What’s the best platform for booking travel excursions, activities, and things to do? Many seasoned and first-time travelers use Viator, a global tour and attraction booking company based in San Francisco. Viator is certainly not the first or the only existing booking site for consumers, but it has certain benefits that many travelers find appealing.
For first-time travelers, using a booking company to plan excursions to places they’ve never been is the best way to travel stress-free. Companies like Viator make planning and embarking on trips much easier, whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or with the whole family.
Whether you’re new to traveling or you’ve been all over the world, Viator claims to offer a marketplace of global tours that will satisfy every adventure along the way.
Before you decide what travel booking site to use, it’s important to do your own research. We’ve put together this honest review of Viator in order to help travelers decide whether they’d like to try using the service on their next trip.
What is Viator?
Viator is a TripAdvisor company that helps its customers plan and book tours all over the world. Using Viator, travelers can browse from over 300,000 city tours, day tours, sightseeing tours, excursions, and much more.
Viator strives to provide its users with the most exciting, educational, and unique tours in cities all over the globe. The booking website is designed to support travelers in making plans on the fly or far in advance, depending on their preferences and itinerary.
On the business side, Viator partners with local tour guides and connects them to people planning trips to their area. It helps small, local businesses find customers without having to do any heavy digital marketing to attract customers themselves.
How Does Viator Work?
Rather than having to research individual tour companies in a city they’ve never been to, travelers can browse tours at their destination and book the attractions that catch their eye.
On the Viator website, users can browse sightseeing tours, tickets to museums and historical sites, and many different types of experiences that are listed by local tour companies.
How to Book Tours on Viator
Booking tours on Viator is relatively simple, as their website is easy to navigate. Users can search for their destination and also enter the dates (tentative or not) they’ll be traveling in the area.
You can then browse all the tours that come up; it’ll probably be a lot, especially if you’re heading to a popular area. Or you can filter based on the type of tour, attractions, and nearby locations.
Each tour or activity has a detailed description that provides valuable information about what guests can expect on the tour, from various sights and sounds to places the tour stops during the day. As you browse, you can filter your search based on the availability of your party size, the dates you’ll be in town, and the dollar amount you’d like to spend.
The search results page on Viator, pictured above, will provide basic information about each individual tour, from price to duration of the trip, and a brief description.
As you can see in the image above, clicking on an individual tour will take you to its unique page, with photos and details about what to expect, what you’ll see or do on the tour, what’s included, the name of your tour guide or company, departure and arrival details, and much more. Users can also see what the cancellation policy is for the tour, along with other details about refunds.
If you’d like to see and read the latest reviews of the tour, keep scrolling past the tour details and information.
At the top of the page, you can fill in your travel dates and your party size to check the tour’s availability. Selecting the date and desired time of the tour, then clicking Check Availability will take you to the checkout page, or allow you to select from the tours available (some tours have add-ons you can select or opt-out of).
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Viator Review: Key Features
The features that set Viator apart from its competitors are the filters, search functionality, and suggested tours based on traveler interests. These key features help travelers find tours that will improve their trip and provide them with unique experiences in cities where they may not otherwise have had the means or knowledge to.
Let’s discuss the key features of Viator that keep travelers booking time and time again.
Tours & Information
Viator offers over 300,000 tours in cities all over the world. From touring the Colosseum to a private tour of Stonehenge and Windsor Castle, embarking on a dinner cruise in Paris, or swimming with turtles in the stunning blue waters of the Caribbean, travelers can choose from an impressive variety of unique tours, no matter where their destination is or what their budget limitations are.
The details provided for the excursion and activities listed on the Viator website are likely why so many people are attracted to this site. As we mentioned above, the information you get from clicking on an individual excursion through a local tour operator is far beyond what other travel booking sites offer.
When clicking on an excursion, you’ll see an overview of the trip, which includes all the stops throughout the day, the full itinerary, tour guide information, the meeting spots and endpoints, information like what meals are included or what expenses you’ll be expected to cover additionally, an FAQ section, reviews from other travelers, and more.
Fellow Traveler Reviews
With more than 100,000 reviews, travelers get the full picture of what to expect when booking a tour on Viator. This puts travelers back in the driver’s seat rather than having to trust the suggestions of a travel agent without knowing much about the tour or excursion they are paying top dollar for.
That’s not to say there aren’t brutally honest reviews on Viator; trust us, there are!
Travelers do not hold back and explain in detail their bad experiences, disappointments, and other parts of the trip that were not to their liking. Reviews are beneficial for people who are new to the area and don’t know what they should expect. With these honest reviews, both positive and negative, you’re able to make an educated decision on what tours are best suited to your tastes, without wasting any money in the process.
Filter & Browsing Options
Viator’s filter and browsing options will open travelers’ eyes to the possibilities of their destination.
