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The China Trip - need suggestions!

trying to work out details of our trip - tour or go with the flow?
13 years ago, January 16th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #25548  
N Posts: 3

My cousin and myself (both females in their early 20s) are currently planning out our trip to Asia, one of the main destinations being China. We are stuck after trying to work out whether we should go for the tour (safer and easier option) or should we organise our own way everywhere.

The main places we want to go to are Beijing, Chengdu, Leshan, Mt Emei and the three gorges. Can anyone give me some tips and advice, i would really appreciate it!
Thank you =) Reply to this

13 years ago, January 16th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #25550  
I've been thinking the same thing about China but everyone seems to say that tours aren't a good idea.

I was also thinking about pre booking some train tickets so I dont have to worry about getting them in the stations, not sure about this either though. Reply to this

13 years ago, January 16th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #25554  
I am a Chinese girl living in shenzhen.When would you like to visit China.As I know,the traffic will be very busy during Spring Festival.(From 7th,Feb to 17th,Feb)It is quite cold in Beijing and Leshan at this moment.If you prefer to travel alone,so I suggest you visit BeiJing,Shanghai or HongKong in May.In these city,lanugaue is not much problem.But if you visit the smaller city,it will be difficult to communicate with the local.
In this sense,join in the tour group is convenient.

Wish you have a nice trip in China Reply to this

13 years ago, January 16th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #25555  
Travel in China is very easy for there are usually very warm-hearted persons. whenever you face some problems, whenever you ask them for help, they will kindly to show you their hands. here are several tips one should pay attention when travelling in China.
1.pay attention to the Olympic Games. There should be millions of billions of people coming to China durning the Olympic Games. So if you want to China during that time, please booking everything you want in advance.
2. During other holidays, especially on New Year, Labour's Day, National Day,etc, be ware of the ticket (train,especially), hard to book, and Hotels, Crowded of People.
3.Some destinations as you mentioned above, get high season and low season apparently.There are millions of people crush to those famous senic spots in the high seasons. But to the other side, those senic spots are in their best beautiful views.
4. package tour is much cheaper than self-tour.
5.some must-see places of the above cities:
Beijing: Summer place, Tian'an'men Square, Forbidden city, the Great Wall, Olympic center,etc. Toast duck have to eat, Beijing Operal is very famous.
Chengdu: the Giant Panda base, Sichuan Operal, Dujiangyan irrigation Project, World Culture and Nature Heritage by UNESCO
Leshan: The Giant Buddha,World Culture Heritage by UNESCO
Mt Emei: Climbing to the Golden Summit, bathing in the hot spring;World Culture Heritage by UNESCO
The Three Gorges: drifting in summer, or taking a ship to appreciate the Longest River in China.
A recommended site: Jiuzhaigou valley and Huanglong: World Nature Heritage by UNESCO
may it helps 😊 Reply to this

13 years ago, January 17th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #25610  
N Posts: 3
Thanks for the advice, i am going May 10th if that helps =) Reply to this

13 years ago, January 21st 2008 No: 6 Msg: #25759  
Go With The Flow would be my best advice, but I speak Mando decently which really changes your opinions.

It really depends. If you like comfort, schedules, and don't mind paying about double a normal price for convenience, go for a tour.

The best ones from Aus are run by Helen Wong - there's no You Buy You Buy You Buy! atmosphere and once you get there, it's ALL organised - planes between cities, ships, hotels, most meals etc. are all included (possibly insurance as well).

Helen Wong's tours are also reasonably priced, go to a LOT of places and run specials - check out the local travel section in your paper for promotions (she puts ads in the Escape Sections of the Courier Mail in QLD).

If you fancy going off the beaten track though, buy a Let's Go! China guide (this is FANTASTIC - I was planning on backpacking china and picked this up, I haven't been yet but have read it cover to cover several times) and possibly the latest Lonely Planet guide (for the great transport info).

Work out your rough itinerary before you go, but don't set a schedule and expect to stick to it exactly. Stuff happens, you know?

most cheapy hotels are usually located around the main train stations in most of asia, double check this first 😊 but I know in Taiwan really you can just get off the train and wander around looking for a hotel that suits your budget. you might prefer to book, but booking is more expensive.

