We are a group of three couples in our late seventies. Travel, in and outside the country, has always been our passion.
We have, between 3rd and 8th May 2022, travelled in Sikkim, where all the hotels and transport for all pickups, drops, hotel transfers, and sightseeing were arranged by ‘Holiday Guide’. Even as we wanted to have one car to be with us for the whole tour, Holiday Guide told us that in Sikkim, the same car cannot stay with the visitors throughout the trip and as such different cars will be allotted for each journey. We were told that, day before each of the journeys, we will be informed of the name of the driver, his phone no and car registration no.
The following depicts our ordeal:
• To start with, we enquired several times, within 24 hours prior to our flight time, about details of the car which would pick us up from Bagdogra fortaking us to Pelling. We were kept in suspense until we got the details only a few minutes before we were boarding the aircraft at Dum Dum. We didn’t mind.
• The car, which picked us up from Bagdogra, had WB registration and was stopped by Police at Mellie, a check post at the WB/Sikkim border. Since the driver did not have a printed copy of permit with him we were detained, sitting in the car under hot sun, for one and a half hour.
• Next day, we came to know about the car, for our sightseeing in Pelling, only at around 10 am.
• Following day, we were informed just before we had to leave for Ravangla that no Innova or XYLO (which they committed) could be arranged. Two small local taxis were arranged, instead. Once we set off in those cars, we were told by the driver of one taxi that he had no petrol and nor had the money to buy the fuel. The taxis kept us waiting for one hour at a market place until a bloke appeared and paid money to buy petrol. As if we deserved more, one of the two cars declared that the car had problem with its brake and cannot keep up with the speed of the other one. What comforting news in the downhill winding roads!
• Next day when we were to leave Ravangla for Rinchenpong, we received info about the car again only late in the morning of departure, that too after lot of requests from our side to different people in the chain.
• On the last day we had to leave Rinchengpong early to catch our flight back to Kolkata. Considering the uncertainties on the way and the risk of missing the flight, we requested for information by 7 Pm of the previous evening. They very kindly appreciated and agreed; that too in writing. No information, whatsoever was received till 8 o’ clock in the morning of departure. We decided not to remain on tender hooks and hired a car ourselves and set off at around 9 AM, at our own cost! We thanked ourselves for the right decision as we just about reached in time for reporting at the airport. Meanwhile, a driver of a car, supposedly arranged by Holiday Travel, did ring us up when we were already way out of Rinchengpong and driving towards Bagdogra.
[-The chain of middle men, involved in the arrangement of cars at different places, is a horrific maze. Holiday Travel seemed to have very little control.
-We came to know, while in Sikkim, that Travel Guide’s guidance, in the first place, was not correct. If you engage a car from Bagdogra/NJP with WB registration, it can only drop you at Sikkim destination. From there on if you engage a car with Sikkim registration it can stay with you throughout up to Bagdogra/NJP. Alternatively if you engage a car with Sikkim registration from Bagdogra/NJP it can stay with you throughout and drop you back to Bagdogra/NJP.]
• In right criticism, we found the hotels, arranged by Holiday Travel, were all value for money.