tours of china from australia

Feb 19th, 2008, 02:19 AM
  #1  
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tours of china from australia

Hi all
There are numerous companies in Australia offering tours of China but I have not been able to find independent reviews on any of them. Can you provide any reviews on these companies, good or bad. It would be most appreciated.
With thanks
Andy
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Feb 19th, 2008, 02:55 AM
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Which companies are you looking at? Are we talking the luxury end of the market or the budget end of the market?

What sort of experience are you looking for?
afterall is offline  
Feb 19th, 2008, 03:04 AM
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IF the budget is not a concern then you can't go wrong with A&K.

http://www.abercrombiekent.com.au/lu...ient/index.cfm

I've used them for other part of the world and the Aussie online reps are very good. What I like to do now is to look at their itineraries and emulate their tours perhaps with an independant local guide.
Hanuman is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 07:53 PM
  #4  
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Thanks for the responses. We are not looking at the luxury end. Some of the companies we are looking at are Asia Discovery tours, China Best and China Travel Service. We have eliminated Wendy Wu tours which are overpriced relative to the others. Hanuman, we had not heard of A & K but will check them out to see if they fit our budget.
Cheers
Andy
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Feb 22nd, 2008, 08:59 PM
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You'll get what you pay for, guys. The cheapest ticket ain't always the best one.

I suggest you look back over the last 100 or so messages. Keep your eyes peeled for Peter N-H's posts.

Then you'll be able to read, chapter and verse, what you are walking into.

dogster is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 05:26 AM
  #6  
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Thanks Dogster
Having been to Beijing twice, I am aware that tourist rip offs are the norm there; especially those factory tours, tipping suggestions when there is no tipping in Chins etc. My thinking is that there may be companies who operate from Australia who have achieved a high degree of customer satisfaction such as China Spree and China Focus have in the U.S. We are happy to pay more for the convenience if a quality operator Down Under can be found. Thanks for your post.
Cheers
Andy
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:21 AM
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Good. I don't want hear of a fellow Ozstrayan getting the stiff end of the pineapple.

And If you find this elusive company - please tell me, 'cos I'm after exactly the same thing.
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 07:01 AM
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If you want to travel with China Spree, why don't you book a land only package from them? The OZ dollar is doing rather well against the US dollar these days, I believe. I've traveled with Intrepid, which is an Australian company, although to SEA, not China. They have very good itineraries, but are definitely at the budget end when it comes to transport and hotels.
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 07:15 AM
  #9  
Colduphere
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dogster - excuse the interuption but is the phrase "getting the stiff end of the pineapple" a well known Australian saying or is it something you have learned through experience or ...?
 
Feb 23rd, 2008, 08:35 AM
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oops. Freudian slip. I think the phrase is 'sharp' end of the pineapple.

Now what will people think of me?
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 10:31 AM
  #11  
Colduphere
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Whatever you do to entertain yourselves down under is none of our business
 
Feb 23rd, 2008, 10:42 AM
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> Having been to Beijing twice, I am aware that tourist rip offs are the norm there; especially those factory tours, tipping suggestions when there is no tipping in Chins etc. My thinking is that there may be companies who operate from Australia who have achieved a high degree of customer satisfaction such as China Spree and China Focus have in the U.S.

Something wrong here: These companies are of the worst kind, mightily spamming various corners of the Internet, with enforced tipping, innumerable factory tours, poor food, busing tourists across town from one hotel to another merely to eat lunch and have a demonstration of some kind, and even advising tourists to bring one dollar bills to flash around.

These tours are apparently designed entirely around kick-backs, and If there's a concern about rip-offs as suggested, then these are the last companies that should be chosen. Note how many postings of 'customer satisfaction' on travel websites are in identical language, and the only post made by that individual.

Both Gecko's Adventures and Intrepid out of Australia have good reputations. Both reportedly go out of their way to avoid shopping stops altogether or keep them to a minimum. Tipping via a kitty is organised for local guides in the one case, and entirely discretionary in the other. In both cases there's a tendency to use public transport and smaller guesthouses, and some of the itineraries get you off the usual tourist conga line. Seems like these might be worth a look.

Peter N-H
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:51 PM
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I disagree with Peter's opinion of China Focus. I took their tour (albeit only 9 days in country) 10 yrs ago and it was fabulous. I am trying to convince a friend to take a longer tour with me soon. Unless something has changed with China Focus, the national guide was terrific as were the city guides.

The price was perfect and I would expect you could get just the land tour. My tour originated in San Francisco, CA where the company is located.

All tours make stops in shopping places but they're not that long and most of us want to buy stuff during our travel. It's not a big deal.

Re the food: It may not be "gourmet" but perfectly fine. While in a city and if you have learned of a specific restaurant you would like to eat at, just tell your tour guide you'll be gone so no one will be looking for you. This only applies to dinner since you're staying overnight. Lunch options on tours are not practical since you're on the road.

