Beth

A week in (and around) cape town, South Africa - Jan 20 - Jan 27, 2019

Traveler: Beth F. - Local specialist: Lizani Smith

Please note that this review pertains to the Elgin Africa travel agency, and is not a reflection of the small group tour we joined, which was delightful.

My boyfriend and I chose to use KimKim because of the wonderful reviews and business model – offering customized, local attention for a 5% service fee. We are economical travelers and have spent nights in modest quarters (including a tent in the desert without heating, cooling or a personal toilet). Which is why we specifically described our accommodation needs as “something comfortable, but it does not need to be luxurious. Comfortable and affordable will do as we do not intend to spend much time confined to a room.” However, we quickly realized while on our trip that we had been hoodwinked into needlessly extravagant lodgings. On our first night we were booked in a 5 star hotel with amenities that, since our flight was not scheduled to land until nearly 11 pm, we could not even take advantage of. In addition, during the group tour, we discovered we had been booked at completely separate and more expensive accommodations than the rest of our group. On one night we had an entire two story, two bedroom “castle” with a balcony overlooking citrus orchards completely to ourselves. Does that sound like comfortable and affordable to you? Several other couples on the tour had backpacker en suites; yet we were never even provided that option. Being separated from the group was far from ideal and required extra busing back and forth, less time with our companions, and a greater expense.

We also discovered, during the course of the trip, that none of the added activities we had scheduled were included in the final price. Why, then, was it imperative to know which activities we would participate in to finalize the bill? We presumed, since we were not given the final invoice until after we determined our full course of activities, that the activities were included in the total price. What an unpleasant surprise to discover mid-trip.

In fact, now knowing the true cost of the group trip (based on materials emailed directly from the tour company), we actually appear to have been overcharged at least ZAR6,600 given that our only extras on top of the tour were a one night hotel stay and an airport transfer. After the trip concluded, I sent a note to the specialists asking to see an itemized breakdown from the trip as well as a rationale for why we were not offered the backpackers en suite option, but have received zero response.

Using a service like KimKim I expected much better. My boyfriend and I debated greatly amongst ourselves over the cost of the trip, but we certainly did not presume we were being exploited. Since we may never have another opportunity to visit South Africa, we made sacrifices to pay for the trip only to find out after that we could have paid far less. Elgin Africa did not provide full transparency and tricked us into the most expensive accommodations package with no apparent motive beyond fattening their own wallets.

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Beth

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. In your second last paragraph you mentioned that you received zero response, but I have checked with kimkim and they confirmed that the system registered you opening up the response.

Here is what I sent you:
"Unfortunately, Lizani has left as a travel specialist, but I will answer as best I can. I am not able to advise why she did not give you the backpacker option, I'm afraid... We generally do high-end clients and perhaps that is... read more

Hi Beth

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. In your second last paragraph you mentioned that you received zero response, but I have checked with kimkim and they confirmed that the system registered you opening up the response.

Here is what I sent you:
"Unfortunately, Lizani has left as a travel specialist, but I will answer as best I can. I am not able to advise why she did not give you the backpacker option, I'm afraid... We generally do high-end clients and perhaps that is why.

With regards to the amounts, you are correct about the tour price. The Pepper Club has standard rates that they supply to us throughout the year. Normally they are fully booked over January, but not this year, so they are selling the rooms at a lower rate that we were charged when we booked. That rate was R4800. Airport transfers is R850 per person.

The total for all the above is R28900.00

We then take that amount and divide it by 12.5. This is the industry standard as our currency is super volatile, so it is to protect us against any sudden drops. Just to give you an idea, here is a link:
https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=1&From=USD&To=ZAR

So that brings you to exactly $2312 which you were quoted for.

I really do apologize that you were not offered the backpacker rate and hope that you did enjoy the trip and our country regardless. I heard that you had some great sightings in Addo."

I have since spoken to Lizani and she said that she is really sorry and she did not even think of offering you the backpacking option as most our clients simply don't want is due to having the wrong impression. I know once you see it, it is pretty awesome and I personally like to refer to it as boutique hostels.

Please accept my apology. I am glad that you did enjoy the supplier and the tour regardless of paying for the upgrade. We get such excellent feedback from them and I can assure you that the rest of the staff and myself definitely do promote the backpacker options as well. Lizani should have taken more time to establish your exact needs and the Pepper Club was not necessary for a traveler requesting something comfortable and not luxurious, especially for only a few hours and Cape Town has so many amazing places on offer.

Kind regards
Deborah