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Tina_Perth Dec 9th, 2004 06:38 AM

China - tips
Firstly: Do not believe anything you are told in China. (We have many more experiences than those listed here for anyone who would like to ask any questions). We visited Beijing twice, Xian and Tianjin, so I can relate what I know of those places.

Negotiate your price before entering any taxis or check whether they have a visible meter in the car before you get in. Some keep the meter by their feet and will switch it off before you get out of the car, giving you an inflated price. Also, be prepared for the very frequent traffic jams in which we sat for 2-3 hours several times. Luckily for one of those occasions, we had negotiated a daily rate for 3 days with our driver who was fabulous and so weren't penalised.

If you buy a warrior when you visit the Terracotta Warriors at Xian, ensure you watch them include the certificate of authenticity in your package. The woman got angry at us for not buying all the pieces she was trying to sell us, so purposely excluded it and packed our warrior very poorly. Luckily we checked and re-packed before flying home.

In Xian we paid several hundred dollars for a "bronze" urn, supposedly aged for 1 year in the same soil the Terracotta Warriors were found so it looked like the ones uncovered there which, when it broke in transit turned out to be concrete based.

When in China, more so than any other Asian country I have ever visited, take a pack of moist towellettes and some tissues with you everywhere you go. Also, for the ladies, one thing I have found is that very few shops at many places in Asia do not stock tampons, so be prepared.

DO NOT stay at the Wanfujing Hotel in Beijing!!! If you want a flawless hotel where the staff speak english, stay at the Shangri-La.

Patty Dec 9th, 2004 10:22 AM

As far as taxis, it shouldn't be necessary to negotiate a price for a single ride. I've never had any problems with metered taxis, at least in the major cities. Where did you encounter taxis switching the meter off?

You can of course negotiate a price if you want to hire a taxi for a day or several hours of sightseeing.

When shopping, it's best to assume that nothing is authentic!

Neil_Oz Dec 9th, 2004 12:33 PM

The guys who have their (fast) meter on the end of a cable on the floor are not authorised cabbies and don't display an official licence, with their photo, on the dashboard. They tend to lurk around tourist spots like the Summer Palace and use an accomplice to tout for business. Just ignore them, walk out to the street and hail a real cab. We took many taxis in China and found them efficient, cheap and honest - one spent 10 minutes hunting us down after my daughter left her bag on the back seat and wouldn't accept the money I offered him in thanks. Apart from one extended sightseeing drive we never found any reason to agree a price beforehand. No drivers we found spoke any English, but you're OK as long as you have your destination written (unambiguously) in Chinese, or get the hotel staff to direct the driver.

Mostly we stayed at Chinese-owned 3-star hotels where typically one or two staff members spoke a little English. No problems of any significance.

So what was wrong with the Wangfujing Hotel?

walkinaround Dec 18th, 2004 09:17 AM

i agree with neil. i find the taxis to be among the best in the world...very honest, cheap, efficient and know the cities with an amazing amount of detail. meters are always used in legitimate taxis and you will 99% of the time get a much better deal than if you try to pre-negotiate a fix priced "deal".

Neil_Oz Dec 18th, 2004 01:18 PM

Tina_Perth, I've just re-read your post and I'm uncomfortable with the overwhelmingly negative tone.

While Beijing certainly has traffic jams, we neither experienced nor heard of anything like 2-3 hour delays. Surely you exaggerate?

And yes, of course China has no shortage of scammers, but the advice to believe nothing at all that you're told strikes me as quite over the top.

Why would you pay "several hundred dollars" for an urn when (as it would appear) you knew perfectly well that it was a repro, albeit thinking it was bronze?

And I'm still waiting to find our what was wrong with the Wangfujing Hotel. If you're going to advise people not to patronise an establishment you really should explain why.

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