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Old 08-04-2010, 12:55 PM
 
Location: Mt. Airy
5,311 posts, read 5,334,259 times
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Can anyone recommend a good tour company for both Bejing and Shanghai in China? Specifically, a company that specializes in conducting or coordinating tours of the cities. I'll be there for two weeks and visiting both cities, and I want to see the sights.

It would be a plus if they coordinate accommodations as well.
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:03 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,943,917 times
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Any other country in the world, I'd tell you to DIY and save SCADS of money, but after backpacking in China (While being able to speak Chinese) for several months, I can tell you you're making the right choice by getting the scam over with right up front.

Just so you know, the Chinese way of touring is to be bussed directly to the sight or attraction, be herded into/through it in 20 minutes by a flag-waving tour guide. Snap your photos, and then spend the next 2 hours in the gift shop before the bus will even show up to rush you to the next sight/attraction. The tour company will certainly handle EVERYTHING as they get kickbacks from every company and sight/attraction they take you to. You will not need to do anything besides chew, push the button on your camera, and--oh yes--open your wallet.

If this doesn't sound fun to you, you can try to find a western tour company which doesn't subcontract to a Chinese tour company (Haha! Fat chance.) but it will be astronomically expensive if it even exists.

Don't forget to apply early for your Chinese visas.

You'd think DIY'ing it yourself would be better, but it's a bare-knuckles fight the entire way (I mean literally), and you'd better be a savvy traveller, indeed, to dodge the majority of the scams (Beijing is the worst, Shanghai not as bad).

So with all that negativity in mind, you'll still have a fun trip. China is my least favorite country to tour (and I've been to some bad ones) but it's still more fun than staying home. There's lots of amazing things to see, eat, and experience. Lots of them are fake, thanks to the madness and destruction of the 'cultural revolution' but you probably can't tell the difference.
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Old 08-05-2010, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Mt. Airy
5,311 posts, read 5,334,259 times
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Thanks for the reality-check, I appreciate it! I do have my visa, and I've done a lot of traveling (Europe, India, etc.). I've never been to China before, but it sounds like you're saying to not go through a tour company. Do you think it's better or easier to just book accommodations and travel to/from the cities, and then just tour around the cities myself?
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Old 08-05-2010, 11:54 AM
 
Location: Eureka CA
8,255 posts, read 11,121,603 times
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For what it's worth,the Frommers recommend Ritz Tours and China Spree.
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Old 08-05-2010, 08:58 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,943,917 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AJNEOA View Post
Thanks for the reality-check, I appreciate it! I do have my visa, and I've done a lot of traveling (Europe, India, etc.). I've never been to China before, but it sounds like you're saying to not go through a tour company.
No, if you don't speak/read/write Mandarin, go with a tour company. You will see more stuff and have an easier time with a tour company, even if you don't like the style of touring and it costs a lot more. And heck, you might LOVE it and think China is The Happiest Place On Earth. You MIGHT be able to break out of your itinerary, but don't count on it. The Chinese are not real big on allowing independant thought or action.

Quote:
Do you think it's better or easier to just book accommodations and travel to/from the cities, and then just tour around the cities myself?
Better? Yes. Easier? No.

Money makes everything WAY easier. If you can spend liberally and don't mind getting incredibly ripped off, you can make your own way, hire a driver/guide, etc. What's your daily budget?

We were on a tight budget, so we stuck to ~$10 local business hotels (they are usually so surprised to see a foreigner that they'll forget they're not allowed to have foreign guests.) They're pretty professional/new/nice and 1/10th the price you'd pay for a international hotel chain (the only ones who are supposed to be allowed to take foreigners). Hanting Express is our favorite. There's tons of them in Shanghai and Beijing. Get one near the metro.

You can't book a Chinese hotel online without a Chinese ID, credit card, etc, but you can find them and map them out. You CAN show up and pay cash. Sometimes. If you speak Chinese. If you go this route, have several backup hotels ready in case they remember they're not supposed to let you stay. Unlike Cambodia, I wouldn't try bribing anyone unless you are REALLY sure you know what you're doing and who you're dealing with.

