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Looking for private guides in beijing and hong kong

Looking for private guides in beijing and hong kong

Mar 5th, 2008, 01:03 PM
Original Poster
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Looking for private guides in beijing and hong kong

1-Do you know any excellent guides or guide services to see the sights in and around Beijing as well as a general city tour of hong kong?
Would like someone with good english speaking skills and nice historical input. Someone who knows the best way to view the sights.

2-What is the best hotel in Macao?
bbk511 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 01:26 PM
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2. At this moment, the Wynn should be the nicest.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 07:44 PM
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I don't know about Beijing but,unless you particularly want a guide in Hong Kong, I would say forget it and do it yourself. It is very easy to get around, signs in English which is also widely spoken and the transport system is fantastic. Good luck!
Peteralan is offline  
Mar 6th, 2008, 05:38 PM
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I live in Hong Kong and generally donít think one needs a tour guide here as the tourist bits within the city itself are quite compact or reachable easily by public transport. Signage is in English and English is so widely spoken; however there is a gentlemen who gives excellent, historically-based tours. He also gives tours of Macau which I have not done, but I would believe would be just as good. His name is Jason Wordie. See www.jasonswalks.com. You might want to get his book called "Streets, Exploring Hong Kong Island", and use it as a base for your own touring. You can buy it at local bookstores here in Hong Kong. I should stress that Jason will not take you on the Peak Tram or the Star Ferry (which are very interesting in themselves) or on any shopping tours, he does historical walking tours (one of which includes a walk on parts of the Peak).

There are some bus-type tours of Hong Kong as well, I donít think I would recommend them, as I have heard they are fairly canned, and also most everything that you want to see in Hong Kong is best seen on foot or is actually restricted to pedestrians only (like much of the Peak walking areas, the esplanade along the harbour on the Kowloon side or the wonderful street markets of Wan Chai). However, take a look at the website for the Hong Kong tourist authority at discoverhongkong.com.

Hotels in Macau would be of variable quality, people are not really there for a good hotel. The Wynn is OK I would think, but Wynn is not known as a hotelier of course, he runs very profitable casinos that have hotel rooms in them. I think that the Mandarin would be a good hotel choice. I also like the Posada de Sao Tiago for charm, I believe that they have had a redo recently. Take a look at http://www.saotiago.com.mo/main_e.html. While not in the historic core proper, it is in an interesting area and has some nice sea views.

For Beijing, a car and driver are useful, but again an actual guide may not be. There are audiotapes for many sights, like the Forbidden City, that are actually quite good. If you have done some background reading, and have a map of the area, I think you can get along very well without a guide, and the car and driver makes it all very handy. Many sights like Tiananmen Square, Maoís Mausoleum or the Great Wall, really donít require a guide. The Summer Palace might be one place where a guide is useful as it is so large, however, with a good guidebook (try the Eyewitness Series) I think you can do well there too. I have found guides to be of such varying quality that I am not sure whether to recommend one. There is nothing like Scale Reale in China (would but there wereÖ.)
Cicerone is offline  
Mar 7th, 2008, 05:15 AM
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Hi,look here http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=27.it has been posted here many times,just do a reserch.
Violet_1125 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2008, 09:30 AM
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There really is no need for a guide in Beijing. You have a choice of multiple sources of information in better English giving far more accurate historical and background information than you can possibly get from a local guide. If you must have some kind of English in your ear, then very many sites now have electronic audio tours, although again the information is less than exact.

Getting around town is best accomplished by subway (metro) as much as possible as the traffic is unbelievably slow for most of the day. If you must travel by surface means than taxis are a vastly cheaper option than car or driver, picked up whenever you want one (they are everywhere). Simply have the characters for your destination to hand, and take the hotel's business card to show when you want to return. More up-market hotels routinely hand these out and they also often have the characters on them for popular destinations around town.

Most of Beijing's signage is now bi-lingual, as are announcements on the subway. You can certainly do this by yourself, and will end up much better informed (and better fed, come to that) if you do.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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you can contact the good guide:
[email protected]

beijing_tour_guide is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 10:41 AM
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There you are. A demonstration of how principled private tour guides in China can be, and how good their English is.
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 06:09 AM
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i am reviving this thread in hopes that PeterN_H or someone knowledgeable will see it.

Getting around by subway was mentioned earlier as was that announcements ON the subway are "made in English."

My question is: are any of the subway station signs in English as well as in Chinese?

It is a little difficult to read a subway map which has no English at all if you have no understanding of Chinese characters.

My other question is in terms of subway ticketing. I assume you buy them from machines nbut do those machines have any English-language instructions?

Dukey is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Would anyone really recommend regular visitors to do something that was completely inscrutable?

English and Romanized Chinese (called 'pinyin') are everywhere across Beijing. All subway maps have both Chinese characters in pinyin. Each platform tells you the next station as well as its own name.

Subway entrances are marked with the Beijing subway sign of a D (for 'ditie', meaning subway) in a circle.

But if you are going to China you'd best take a guide book that also gives the Chinese names for restaurants and other places of interest and be prepared to compare the shapes enough to make sure you're showing the right characters to the taxi driver and that you've arrived at the right destination. You have to make just that little effort.

