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karol Simonich Feb 19th, 2002 06:19 PM

customized trip-CITS
Has anyone used Cits to plan a trip throughout China?

Christine Mar 2nd, 2002 09:25 AM

Karol: I have not been to China yet. I am currently in discussion with CITS Guilin and they are working very diligently in providing me exactly with what I am looking for. It is a highly customized tour, and although, of course, I have not tested it yet on the ground, I am very happy with what they offered. The prices are very reasonable, and my contact Nancy Xiong at [email protected] is very nice and very efficient. So I would say you should give them a chance, while keeping your options opened with your own research and other travel organizations.

Paige Mar 3rd, 2002 03:09 AM

This looks interesting. Can you tell me more about it? Do they have a website? Thanks!

Peter N-H Mar 3rd, 2002 08:15 AM

Considerable care should be used when working with CITS, especially when doing so long distance. The organisation, although a little improved from its early days, has a very long and consistent history of vast overcharging, and of failure to deliver everything promised. It has long thrived on foreigners' unwillingness to try and tackle China for themselves, on the language barrier, and on foreigners' ignorance of just how low China's real costs can be. <BR><BR>Stop a taxi and negotiate for yourself (using pen and paper or a calculator) and you may get a trip to some outlying site for Y150. Ask CITS to arrange transport and they just walk out the back door, stop a cab to make the arrangement for whenever you want it, and then come back and charge you Y450.<BR><BR>Of course, like many other agents, they will claim that they can get better rates at hotels than you can, but this is nonsense. The hotel will be happy to bargain with you at the counter and save on CITS' kick-back. <BR><BR>Additionally, they will put you into the hotel likely to yield the most profit to them, and deny the existence of other hotels, or say they are not open to foreigners. Supplementary income is obtained by guiding you into carefully selected souvenir stores and factory shops where commissions are paid to the guide on every sale--at the more overpriced the better.<BR><BR>Similarly, when they have tours available, they will often deny the existence of other tours, or of public transport, even when these are very plentiful. Or they will argue that a special permit is needed to visit a certain place, and only they have it.<BR><BR>Refunds or other compensation for non-performance are also difficult to obtain.<BR><BR>The convenience is, of course, that you can sit at home and organise a tour entirely devoted to your needs, and which may 80% turn out to be what you expected. Of course, you could arrange the entire thing as you go along, which would also allow you to vary your plans according to circumstances, but this is less convenient.<BR><BR>Just be aware that you are being monumentally fleeced.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR><BR>

Christine Mar 4th, 2002 04:55 AM

Peter: Your answer is very interesting, and I thank you for the warning. The tour that CITS is arranging for us is fairly basic, all we need is 1)hotel in Shanghai 2) tickets for a cruise on the Yangtze, 3) flight from Chongqing to Hong Kong and 4) hotel in Hong Kong. I have received a proposal for exactly what we need, and through my research over the internet and guidebooks, I cannot beat their price (especially not for the cruise). This is a first time travel to China for us, and I want to have the security of having a hotel room reserved before we leave, therefore the option of negotiating a hotel room once in Shanghai is not one I am comforatble with. Reserving hotels over the internet is perfectly feasible, but again, when I calculate the cost of everything CITS is offering, I cannot beat their price. They are throwing in airport transfers and one one-day tour of Shanghai. Should I now be concerned that they will not come to the airport, or that once we are there, they will change the hotel on us? I fully intend to check directly with the hotels if we are on their guest list, but by that time I will already have paid CITS for the trip. Any further advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

Peter N-H Mar 4th, 2002 07:41 AM

Few people making their first trips to China have the confidence just to show up and then find a hotel, although except for a few peak periods that really is the best way to do things. Booking a night or two in advance in order to be sure of a soft landing, and then going on to make your own arrangements for a considerably lower price is another option.<BR><BR>However, there's no need for alarm with your arrangements, which will probably go as planned, and with only minor disappointments, if any (the one-day tour of Shanghai might include too many shopping 'opportunities', for instance). There are times when convenience is more important than anything else.<BR><BR>But the perception that it cannot be done more cheaply is caused by distance, and perhaps by only seeing published prices, which neither you nor anyone else need actually pay. Actually prices bargained over the counter for hotels and cruises are at least ten per cent and as much as fifty per cent lower; sometimes more. While government regulation comes and goes, flight tickets are similarly open to a little haggling, sometimes to below train fare rates. Such discounts will be obtained by CITS, but certainly not passed on to you.<BR><BR>Nevertheless, you've got a tour booked at a price you are happy with, and can relax and enjoy your trip. Just don't take your guide's advice on shopping or the 'right price' when in Shanghai.<BR><BR>What I didn't want to see was postings giving even tentative broad-based approval to CITS and its prices without giving some qualification. <BR><BR>In general CITS should be avoided, but it can have its uses for rapid, limited arrangements such as one-day tours, or where the convenience of relatively short-term special arrangements made in advance is more important than cost. <BR><BR>For longer organised travel choose a foreign tour operator. For everything else, just do it yourself as you go.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR><BR>

mm Mar 17th, 2002 12:44 AM

Christine,<BR><BR>Have recently come back from China where I booked arrangements through CTS Hong Kong Branch for travel in Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou. I did the arranging and bookings over the internet via email, and when I stopped over in HK the travel documents for hotel accomodation and contact details in China were delivered to me at my hotel. Since I have never made travel arrangements in this manner before, I was a bit nervous about whether or not everything would turn out OK (it did). I used CTS HK to book hotel accomodation, transfers with a guide to/from airports and train stations and train tickets. I paid everything for these in advance, and everything I booked for I got with no problems. It is true that CTS will charge a huge markup on some things such as the train tickets (sometimes I found out I paid around twice to 3times as much as if I was to roll up to the station myself to buy them !!!) and the transfers were probably overpriced, but since I wanted to be on a definite schedule and have my trip planned out, I felt it was the only way to ensure I had bookings on the days I wanted to in advance, and being the first time to travel in China, it was useful having the guide to sidestep all the other passengers queing up at train stations and the guide helped us through the train stations and boardings etc.. Actually I thought the hotel rates I paid for seemed reasonable and where the same or lower than through some internet companies, or the hotel itself (but they seemed to have overcharged me with a prebooked ABF though. So I think it depends what you want - if you need to be on tight schedule then prebooking with CTS seems to be fine but you have to be prepared to pay the high mark ups. Did not use any CTS tours in these cities, except for in Hangzhou the guide and driver who picked us up were not from CTS Hangzhou per say, but worked for the China Merchants International Travel Company, and they offered a day tour and we negotiated a reasonable price. For the other cities the CTS guide gave the usual introductory city talk in the car to the hotel, we arranged pick up time and that was it - they didn't seemed to want to offer any extra touring services, probably because we hadn't booked for anything?? But at least also we had a contact name and number in case of any problems though.

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