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Beijing, Xian & Shanghai

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boise, idaho
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Beijing, Xian & Shanghai

We will be traveling to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai in September. I was looking at an independent tour with a company called "China Highlights Tours". Has anyone heard of them, good or bad.

How hard is it for a novice traveler to arrange hotels, travel, tourist sites, etc. without a tour service? Anything I might not think to ask or do that you can suggest? Thanks for any and all input. Brandee

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Beijing, Xian & Shanghai

About 7 years ago I had so much trouble trying to book an overseas tour with a local travel agent that I decided to book my entire holiday to Vietnam myself. Since then I have booked my holidays to Japan and China too without any hiccups. Depsite the language barrier!

The only drawback is that YOU must spend time doing your homework. That means you need to read all about your destination, make up your mind what you want to see and prepare a workable itinerary. A starting point is to obtain some brochures and look at what order they arange the tours in. Then go from there. I must say that I have used Frommers online guides alot and Lonely Planet and Insight guides too.

You can book your hotel direct via email/internet. That way you can put in a request for views, floor orientation, bedding configuration etc. Often direct internet hotel bookings are cheaper but you should do your homework to establish whether this is true. Many tour companies "bulk buy" rooms at dicounted prices. However these rooms are not always the best rooms. And many tour companies have limited variety - usually don't offer serviced apartments for instance or family suites etc etc.

To be honest if you book your own holidays back where you live then I don't believe that it is any harder than doing this overseas too using the internet. Research companies you like and email them with queries. What is there English understanding like, how willing are they to provide you with detailed information, how flexible are they if you want to customise anything? Do they require everything to be prepaid or are they happy that you pay the bulk upon arrival? You can always book one tour in advance, determine its quality then book more with the same company if everything goes according to plan.

Alternatively you can book your tours via the concierge of your hotel. That way you know whoever they are using have been vetted previously by other customers.

Taxis are affordable and you can get around cities using them with written Mandarin addresses. Ask your concierge to write down your destinations for you. Otherwise you will need to research public transport options too.

As for air flights you can book international flights and any domestic flights before you leave.

Hope this helps.

2. Re: Beijing, Xian & Shanghai

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