We regretfully took 2 tours with this company and we can't decide which was worse than the other.
JAMES BOND ISLAND- The shuttle to pick us up was completely overcrowded and if we knew it would take so long to get to the tour spot, we would have just taken a cab there ourselves. We did not stop at a couple of islands listed in the tour itinerary. When we got to Muslim Village, we were stranded in one area of the restaurant and were told we could not visit the shops behind (as we have been there before on a different tour which let us explore the entire village). This was a major tourist trap if you ask me. The lunch was garbage and 2 of of 3 of us got sick from it. Once we got to James Bond, it was EXTREMELY overcrowded. There was no space to enjoy to ourselves, it seemed as if every tour company arrived there at the same time. We couldn't get a decent picture without getting photobombed by randoms. After a painfully exhausting day, all we wanted to do was go home and our bus driver was too busy applying a sticker to his van for 30min and had the entire bus (over)full of people waiting int he heat. The tour goes way later than expected because you are driving for so long. We had to cancel our later commitments. Bummer.
PHI PHI ISLANDS, KHAI NUI ISLAND, KHAI NAI ISLAND, BAMBOO ISLAND & YAO YAI ISLAND There were no drinks or snacks at the port for breakfast, as stated in the itinerary. If you need last minute suntan lotion, make sure to bring your own or else you will end up paying $20USD for it there. There was no "prepared bread" for fish feeding, as promised. Most of the islands we were supposed to stop at were already overcrowded by the time we got there so we had to come back to them... which didn't help at all. The itinerary states you can snorel in a few spots and even canoe but there were no canoes in sight. We only snorkeled once, as we were told it was too rocky at the other islands. There was nothing special about the "special buffet lunch." The tour guide said there was a snack bar for us at one of the islands we stopped at, which we thought might make up for the crappy lunch we had, but the snack bar as not for our tour company. They wouldn't even let us purchase anything from them. What a tease. The island that has the monkeys to take pictures of... is done from the boat only. Everyone else was on the island getting up close to them and we did not have that luxury. 6 people from our group of 30 left on an earlier boat because they had enough... had we known that was an option, we would have dipped out too. We waited patiently and were late being dropped off at our hotel again. They told us we would be the first ones dropped off but we weren't. A cab would have been way more convenient.
Fun Alternatives: I suggest if you are going to do any of these tours, book with a different company. Maybe even try a private tour so you're not herded with the cattle. Also, take a cab to and from the meeting ports so you're not waiting forever to go back and forth to the hotel. It will make your experience much better!!
Be sure to avoid the firm Siam Sea Canoe. They offer the typical tours Phi Phi, Raya, Coral Island, etc. You will find their fancy brochures in your hotel and at tours booking counters which often state "Quality Service" on the front cover. We had a very bad experience with Siam Sea Canoe during the 2011-2012 year end. Our tour of Raya and Coral Islands became a one-island tour midway because of a vague/hard to verify 'engine problem'. The management refused to send a new boat to allow us to finish the tour. On the way back to Phuket the crew promised the owners would refund half our (all 40 people on the tour) money, but later tricked us onto a bus to the "head office" which was really a bus ride back to our hotel. They look at all tourists as non-repeat customers who need the money shaken from their pockets. A word to the wise, avoid Siam Sea Canoe for boat tours in Phuket.
Unique Suggestions: For all boat rides always negotiate the price. The figures in the brochure are typically at least 25% over what is achievable. Be aware hat many brochures state that even if the weather will not allow a tour to proceed, your ticket price is not refundable. Check the weather report before you book.
In Phuket, Siam Safari does a better job than other vendors. They educate tourists about the animals, keep them in a jungle environment rather than on chains in a horse barn and provide a good value for money. I have taken small children to this venue twice with good success. We did the 1 hour tour, but they have overnights and options with more than elephants too. I would not lump this in with typical to-be-avoided Phuket "Elephant Riding or Elephant Shows."
We decided to go to the Phuket Shooting Range to let our kids have a go at the karting. We were asked to sign a insurance document and a waiver which we did without really reading through it. Unfortunately one of the kids went through one of the tyre barriers which have been setup in such a way as to give no protection. Fortunately she was fine apart from a couple of brusies but then on our way out someone cam up to us and said we have to pay the damage for the barrie. As you can imagine we were shocked we would have thought the whole point of these were to safe guard the drivers and also should be covered by the insurance. They then came up with what can only be described as an arbitrary figure that clearly was going to go into the pockets.
