Beijing Private Guide

Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 02:37 PM
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Beijing Private Guide

Does anyone know of a private guide for Beijing that they can recommend? Thanks in advance.
Old Apr 24th, 2002, 08:11 AM
Peter N-H
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Be very cautious here.

There are increasing numbers of private individuals offering themselves as guides over the Internet, but very few indeed are formally licensed as guides, and in offering their services to you for money, they are breaking the law (admittedly a very flexible concept in China). This is not a good start.

Trustworthiness amongst guides is not unknown, but it is not commonplace either, and while many guides are very charming indeed, and may even treat you with astonishing courtesy, this does not mean that they are not simultaneously making excessive profit at your expense. Even the Beijing government acknowledges this with periodic swoops with withdrawal of licences.

Getting clients over the Internet is attractive because it leads to bookings at several times the local rates. But foreigners are also attractive clients because they are so gullible. Most guide income is made not from daily rates, however inflated, but from kick-backs at shops, restaurants, and sights to which you are taken. There is no hesitation is telling you the proper price for something is many times what it should be when there's a large commission to be earned on the results of the sale. The profits have become so great that some tour companies in China now no longer pay guides, but instead make them pay to get themselves appointed to take groups.

Ordinary Chinese have very little knowledge or understanding of their own history, and as such make poor guides. This is not their fault entirely--the education system does not teach them the truth either, but there's little effort to put in to learn even the most simple non-politically-sensitive cultural and historical information. There's also a certain keenness to encourage the visitor to be impressed by the claimed superiority of Chinese culture, as well as to tell the foreigner what he or she wants to hear. (Messages on this site often inadvertently reveal that those who post have been victims of such misinformation.)

There's very little indeed you can't do for yourself in Beijing, and a little reading of sources published at home will provide you with far more accurate background information than much you are likely to be told while being guided. Bargain hard and your shopping will certainly turn out cheaper.

If you really *must* have a guide, try booking one through a reliable company like Imperial Tours:

This may be more expensive still on a daily rate, but the company will ensure that the person who guides you really knows what he or she is talking about, and protects you from the sharks, not swims with them.

Peter N-H
Old Apr 25th, 2002, 03:05 AM
Peter N-H
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And a good book is better than a guide.
Old Apr 27th, 2002, 08:01 AM
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We used a private guide in Beijing last month that we can recommend. His name is Tony Yan. He can be reached at [email protected]. We received his name from another party (thru Fodors) that also had a good experience.

We paid 800 yuan. He paid for all tolls, parking expense, etc. He has an almost new Audi with nice leather interior. His English is very good. He was very dependable. We did invite (and pay) him to lunch. He will ask a higher price that he ultimately will accept (surprise, surprise).

Perhaps we are alittle different. I think that $96 for 12 hours for a very nice car, private guide is more than acceptable and frankly do not care if we paid $20 too much or too little. We have been to China previously and took the group day tours. This time we wanted to pick the restaurants, antique (?) shops and sights. Hindsight, it was a very good decision.

Let me know if you want his fax, telephone number or mobil number.

Old Apr 27th, 2002, 11:08 AM
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Philip I also used Tony while in Beijing last month.Like you I got his name from this site and also paid 800 yuan which included tolls and his services for the day.It did not include admissions to the wall(cable car)or Summer Palace and Tony did not accompany us on the wall or into the Palace instead he waited in the car park.We used Tony when we first arrived to visit the great wall at Mutianyu and the Summer Palace.At first I thought this to have been a bargain but latter in the week I hired a young lady through the C.I.T.S.(China Internatioal Travel Service)office located in our hotel to take us to the Forbidden City,Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace(a 2nd visit).What a surprise.....we paid 800 yuan again which included the private guide(Victoria)and a driver,admissions to all three sites with lunch.The guide entered each site with us to escort and explain what we were seeing.At days end we asked her to take us shopping and she helped us haggle for the best prices.Sooooo,I guess what I'm trying to say is that while Tony was a nice, well spoken guy I found that he was only a taxi driver with a very nice taxi,he didn't really function as a guide,only as a driver.The C.I.T.S. guides are licensed and when requesting a guide for the day insist on one who speaks GOOD English and I found them to be much better than Tony Yan.I'm sorry that I don't have Victoria's address,I only know that she was from C.I.T.S. and that she was associated with Japan & Orient Tours.Sooner I hope this helps some and have a great trip !!
Old Apr 27th, 2002, 04:14 PM
Peter N-H
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I think the two posts above illustrate some of the points made in my earlier posting quite well.

Of course, those who do not object to being overcharged are quite at liberty to follow the same route. But I wouldn't want other readers of this site to think that it's a matter of '$20 too much'. A day's use of a comfortable aircon taxi, including about 250km (for a trip to the Eastern Qing Tombs, say) can be had for Y300, if you negotiate on arrival.

To put this in context: the drivers of this level of vehicle are typically taking around Y200-300 a day gross, for a 13-14-hour day of work. A day booking is very welcome as it takes off the pressure, and rarely lasts as long as the normal working day (therefore leaving time to earn a little more). Y800 (even less tolls) is a fabulously successful day, essentially unobtainable by cruising the streets in the normal way, mostly empty (like the other 67,500 taxis in Beijing).

The whole purpose of CITS has always been to extract as much money from foreigners for as little service as possible, and while the service has in general much improved (although not nearly enough), if CITS is offering a cheaper price than someone else, or a better service for the same price, then you can be sure you are being as gouged as it's possible be gouged by whoever is charging you more.

The sentence 'she helped us haggle for the best prices' should set off alarm bells, too. As explained above, even the most charming of guides earn the major part of their very significant incomes from precisely such assistance, and the most charming of guides are the ones who are most successful, of course.

As one stallholder said to a friend shopping with me last week, not knowing I speak Mandarin, 'Why are you helping him? He's not Chinese, and he's not your husband!' Even if there's no intention to take a kick-back (and you should expect that there is), it's highly unlikely that you will be assisted to obtain anything remotely like the 'best price'. This you have to obtain for yourself.

In short, by all means hire private guides, pay two to three times the odds (or a great deal more), and help to continue the tradition that foreigners should pay more because they're foreign and that's what they are for. But be aware of what you are doing, and that there are fairer ways to go about things.

Peter N-H
Old Apr 28th, 2002, 08:43 PM
Peter N-H
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I'm afraid neither the posting above, nor several others today posted around the same time (nor many earlier one-line posts), came from me. Sadly such malicious impersonation is all too easy on the Internet, and very easy indeed on sites such as this.

I'm sorry other readers and contributors to this site have to be bothered by this childishness.

Peter N-H
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