agent: Friendly Planet Travel Offers Taj Mahal Express For $1,099

Travel Pulse: Friendly Planet Travel Offers Taj Mahal Express for $1,099

The new Taj Mahal Express for 2010: The best group tour of India just got better

The Taj Mahal Express has been one of our most popular tours, and for good reason. We were the first tour operator to introduce an affordable tour of India in 2005. It cost just $999 then, and that was five years ago.

The response was huge. Over 900 travelers signed up for the first Taj Mahal Express tour! Since then, its popularity has only grown. And we have continued to add more perks and features, without raising the price.

As you might expect, I personally visit every destination. I inspect every hotel, talk to all the guides, travel the itineraries, see the sites our travelers see, and talk to people who represent us on the ground.

I do this for several reasons. Obviously I love these exotic destinations. But I visit these places also to ensure that our tours are consistently meeting or exceeding my standards, and to look for new ways to make our trips even more exquisite.

It’s funny. Our suppliers on the ground sometimes complain during my visits about the standards I expect for Friendly Planet travelers. Think about that for a moment. If they’re complaining, that suggests our competitors are pushing them only for lower prices, not better value for travelers. It’s easy to pressure suppliers on price. It’s not easy to negotiate better pricing for travelers while maintaining a high level of hotels, service, and programming.

That’s exactly what happened during my recent visit to India. I discovered several opportunities to make the best one week tour of India even better. Our Taj Mahal Express is now enhanced with an additional night (9 days total) and most optional tours now included in the price. And we’ve added an exclusive new tour of an authentic farming village to give our travelers a chance to interact with real people (outside the realm of tourism), meet the village elder, and get a real understanding of life in India.

Best of all, I’ve been able to hold the line on price. This brand new, nine-day Taj Mahal Express tour is just $1,099, including flights, great hotels, lots of touring to the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikhri, and the Amber Fort with an ascent on an elephant or a Jeep.

Plus, a full-day tour in Delhi that will take you to its most important sites, such as the Laxmi Narayan Temple, Raj Ghat, the Red Fort, and more. You’ll conclude your day with a rickshaw tour through Old Delhi’s most popular street market, Chandni Chowk.

This is always one of the most memorable experiences I have of India. Our driver is a master at guiding the rickshaw through India’s winding, narrow lanes and alleys. They’re teeming with shoppers, street vendors, cows, cars, other rickshaws … the ride is simply an amazing adventure, and something you can’t experience anywhere else.

Here’s what else I’ve always included in the Taj Mahal Express tour for you: non-stop flights from JFK International airport on Air India, all transfers and ground transportation within India, deluxe and superior first-class hotels, daily breakfast buffet, an authentic Indian farewell dinner in Delhi, and more.

And now that you’re in the neighborhood, why not add a visit to Nepal. On our three-night extension, you’ll fly to Kathmandu and visit Durbar Square, the city of Bhadgaon, the famous five-story pagoda temple of Nyatapola, and local bazaars. On your last day you have an opportunity to take an optional air tour and fly over the Himalayas to see Mt. Everest. Talk about flying high, if you remember your high school geography, Everest is the highest peak on Earth. And you’ll be flying over it.

As I’ve shared with you before, India’s sights, sounds, and smells are among the most phenomenal in the world. I encourage you to read my previous posts about the Taj Mahal Express, and also see what our Taj Mahal Express travelers have said about it.

Book our new nine-day Taj Mahal Express tour for $1,099 by March 31st. You’ll be signing up for one of the most popular tours we’ve ever offered at Friendly Planet, and certainly one of the most amazing cultural experiences of your life.

For complete details about the tour and the Nepal extension, visit our Web site. Have any questions? Write to me directly.

What’s to come at Friendly Planet in 2010

I always enjoy this time of the year. It’s relaxing to get a few days off from work and spend the holidays with friends and family. As the year comes to a close, you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished, and think about what you want to achieve in the next year. 
 
I know what I’m looking forward to in 2010. We’re going to be introducing several new and exciting tours and community projects at Friendly Planet Travel. I want to share with you all a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.  
 
