Best Value from a Travel Agency

If you’ve decided to use a Turkish travel agency for help in arranging your trip, here’s what you need to knowto get the most out of the partnership for the least cost.

travel agency makes reservations and bookings for travel services such as flights, hotels, tours, yacht cruises, guides and rental cars. It also helps individual travelers to plan the itineraries they want, just as they would plan themselves, but with help to answer questions, anticipate and avoid problems, and be available for changes and challenges while the travelers are on the road in Turkey.

Your travel agent is usually available all the time to help you, often 24 hours a day, with no time limit. But travel agencies don’t work for free. They are paid commissions by hotels, airlines, car rental companies and other companies that provide the services which the travel agency reserves for you. Generally, the commissions come out of the normal price for the service, so you pay no more than you would if you booked the service yourself.

Commissions vary, but may be around 10% or 15% of the normal price for the service. So if a hotel room is advertised for TL150, and you book it yourself, you will pay the hotel TL150. If a travel agency reserves the hotel room for you, you pay the travel agency TL150, the travel agency keeps TL15 to TL20 and sends the balance (TL135 or TL140) to the hotel.

Why would a hotel take less than its normal price for a room? Because it wants to fill as many rooms as possible each night. (A hotel room that goes empty at night earns nothing. An occupied room earning TL135 or TL140 is much better!) The hotel is happy to have the travel agency send clients to occupy its rooms.

That’s why you may not save money by making the reservations yourself, because travel businesses don’t like to lower their retail prices. If you make the hotel reservation yourself, chances are that you’ll still pay TL150 for that hotel room, and the hotel will keep the total amount.

Indeed, in some cases a tour operator or travel agency may negotiate bulk rates for rooms at that hotel, and may be able to sell you the room for TL130 (earning a TL13 commission)—a better price than you could get yourself.

Agencies often work closely with particular, trusted hotels that have a record of satisfying their clients. If you want a reservation at a particular hotel that the agency does not customarily work with, you may want to make that reservation on your own.

If you’re planning plane travel within Turkey and you buy your ticket from a travel agency outside of Turkey, you may pay twice as much for it as you would if you bought it from an agency in Turkey. Here’s how it works.

That’s just how international airfares are set—a good reason to use a good Turkish travel agency. An agency within Turkey can get the ticket at domestic—not international— rates, and can also arrange airport shuttles and transfers.

Turkish travel agents love booking trips and working with people, and they often give extra service for which they may earn no money, such as re-booking cancelled flights for you, sorting out missing hotel reservations, or helping out in case of illness. My recommended travel agencies‘ staff all speak fluent English and often several other languages (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Japanese) as well, and they can usually arrange for private guides speaking almost any language.

Keep in mind that travel agencies are businesses. They cannot afford to work for nothing. If you buy only a TL50 cheap flight, and the agency earns only a TL5 commission, they simply cannot spend hours helping you to plan your trip. They’ll go bankrupt.

If you plan to use a travel agency, it’s best (if possible) to ask only one agency to do everything you want done, rather than asking various agencies to arrange various parts of your trip. You become a more valuable client to the agency, they can afford to provide more help (including providing some services for free that they might normall charge for), and they’ll have a better grasp on all aspects of your trip and can often make it run smoother, especially if you need to make changes. And it’s simpler for you.

Some travelers ask several agencies to quote prices for the same trip in order to compare. It makes sense, but agencies rarely quote individual prices because of confidential arrangements with service providers. They charge by the complete trip.

You may wish to ask several agencies to quote a total price for a trip, but if an agency cannot be sure a traveler will use their services, they may not spend all the time and trouble it takes to plan an individual trip. They may give you an estimated price, or price range, but the final price will be determined by exactly which services you require for particular dates.

Many agencies are happy to help with unprofitable services in exchange for a reasonable service fee. For example, many airlines no longer pay commissions to agencies, so if you ask a travel agency to do nothing more than book an airline ticket, they may add a fee (perhaps TL15 or TL25) to the ticket price to pay for their time, effort and expenses.

You used to pay this service fee to the airline (it was hidden in the price of your ticket), which then paid it to the travel agency. Now you pay it directly to the agency. No big difference. You’re still paying for the useful service you receive from the agency.

Here are my recommended travel agencies.

Here’s how to decide if you need a travel agency.

Here’s how to check a Turkish travel agency to see if it’s legitimate.

—Tom Brosnahan


Best Travel Agents

Best Guided Tours

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How to Check a Travel Agency

How to File a Complaint

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