Local tour guides in Beijing

Old Aug 28th, 2001, 09:03 AM
  #1  
Linda
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Local tour guides in Beijing

I have seen the Dragon Tours website and it looks alright, but has anyone had experience with them? Can anyone out there recommend other local Beijing tour company? I'm also interested in the best tours to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. Thanks so much, Linda
 
Old Aug 28th, 2001, 01:44 PM
  #2  
Michael
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Linda,

Actually it's very easy to go to China and travel on your own. And, you can see a lot more (and not have to put up with bad restaurants/cheap shopping trips that most tours subject you to)and be more comfortable hiring a car and driver for the day.
 
Old Aug 29th, 2001, 07:15 PM
  #3  
Elaine
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Michael, have you had experience in hiring a private car and driver in Bejing? Is it best to hire one through a hotel concierge? What is the average cost per day? Would you suggest a private driver in Hong Kong too?
 
Old Aug 31st, 2001, 07:31 PM
  #4  
Jeff
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Linda and Elaine

We just returned from Beijing in July. We hired a driver through our concierge at the Crowne Plaza. His name is Tony Yan and he works at CITS. He can be reached by phone (0086) 13801057853 or email [email protected]. He speaks excellent English and drives a new black Audi 100. Our fee was about 900 Yuan for approximately 11hrs but he said it would have been about 600-700 if we had called direct.

We hired Tony to take us to the Great Wall at Jinshanling which was about a 3hr drive given traffic (pay for the airport express-15 Yuan). We hiked from Jinshanling to Simatai which takes about 3-5hrs depending on how slow you want to go but you have to arrange the pick up time in advance obviously.

Tony is also available to drive around Beijing and previously worked as a tour guide for CITS for several years so he should be an excellent guide.

Hope this helps.
Jeff
 
Old Sep 2nd, 2001, 08:04 AM
  #5  
Peter Neville-Hadley
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The walk on/alongside the Wall described above, but if you want to do it independently, you can.

You can use public transport for a tenth of the price quoted above, or organise your own cab for little more than a third of the prices quoted above.

Involving concierges, CITS, or any other tourist-industry third parties, however charming, will always add hugely to your costs, although increase your convenience.

There's certainly no need whatsoever for a guide around Beijing itself or to take a tour unless convenience matters above all else and time is very short indeed.

And for trips out of town to many destinations there are Chinese tour buses running for far lower prices than companies like Dragon or Panda offer.

The Great Wall location mentioned in the same breath as the Ming Tombs is always the (now unfashionable, but just the same as it's always been) Badaling. Airconditioned express buses run directly to the site from Deshengmen (just east of metro Jishuitan on the metro's circle line for around US$1, giving you all the time there you want rather than being harried to keep up with the tour schedule).

In short, you can handle Beijing by yourself quite easily if you want to. The flat-fare metro system is the best way to get around--station names are written in Roman letters, and onboard announcements tell you the next station in English. Taxis (hailed in the street, not from your hotel or waiting outside major tourist site) are cheap and mostly reliable. Get your hotel reception staff to write down your destination for you (if your guide book is poor enough not to have the characters already), and take a hotel name card to get back again. Carry a bi-lingual map and you'll be able to follow the route.

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
 
Old Sep 4th, 2001, 08:54 AM
  #6  
Linda
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Thanks for the information about getting around in/around Beijing. It looks like we'll be able to handle our touring easily. However, for the Forbidden City we would really like a very knowledgeable tour guide who can explain what we're looking at and tell stories about the past. Not just a driver to drop us off. Any tips? Thanks again, Linda
 
Old Sep 4th, 2001, 04:02 PM
  #7  
gayle
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Hi Linda, we are booked to go to Beijing in early Oct and touring independently. As to the Forbidden city I have read that there are headsets with Peter Ustinov's tapes which you can hire to use as your tour the FCity - You may want something more personal, but this lets you set the pace.
 
Old Sep 5th, 2001, 08:13 AM
  #8  
Linda
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Gayle, Do I rent them at the Forbidden CIty along with buying admission tickets? If so, that's the way to go. Thanks so much, Linda
 
Old Sep 5th, 2001, 09:50 AM
  #9  
Peter Neville-Hadley
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The English headsets at the Forbidden City actually have narration by Roger Moore. Taking those, then wandering by yourself with a decent guide book is your best option. The problem with the tour is that it simply takes you straight up the middle of the site, through the main halls, and misses out the less impressive but more appealing halls and gardens to either side, which are on a far more human and intimate scale. It also skips various exhibitions, most of which are appallingly lit and displayed, but others, such as the exhibition of clocks, essential viewing.

So wander with Moore by all means, then double back down the east side and see the Well of the Pearl Concubine (good story this), the halls to which Cixi nominally retired and their exhibitions of jewellery etc., Qianlong's garden where he used to play literary drinking games, and the theatre (this only opened to the public a couple of years ago) where Cixi indulged her love of Beijing opera.

Then cross to the west side and go north again through myriad smaller halls which once house adminstrators and superannuated concubines, including one with a startling trompe-l'oeil designed to make you believe that its terrace extends infinitely into the distance.

Guides may pester you at the main entrance as you buy your ticket, but many are terribly unreliable, few really know anything about Chinese history and simply want to impress you with any old nonsense they may or may not believe themselves, and some are looking to run some kind of scam on you. Not recommended.

Peter N-H
Information about Travel in China
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
 

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