2 weeks into my new job at Isango, I jumped at the opportunity to try out the experiences offered by my company as I had booked to go for a one week holiday in Egypt prior to taking up my role. Been a solo traveller most of the time, I usually plan my activities at the very last minute where possible, and most of the time, just packing my backpack and going on the plane with an address to the hostel and a lonely planet guide in hand. As a few family members were joining me for the trip, I had to suppress my procrastination and did some pre-trip planning on the sights to visit and things to do in Egypt. Browsing our website for the Egyptian experiences was fairly straight forward using the quick search and filtering out the various type of tours which did not interest me. One of the things that irritated me slightly was the lack of a price sorting option to view the cheapest options available – that’s me, I am a typical backpacker, costs counts for everything!!! On the other hand, I was able to make use of some very clever slider filters to display only experiences within my budget – nifty!
I was impressed with the variety of experiences available and ended up booking the a two day trips within and around Cairo, namely the Egyptian Museum, Citadel and Bazaar Tour as a day trip and the Tour of Memphis, Saqqara and Pyramids of Giza. On the contrary, as we had planned to do a cruise up the legendary Nile river, I was quite disappointed to find out there wasn’t any offered by Isango (our products team has been duly notified), which also meant that I had to spend quite an awful amount of time to search the internet for cruise operators and after 2 weeks and loads of email/expensive phone calls, we nailed down a cruise boat that fitted our travel plans and budget. It was that moment when I really appreciated a website like Isango to come along to offer a one-stop internet shop which I can browse for all the information on the types of available experiences at the location where I am heading at my own free time, and place a booking as and when I am happy. On top of that, we have a bunch of extremely friendly and knowledgeable customer service colleagues who were more than happy to offer me some additional advice. To be honest, I was duly pleased with the prices I paid even though I was offered cheaper prices when I was in Cairo since there was no way to know if the car was going to come and pick me up the next morning as promised by the tout – but it was certainly one of the best if not the lowest ones I have found on the internet. It did make me realise the kind of “zero-planning traveller” I was whenever I go on one of my weekend backpacking trips as it gave me the peace of mind of not having to wonder what to do the next day or if the tour was reliable.
During the trip, I was equally impressed by the tour guides that came along with us on the two days trips. The transport came to pick us up right below the hotel that we stayed (even though it was quite difficult to find) and duly introduced us to the sights and sounds of the city and the landmarks in the comfort of the stifling heat. The tour within the Egyptian museum would be boring and lifeless without our guide, and the pyramids would be just another massive stone structure if he had not brought it to life through the 4,000 years of incredible rich history. The one thing I really like about having a good guide is that it can change your trip from simply “nice” to “unforgettable”, just because of the interaction and knowledge that you get out of them. Usually they are extremely friendly and helpful too, and would be more than happy to go out of their way to introduce their cities/countries to travellers who are visiting, who wants to learn more about their culture and people. I have come across some tour guides who are mediocre at best, but the ones whom I meant in Egypt were just top-notch. Was more than happy to give them the additional Baksheesh (tipping) that I would normally do!
I have uploaded some photos from my trip to Flickr to share with all fellow travellers. In the meantime, my team is already hard at work looking into the annoyance listed above that I hope can improve the search and booking experiences of users who are coming to Isango to search for their ideal experiences. Until my next post, happy travelling!