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To do China alone or go on a tour?
13 years ago, October 20th 2007 No: 1 Msg: #21219  
Someone HELP!
Myself and another female friend are going to China in April 2008, we have been told that you get hasseled alot out there and two girls going alone isnt a wise idea, also that its hard to get about on the trains? Is this true.
Alot of people have said to go on a tour, can anyone recommend a good tour company please?
Thanks. Reply to this

13 years ago, October 21st 2007 No: 2 Msg: #21230  
Hi Bally from what i have heard it shouldn't be an issue going yourself, i always think tours should only be considered if necessary, after all wouldnt you rather go at your own pace and go with the flow?

Thx Mike Reply to this

13 years ago, October 21st 2007 No: 3 Msg: #21233  

Personally, I don't think a tour is necessary.
We liked China so much we're heading back there next August.
Admittedly, we are not both female - but being over six foot and with long blonde hair the Chinese take a special interest in me (expect a lot of impromptu photo calls). We met a lot of lone female travellers in China and none reported any problems. If you do get stuck there are usually always a few foreigners about who you can tag along with. The travelling community we met in China was really supportive - its also a very easy place to meet people because of this.

We found that China was actually very easy to travel round by train. Pretty cheap too. While they don't always arrive when you might expect them too, we never encountered any trains that departed late. Just don't set deadlines for when you need to arrive and you'll be fine.
We always opted for soft-sleeper class when it was available. To be honest, the only difference between soft-sleeper and hard sleeper is that in hard sleeper you are in a compartment with 6 beds rather than 4 and there's not always a door on the compartment. This means that in hard sleeper the sound - and much worse - the smoke, drifts in from outside.
The worst bit about travelling by train is buying the tickets. The stations can be huge, crowded and confusing -but if you can just stay relaxed and accept the fact that you are going to be stared at by hunderds of people then you'll be fine. The Chinese people we encountered were very friendly when approached and went out of their way to help. I found that if I drew some pictures describing what tickets I wanted it not only got a giggle from the station staff but people crowded round to see what the giant blonde foreigner was up too and how they could help. I also had some words of Mandarin - like "softsleeper" printed out from a website to make life easier.
The important thing is to be clear about what you want and ask for it with a smile - no matter how grumpy the counter staff look. Internet cafes are everywhere and you can use websites such as Seat 61 (http://www.seat61.com/China.htm) to plan what train number you need to get - or simply ask the receptionists at your hostel or a hotel to give you a hand.

Obviously that is based on our limited experience and the usual caveats apply (don't trust everyone, stay with the crowds, keep your valuables well concealed, etc, etc) and I'm sure there will be plenty of people who can tell you about bad experiences they had in China - but isn't that true of travel in any country? Ultimately, its up to you to go there and decide for yourself.

I hate to end on a quote, it's insanely cheesy, but what the hell:
"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb: that's where the fruit is". Reply to this

13 years ago, October 21st 2007 No: 4 Msg: #21234  
N Posts: 3
Where do you want to go in China ? Travel in China ? If is Guangdong province ,I can give you some suggestions . Reply to this

13 years ago, October 21st 2007 No: 5 Msg: #21253  
In China we are looking at going to Honk Kong, Shangai, Chendu, Xi'an and Beijing. We are going in april so are making sure that we have done all our research before hand...If we go about it alone then we will most likely use the trains between each destination. Thanks so much Bob & Vik for your advice. Just a quick question on the trains, are they fairly cheap and easy to get on? We wont have to wait about the stations will we? Reply to this

13 years ago, October 21st 2007 No: 6 Msg: #21274  

The trains are extremely cheap and given your itinerary - which is very similar to what ours was - a tour is definitely not required. We didn't go to Hong Kong but these are the prices we paid for each leg of our journey and a rough guide to the time involved (all prices are for two oneway tickets):

Beijing to Shanghai - we splashed out here and took the train "Z5". The trains numbers beginning with Z are China's ultrafast, ultra modern and ultra clean bullet trains but they only run on some routes i.e. Beijing to Shanghai or Shanghai to Hong Kong. It also included dinner, toothbrush, slippers...! I think it only had softsleeper and was RMB1058 (£71.40). It was overnight - roughly 12hours.
Shanghai to Huangzhou (supposedly China's most beautiful city) - RMB88 (£5.80); short journey in Soft Seater.
Huangzhou to Xi'an - RMB890 (£58.68); Overnight in Soft Sleeper (approx 27hrs).
Xi'an to Chengdu - RMB581 (£38.31); Overnight in Soft Sleeper (approx 18hrs).

