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Old 14th October 2017, 12:02   #1
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Default Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)

Introduction

I have seen many threads where fellow team bhpians have taken the help of Hivayking's ladak 951 package for planning their trip to Leh/Ladak and as a result I too have taken their help for my trip in Sept 2017. This review is to share my experiences with everyone on how they operate, merits and demerits, what can we expect and some fine prints.

This review is divided into the following
  1. Early planning - My interactions in the trip conceptualization stage(May 2017)
  2. Planning phase ( Aug/Sept 2017)
  3. Support during the trip(Sept 2017)
  4. After the trip (Oct 2017)
  5. Hotels provided
  6. Routo Navigation service & offline maps
  7. Hivayking store

I confirm that the review is done solely based on my interactions with Hivayking and I had no other interactions with Hivayking other than mentioned in this review.

Last edited by arjithin : 28th October 2017 at 20:25.
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Old 14th October 2017, 12:13   #2
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Default Early planning - My interactions in the trip conceptualization phase (May 2017)

Myself and two friends were planning a road trip from Bangalore to leh/Ladak region during Oct 2017. Initial discussions between us happened around March/April 2017 and like any other bhpian who is regular to the Leh/Ladak travelogues in the forum, my first choice was to take help of HVK/Hivayking.in. Given the amount of positive feedback I have seen on the forum, I was so confident and told my friends that planning/hotel part is least of our worries.

I made a phone call to HVK mid May 2017 and we spoke for around 20 minutes. He was very patient and listened to my plan carefully. He suggested to advance the trip to September towards the closure of season and we agreed to it. He asked to send across the plan we prepared to his gmail id where he can tweak the plan. He also asked us to get the car ready for trip in early Aug and CALL him back after Aug 15th to finalize the plans. It made perfect sense as lot of things can change between May and Aug related to road conditions, political conditions , and the traveler themselves. He also said Ladak 951 is the plan to purchase.

I sent out the plan via a google spreadsheet, but never received a response. Followed up once and left it knowing HVK is busy with monsoon drives.

Overall rating : Good. (It would have been 'excellent' if the plan shared was reviewed as told to us.)

Last edited by arjithin : 29th October 2017 at 18:04.
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Old 14th October 2017, 14:06   #3
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Default Planning phase

Aug 21: I called HVK based on my previous discussion, nobody picked up
Aug 22: I called HVK again; he picked up and said he is sick and asked me to call again before I could say anything. Call lasted for may be 10-15 seconds.
Sent him few WhatsApp messages to remind him about our previous discussion since I couldnt talk over the call.

Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-aug-22.jpg

Aug 27 : I called again, no response.
Aug 28 : Left a WhatsApp message asking if he is feeling better and can we talk. I got the first shock in response that he dont take calls. Until last call he was asking me to call back, and now its a 180 degree change in response.

Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-aug-29.png
Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-aug-291.png

Then on wards the quality of responses degraded, one liners that are not helping the conversation/planning constructively. I was getting confused on why the sudden change in tone and attitude, and tried calling him once more hoping to talk it out and again call was disconnected saying he was in a meeting.

From this point, all discussions shifted to gmail. No calls & no WhatsApp. Below are the conversation screenshots & I put my comments in screenshots itself.

Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-email-1.png

Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-email-2.png

Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-email-3.png

I was wondering if HVK is confusing me with some other group, but my friends who were coming with me found out that such responses are very common in their facebook forum. We took a decision at this point not loose our cool no matter what. I also asked my friend to take lead in emails hoping that it will bring a positive change.

In a later email, we were also told that the conference call to discuss overall trip cannot be set, even though there are two more weeks. This is one of the promises made in Ladak 951 description. No reason given on why it cannot be done other than the comment "INFEASIBLE AT THIS JUNCTURE". We didnt follow up on this.

