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Sinorama Tour-Oct. 1, 2016

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Feb 7th, 2016, 05:28 AM
  #1
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Sinorama Tour-Oct. 1, 2016

Just wondering if there is anyone out there who is going on this or has recently been on a Sinorama tour of China? My questions have to do with any pointers on dealing with Sinorama re: flights, etc. I've read on other forums they tend to be a little last minute.

Nuts & bolts aside, any pointers, insights, do's or dont's in general are appreciated. We've never been to China. This is a bucket list trip. ��
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Feb 7th, 2016, 07:40 AM
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First, I have never heard of the company, or seen it mentioned here. However, after a quick look at Tripadvisor, I would avoid like the plague.

Second, you don't say which tour, which makes it hard to comment specifically.

Third, a number of posters here recommend against taking ANY tour in China, and have traveled successfully on their own there, even though they speak no Mandarin. Before you sign up for any tour, I recommend reading some of the threads here on the reasons for and against taking a tour, and also some of the trip reports.

Reasons against tours, over and above those valid in any country, include incorrect/slanted historical information from the guides (educated by the state), too many/long shopping "opportunities" and dumbed-down-for-foreigners food.
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Feb 7th, 2016, 08:40 AM
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You'd better check on Tripadvisor to learn more about them.
I am not into tours at all but this company is rather serious. They are from Montreal and take in excess of 10,000 travelers per year to Asia. They have been around for over 10 years. so they can't be that bad when it comes to tour companies.
tours have pluses and minuses with the minuses being a deal-killer for me but I can understand that some people like this travel style. Joining a tour is certainly not required to enjoy China but that depends on you.
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Feb 7th, 2016, 10:36 AM
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What thursdaysd said.
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Feb 8th, 2016, 02:33 PM
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It's not so much a question of the merits of Sinorama Tours, but rather, can you arrange for your own private tour with a local agency that will 1) give you more bang for your buck, and 2) make you feel comfortable? To me, the answer is yes.

For someone who is even considering a tour, I would suggest that you find a local agency in China and let them help you with a private tour. I am going to bet that you will spend less, and the experience will be nicer. There are many ways to find local agencies, but I would suggest writing to the concierge of the top five Beijing hotels and see who they use.

Once you find an agency that you like, have them list the prices a la carte. That way, you can decide if you want only a driver, and not a guide, for example, or perhaps you want less fancy hotels. It has been my experience that the Chinese agencies write back very quickly and will be responsive to your needs.

I do agree with all three of the posters above, that your most enriching experience will be a completely independent trip, but the planning takes time and some experience, and not everyone has that inclination. In any case, post again if you want advice on how to plan independently.
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Feb 8th, 2016, 06:09 PM
  #6
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Thanks for all the responses. Contrary to what thursdays said, I found quite a number of happy travelers on TripAdvisor who'd had good experiences with Sinorama. I am anticipating a "budget" experience for the price we paid, but in general, folks I've had contact with on TA & CruiseCritic seem overall complimentary about Sinorama & their China tours. We chose them because they are truly "all inclusive" and had flights out of Miami (2 hrs from us) and the prices are unbeatable. We did a group tour of Turkey with Gate1 two years ago & had a good experience and so are more inclined to go with "experts" as opposed to striking out on our own, especially in a country where we do not speak the language.

All that said, any further pointers on general travel in China, such as "must pack" items, what are things not to miss if possible, etiquette pointers, etc., are greatly appreciated. Many thanks!
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Feb 8th, 2016, 06:29 PM
  #7
kja
 
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Satisfied reviews are, of course, no indication of merit -- they are just the opinions of people who generally have nothing with which to compare their experiences and, if they are like most people, understandably prefer to think they chose wisely. But it sounds like you already made a decision?

"any further pointers on general travel in China, such as "must pack" items, what are things not to miss if possible, etiquette pointers, etc."

The best advice I can give you is to get, or consult, several good guide books. For China, I recommend either the Rough Guide or the Lonely Planet (which generally cover similar things in similar ways) and either Frommers or the Eyewitness Guide (which generally provide less comprehensive, but more in-depth, coverage of key sites). You will learn things you would never have even known to ask.

Oh, and check the CDC web-site for the health precautions you are advised to take.

