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Being an expat indicates that you have already traveled from your home country to Indonesia. You've certainly already discovered that by using a travel agent your travel arrangements could be made easier and hopefully even more cheaply. Although most people are capable of arranging their travel with the airlines themselves, an entire trip can be arranged with just a few telephone calls when using a travel agent.
E-travel has become the norm abroad and in Indonesia airlines are also using electronic tickets. Many people still choose to utilize a travel agent to help arrange their trips. A qualified agent can reduce the many problems that can occur in planning or during travel. Local airlines only offer a one-way or return ticket booking service. So if you need to combine local airline flights, this can be challenging - and the assistance of a local travel agent is of help.
Why use an Agent
There are a number of reasons why it is desirable to use a travel agent. One of the first reasons is to get the best possible deal. Frequently agents will be aware of or sign up for special offers and package deals that they have arranged through airlines or hotels which allow them to offer reduced or promotional rates to their customers. Many times these offers are available through travel agents, and often not available even if you book directly to the source.
Even if the travel agent is not offering a special package, a well-informed agent should be aware of the cheapest tickets and be able to advise you as to several good routing choices for your trip. They could be aware of possibilities that you had not previously considered.
In peak seasons when demand is high, a travel agent can be especially helpful. Often agents will 'block book' for the holiday season with airlines or hotels. This means that they have an arrangement with the airlines or hotel to reserve a specific number of seats or rooms for their clients in anticipation of high demand over the holidays.
Qualities of a Good Travel Agent
One of the most important qualities of a good agent is good communication skills. Dealing with an agent that speaks your native language will immediately eliminate most of the frustration of making bookings. If you are not familiar with agencies that have agents that speak your language, ask around the community and get recommendations from friends. You may find it easier to communicate by fax or email so there are less mistakes made in dates or times or spelling of names and so that you are not tied up in a long phone calls explaining details.
The years of experience that the agent has been in the business is also something that you should consider. An agent that has been active in the travel business over many years will have built up a network within the industry and be knowledgeable about a variety of choices and arrangements.
An agent's knowledge of the destination will help a lot in making arrangements to that destination. Often in Indonesia you may be dealing with agents that have never been outside of Indonesia. This makes it hard, if not impossible, for them to give good advice to their clients.
A senior agent in the travel agency would be better qualified to help you. In many cases they would have been sent by the agency on scouting trips to various destinations to gather information and assess the available facilities. They are then able to pass this first-hand information on to their clients. Ask your agent about their own personal travel experience and you can quickly assess their level of personal experience.
If the agent is knowledgeable about a destination, they can advise you about hotels available and what areas of the city they are located. Also, they should know the advantages and disadvantages of staying at different locations. They should be able to tell you about nearby attractions and major points of interest in popular destinations. If an agent can tell you these things immediately, without referring to printed materials, this is an indication of how well informed they are.
A good agent should be able to give you advice on the best route to take to your destination. This means being aware of all the airlines that fly to a destination or other means of travel and their schedules. Often it is much cheaper to change to a domestic carrier once you have reached your “point of entry” aboard an international carrier. Ticket prices on a domestic carrier can be as much as 1/3 of the cost in comparison to an international airline. Often these tickets can be booked via e-bookings on the local carrier's web site and can be waiting for you at the counter when you check in. Your travel agents should be able to advise you of these options if they are available. In some cases there may be flights to a destination, but travel by train, bus or rented car might be a cheaper and a preferable means of travel.
On long haul flights, airlines will often supply a hotel room for their passengers when a connecting flight is not available until the next day, or when the trip starts very early in the morning or involves many hours of flying. Your travel agent should be able to advise you about arrangements in these stopovers and make the arrangements for you. They will supply you with a voucher for the hotel which will be requested on check-in. They should also inform you about transportation options to and from the hotel. If they cannot issue the voucher, they should be able to give you information as to where you can obtain it, which will often be at the check-in counter or transfer desk at the airport of transit.
A full-service agent in Indonesia will be able to offer you more services than just booking tickets and hotel rooms. Some agencies offer passport renewal, visa services, foreign exchange and travelers cheques as well as travel insurance.
Some agencies can arrange for your exit permit (needed by all foreign residents of Indonesia each time they depart the country) that must be paid at the airport upon the departure of both resident expatriates and Indonesians alike. It is very convenient if your travel agent can take care of all of these matters ahead of time as it saves you hours of waiting in lines in often hot and unfavorable conditions. The small fee charged for these services is well worth the convenience.
Your travel agent should be able to tell you about documents that you might have to bring with you for formalities in other countries or even papers that you might need to go through immigration as you exit Indonesia.
Because travelers cheques are not easily cashed in some Asian countries, often people choose to travel with large amounts of cash. In some countries there are restrictions as to how much cash/currency is allowed to be brought into the country. Anything above this limit is subject to confiscation, if it is not properly reported. Being aware of these types of regulations can save you from having a very unpleasant experience in a foreign customs office.
