Questions about our Silk Road tour

Old Sep 9th, 2017, 07:25 PM
  #1  
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Questions about our Silk Road tour

We have finalized our itinerary of our Silk Road tour to China and will take off very soon. I am travelling with my husband and my adult daughter; we will be going to Lanzhou - Xiahe – Tongren - Xining - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi in a 14-day private tour with one local tour guide and a driver in each of the city. We will take a high speed train from Xining to Zhangye, also from Dunhuang to Turpan. I still have some questions and hope that the Fodor’s community will give me answers and pointers.

1. How much money to bring? How much should we tip the tour guide and the driver on a daily basis? We will have different local guides and drivers in different cities. Also, our tour will not include any dinners. For the cities in our itinerary, do we need to pay cash? How much in average should we prepare to bring for 14 dinners?

2. When we are in Xiahe, we will visit a Tibetan family. What kind of a gift should we give them? I would prefer to bring something light weight.

3. Since we will take 2 domestic flights inside China, and it is indicated that the hand luggage should not exceed 11 pounds, which is kind of impossible; does anyone know if the airlines actually weigh the hand luggage?

4. We are flying into Beijing and then take a flight to Lanzhou. Should we get a phone SIM card in Beijing or Lanzhou? We are using T-Mobile; does anyone have any experience of using T-Mobile without domestic SIM card in the Silk Road cities? Any possibilities of using the Internet in those cities?

5. Some of our friends of friends had been to the Silk Road more than 12 years ago and had horror stories about toilets (or lack of toilets). My husband said that the situation must have been changed. Is he right or should I and my daughter be worried?

Thank you folks!
KML28 is offline  
Old Sep 10th, 2017, 06:15 AM
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1- don't try to guess how much, just use ATMs every once in a while. There is no tipping in China.
2- No idea. Is this a commercial thing? I mean, are you paying for this? If so, I would not bring a gift.
3- You have hand luggage over 11 pounds? What are you carrying. Put is in checked luggage. Some airports in Xinjiang are very strict. In Urumqi, my friend had to check a small suitcase because it had telescoping handles.
4- I do not use T-Mobile but I understand that they have an international package. It depends what you plan to use it for. You guides and drivers will not call an international number. If you have a smartphone, install WeChat and create n account. Give your id to the guides and drivers. Everybody is using WeChat in China. If you plan to use the net a lot then maybe you can get a Chinese SIM. You can get one at the Beijing airport or buy one online from China Unicom and have it delivered at your first hotel. You can use the internet in all these cities but understand that some sites are blocked such as most Google products and Facebook, unless you have a VPN.
5- I don't remember toilets being a big issue. however understand that you may sometimes be in remote places where facilities are basic, very basic. It's all part of the adventure.
I am surprised that you are not going to Kashgar. It certainly beats Jiayuguan or Urumqi.
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Old Sep 10th, 2017, 07:23 AM
  #3  
 
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I traveled the Chinese end of the Silk Road (and the Karakorum Highway into Pakistan) back in 2001, and the toilet situation was indeed dire. I imagine it has probably improved in the bigger cities, but I would recommend that you should still expect to squat rather than sit, and make sure to carry your own toilet paper and Purell or equivalent at all times.

I agree that Kashgar is probably still more interesting than Urumqi, although I understand it has been considerably rebuilt by the Han Chinese since I was there.

Note that your internet usage will be subject to the "great Chinese firewall". You might try using a VPN but your access to sites may still be restricted.

T-Mobile says that its international coverage includes China.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Sep 10th, 2017, 08:14 AM
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Thank you CananaChinaTraveller and thursdaysd for your prompt answers.
I need to clarify a bit about hand luggage. I believe they are the same as carry-on bags. I weighed my empty bag, it is already 7.5 lbs! So 11 lbs would only allow me to put in 3.5 lbs of contents in it.
The tour company recommends giving US$22 per day per group to the guide, and US$11 per day per group to the driver. Does it sound too much? However, since the 3 of us will be in a private group and that's all that they will get.
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Old Sep 10th, 2017, 08:28 AM
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If your bag weighs that much empty you need a new bag.

I don't travel with companies that require tipping in China, so I can't help with that.
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Old Sep 10th, 2017, 04:20 PM
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Yes, you need a new bag. I travel a lot and have mastered the art of traveling light. I can't think of a suitcase that is so heavy let alone a carry-on bag!
CanadaChinaTraveller is online now  
Old Sep 11th, 2017, 12:41 AM
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This is what I found by Googling:
If you are travel independently, we suggest $5--$8 per guest per day as tips for tour guide and $3--$5 USD to the driver and about 1$ for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service when you are traveling in a small party like 2 to 5 members.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 03:40 AM
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"...we suggest..." - who is "we"? One can't make a general statement like this. Guides and drivers get a lot of kickbacks already. Every shopping stop they get a kickback; every restaurant they get a kickback. Even if you do not buy, some shops will pay drivers and guides just to bring you there. This is one reason why you need to ensure that there be no shopping stops including those disguised as factory visits.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:41 AM
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Yes, where did you find this dubious advice? And why is the advice, there and from your tour company, in USD? The Chinese use yuan and so should you.
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Old Sep 12th, 2017, 08:14 AM
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> If you are travel independently, we suggest $5--$8 per guest per day as tips for tour guide and $3--$5 USD to the driver and about 1$ for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service when you are traveling in a small party like 2 to 5 members.

Utterly offensive and completely false.

There is NO tipping in China except that insisted on by foreigners incapable of coping with the idea that there are other cultures with different norms, and that foisted upon the inexperienced foreigner by greedy tour operators as a way of hiking up their income. Some guides refer to tipping as 'stupid foreigner tax' (本老外费).

In China bell boys and concierges are paid to do their jobs. Guides commonly receive massive kick-backs from every transaction involving a foreigner at which they are present, and the content of tour itineraries is often driven by which restaurants and shops are willing to hand over a proportion of what is spent.

The price you negotiate for goods and services is what you pay, and not a penny more. Any tour company offering the self-serving 'advice' quoted above is one to which you should give a wide berth.
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