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China Spree Travel Company

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I have seen some old posts from 2006 and 2007 about this company but nothing more recent. Has anyone gone on the China Spree 12 day Middle Kingdom tour in the past year? I would like to hear about your experience.

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    Roger Luo and are spammers, and as such should be given as wide a berth as possible. As for China Spree, the observations made on this thread

    last year are still valid. Assess the company from the criteria given and you'll find it's one you should avoid.

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    Go to Frommers and you will find over 200 testimonials about China Spree. I myself used them in 2007 for the 14 day tour which I believe was called China's Best Treasures and found them to be an excellent company. The itinerary covered all of the major sights and then some, the hotels were all four star and the food plentiful. Wilson Wu, who is the owner is great to work with and is truly concerned about his customers. I don't understand the previous posters remarks. I have traveled with GCT, Pacha, etc. and found China Spree to be as good or better at a lower cost.

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    Taking these points in no particular order:

    The fact that McDonald's has sold several billion burgers makes said burger no less saturated in fat, sugar, and salt. Nevertheless, 200 messages of approval on Frommer's would be more convincing if that site was actually moderated and China Spree, China Focus and others didn't continually spam it.

    Cheating and overcharging are the norm of organised travel in China, and the fact that many travel and arrive home without realising what has been practiced upon them is, if thought of kindly, a testament to the efficiency with which it is carried out. The lower down the price scale you go, and the more you deal with Chinese companies (including those pretending to be American) the worse it gets.

    All that's required are honest answers to the questions posed:

    What is your tipping policy?

    China Spree puts recommendations on its site amounting to US$6 per person per day. This is outrageous daylight robbery, practiced only on naive group travellers. Nobody but foreign packaged tourists who know no better are ever asked for tips. Simply multiply this up by the number of days of the tour, and add that to the price to find out the real cost. Better still, take this as an indication your tour company is rankly dishonest and simply taking advantage of you.

    China Spree also has the utterly offensive advice: "Bring a supply of single dollar bills. You will find it very convenient to use particularly when shopping with street vendors." The currency of China is the Yuan RMB, and the only vendors asking you for anything else are the dishonest ones to which this company will apparently be steering you. What on earth would be the benefit of paying or bargaining in a currency with units seven times larger than local money? None at all, of course, except to the people issuing this advice and practicing on your naivety. Someone once remarked here that US$1 bills were so useful for buying cans of Coke. The price of a can of the filthy stuff in China is typically ¥2.5, or one third of the value of US$1. Why on earth would you travel with people who deceive you in this way?

    But then shopping stops are the main way they make money, taking you to overpriced souvenir shops with token demonstrations of the production of some trinket or other, or taking you for lunch somewhere where such a demonstration can be arranged. The guides then advise you to pay far too much for overpriced items, on which the guides get a kick-back of at least 40%, and the bus driver gets a lump sum. Many tours indeed keep you busy so that you'll have no chance to check real prices for yourselves or shop where no kick-back is given. Guides give disingenuous advice that it's not safe to shop except where they take you whereas it's the opposite that's true.

    So just how many shopping stops were there?

    These budget-priced tours are in effect anything but cheap (and independent travel is much cheaper, although that's not much use if a tour is preferred), and are usually devised entirely around earning the maximum opportunities for kick-backs, especially in shopping, hotel, and restaurant choices, where bland American-style Chinese food is served instead of real Chinese food in all its infinite variety (which is almost unavailable overseas), and the low quality a result of the kick-backs paid.

    The questions that need to be posed to any tour company for China are set out in the posting to which I linked. What need China Spree or its patrons fear in answering them? Nothing except the exposure of dishonest practices.

