Why do you specialise in holidays to Sri Lanka, parts of India and Southeast Asia?
Firstly, these are some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and we fell in love with them a long time ago. Secondly, so many travel companies claim to be specialists but dilute their expertise by covering most of the world. We prefer to be genuine specialists.
When there’s a world of information on the web, we believe a travel company needs to have real connections, proper first-hand knowledge and genuine expertise to mark them out as regional specialists. And that’s what we are. The benefits to you include tried and tested hotels, guides, experiences, unique opportunities and exclusive discounts.
How are you different from a travel agent?
We don’t push pre-made packages or have a bias towards any particular companies or brands. Instead, we listen to you and create a truly tailored trip. That means we design, source, and take responsibility for every element of your holiday. We tweak and mould your itinerary with you until you’re 100% happy, excited, and raring to go – and only then do we take a deposit.
ETG is proud of the networks and in-roads we’ve made with local communities. We’ve met them, vetted guides, and worked with them first hand. We also offer experiences that are unique to us because of the great relationships we’ve forged with our local partners.
Furthermore, we ensure there are no hidden extras. So many travel agents do everything possible to ensure the quote looks less expensive, leaving you to pick up the extras later on.
How is the holiday 'tailor-made'?
We have an in-depth consultation where we ask you questions, and you tell us what you like. Then we create a fantastic trip based on your exact requirements. We don’t rest until you’re 100% happy – and only then do we take a deposit.
You can find out more about our planning process here.
What is a 'signature experience'?
In each of our major destinations, we’ve spent time researching how best to see the sights, excite the taste buds and deeply experience the country. These are not ‘one size fits all’ excursions on a tour bus. These are privately guided trips, designed with you in mind. Like you, our clients are typically well informed about the world, reasonably well-travelled, and want to discover a country, rather than ‘tick it off the list’. They tend to be inquisitive, switched on and dislike following the herd. The content, route and structure of our signature experiences reflect this. They are also exclusive to us. No one can book these unless as part of an Experience Travel Group holiday.
What is an experience-based holiday?
At ETG, we believe that life is all about experiences and a good travel experience comes from that wonderful feeling of discovery. As such, our holidays are based around experiences which help you make your own discoveries: from guided walking tours around maze-like city alleyways, to art and food tours, exotic treks or staying in gorgeous lodges in remote safari parks.
Are your holidays privately guided?
Yes. Privately guided means that your guide is for you and your party exclusively.
We include a guide whenever a guide adds value to your experience. Some clients decide to have more or less time with their guides, and we can work that out beforehand if you tell us your preferences.
You’ll make friends, and they will be your connection to the local area. Generally, we arrange guides local to the specific area you’re visiting. They are then best placed to tell you about the area, introduce you to the best places to eat, local secrets and so on. It’s all part of our friendly, personal concept: no flags or mass groups being herded along on our holidays.
In keeping with our sustainable ethos, we often include individual site guides at specific sites. Not only can these guides give additional insight that a more general guide might not, but it is also good practice to ensure that your holiday contributes to supporting the local economy.
Of course, if you want to build in your own free time to explore independently, that can also be arranged too.
We would like to arrange our own flights, can you still arrange our holiday?
We secure excellent prices for flights to Asia, and we’re independent so that we can work with all the (decent) airlines. However, if you’ve already arranged your own flights, or would like to, then that’s fine by us as your holiday proper starts on arrival in the country.
It’s important to note that when you book your flights and holiday together, you benefit from an extra level of protection in that we become legally responsible for everything.
Do you do flight-only bookings?
No. We’re sure you’re perfectly capable of booking a single flight yourself should you ever need. Our expertise is best served to help you discover Asia.
Which airlines do you use?
We’ll suggest the airline that best suits your needs. You might wish to focus on price, the convenience of the departure airport or the quickest possible route on a complicated itinerary. Or you might want to go all out and secure the best service in a first-class cabin. We’ll help you balance these factors and work out the airline for your holiday. We understand the complex pros and cons and have excellent fares with all top-tier airlines, and no bias.