Learn the characters and pronunciations for numbers; hand signals (there's a way of counting from 1 - 10 using just your right hand) are possibly even more helpful than the pronounciation. DEFINATELY learn the characters to avoide being quoted '40' when it really says '4'.

Haggle. 'Pian yi yi xia' and 'tai gui le! *** kuai ' (make it cheaper and too expensive! $XXX) are good phrases. Find a helpful person to teach you how to pronounce it properly before you go.

I think that's all the advice i can give. Hopefully it helps you decide which is more suited to your way of travelling (and your budget) and you can enjoy your trip 😊

Oh. Don't drink the water. Boil it first 😊 (Or use Iodine tablets! Tea etc. is all OK though)
Reply to this

13 years ago, January 21st 2008 No: 7 Msg: #25772  

13 years ago, January 25th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #26014  
N Posts: 8
tour package is a good idea if you prefer a 'just-sight-seeing' trip. but you will miss a lot fun indeed. so i always DIY. my friends just came back from beijing/xian/luoyang, on their own. they say it's marvellous! so i will go to china and DIY. i'm go to bejing this Aug for the Olympics. anyone has the same plan? would like to share information with you. Reply to this

13 years ago, January 26th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #26065  
N Posts: 3
It's possible to do a go-with-the-flow trip, but I think it's going to take a lot of preparation and research on your part. Tour packages can be a good idea if you are traveling all over China, but then again they are very structured, which can take some of the fun out of traveling.

I lived in China over the summer and went to Tsinghua University in Beijing. Getting around can be difficult without speaking the language. For the most part, people like taxi drivers and train station workers speak no English, so you'll have to learn how to speak some Chinese. The problem with this is that the dialects change in different regions. I knew enough Mandarin to get by in Beijing, but when I went to Shanghai, the dialect was different enough that no one could understand me. I had trouble ordering water at a restaurant. So thats one thing to consider. The more places you go, the more dialects you will run into, which can make communicating difficult. If you do the trip on your own, I would definitely research what dialects you'll run across.

Another thing to consider is how you want to travel around China. Taking a plane will probably cost about twice as much as taking a train, but it's going to be much easier to buy a plane ticket than it will be to buy a train tickets. Train tickets, especially through central points like Xi'an, can be difficult to get on your own. They frequently sell out of sleepers and soft seats, which means you might be traveling in a standing room only car for 12 hours. I tried buying train tickets to Xi'an the day they went on sale (weeks in advance), and they only had standing room tickets. The reason is that priority is given to travel companies. They can buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public. This can make traveling to places like Xi'an tricky. Another option is to buy train tickets from an online travel company, and have them buy you a ticket. In order to do this, though, you have know where you will be staying in China, so the company knows where to deliver your tickets. They can't ship them overseas.

I'm not trying to scare you out of going on your own, just be aware it's going to take a lot more work than going with a tour. But then again it will probably be a lot more rewarding.

I've tried to compile some advice for first-time china-goers if you're interested. I'll be adding more on a regular basis: www.westernersguide.com Reply to this

13 years ago, January 26th 2008 No: 10 Msg: #26082  
N Posts: 8
Thanx, bed (a little bit strange 😊) ). it's very helpful. it is possible to book the train ticket on internet in advance? Reply to this

13 years ago, January 26th 2008 No: 11 Msg: #26087  
N Posts: 3
Yeah, I admit the nickname is strange, long story. Anyways, it is possible to book through online companies in advance, ahd they will usually be more successful than you when it comes to buying train tickets, because they will have priority over you as an individual. You will pay more (maybe about 20% above the cost of the ticket) for an online company, but it may be worth it. The only drawback is that you must know where you will be staying so that the tickets can be delivered there. It's really up to you whether you use online company for train tickets. Just be aware that getting to train tickets from Beijing to Xi'an, for example, can be difficult to aquire on your own. You have to decide if it's worth the peace of mind to order online company. There are several companies to choose from if you gooles online China Train Ticket companies. Just google it to find them. Reply to this

13 years ago, January 28th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #26203  
Hi, I'm living in China presently. First, your hotel or hostel often have a travel desk and can book tickets for you. Or you can hook up with a travel agency with offices throughout China, and they can help you in each individual city.

