Share a guide in Beijing in January

Nov 27th, 2008, 04:49 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 18
Share a guide in Beijing in January

I will be in Beijing January 2-5, 2009. I am a single older woman, native English speaker, looking for 1 to 3 people to share a guide for the Forbidden City, Great Wall and other main tourist spots.
Pitzikat is offline  
Nov 27th, 2008, 10:37 PM
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Could you explain what benefit you think you'll get from having a guide in Beijing? All the 'main tourist spots' are easily reached independently, and any cultural or historical background you require is infinitely more accurate if taken from materials you bring with you rather than the wildly inaccurate material of the carefully trained guides. Having a guide your flexibility is reduced, you are certain to be overcharged, and unless particularly cautious will be taken to shops and restaurants at which the guide received substantial kick-backs to your detriment.

Getting from A to B in Beijing is as simple as waving the characters for your destination at a taxi driver. Taxis are metered, and very cheap. The metro system has plentiful English signage and announcements and will whip you around the city even quicker for less than 30 US cents per ride. There are direct aircon bus options for the Great Wall that will get you there for US$2 giving you as much time there as you feel you want (and without a visit to a cloisonne factory).

Most guide books can give you details, supplementary information is available here from many voices, and a little reading will prepare you better for the cultural aspects than any guide can.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Nov 28th, 2008, 01:56 AM
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One of the ways of identifying a good guide is by observing the diplomatic and professional manner they go about their work - a worker who understands the interests and needs of their clients.

In a way we here – we who answer the queries of would-be China visitors are also guides - and also need to show a similar understanding manner when writing our posts - especially to those who tell us in the opening lines of their post that they're a single older traveler.

So translating the last post into good-guidespeak – it’s quite possible to get around Beijing on your own, but if you are looking for the company of a guide - watch out there are a few bad ones out there.

laowai is offline  
Nov 28th, 2008, 10:07 AM
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So the argument is that because the traveller is 'a single older woman' she ought to believe (contrary to fact) that peculiar to her circumstances:

Beijing guides are actually well-informed about their culture and history and willing and able to tell the truth

Their charges are actually reasonable

They never take kick-backs.

And not that (as is the fact) these statements are almost universally true of Beijing guides, and their behaviour is not unsurprisingly independent of the nationality, gender, and age of the people being 'guided', who are best served by a frank description of the potential pitfalls and the ease of simply going about by oneself, whatever their age or gender, and not by mealy-mouthed equivocation.

Perhaps one might not look to someone who is a guide in China, and who advertises his services here (although otherwise indeed one might expect far better service from a foreign guide than from a native one), for an entirely independent and accurate view on such matters.

But I expect readers have worked that out for themselves.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Nov 28th, 2008, 11:55 AM
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"especially to those who tell us in the opening lines of their post that they're a single older traveler" - I'm a single older (female) traveler. I have managed just fine in China without a guide. I resent the suggestion that I somehow need special treatment because of my age or because I travel solo.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 28th, 2008, 04:43 PM
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pitz---i hope you get an answer to your seems perfectly reasonable to me... if you want a guide you want one...period ---end of discussion...

can someone assist this person please..
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 29th, 2008, 10:00 PM
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So, according to the remarks above, if someone decides they want something one should just point them towards it, regardless of possibly negative results?

If they ask about where to rent a car in Beijing, for instance, one should just point them to Avis, and not ask whether they understand that only those with residence permits for Beijing and who have passed a Chinese driving test can actually drive there?

And if someone asks how much a taxi to the airport is one shouldn't also mention the convenient new train service, and how traffic delays can be avoided by using that instead, just in case they are interested?

And if someone asks how to get to a certain shop one shouldn't mention an alternative with the same goods at half the price?

This is, to say the least, counter-intuitive and apparently contrary to the purpose of this forum. The original poster (and, importantly, many others who read this) may still decide to hire a guide, but that decision will be a better-informed one, and made with the understanding of what alternatives there may be, and that not all the benefits usually expected from hiring a guide will be available (and that there may be some unexpected costs).

