china with children-- tour options?

Aug 15th, 2008, 09:42 AM
  #1  
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china with children-- tour options?

We have three boys aged 3, 9 & 11 and are interested in visiting China next summer. It seems as if most people take a tour-- is it extremely difficult to go on your own? We have never taken a tour and like the freedom of traveling at our own pace. If a tour is highly recommended, which tours are particularly good for families?

Thanks.
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Aug 15th, 2008, 09:56 AM
  #2  
 
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A quick search of this site will find many postings pointing out that if you are usually an independent traveller it is entirely unnecessary to take a tour in China, and there are many disadvantages to doing so, which tend to include poor food, hectic schedule, shopping 'opportunity' pressures, pressures to tip, kick-backs and hidden charges, and highly unreliable and misleading commentary.

Travel at your own pace, for a lower price, and allow yourself the freedom to react to your children's needs.

Peter N-H
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Aug 15th, 2008, 10:10 AM
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i think largely it depends on where you want to go....if you just want hong kong, beijing, shanghai and xian, then doing it on your own would be easy....other less touristed places might be more difficult, but not impossible..
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Aug 15th, 2008, 11:26 AM
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"other less touristed places might be more difficult" - there are other quite touristy places, like Guilin, Kunming and Lijiang. Even off the beaten track it's not hard to manage - just make sure you have a guidebook with the places you are going written in characters, and a phrase book that has characters as well as pinyin.
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Aug 17th, 2008, 11:47 AM
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do you recommend driving in china or are the rules of the road a lot different from the US? who do you recommend renting a car from?

is there a central source for guides for each city?
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Aug 17th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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I think you'll find that if you read the practical section of any China guide book it will let you know that driving in China is not an option for visitors. While there is talk of an eventual easing of restrictions, for now only foreigners with work/residence credentials who pass a written test of remarkable complexity and requiring a high pass mark, and practical test in order to gain a Chinese licence are allowed to drive in China. Even many Chinese simply purchase their licences through the back door.

But even if you could drive there you would be very unwise to do so unless already well experienced in driving at its most Hobbesian. There is no rule of the road save 'I'm bigger than you so get out of my way', and no manoeuvre so reckless or simply bone-headed that someone won't do it. Cars with military plates or with plates indicating access to high-level government compounds simply ignore all road signs and traffic directions with impunity. Most people drive as if the law doesn't apply to them. In the case of officials it truly doesn't. Accidents involve complex negotiations on site and the foreigner always loses out.

In short, if you have a car, it comes with a driver. And that's best for all concerned.

There is no central source for guides, and you'd be well advised to avoid those who advertise or whose names are bandied about here from time to time. Overcharging is rife, kick-backs the principal motivation in deciding your intinerary, and historical and cultural information provided wildly inaccurate. Materials you bring from the West will provide far better information, much of it otherwise unavailable in China, and all you need is the characters for your destination (which can be found in most guide books or will be written down for you by hotel staff), jump in a cab, and off you go with complete control over where you go, how long you stay, where you eat, where you shop, and so on, for a fraction of the price.

Peter N-H
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Aug 17th, 2008, 06:09 PM
  #7  
Amy
 
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Just to give you a sample of what it's like on your own, here's my trip report (it's three years old, but I'm sure much of the experience remains the same.) I definitely recommend going on your own; there's nothing like it. Happy trails!
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...7&tid=34656568
Amy is offline  
Aug 17th, 2008, 07:38 PM
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Our family of four travels prefers independent travel, and we had no difficulty. Hire a car and driver and go on your own. Take the subways or taxis when possible. It is easy. The only problem we had was one taxi driver could not read! PeterN_H is correct.
Binthair is offline  
Aug 17th, 2008, 07:43 PM
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I will add that with three children you will need to hire a van. We did pile 5 passengers into taxis however!
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Aug 19th, 2008, 11:10 AM
  #10  
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Amy
Just read your trip report and have found it to give me the insight that I was looking for. We will definitely go independently to China! Thank you.
Jeanne
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