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Private tour guides for Beijing & Shanghai

Private tour guides for Beijing & Shanghai

Oct 31st, 2010, 05:28 PM
  #1  
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Private tour guides for Beijing & Shanghai

Need some advice for the in-laws who are going to be arriving to Japan a week and a half before us. They're already sold on going to China for that time for their own little mini-trip prior to meeting up with us...and they're also pretty dead-set on wanting to see both Shanghai and Beijing.

That said, and with 7 days to do that in...I figure they'll spend 4 days in one place, 3 in another. I would assume Beijing would be far more interesting for sights and culture so that probably would make sense to be the 4 day place.

This brings me to my question. I abhor group tours--as do they--but I wonder if there are any agencies/tour companies who can arrange for private one-on-one guides with them in both cities. I barely have the time to plan our Japan trip, so this would make life a lot easier for both them and myself.

I'd love to get some ideas/thoughts about this from you guys. Our trip to Japan is rife with independent travel, but for the China leg--I think life would be a lot easier all around if there was a travel outfit that specialized in "non-touristy" (for lack of a better term) individual travel packages, allowing for both freedom and an abundance of culture absorption.

Is there anything out there that might fit the bill?
filmwill is offline  
Oct 31st, 2010, 08:30 PM
  #2  
 
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Billy,

I've done, in the past, private tours by simply asking the concierge of the hotel I'm staying in to arrange for a guide and a car. This might not be the most economical option but pending the inputs from others it's a good fail safe way of doing it privately.
Hanuman is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 02:57 AM
  #3  
 
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You really don't need a guide in either place (and if you read some of the China threads here you'll find that you'll probably be better off without one). A taxi and a good guidebook or two would work better. You'd get a better rate picking a taxi off the street than having a hotel arrange it, and for Beijing, aside from visiting the Great Wall, you just need a taxi between sights - they'll use the meter and you don't tip. Or use the metro - cheap and easy. Just get the hotel to write the destination in Chinese characters, and take the hotel card. Any good guidebook will list the most important sights, you don't need a guide to figure that out.

For Shanghai, use the metro, or taxis. Consider a day trip to Suzhou or Hangzhou - take the train.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 06:55 AM
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It's been a long time since I have felt comfortable answering a travel question about China but the air has finally cleared in here enough to do so.

Both great suggestions above. We did both and they worked out fine except I never felt that I was better off without a guide in fact quite the contrary. In Xian and Beijing we used the services of China Trip Advisor against the strong warnings of a certain former poster and couldn't have been more happy with their service(you can read my trip report on China)

http://www.chinatripadvisor.com/english/

Yes they were a little more expensive than doing it yourself but so worth the little extra you pay imho.

We also hired a guide from the Peninsula the way Hanuman suggests above for convenience and although again, it could have saved us a few dollars by walking out to the street the day before and finding an English speaking taxi driver who would take you out to the countryside the next day and then negotiate a fee with him but........just didn't want the hassle that day and the savings so little (imho)really didn't mean much to me although I know to others with a different travel style I committed the sin of sins,lol

If it were my inlaws, I would suggest that they ask the concierge for a driver as Hanuman suggests and use this tour site if interested in one.

If they feel "independence" setting in after a couple of days they can cancel whatever they want and set things up themselves.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 06:58 AM
  #5  
 
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I think one would waste an awful lot of time searching for an English-speaking taxi driver in either of those cities!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 07:01 AM
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BTW we did the private tour with CTA and not the bus/group ones
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 07:09 AM
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Yes, forget the English-speaking taxi driver! That's why you need your destination(s) written in Chinese characters. My guide book had place names in both pinyin and characters, and often I just copied the characters onto a piece of paper myself. (Much easier in mainland China with the simplified characters!) For point-to-point trips you don't negotiate, the driver will use the meter. (If for some reason you get one who doesn't, get out!) If you want to go to the Great Wall and have him wait, then you'll need a calculator or pen and paper to exchange prices.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 09:25 AM
  #8  
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Thanks, guys. I think them finding a cab driver and having to jot down all those names is too much work for them. No offense, since I think WE would travel that way--but I promised them I'd do most of the leg-work for them...and I think handing them a guidebook and telling them to find an English speaking cabbie is more like a challenge from the Amazing Race than a vacation for them.

So I'll definitely look into the company you mentioned, HT. Were they easy to deal with? Easy to communicate with (English-wise)? Willing to customize trips other than those posted on their site? Looking at their site, the only thing that worried me were their (seemingly pre-packaged) "private tours", complete with Peking duck dinner. My initial reaction was that didn't seem very personalized or unique.