The conversion to £ is obviously based on the exchange rate at the time.

They are easy to get on you just have to make sure you know which station the train leaves from - Shanghai and Beijing both have two stations. When you buy your tickets you should ask which station you need to go to. Usually the trains board about 30minutes before departure and each train has its own waiting area (you just need to know your trains number to identify it) in the station where passengers wait. If you do go Soft Sleeper - we didn't realise until our last trip - there is actually a seperate lounge so that you don't have to mingle with the masses if you don't want to.
You should get to the stations probably an hour before the train leaves because there is a queue outside each station as everything goes through security scans (airport style) before you can get in. We never had to wait too long in these queues but its better to be safe than sorry. The queues are part of the reason it can look so busy outside the stations - just don't be daunted - walk straight up to the front of the building look for the security staff and join that queue.

When they call the train for boarding it will be obvious because all the trains have electronic boards at each waiting area that signal boarding. It will also be obvious from the mad dash to get to the gate. The Chinese love to be first - think Christmas sales times five and you're there. If you've opted for the Soft Sleeper lounge you can avoid this chaos as you are seperately escorted by staff to the train. If you do face the scramble to get aboard don't worry. We joined in several times and had no problems. The crowd just gently carries you along to your waiting train. Alternatively, just hang back a bit, let the main body of the people go through and then tag along at the back somewhere.

When you're in Beijing, use the Metro system it's excellent and really cheap. I think it's just RMB3 per ride (20p) and it's really clean and efficient.

Feel free to ask any questions you like - more than happy to try and help.

Bob & Vik.
Reply to this

13 years ago, October 22nd 2007 No: 7 Msg: #21277  
Bob & Vik.
I keep laughing for 5 mins, but it is true. The trains beginning with Z is really cool.
You can stay in the coffe when you are waiting for your train, by paying extra 10 RMB
Reply to this

13 years ago, October 23rd 2007 No: 8 Msg: #21309  
N Posts: 3
Yes ,Bob & Vik had give the detail you want . And you can laugh at my poor English ,some words for short I didn't know, such as LOL , Z . Z is the time before dawn ? I want to help the people who travel in my country ,but it is not easy . Reply to this

13 years ago, October 28th 2007 No: 9 Msg: #21597  
of course not you dont need any tour!to be a chinese,i dont think you can understand everything from your BOOK,and if you have any questions about view places,how to do?ask for BOOK?of course not,so the good choise is find a good travel agency,dont be afriad if you have free time to shopping or seeing,they will arrange!

by the way,i am a student,and i worked in xi'an hotel just for 1 month,exactly i met lots of foreigners who without any tour and dont know something about food or special places where are flavor here,alought they got a travel BOOK!i found that they just choosed some food what they have ate or saw on air or net or book,but they do dont know which is flavors and specilist!

and especially in busy travel season,i promise that you hardly can find a proper hotel or restaurant in china!and busy travel season depends where you to go,for some places,,whole year is busy,rests are not!so make a good choise is the basic of your wonderful travelling! Reply to this

13 years ago, November 10th 2007 No: 10 Msg: #22277  
My wife and I, both in our 60's, spent 5 weeks traveling independenly from Beijing to Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guilin, Yangshuo and Longsheng. At no time did we feel unsafe. We made most arrangements in country as we went and had no problems. China has been one of our best travel experiences. Just follow the same travel safety advice you'd use anywhere. We know several couples who took the crammed 2-week package tour and we wouldn't trade places with them for anything. Reply to this

