Mystery shopper: West End, an escorted tour of Russia

Mystery shopper: West End, an escorted tour of Russia

Location: West End, London
Wanted: A couple are seeking an escorted tour of Russia, including Moscow and St Petersburg, in May 2018. They want details on visas and what to expect from their first escorted tour.
Budget: £4,000

Flight Centre
159 Oxford Street

84%
A friendly agent welcomed me and soon found two options: Trafalgar’s seven-night Wonders of St Petersburg and Moscow tour for £4,162 including excursions, flights and the train between cities; and Insight Vacations’ Easy Pace Russia for £4,748 (with an early-booking discount) including flights and transfers. Both included a range of excursions, such as Red Square and the Winter Palace. We would be flying with BA from Heathrow on both trips for £300 return per person. The prices were estimates, as the 2018 brochures had yet to be published, but the agent said they could chase these and gave me their card. They also offered business-class upgrades, extra excursions and extra nights at each end of the trip.

STA Travel
11 Goodge Street

80%
I was offered help promptly by a friendly agent who suggested a 12-day tour with G Adventures. We would fly from Gatwick to St Petersburg with Turkish Airlines on May 21. The trip included excursions to Valaam Island on Lake Ladoga and Ruskeala marble quarries, and in Moscow to Sergiev Posad and Monastery. Visas were factored into the cost of £3,656. Hotels wouldn’t be specified until booking and no brochure was available, but the tour met my needs.

Kuoni
John Lewis, Oxford Street

78%
I was served within 30 seconds but wasn’t offered a chair. I was handed Kuoni’s Escorted Travelling brochure and recommended a six-day trip leaving on May 12. We would be staying at Moscow’s Kadashevskaya Hotel and the Demetra Art Hotel in St Petersburg, with business-class rail travel between the cities. The price was £3,448, including excursions and open-jaw BA flights from Heathrow. The agent was knowledgeable but didn’t try to close the sale.


Winning agent 

Joel Dark, international travel consultant

“I always try to give the customer a few options and make sure it’s exactly what they want. We don’t get an awful lot of Russia requests. I just tried to tailor-make it to how the customer wanted it.”


Verdict

All three agencies gave a decent service, but Flight Centre offered a couple of options and made more effort to upgrade the trip, despite going slightly over-budget.


Elite resorts caribbean

Top-scoring agent each month will win use of a car for 10 days.

The winning agent must be at least 25, for insurance reasons. Winners under 25 will win a week’s all-inclusive holiday at an Elite Islands Resorts property. The prize is non-transferable and the car must be driven only by the winning agent. The winner must not have any serious driving convictions. Elite Island Resorts will endeavour to supply the car to the agency but reserves the right to request the winning agent to collect and return the car from Essex or a central location

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