Sounds like the concierge is a good last resort.

I guess I was hoping that there would be those 'special' guides that others have used over and over and raved about (much like Tong or Ponheary)...ones that specialize in the area and offer a unique experience--but maybe that's just a SE Asia thing?
filmwill is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 12:12 PM
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There is a driver some have used here but not anything like in SE Asia, Konlin maybe was his name....... No special service drivers like Tong as all are just trying to make more money than everyone else as is the way in China. The only good deal you will get in China(if you ever get one)would have to be bargained for in person and get used to the phrase 'your killing me, your killing me" with a lot of drama if you choose to go that route,lol.

Yes I found CTA easy to communicate with by email and they did offer private tour guide/driver services if you want in Beijing. The added things like the Peking Dinner or added shopping stops are ways the driver makes his "squeeze" money but you know that already and should either be avoided and let the driver and tour co. know in advance. I did that in my Xian tour but the driver stopped anyways claiming he never got the memo so instead of arguing I got out and got to use an A/C very clean bathroom which we had to do anyways and bought nothing, saved face all the way around and got needed relief at the same time

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 03:02 PM
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Kong Lin is a good guide in Beijing. Ekscrunchy probably still has his E-mail. We used hime for two days. One to the Great Wall and another to the Dirt Market, Pearl Market, the Summer Palace and some other fun things. His English is very good.
Gpanda is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 03:03 PM
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Gee, look at all these useful responses, tailored to what Filmwill needs for his in-laws. Will wonders never cease?
Kathie is offline  
Nov 1st, 2010, 03:52 PM
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Here is the info for KongLin that I have, but his e-mail may have changed in the interim. (I hired him and in 2007)

Try it and see if it works; if not, someone else here will have more current contact info:


[email protected]

His cell phone number is:

131-46901596
ekscrunchy is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2010, 01:50 PM
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We used Kong Lin this past summer (July 2010)using others recommendations here. We were very pleased with him. He took us to the Great Wall location that we requested and also got us show tickets that we asked about. We were very pleased with him. He has a nice air conditioned van. Taxi drivers were out of the question as none of them spoke English. Also, we stayed at Raffles and found the concierge prices of the drivers they recommended to be twice as expensive! I have Kong Lin's card and the email and phone # the ekscrunchy gave are still correct. But there is also this listed as his email: [email protected]
agswimmer is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 06:11 AM
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You might want to check the TripAdvisor forum as well. There's a lot of traffic on that forum for both Beijing and Shanghai, with lots of reviews of drivers and guides. Take some of the reviews with a grain of salt, but there are a lot to choose from there.

Even with a guide or driver, it might be a good idea to print out the Chinese characters and English meanings for a few places or phrases for your in-laws to take with. That way, no matter what happens, they can get the basic ideas across.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 07:02 AM
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another Kong Lin fan...and his wife Violet, although she was not with us at any time. But Kong Lin was excellent and very accomdating. We used him about a week before or after EK did. Send him an email and he'll work out an itinerary. I don't recall his exact fee but it was very competitive because we had checked out a few others.
tower is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 09:48 PM
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bookmarking
flyme2themoon is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 09:48 PM
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flyme2themoon is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 01:05 PM
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We used Kong Lin as well. Both he and his wife Violet escorted us around for about 4 days. They both speak English and were very helpful.

We used Shen Shen in Shanghai you can google him. He took us around using taxis and charged us a flat fee. We really enjoyed his tour which included lunch. I think EK went with him too if I am not mistaken as I remember talk of the kiri crab dumplings.
emdee is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 01:56 PM
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emdee, thanks for your feedback. we are considering the use of a guide to do the great wall, as a day trip. we plan to venture out on our own within beijing to do the popular sites, i.e. forbidden city, TS, summer palace, etc.
do you know how much we should expect to pay a taxi/local prefererably english speaking guide to go to the great wall, maybe the Badaling section? from my research, it seems Badaling is the easiest and fastest to get to as well as the easier hike, however the most "touristy". we don't mind the touristy part in favor of accessibility and proximity to our hotel in beijing in the wanfujing area.

to all china knowledgable poster, please chime in your opinions. thanks in advance.
flyme2themoon is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 02:00 PM
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...knowledgable posters. (lest the grammar cop issues me an infraction ticket)
flyme2themoon is offline  

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