A good travel agent should strive to give excellent customer service. This includes being easily reached on the phone when you call. If they are not able to take your call immediately, they should call back promptly. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to reach a busy travel agent and they never return you phone calls! Dealing with a friendly and polite agent that goes out of his/her way to be helpful is an indication that they value your business and are trying to serve you as a valuable customer. Another option is to have a senior agency staff’s email contact that can be contacted 24 hours - so you can get their assistance if you're experiencing any difficulties.
In Indonesia, the location of the travel agency is not such an issue. Once a relationship with an agent has been established, most future bookings can be taken care of over the phone or via fax or Email. In most cases, agents have delivery services for your tickets, saving you a trip to the travel agency. This is a great service for busy people who cannot afford to waste time in Jakarta's heavy traffic.
Traveling with Children
A good travel agent should be able to advise you about discounts for your children. Airline tickets are almost always reduced for children, however the reduced rates vary on different airlines. Large families can save a lot of money by choosing an airline that has better children's discounts. Hotels often have family packages where the second room for accompanying children is given at a reduced rate. Some hotels even have programs where your children can stay free of charge. These packages can save families a lot of money. Hotels that have kids clubs or day camps should be brought to the attention of a customer by an agent. These facilities within a hotel could make your holiday much more enjoyable, especially if mom and dad would like to play a game of golf, but don't know what to do with the kids.
Airlines offer a special service for single parents that are traveling alone with a baby. As many parents know from experience, traveling with a baby or toddlers can be very difficult and stressful. Most of the major airlines offer an escort service for parents traveling alone. The airline personnel will meet you at the check-in counter and escort you to the gate. They will help you carry your carry-on baggage so you can better focus on the children. This is an extremely helpful service as even going to the toilet can be a major ordeal if you do not have anyone to hold or watch your baby/children.
Upon arrival, the airlines also have personnel to meet you. You will be given preferred treatment going through customs by being allowed to go through the airline/crew line. Not having to wait in a very long line in immigration can be a godsend if you are holding a fussing, tired baby. You will then be escorted to baggage claim where again the ground crew can collect your luggage, and put it on a trolley. After escorting you through customs, they complete the service by helping you get to your transportation, whether it be a bus or a taxi or even your family. When traveling alone with a baby a single parent is extremely appreciative of an extra pair of hands. This service should be requested when you book your tickets so the airlines can arrange the needed personnel at the airport.
Always bring complete contact information for your travel agent with you on a trip. Even after very careful planning, something can go wrong on a trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes weather, delayed flights or even forgetful memories can wreck havoc on a well-planned schedule. In these cases, it may be necessary to contact your travel agent to try and rearrange your travel plans. It is very important that your agent can be contacted at all times. Due to differences in time zones you may need to call your agent at 1:00 in the morning. Hopefully the agent is reachable and understanding of special circumstances and can try to help you in any way he can. If you lose your ticket, and don't have the receipt with you, the airline will need to confirm that you have indeed purchased your ticket with your travel agent. Their confirmation could save you from having to purchase another ticket in the case that part of your ticket was lost.
Throughout Indonesia (especially in remote areas) flights can be canceled at a moments notice, often due to a lack of passengers. The airline will postpone the flight until the following day, but will not offer any compensation or accommodations for the affected travelers. Be aware that this can happen. In these cases you may need your travel agent to assist you with other arrangements.
Payment for Travel
If you are booking a domestic flight, the price of the ticket will most likely be quoted in rupiah. Often domestic destinations will give ITAS holders preferred rates over international guests. Your travel agent should be able to advise you of these special rates and request them for you upon booking.
If, however, your travel plans involve international destinations using international carriers, your travel will be quoted in US dollars. Be aware though that the rate that they use to convert rupiah into dollars will be higher than the current day's bank rate. In some cases, depending on how you choose to pay, the travel agent will convert the dollar rate into rupiah and then convert it back into dollars with a percentage added on when they calculate the final cost of the ticket. Some customers prefer to pay in dollars for international travel so that they do not lose money in the exchange rates. Ask your agent about the advantages and disadvantages of paying in rupiah or dollars for your travel.
If payment is made via credit card, it is normal practice in Indonesia that the 3 percent charge for the credit card company will be added on to your bill. Even though this goes against the agreement the vendor and the banks has with the credit card firm, this is a very common practice. Be very clear about how the price of the ticket is calculated prior to final booking so there are no surprises when you get your final invoice.
A travel agency is a business that provides a service to its customers. The success of the agency relies on the quality of service they provide. Whether you are planning a weekend get-away or a world tour, the efficiency and professionalism of your agent can make the experience a great one or an event that you swear you will never repeat. So, look for a professional travel agency that is truly concerned about your needs and can take all of the hassles out of your next trip. Selamat Jalan!
Our thanks to Kem Travel for their help in preparing this checklist!
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