Let’s use Naples, Italy, as an example. When you type “Naples” into the search bar on Viator, the search results page comes up with pages and pages of things to do, attractions, and excursions. This is one way to find things to do, but the filters Viator offers really are the secret weapon of this site.
At the top of the Naples page, you’ll find clickable options for relevant, popular types of tours in the city. These vary by city and country and can help travelers prioritize what activities are meaningful for them in each city they travel to.
For Naples, these tour options include Walking Tours, Cruises & Sailing, Shore Excursions, Cooking Classes, Bus Tours, Historical and Food Tours, Underground Tours, Archaeology, Ports of Call, and more.
Clicking on one of these options will take you to the highest-rated tours of each category. Then you can browse through the options and make an informed decision from a generous selection of activities.
Additionally, travelers can browse through popular filtered options, including tours with limited interaction with other people, kid-friendly tours, and experiences with increased health and safety measures.
You can filter and organize tours by price, ranging from high to low-priced activities and budget-friendly tours. Filter out the activities that are outside of your price range and focus on the ones that you’ve allocated a budget for or that you want to splurge on. You can also select to only view tours and attractions that offer deals or discounts to find the lowest price and best bang for your buck!
Shoppers can select to see tours that are likely to sell out, new additions to Viator, offer free cancellation, skip-the-line tours, or private tours for a more intimate experience.
If you have time constraints on trips, filters can help you find tours that fit your time frame. Filter by the duration of the tour, including 1 to 4 hours, 4 hours to a day trip, 1 to 3-day tours, or 3+ days. You can book tours depending on the time of day, like morning, mid-day, or evening tours that meet your travel needs and to handle any jet lag you may experience while abroad.
Lastly, if you rely heavily on user reviews, you can filter Naples travel activities by fellow traveler reviews, whether high or low, to see what people loved or found unsatisfactory about each tour.
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Viator: Pros and Cons
Like any tour company, there are pros and cons to using Viator for booking tours when you travel domestically or abroad. Here are the significant pros and cons of using the Viator website for planning parts of your travel itinerary.
Pros of Viator
Viator does a lot of things very well, which is why they have so many happy repeat customers around the world. Traveling can be stressful, and if you have a bad experience with a booking company, the chances are you won’t give them your business again.
It seems clear, though, that this company is doing something right. Let’s explore the pros of Viator.
Worldwide tours available
You name the city, and on Viator, you can most likely book an activity there. From popular destinations in the Middle East and Africa, like Dubai, Jerusalem, and Cape Town, to Asia’s hotspots like Tokyo, Bangkok, and Singapore, to Central, North, and South America, Australia, and all over the Pacific, there’s a tour for nearly every destination on your bucket list.
The types of tours you can book on Viator include:
- Walking tours
- Museum admission tickets
- Boat trip
- Day trips
- Site visits and other tours
- Helicopter trip or private plane
- Boat trips and snorkel trips
- Airport transfers, car service, or other transportation
- Private local tours
- Food and beer tours
- Wine tastings
- Much more!
Helpful search features
The search features that Viator provides on its website are a major selling feature for repeat and future customers. Planning a trip to a foreign country and its cities can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Viator makes destination-specific recommendations that help travelers narrow down the activities they want to do in each destination and prioritize which excursions are worth splurging or passing on.
As a travel booking site owned by TripAdvisor, Viator stands as a credible, reputable company that protects its customers’ financial data and personal information. Viator uses SSL Encryption to keep customer information private and secure. This level of security is essential for booking sites; customers have to know their information is safe from hackers and data breaches in order to feel safe enough to enter their credit card information online.
Free cancellation policy
The Viator cancellation policy is generous — travelers will receive a full refund if they cancel at least 24 hours in advance of most tours. This cancellation policy does not account for every single tour; it’s important for guests to double-check their booking and the rules of the local tour operator. Verify this ahead of time by reading the Terms and Conditions of any tour you book on Viator’s website.
Viator’s mobile app is convenient for travelers and nomads who are on long-term trips and don’t get many opportunities to sit down at a computer to book trips. The Viator mobile app offers exclusive discounts for app users and offers instant booking for nearby attractions. The app features in-app messaging with your tour guide, simple payment via PayPal, and easy modification or cancellations if your plans change.
Rather than booking with a travel agency, which often charges an arm and a leg for booking attractions, Viator offers affordable pricing on excursions, along with budget trips and higher-priced tours. It’s totally up to the traveler and how much they would like to spend on a tour.
Viator also offers a Low Price Guarantee, meaning it guarantees the lowest price on all the experiences on the site. If you find the same tour or excursion at a lower price within three days of booking or while at your destination, Viator will refund the difference.
