We’ve all had bad experiences of some sort or another on the Internet – there are thousands of companies ranging from the trustworthy and reliable to the downright fraudulent. But how can you tell the difference? A holiday is an important and expensive event – if it goes wrong, it can ruin your year.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid an unpleasant experience when travelling in Southeast Asia:

Check the probity and competence of the company – is it legitimate and licensed?

In most SE Asian countries, tourism companies dealing with international travellers are required to obtain an international operating licence. In practice, some do not apply because it involves meeting defined standards of practice and, in some cases, depositing a large cash bond to be used to compensate you should the tour operator fail to meet the terms of the contract.

Visitors travelling with unlicensed companies have no protection should problems arise. However, it's an easy matter to request confirmation of a company’s legitimacy from the relevant tourism authorities by ‘phone or e-mail.

Is your booking payment protected if the company fails financially before or during the tour?

Check the website for evidence that, should the company collapse before your tour begins, all the money you have paid will be reimbursed or, if it fails during your tour, arrangements will be made for you to finish your holiday.

Do the booking conditions favour clients by accepting responsibility for any errors caused by third parties such as tour guides and service suppliers?

A reputable tour company will supply full details of its booking conditions either on their website or in hard copy. This lays out the terms and conditions that will be the basis of the contract between you and the company.

It’s important to read the document carefully to ensure that the conditions are fair to both sides. In particular, look for evidence that the company will take responsibility for any mistakes made either by its staff, tour guides, another company or a service provider acting on behalf of the company.

Do you get what you pay for?

Not necessarily! Many itineraries and their prices may look very similar but often vary wildly in quality. Alluring pictures of deserted beaches and luxurious hotels offer dream holidays, but the reality may be a nightmare. The price might appear to be reasonable, but lower standards of accommodation, cheap restaurants, amateur guides, poor-quality transport and so on can make it expensive.  

On the other hand, with a bit of effort, you can find companies offering amazing value for the same money or even less!

When you’re comparing the prices of tours, check the itineraries very carefully. If hotels are listed, use the Internet to see what you might be getting (but don’t forget that most online booking agencies accept the hotels descriptions and often replicate provided text on their website verbatim, without checking!).

Even then, it’s still hard to compare like for like. If you’re not sure of getting value for money, try asking the company to put you in direct contact with some of the company’s recent clients for their comments.

What about customer service?

The quality of service is often what makes or breaks a holiday, but apart from testimonials, it’s almost impossible to check in advance. However, the web site offers are a few clues:

Does the home page seem customer-friendly and customer-caring?

Is there background information about destinations, hotels, the culture of the people, and so on?

Can you find a customer service policy and a procedure for complaints?

Is there an ‘About Us’ section with information about the company’s history, mission and responsibilities?

Does the company provide firm or indicative prices displayed prominently in the web site?

You can also get an indication of the service you can expect by the company’s response to an enquiry.

How long does the company take to respond to your enquiry?

If you use e-mail, is the content well-written, informative and relevant?

Is the reply a personal message, or just a standard response?

Does the company offer to reply to prospective clients by telephone or fax?

Shop around

Most travellers regard a holiday as the main feature of the year or, for honeymooners, returning war veterans and similar travellers, a major rite of passage, so it’s worth taking plenty of time before choosing a travel company. A holiday costs a lot of money – we want you to return home feeling that it was money well spent!

Obviously, we hope you will decide to travel with Haivenu. Nevertheless, we encourage you to investigate several tour companies before making a final choice because we’re convinced that having done so, you’ll opt for us.




Cambodia Ministry of Tourism

Address: 3, Monivong Blvd., Phnom Penh

Tel: (855) 23 212837/ 213911

Fax: (855) 23 216875/ 426364




Lao National Tourism Administration

Address: P.O.Box: 3556, Lane Xang Avenue, Hatsady Village, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane Capital.

Tel: (856-21) 212248, 212251.

Fax: (856-21) 212769, 217910.




Ministry of Tourism Malaysia

Address: Level 32, Menara Dato Onn, Putra World Trade Centre, 45 Jalan Tun Ismail, 50695 Kuala Lumpur.

Tel: 603-26937111

Fax: 603-26941146




Singapore Tourism Board

Address: Tourism Court, 1 Orchard Spring Lane, Singapore 247729

Tel: (65) 6736 6622

Fax: (65) 6736 9423




Tourism Authority of Thailand

Address: 1600 New Phetchaburi Road, Makkasan, Ratchathewi , Bangkok 10400.

Tel: (6602) 250 5500

Fax: (6602) 250 5511




Vietnam National Administration of Tourism

Address: 80 Quan Su, Hanoi

Tel: (84 4) 8223744

Fax: (84 4) 942115





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