New Web site. One significant change will be our upgraded Web site. By the end of January, expect to see a faster, more responsive site. It’ll be filled with new tools for individual travelers, as well as a new search engine that will make it even easier to search for deeply discounted air and hotel packages to many foreign destinations including London, Rome, Paris, even the Caribbean. 
 
New booking engine. Along with a new Web site comes a new booking engine. It will let travelers book reservations completely online. It will be even more convenient for travelers to make deposits and final payments online, safely and securely with their own username and password. Travelers can also view their tour information, reservations, documents, invoices, destination guides, and other important details anytime. 
 
New travelers’ community. Another important feature of the new Web site is the new community, where we will host forums for our visitors, have places to post pictures and travel blogs, and provide various ways to interact with us. The forums will be important in getting feedback from our travelers, and allow people who are traveling solo to find roommates easily through our site.
 
New micro-lending project in India. As you’ve heard me talk about before, we’re working on projects with Kiva and the Trailblazer Foundation, and now we’re looking into launching a new micro-lending project in India. It will fund the purchase of rickshaws for drivers who are presently forced to rent them by the day, giving up a good part of their daily earnings, rather than keeping them to support their families.
 
Since these drivers have no access to credit to fund the loans for the rickshaw purchase, they are forced into this rental situation. If we’re able to create a fund that allows the drivers to pay back the loan to us, and end up with the rickshaw in the end, the drivers will soon be able to keep the day’s wages for themselves. 
 
New ways to give back to needy students. We’re also organizing a collection of school supplies for every Friendly Planet travel destination where they are needed, but not available. This is the case in most of Africa, Asia, and certainly in India. Notebooks and pencils that are given to children directly are usually confiscated by needy families who then turn around and sell it for food. 
 
Our project will distribute the supplies to trusted teachers, who will store and distribute them as needed to students. The school supplies project is being organized by local guides in each place where the supplies are needed, and will be implemented early in the new year.
 

Thumbnail image for New Picture (3).jpgNew destinations. Finally, we’ll be adding new destinations to the Friendly Planet globe. Tours are being planned to Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, and Indonesia, plus a number of river cruises in Europe and Asia. In addition, several new ocean cruises will be available starting in the spring of 2010, via Louis Cruises and Costa Cruises, two familiar Friendly Planet favorites. 

 
These are just a few of the new things arriving in 2010. There is plenty more in the works for throughout the year, but this gives you a taste of what’s to come!

Weekly wrap up: Friendly Planet Travel in the news

FP_newspaper4.jpgIn case you missed it this week, I wanted to share some of the stories that featured Friendly Planet Travel. Enjoy!

Frommer’s: Frommer’s 5 Deals: Puerto Vallarta, Morocco, Philly, India, and Texas Hill Country

Budget Travel: Argentina, Air/8 Nights, From $1,659

Customer testimonials: Taj Mahal Express and Best of China and Yangtze Cruise

As you know, we always have a steady stream of customer testimonials flowing in to the Friendly Planet Travel offices. Maybe it’s the holiday cheer, maybe it’s because it’s so satisfying to see all of our hard work pay off, or maybe it’s just because, but our customer reviews have really put a smile on my face recently. So I thought I’d share a couple with you today, verbatim.

FP_TajMahal.jpgWhen we first heard about our tour to India, we were a little hesitant because the price was so low. We thought it may be too good to be true. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was everything we had hoped for and more. The flights were trouble-free and all the hotels were much better than expected. Our hotel in Delhi was the nicest hotel that I have ever stayed at! And I have traveled the world and been to many high class hotels. Also, we were initially concerned about our safety while in India. It turns out that safety was not an issue. Again, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Indian people very welcoming towards Americans. You couldn’t find nicer people in the world. I don’t know how you kept the tour price so low! Keep up the low prices and high standards. I can’t wait to book my next Friendly Planet trip!

- Riley Loback, Seattle

FP_YangtzeRiver.jpgMy husband and I want to thank you for creating comprehensive, fun packed days of touring in China. We saw all the sights we had on our own lists and the city guides made sure that if possible, they worked in places the group requested. With the number of inner city flights and hotel transfers on this trip, the national tour guide made sure it did not eat into our time to enjoy the marvels of history that we were about to see. The daily planning, the food, hotels, the shows, and the ease of getting around made this package one of the exceptional values for a once in a lifetime vacation.