Do we get picked up at the airport?
Yes. All our holidays include airport meet and pick-ups, generally by the guide who will subsequently look after you. You’ll recognise them easily as they’ll be wearing an ETG shirt and waving an ETG arrival board with your name on it.
When is the best time to book?
The best time to book is generally between 3 and 11 months before departure. Flight prices are released 11 months before departure, and for busy periods (such as Christmas or Easter) the lower fares get snapped up as soon as they’re released.
Advance planning is usually the best bet for our tours as the smaller, better boutique hotels we favour have limited rooms. That being said, during non-peak periods we can (and do!) arrange holidays with 24 hours’ notice if an emergency getaway from grey old Blighty is what’s required!
If I book now, when should I pay the balance?
The balance is due ten weeks before departure, and if you’d like to pay in instalments, that’s fine too.
Is it expensive?
It’s less than you might think. We receive a substantial discount on the hotels and other services we arrange which keeps our prices down. Our systems are very smart, and by listening to you, we can quickly put together something highly personalised for you to review. There’s no extra charge for any of the expert consultation. You can take as long as you like to get it right.
We understand the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ isn’t always true, but we believe our prices are very reasonable because our holidays offer so much in return. And that’s what our customers tell us too.
If you’d like to see, our general price ranges go here.
Are you more expensive than booking it all myself?
It depends. If you only measure value by financial cost, then by spending hours scouring the internet you may be able to find a slightly cheaper hotel in your chosen destination. However, our clients tell us the time they saved by not having to spend hours researching and organising their holiday is priceless. Plus, the added value gained through the help of both our travel consultants and our local guides enables them to have authentic and unique experiences they wouldn’t have discovered on their own.
No amount of research can ever replace local knowledge. We want you to enjoy your holiday, not spend it worrying about catching your train connection or making sure you get the best room in the hotel or working out the best time to see the sights without the crowds.
We get the logistics spot-on, and we have comprehensive financial and legal protection so that our clients can relax. We provide support in the rare instance that anything should go wrong and, above all, we bring you amazing exclusive experiences and personal guides who enrich their holiday.
Are you independent?
We are an independently owned travel company based in Clapham, London and with offices in Sri Lanka and Thailand. We’re members of AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) as well as ABTA and hold an ATOL licence with the CAA. There’s no private equity beating down our door for a quick profit, so we can concentrate long term on our mission to help people discover Asia. Creating extraordinary holidays means excellent word of mouth, and we’re proud of our incredible approval rating on AITO.com
Do you use tried and tested hotels?
Yes. We inspect all of our preferred hotels before using them, and they need to pass our rigorous suitability test. We also insist that the hotels offer us excellent rates so we can pass them on to our clients. We dislike bland, characterless chain hotels and passionately believe that hotels should add to the travelling experience. Any hotel needs an excellent USP to be featured by us.
Do I get 24-hour in-country support?
Yes. In all of our countries, we have arrangements to ensure there’s a 24-hour number for urgent problems and everyday queries. Things can and do happen on holiday, and if they do, you’ll be able to relax knowing we’ll be there to help. Our number in the UK is also answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so, no matter what, we’ll be on hand in an emergency to support you.
Can I tailor an itinerary shown on the website?
We've never arranged a holiday precisely as it appears on the website. Many of our competitors offer so-called ‘tailor-made’ holidays, but in reality, push you towards off-the-shelf packages. Our clients are independently minded and well-travelled: they know what does and doesn’t suit them. The best part is that altering the itineraries incurs no extra cost. We’ll continue to make amendments until you’re 100% happy and raring to go ahead.
Do you do group tours?
We do not offer fixed departure tours for groups. Our brand of unique and distinctive on-the-ground experiences and small characterful hotels don't work for large groups on a fixed departure. Our trips are focused on your own discoveries which is not possible within the confines of rigidly structured group tour. Our holidays are for independently minded travellers.
We do organise tours and holidays for groups of friends or families and special interest groups looking for a bespoke experience for their party. Talk to us to find out more.
Will I get the right balance of relaxation and discovery?