Perhaps postings that offer concrete advice and information are more helpful than those that simply suggest others should not offer such advice?
PeterN_H is offline  
Nov 30th, 2008, 08:31 AM
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Posts: 326
I am a single, solo female 50+ and it would have been really nice to have a GOOD guide in Beijing. It may seem easy to just got to Tiananmen Sq. but I know I would have gotten alot more out of it with a GOOD guide.
There are many organized bus tours to the Great Wall and I would suggest them. Leo Hostel and Wangfujing Hostel offer them and you do not have to be staying there to book it. And they don't do any "Shopping" stops.
As much as I dislike organized tours, when I returned from China I felt that a GOOD guide for a day or 2 in each city would have enriched my trip.
lollylo25 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 05:14 PM
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On TA there is thread going where several people have recommended a certain guide - it all looks genuine. The link to thread is -

laowai is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 08:51 AM
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Further evidence, if any were needed, that Trip Advisor is the blind leading the blind, and often the duped leading the soon to be duped. The page itself (recommended by someone who has an interest in promoting the idea of using guides in China and who advertises here) brings up the fact that many postings and recommendations on that site are fake, and provided by the owners of businesses or guides themselves. There are few less reliable sources of accurate information.

The endorsements of the guide mentioned are not 'several', but precisely two. And the ability of those making the recommendation to judge whether quality information was received is unknown. Whether the original posting is the guide or has any link to her is still open to question. We've seen similar posts here from people who are 'just friends' of guides.

It is stated that shopping stops are avoided, but the price for the guide and for the optional car and driver are high in the local context. And there remains no question of obtaining accurate historical information from such a source, although this is usually the minimum one expects from guides.

A clearer picture of what is more typically the situation with Chinese guides is given in another posting by the only commentator who can be demonstrated to be genuine:

But contrary to the recommendation later in that post, no one should be booking unknown Chinese guides from the Web for reasons already given, and it goes without saying that spammers should be avoided.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 09:01 AM
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Sorry, early morning inability to count. Four postings on the thread recommend the guide or mention having travelled with her, but two amount to no more than that mention, providing no further detail, and are thus of no use (and may also be fake).

Incidentally, in addition to problems with ignorance and cupidity with independent Chinese guides booked on-line, there can also be problems with licensing and insurance. Maximum caution is needed.
PeterN_H is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 10:39 PM
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I have been to the Forbidden City and Great Wall. Having a tour guide will make your trip easier and interesting. Not all the guides are eager for money. They just doing there best to serve tourists and get what they deserve. Don't be so nervous about the tour guide in China. Most of the experienced guides are polite.
chinatravelexpert is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 11:27 PM
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Don't worry folk - I don't think any guides are dangerous – the big problem is the bad ones (and I think there are a lot of them out there) can be a massive waste of time and money. Never pay upfront for anything that's not licensed or insured - otherwise you'll be looking for trouble.

As for finding the good guide - well forums are a great place to start - by looking at recommendations - AND, FOR FURTHER SCRUTINY, FOLLOW UP LEADS BY TRYING TO MAKE CONTACT WITH THOSE WHO CLAIM TO GIVING GOOD INFO.

Guides aren't evil - but they are interested in money - after all they are just trying to make a living. China has a huge unemployment rate, many of the jobs are low-paying others work may involve health-risk (industry and construction) and some maybe mind-numbingly boring - so no need to begrudge the locals in their efforts to profit from foreign tourists in an interesting profession. But lets try and insure that when tourist pennies are spent, a good service is provided.

But most important - is to rid this thread of any "I can do it alone - so anybody who uses a guide must be stupid" theme. Nobody forces anybody to use a guide. But if somebody wishes to hire one - lets respect that choice.

laowai is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 06:28 AM
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And in case anyone isn't entirely clear about this, the two postings above are from... guides.
PeterN_H is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 06:44 PM
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Are guides a sort of second-class being who aren't allowed to voice an opinion

As long as the information is factual, logical and of use to the traveler - and not spun just to advertise a service - I don't think it matters where it comes from.

As for analyzing that info - and trying to sort to good from the bad - well its all well and good giving warnings - but I think most folk here can sort out any forum scammers. It's those travelers who don't plan, who don’t read these kinds of forums that, who come unprepared that most often fall fowl to bad service.

There are good guides out there - it just takes a little detective work to find them.
Remember there’s wealth of good info out there on China travel – and like my on blog on Chengdu/Sichuan travel – it isn’t all advertising garbage!!!
Chengdu Travel Blog -

Remember also that those of us who are actually out here - can give current up-to-date information - which is why the local source can be so useful. But be beware - a lot of bad info is out there as well - always investigate, to sort the good from the bad!!!!!
laowai is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 06:21 AM
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But the endless mentions of by one, and of by the other are precisely advertising which is trying to pretend that it is not: effectively spam which is in breach of the (indifferently enforced) rules of this site but trying to avoid banning by keeping quiet about links with the Chinese tourism industry and pretending to be something other than self-promotion, as has been pointed out under other threads.

