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Help with choosing guided tour

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Oct 8th, 2015, 12:19 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 13
Help with choosing guided tour

Hello, I'm looking to take my wife to China this spring. We're both in our 60s but fairly active travelers and would like to do some hiking/trekking. Debating whether to head to Tiger Leaping Gorge in addition to seeing major cities, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, etc..

We have traveled with Intrepid Travel (to Morocco and Vietnam) as well as Overseas Adventure Travel (to India). We enjoyed ourselves for the most part, but would like to try another travel company for this trip. My friend sent me the website for a company called Stride Travel - www.stridetravel.com. I entered my email for their 'private beta' whatever that means and received an email to look at their site. Seems like you can search trips across different tour companies.

Has anyone ever used sites like this and know exactly how they work? Do I still need to call the tour company to book? Any advice is welcome.

Many thanks,
Charles
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Oct 8th, 2015, 05:27 PM
  #2
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 17,134
As noted on your other post (and reposting here, on the Asia board with a tag for China, was a good idea!), no tour is necessary unless you really want one, and in China, tours are often a very bad idea. Tours in China will cost FAR more than it would cost to travel independently, the guides rarely have accurate information (as they have minimal access to anything that isn't government approved), you will probably stay in hotels that are just OK, and you will probably not end up in restaurants where you can eat extraordinarily delicious local specialties at very affordable prices.

Traveling in China independently is perfectly do-able, even if you don't speak a word of Mandarin. (But do, please, learn hello and thank you!) Always have with you a card on which the name of your hotel is written in English and in Chinese characters. Taxi drivers or others will not necessarily be able to read English or pidgen; they will be able to read the Chinese characters. Likewise, carry with you the names of places you want to visit in both languages. Also bring a good phrasebook that has some common words and phrases in both scripts. You might also consider getting a copy of the very lightweight Me No Speak, which has pictograms you can use if necessary.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/097...=sr_1_2&sr=8-2

That said, I found VERY little need for any language other than English in major cities, and even in many places rarely visited by tourists. At this point in time, the vast majority of young people and those involved in the tourist industry speak English or will have a smartphone or other device they can (and will) use to look things up. Some older people won’t know English, or won’t be willing to risk mispronunciation, but it is unlikely that you would need to rely on them. Honestly, I had MUCH bigger difficulties with language in Paris in the early 1990s than I had in China in 2010.

Several of us have filed trip reports on our experiences as independent travelers in China -- you might take a moment to look at some of them. You can find them by clicking on the "China" forum and scrolling down the page. You can find my report on 4 weeks as a solo female independent traveler (northern China only, in 2010) by clicking on my name.

Hope that helps!
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Oct 9th, 2015, 11:50 AM
  #3
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Very helpful, thank you for taking the time to reply. The language barrier was my main concern, as we've done a fair bit of independent travel in the past, but it seems like that's not a worry.

I will have a read of the trip reports you mentioned.

Thanks again.
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Oct 9th, 2015, 06:33 PM
  #4
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I don't want to give a false impression -- it won't be like traveling in Switzerland, where everyone seems to speak English (and 3 or 4 other languages!). But IME, language was not a sufficient barrier to preclude independent travel for those who are accustomed to doing so and are willing to do their homework. And the rewards of independent travel in China can be substantial!
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