China Private Tour Companies

Nov 3rd, 2003, 11:56 AM
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China Private Tour Companies

I am planning a trip to China for next year, and would prefer to have a tour company arrange a private tour for 4 People.
We plan to go to Beijing/Xian/Guilin/Shanghai. I have contacted the following companies, and would like to know if anyone has information about them.
Gate 1 travel
China Private Tours (
Global Tours-inc (
I do not need international airfare.
Are there other US based tour companies that could be recommended?
Thanks for your time. Bob
newoz1 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2003, 12:33 PM
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I forgot to mention Abeerdeen Tours. I called them, because they are a member of USOTA, and have a private tour with our itinerary that looks good. Unfortunately they said they are wholesaler and could not speak with me directly. Any thoughts??
newoz1 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2003, 12:46 PM
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I must admit I never think this is a good idea, but you could consider: (U.S company with Beijing office specialising in made-to-measure tours) (U.K. company again specializing in made-to-measure; I used their services in Mongolia once and the trip was superbly well-organized) (small U.S. company based in Beijing, again specializing in made-to-measure; I've never used their services but I know the owners, and they know China and the pitfalls of its travel services very well, hand-picking guides and supervising everything themselves)

None of these three will be cheap, but on the other hand you won't be plagued with unscheduled deviations, unwanted shopping stops for overpriced tat with huge commissions to the guide, or pestering for tips. Actually most companies offering tours in China offer made-to-measure trips as well, because almost all of them have to use local ground handlers anyway. So they just send your information to China, get a quote which will be higher than you can obtain for yourself when in China, add a fat overhead, and pass it on to you. In these cases you can often find yourself with shopping stops and other shenanigans galore, so make your requirements very clear indeed.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Nov 5th, 2003, 05:49 AM
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We used for our China trip and it was fabulous. Talk to Lisa to discuss your interests and itinerary. They are based in NY and are quite experienced in designing tours. A bit pricey but you won't be dissapointed.
DaveN is offline  
Nov 5th, 2003, 04:13 PM
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Did you take a private tour with them, or a group tour? Thanks
newoz1 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 07:37 PM
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I don;t have a US operator for you, but I can do you one better. I have used China Travel Service out of their Hong Kong office several times and have been very pleased. They will do tours for a minimum of two people and this allows you to tailor things a bit to fit your interests.

I'm more of a visitor than I am a tourist and although I enjoy the major attractions to some extent I prefer to spend more time with real local people and less time shopping. CTS has been great about tailoring the tours to fit my preferences.

I've even used CTS several times as a tour of one person. The pricing has been better than the best deals that I can put together for myself and they have been meticulous about details.

I've used them in Beijing, Gulin and Yangshou, Shanghai. Having a private car with driver and an english speaking guide sounds like a luxury, but its very affordable and a great way to make the most of your time. In fact the tours I've taken with CTS including air, land, most meals, guide and driver and single supplement have been less than my air and hotel alone would have been.

I use their Hong Kong office as I am typically in Hong Kong for business and taking side trips into Chinese mainland for pleasure. All my bookings have been via e-mail and should you desire a contact at CTS Hong Kong please post your e-mail address and I'll e-mail you the contact info. You can also go to their website and start from there (
cjbryant is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 04:19 AM
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I had a great and very affordable experience with CITS ( They had several locations in NY, I am not sure if they are anywhere else in the US, but they put together the whole trip, with private car and driver, internal flights, and trasnfers, and it was great. They are a state sponsored company so they are forced to give you the right info and service.

I highly reccomend them.

glam is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 07:46 AM
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The fact that CITS is 'state-sponsored' is practically a guarantee of the opposite conclusion--mendacity, misrepresentation, and overcharging are almost inevitable, and if that has been reduced in recent years it's because the state monopoly has disappeared and there's an element of competition. But there's not enough competition: CITS still does most of the ground-handling for foreign companies and has little competition for overseas networks and national networks, so far too much business is still guaranteed to come its very greedy way.

A lot of China travel survives on the view from overseas that everything in China is very cheap compared to home. But China isn't home, and everything there costs a great deal less than you expect. There's a very great gap between 'affordable' and 'fairly priced'. 'Affordable' often means grossly over-priced in fact.