13 years ago, November 13th 2007 No: 11 Msg: #22442  
Wow i think you gonna have many troubles because they don't speak English in China. Why don't you take some joined group tour Reply to this

13 years ago, November 15th 2007 No: 12 Msg: #22558  
If you are comfortable with independent travel we encourage you to avoid an organized tour. See our post above - If we can do it, you can do it. Before we went to China everyone, including our Chinese neighbors, tried to convince us to be safe and go on a tour. I can't begin to tell you how glad we are that we didn't take the advice and traveled, instead, independently.
As for the language, you won't have a problem. All areas and activities that are tourist related are staffed mostly by young college students who are studying English. Here's a few communication tips that got us by during the 5 weeks on our own:1. If you book accomodations online print out a copy of the Chinese address to give to the taxi driver. 2. When you get a hotel, each of you should take a business card and keep with you. You can give it to the taxi driver if you need to return to your hotel. 3. Going somewhere - Have your hotel, etc. write out the Chinese address for your destination and use that for the taxi driver. (use only metered taxies) 4. In a restaurant - they often have pictorial menus. If not, it is acceptable to browse the customers' dishes and point to something that looks good. 5. An excellent travel book is the "Point it" guide, a small book with thousands of photos for traveling, eating, accomodations, medical, and most everything else you may need. When everything else fails use the "Point it" book. It came in handy for us when we couldn't get across that we needed a bathroom.
With the proper preparation and confidence we found that traveling in China was no more difficult that traveling in Europe. Go for it!!!! Have fun and enjoy.
Feel free to ask questions.
Roy and Ann Reply to this

13 years ago, November 15th 2007 No: 13 Msg: #22606  
Make a stop in Pingyao before you get to Beijing, it's amazing!
Check out our blog on Beijing and Pingyao:
I personally would recommend doing the trip without a tour... sure it may be a little harder figuring it all out yourself but its definitely a far better experience! Reply to this

13 years ago, November 20th 2007 No: 14 Msg: #22830  
I think its funny the idea of being unsafe or harassed in China. Been living here for 4 months now. Never felt safer in my life. Pickpocketing is the only thing you need to worry about, and that just comes down to common sense.

Getting by in Chinese IS an issue as people mentionned above.

If you are travelling just the two of you I recommend the following: 1. Take some lessons on how to read pinyin. Its not the same phonetic pronunciation as reading english (and the tones) so reading from your phrase book can be useless. Often, they will take the book from you, sound it out themselves and try to make sense of it. A few lessons will greatly improve your chances of being understood.

2. Practice up on Charades. I take 3 hours of Chinese Lessons a week, its improving tons, but it still comes down to Charades quite often. Fortunately, most Chinese find this really fun.

3. You can hire english tour guides everywhere! I agree you will miss the importance of much of what you are seeing with just a guidebook. But just line up to buy your ticket for the Forbidden City and student tour guides will offer to take you around (negotiate the price please) or you can pay at the ticket office for a live guide, or audio guide. ALSO, I find the staff at hostels have pretty good English and can help you learn a lot about your local area.

The Chinese people are beautiful people. I'm trying really hard to understand HOW you could be harassed??? I'm thinking that maybe they mean that in Beijing or really touristy places, they can be aggressive in the markets (Silk Street for example). But just walk away! Nothing is going to happen. Maybe they mean taxi cabs??? Most are great, just make sure its a real taxi and they turn on the meter (never agree to a price before you leave, its a sure fire sign you are going to get gauged), but I don't see this as a big deal. Maybe people mean the staring? You get stared at a lot as a westerner. Its curiosity, the Chinese are very curious people, expect them to ask lots of questions, sometimes we consider them very personal (I've been asked my weight and salary but I just let them know I'm uncomfortable and they get all embarassed). I can't imagine what they mean...

My biggest warning would be to learn to pay attention when you hear somebody clearing their lungs, I've had a few spits land dangerously near my shoes...

Anyway, I recommend Chengde - just North of Beijing.

