SAME TRIP, DIFFERENT PRICING? WHAT'S THE DEAL HERE?
OR...WHY ARE SIMILAR TRIPS ORGANISED BY OTHER TOUR OPERATORS CHEAPER THAN MHE'S TRIPS?
So you find you've got 10 days vacation, and you want to head out for a trek - or may be even a rafting expedition. You scour the net. And you find something strange...the same trip seems to be priced differently by different operators. Why should one operator charge ₹ 21,500 and another charge ₹ 56,000 for what sounds like the exact same trip? The Chadar trek is after all the Chadar trek right? Wrong.
At MHE we have a simple FAQS philosophy that underlines all our expeditions and package tours: Food, Adventure, Quality, Safety.
FOOD: We're founded by an army-man and we firmly believe an army moves on its stomach. The cuppa noodles-sandwich-fruit combo meal isn't our style. We move with an experienced chef and kitchen helper and every meal is fresh and cooked from scratch. There's snacks every evening after a hard day's trek (hot cheese balls anyone?), a non-veg dish for dinner every night, and an accompanying desert - our Kashmiri chef Gulam loves surprising people with a caramel custard at 12,000 ft in the wilderness!
ADVENTURE: At MHE, it's never the destination, it's always the journey. Our groups are small (rarely exceeding 12 people), so rushing from point A to point B isn't our style. We stop to admire the little blue forget-me-nots besides the gurgling stream, our trip leader will give you an insight into the delightful bhojpatra trees lining the path, and we'll often park our rafting boats on the side of a raging Zanskar rapid because we just a saw a hiking path up that looks interesting.
QUALITY: Let's split that shall we? Our Gear: We take porters or ponies with us for our trekking expeditions - you're only expected to carry your day pack and camera. And when we reach camping point at the end of a tiring day, we don't shove three people into a two-man tent. Our expedition tents are always twin sharing, they have air mattresses and dry-cleaned sleeping bags - if you don't carry your own.
Hygiene: Our dry pit loo tents are dug some distance away, and have western-style seating frames; the water you wash your hands with is spiked with potassium permanganate crystals - a disinfectant; the drinking water is always freshly boiled so you can fill up your bottles every morning; all - yes ALL, non-biodegradable trash is collected and carried back to the city to be disposed off with - the remaining is buried, not left scattered around to the despair of trekking teams coming after us.
There are no hidden costs. None. All transportation charges from the point we pick you up at the airport till we drop you back are included in the package; there's no if-you-want-a-porter-to-carry-your-luggage-it-will-cost-an-extra-Rs. 650-per-day in the fine print. There's no fine print at all.
SAFETY: Your safety is our priority. Always. All our guides are experienced, trained in first aid and CPR and undergo refresher courses on an annual basis; our cars are serviced regularly and driven by licensed experienced drives with several miles under their belt. All our equipment undergoes a grilling in-house assessment every year as well as an external assessment by government recognized bodies. We leave no stone unturned to ensure a guest is safe and comfortable while travelling with us.
So the next time you're confused about who to go with, ask yourself - and the operator - the following questions:
Is the adventure tour operator recognized by the Government of India and a member of ATOAI - the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India?
What's included in the inclusions and exclusions - especially read the fine print, often never found on the first page of the trip description. Don't be lazy. Dig deeper.
How many people in a tent? What's the food going to be like? And how many meals per day?
Are the guides and porters adequately clothed and is proper food provided to them by the operator?
Is there a limit to how much a porter or a horse will carry? (15 Kgs and 40 Kgs respectively)
What's the operator's policy regarding garbage disposal?
Go ahead. Ask on. Don't feel shy. Even if it feels like a Spanish Inquisition. Before you part with your hard earned cash, be sure you know exactly what you are getting - and more importantly what you aren't!
DILSHAD MASTER-KUMAR Dilshad is the Director, Operations and Business Development at MHE.