Absolutely. We’ve worked hard over the years, conducting research, planning the logistics and speaking to our clients to get the balance exactly right. As a result, we can easily spot when you’re trying to do too much and can make suggestions on how to slow it down a little, while still ensuring you enjoy an in-depth experience.
We suspect that, like us, you prefer to tread along the road less travelled on your holidays and take the time to absorb the world around you. We’ll let you know the charming places our clients often request more time to see and, unless explicitly asked otherwise, we always build in a good chunk of time at the beach, R&R or straightforward relaxation. It is a holiday after all.
Is my holiday protected?
Yes. We offer 100% legal and financial protection on all of our holidays whether you’re based in the UK or elsewhere in the world. We hold an ATOL licence with the CAA and are proud members of ABTA and AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators).
It’s worth noting that if you book on a DIY basis or with a company based locally, you won’t get this level of protection – if you get any at all. Your credit card may offer some protection, but there’s no obligation for anyone to repatriate you or change your booking if any part were to be affected by events outside of your control, or take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Do you hold hotel rooms?
We can hold hotels bookings and do so if there is a specific reason to delay confirmation. If not, however, we generally require a deposit to do so. Most of the hotels we use are small and independently run. We believe that continually holding rooms makes things extremely difficult for them, so we rarely do it without some commitment on your behalf. However, we can check availability and confirm what we’re offering is available.
What's the deposit for?
The deposit ensures we can secure the holiday you want and book your first choice guides, hotels and flights. Once there’s a financial commitment on our behalf, we need that to be covered. There is legal and financial protection in place from that moment. Remember, until you’re 100% happy with the quotation and what we have available, there is no financial commitment needed at all.
How does the pricing work?
We’ll make you a proposal including all the elements of your trip from international flights (if you need them), transport, hotels, many meals, guides and, of course, our exclusive experiences along the way. We’ll ensure there are no hidden extras. All taxes are included, and generally, we’ll include meals too, especially where there’s no choice about where to eat (hello Maldives!). We also include entrance costs which tend to add up.
We promise that you will have a realistic idea of exactly how much the holiday will cost before you commit. That being said, there are usually savings to be made on the hotels or by simplifying the transportation – so ask if you need us to get that overall cost down. Remember, the proposal is the initial document, and we welcome the chance to talk you through it and make changes to suit.
Will you give us a price breakdown?
If you want us to explain the general breakdown of costs we’re always more than happy to do so and we’ll let you know how much you’ll save or increase costs with different hotel, experience and transportation options.
However, we don’t break our prices down to the minute level as behind the package price is a complicated web of exchange rates, taxes and micro costs such as guiding fees, entrances, mileage calculations, bonding and more. Furthermore, many of our local partners wrap up hotels and experiences in packages making it tricky to unbundle. We’re not hiding anything and we’re proud of our overall value, but we keep things simple with a top line cost.
Do I have to travel on certain dates?
No. The beauty of our bespoke service is that you can travel on whichever day suits you. We can fit around your schedule, make the most of your holiday time and work around the best time to visit the country. If there’s a better deal on a particular day we’ll let you know so you can make up your own mind. We often save our clients hundreds of pounds by adjusting the dates – it’s amazing the difference a day can make.
How much research do I have to do myself?
None. The ‘research’ phase is a critical part of the ETG Journey Planner. However, if you’d like to do your own research, we can help point you in the right direction. Our detailed, full colour proposal documents complete with advice on journey times, realistic hotel descriptions and day by day maps can help.
Like us, many of our clients like to do some reading up once they’ve confirmed the holiday to heighten the expectation. We’ve got that covered too with fantastic reading lists.
Can you organise holidays for LGBT travellers?
Yes – we can and we do, frequently. Indeed, members of our team have first-hand experience of LGBT travel within Asia. While we know it’s best for LGBT travellers to be aware of the cultural sensitivities, as well as the laws and regulations, in some of the countries we cover, overall, we think Asia is a great place to travel for the LGBT community.
