Tour companies in China

Old Nov 17th, 2019, 09:34 PM
  #21  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by tominrm View Post
Just my two cents on tour guides in Asia in general. It's hard to find English speaking people that anyone who speaks English good enough to be a tour guide can land much better and more prestigious job. It is not like Europe where many people speak more than one language. Often English is their second language or third.
I haven't traveled extensively in Asia, but had no problem finding people who spoke English well in China, Japan, South Korea, or Indonesia (Java and Bali) for the times I wanted to hire guides. The problems with guides in China go far beyond language skills -- they do not have access to the information about their country or its history that anyone outside of China has, and that means that no matter how well or poorly they speak English, they simply can NOT provide accurate information. It isn't their fault; it's a product of China's restrictions on information.
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Old Dec 4th, 2019, 08:47 PM
  #22  
 
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We went with Elysian Tour, a company based in China with excellent service. Funny thing is the company has been in business for 3 years only yet has a very experienced team. We were well taken care of throughout our trip. Hotels were all in perfect locations in each city. Food left on our own was quite a good plan as we had the chance to try many authentic food and snacks. Chinese food is yummy and not expensive at all. Their tour price was also quite good. Most importantly, the tour was a No-shopping tour. I will definitely recommend you to reach out to them.
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 04:23 PM
  #23  
 
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Just catching up on this thread. About 8 of us are going to Beijing in September. We'll be there for four days. Do any of the companies mentioned in these posts provide guides and drivers once we arrive (as opposed to an organized tour)? We already have our hotel and just need guides for the major sites in Beijing and a driver and guide to the Great Wall. Some of us might also want to take a day trip to Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors.

Thanks,
Ellen
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 08:21 PM
  #24  
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@ ellen75005: You don't need a driver or guide for anything in Beijing, nor do you need them to visit the Great Wall or to visit Xi'an. You can visit all of those places on your own by public transportation. In contrast, working with either tours or guides is costly and highly problematic.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 02:16 AM
  #25  
 
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kja,

Thanks for your thoughts. I can see why you wouldn't need one in Beijing, but can you elaborate on why not a driver to the Great Wall? Would a taxi be the way to get there? And can you elaborate on "costly and highly problematic"? I'm just trying to understand better.

Thanks much,
Ellen
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 04:03 AM
  #26  
 
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Tour guides for westerners are state stooges and will take you only where the state permits. If on your own, go where you please. Avoid taking photos of military places.
Trains to all cities can be had from Beijing, all easily. Getting tickets a minor challenge if DIY. Always show passport when buying train tickets. Buses also good to more nearby cities. Finding the correct bus depot to your destination may require asking at the hotel.
Many private buses and daily tour groups go to Great Wall sites each day. They may only provide transport, see the wall as you like, return to the bus on time. No real problem. Ask at hotel to arrange small bus to your hotel.
You can never see it all, be content to enjoy what you do see and do.
Carry toilet tissue and hand cleaner and small coins to enter toilets. Food, water and chinese people everywhere.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 10:16 AM
  #27  
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@ Ellen75005:

For the Great Wall, you first need to choose which section to see. I chose Ba Da Ling and went (quite easily) by public transportation; it's the closest to Beijing, and the most heavily touristed, but for good reason -- the views are magnificent. The other "usual" choice is Mutianyu, which you can also reach by public transportation. I'm really glad I used public transportation, because it's a great way to observe local people interacting normally with one another. A taxi is also an option, though a much more expensive one. There are other sections of the wall that are further afield, but unless you have some specific reason for going to those sections, they probably wouldn't work as well. Here's a relatively recent thread about options for getting to the Great Wall from Beijing; look at post #6. And in general, look for posts by PeterNH -- he is an expert.
Suggestions for tour guides for the Great Wall

jobin has given you some of the reasons why tours and guides are costly and highly problematic in China. You can also search this board for other commentaries; it is a frequent topic of discussion.

Hope that helps!
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 11:52 AM
  #28  
 
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For notes on choosing a Great Wall section to see, and links to descriptions of how to reach each of a number of sections, see:

The Great Wall

Note that the rail service to Ba Da Ling, mentioned in some earlier threads, is temporarily leaving from a different station.

For notes on why using a guide in China does not come with the benefits usually expected, see:

Guides

On tours, see the link given in message #2, above.

Last edited by temppeternh; Jan 12th, 2020 at 11:54 AM.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 04:11 PM
  #29  
 
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Originally Posted by temppeternh View Post

Note that the rail service to Ba Da Ling, mentioned in some earlier threads, is temporarily leaving from a different station.
Incorrect. Trains do not depart from a temporary location anymore. They depart from the Beijing North Railway station as well as another station but Beijing north is more convenient.
If going to Mutianyu, there is a bus service called MUBUS that departs from the Swisotel. at •80 it is a good deal. I have only read good comments about it.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 03:00 AM
  #30  
 
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Well, I see that I have some more research to do! Thank you all so much for these responses; the article about guides is eye-opening for sure. My husband and I are pretty fiercely independent travelers, but we do like to hire guides and drivers from time to time, hence my questions, especially for a country like China where the culture is so different. This trip mushroomed to 9 people, a couple of relatives then friends and friends of friends, etc. We may be enough for our own minivan!