If you stay at hostels in China, most have really good tour programs. So a hostel in Beijing will help you access the Great Wall, and maybe the less touristy part! Hostels generally have decent English, more so than hotels.

Bed is absolutely right about the different accents in China. I personally find it a lot of fun. However, your answer for taxi cabs is to always have your destination written out in Chinese Characters and this is really easy for major sites (you can usually print it from the Internet, or it might be in your guide book) or ask your hostel staff to write it out for you.

I really recommend taking a couple of classes on reading pinyin before you leave. Its close but not exactly the same phonetics as English, and the little differences make a world of difference as do the tones. I'm sure your local multi-cultural association or university can put you in contact with somebody.

China is a wonderful, beautiful and very safe country. The main concern is pickpockets. In general, people will be very excited to meet you and know you. There will be exceptions. For instance avoid getting a taxi near any major tourist site, walk one or two blocks and hail a taxi that is driving down the road. In my experience, in the touristy areas, a taxi that has the time to sit around and wait for you, is probably going to gouge you. If you don't know the city well, insist on using the meter and get out if not. If you make the same trip a few times, and know what its worth, then you might consider agreeing on a price before you leave.

I haven't gone anywhere in China and been dissapointed...but that is maybe my personality. You have to be flexible, accept what you get and realize it probably wont be exactly what you asked for. You have to be both patient and assertive. Chinese line-ups are awful. Hold your ground or someone will bud in front of you. Once the rest of the people see that you allowed it to happen it can be a free for all. More than once I've just walked away for 5 minutes and tried again, more assertively.

Good luck and have fun.

Reply to this

13 years ago, January 28th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #26205  
Having gone through China on a "do it yourself" tour, a couple of years ago, I would recommend going with the flow. It is not a all hard to do it, you just need to understand that you'll make errors. If you are not uptight about that, then you'll be fine.

Some pointers:
- Bring a small phrase book with the Chinese characters and the pronounciation - you can use the point to the book system like I did.
- Bring your ATM card
- Stay at hostels, not Chinese hotels. The hostels' staffs are usually students, most speak English pretty well, they are friendly, they rooms are clean and functioning. Plus they almost always have internet access.
- If any Chinese person approaches you and speaks very good English, they are most likely out to scam you - usually nothing too serious, they just want to lure you into some shop to spend huge amounts of money that they will split with the shop owner
- Organize your own "mini tours" with a taxi driver. For example if you are staying in a large city and the spot you want to see is a ways out, don't take an organized tour bus to the place, just hire your own driver. There are usually others around who would be willing to split the fare. This way you are not glued to the group and a time schedule.
- Get a good guide book - used is fine and plan your journey using that and the internet. Most of the things you want to see are well documented on the internet, making it easy to make your plans.
- Take the trains - fun, relaxing and efficient. Always book a sleeper
- Take plenty of money because China is not cheap, entrance fees can be steep, but you can save money on food if you eat at local places and street markets and not the "made for Westerners" places

That's about all the advice I have for now. You won't regret going it on your own.

Reply to this

13 years ago, January 28th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #26231  
N Posts: 3
hi, rginger, i think you and ur cousin should book the tour "essence of china, northbound" as it sounds marvelous. i just noe you will have a great time! Reply to this

13 years ago, April 11th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #32292  
N Posts: 36
Hey I'm going to travel there too, and I want to go see the three gorges as well! We should hang out.

My opinions of tours is that, they are good when the place you're visiting has either history or subtle cultural backgrounds that are hard to get just by going on your own. Otherwise, for places where a guide can't tell you anymore than what the placks say, it's really quite unnecessary. Almost everywhere in the world, the packaged tours only make your trip more compact, not more convenient. Reply to this

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