    Peter N-H

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    I traveled with China Spree in late 2008 and they were absolutely delightful. They delivered far more than they promised. Their hotels were all four and five star, they managed to visit all of the destinations on our schedule (even when one plane was late) and there were a minimum of "shopping" stops. Our guides (both local and national were the best I have had on any trip. Not only did they know all of the information for each location, but there was one problem that could have been quite serious...a passenger lost her passport...and our guides solved the problem with no delay at all for the rest of the tour, I would travel with them again...and again...and again.

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    I honestly do not know what problem Peter H has with tour companies...except that he obviously prefers to travel independently. I suspect that he enjoys playing "devils advocate" and since he obviously has the verbal skills to do so, he is unfairly influencing a number of people who rely on honest tour companies like China Spree. Tips...I always tip for good service and frequently ask tour operators for one is obligated to tip. Dollar bills are always helpful when buying from street vendors. Most of the things purchased in the "shopping" stops were done with a credit card. I find these advice forums helpful, but I never rely on one disgruntled reply and he seems to be the only one that was not satisfied with China Spree and tour companies in general.

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    Indeed I did read Peter's post. I did not find anything positive in respect to any China tour operator. Are they all "dishonest" in your opinion or are you saying "just don't go to China".

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    I would not under any circumstances take a tour group in China. Unless you are very fond of being captive. I have, and will again, visit China making my own travel arrangements. I do hire guides from time to time, and drivers.

    Most of the posters on the Fodor's Asia board do not take tours in China. You might have more luck asking for tour group opinions on one of the other travel boards.

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    Peter H says, " I would not under any circumstance take a tour of China". How about me? I am a single traveler (sometimes), I do not speak Chinese, I would have to rely on the internet to find hotels, restaurants etc and I would have no idea of how to get from point A to B (or what was in between) Do you suggest that I do independent travel? And just who do I trust that is "honest" and unbiased to get this information?

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    "Peter H says, " I would not under any circumstance take a tour of China"." - if you're quoting the post before yours, that was poutine, not Peter.

    "How about me? I am a single traveler (sometimes), I do not speak Chinese," - I am a single traveler (almost always), older female. I doubt I could ever speak Chinese, as I can't hear the tones. I have traveled to China three times, the last time was seven weeks on my own. I had a wonderful time.

    I have also traveled to China with a high-end tour company (Smithsonian) and a budget tour company (Intrepid). As best I remember there was no tipping on either tour. There were (too many) shopping ops on the Smithsonian tour, plus I felt like I was in a cocoon - a comfortable, informative cocoon, but a cocoon none-the-less.

    I traveled on my own with the help of the Internet, a guide book, a phrase book, pattern-matching, and the kindness of strangers. I also had hotel and train reservations arranged ahead of time by Passport Travel (using CITS) for the first two weeks as I was traveling over the National Day holiday, but after that I was completely on my own.

    If you're not willing to rely on the Internet and guide books, how do you travel independently anywhere else?

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    There are several single travellers who have written trip reports of their travels in China - "ekscrunchy" is one offhand that I can think of. Very few non-Chinese tourists are going to speak mandarin, but that in itself is no deterrent, you just have to plan around it. Any location that a tour company is going to go will have a tourism infrastructure to handle solo travellers as well.

    And yes, you use the internet to plan your travels. Isn't that what you are doing now? Tripadvisor lists Chinese hotel reviews, as do European websites.

    I am not saying never use a tour company anywhere on the planet. However, they are not necessarily very helpful in China. You are better off making your own decisions as to where, when and how. Then if you want guides and drivers in specific locations, go to the boards and ask for recommendations.

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    >I honestly do not know what problem Peter H has with tour companies...

    I 'honestly do not know' what the point of such an ad hominem posting is, unless it's (once again) from someone who has fallen for all the rip-offs and would rather encourage others to be gulled than admit this might have happened.

    Then 'honestly' the posting hasn't even been read, since a) both the one above and others for which links are given set out very clearly what the problems are, b) the postings refer to China and not to tour companies in general, and c) the name of the person being attacked can't even be got right, nor can two different posters apparently be told apart.

    > except that he obviously prefers to travel independently.

