china: trip direction

Jan 14th, 2010, 06:34 AM
  #1  
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china: trip direction

Hi. We are planning trip to China in April starting in Hong Kong and finishing in Beijing.
We are looking at some tours for itinerary suggestions. Interestingly, they all go from Beijing to Hongkong (Shanghai), not otherwise. Does anybody have an idea why?
Should we also plan moving the same direction?

Regards, Mike
csdmxp is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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Mike - Go to China Travel Service (CTS) Hong Kong Limited website and click on the English version. You'll see all kinds of tours to major cities in China from Hong Kong for your references. China Travel Service in HK is a major travel service agency. By the way, you definitely do not need to plan moving to the same direction as you've questioned in your post. You can also obtain your China visa while in HK from CTS or other travel agencies.
lxchiang is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 09:28 AM
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You want to have the most energy when visiting Beijing. Not already exhausted after a long trip.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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You really won't need a tour to visit the major cities. It is easily doable on your own with a good guide book and some advance planning. This forum can be a big help down to the smallest detail. Just map out a planned itinerary, post it on this forum and we will pitch in with our "ideas".
Gpanda is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 03:49 PM
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> China Travel Service in HK is a major travel service agency.

And the one with the longest history of greed and mendacity of all of them. This is the last place you should be booking anything (even their visa rates are much more expensive) other than bus, train, and sometimes plane tickets (but don't use them for even that purpose within mainland China).

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 04:54 PM
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Peter N-H : So where would you go for a travel agency (China visa, air, train and bus tickets to China) in HK ? Give us a name or two that is acceptable to you besides being low cost. Thanks.
lxchiang is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 05:55 PM
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csdmxp, if I read your post correctly, you have been looking at tour websights for itinerary suggestions. Your question is with regard to the order of the cities those tours choose to take, and whether that is an indication of a preferred route. I do not read your post as indicating that you are considering taking a tour. In any event, I agree with Gpanda that a tour is not really necessary for China.

My guess is that the tours start in Beijing because that is well, “China”. But regardless of what the tours may do, I don’t think there is any preferred order to a trip. I would look at flight routings for one thing. For the longer international flights, non-stops are preferred of course, and also look at arrival times, as you may prefer to go to say Shanghai first if that means an afternoon arrival as opposed to a late-night arrival into Hong Kong. Price may be another issue for you if you are willing to put up with the longer time needed for connecting flights. (You may also find it cheaper to fly into Macau or Shenzhen to get to Hong Kong or to go to mainland China from Hong Kong. You can get to Hong Kong from either overland or by ferry in 1-2 hours.) The order may depend on whether a festival or other event is going on in one place on a certain date that you want to attend (or avoid).

I also want to comment on the post above on getting a PRC visa in Hong Kong. At the current time, the PRC consulate in Hong Kong is not issuing PRC visas to anyone in Hong Kong unless they are a resident. This rule has been in place for some time, and it is uncertain when or if it will be lifted. See http://www.fmcoprc.gov.hk/eng/zgqz/bgfwxx/ .While you can certainly start your trip in Hong Kong (for which no visa is required for citizens of most countries), I would not suggest that you take the chance on being able to get a PRC visa in Hong Kong, as it would of course spoil the trip if you were unable to do so. I would suggest you get your PRC visa in your home country.

Also for your planning, as you may know, Easter is celebrated in Hong Kong and Friday April 2 is a public holiday, as is Monday April 5. That also happens to be a public holiday in the PRC (known here as Ching Ming, a grave sweeping holiday). The Ching Ming public holiday will be observed in Hong Kong on Tuesday April 6. I don’t think you will notice significant closures of restaurants or shops over any of these holidays, but may see more crowds at some sights (esp the PRC) and I would avoid places like Macau on those days if you are in the Hong Kong area (as well as Disney, etc not sure if you will have children with you).
Cicerone is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 07:12 PM
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lxchiang: As I mentioned, CTS is an acceptable source of bus and train tickets--standard industry commissions are taken from within the price, or a reasonable commission charged for domestic rail tickets on a limited number of routes. On air tickets it's best to compare prices, as it depends who is serving you as to whether you get straight to the lowest price or have to push a bit, but my last two purchases there have been fairly priced, and several hundred HK$ under some other sources. Kowloon has a number of backpacker-targeting agencies serving the Chungking Mansion crowd, which it is often assumed must be offering the best prices but which in fact usually charge more for air tickets than CTS (simply exploiting their reputation for backpacker business to charge the unwary more), although less for visas.

The point is that the situation fluctuates with demand, fashion, word-of-mouth, etc. so naming sources or agencies is often misleading, and it is better to discuss general principles, the main one for Hong Kong being to ask local people where they are buying tickets and to look in the classifieds. In general purchase through hotel-based agencies or those in the most tourist-haunted areas should be avoided, and simply (for instance) walking a few minutes away from those areas can produce agencies with much lower prices. Agencies in small rooms up in office buildings typically have the best prices, and examining the directory at street level will throw up choices. But, except for visas or tour packages, if you have several bus/train/air purchases to make CTS may well be convenient, and at the moment certainly business is very slow and waits are short. Once on the mainland the company should be avoided at all costs, however (with emphasis on the word 'costs').