I'd be happy to send you my China Trip Report just to give you an idea of how that tour went. If interested, e-mail me at [email protected]


nancy is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 07:06 PM
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"All tours make stops in shopping places" - well no, they don't. In Europe I occasionally take a Rick Steves' tour, and in Asia I've done four Intrepid tours, and I only remember a couple of combined weaving demo plus shopping ops in Asia, and one carpet factory in Turkey. Certainly not the lunch and store deal that my one Smithsonian tour in China featured.
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 08:33 PM
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Thanks everyone. The "pineapple" discussion was a hoot! Thursdaysd, I did check out land costs with a U.S. company a while back; can't remember which one, but the numbers didn't work. I think I
will take another look. Peter, I will also check out your two companies you suggested. I am aware of the tourist gouges you mention and I think it is great that you took the time to mention them for the benefit of all on here.
Cheers
Andy
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 08:49 PM
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I expect the intention was to assert that all tours in China have shopping stops, but in fact there are those that have many fewer than China Focus, as well as ones that have none at all (as I noted above).

>All tours make stops in shopping places but they're not that long and most of us want to buy stuff during our travel. It's not a big deal.

Most people do indeed want to buy souvenirs, but if they do it at places they are taken to by tours, and especially by budget tours, then they are being royally ripped off. Starting prices may easily be ten, fifteen, or twenty times what they need to be, and the guides get at least 40%. I'm sorry if this news is unwelcome, but it's important that other readers don't make the same mistake.

> Re the food: It may not be "gourmet" but perfectly fine.

I'm sorry, but the restaurants on such tours are chosen precisely according to which pay the best kick-back. The value of that comes out of the quality of the food, and there have been many who have travelled with this and similar companies who have reported on its bland, predictable, and repetitive nature. You travel to China partly for the food, which comes in far greater variety and at far greater quality than the adulterated pan-China menus mostly available at home can even begin to suggest. But if you take a rock-bottom-priced tour you get what you pay for, and its bland and uncontroversial to keep group members with dulled palates happy. Are all the tour buses lined-up outside? Then you can be sure you are in the wrong place.

And this is before we get into an outrageous rip-off tipping policy, the offensive advice to bring US$1 bills, and other reported shenanigans.

No doubt there are many who have a wonderful time on such tours, but it's equally certain that most such people have not experienced any other form of travel in China, and do not realise quite how much deception has been practised upon them.

The OP has stated that he's aware of these problems and wants to avoid them and if so, regardless of whether anyone else doesn't mind being taken for a ride, he should most certainly avoid China Focus and the like. These companies sometimes neglect to mention the compulsory 'tip' until you book. But the troublesome ones can be sniffed out by asking a few questions up front: 'How many shopping stops? and 'What's the tipping policy?' will do for starters.

Peter N-H
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 08:58 PM
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andydee: We crossed in the ether.
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Feb 24th, 2008, 12:54 AM
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As we didn't take a tour in China I can't help much, but I will say that overall we were very happy with our Travel Indochina tour in Vietnam (I recollect only one shopping stop in almost 3 weeks), and they also run tours in China. They seem to be comparable to Wendy Wu in price and quality. TI passed the hat around for tips, don't know about WW.

By the way, it's the rough end of the pineapple - for Colduphere, as far as I know not practiced voluntarily in most circles. Having said that, I don't know of any variety that has a smooth end.
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Feb 24th, 2008, 05:30 PM
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On the high end I took a tour in Kenya with Abercrombie & Kent and it was fabulous. We did have about 3 shopping stops within 12 days. However, that was a once-in-a-lifetime tour - very expensive.

Have traveled with other tour companies occasionally (prefer independent travel) and still feel that China Focus was a good deal.

If you travel for food, I agree that tour food is pretty dull except with A&K. I travel for the sites. And, if the tour company is good and offers the sites I want to see, so be it.

The most important parts of a tour for me are the sites and the guide. China Focus was great. Another tour company I've traveled with is Grand Circle - Thailand and Malta (the best guide I've ever had except for a tour with Pacha Tours in Turkey; he was the best guide).

So, Peter, I continue to disagree with you. We may be overcharged at the tour company shopping stops but it's still not that much money. You need a lot of "free" time on a tour to search out good shopping deals. I don't notice that you mention how one would do that.

But, Peter, I have read a lot of your posts and like all your information

P.S. Tour companies "suggest" tipping amounts for guide and driver but it is not obligatory. Usually you would follow the guidelines but if your tour guide is terrible, forget the tip and write to the company.
nancy is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 06:52 PM
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"You need a lot of "free" time on a tour to search out good shopping deals." Some of us don't go to shop....
thursdaysd is offline  

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