Summary: A very unprofessional and demoralizing experience

Last edited by GTO : 31st October 2017 at 09:48. Reason: As requested :)
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Old 28th October 2017, 18:17   #4
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Default Support during the trip(Sept 2017)

We usually provided gps location attachments via our WhatsApp group every one hour to update the progress and normally got an acknowledgement in 10-15 minutes. Most of the days acknowledgements from HVK started coming as early as 5:30-6 AM

Some incidents worth mentioning.

a. On day 1 we were supposed to stay at Ratlam, MP. When we were around 3 hours before Ratlam, we requested for room booking; but were told "long way to go". Booking was done 1 hour before Ratlam and we checked in at a hotel without any delay (17:00 hrs).
But on day 2, CHD was pushing us to get the confirmation that we will target/reach our destination Hanumangarh 3 hours before so that they can book the room.
In general hotels were booked 1-2 hours before the destination after CHD getting confidence that we will reach the hotel.

b. Per our plan, we were to stay in Amritsar and then leave for Srinagar next day. HVK was pushing to go further to Pathankot as the group who took the Pathankot - Srinagar route the previous day took 14 hours to reach Srinagar. No information was given on what can go wrong in Pathankot to Srinagar road, even though the push was with a good intention. We agreed to his ask and stayed at Pathankot.

c. On day 13, we were to do Keylong - Mandi. We reached Mandi by 5 PM and decided to proceed further. The next hotel provided was 4 hours later at Ropar, and that was the worst hotel of the trip. No hotel was available between Mandi and Ropar.

d. On day 15 we were to do Agra - Nagpur and reached Narsingpur by 5.30 PM. We requested a hotel at Nagpur even though it was 5 hours ahead; but was told not possible. We agree that that was against his policy of no check in after 10:30 PM, but there was no partner hotel in the Narsingpur to Nagpur section. Staying at Narsingpur means we wont be able to reach Bangalore next day. We were told to manually check at Seoni for hotels, but we decided to take the Chhidwara route based on feedback on road conditions from friends. Finally arranged a room by ourselves at Chhindwara.

d. We had to get our car sump guard straightened at Tangste. Informed HVK about this and he said check with Army at Nyoma and that lead was very helpful.

e. On day 9, we were to do Turtuk to Tangste and we reached Tangste by 2:45 PM. Requested if a stay can be arranged at Pangong Tso (1 hour ahead), but was not arranged. As a result next day we had to add that 1 hour + Pangong Tso visit time to an already long day. We were told go and visit Pangong Tso and come back to Tangste, which we didn't understand the rational at all.

f. Many people mentioned in their team bhp travelogues that we will get updates on HVK when we are on Chandigarh - Delhi road about the speed cameras/police interceptors, we didn't receive any.

Overall rating : Good

Last edited by arjithin : 29th October 2017 at 18:26.
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Old 28th October 2017, 18:41   #5
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Default After the trip (Oct 2017)

We reached Bangalore on Oct 1st early morning and informed our WhatsApp group about the trip completion, thats it..no formal conclusion, no request for feedback.. nothing.

Overall rating : Average

Last edited by arjithin : 28th October 2017 at 19:48.
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Old 28th October 2017, 18:56   #6
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Default Hotels provided by CHD

In general most of the hotels were good, costing in the vicinity of Rs 2000 for 2 people + extra bed costs. When we checked travel portals for the same hotels, we saw prices Rs 200-300 less most of the days, but I think that's OK considering the flexibility we have in this arrangement.

Some of the hotels were expensive, like the heritage hotel in Hanumangarh or houseboat in Srinagar. But we were asked before booking.

No options to choose hotels were provided anywhere. This was a concern as CHD knows that we are probably spending only 7 or 8 hours in a hotel for night stay and still the hotel given is an expensive one like Hanumangarh.
Similarly only AC room options are given

The worst hotel was at Ropar, PB. Passed feedback to HVK and he acknowledged.

Some of their hotels are difficult to locate, like the ones in Srinagar or Keylong. Directions to hotel are given as text, but its better if GPS coordinates too are given.