Another handy feature, Reserve Now & Pay Later, allows travelers to secure spots on tours they don’t want to miss while staying flexible to their evolving itineraries and not losing money if plans change.
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Cons of Viator
The drawbacks of Viator center around its customer service, certain internal policies, and lack of communication between travelers and tour operators. Read on for more about the cons of Viator.
As a third-party travel booking site, Viator facilitates booking tours for travelers and connects them with local tour companies for excursions during trips.
Because Viator acts as the middleman between travelers and the tour company, the communication goes through both Viator and the local tour operator. Many Viator users have experienced miscommunication through Viator, or a lack of communication entirely, from the local tour group or Viator.
Any miscommunication with tour operators isn’t necessarily the responsibility of Viator. However, the frustration is still understandable, particularly when travelers are in a city they’ve never been to, may not speak the local language, and aren’t sure what to do in the situation.
When booking a tour on a reputable travel site, travelers expect some form of communication leading up to the tour. So, when it falls short and affects the tour and their experience, travelers are understandably upset or disgruntled.
Viator claims their customer service team is well-versed in handling communication problems as they arise, whether within their own team or the tour group operator’s team. Still, some past users of Viator say otherwise.
Viator offers 24/7 multilingual customer care and support for their customers.
The customer reviews that described bad interactions or experiences with the customer service team at Viator included unfriendly reps, continued escalations without anything solved, and issues while booking tours.
The Viator website offers an online help center with common questions and answers related to booking, receiving refunds, delays, cancellations, and more. This forum is helpful if you have a basic customer service issue, but anything more complex than that is more effectively solved by using the customer service line, live chat, or email options.
Viator reviews are relatively controversial; on one hand, many people rave about the tours and the memorable experiences they’ve had through Viator. On the other hand, the negative reviews draw cause for concern; past users of the booking site have an assortment of issues and negative experiences.
Negative reviews of Viator include:
- Poor communication
- Substandard customer service
- Having a refund request denied or trouble receiving refunds
The majority of negative feedback and reviews about Viator ultimately speak more to the local tour company that travelers interacted with. Experiences like grouchy or unprofessional tour guides, overly crowded sites or venues, and unsatisfactory food or beverage tours are entirely out of Viator’s control.
The main factors that influence travelers to use a booking service include ease of use, features, customer service, and value for the money. Let’s discuss how Viator measures up.
Ease of Use — 4.5
Whether on a computer or mobile app, Viator makes it extremely simple to search for a destination and filter based on personal preferences, budget, time of day, and other factors. Booking is straightforward, and travelers are given opportunities to cancel or modify trips if their plans change.
Features — 5
For a travel booking site, Viator offers a great experience for customers. You can filter search results by destination, the types of tours you want to embark on, and read plenty of fellow travelers’ reviews to make an informed selection of the best excursion for you and your party.
Customer Service —3
Customer service is the area where Viator seems to need the most improvement. While many users have had productive interactions with Viator’s customer service department, the majority of negative reviews include a bad customer service experience. From rude, unhelpful representatives to a lack of initiative to solve issues related to booking, refunds, and tour issues, customer service is where Viator can step up their game and provide a better customer experience.
Value for Money — 4
When compared to other booking sites, Viator offers a wide assortment of tours for all budgets. From simple self-guided walking tours around a city to elaborate, private tours for couples, there’s an excursion or tour for everyone. Viator also offers discounts and deals on certain tours, depending on when you book and where you’re going. This allows customers to save a little money and get the experience they want at their chosen destination.
The Final Verdict: Is Viator Worth It?
For new travelers and seasoned veterans, Viator is worth exploring for adventurous tours all around the world. Travelers should do their due diligence and read the fine print, ensure they’re satisfied and comfortable with the terms and conditions and know the details about the tour before they book.
If you research, read reviews (while keeping in mind that many scenarios are circumstantial and may be out of Viator’s control), and know what you’re paying for, Viator is definitely worth it.
Is Viator a credible website?
As a TripAdvisor company, Viator is a reputable website that consumers can trust to keep their personal information and data safe. They offer free cancellations within 24 hours of a tour and work to ensure their customers are satisfied with their experiences.
Can you get a refund on Viator?
For most tours and excursions, Viator customers can get a full refund if they cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start of their trip. Each excursion on the website has information and details about the cancellation policy, so users can be informed about the tour before they book.
Is Viator a third-party site?
Viator is a third-party broker, not the tour operator itself. This means Viator facilitates booking for travelers by connecting them to local tour operators in their chosen destination, but Viator does not host the tour itself.
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Ease of Use9.0/10
Value for Money8.5/10
- Worldwide tours available
- Helpful search features
- Reputable company
- Free Cancellation policy
- Available mobile app
- Poor Communication
- Substandard customer service
- Trouble receiving refunds
- Controversial reviews