8 Reasons Why Not To Travel With A Travel Agency

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Less than a month ago, I returned from my trip to South Korea. Unlike my previous travels, I went with a tour agency this time and the holiday lasted for 9 days and 8 nights.

My tour package was purchased from ONE of the Big 4 tour agencies in Singapore (clue: It starts with "H"). I was elated at first when I bought my tour package because:

  1. The itinerary was awarded by Korea Tourism Organisation for being one of "THE BEST KOREA TOUR PROGRAMMES IN THE WORLD",
  2. It was affordably priced.

Unfortunately the actual experience with the tour agency was not as expected and indefinitely less desirable than what was promised. To sum up my two cents on it, I have four words to describe — it was...


I have friends and family who raved about their tour experience and sadly, I can and never will be a part of the tour-raving gang. I know that it was my fault to a certain extent when I made the mistake of penning my name down the signature line.

Here are 8 reasons why free travellers (like myself) should never travel with a tour agency:

1. The overall expenditure cost is not that much cheaper


The good thing about tour packages would be that your flight tickets, accommodation, attraction entrance tickets and most of the meals have already been paid for! Initially I thought it was a very valuable bargain given that so many things were included in one price, and that the hotels/resorts we stayed in were mostly 4* or 5* hotels.

However now that I have completed my trip, I realised what a fool that I have been! We mostly went back to the hotel only at 9pm-10pm and had to leave the room as early as 7am on some mornings, so that doesn't leave us much time to enjoy the luxury of our grand hotel.

Also, the food provided by the tour was horrible and tough to stomach (this part would be covered in the 3rd point) and so more money had to be spent to buy extra food to fill our tummies!


2. Your airplane ticket is the lowest paying class of the lot


Here is a translation of what that means:

It means that your seat options are the least desirable, and there is a pretty high chance that you will be seated at the back of the plane.

For those who hate sitting at the back because you are either sensitive to the smell of the lavatory, or the burning of gasoline, kudos to you! (Tip: You might wanna invest in a small tub of Vicks before you board the plane!)


3. Lousy food quality

The worst meal that we had in Korea. Apparently the Samgyetang (ginseng chicken) that my fellow tour members had was worst, I nearly avoided it by having opted out of that meal.

A supposedly-delectable seafood steamboat turned out to be a horrendously bland disaster. It was a meal that few of us could bring ourselves to chow down.

Don't get me wrong. I don't blame the nature of the cuisine, but rather I blame the nature of the restaurant which has been altered to cater for tourism — and I blame myself more for having been the reason why I had to land my two feet in that restaurant.


4. Being shipped off to one merchandise shop and then another


My tour guide's objective was to ship us to as many affiliated shops as possible so that she could clock as much commission as possible. It went to the extent that we were also brought to shops that were not part of our itinerary, and we had no prior knowledge or opinion in that matter.

In plain words, going to those EXTRA merchandise shops were a waste of time and everyone on my tour group agreed that the time could have been better spent elsewhere.


5. Lack of opportunity to understand and be immersed in the country's culture


I travel to gain more knowledge about another country's culture and language. I visit historical sites to expand my understanding of the country and its residents.

I did have a tour guide like all tour trips, however she explained everything minimally and retorted back when asked a question. The worst part was being forced to pay her a compulsory tip of ₩45,000 for her 9 days of service despite the fact that one of the days was "Free & Easy".

The only attraction site that left me with a distinct memory was Deoksugong Palace which I went during my free day, just to make up for the lack of learning on the tour.


6. Butt sore


The phrase "pain in the ass" becomes real and is no longer used to describe an annoying person. It is now used to describe the agonising discomfort at your tailbone due to prolonged hours of sitting on a bus. FML


7. Meals being missed just to keep up with the 'schedule'

Korean fried chicken was my comfort food

There was a particular night when we had to settle dinner on our own (ie. own expense meal). Settling that night's dinner was suppose to be an easy task to complete IF the tour guide had followed the itinerary, and brought us to the fucking theme park where we could have also settled our dinner.

But no, she decided to push-forward our trip to Dongdaemun and squeezed it into our already insanely-packed schedule for the day.

She knew that she was going to divert from the itinerary and hadn't bother to warn/share with us in advance. She had little to no consideration for any of the travellers, especially the young children in the tour group.

Now as I am writing this, I wonder if it was a deliberate move by her to screw up our dinner/trip because the tour group had refused her offer of settling for us our 4 own expense meals at the price of SGD $140/pax. If yes, then that is a fucking disgusting thing to do.

That night, we reached the resort at 11pm. With little fresh food options left at that timing, I had Korean Fried Chicken (again) for dinner at 11.45pm — thankfully I love KoFC!

I slept at 1.30am and woke up at 6am; we had to gather at 7am for breakfast. Feeling shitty from the lack of sleep is an under-expressed statement.


8. Leaving Singapore feeling tired; Coming back to Singapore feeling even more tired


This would have to be the worst feeling of the lot in this list.

You go on a vacation to relax, enjoy and rejuvenate. Unfortunately nothing went as planned, albeit it was a PRE-PLANNED TRIP. You end up coming back feeling more lethargic and exhausted than before you took off, and if you have work the next day... FYL.

I would not deny that there were fun moments during my tour, however the overall experience was much too disgusting and horrendous for me to rate this trip as a positively memorable one. This was an expensive lesson learnt.