For visas you need to go to Tsim Sha Tsui East, around Science Museum Road, where a number of agencies offer swift and efficient visa services, with same-day options and routinely delivering the next working day after 1pm, for instance, if you make the application before 9am. I handed in my passport last Saturday morning before noon and had my latest visa by 1pm on the Monday (I write this from Beijing--and I'm not currently a Hong Kong resident so simply ignore the material above, which applies only certain types of non-tourist multi-entry visas). Single-entry and double-entry three-month tourist visas are very easily obtained (US citizens limited to one month entry only). Prices fluctuate (and there are different charges for some nationalities) but at times these agencies are even cheaper than the government representative office itself (whereas CTS is even more expensive), and a great deal more pleasant and efficient to deal with, and indeed a great deal more pleasant, efficient, convenient and rapid than most consulates overseas. If you arrive with one photo and your passport in hand it's rare to be there more than five minutes. Try Japan Travel Agency in New East Ocean Centre and Forever Bright Trading Co. in New Mandarin Plaza (Google...), the latter having the benefit of being open on Saturday mornings. There are (or were, I haven't visited them all recently): Grand Profit was one.

Remember that when purchasing your air ticket you'll need a passport or at least a photocopy of it. Agencies generally like to see your visa, but if the application is underway that's usually good enough, and in fact I usually buy my ticket first and then go for the visa.

I'd agree that easy visa access in Hong Kong makes a northbound trip more convenient, and in addition Hong Kong is a softer and easier introduction to Asia, or to Greater China, for the less well-travelled than landing directly in Beijing or Shanghai. Culturally, Beijing and the Great Wall make a good climax to a tour, too.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 08:07 PM
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I am happy to be proved wrong, and to see that currently the PRC consulate seems to be issuing visas for non-residents, and that the above poster was successful last week in obtaining a visa, despite what is posted on the Consulate's website. As I am a resident of Hong Kong, however, I know how often -- and quickly -- that situation changes here. One week the consulate will issue visas, and the next they will not. Therefore, I still suggest caution in this regard, and would continue to suggest that you obtain a visa before leaving your home country. I myself used to recco that people obtain visas here in Hong Kong, but stopped doing so right around the time of the Olympics in 2008 due to the constantly shifting rules at the PRC consulate.
Cicerone is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 08:47 PM
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The is no point in looking at mainland government-owned websites for reliable information on anything at all, and to fail to understand that is to fail to understand mainland China altogether. In these matters the only reliable guide is personal experience and personal investigation.

China's visa regulations fluctuate, and may change at short notice due to diplomatic incidents or a wish to control access during politically sensitive events (usually entirely foreseeable), but they do not change every week, and when they do change, they change globally (with very rare exceptions), not simply in Hong Kong. If anything on average historically over the last 20 years Hong Kong has been a more reliable source of more Chinese visa types of longer duration more easily and quickly obtainable than anywhere else in the world. If it happens to be convenient to reach a consulate before departure there's no reason not to be on the safe side, but for most people this means going early, taking a book, and repeating five working days later, or paying high courier and agency fees on top of a sometimes higher visa fee for a visa sometimes of shorter duration.

The websites of the agencies mentioned make clear what visas they are offering and to whom and for what price at any time (JTA is particularly good at keeping theirs up-to-date). All that is necessary is to keep an eye on those, which will be far more reliable than anything put out by individual consulates.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 11:55 PM
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I agree that personal experience and investigation is important. That is whay I am still comfortable with my opinions as expressed above.
Cicerone is offline  
Jan 15th, 2010, 01:09 AM
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>I agree that personal experience and investigation is important. That is whay I am still comfortable with my opinions as expressed above.

Including this therefore presumably personally experienced and investigated yet wildly inaccurate and misleading assertion?

> At the current time, the PRC consulate in Hong Kong is not issuing PRC visas to anyone in Hong Kong unless they are a resident. This rule has been in place for some time, and it is uncertain when or if it will be lifted.

Living in Hong Kong--a point repeatedly brought up in order to suggest authority--is of itself no guarantee of such authority, as repeatedly demonstrated. And this is true of Beijing (where usually the last person you should ask for authoritative information is an expat) and everywhere else, too. The facts of the matter, based on repeated personal investigation and also set out here in earlier years, are quite contrary to those apparently found 'comfortable'.
PeterN_H is offline  
Jan 15th, 2010, 03:59 PM
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CSDMXP - Mike - Our discussions have gone off the track from your original question of --- Why, in your research, all China tours begin from Beijing ? My answer --- Beijing is one of the 3 major Chinese cities (the other two being Shanghai and Hong Kong) that have direct air services from major cities all over the world. Therefore, I think it's natural and logical to start the tour from Beijing, being the Chinese capital and having about the last 1000 years of Chinese history.

In your case, I don't know of any reason why you can't start the China tour beginning from Hong Kong. By the time you end up in Beijing in later April, the weather should be milder. Peter N-H may have a point that by visiting Hong Kong first, it softens the cultural shock assuming this is your first trip to China.
lxchiang is offline  
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