Travelling, well... you know how they have that special room for foreigners in India so you don't have to wade through the throngs at the incredibly confusing ticket windows in, say, Delhi? Doesn't exist in China. It's you against 1 billion screaming Chinamen. Lol.

Getting your own tickets is not THAT hard if you understand the bus/train system, speak/read Chinese, and have sharp elbows. Assuming you manage to shove your way to the window, you have one nanosecond to scream your ticket order (in Chinese) to the worker behind the window. Get it right, or a 120-year-old, 60-lb great-grandmother will shove you aside and scream for the ticket she wants. Air travel is always a breeze, because of the money thing (again 10X more expensive than ground transportation).

And when I say shove, please don't plow your way to the front of the melee. Work your way in as politely as you can figure. Sometimes there is a sort of que. You are representing the rest of us, so it's better to be a little more polite than everyone else, even if it means some extra time getting to the ticket counter.

If you DIY in China away from the (very very few compared to other countries) foreign backpacker/tourist areas, you will be the ONLY round-eye around if that sort of thing floats your boat. People will stare and scramble for their camera to take pictures when they're not busy pushing past you big dumb slow Yankee. At tourist spots, they'll want to pose with you for their photos ('cuz nothin says I EXPERIENCED THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA like a random photo of your family next to a bemused blond foreign dude.) if you're not defended by a tour guide.

Yes, I'm using a bit of hyperbole. If this kind of thing sounds fun to you (and it is kinda fun for a week, not so much after a month) then go for it. Otherwise, just ruminate over how much harder your life would be if you weren't being whisked around the countryside/city in that big A/C bus and herded about by flag-waveing, polite, pretty, Engrish-speaking tour guides.
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Old 08-06-2010, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Texas
209 posts, read 493,136 times
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I also think your daily budget is important. If you stay in a nice hotel, the concierge will be able to organize a driver for you to take you where ever you want to go and provide an English speaking guide. That way, you only have to have the driver/tour guide for the "far flung" destinations like the Wall.
If you're really only going to tour BJ and SH, you can easily manage either city with no Chinese and a good guide book.

Scott
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:32 AM
Status: "Trump: Inept, Incompetent, Insecure" (set 7 days ago)
 
10,519 posts, read 6,208,742 times
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Two years ago we toured China through Uniworld Cruise Line. We opted for the ten day tour ("China Classic") that did not involve any actual 'boating'.

We visited Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai. Not only did Uniworld have us stay in several excellent hotels, as well as fly us to each destination, but our tour guide, Michael, was excellent! A native of China, Michael spoke excellent and fluent English. He met us at the Beijing airport and stayed with us the entire time, even getting us to the right gate at the Shanghai airport upon departure.

Looking at the Uniworld website I see that it is now a 9 day tour. Anyway, we saw a lot, and Michael was with us every step of the way, offering explanations, tidbits, etc.

It was a vacation I wish I could do again.
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Old 08-12-2010, 02:20 PM
 
255 posts, read 515,080 times
Reputation: 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by sponger42 View Post
Travelling, well... you know how they have that special room for foreigners in India so you don't have to wade through the throngs at the incredibly confusing ticket windows in, say, Delhi? Doesn't exist in China. It's you against 1 billion screaming Chinamen. Lol.
"Chinamen"? classic...at least you didn't use the other C word that ends in _hinks.
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Old 08-31-2010, 01:20 AM
 
1 posts, read 1,651 times
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My neighbor went to China for tourism last year, he told me China is an amazing country. he went there with his wife and two kids. i saw the photos they took in China, the scenery is really beautiful. and he said their tour guide, Tom, was a very enthusiastic man. they got their 1-on-1 tour planning service. He said that travel style was flexibility and comfort. by the way, it's not expensive. that travel angency is called China odyssey tours. i want go there, too.
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Old 08-31-2010, 07:26 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,943,917 times
Reputation: 2978
A one-on-one guided tour sounds like an interesting option if you can afford it. I've never tried it beyond hiring a autorick for the day or something similar. Still, whenever I had a local doing the guiding/driving, it was a good experience. Certainly better than a mass tour.
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