    In China I do, in other places it varies, but very many other people like to take tours. What I 'prefer' (although it's hardly germane to the argument) is those who wish to take an organised tour in China doing so with their eyes open, and avoiding the worst pitfalls. It's little different from not wanting to see people have their pockets picked. I wonder why there would be a problem with that?

    And if the material is actually read, it will be found that none of it says, 'Don't take a tour!' It says, 'Don't think you have to take a tour in China if that's something you wouldn't usually do.' It says, 'Some of the benefits you expect from taking a tour elsewhere aren't likely to be gained from taking a tour in China.' It says, 'Before taking a tour in China, ask your tour company about the following practices...' It aims, in short, to help those intending to travel to China to make informed decisions, regardless of whether they eventually plump for fully independent travel, a fully escorted tour, or one of several options in between.

    But what I personally 'prefer' to do is a) not a proper subject for speculation here, and b) nothing to do with the corrupt state of the Chinese tourism industry--something I've spent some considerable time and effort studying over more than a decade.

    > I suspect that he enjoys playing "devils advocate" and since he obviously has the verbal skills to do so, he is unfairly influencing a number of people who rely on honest tour companies like China Spree.

    No one is doing anything here except setting out facts of which those thinking of travelling to China need to be aware. Setting aside the obnoxious and irrelevant personal speculation, and actually opening the eyes and reading what was said, could we have some arguments that actually address the points made? If warning people about the shenanigans they will likely encounter when dealing with the Chinese tourism industry is being 'unfair', then I'm afraid I'll continue to be 'unfair' in pointing out rip-offs practiced by China Spree and others so that those taking tours in China understand what goes on. China Spree is not 'honest', and indeed its dishonesty is on display on its own website.

    > Tips...I always tip for good service and frequently ask tour operators for one is obligated to tip.

    Tipping in China has been discussed exhaustively on this site in the past. The motivation for the question, 'How much should I tip?' is usually the result of a worthy desire to abide by local norms. Unfortunately, the right answer in China is 'You should tip zero', because that's the local norm there. China Spree's publication of recommended tipping rates is simply an outrageous abuse of its clients, and straightforward evidence of its dishonesty. You never ask Chinese guides questions about tipping or the 'right price' because you will not get an honest answer when there's a great deal of money to be made by giving a dishonest one. And since when did being overcharged and cheated count as the kind of service deserving yet further compensation even supposing tipping was a local norm?

    > Dollar bills are always helpful when buying from street vendors.

    I'm sorry, but this is sheer stupidity, and thoroughly offensive. The currency of the PRC is the Yuan RMB, and that's what you need to purchase items from honest vendors. Even if honest vendors were disposed to accept US dollars why on earth would you want to hamper your bargaining by using units seven times larger than necessary? How 'helpful' is that? This point has already been set out, and just ignoring it won't change anything. Why not just hang a big sign round your neck saying, 'Take me for a ride!'

    > Most of the things purchased in the "shopping" stops were done with a credit card.

    And exactly how does this make the prices right, or do away with the large kick-backs paid to vendors? Frankly, vendors showing an eagerness to accept foreign cards are those you should most avoid. If you shop where locals shop, at proper prices, you usually won't be able to use such a card. This is principally a cash economy.

    Oh, and hopping back to the first post:

    > and there were a minimum of "shopping" stops.

    A 'minimum' would be 'zero', of course. Or an honest announcement: 'The local government won't let us have a tour licence unless we bring you here, but we strongly advise you to look without shopping as prices here are set absurdly high in order to siphon money from foreign tourists who know no better. This operation belongs to local officials.'

    Regardless, a question about the number of shopping stops is one that it has been suggested be put to travel companies in China. What does China Spree have to fear from an honest answer?

    > I find these advice forums helpful, but I never rely on one disgruntled reply and he seems to be the only one that was not satisfied with China Spree and tour companies in general.