I'll do some more prowling on these threads as well as other sites. Fodors has never let me down and we have plenty of time.

I apologize if this subject has already been covered, and I'll search for it, but are you all saying that hiring a guide in Xi'an for the terracotta warriors wouldn't be a good idea either if we decide to go there?

Thanks again - I have some work to do!

Ellen
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:30 AM
  #31  
 
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I think a guide for the terracotta warriors would be completely unnecessary, provided you did some reading ahead of time. Also, there is plenty more to see in Xi'an.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 07:21 AM
  #32  
 
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"I apologize if this subject has already been covered, and I'll search for it, but are you all saying that hiring a guide in Xi'an for the terracotta warriors wouldn't be a good idea either if we decide to go there?" - if you do some research ahead of time, a guide is not necessary If you decide to use one in any case, there are some at the entrance offering their services.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 07:37 PM
  #33  
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As others are noting, you do not need a guide for the terracotta warriers, or to get to or around Xi'an. And I agree -- there is a LOT to see in Xi'an!

I hesitate to link in my trip report because I don't want to scare people -- I went outside my comfort zone to travel without advance reservations, and I went at a time when getting train tickets in advance outside of the city from which one would depart was many times more costly than buying once there, and costs were decidedly a consideration for me on that trip. But you might find some information of value in it -- such as how to get around and what to see and Xi'an and maybe the realization that China is, in fact, a place one can visit without guides. So here you go:
Thanks for helping make my trip to China amazing!
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 02:21 AM
  #34  
 
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kja, unfortunately, the link you provided doesn't work for me. I did read your trip report which included Xi'an, but I gather this is a different thread?

Canada, good to know that there are guides at the entrance, but it does sound like we wouldn't need them. I'll also look into MUBUS for the Great Wall. We're staying at The New World Beijing Hotel which was recommended by a friend. I imagine they would be able to help with transportation advice also as they're a large, modern hotel.

Ellen

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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 07:31 AM
  #35  
 
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For transportation, every large Chinese city has a very good subway system. Easy to use and mostly bilingual. It takes you to the door of most tourist attractions (except those out of town). Go to Youtube and search for "how to ride the Beijing subway" or something like this. You can find "how to" videos for just about any subway network.
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 07:51 AM
  #36  
 
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Tour guides in China; Necessity? No.
Preference of course is another issue.
We used them when we were in Beijing and Xi'an 9/2018. The company used was per my TA's data base. Overall except for one guy who was having a bad day we had a very good experience. They were private, we had a guide and a driver, English though a 2nd language was pretty good, they were punctual, comfortable, and very economical. In fact I was surprised they were all private given the price.
We would use them again.
Ultimately its your personal decision and your money.
C'est la vie.
JM2C .
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 07:15 PM
  #37  
kja
 
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@ Ellen: I've only been to China once, so it seems you found my report despite the malfunctioning link.

@ jacketwatch: Given that guides in China simply do not have access to accurate information, I wonder what made you think the guides you encounter were worth the money? I can understand that people differ in their preferences for working with guides or not, but I fail to see how working with one who can not provide accurate information is of any value. If one insists on paying for a car and driver rather than using the excellent public transportation available in China, why spend even more to go with someone who honestly does not know the historical or cultural significance of the things s/he shows you?
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 09:47 PM
  #38  
 
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Ok.
Thats your opinion. I accept that but disagree. Moving on.
All the best.

Last edited by jacketwatch; Jan 14th, 2020 at 09:50 PM.
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 03:30 AM
  #39  
 
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This is such an interesting thread! I had lunch with some colleagues yesterday, one of whom knows China pretty well (lived in Shanghai for a while) and she agreed that the transportation is very good and that we can get around easily.

Canada, we do find youtube useful and use it quite a bit before we travel. Your suggestion to watch it for subway advice is excellent and we'll do that. I also looked at the MUBUS info yesterday and it seems like a pretty good way to get to the Great Wall. I'm also thinking that since we'll be a group of 9 we could be our own little tour group and may be able to hire our own van with driver.

As we get older, my husband and I tend to appreciate what I call the creature comforts more and more when we travel. We like having guides buy tickets for us, for example and I do appreciate the information and insight they're able to provide. We just returned from SE Asia and hired a guide in Bangkok half days for two days who was able to provide interesting information and history about the temples and the Grand Palace (and she bought all the entrance tickets). I do realize that China isn't Thailand. We leave for Egypt in a month and we've hired guides (Egyptologists) and drivers throughout the country.

I think we'll be able to navigate Beijing with no problem, but I'm still thinking we may want something more organized to get to the Great Wall and maybe with the Terracotta Warriors. However you look at it, it's a good problem to have and I have some more research to do!
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 04:39 AM
  #40  
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Iím the original poster

Originally Posted by temppeternh View Post
Advice on the many problems with tour companies has been given so often here, I'll just direct you to this summary:

Tours

Use a tour company if you must, but ask the important questions given, be aware of the drawbacks, and go in with your eyes open and your wallet firmly shut.
i hope this reply comes through. The guides we had were knowledgeable and flexible and added to the trip. Driving around with the guide made it super easy to get from
place to place. I wouldnít hesitate with using China Odyssey. Iíve always traveled independently and in fact am driving with a friend through Israel.
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