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Viator

I am going to Rome in October and was hoping to take the tour of the excavations under the Vatican. However, the Vatican informed us that the tours are full during our trip. We found a third party offering tickets for the tour and wonder if it is legit. Anyone heard of the company Viator? Is it reputable? Are we likely to get ripped off if we purchase tickets through their website? I am aware that the tickets should be free but we are willing to pay if it is legitimate to do so.

Posted by
6170 posts

Viator is a third party that sells tours operated by other companies. I would read the reviews of the tour before committing. I've used Viator 3 times - once in Mexico and two times in Croatia. The quality of the tour really depended on the local operator but my experience has been quite decent across all three tours I took (I read the reviews first so I knew what to expect). The reason I booked with Viator was because they had the (secure) web platform to take credit card payments, and some of these local tour groups didn't have the web visibility for me to find them via simple search.

I've never taken the Vatican tours, but I wonder if they allot some slots to other companies...otherwise, if they say they "are full", how can anyone else sell the tours?

Posted by
20624 posts

Ya, they are reputable. They are a large third party or consolidator of tours for other companies. You will not be ripped off. Relax, not everything in Europe is a scam, con, or rip-off.

Posted by
10 posts

I have used Aviator several times in Europe, always had positive experience.

Posted by
6 posts

I have used Viator in Canada, Portland, Seattle,Sedona,New York,Ireland,London and will be utilizing Viator in Paris in a few days.
I haven't had a bad experience. It is very important to read what is or is not included i.e. hotel pickup/dropoff, length of time of tour, gratuity, etc. Some bookings are refundable, some are not. Read the reviews as well.

Posted by
111 posts

I’ve used Viator several times and never had a problem. Tours are as advertised. Read the reviews, as others have said. Enjoy the Vatican, it’s really interesting :-)

Posted by
7680 posts

Well, I have not used Viator but I do post and read a lot on Trip Advisor. You need to make sure you're getting what you think you are getting which is probably easier in Rome than other places. The tour would not be provided by Viator since they are a 3rd party reseller so you may be able to find the company that does actually run the tour you are interested in and book directly.

Here's a recent complaint I saw on the TA Montana forum:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g45399-i983-k11852442-Viator_Tours_Caution-West_Yellowstone_Montana.html

Posted by
7645 posts

Considering the big hoopla on this forum about Booking. com and the 10% commission they charge hotels for listing, you might want to know that Viator charges tour companies 25% commission on all the tours they book. This is a large chunk of income for small tour companies. Any tour that Viator is selling is available to you without a 3rd party booking.

Look on Trip Advisor for the companies offering what you are looking for. Do not book with Trip Advisor either. Go to the website of the tour company itself.

Posted by
995 posts

As others have said, Viator sells tours run by other people. I've taken several tours with them. One of the BEST EVER local tours (outside the US) that I've ever done was one I booked through them. Also, one of the WORST ever local tours (in the US) was booked through them.

In my limited experience - I've only booked like 3-4 tours through them - the tours outside the US have been great. The tours inside the US - mehhh to never again.

My suggestion is to read carefully through the tour description to make sure it specifically includes what you want to see/do. If there are reviews, read them. Look at the cost, the dates, the time of day, etc., for each tour which interests you. If there's an option to query for more information (I haven't booked through them in almost a year, so I don't remember if this is an option or not), do so if you have specific questions.

It sounds like you're buying tickets for a tour which means you're paying a private guide. As such, that guide will expect to be paid. If this is the case, make sure the tour is offered in English or the language of your choice.

Posted by
7680 posts

Ms. Jo, thanks for indicating what Viator's fee booking charge is. I had no idea it was that high. That is an appalling amount for a small company to deal with.