    An observation completely without logic or attention to what was actually said. Self-evidently anyone is free to ignore the content of any post here, and its pointless rhetoric to say so. And the truth of an observation has nothing to do with the number of people who make it,. It has been already been observed (again, if you're 'honest' about discussing a point it really helps to pay attention to what was said) that many come home from China perfectly happy with their experience, although not realising what has been practiced upon them.

    I have to admit that the content of the post I've been quoting, its determination to squash criticism of one tour company in particular, its ad hominem content, its failure to address the arguments made, and its arrival as a first post on this site, in general does suggest that someone has an agenda here (although it may just be the case that someone has been ripped-off silly and would rather be in furious denial than admit it or let anyone else be given warnings, although I am perhaps here myself indulging in improper speculation).

    This is so frequently seen on the Frommer's site where employees of less reputable China tour companies post spam all the time while pretending to be disinterested parties (behaviour itself not exactly compatible with calling them 'honest'). There's been a notable increase in spamming by Chinese guides and tour companies in recent weeks, and I hope this site isn't going to go the way of its competitor.

    The basic dishonesty of the approach and a desperation to say almost anything that will support the idea of organised tours in China is confirmed by a subsequent post:

    > Peter H says,

    Presumably that's me, although the name is wrong and I didn't make the remark quoted:

    > " I would not under any circumstance take a tour of China". How about me? I am a single traveler (sometimes), I do not speak Chinese, I would have to rely on the internet to find hotels, restaurants etc and I would have no idea of how to get from point A to B (or what was in between)

    If you really are so completely clueless that you have to ask then this would of course be a self-fulfilling truth. But every year tens of thousands of people travel entirely independently in China and have been doing so for around 25 years, and without two words of Mandarin to rub together. The question is so absurd that it is hardly worth addressing, but they use guide books, online sources, maps, sometimes local agencies for some services (one day tours, ticket buying, etc.), and the advice of other travellers they meet. In short, when travelling in China they behave exactly as they do when they travel independently elsewhere. Why would China be any different?

    > Do you suggest that I do independent travel?

    It doesn't look as if this would be a good idea, no. Certainly not if you don't want to. Take a tour by all means.

    > And just who do I trust that is "honest" and unbiased to get this information?

    Setting aside all the obvious and commonplace answers to that question, as already mentioned, someone other than a person who has a financial interest in the outcome of your enquiry?

    And finally, note that Yongdelen, who posts above that you should search on-line for China tour companies (which is the very last thing you should do, of course) is a spammer who only fails to include a link to a Chinese tour company because when he does his posts are deleted by the moderator. Another advertisement for the honesty of the Chinese tourism industry.

    Peter N-H

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    We're going back to China with ChinaSpree. Is anyone else going on the return to China trip leaving Sept 9th? Would like to chat with you.

    We loved our first trip to China with ChinaSpree 2007. The dollars came in handy with street vendors. We bought pretty evening purses 3@ $5.00 and pretty and good quality T shirts for equally cheap prices. OK they were seconds but who cares. Maybe we could have saved .25 by using the local currency but the idea is to have a great time and get inexpensive light easy to carry souvenirs to bring back for us and family.
    Our bus load bought nothing at the pearl factory but they did have nice clean American style bathrooms and free soft drinks.

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    We've just returned from 17 Day Grand China & Yangtze Cruise with China Spree. The group was small (16 PAX) and we were the only Australian among the Americans. We had both national and local guides. All guides had very good English, hotels were very good and so were most of the meals.Itinerary was varied and carefully chosen.Very little free time though, mainly late evenings.Overall it was great positive experience!Well recommended!

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    I just booked the 12 day Middle Kingdom leaving September 18, 2011. There are enough people for a national guide and since I am a solo traveler I feel that a small group tour fits my needs.

    I know that there are many people, like Peter, who hate group tours, but I like having other people to talk to and dine with and when I want to be alone I can.


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