Happy Travels Reply to this

13 years ago, December 5th 2007 No: 15 Msg: #23687  
N Posts: 3
A website about Guangdong pronvince ,there are many pictures about the landscape in Guangdong but the word introduce not very well . www.travelgd.com Reply to this

13 years ago, December 6th 2007 No: 16 Msg: #23733  
So many information about China!! But I think, if you want your tour more comfortable, it's good to travel alone or with your companies, Do not Join in the package tour group, if so ,you will find your trip is just follow the pace of others and spend a lot of time in shops, and sometimes you can just only have a glance of the destination which you want to have a deep trip. So I think a solo trip would be fantastic through you may meet some troubles caused by the communication. Meanwhile, a suggestion for you . Before you leave to another destination, Please make a reservation of the hotel and transportation. As mentioned above, if you want to book a ticket of train, YOU have to take a long time to queue and sometimes you have to face a case of many people come around to watch you, (which makes me uncomfortable). SO just find a travel agency, especially those serve for Foreigners to help you making the reservation. That would be fine for your trip. Reply to this

13 years ago, December 6th 2007 No: 17 Msg: #23741  
D Posts: 14
Bally, you didn't say how long you guys are traveling for, but the only time you will have problems getting train tickets will be during the May Week National Holidays (1-7 May). One other suggestion is buy/book your tickets through little local Travel Agents (you'll find many in all tourist areas) as this will save you having to line up at train stations, be sure to ask first what the commission is as it can be between 5-80 RMB. But overall I don't think you will have any problems traveling by yourselves. Reply to this

13 years ago, December 12th 2007 No: 18 Msg: #24079  

I will be travelling on my own to China in April also, I wont be doing a group tour, I think its best to experience these things yourself since you are free to go and do what you want although it might seem daunting. Most of the posts that I have read regarding travelling on your own seems to have the same opinion. :-) Reply to this

12 years ago, April 11th 2009 No: 19 Msg: #69229  
N Posts: 1
I agree with a couple of posters above on that it is relatively safe to travel in China. One does need to watch out for pickpockets, especially in crowded places. Take care of your purses and valuables. Use your common sense. A general rule of thumb is that if there are people around, there should be no serious safety concerns. Do not go to or stay at places where there is nobody around, especially at night - this is almost true everywhere in the world of course. If it is getting really crowded around you, however, you need to be careful with your belongings, such as when you board a bus, etc. There are few violent crimes against tourists. As for being hassled, most likely it is peddlers who want to sell you their goods that you have to deal with. They can be rather persistent but harmless. They talk a lot because bargaining is a big part of doing their kind of business in China. If you're not interested, just smile and walk on. If you travel by train, choose nicer trains. They're faster, cleaner and safer. In most cases you can tell by the initial alphabet of the code for a train. "D" is the fastest and nicest. They go from one major destination to another, making no or few stops on the way. "T" is the next, followed by "K." If the code for a train does not bear any of these alphabets, it must be one of these slow trains. Avoid them. On a given train, there are also different seats or berths you can choose from, ranging from soft-sleeping berth, hard-sleeping berth, soft-seat to hard seat. You can find a little train-travel-related information here: buy-train-tickets-china. In recent years they built many high-grade freeways in China. For short trips, it is rather convenient to go by coaches. Unlike the case with the train, you can mostly show up, buy your ticket, and then go on a bus. With trains, you have to purchases your tickets in advance or you may not be able to get on.
Reply to this

12 years ago, April 12th 2009 No: 20 Msg: #69243  
Just to follow up on this, I had an amazing time in China and and no trouble at all, no pickpockets, nothing stolen, only fantastic friendly people. Maybe people trying to sell things, mainly hassling on The Great Wall but apart from that it was cool.

I have to say the trains are by far my favorite mode of transport, especially the bunks that are open and you dont have a private compartment, you really get to mingle with the locals and experience how they travel, amazing experience, I seriously want to do it again sometime! Had some unforgettable moments getting to the restaurant cars and talking (or at least trying to communicate in one way or another) to people along the way, priceless. The only thing with that is though, if you are on your own just make sure you dont leave any valuables in your bunk, but I wouldnt do that in any country I travel, just common sense I guess. Reply to this

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