CITS is the travel company with the worst reputation of all, and despite some improvement in recent years (from the lowest conceivable of rock-bottom levels--imagine the Soviet Union's Intourist, but in a coma) that reputation is deserved. This would be my very last choice of travel company, closely followed by CTS.

Incidentally, whoever you book with, finding yourself the only traveller on what should be a group tour is not unusual, even if you order off the peg rather than bespoke. And that's because the profit margins are so high that it still makes economical sense to take you. 'Take you' being the appropriate expression.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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I should just add that CITS do have several offices across the US, and that any guarantee that at least the itinerary you book will be delivered lies not in their 'state-sponsored' nature (quite the contrary), but in that you are booking in the US itself, and so US trade laws can be brought to bear in case of default.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 10:16 AM
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All of the advice about CITS is good advice, as contradictory as it all may seem.

Using CITS in the US or in Hong Kong is a good idea. Hong Kong may be cheaper. Don't try to use CITS in China itself.

The reason is simple, those in the US and HK have had contact with or lived in Western countries. Those in China have no clue as to what would appeal to Westerners, but they do know that Westerners have the big bucks!

I had to laugh at Peter's description of CITS "...imagine Soviet Union's Intourist, but in a coma". I thought Intourist itself is pretty much in a coma - lo!

To give you some idea of the wild variation in prices: back about ten years ago, I went through my company (which went through American Express) and booked a top rated hotel in Shanghai. The price charged by Amex was about $250 plus taxes, etc. Later that same year, I had to return to Shanghai and had my company's branch office in Hong Kong (I was in Hong Kong at the time) book the same hotel. The HK office got it for about $135 plus taxes.
By then I had my favorite taxi driver at the Shanghai hotel and he told me that if I ever were to return to the hotel, just to contact him and, as a local, he could get the same hotel room for me for $65 plus taxes.

Everyone up and down the travel food chain gets to dip in - American AND Chinese.

CITS should be able to get you a lot of things -hotel, car, tours, at a discounted rate. Better than anything you can negotiate yourself. However, try to stay within a price range and don't let too many of the "dippers" dip too deeply.

Having been to China numerous times on business, I have never used a tour company, so can't comment on the ones you have mentioned. Some of my friends and relatives have been on tours operated out of San Francisco and they have all been satisfied and happy with their arrangements, even the ones who spoke fluent Chinese.

Hope this helps a bit and happy travels!
easytraveler is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 10:49 AM
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> CITS should be able to get you a lot of things -hotel, car, tours, at a discounted rate. Better than anything you can negotiate yourself. However, try to stay within a price range and don't let too many of the "dippers" dip too deeply.

Sorry, but the biggest dipper of all (except possibly American Express, I admit) is CITS. There is almost nothing whatsoever that CITS can do that you can't do cheaper for yourself, and usually considerably cheaper. There is every effort made to make it appear otherwise, however. Published rates don't help, since none of them represent the price you have to pay, merely the price they hope you'll pay, being too far away to know how things really work. And it means if they offer a third off, they are still getting double or triple what you could get if you asked yourself locally, but you'll be happy with this apparently amazing discount. It's all about positioning. It's not about reality.

Incidentally, comparing hotel rates at different times of year is always individious, since there is wide seasonal variation in prices, and swings in demand are greater in China than in most other places. The only comparison really worth making is between rates obtainable for exactly the same rooms on the same dates. Nevertheless, paying half or less of published rates when on the spot is commonplace, and if a taxi driver can get $65, you could get it for less. Middlemen, even friendly middlemen (sometimes especially friendly middlemen), and all organized middlemen in China are a mistake price-wise, whatever value you may personally feel they add by making your life easier.

The reason CITS overseas can be better trusted (to deliver itinerary, if not the lowest prices--far from it) is that they can be given a very hard time under local law--there are plenty of CITS people in China with experience of living and working overseas, and familiar with the needs or wants of foreigners, but that makes no difference. The value of the clause in any contract in China, including simple agreements between tourist and travel agencies, is based simply on whether it is more painful or profitable for one party to keep or break that clause. Booking in China (where even from CITS you'll pay a lot less) means there is effectively no redress for default, and every corner which can be cut will be cut. The prevailing nightmare for foreign tour companies most of whom use CITS for their ground arrangements is keeping a constant eye open for such cuts and changes, designed to line the pockets of individual guides and agents, or CITS itself.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
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