On February 23rd 2016, we went on the Istanbul Troy 15-day tour with RSD travel, and I’m writing this RSD Travel review to give other travellers my honest opinion on this tour agency.
Warning: there’s a lot of ranting below!
Have you ever seen something and thought, “It’s just too damn good to be true?”
It happened to us recently, which is why I’m writing this RSD Travel review.
Carlo was chatting to his mum on a routine catching-up-on-the-news call when she mentioned a deal she’d seen in the Roscommon Herald, our local newspaper.
The deal was for 14 nights/15 days in Turkey – the first week would be spent travelling overland from Istanbul to Antalya and the second was going to be spent in a 5star hotel in the Turkish Rivera.
The price? €199 per person.
Better yet, the price included all of the following:
√ return flights from Dublin to Istanbul
√ 14 nights accommodation
√ breakfast each morning
√ all transportation costs (inc flight from Antalya to Istanbul at the end of the trip)
Really? The flight alone would cost that? It had to be a scam.
Being the skeptics that we are, we decided to give the company a call and see where the hidden extras were.
Well, after a 10 minute call with quite a nice company rep in the UK, we found out that there really weren’t any hidden extras.
The cost included all of the above and all they needed was a 40euro (pp) booking fee to secure the place.
Our plans meant that we were going to fly to somewhere in that area in February anyway so we figured we’d just book it.
After all, the flight from Dublin to Istanbul could literally cost double that price so we figured it was a great deal.
RSD Travel Review
We booked in June 2015 and heard nothing from the company until they emailed us to say that they were taking the remainder of the fee from our credit card on Dec 29th as it had to be paid 8 weeks before the departure date.
We could have backed out at this point but we still didn’t have a reason to back out so they took the rest of the money and we were officially booked.
It’s then that we received the emails with ‘optional extras’. See the PDF below for what they were.
As we like to find our own food in the evenings and we were trying to keep our budget as low as possible, we spoke about these extras and decided that we wouldn’t get them.
I mean the price of the extras for what you get was extremely reasonable but, if we were to take all the options, the holiday was going to end up costing us another €900.
We’ve never done a packaged tour before (we normally find our own accommodation via Airbnb and book all of our own flights and tours) so we didn’t know what to expect, but it just seemed like way too much money to spend for 2 weeks.
Anyway, long story short, our start date for the tour was 23rd February and it was fast approaching so, at the end of January, I finally did what I should have done weeks previously.
I looked at reviews online for RSD Travel.
Reviews of RSD Travel Tour Agency Online
The reviews were mixed and the bad comments kind of confirmed that the price was too good to be true.
Here’s a snippet of some of the negative comments that I read, and here’s a link so you can read some of the good reviews as well.
“Organised by RSD Travel my experience of this tour can only be classed as dismal, disappointing and, at one point, frightening.”
“Be aware however that you will have to buy into the meal and individual tour packages. (There are no alternatives as the whole tour is extremely well sewn up).”
“On a whole I would give this, ‘We only want your money,’ trip , a miss.”
We didn’t let these reviews dampen our expectations and excitement for the trip and we started the tour on the scheduled date with an open mind.
In the meantime, we’d decided to go for the basic package (culture & dinner), which would include a dinner buffet for the first 7 nights, the entrance fees to Troy and the other sites that we’d planned to see in the first week, and it also included the tour guide.
What changed our minds were reviews that said that if we didn’t go for it, we’d basically be left hungry as the hotels were in the middle of nowhere.
After hearing what other people had to say about their experience, we decided that the last thing we wanted was to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat.
We also wanted to use dinner as a time to get to know the other members of the group and we wouldn’t be able to do that if we’d have stuck to our guns and ventured out by ourselves for food in the evening.
It was €149 pp so we felt that, again, the price was reasonable.
Meeting Our Tour Group and RSD Travel Guide in Istanbul
We had arrived in Istanbul before the tour group who flew in from Dublin so we met them at the first hotel, which was about a 30-minute drive from Sultanahmet Square.
I’m not going to mention the real name of our guide (you’ll see why later on), so let’s call him John.
John seemed lovely right from the get-go.
He was smiley, friendly, informative and he just seemed like a genuine guy. On arriving at the hotel he went around to each group and ticked off who was taking what package.
He told us that we’d only have to decide for week one first, and we could make a decision as to what packages we wanted to take for week 2 closer to the time.
Everyone in our tour group went for the basic package one (see above), and everyone except for us also went for the additional package (Explorer).
I’d read about these pushy RSD Travel tour guides that forced people into taking packages. I’d read that they got confrontational if people didn’t sign up, and I’d read that things often got ugly.
Not with John.
He wasn’t pushy but he did explain that if we didn’t sign up for the basic package that we’d be basically left hungry sitting on a bus while everyone else is stuffing their faces.
We totally understood and, as previously explained, we signed up for the buffet dinners etc. for the first 7 nights.
The tour started off on a great note. The tour guide was lovely and spoke perfect English. The driver was smiley and didn’t drive like he had a death wish.
The bus was comfy and our tour group, all of whom was from Ireland, was absolutely lovely.
Well, what started off well progressively got worse!
Without taking you through the day-to-day shenanigans of each day, I’m just going to sum up some points below on things that people should know before going on a tour with RSD Travel.
Let’s start with the GOOD things about going on a tour with RSD Travel:
- The tour is great value for the price. Your flights (normally with Turkish airlines), accommodation, and breakfast etc. is included just like it states. And even with the basic package, it’s not a bad deal for 14 nights in Turkey, is it?
