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How to Check if an OTA – Online Travel Agency is legit

How to ensure the OTA you book through is LEGIT. (and not dodgy!)

There are so many online travel agents in the marketplace in the current climate, that sometimes it can be quite overwhelming with the number of choices on offer.  Who do you trust?

Thankfully, we’ve compiled the top 5 things to look after for when booking online.


1. Are they licensed?

Check, and double check again.

When booking via an online travel provider, you really need to make sure they are licenced. Are they a licenced online travel agency?  Do they have a business number? Do they have a company number? Any good and worthy online travel agent (with nothing to hide) is going to have a travel agent licence.  If they have no licence, then go somewhere else.  This doesn’t mean that things can’t go wrong if they’re licensed either. Far from it. But it means your booking is more safe and secure – in the event of any unforeseen circumstances – should you need to change, cancel or contact them for any reason.



2. You may be directed to another site.  And that can be confusing.

Many consumers get confused to ‘who’ is actually going to take ownership of the booking and ‘actually book it’.  So be careful here.  Be aware of where you have been directed to.  Is it legit? The good news is that most of the time it’s okay.

This is because comparison sites do exactly that – only compare, not actually ‘book it.

Many comparison sites – and travel sites in general – divert to other booking sites, and so on, when you actually ‘click on the deal’, ‘click on the button’.  For example, you may research flights on Skyscanner for the best deals, then it may take you to the actual airline site, or another online travel agent.


3. Contact Details – VERY IMPORTANT

Is the ‘contact us’ or ‘help’ page clear and concise?

Check whether they have a telephone service/customer care service phone number. This is so that if you have any questions or queries, you can call them at any time. THIS IS IMPERATIVE.   If they don’t have a telephone number, then they’re obviously hiding something.

  • CHECK THE NUMBER – can you contact them?  
  • Make a call to them and check
  • Ask them a question.  Ask them a few questions.

This way you can test to see if they are responding quickly and taking calls at a reasonable wait time.  And not waiting for hours on hold.

4. ‘Ridiculously CHEAP pricing.

Going online is not always the cheapest.  However, most of the time it is. But some OTA’s taking it to another level.  Another level that’s simply too cheap, or too cheap to survive. I would question the legitimacy of these OTA’S which lower prices to the absurd.  Are they still going to be around for a few months? Are they going to be around for long? I always question these things when I see online booking sites what unusually lower prices than most.


5. Reviews – are there mostly positive reviews about the company?

Many consumers rely on reviews to make an informed decision on which site to book on. If you see mostly negative reviews about the site, I would try to avoid. In other words, if you see an unusually high percentage of bad reviews, it would be recommended to seek an alternative site. But be careful with how you interpret a review.

NOTE: Every single major online travel agent has negative reviews.  Every. Single. One. It’s inevitable. But use the ‘percentage rule’ as a guide.  If overall the reviews are mainly higher or positive, then it may just as well be okay overall.  Just like a hotel. But remember, there will always be users posting negative reviews for whatever reason.  It’s a fact.


FIRST TIME USERS & a little warning – do they offer a clear and concise booking flow?

This is also very important.  Some booking flows are awkward and clunky.

If you’re a first time user or have not experimented with online bookings, please see our complete guide to the Ultimate Travel Checklist.
It shows you all the right bookings tools and awesome travel tips on the way.

Make sure you get a good feel of the system before you make the final purchase. And remember, only to click once at the final end when you press ‘confirm’.

In conclusion, no booking site is perfect.  They all have their little flaws in some ways.  But most major OTA’s are very very good these days and do the job. They are here to stay, we write about them, and they’re only going to get bigger and better. We recommend quite a few OTA’s on TravelCrusader.


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