- Susan Razenson, Nanuet, N.Y.

Customer testimonial from a certified globetrotter

I’m sure by now you’re all aware of how much I enjoy getting feedback from our customers, and how important that feedback is in making Friendly Planet Travel the best company we can in terms of service, value, and overall experiences for our customers.

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All feeback is important, but it’s especially gratifying when an experienced traveler gives us the stamp of approval. That’s why the following testimonial, from Jim Villalpando of Taylorsville, Utah, meant so much to us here at the office. Jim and his wife Gloria have gone on numerous Friendly Planet Travel tours, including Egypt, Israel, Petra, Thailand, and Cambodia, as well as tours throughout Europe.

"What can be said that has not been said? Price, value, your tours are an exceptional value. We have been on five friendly planet tours to date and wil be going on our sixth trip to India, Nepal next month. What ever you’re doing, don’t change the formula until we’ve finshed the seven wonders of the world thru friendly planet tours. Great value on all the tours we’ve taken thus far.
 – Jim & Gloria Villalpando Taylorsville Utah"

 

 

 

 

Friendly Planet Travel’s Best of India and Nepal hits Budget Travel Real Deals

Imagine bustling outdoor markets, row upon row of brilliantly colorful cloth, the tinkling of bells in the early dawn, giggling school girls dressed in splendid saris, 100-pound sacks of pungent spices, fat baying cows, and towering architectural masterpieces that have been robbing travelers of their breath for more than 300 years. Imagine all of that, and maybe — just maybe — you’ll have an infinitesimal idea of India.
Our podcast with tour guide Rajeev Gulati earlier this week dug a little deeper into the wonders of India and Nepal. And yesterday, Budget Travel’s Real Deals featured our Best of India and Nepal tour.
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Have a look at the article to see how the Best of India and Nepal stacked up to Budget Travel’s discerning eye.
For more information on our 15-day tour of many of India’s most important and significant cities, including New Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Khajuraho, and Varanasi, as well as a trip to Nepal, at the foot of Mt. Everest, take a look at the Best of India and Nepal page on our Web site. And, if you book before June 26, it’ll only cost $2299, that’s a savings of $800 per couple.

The Best of India & Nepal just got better

Have you ever bought a car, only to have the manufacturer send you a check in the mail three weeks later because they realized they could actually make that particular car model cheaper, so the price went down? It just doesn’t happen.
As I mentioned in Monday’s blog post, we’ve recently managed to reduce prices on several of our touring programs. Thanks to some hard work and tough negotiations, we’ve managed to cut the price of our current Best of India & Nepal vacation, our 15-day tour of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi, and Kathmandu, originally priced at $2,299.
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Reductions are significant, up to $500 per person. As always, in an effort to make travel more affordable for all, we’ve passed along these savings to our passengers, including everyone who has already booked on existing departures. That’s right. While most travel agencies would probably only include the savings on trips that haven’t been booked yet (if they include them at all), we’re encouraging every Friendly Planeteer who’s recently booked the Best of India & Nepal to contact us for a rebate.
Most travelers are thrilled when they find out the cost of their program has decreased, but some of you might be wary. In no way has the program quality been compromised. In fact, nothing has changed on the program at all, but our lengthy negations with land operators and airlines have allowed us to pass the hard-earned savings on to you.
This journey through India and Nepal is truly amazing, with its abundance of fascinating, stunning, and exotic sights and sounds. Vacationers visit many of India’s most important and significant cities, from New Delhi — the nation’s capital and third-largest city — to the foot of Mt. Everest in Nepal, and everything in between. Few destinations in the world can match this combination of spectacular scenery, exotic culture, and hospitable people.
And now you can experience it for less. Giving back to paying customers is certainly a foreign concept to many organizations, yet remains another reason Friendly Planet stands apart from our competition. For more information on the rebate, please call 800-555-5765 or e-mail us.

amNY points to Friendly Planet Travel’s Taj Mahal Express

Today amNewYork gave Friendly Planet Travel a friendly nod in their Travel Deals! column.
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Our eight-day tour of India for $999 is proving to be just as popular with the press as it is with our Friendly Planeteers.

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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