Good luck!
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Feb 8th, 2016, 07:12 PM
  #8
 
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Don't worry about what to pack too much. you can pretty much buy anything in China. Finding over-the-counter meds can be a challenge and a time waster as well. so better pack some Tynedol and Immodium. A lot of walking is always involved, so have comfortable shoes. You'll get a better exchange rate once in China so only bring a bit of Chinese currency to get you going then use ATMs when needed.
Try to opt out of the shopping stops if you can. Your time will be better spent elsewhere.
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Feb 8th, 2016, 07:58 PM
  #9
kja
 
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"you can pretty much buy anything in China"

Right -- with virtually no quality controls. There have been many examples of articles that have been sold in China that were, in fact, NOT necessarily wise purchases because of the use of various banned chemicals in their manufacture or the use of child labor or whatever. If you buy in China, do so with eyes wide open. JMO.
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Feb 8th, 2016, 08:28 PM
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Hello Czarria60, I've taken several trips to China, all via organized tours. I've gone with my teenage children, girlftiends, and boyfriend. Each trip was unique in its own way, AND a wonderful experience. I agree with getting a tour book and read about cultural do's and don't's. Go with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Find out what the temps are that time of year, and dress appropriatly. (I also have booked with this company for another trip to China in November)I think you will have a fun time.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 12:41 AM
  #11
kja
 
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Even if the OP has made a decision, I can’t ignore some of the seeming misinformaton that has been offered on this thread.

• CaliforniaLady asserts that, “For someone who is even considering a tour, I would suggest that you find a local agency in China and let them help you with a private tour. I am going to bet that you will spend less, and the experience will be nicer.“

- First, I would be truly stunned if any quote for a tour would come in at less than I would be able to pay on my own. I would expect to be able to complete the tour comfortably for no more than 1/4 or 1/3 of the quoted price.

- Second, I would ask CaliforniaLady to define “nicer.” I can’t imagine any definition that would make me think that ANY local tour was nicer than ANYTHING I did on my own. JMO.

• Contacting the concierge of a top hotel is the LAST thing I would do to identify reasonable tour options in Beijing. Even if you take the least expensive option, I would guess that you would likely be overpaying what you would pay on your own, and the overage would likely be substantial.

• I would NOT recommend dealing with a guide anywhere in China. They can only tell you what the know, and since the Chinese government has limited their access to relevant information, there is simply no way that they can provide you with the information you would get from guidebooks published outside China. For example, the one guide I used while in China was sure that China had NEVER placed restrictions on visits by ANY foreigners, including those from the US (which China did, even during his lifetime).

• Traveling in China can be MUCH more affordable than any guided tour would make possible – IF you actually want to see and experience the country. Public transporation is inexpensive and very easy to use, and some options are surprisingly comfortable.

• If you want only Western hotels, and Western restaurants, and transportation that ensures that you have (at most) only very limited exposure to Chinese people -- well, then, yes, maybe (maybe! NO guarantees!) you might find a tour that suits your needs better than traveling independently. But even then, and even if you really do want to make sure you have no contact with locals or local experience, you would likely do so at the cost of your time, over which you would have little, if any, control. So even in the best cost-based scenario, you likely lose on time.

• CaliforniaLady also wrote that, “planning takes time and some experience.” I agree that it takes some time to plan a rewarding trip – just as it would for Spain or Italy or Turkey or Japan or anywhere else in the world. In contrast, I don’t believe that “experience” is any more necessary for China than it is for Europe, at least for those who are willing to do their homework and face a few challenges along the way.

JMO. YMMV.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 04:51 AM
  #12
 
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"with virtually no quality controls. There have been many examples of articles that have been sold in China that were, in fact, NOT necessarily wise purchases because of the use of various banned chemicals in their manufacture or the use of child labor or whatever. If you buy in China, do so with eyes wide open." - I think that you have been shopping in the wrong places or you don't really know China well. Didn't you notice that most of what you buy back home is from China?
Don't know why it is wrong to take a tour. I would never take one myself, not my style. But I have friends who are not poor at all and well educated but they prefer tour. Their choice and their style.If they tried to organize the trip themselves and planned everything, even though it is not that difficult for me or you, they would have a terrible vacation and would regret it. It is not just their thing. I don't see why people are so agressive about it. The poster is not looking for opinions on the pros and cons of a tour, just some advice to make the most of it. Nothing wrong with that.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 03:18 PM
  #13
 
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>Contrary to what thursdays said, I found quite a number of happy travelers on TripAdvisor who'd had good experiences with Sinorama.

Thus pointing out the utter uselessness of Trip Advisor.

> I am anticipating a "budget" experience for the price we paid

Ah. So you booked already? Then confirmation bias is at play, no? You're really looking for confirmation that you haven't made a mistake.

Unfortunately there's none available, and you are likely to find (or remain unaware of) quite a number of hidden costs, and the cheaper tours are always the ones of which you should be most wary. The questions you should ask all Chinese tour operators include:

What is your tipping policy? There is no tipping in China, and in order to be able to offer very low prices some companies spring on you a non-optional tip once the booking is made. This is daylight robbery. If your tour company is recommending that you pay out US$3 per day here, and US$5 per day there, look elsewhere. If they recommend you bring low denomination US dollar bills with you not only look elsewhere but first track down the company's offices and set fire to them before they can rip anyone else off.

Sinorama has a whole shopping list of non-optional 'gratuities'. The words 'daylight' and 'robbery' come to mind.