This increasingly common approach does not exactly encourage confidence in those who practice it, and one does not generally ask sharks whether it is safe to swim.

Even where the financial shenanigans common to Chinese guides (kick-backs, overcharging, etc.) are avoided the norm with guides in China is a lack of precisely the accurate historical and cultural knowledge you hire them for. If not properly licensed then no claims against a guide can be entertained, should these become necessary (although really this isn't a big issue and isn't the way in which these things should be thought about--it's caveat emptor in China, but you can forget about insurance claims in case of accident).

If the guide has been licensed then he or she has also been taught the 'correct line' to pass to visitors--China's Taiwan, China always in control of 'China's Tibet', relentless growth of China under wise leadership of the Party, and so on, although some are wise enough to let this kind of thing drop (more or less--it's all some have ever been told and so it's what they believe to be true. The education system is the key problem.) You won't learn much truth from a guide hired outside the Forbidden City, for example. You'll learn a mix of Party-approved politicised history (the Pearl Concubine a proto-revolutionary), a lot of hyperbole, a bit of nudge-nudge about imperial family life, and whatever else seems to please you. Accuracy is not to the point. Production is always up, the minorities are happy, the building over there built five years ago is Ming dynasty, the villager has never seen a foreigner before (not since yesterday, anyway), and so on.

Many of these problems are commonplace elsewhere in the world, too, so it would be strange if they weren't found in China. But the effectively unregulated nature of the Chinese tourism industry, only exceeded in rapacity by mining and property development, and its absorption into the state propaganda effort make it especially avoidable where involvement is not essential.

The kinds of difficulties with guides listed in the account on the link given earlier are commonplace when guides are booked through third party agencies, but there are an increasing number of 'guides' with English-language websites looking to target hapless foreigners directly and drain them as dry as possible.

And the point is that with very rare exceptions indeed (so rare I've never met one in 22 years of China travel and research) fully-informed guides who know and are frank about ancient and modern history and culture, who have comprehensive geographical knowledge, and who know and will take you to the best places to shop (as opposed to the usual tourist rip-off centres), who are knowledgeable about the prices of what you want to buy and give honest advice, etc., simply do not exist. So the main benefits wanted from hiring a guide are not available, and hence the original question as to what benefit was hoped for. A GOOD guide, as someone said, would be useful.

It's a sorry, unpleasant business, painful to narrate, and no doubt equally painful to read about, and there's always someone who wants to shoot the messenger. But this information is only given with the intention that those bent on hiring a guide should understand what they are getting themselves into and make a better-informed decision.

The short version was given earlier: Beijing in particular is easy to get about by yourself, and there are many easily accessible and reasonably priced day trips. Using these methods will save you from a lot of potential shenanigans, spare you torrents of inaccuracy (available in print or via earphones at most sites anyway), and save you a lot of money.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 07:41 AM
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Posts: 66
Peter have you bothered to read my travel blog
it contains a lot of information on traveling around Chengdu and Sichuan - within each article there is no advertising of any services. Independent of the specific travel info - there is a piece about a transport guide and translation service - a piece you can choose to read or ignore.
If you believe my blog is a blatant piece of advertising then maybe you should go after the Fodor's site - far more advertising here and certainly less info on traveling around Chengdu.
Maybe the quality of my blog is an example how a messenger- who doesn't really check up on the evidence - may come to shoot himself in the foot
laowai is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 10:05 PM
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Sigh. Here we go again!

Guide or no guide.

Having been on both business and personal travel to China, I've had to half-way play guide for business associates and family members.

Lemme tell you that being a good guide is NO FUN and a LOT OF WORK.

So find yourself a good guide, if that is what you want.

On personal pleasure trips in china, I've had occasion to join tours and have tour guides. Xian was one such place and I thoroughly enjoyed the very knowledgeable guide we had. So, even Chinese speakers enjoy having a guide once in a while.

As for the places that you are going to :

The Forbidden City can be done on your own - there's an English language tape that you can get at the entrance.

For the Great Wall and other locations, go to the concierge desk at your hotel and ask them for a list of their tours. If you're not happy with their prices/offerings, shop around - go to another hotel, etc.

Beijing is a big city and is user friendly.

You can also visit the other sites in Beijing on your own, but - as a single traveler - you may enjoy the company of other travelers in a tour group.

In several middle Europe countries, we really were delighted with the half day city tours which gave us an opportunity to revisit sites that we had found particularly interesting during the tour.

Most times it's also more fun to listen to a knowledgeable guide than to have to read about the historic site all alone by oneself.

It's your choice - however you decide, have a great trip!
easytraveler is offline  
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