Jailoo Tourist Community Kochkor Reviews
Warning: stay away from this agency Jul 22, 2010
I thought I'd post a word of warning about this travel agency in Kochkor. There are more bad reports on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum already, so it is probably better to give this company a miss and go for one of the more reputable agencies like CBT or Shepherds Life (or better: avoid these travel agents alltogether). These will undoubtedly rip you off as well, but I doubt they will treat you the same way Jailoo treated me.
I had booked a three-day/two night horse-trek to Song Kol. I had been told I had to pay for three days guide even though I would only ride a horse for two days, because the guide had to travel all the way back home again with his horses. No problem here, so I paid for the guide, the horses, the yurt stays and the transport to Jumgal (staring point) and from Song Kol.
First day was fine, but on the second day, precisely at noon, the guide (who was Stalbeck Kaparbekov, also recommended in the Lonely Planet, page 318) stopped and told me this was as far as he went and I had to walk from there onwards. He said he only got paid 2.5 days (even though I had paid three), and he needed a day to travel back, so this was it. I pleaded with him, saying he can't leave his customer stranded in the middle of nowhere, but he would not budge. Jailoo had to pay him more money and I would have to take it up with Jailoo.
He told me to walk the last 10 or 15 kms to the Yurt camp (there are several, so just ask around which is yours, he said) and if I couldn't carry my luggage (I hadn't packed for a trekking) perhaps I was lucky enough that there would be a car passing.
With that he took off.
Well, I never made it to the yurt camp. The first yurt I came to (after about 1.5 hrs walking) belonged to a lovely family who were in fact heading to Kochkor, so I hitched a ride with them.
Back at Jailoo office the owner immediately said "so you want your money back?" without apologising or anything. He said he didn't have the money and that I should come back the next day. I told him he'd better get it, because I wanted it back straight away.
Half an hour later he came back, but he would only refund me the money for the parts of the trek I had not used (i.e. the parts he had not paid himself yet): the second night yurt stay and the taxi back. I demanded one day guide and horse as well, after all, I had only had four hours of riding on the first day, and three hours on the second.
This was the point where he got foul. He didn't like me because I had dared questioning his inflated prices when I first walked in for information, so I should f#ck off and go back home. The fact that his guide had left me on that mountain was my problem, not his, he reasoned.
So, these are the lovely people that work in the tourist industry in this country, and the type of people Lonely Planet recommends (is it just me, or is the Central Asia one of the most poorly researched books in the series?). I haven't had particularly good experience with CBT either, so my advice is to give all the travel agents a miss and just try to arrange everything with the local people.
Part of the Kiev to Kuala Lumpur 2010 travel blog
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