china beijing

Dec 26th, 2001, 06:00 PM
  #1  
ivy
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china beijing

For a 1st timer to china Beijing,is it better to travel in tour group or alone? any advice welcome
 
Dec 27th, 2001, 08:39 AM
  #2  
scigirl
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Ivy,

My husband and I made our first trip to China (Beijing and Chengde) last summer on our own. It was no problem. We are fairly experienced travelers, although we had never been to Asia before, so we felt prepared to deal with whatever we encountered. I think the choice between tour vs. solo travel depends on your comfort level, how well you deal with communication challenges, willingness to plan on your own, your experience with traveling, your comfort level with being in a new country, etc. We personally like to get off the beaten track and to set our own (usually slow) pace so prefer a DIY approach to our trips.
 
Dec 27th, 2001, 08:53 AM
  #3  
sid
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Wow! Great advice!
 
Dec 27th, 2001, 10:49 AM
  #4  
old-man
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We were faced with the same dilemma last year. We are experienced travelers who had never taken a tour and were reluctant to do so this time. But we changed our minds and did the tour thing for several reasons.
1. Cost. I calculated that the same 3-week itinerary that we followed on our tour would have cost about $1500 to $2000 more if we made all of the arrangements ourselves.
2. Transportation. During our tour we took 5 internal flights (i.e. not including the USA-China-USA flights). Arranging the flights, ground transportation and hotels would have been a formidable task.
3. Ease. It really made for a stress-free vacation. Never had to touch my bag from hotel to hotel, etc.

Now the bad things: Basically we loved China but really didn't enjoy being on the tour. The people were annoying. There wasn't nearly enough free time and everyday we were taken to a new opportunity to buy merchandise at very inflated prices. (Factory tours).

We decided that we would take a tour again given the same circumstances, that is a one-time trip to a very large country with lots to see over a short period of time. But for the next few years it's back to independent travel.
 
Dec 28th, 2001, 09:31 PM
  #5  
Steven
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Do all the tour groups do the forced shopping thing? Which do, which do not?
 
Dec 31st, 2001, 01:27 AM
  #6  
lze
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Hello Ivy, My sister-in-law and I went for 3 weeks to mainland China, Hong Kong and Bangkok last May/June. It was wonderful. We went with a tour group and I would not go any other way, especailly if you are a first timer. Of course two women traveling alone probably are better in a tour "group". There were 43 of us in the group but we all got alog wonderul and we still keep in touch with a couple of them. We went to multiple places and somedays it was hectic to have to get up early and hit the road. They do keep you moving.Whatever you end up choosing to do, just be safe and have a wonderful time.
 
Jan 1st, 2002, 11:26 AM
  #7  
Les
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Steven,
Almost all tours will take you to some "factory" or shopping center. It's part of the "sell-the tourist-something culture" when you take a tour. Even travelling as we did (just the two of us, a driver, and a guide), they are "required" by the travel agency (CITS) to take you to these places (kickbacks, of course). However, after our first trip, we quickly learned that you could insist that they skip this "feature" (which you probably can't do on a group tour).
But consider that, while these "factory tours" are included, sometimes without your consent, some of them can be quite interesting (we toured a jade carving factory, Cloisonne factory, several others, and found them worthwhile). You're not forced to buy anything, and if you have the fortitude to withstand the pressure to buy, you'll be fine.
Of course, if you absolutely don't want any part of this, then you'll probably have to travel as we did, or without any guide at all.
 
Jan 2nd, 2002, 10:09 AM
  #8  
Peter Neville-Hadley
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A few replies to the points in one of the postings above:

>1. Cost. I calculated that the same 3-week itinerary that we followed on our tour would have cost about $1500 to $2000 more if we made all of the arrangements ourselves.

This is a view that the travel industry is certainly interested in encouraging, but which doesn't match the reality of travel in China. The best hotel rates are always available by bargaining at the counter, and discounts are usually available on internal flights if you buy the tickets yourself, for instance, and without all the middle men your costs can be significantly lower. The only variable would be if you were unable to get a discounted international flight to match that part of your tour costs.

> 2. Transportation. During our tour we took 5 internal flights (i.e. not including the USA-China-USA flights). Arranging the flights, ground transportation and hotels would have been a formidable task.

There are actually few less formidable places to arrange this. Hotels rooms are in serious oversupply in most parts of China for most of the year. Agents selling air tickets at discounts abound. Buying and flying on the same day is the norm.

> 3. Ease. It really made for a stress-free vacation. Never had to touch my bag from hotel to hotel, etc.

No argument here, and if that level of comfort is preferred over the savings and flexibility of independent travel then a tour is still the best way to go.

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
 
Jan 2nd, 2002, 02:40 PM
  #9  
Judy
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We took a Japan & Orient independent tour in October. We had our own personal tour guide and driver in each of the cities we visited(this included pick up and drop off at the airport.... which was great). After seeing the local sights, we were on our own for meals, shopping, etc. This is well worth looking into.
 
Jan 14th, 2002, 12:34 PM
  #10  
Patty
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Since you are only visiting one major city, I would say that traveling with a tour group is not necessary (I'm assuming by tour group you mean a fully escorted tour where most of your day's activities will be pre-planned). You have so much more flexibility by going on your own. Once there, you can always book a local day tour for a quick familiarization of the area and then return to places that interest you. Having said that however, sometimes you can find very attractive package prices to Beijing that include international air, hotel, and one or two day tours. These are not necessarily fully escorted tours but sometimes just include airport transfers and a local representative contact. As long as there's sufficient free time in the schedule, I would be more inclined to book this type of package if the price was favorable.
 
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