We were under the impression that CHD will book a nearby hotel for us if we wanted a change in plan; but the reality is CHD will book a nearby hotel which is in their network only. I dont know if that is explicitly mentioned in their website, but we felt the pain due to this in 2 days ( refer details in above post)

Overall rating : Good

Last edited by arjithin : 29th October 2017 at 18:17.
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Old 28th October 2017, 19:16   #7
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Default Routo Navigation service

We subscribed for Routo navigation for an additional fee. Routo is an app that shows waypoints in google maps. It shows the expected route in a blue color line, but doesnt give turn by turn direction. Usability is very limited.

Hopefully the following screenshots will help to understand on how the app works.

Problems enounted
1. App was crashing consistently in my stock Nexus 4 with Android 5
2. consumes a lot of phone battery

Journeys are not ordered in any easy way. It would have been better if the trip was pre configured in the app instead of sending a bunch of way point collections.
Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-routo-1.png

in some sections hotel and petrol pumps are shown as way points.
Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-routo.png

Most of the CHD hotels are not marked in Routo.
Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)-routo-2.png

We always had a google map running in one phone and Routo running in another phone.

Quality of Routo maps:

I am assuming a lot of thought has been gone into selecting the best route between two places, and trust that its the best route. But in some sections we had our doubts. The route to take also depend on the time of travel too.
For eg between Narsingpur and Nagpur. I am not sure why Seoni route is in Routo instead of Chhindwara route. All my research in team bhp, recent travelers and all the local drivers suggested NOT to take Seoni route, but Routo/HVK suggested to take that. Finally we decided that we dont want to take a broken forest route late in the night and took Chhindwara route instead, and it was a very good road all throughout.
Overall rating for Routo app: Average

Offline navigation details given for Jammu & Kashmir

A detailed route plan of all the major routes in J&K are given before the trip and it was very detailed and helpful. We took a printout and carried that along. Routo wasnt available for J&K

A very comprehensive pdf document on what to carry, what to expect, how to prepare etc was given, and that really helped us to plan our packing.

Overall rating for J&K offline routes: Excellent

Last edited by arjithin : 29th October 2017 at 23:06.
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Old 28th October 2017, 19:29   #8
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Default Summary

I decided to stick with HVK/Hivayking/CHD because I understand the value of this service is when one meet the unexpected. He will have most upto date info on road conditions and will have another car travelling in your route may be few hours before or after you on top of local contacts and his huge Facebook group. But the attitude, arrogance and lack of detailed information provided in some of the conversations can really demoralize the group like it happened in our case.

Its upto the traveler/group to decide which one is important.

There is a common argument that what more can one expect for Rs 951, Who will provide support for 15-20 days for Rs 951? I do not agree to that argument. Whether it is Rs 951 or Rs 5001, a traveler is entering into a contract with Hivayking to provide support and the clients expect decent treatment. Its upto Hivayking to choose the pricing, nowhere in the product description on Ladak 951 its mentioned that what level of treatment will be given. Rs 951 is not a significant amount considering the budget for a 15 day road trip.

Some tips we learned along our way are

1. Expect that only one word answers are going to come, no details and no explanations, no options
2. Ready to follow the instructions or politely decline and follow your decision.
3. Never refer what google maps say as your source of info
4. HVK/CHD may not be remembering past agreements or plan, and can contradict themselves. This could be due to the number of people they support ( my assumption). Politely remind them about what was agreed

Last edited by arjithin : 29th October 2017 at 18:28.
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Old 28th October 2017, 19:45   #9
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Default HivayKing store

I purchased few items from the hivayking store . Very limited merchandise available there.

The tracking number provided in the shipment summary was incorrect ( data entry error); so I contacted them via "contact us" link twice, nobody responded to my query both the times. My item was not delivered even after a week so I visited my nearby The Professional Courier office and my package was there waiting to be delivered for the last 5 days !! ( I identified the courier from the tracking number format, and The professional courier service is pretty bad in my area)

Overall rating : Poor

Last edited by arjithin : 28th October 2017 at 20:06.
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Old 30th October 2017, 09:28   #10
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Default re: Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 30th October 2017, 11:09   #11
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Default re: Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)

Thanks. This is not very pleasing to read. I can sympathize with you on the overall experience. I have had read some very good observations from the fellow bhpians on the support provided by HVK, but this is certainly below par.