How many shopping stops will there be? Other than tipping-theft policies, this is the main way the company makes money, by repeatedly leading hapless tourists into places that will charge them as much as 20 times too much for trinkets, and the guide will get 50% (or more), and the bus driver a cash sum, too. Some companies manage to limit these to one or two per trip (it is almost impossible to avoid them entirely). You can always sit them out (you certainly shouldn't be spending money), but find out how much time you're going to be spending doing that.

Sinorama lists no shopping stops on its itineraries. Think there aren't going to be any? Most companies simply don't list them. You have to ask them directly.

NEVER shop anywhere your guide takes you, or when the guide is anywhere in sight.

Just how relentless is the pace? The cheaper companies tend to cram in as much as they can, which increases their kick-backs and helps to keep you from freelance shopping rather than doing shopping from which they can take a bite.

Is there a foreign tour manager who will accompany the group the whole time? This is worth paying more for since there are constant problems with downgraded hotel rooms or other non-delivery of promised benefits. An experienced tour manager sees all this coming and heads it off.

Note that very little of what your tour guides tell you will actually be true, since they have been to schools that teach them what should be said to foreigners. The travel industry is just another part of the overall propaganda effort. Read widely and bring Western source books with you.

Note that in the worst cases you'll be in hotels on the edge of big cities with a lot of time wasted in taking buses into the centre. In some you'll stay at one hotel and be bussed to another for lunch (and a shopping demonstration of some kind). In general, especially at the cheaper end, itineraries are driven by whatever's profitable to the tour company in terms of kick-backs, and not by what's best for the tourist. Food is often poor, although those only accustomed to Chinese food overseas may well not realise that they've never had real Chinese food in their lives, nor what they are missing.

You could have had a cheaper experience by just going it alone--less time wasted, better food, more flexibility, no shopping stops. But some people just don't want to do that (which is fine, of course). But the overheads can be high. Good luck anyway.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 03:53 PM
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kja - Please allow others to post their opinions, even when you vehemently oppose what they have to say. No one likes to see themselves quoted, and their statements dissected, repeatedly. Let's try to keep this forum fun, and a positive experience for all concerned.

CandanaChinaTraveller - I agree with you that some classy, well-educated people enjoy the structure and camaraderie or tours. However, I had met many Americans (never Europeans) who hire local agencies to make their arrangements, which is why I brought it up as an alternative.

czarria60 - Regarding your questions for tips about China, the most important element is that you not get sick. I always carry with me a wide spectrum antibiotic, such as Cipro, but I have never had occasion to use it. I also raid the OTC aisle at Target, and I stock up on topical antibiotics, immodium, and whatever else jumps into my cart. You also should make sure you have had tetanus and hepatitis shots recently, whatever your doctor thinks is the proper time frame.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 05:01 PM
  #16
kja
 
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@ CaliforniaLady -- point taken, and I apologize.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 07:19 PM
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kja - Apology accepted, and that was quite classy of you to do so. I do admire your travel style--riding all those trains, with only a small backpack. You certainly add spice to the posts here.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 07:31 PM
  #18
kja
 
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@ CaliforniaLady -- Thanks! But I don't travel with just a small backpack. ;-) Only what I can carry, though.
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Feb 12th, 2016, 06:33 PM
  #19
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Wow, I didn't expect to get such detailed & strong opinions. CaliforniaLady, I especially appreciate your attitude & helpful hints about staying well. We've done a fair amount of international traveling (South & Central America, Turkey) and so I'd already begun a list, thanks.

As far as all other "advice" & comments above, I appreciate the time & trouble you took to post, but please know I'm not looking for any reassurance or affirmation that what we booked is "OK." It's booked - good or bad, we're going, and honestly, all I am seeking is helpful tips, do's, don'ts, etc. I have already begun studying some Mandarin online and in general, my personal feeling is that every trip is an adventure and if you look for the good, you'll find it. If you go looking for things to criticize & pick apart, you'll find that too. I don't want to be the "ugly American," I want locals to come away from any experience with me thinking, "Gee, Americans are not so bad after all." I also want the tour company to think well of me, not remember me as the squeaky wheel that gave the guide(s) an Excedrin headache. There are six of us going on this tour and we are all excited. First timers to China - all in our 60's/70's. Baby boomers rock!
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Feb 18th, 2016, 09:18 PM
  #20
 
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My suggestion would be to get out for some food on your own. First thing to know: food in China is cheap, and I mean ridiculously cheap. So even if you paid for a meal with the tour company, you can still afford to buck the system and find great food on your own. Look up food blogs, and if anything sparks your interest, go for it. It is very easy and cheap to get around, so you don't even have to go for the most convenient places.

I believe Three Guizhou Men still operates somewhere in Beijing. It will be well worth your effort to seek out this unique cuisine that is mostly unavailable outside of China.

In Shanghai, if you get there, then Jesse (aka Jishi) at 41 Tianping Lu in the French Concession serves Shanghainese cuisine, also difficult to find outside that city. Look up info about it, and enjoy. (at dinner, reservations might be necessary since it is so small)
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