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China Highlight Tour Company

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My brother is going to China and asked me to ask whether anyone on this board has used China Highlights Tour Company based in Guilin, China. ( He is not iinterested in doing a a DIY trip). Any comments on the tour company would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    If you do a search here you will find a number of threads on the pluses and minuses, mostly minuses, of Chinese tour companies. Is he looking to do a group tour or an individual one?

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    My wife, son (age 23) and I spent over three weeks in China in 2010 and used China Highlights as our agency -- with great success. We are planning another trip in the next one or two years and have already started some basic planning with them.

    In 2010 after our trip I wrote a long review of China Highlights, covering everything from initial planning, payments, guides, hotels, etc. I had posted it on TripAdvisor, but have also included it below. The only change is that if you want to call, my number has changed to 703 646-2056.

    Since 2010 I have helped several people plan trips to China, and responded to their enquiries about the reliability of China Highlights -- all were as impressed as I was with their price, service and responsiveness. I don't think you can go wrong with them at all. If you have any questions or want specific issues addressed, don't hesitate to jot me an email or give me a call. By the way, if you go to TripAdvisor and search for China Highlights you will also find many, many commendations and satisfied customers.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    ----------------CHINA HIGHLIGHTS REVIEW:-----------------------

    Jun 27, 2010, 6:15 PM

    Travel Review on China Highlights:

    In a response on an earlier blog on China Highlights, I noted that I was very satisfied with the advanced planning and travel advisor (Candy Wei), but would post a full review upon my return. Following is a summary of our experiences with China Highlights.

    Bottom Line Up Front:
    The overall planning and execution of our trip (3 people) was virtually flawless. From initial advice given by the travel advisor, to the reliability and promptness of guides, to transportation arrangements, the entire trip was as close to perfect as one could expect. I wholeheartedly would recommend China Highlights to plan a trip to China again – and have already done so to our friends and associates. China Highlights is a class organization, with great emphasis on customer satisfaction.

    Advance Planning: The entire advance planning was done over the internet (email), with one exception – a phone call by Candy Wei (our advisor) to introduce herself. Candy was highly efficient, exceptionally responsive, and provided excellent travel advice and explanations regarding multiple modes of travel (planes and trains) in China. I pestered her to death with questions, but she was always polite and helpful – and by the end of the process I thought of her more as a friend than only as a travel agent. She provided very detailed itineraries, flight/train schedules and patiently explained where my independent planning might not be possible – AND in retrospect she was absolutely right. When we stopped in Guilin she graciously invited us to dinner and we had an opportunity to visit the China Highlights offices – which are extensive and well staffed (this is no fly-by-night group with only a fancy web page.
    Payment: Like others, I was a bit nervous about sending money in advance to an overseas operation where I might have difficulty getting reimbursement if something happened during the trip. Having researched their reputation and guarantees, and verified their membership in numerous Chinese and international travel organizations, and their use of credit card and/or PayPal payments (some agencies ONLY want money by wire), I eventually was convinced they were legitimate – and I was right. Payment was easy; they provided appropriate receipts.
    Locations Visited: Our trip was rather extensive – Beijing, Datong, Xian, Guilin, Longji Terraces, Yangshuo, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Chengdu, and Lhasa (Tibet). The sites and experiences in each city were excellent – the only city I might drop would be Kunming (but since we had to travel through their we only spent a half day anyway).

    Drivers and Vehicles: The vehicles provided (mini-van for 3 people) were all late model, well maintained, exceptionally clean, had working air conditioning (that we could control even). The drivers were all (with one exception) very friendly and helpful – and even the exception was efficient, but not as warm as the others. They drove safely (at least by Chinese standards) and we never felt in jeopardy, even on some very narrow mountainous roads or in congested cities. Having used private vehicles in other developing countries, we found the vehicles (condition, comfort) outstanding by comparison.

    Guides: In advance of the trip, I had explained to Candy we strongly desired outstanding guides, as we had broad interests in the various religions, minority cultures, Chinese history and archeology. She assured me they generally were able to provide (either through CITS or other companies) top notch guides. We had eight guides (one in each city), and every guide provided good basic services – command of English, knowledge of subjects, flexibility. Two of the guides met our basic expectations, while the other 6 far exceeded our expectations. Jenny in Guilin; Alice in Dali; Ping in Chengdu; and Lhakpa in Tibet were particularly brilliant. They were absolutely fantastic in every regard – can't say enough about them! Lhakpa in Tibet for example, when my son couldn't find a set of prayer beads he liked at the price, Lhakpa volunteered to buy the components and have his wife assemble them in the evening at a price that was cheap (by tourist standards). He actually was able to do it for less than the limit and returned the difference (which my son immediately gave back to him as a tip) – demonstrating real concern for the customer AND great integrity (as we would have never known the “real” price).

    Evaluations: One of the tools China Highlights uses to determine which guides to use, and what sights to recommend is a city evaluation at each location – including ratings on the hotels, the guides, the vehicles/drivers, the sights and so on. This allows them to know what customers find useful in each location and what to recommend or ignor. Moreover, the ratings (on guides) are used to award bonuses at the end of each month based on performance. At the end of the trip another survey/evaluation is provided to give overall experiences with China Highlights. An example of how they use it – when we arrived in Datong they had upgraded us to a 4 star hotel (at no additional cost) because recent surveys by other customers indicated the hotel they normally use was not as well received. Great job!

    Hotels: Regarding hotels, China Highlights was one of only a few agencies I contacted that would allow me to ask for specific hotels that were not on their standard list. (In several locations I had hotels I wanted to stay in because of past TripAdvisor ratings.) They made all the arrangements for me, instead of requiring me to make them on my own (like a couple of agencies suggested). All the hotels they arranged were very nice, comfortable, clean, with helpful staffs and service. If you don't want to select your own, I would trust them implicitly to pick them for you – just specify 2- or 3- or 4 star hotels (we stayed in some of each and were happy with each.

    Execution of Travel Plan: China Highlights was perfection! The trip went EXACTLY as planned, with no hiccups or problems of any sort. The plane and train tickets were available at each location, the hotels knew we were coming and no issues at checkout, the guides/vehicles were prompt EVERY single time. Having traveled a lot throughout the developed and undeveloped world in Europe,Middle East, Africa and Far East we are used to running into occasional problems, which as long as the agency or guides figure out workable solutions is fine. We realize rarely does everything go perfectly – and it is HOW the agency responds that is important. China Highlights didn't have to – they got it right the first time.

    Summary: It should be clear from this summary that I am extremely satisfied with China Highlights – and especially Candy Wei our advisor – from initial planning through execution. It was a trip of a lifetime for us, as my wife and I were celebrating our 40th Anniversary and my son's graduation from college. They made it a memorable trip – though we were exhausted by the end (my fault for packing so much into 23 days of travel). They have my STRONGEST recommendation should you be looking for a great travel service in China. If you have questions, send me an email at dukedad@gmail.com and leave either your phone (I'll call) or call me at 703-704-4098 (office).

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