Posted by
169 posts

I'm a huge fan of Viator. I understand that they are a third party re-seller, but they are also a very convenient place to compare/buy tours of all budgets. I especially like the "skip the line" tours. I find that when I'm on vacation, the last thing I want to do is stand in line waiting to see an attraction. Very much worth the money (for me). For the record, I've done several tours from Barcelona (Monteserrat, 3 countries (Fr, Sp, And.), Parc Guell, airline transfers to/from hotels, Sagrada Famila, Alcazar in Granada, and probably a few more I can't remember. They were all worth the money.

Posted by
823 posts

Ms. Jo is incorrect when she states that Viator charges a 25% commission to tour operators. Viator purchases tour "seats" at a wholesale rate negotiated with the tour operator and sells the tour to the consumer at the retail rate suggested by the tour operator.
The consumer usually ends up paying a little more for the product for the convenience of dealing with a "tour consolidator/aggregator" and the tour operator benefits by increased exposure for their product.

It's funny that Ms. Jo disparages Viator and then suggests people use Viator's parent company, TripAdvisor, to search out tours.

Posted by
23543 posts

Work2Travel, where do you get your data regarding percentages?

I know where Ms. Jo gets hers - firsthand.

Posted by
7680 posts

The suggestion to find tour companies on Trip Advisor is good. She didn't suggest booking thru them, just sorting thru them until you find the company that is right for you.

I'd agree with Nigel on MsJo's knowledge of Viator charges which can hit a small company pretty hard.

Posted by
1975 posts

I ask this without rancor - how does Ms. Jo have first hand knowledge of Viator's commissions?

I would rather book directly with a tour operator, but I have no issue with Viator.

Posted by
823 posts

Nigel - To answer your question - firsthand. One either finds their service of value or they don't.

Posted by
7645 posts

First hand knowledge. It is what they wanted me to pay. Why would I make stuff up like this?
I never advise to book tours on Trip Advisor! Just use them to find tour websites and read reviews.

Posted by
607 posts

Viator is owned by TripAdvisor. The conventional wisdom is if you know what you are doing and tickets are still available, booking direct is the cheapest and best way. Sometimes the only way to get a ticket for a sold out attraction is to book with a value added tour. And those tours partnered with Viator have an added layer of profit.

Posted by
1304 posts

As others have said, you are not likely to get ripped off if you book an experience on Viator. They also have a low-price guarantee and offer full refunds if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. I've read good things about the cancellation policy: a number of instances where they have honored it, no questions asked.

I don't know if they stand behind the quality of the experiences they sell. If you bought a tour through them and you didn't like it, I don't know if you'd be able to get a refund.

I also don't know if they drop tour providers who get complaints or bad reviews.

I've booked several experiences through Viator, and they were all good. I'd use them again. Certainly if that's the only way to have an experience you can't get access to on your own, I wouldn't hesitate to book with them.

Posted by
688 posts

Just an FYI the booking.com commission is 15%. We own a motel in Canada.

3rd parties always make things more expensive. I only use them as a last resort for anything. Knowing that it makes everything I buy through them more expensive for everyone.

But for a once in a lifetime thing, as long as you want to badly, I would do it.

Posted by
7645 posts

Have read a number of complaints about tours booked through Viator over on Trip Advisor. Complaints like no shows from guides, no notice given, day wasted, difficulty in getting refunds, etc.
I just wouldn't use them, unless that was truly the absolute only way to see something.

Posted by
109 posts

I used them 4x in Moscow this summer and had excellent experiences - on-time with pleasant and knowledgeable guides. All four local companies were different, so booking through Viator made life easier. Three of the four tours were private 4- person tours.

Posted by
844 posts

I have a question. You are talking about the Scavi tour under the Vatican, correct? When we made our reservations a few years ago we were told that going directly through the Vatican reservation system was the only way to get the tour. No tour guides are allowed and the Vatican has its tour guides. And the tours are strictly limited in numbers and there is an age minimum.

Don't know about Viator, but I was surprised that the tours would be outsourced to them because they book up so far in advance,
they don't need help filling the tours.

I hope you get the tour you want and have a great trip!
Mimi