Why do you assume you buy tickets from machines? That is forecast to be on the way but for now you buy tickets from counters. There's a flat fare of ¥2 for each journey, so this isn't difficult, except for the (recently much reduced) pushing and shoving. If you're spending a few days in Beijing then it's best to go to the counter with the letters 'IC' over it and buy an 'yi ka tong'--a stored value card which can just be waved over detectors as you go down to the platform (and in some cases leave the station), and which also works on buses. There's no need to speak Mandarin. Just thrust ¥50 or so over the counter and you'll be given a card with ¥30 in stored value (the ¥20 is a deposit), good enough for 15 trips (or give more or less, depending on your needs, and buses are typically ¥0.40 per trip to card holders, ¥1 if paying cash). Reacquiring the deposit is a matter of going to a handful of offices or one particular subway station (Fucheng Men) but sparing yourself the need to line-up every time you go on the subway or having the right change for buses is worth the US$3 loss if you can't be bothered.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 09:49 AM
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Dukey: you can go into wikipedia and the "Beijing Subway"


Here you'll see pictures of the subway signs at street level as well as the signs inside the stations. They are clearly marked in both English and Chinese.

There are also maps of the metro system. The two older lines are like a cross. Then there are two circular lines. Three more lines are being before the Olympics. Each line has a different color code for easier identification.

The Beijing subway is a wonderful way to get around the city as it is fast and clean. Up on street-level, traffic is chaotic and there are frequent traffic jams.

If you can get anywhere on the subway, choose that.

Beijing would be just as any other big city that you choose to visit. You can either visit the major sights on your own, or, if you are pressed for time, hire a guide. to get out to see the Great Wall, you will need to either hire a car for a day or go with a tour group. Every hotel that I've stayed in has a Tour Desk and they can make arrangements for you. There is a fairly high rate for these tours, so if it is at all possible, do the touring on your own.
easytraveler is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 12:04 PM
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It's probably worth pointing out that the map at the top of the Wikipedia link given is already out of date, as part of Line 10 opened a few weeks ago. In general your only authoritative source is the maps at platform level, and these usually only get changed on the day any new line opens.

A further stretch towards the west will open before the Olympics but the rest of its circular route not until 2012. There is only one circular line until then: Line 2.

Other lines to be opened before the Olympics include Line 4 (see map lower down page), the line to the Airport, and the Olympic spur line.

Wikipedia says the ¥2 flat fare will continue indefinitely, but other sources say that a fare based on distance travelled will eventually be introduced, as in Shanghai. This seems to be supported by the fact that card reading terminals are being built at the exits of stations. If so, then ticket machines will indeed have be introduced to dispense tickets of different values, and will be easier to use (as they are in Shanghai) than talking to someone at a counter. But the yi ka tong will become even more useful at that point, working in the same way as the Octopus card in Hong Kong and the Oyster card in London, for instance.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 06:15 AM
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Hi Dukey,

We found the following website giving lots of visuals, maps and info on the Beijing subway a great help in planning our trip to Beijing last year.


Enjoy the 360 view

FurryTiles is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 12:56 PM
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I just posted a trip report on Beijing in this thread where I talked about the wonderful guides I found on this website, Konglin and Violet. I don't think it's safe (or kind) to assume that just because the English isn't perfect that they are unprincipled. At any rate, my family really enjoyed these two and as I said in my report, we were able to do so much more with much less stress with their help. If you are a seasoned traveler and are not pressed for time and do not have kids, by all means, make a go of it. Minimum, you can hire a driver to take you to the Great Wall and other distant places. If you are into hassle free travel and are pressed for time, then you won't be disappointed with Konglin. You can always let him know what you do and don't want him to do for you. If you just want a driver you can then go it alone and use the English audio tours. He'll be there at the end to pick you up and whisk you to your next activity. Hong Kong is very easy to tour on your own - you don't need a guide.
memmom is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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> I don't think it's safe (or kind) to assume that just because the English isn't perfect that they are unprincipled.

I imagine that's a proposition with which everyone would agree, and no one seems to have said anything to the contrary. But people who post here in praise of themselves and their commercial services are unprincipled, wouldn't you say?

As for principled tour guides in China, although I've met very many tour guides, and although some have even been friends, and almost all have been very charming, I've never met a principled one as we would understand the term. I don't say that they don't exist, but they are a very rare species indeed if they do.

I also say that someone who has been to Beijing and only gone round with particular guides on one occasion isn't in much of a position to say what was going on or to judge the overall situation, or to know about real pricing for doing the same things without a guide, or the difficulty (or lack thereof) of doing those things without a guide, whether with children or not.

Some people prefer guides and that's all there is to it. But those who prefer not to use them should understand there is absolutely no need for one in Beijing; that the costs of having one, both up front and hidden, can be very great; and that none are in a position to provide more reliable information that you can get from sources published overseas: in fact exactly the opposite is true. There is convenience in having a guide show up with a car and driver outside your hotel every morning, but no other advantages, and many disadvantages. Hopping around Beijing in taxis is little different, spares you the inaccurate commentary, and costs a fraction of the price (real and hidden costs included).

