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Beijing with Kids

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My husband and I are taking our 6, 8, and 11 year old boys to Beijing at the end of November for 4 nights. We have both been there before as young students but going with kids will be a whole different matter! It seems to me that with our little guys, drivers and guides would be advisable to say the least. We plan to stay at the Grand Hyatt. I've received a few quotes for day tours that seem quite high for the usual sights. I've read ekskrunchy's wonderful missives on Beijing and have duly noted down Kong Lin's email address. My question is whether he would be willing to work with me on a customized tour with the kids. The quote I received was almost $500 per person! All advice on tour companies or Kong Lin in particular is most welcome.

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    Something is wrong with this picture! Most private tours through hotels' travel desks usually have a huge markup. You do not need a guide for the Great Wall at all. Mutianyu (recommended for the 6 y/o) should cost about 400 yuan ($55) for a private small passenger van-taxi. Just have the doorman at the hotel find one for you.

    Bargain hard, as this day rate is completely negotiable and the drivers know it so they quote high. They wait at the GW for as long as you like. The same taxi van can take you throughout Beijing for about 500-600 yuan per day.

    It is very easy to tour independently. Much of the signage is bilingual (preparing for the Olympics). The hotel's "taxi card" has all the sites in Chinese to show the driver where you want to go next. Carry a good guidebook to the sites, maybe the DK Eyewitness Guide to Beijing & Shanghai and teach your kids yourself. My experience is that you learn more with your own research and teaching your own children about things you know are interesting to them.

    You probably will not do it this way, exploring on your own, but it is a good cost comparison. Four days x 600 yuan (high side)= 2400 yuan = $325 or so for four for four days. Your quote = $2,000. Repeating the advice: Bargain hard.

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