Every frequent traveler knows this. Your traveling experience will most probably never go according to plan. There are days when you have to throw your plan outside the window and just go with the flow.
I have slowly come to realize that I do not like someone else planning the entire vacation for me. When I was planning my trip to Europe, many of my friends asked me to opt for a group tour since I was doing my first solo trip. I cringed, politely thanked them for their suggestion and went ahead and made my own itinerary.
But I have also realized over the years that we cannot leave everything to chance and we need to do some kind of planning when it comes to seeing a new place. You cannot just land up in a new city and just expect to see a new city without a plan in place.
Since I was going to be on the road for 5 weeks, that meant I needed some help in planning some details of the trip. This is where apps like Viator come in handy. I first came across Viator last year when I was booking my first broadway show. I found it to be pretty useful and I ended up going to Yosemite using Viator as well as I used them for some airport transfers.
So what is Viator? So this is what Viator has to say about themselves:
“Our team of travel insiders is obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere we travel. From Paris to Phuket to Perth, from traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we have something for every kind of traveler. And we are proud to say that after 17 experience-packed years, we are the world leader.”
Viator was acquired by Tripadvisor in 2014 and is said to be one of the largest online tours and activities booking agencies. They partner with local operators and you can sit and book tours at your home for anywhere around the world. Most of the tours are affordable and can ease your traveling experience.
So I used Viator 5 times this time and I wanted to give a brief insight on how all these tours went.
• Shared Arrival Transfer from Lisbon Airport to my hotel:
It has been a long journey from India and you have just reached Lisbon after a full day’s journey. The last thing on your mind is how to get to your hotel. I love this option of pre-booking airport transfers. I had used this feature (shared cab) in New York and San Francisco. So this was one of the first things I booked. I booked a shared arrival transfer from Lisbon airport to my hotel. Both the app and the website is so flexible and easy to use. While booking, you have to give details like number of passengers, date of arrival, time of arrival, your destination, contact details etc.
Even though my flight was on time, I spent a considerable amount of time waiting to clear immigration. As I walked out of the airport, the guy was waiting for me with my nameplate. Only then I realized that it was a private transfer. The guy was extremely friendly and he gave me various pointers on what to do in Lisbon for the next few days. He dropped me safe and sound at my hotel.
That is the beauty of the app. You do not have to worry about the details. They will internally coordinate with local operators and get you the best deal. This tour cost me around 12.5$. So you can see how economical it is as well.
• Sintra, Pena Palace and Cascais half day trip from Lisbon:
I had heard so much about Sintra before I took this trip and I knew I had to go here. But when I checked it online, I realized that it takes more than 1 hour if we go there by train. Even then it was not a straight forward route and I had to first take a train to a point and then take another cab from there.
That is when I came across this half day tour from Lisbon. It seemed perfect and I immediately booked it. The minute you book any tours, you are immediately sent additional information. For instance, in some cases you will have to reconfirm the booking with your local operator and the contact details are given in the voucher. Most vouchers are E-vouchers but in some cases, the local operator accepts only paper vouchers. In that case, please ensure that you have the hard copy of your voucher with the bar code details.
We were asked to assemble at a said place by 1:45 pm. From there, we were taken by air conditioned bus to the town of Sintra, the gorgeous Pena Palace (entrance fees were included), Cabo Da Roca and the gorgeous town of Cascais. I will write more in detail about my experience. I loved this tour and Viator along with the local operator Yellow bus made this experience memorable and hassle free.
|Cabo Da Roca, Portugal|
|Pena Palace, Sintra|
• Moulin Rouge, Paris:
Everyone has to see a Moulin Rouge show at least once in their lifetime. It is highly entertaining and you will definitely have a gala time. As a culture vulture, I love going to shows like these and I try to visit as many as I can. But did you know that most of the Moulin Rouge shows are sold out weeks before?
This is where sites like Viator are helpful. You can go and prebook your tickets before they get sold out. In the case of Moulin Rouge, they had a 7PM, 9PM and 11 PM show. Even though I had booked weeks before, the 7PM show was sold out and I had to book the 9PM one. You can customize some of your tours. Moulin Rouge had an option to book a show with dinner included.
• Luxembourg Day Trip from Brussels:
Most people decide to skip Luxembourg because it is such a small country and they presume that there is nothing there to see. I would disagree. It is a beautiful country and I wish I could have spent more time there.
But this is the only tour I did not like that I booked through Viator. I do not think that it was Viator’s issue but the issue was with Brussels city tours, who were the local operators. It was on a Sunday and they decided to cancel one town two days before the actual tour. Also we got so little time in Luxembourg and we ended up getting lost on the way back to Brussels. We spent most of our time inside the bus and the air conditioning was not working half the time.
• Bruges and Ghent Day Trip from Brussels:
Even though this was also through the same local operator, Brussels City Tours, I loved this trip. I think the difference was with the guides and I loved the guide on this tour. Also Bruges and Ghent are gorgeous towns and you really cannot find fault with either of these. We also got more time in exploring the place by ourselves on this tour.
Disadvantages of Viator:
There was one more tour that I wanted to do, a 3 day fully planned trip to Andalusia in Spain. However, this option was not available for a solo traveler and you could book this tour only if there were at least two people. I know that there is a dependence on the local operator but they should have some options for solo travelers like me who may want to leave some of the planning to operators like them.
Viator has many options in most of the countries. But in places like India, we still do not have many options to choose from.
So four out of the five tours turned out to be great. So that is still a good score. I will definitely be using Viator once again and I believe that you should try them out as well on your next trip.
Disclaimer: I was offered a discounted price to use and review Viator tours. However I have used them in the past and will definitely use them in the future.
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