Take a guide if you must, but there is no necessity for one whatsoever. And caveat emptor.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 19th, 2008, 10:36 AM
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Point taken Peter and no offense intended. Just to clarify, I have traveled independently to Beijing more than "one round with particular guides on one occasion" - the earliest being in 1985 and lived in Hong Kong as well. There are many people for whom a guide is invaluable and many for whom it is a pain the rear. For those who want to use one, I had a great experience with mine. Nuff said.
memmom is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2008, 10:02 AM
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We just returned from China and did use a guide in Beijing because we only had three days and wanted to make the most of our time. While I agree that Beijing is very doable with some research and a good map we found a guide to be a very good use of our time and money. I read several reviews before I contacted the person we used and we exchanged several e-mails before we settled on an itinerary.

For about $70 USD a day we were able to hire Qing ([email protected]) a college educated young woman who spoke fluent English and was able to show us in two days Tianamen Square, The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Temple of Heaven and was a huge help at the Pearl Market. She also arranged our plane tickets by actually fronting the money for the tickets through c-trip when we were in Beijing for our next flight to Shenzhen. She got tickets at a discounted rate for both the Kung Fu show and the Acrobat show. Yes, I had checked on the prices for everything on-line and her prices were lower than what I could have gotten.

One evening she recommended a local restaurant for Peking duck and wrote out the address and our order in Chinese for the taxi driver and the waiter. When the taxi driver couldn't find the place we called her up on our cell phone and she directed him there.

For a drive up to the Great Wall at Mutianyu we hired John ([email protected])who drove us to the wall, took us to a great local spot for a late lunch afterwards and then showed us around one of the main Olympic sites before dropping us off at a local park at our request. His price was lower then the ones offered at the B&B we stayed at. John was not nearly as fluent as Qing but he was a nice young man and did a great job.

Yes, absolutely one can do Beijing guideless but having them made our trip a much more pleasant one.

toobusytoday is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2008, 11:01 AM
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Also, having a guide does not mean that you also need a car and driver. With Qing we used public transportation and the occasional taxi. We paid for the taxi's but she always used her own pass for public transportation and was able to get in free for all of the sites except for one. China is still not a bi-lingual country and it is much harder to communicate then any other country I've traveled to before.
toobusytoday is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2008, 09:56 PM
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>For about $70 USD a day we were able to hire Qing

A completely absurd price for China.

> Yes, I had checked on the prices for everything on-line and her prices were lower than what I could have gotten

But on-line from overseas is exactly where you won't find real prices.

> His price was lower then the ones offered at the B&B we stayed at.

Again, not a real-world comparison. Even the hotels targeting the most budget-oriented travellers take them for a ride on all extras like this. It would be interesting to hear what the price paid was.

> China is still not a bi-lingual country and it is much harder to communicate then any other country I've traveled to before.

Nevertheless, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people without Mandarin travel all over the country every year. If you want to have a guide, that's fine, but there's no need for one. And if you do have one be sure you're usually paying a lot more than you need to, and never put them between you and your purchases.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2008, 04:50 AM
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Actually, I had my daughter who lives in China check the prices of the flights. I also had them checked at hostels in Yangshuo and Xi'an hoping that they would go down before we got to Beijing. They went down a few dollars and looking at the prices for the same day a week previously showed that never did go down to the deep discount that we had gotten on our previous flights. Not trying to belabor the point but is there another way to look for prices IN China on ctrip or elong or even the individual airlines that is different then how I would look here in the States? Like an in-China website? I really don't understand how else I could have looked.

Some of you experienced travelers and natives are such an "insiders" in China that you don't realize that what is second nature to you is much more difficult for normal non-Mandarin speaking natives.

If the price I see for the Acrobat and Kung Fu show is one price on-line but our guide is quoting us something lower, how am I supposed to get tickets at an even lower price?

Time is money for many of us. I do have an idea of the cost of labor because my daughter is a teacher in China and earns less per month in China then she would probably make in about a week here. And yes, our guide earned more in two days than our daughter did in a week and I knew that when we agreed on the price and we still thought it was worth it afterwards.

My point about a guide is that they take out the logistics problem and with a fluent English speaker they can condense the history of a place and make it much more interesting then a guide book. While Qing was telling us the history of the Forbidden City and then later at the Summer Palace, tying the whole story together, it reminded me of the best field trips of my school years. Finally, things one had read in a book made sense and were interesting.

The guide food restaurants were also excellent choices. By ourselves it was always a crap shoot as to what we were getting but with guides or my daughter we had excellent meals for just a few dollars and they were always able to use the chinese menu instead of the English one. At one place we were given an English menu but my daughter picked up the chinese one and when the waitress saw that my daughter could read the Chinese one, she snatched the English one out of her hand but not before my daughter saw that the English one had higher prices. Talk about sneaky....

Like I said before, one certainly can get around without a guide but if you have one that you trust, it really can make a visit a better experience. I think the key is in researching and not just going by one persons opinion - even mine!
toobusytoday is offline  

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