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Need impressions of the China Focus - Splendid China Tour

Need impressions of the China Focus - Splendid China Tour

Old Mar 13th, 2008, 07:39 AM
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Need impressions of the China Focus - Splendid China Tour

If you have taken this tour, can you give me your impression of the tour operation, cost, overall experience and defintely any red flags?

Thank you.
glorye is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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We have traveled with China Focus out of San Fran to China twice.

The first trip was 23 days and was outstanding in every respect.

We returned with China Focus again a couple years later and included Tibet this time. The tour was very good but not as outstanding as our first.

It was fast paced and we saw and did so much and I don't know how they can do it all so inexpensively.

I use to refer to this tour as a CHAMPAYNE TOUR ON A BEER BUDGET.


We now travel with small group tours - Grand Circle's OAT.

Hard to beet the price of China Focus. We really felt they were 'connected' with the Chinese government!

Egypt2008 is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2008, 07:58 PM
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Red flags:

A higher number of stopping shops than any other tour company I've investigated.

Widespread spamming of Internet sites by company members including attacks on anyone with a negative view.

Actual price is considerably higher than published since absurd levels of tipping are 'recommended' (which means effectively unavoidable--one guide has said publicly that if you don't want to tip you shouldn't come). There is no tipping in China except that which is foisted on hapless tour groups in this way so any tip recommendation at all is an abuse of the paying customer. But this company's recommendations are particularly high.

Offensive and ridiculous recommendation that you should bring US$1 bills. The currency of China is the Yuan RMB, at about 7.5 (and falling) to US$1. This is the currency you need for all shopping, and anyone expressing a willingness to take foreign currency (even US$1 for a Coca-Cola) is taking you for a ride. (A Coca-Cola is around Y2.5, or a third of US$1.)

Poor food at mass market made-for-tourists restaurants (according to the accounts of some travellers and of one guide).

Other complaints include hotels too far from the centre of cities so too much time in buses; being bused from one side of the city to another simply for lunch in another hotel, with a shopping 'opportunity'.

None of these complaints is unique to this company and overall they characterise the approach of the Chinese tour industry. But while in China you don't necessarily get what you pay for, paying a rock bottom price guarantees you'll be taken in other ways, and the shenanigans here seem egregious.

Incidentally, the expression 'champagne tour on a beer budget' was often used by one poster on another board who used different aliases to shower it with postings in praise of China Focus over a number of years, including one that did nothing more than list all the company's China tours for that year. She also had travelled twice with the company. She also posted her slogan in CAPS.

Questions to ask any tour company you may be considering:

1. How many shopping stops will there be?

Some (but very few) have none at all. Some keep it down to as few as they possibly can (remember that however global the name of the company with which you book, most are using the same sets of ground handlers--local companies with their own agendas). It is very unwise indeed to shop at these stops, or to take the advice of Chinese guides on a 'fair price'. So you'll be sitting these out. Just how much sitting out will you be doing?

2. What's the advice on tipping?

A few have it right: there is no tipping and any overheads of that kind (effectively bribes) they can't avoid are included up front in the tour cost. What you see is what you pay. A few more admit (this is dealing with local ground handlers again) that some shenanigans of this kind cannot be avoided, but they run a tipping kitty, and the sums given out are in the context of the local economy: in cents not dollars.

3. Will there be a tour guide/manager from my own country (or other developed nation) with the group throughout?

This is worth paying for. Many ground handlers play fast and loose with their agreements with the foreign company, substituting lower grade hotel rooms on the quiet, or inserting extra shopping stops. Experienced foreign tour managers nip this kind of thing in the bud, and ensure quality control throughout.

General advice: Book nothing on-line with an otherwise unknown Chinese entity. Pay more to book with a familiar name even though the tour will cost more: If something goes wrong you can bring the compensation standards and mercantile law of your own country to bear. China Focus, by the way, although appearing to be a U.S. company (and possibly with a U.S. subsidiary) is in fact mainland Chinese owned.

Peter N-H
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Old Mar 30th, 2008, 08:52 PM
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If you want to avoid shopping ops, and tipping, and are willing to use local transport and stay in lower-end hotels, take a look at Intrepid - www.intrepidtravel.com.au. I've taken four tours with them, one (Beijing to Rawalpindi) included China. They have excellent itineraries at very reasonable cost, although the leaders on my tours varied from very good to mediocre.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:19 PM
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Several years ago I toured with China Focus and it was an amazing trip. Mine was very fast paced as I was only in country 9 days which included 4 cities. My friends went the next year on a longer tour that included the Yangzee River and thought it was one of their better tours.

I would not hesitate to book with them again. The guides were excellent and very little time was spent (wasted?) on shopping. I only want to stay longer the next time.
nancy is offline  
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