We’ll make sure you’re well informed before you go and our attention to detail means you won’t need to tell us twice about double beds, extra touches for couples and generally ensuring you’re free to discover a new destination, relax and enjoy your holiday.
Can you organise holidays for disabled travellers?
Yes, we’re very happy to organise holidays for disabled travellers. Our attention to detail and contacts ‘on the ground’ mean we’re better placed than other companies to overcome logistic issues around mobility and access. We can arrange vans with wheelchair storage and we inspect all our hotels with disabled travellers in mind and so know which ones have good access.
Sadly, we can’t promise perfect access everywhere in Asia as it’s well behind Europe in terms of accessibility, but we can promise we’ll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision before you travel. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact us.
I don't know anything about the country I'm interested in – can you help me?
That’s what we’re here for! We’ll listen to you and get a good idea of what the country has that will appeal to you. We’ll then put together a preliminary itinerary and arrange a time to talk you through it. Along with some key links, information and our detailed planning packs, you’ll know everything you need to know before you go and have a guide to help you while you’re there.
Are your destination countries suitable for children?
All of our destinations are suitable for children and we’ve explored them with our own children in tow. In fact, Asia is a very easy place to travel with children: they tend to be accepted on their own terms and it’s therefore lots of fun for them (and you!).
It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that health and safety isn’t the same as in Europe and we therefore pioneered safety features in our vehicles such as having shoulder seat belts fitted in the back seats all of our Sri Lankan family vehicles, as well as sending out European standard child seats. We also personally inspect all our family properties to ensure they’re suitable and fun places for children to stay.
Most importantly, we’ve designed signature family experiences. On the whole they involve getting stuck in, rather than being lectured to, plenty of pool time and ice cream: a little learning and experience washed down with plenty of fun.
We find that children of all ages love the sheer variety of the new and exciting sights, smells and colours they’re introduced to in Asia. It really is an amazing privilege to be able to take our families away and we help you get it right for all of you.
I know exactly where to stay and what I want – why should I travel with you?
Anyone can plan their own trip. If you like spending hours planning and experimenting, we certainly don’t want to deprive you. However, what you get from us is access to our hand-picked guides and signature experiences. We also secure exclusive venues and discounts. We might also surprise you with a few ideas you haven’t thought of.
More boringly, but importantly, you’ll benefit from our financial and legal protection meaning we’ll be responsible for guaranteeing the whole trip runs smoothly and making any changes for you (for example in the event of a flight delay). Finally, we also save you time, effort and potential headaches.
Do you do price match?
No. It’s not possible to get a quote for one of our trips on a like-for-like basis from anyone else. Our signature experiences, hand-picked guides and support service, both in the UK and abroad, are not offered anywhere else. That being said, we will ensure that certain individual aspects such as villas and river cruises are price matched.
What are your payment terms?
Once you decide to go ahead, a 10% deposit secures your booking. We can then request confirmation of all the elements in your itinerary from our suppliers. (For some bookings, the required deposit will be higher but we’ll advise you if this is the case. For example, in order to take advantage of certain flight deals it may be necessary to pay for the flights in full as soon as a confirmed booking is made.)
One month later, we’ll ask for a second payment, so now you’ll have paid for 25% of the arrangements ‘on the ground' plus the cost of any flights you have booked through us. The remaining balance is due no less than 10 weeks prior to departure. However, if you’re booking 10 weeks or less before departure, we’ll ask for the full cost of the holiday straight away.
Our Terms and Conditions provide more detailed information, however do feel free to contact us with any queries.
Can we come and visit you?
Please do! Putting together an amazing holiday with you is easier by phone than by email and even easier in person. If you’re based in London come to our offices in Clapham and have a cuppa with us. We’re just five minutes from Clapham Common tube station or Clapham High Street Overground and there’s parking nearby. Pop in during office hours and if you let us know beforehand we can meet you here until 7:30pm and on Saturdays. We can also meet you in central London if that’s more convenient.
When can I call?
We’re open between 9am and 7:30pm Monday to Thursday, 9am and 6pm on Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturday. Our 24 hour number means you can leave a message any time day or night.