We were then told we could not leave till we paid and they would call the police of course having heard before that in these cirucmstances all this does is add more value to the amount you have to pay as the policeman gets a cut. We decided to pay up and go, this really ruined the day for the kids.
Unique Suggestions: I would seriously think twice about going to this place as they are only there to con you.
Fun Alternatives: Take the kids in your own hometown its safer.
Please do NOT go here, or in fact to any of the elephant safaris in Phuket. Even though this is something thats usually high on peoples "to do" list, I would urge you to think twice.
Two years ago we went to Siam Safari for our elephant trek and it was great, in fact a highlight of our trip for sure. Back then, someone had suggested we visit Kok Chang instead, but we didnt get there. This time, we organised with our driver Mr. Sydny to take us here. Its only a short 20 minute drive from Patong and the entry fees being reasonable. We paid 1000bt each for a 60 minute trek, or you could pay 800 bt for 40 mins or 600bt for 30 mins.
BUT .... only a few minutes into our trek we felt terribly sick and wanted to get off. The mahout seemed to be treating the elephant sooooo badly, he was constantly hitting him very very hard on the head with his stick, it was gut wrenching and not a pleasant thing to watch thats for sure. The mahout was not extremely friendly and also spoke very little if any english, so for us it was a very long 60 minute trek through the jungle, up and down very steep and muddy tracks. Our elephant constantly wanted to stop and eat, but only once did the mahout allow her to do that, all the other times, she was whacked on the head again.
Ive also been since educated by my friend Tina about not only the cruelty to elephants in these treks, but also the fact that their spine is not designed to withhold the weight of the huge metal chair and then two people sitting atop as well. An elephants spine curves upwards, not downwards like a horses, so it is simply not designed to have heavy things on it, and the elephants eventually end up with severe spinal problems.
Elephants are beautiful gentle giants and even though you may be tempted to do a trek while in Thailand, I would urge you NOT to.
Not what I expect when I book a day tour to Ko Phi Phi by ferry. I was thinking of the movie, the beach starring Leornardo Di Caprio but may be I was expecting too much. When you reach there, the whole islands are packed to capacity with all sorts of boats and you smell diesels most of the time. The ferry I went on don't have enough seats for everyone and I'm sure not enough life jackets as well. Also because it is a 4 hours return you will not spent quality time on the islands itself.
Unique Suggestions: Pay more and you will have a more enjoyable experience. The islands itself is absolutely beautiful with it's clear water and limestones cliffs, so don't miss it.
Fun Alternatives: Stay the night and you can really enjoy the place when the day trippers and there boats are gone.
Well maybe is not a tourist trap because the tour to Phang Nga is great, beautiful views, the visit to the muslim village is interesting and the island is nice, but when you arrive to the island with hundreds of vendors hawking souvenirs, following you through the whole island and with no escape (the island is really small), i though this is the perfect tourist trap.
If you buy tours from offices near the big hotels ask for discounts we a 4in 1 tour for 800bt compared with set rate of 1200bt in the hotel.The night fantasea trip we got free tranfers each way for the standard 1500bt the hotel price was an extra 150bt each way for transfers each.Transfers to the airport were also discounted to 450bt instead of the hotels and big operaters price of 600bt .A lot of the bigger tourist opperations in Phuket are now owned by Russian companies and are tring to push up prices,the small opperators are keen to get your bussiness are trying very hard to survive in the current envioroment
Don`t hasitate to hussle for better deals. Every cruise you book at, what i like to call `agency stalls` you can get discounts. Even if the price is already given in brochures. Once i paid 1600 bahts for the cruise to Phi Phi island and found out that i could save some money if i had bargained for 1300 bahts. Anyway, the price was reasonable according to European nasty and chilly prices.
Taxi drivers near Karon will try and take you to Elephant treking.
From what i saw it was cruel and damn right wrong. Thai workers whipping the elephants, it made me want to go and hit them for doing that!
It is disgusting and in some instances the elephants have been drugged before you ride them.
AVOID DOING THIS
Unique Suggestions: Go to Thai Boxing, avoid the elephant treks
Fun Alternatives: Thai Boxing
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