Independent travel in China

Old Jun 14th, 2006, 09:47 AM
  #21  
 
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We returned from Shanghai several weeks ago. One caveat for hotels. Your concierge or front desk staff will become your new very good friends. You will absolutely need hotels which have at least one staff member who is fluent in English. Every morning we came armed with 4 or 5 destinations to be translated in Chinese to use for taxis. We also learned to have other phrases translated: "I want to buy 2 tickets, soft seat, Suzhou to Shanghai", "take me to train station, soft seat section", etc.

Shanghai is the most modern, sophisticated city in China, but we found very few people can speak English, especially in restaurants. We found ourselves several times in restaurants with no english menu. While this was a learning experience and funny, it would have been extremely frustrating on a regular basis. I will say that in these situations, we found the Chinese people very kind, warm, and patient.
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Old Jun 14th, 2006, 05:05 PM
  #22  
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rkkwan - when you say we'd save 50 percent or more if we bought in China, do you mean from a travel agent there? Or direct from the airlines? Could we, for instance, buy all of our tickets at once when we arrived in Beijing from an agent? How likely is it that flight within a few days will still have seats? Call me anal (I AM!) but I'd freak out a bit if we got delayed a day... or several.
Others have commented on savings on flights if buying them there - anyone else with personal experience that it's THAT much of a savings?
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Old Jun 14th, 2006, 05:32 PM
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Try elong.net/ You will see that you can indeed buy tickets for 50% less.
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Old Jun 14th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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two - thanks, I checked out elongnet and when I added up the fares, they were about $920. WACT was just under $1100 (for the air only). So a decent savings, but not 50 percent. I'll compare again when the trip gets closer - am still not confident about being able to get the flights we want within days of taking them. THANKS SO MUCH!!
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Old Jun 15th, 2006, 12:43 AM
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>>>>>
anyone else with personal experience that it's THAT much of a savings?
>>>>

to help clear up some of this speculation, i will directly compare two flight fares from althom's wacts post with the fares that i paid booking in china:

althom's fare:
Kunming - Guilin, US$242 for 2 passengers inclusive airport tax and fuel fee

my fare booked in beijing:
Kunming - Guilin, 550 RMB + approx 100 RMB tax = 650 RMB or USD 82.00 per person ($164 for 2)

althom's wacts fare:
Kunming - Lijiang - roundtirp, US$328 for 2 passengers inclusive airport tax and fuel fee

my fare booked in beijing:
Lijiang to Kumning (ONE WAY), RMB 530 + approx 100 tax = RMB 630 or $78 (ONE WAY)

Notes: this was booked in beijing by my chinese friend there. she uses this agent all the time and is very astute when it comes to chasing low fares so he does not mess around with a good customer. the flights were booked after we arrived in beijing and within a few days of the first flight. we had to pay cash (RMB).

if tax is paid by length of flight, then i have overestimated the amount of tax on these flights (i only have the total tax for all flights which i allocated equally to all - and these samples are the shorter flights).

One of the flight times was not ideal (3 hour wait in Kumning en route to guilin) due to the first choice time being full.

without my friend's help, i'm not sure how we would have chosen to do this. we gave her our internet fares and she told us not to book but that she would do it for us at a much cheaper rate. she even loaned us the money as we could not withdraw so much RMB when we had to pay!!

without her, we probably would have chosen to book from home...looking around for the best deal on the internet. i don't think we would have waited until arriving in china to book the internal flights. there are better things to do than running around to different chinese travel offices trying to get a good deal.

Finally, i don't know if it is reasonable to compare like this...after all, the flights are taken at different times and not even in the same year. however, i do believe that internal chinese flight pricing is not as fickle as it is in europe or the US.
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Old Jun 15th, 2006, 03:28 AM
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Couldn't comment on anything since haven't been to these destinations before, but would recommend several sites that we normally use when planning trips to Chinabr /> ctrip.com (lots of info, chinese comments from other travellers is exceptionally useful, might need to find a chinese friend to read them for you)
zuji.com (for airfare quoting)
China Eastern Airline
ce-air.com
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Old Jun 15th, 2006, 05:34 AM
  #27  
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Thanks - EXCELLENT info! I'll continue to comparison-shop on-line and when the trip gets closer, I'll probably book through one of them. Maybe I'm a wimp, but I'd be much more comfortable having my flights taken care of before arriving. And it sounds as if there would be some savings but not huge. My $328 RT from Kunming to Lijiang was for two people which amounts to $82, more expensive than your $78, but not by too much. And I found a rate ($59) on elongnet that was even better! And thanks x00x for the additional links. Lots of work still to do.
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Old Jun 15th, 2006, 03:48 PM
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althom, if you do your homework I'm sure you can get rooms within your budget. As for the fares, while you don't want to be seriously overcharged you can spend too much time trying to shave costs which won't make much difference to your overall budget.

Our 3* hotel in Beijing had a couple of English-speaking staff and we managed OK except once, when the word "acrobat" stumped them. It's worth remembering that most didn't learn their English from native English-speakers and they can be a bit nervous about using it. Just remember to speak clearly in simple sentences and be patient. Often the person you're speaking to will be more comfortable with the written word, so writing problem words down can be a good idea. OK, it didn't help with "acrobat", but still...
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Old Jun 16th, 2006, 08:44 AM
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Last year when we went to China, the agent told us that cities in China are divided into zones. And if you fly with Air China, you can get 1 segment almost-free to/from a city that's in the same zone as your landing point. We reqested to have domestic flights from Beijing to Chengdu, then from LanZhou to Beijing. But the 3 cities Beijing/Chendu/LanZhou are in different zones, so we ended with almost-free flights for Beijing/Chendu, Shanghai/Beijing. But you'll have to book it as part of the international tickets.

We also went to Lhasa from Chengdu, there is no discount tickets to Lhasa, also you'll need a permit before you can even buy tickets. We had a local agency in Lhasa issue the permit and bought the ticket for us. He then send the ticket/permit to Chendu for us to pickup.

We did the overland from Lahasa to LanZhou. While in Golmud, we stop by at a travel agency to arrange the next day flight leaving LanZhou. I think the chinese airlines work differently from that of US. You can get better fare close to the flying date if there are many unsold seats. At that time, there are lots of available tickets from LanZhou to Beijing, a one way ticket costs much less than $100 (something like 60% discount), while we paid an almost full fare from LanZhou to Shanghai.
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