- The quality of hotels ranged from mediocre to really nice. Some of our group mentioned that some of the bathrooms were missing tiles, had no hot water etc. but none of the hotels we stayed in where unsatisfactory in my opinion.
- Generally speaking, the quality of the food at the breakfasts and buffet dinners was also to a high standard. The variety was usually very good, with most hotels offering a wide selection of traditional Turkish cuisine and European food.
There was one hotel in particular where the food was absolutely amazing, and as I sat there eating like a queen with a dessert plate the size of my face, I reflected on the price we’d paid for the basic package and I thought that we’d got a good deal with the food.
- The driver (I can’t remember his name) was a great driver and unlike other drivers in Turkey, he was extremely careful and never took any chances.
- The hotel for the second week – the Eftalia Marine Hotel in Antayla – was lovely and the pool was such a treat to have. The staff at the hotel, especially the RSD Travel rep (Sylvana) was lovely, and they made the second week very enjoyable.
Let’s continue with the BAD of RSD Travel:
- I felt like a walking dollar sign every single day of the trip. Everywhere we stopped, people wanted money from us.
Whether it was the attendants in the restaurants that we stopped in blatantly asking for a tip or people at the overpriced pit stops shoving books and shitty souvenirs down our necks, everyone wanted money from us.
- And talking of the pit stops where we stopped to use the loo or to have lunch or pick up some snacks, the prices that were charged in these places were ridiculously hiked up. I’m talking €3 for a cornetto and €1 to use the toilet people.
- Apart from the first hotel in Istanbul, all of the hotels were in the middle of nowhere. We would have gone hungry had we not went for the dinner package.
- If you don’t like early mornings, forget going on a tour with RSD Travel. We were woken at 6 most mornings and on the road by 8. The second week is totally free so this only applies to the first 7 days.
- Many of the hotels had thermal spas and nice facilities but we never got a real chance to use them as we’d normally arrive late in the evening and leave early again the next morning.
- The itinerary for the first half of the tour sucks. To put it into perspective, we got to spend 1 hour in the world-famous ancient city of Troy and over 3 hours listening to a hard sell in a carpet factory. That leads me to…
- John, the tour guide, turned out to be just as pushy, as condescending, and as ignorant as some of the other RSD Travel guides that I’d read about on Tripadvisor. Without going into too much detail, he bullied our tour group into taking the package for the second week.
When we and another couple said we’d like to eat out at some restaurants in the area and not take the dinner package, he actually stuck up his fingers at the other couple.
The man that he directed it towards was 80 years old and was one of the nicest and kind-hearted people we’d met. It was totally uncalled for.
He also attacked us for giving him and the bus driver their tips in envelopes. He shouted at us like we were a bunch of kids saying “this amount is way under what I expected to be tipped”. The cheek!
And, if that wasn’t bad enough, he handed us out our review questionnaire sheets on the 7th day before arriving at the hotel in Antalya. These weren’t anonymous as our tour group number was marked clearly on the top of the page.
On collecting them from everyone, John went to the top of the bus and had a read for himself.
He then marched down the bus and attacked Damien and Aisling, a lovely couple from Dublin, and reiterated everything they’d written in their questionnaire for the whole bus to hear. He raised his voice and was totally unprofessional in my opinion.
I do have way more to say on the guide and his antics but (for the sake of the word count going over 3k) I better leave it there.
- The tour itinerary includes a visit to a carpet factory, a jewelry factory and a leather factory. Now don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an educational stop.
While you will get a little info about what goes on in these factories, you will be HOUNDED and HARASSED into buying things in all 3 places. First comes the welcome talk and the nicey-nice stuff and then the doors open and salespeople literally pick out their prey and work hard to get them to empty their wallets.
We had no intention of buying a ring for €3,000, a carpet for €10,000 or a leather coat for €800 so we were just adamant that we weren’t buying anything and the smiles of the salespeople turned to scowls and we were dead to them.
If you’re easily pressured into buying things or you find it hard to say no, be prepared to be heckled.
It’s also mandatory that everyone goes into these factories. One guy said he didn’t want to go into the leather factory, and John basically told him that he didn’t have a say in the matter.
This was the turning point when John went from nice guy to rogue!
From my understanding of the company now, I think the owners of the company also own these factories which is why so long is spent there and so much effort is put into harassing tour groups to spend their money on overpriced goods that they might not have budgeted for.
I’m sorry I can’t be more positive about John and these factories but they really left a sour taste in my mouth.
So, having explained the good, bad and the ugly, would I recommend RSD Travel to others?
The answer depends on what you want from your trip.
If you’re looking for a luxury getaway with a friendly guide who’ll add to your experience for all the right reasons, the answer is a big fat NO.
If you just want a few days away where you don’t mind being bullied into buying stuff you don’t need and made feel like s*it if you don’t buy jewellery, carpets or leather, then YES.
Having had the experience above, I want other travellers to know what to expect, which is why I’ve written this RSD Travel review.
As mentioned, the trip is good value for money and Turkey is a nice place to be, but RSD’s pushy guides, the greedy factory owners, the rude salespeople and the constant pressure to spend money dampens all of that.
We certainly won’t be taking another trip with RSD Travel as it’s a scam that, in my opinion, should be boycotted.
Note: I’m sure this obviously isn’t always the case with RSD Travel, and some people have glowing reviews of their holidays, but I’m basing this on our experience.
The saving grace for the 2 weeks for us was the tour group. It was so lovely to hear familiar accents and laugh at some good old Irish jokes.
We played cards, we laughed (a lot), we sang, we ate dinner as a group most evenings and we shared great times together.
It’s because of these guys that we count our tour with RSD Travel an unforgettable 2 weeks that we have very fond memories of.