I fully agree with you on the price point, he can charge more but cutting corners in service obligations is bad. Looking at the way technology is evolving, HVK should be able to provide better experience to travelers. A real time "good and usable" advise to en route customers is something expected. I would reiterate "good and usable" here - which was lacking here.

I hope HVK gets to read this thread and make appropriate changes to the extent that if he is getting a good volume of business, he should consider expanding his team and deploy additional gadgetry / technology.

Last edited by i74js : 30th October 2017 at 11:14.
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Old 30th October 2017, 11:16   #12
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Default re: Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)

I have some feedback for HVK:

1) Talk to the customer on phone only twice -> once the plan has been purchased and once after the customer reaches home (to gather feedback)

2) Hire a couple of employees with customer service background. Let them handle all interactions (phone, gmail and whatsapp) with the customers. You do the planning, but communication with customers should be handled by the employees.

3) Rs.951 fee is way too low, especially when all customers are spending (fuel, tolls, hotel, food, shopping) atleast Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 on the vacation. The hike in fees should take care of salaries of your new team.
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Old 30th October 2017, 11:36   #13
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Default re: Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)

I have used HVK's service umpteen number of times and I have nothing else to say other than praising this wonderful human being. He provided dedicated voice, Whatsapp time to us for 20 consecutive days on our Ladakh trip - a team of 20 members approximately including ladies, which is a team of 7 hatchbacks, 1 SUV and an Enfield Bullet. Despite not even talking to him all the while till now (after 2 years) except one or two times, he still remembers me and my wife (even names) - we were no one to him before this trip. I have gone through your difficulties and can say that you took HVK and the crew more as a company like Thomas Cook or something similar. The problem according to me here is people take the service without knowing the usage model - there are clear instructions on this in HVK's Fan Forum. And it clearly says that you have to inform the destination prior to 3 hours. When he says you need to speed up your pace or when he says you may not make it, he mean it and he knows what he says exactly. Sorry to be on exact opposite side of where you are - but this is my opinion.
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Old 30th October 2017, 11:39   #14
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Default Re: Summary

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjithin View Post
I decided to stick with HVK/Hivayking/CHD because I understand the value of this service is when one meet the unexpected. He will have most upto date info on road conditions and will have another car travelling in your route may be few hours before or after you on top of local contacts and his huge Facebook group.
What is the point of this guide to Ladakh?
I've been to 20 plus countries, all the continents except Antarctica, and never once booked myself a room through a travel agent. I feel, the charm of travelling and being on the road is not knowing whats coming up next. The unpredictability of the situation adds to the romance of the trip. Not to mention pretty much EVERY info you need is available for free on the internet. The ONLY places I have had issues finding information was in the Faroe Islands, and the interiors of Japan. The point of me saying all this is to emphasise that India is not necessarily a difficult place to travel. Especially for Indians.

I travelled the length and breath of the country, Ladakh and NE India included, without knowing a lick of Hindi. Heck we didn't even know what lies ahead, but strictly went with local word of mouth.

Given my experience, I would confidently say that the "most up to date info on road conditions" can be obtained for free at the road side chai shop, or from someone travelling the the opposite way. And to get some help from someone on the road, just wait a couple of hours until someone comes passing by.

Trust me, lots of patience and a good sense of humour will get you through any set back on the road. I would be happily stuck at a beautiful valley in ladakh for hours in end but not for 15 mins in Bangalore traffic.
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Old 30th October 2017, 11:40   #15
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Default re: Review: HiVayKing Ladakh 951 (travel advisory service)

Great review and a sad ordeal of the terrible support and assistance that you got, going by your part of the story. I am not sure though why you went ahead with the said service in-spite of those initial hints from the delayed and unprofessional replies. Are there not any other options available?
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