We recently have availed Travel Triangle's (and Kashmir Boulevard - the local travel agency) service to visit Srinagar and other places around, here's a summary of our experience:
First off, thanks to Travel Triangle for their excellent support throughout the trip. Their support stopped us from g
etting ripped off by the travel agents and tour guides at Gulmarg. Miss Deepti and her manager (forgot his name, sorry!) have been a great support for us throughout.
Coming to Kashmir Boulevard - the local travel agency that co-ordinated at ground level. We had to face many last moment itinerary changes which we were not informed by the travel agent - Miss Saba. On our very first day, we had to stay at Gulmarg in a 3-star hotel (or we were informed so). But we were not even notified that we were to stay at a different hotel. We only realized it when the driver took us to the alternative - Mama's Palace. No offense to Mama's Palace, the hospitality was extremely good. Staff was really polite and supportive. On our second day, our schedule was to stay at Young Golden Palace Houseboat. Instead, we were taken to a houseboat called Jamaica.
In both of these cases, we were not even given the courtesy of informing us (forget an apology) in advance about the change. Just after the first change of hotel, we confronted the matter with Miss Saba and we were told that it was an 'upgrade' and no need to worry about it. We had no other choice than trusting that. But when it happened the second time, after seeing that houseboat, we really doubt that it was actually an upgrade. We felt we were taken for granted - the last thing you expect when you paid that huge sum.
And at last, I really feel the urge to use the strongest vocab to describe the driver we were assigned to! Mr.Bilal, supposedly the owner of the travel chain who happens to manage 11 other guests the same day! Anyway, right after he picked us from the airport while taking us to Gulmarg, he dominated us. He overrode our travel choices, insisted on his own. He stopped his car at the base of Gulmarg hill, told that his car is not allowed up there, and we need to take another cab, also rent gumboots, jackets, and gloves (though we had jackets and gloves, he told us that it has snowed heavily and we really need gumboots), and that we require a guide to roam there. Even before we think, he had already spoken to of the guides (a pure conman, I tell you!) and arranged 'a special vehicle' that took us to the hilltop.
We later observed that all vehicles were plying to the hilltop (including private vehicles. Forget SUVs, we even saw a couple of Omnis). It was at that moment we realized that we were being bluffed. But it was too late. The special vehicle demanded 700 rupees, the guide took another 700, rented gumboots cost 400. While I accept that it was informed to us before in the T&C of Travel Triangle that guides are not necessary, the driver insisted so much so that I now feel he was part of those con artists, all along. Right at that moment, we stopped trusting the driver, called up TT, spoke regarding the issue, escalated and finally we made an arrangement that we pay 700 rupees less than what we had to pay (because the driver didn't take us to the hilltop when he had to).
The driver was not punctual at all. We wanted to cover as many places as we could right after breakfast, but he came only by 10-11 every day. Nothing changed after repeated requests to be on time. He was very dominating, had a legit reason (at least he thinks so) for his unpunctuality. As per the itinerary, he should have been available to us all day for the local sightseeing. But this 'family man' drove straight to his home after dropping us at the city center. An auto-rickshaw back to the hotel cost us another 200.
Incidents like this kept happening (unpunctuality, dishonesty, bluffing). At some point, we were so frustrated with him that we started generalizing that attitude with all Kashmiris (that changed eventually when we interacted with other people).
On the last day, he demanded that he needs the remaining amount in cash (the one we owed to the agency). We told him that we'd transfer online but he insisted. When we drew money from the nearest ATM and went to pay, he demanded us to add the 700 back giving us some bullshit reason why the car couldn't go there. We lost it at that moment and called up a Kashmir Boulevard staff and we were surprised to hear her agreeing with the driver. We just hated how the lady suddenly changed her stance. Then I threatened them that I'll call TT, suddenly he bowed down and accepted the money (we could see the enraging anger on his face :D ).
Overall, we are happy with the Travel Triangle for their continuous support throughout the trip. And I thank you for that.
And Kashmiri Boulevard - you really need to stand up to the promises you make to the guests. You showed us 3-star hotels on the brochure and made our stay at an average houseboat which did not even have a heater.
And the driver! - Phew, I have nothing more to say. He ruined our opinion we had on Kashmiris.