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planning trip to china any suggestions

sydney
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planning trip to china any suggestions

My husband and I are planning a trip to China. We are deciding if better to pre-book with a travel agent or go direct over the net, any suggestions? We are flying into Shanghai from Sydney and out of Shanghai.(already booked) We have 2 weeks 11-24 August. We thought we would have 11-13 Aug in Shanghai and do a tour of the Yu Garden, Jade Budha Temple and the Bund and also see an acrobatics show. Then fly to Xian for 2 nights 13-15Aug, and do a tour of the Terracotta Warriors and the Hot Springs, and a Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show. Then fly to Beijing Where tour the Summer Palace & Lama Temple and the Great Wall & Ming Tombs from 15-21 Aug. Then back to Shanghai until the 24 Aug. We thought to do shopping and Zhouzhuang Excursion. Anybody have suggestions on cheapest way to do this ? Is it worth to see these sites on tours or easy to do by yourself? Are these sites worth seeing, or anybody have any better suggestions? Any hotel recommendations and where to book? Internal flights, where to book and saftey? Airport Transfer recommendations? Restaurant reccomendations ? Shopping recommendations? We are middle age travllers 50..and well traveled, just not in China. Any recommendations are much appreicated.

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1. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

Hi there,

From the looks of things, if you book your air fare, hotels, tours, and local transportation and meals all separately like this.... it will definitely be more expensive.

Well travelled is good..... but if you have never been to China, and you do not speak mandarin, it might be a little bit inconvenient. Roads and transportation are not tourist friendly, and people don't speak much english. So, you would be spending alot of time looking for places, and getting lost, and getting a good meal.

But you said you already booked Sydney-Shanghai. My suggestion to you now is to book a land tour that will take you to Shanghai, Beijing and then Xian. Histroically, it just makes more sense to see Beijing first.... and then Xian. But it really doesn't matter.....just most tours do it that way.

With a land tour, you would have a tour guide, meals, hotels, local transportation, and you would eat at safe restaurants.

Seeing all the historic places in Beijing and Xian, you definitely need an English speaking tour guide to make the most out of the trip and sights.

Reminder- for Beijing, a lot of sights do not allow coaches and cars inside.... a lot of walking..... in August, without a tour bus or tour guide...... you will die in the unbearable heat.

Last year, in Shanghai, my husband was there, it got as high as 42 degree celsius.

For first time travellers, I really do think you should join a fully escorted tour to avoid unpleasant experience, and to save time and energy.

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2. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

correction on my typos... I meant you can take a land tour in Shanghai b/c you already got the air going there. But take an escorted tour from Shanghai TO Beijing and TO Xian and back to Shanghai. That's what I meant.

Not land tour going from Shanghai to Beijing to Xian. That would be a waste of time by train.

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3. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

You can easily visit the Shanghai sites on your own. Your hotel can help you get a taxi to the more distant places. In Xi'an, the warriors are a distance from town, so it would be cheaper to go on a tour from your hotel. The hot springs are not must see, but usually included.

In Beijing, you should see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City before the Summer Palace and Lama Temple, although those are worth seeing too. The Temple of Heaven is also worthwhile. All of these places except Tiananmen and the Lama Temple (as far as I know) have good audio tours you can get if you go on your own. Those are good and allow you to procede at your own pace. You can go by subway to Tiananmen and the Lama Temple.

For the Great Wall, you can go on a tour from your hotel or arrange a car for the day. Since it will be so hot, you will probably not want to spend a lot of time there, so a tour will be fine.

Your hotels can help arrange your domestic flights, too. Don't do that from the U.S. because prices are higher. Some hotels provide airport shuttles, otherwise you can get a taxi from the official queue--but try to get the name of the hotel in Chinese so you can give it to the driver.

Have a good trip!

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4. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

travellernet, I just want to ask you ( I see you live in USA), did you actually TRY sightseeing all those cities by yourself (on your own) ? I would like to know from another point of view... b/c I live in HK, and I have lots of out of town guests who visit me in HK, and then onwards to China, and business clients as well.... I always recommend them to take a tour, it has always come back to me that they are GLAD they did.

But, if you have done it totally on your own the first time in China, let me know b/c I would like to be able to consider arranging and suggesting that for my guests from now on. How easy was it really?

B/c all that you suggested is definitely true, but is it really "preferred" for first timers in China ... and in August?

Thanks!

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5. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

Katetam, I have been to China. I taught English for 4 months. And on the weekends, my friends (american) and I would do some traveling. I went to Xi'an and we did get a tour guide to take us to the terra cotta soldiers. That I do recommend. For Beijing, we just got a bus through our hotel to get to the Great Wall but we didn't need a guide for the Great Wall. That you can do by yourself at your own pace. Same with Tiananmen Square, and the Forbbiden City, we did the self recorded tour at your own pace and its really inexpensive. So, the only time we actually got a tour guide or did a tour was in Xi'an which I am really gratful that we did. Other than that, we traveled by ourselves to different places like Yangshuo, Huangshan, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.

So I would recommend a tour for Xi'an and thats really it. Everything else, you can get yourself and arrange yourself. I recommend getting the following phrase book, Chinese at a Glance. It was by far the best phrase book out of any of the ones my friends had. If you want to get around on your own, thats the phrase book to get.

Hotels, b/c I was a volunteer teacher, we stayed in hostels. So if you want to know where some good hostels are, please ask otherwise I don't know about any good hotels. I'll have to look at the hotel I stayed at in Xi'an, that was pretty good and really inexpensive if I remember correctly.

The places you are going to, are worth seeing. I loved going to Yangshuo. It is a small little city outside of Guilin that you can really experience the countryside. Its so beautiful, if you can spend a few days there but it looks like your flight schedule is set. That's all I can think of now.

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6. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

Katetam--I did travel in China on my own. The first time I visited China I travelled for 6 weeks, and I was able with little trouble and a few basic phrases of Chinese (it was 1988 and I was so cheap I bought my train tickets at the stations to avoid service charges and having to pay in FEC. Now that was hard!) I was completely alone for about two weeks and with a couple of people the rest of the time. (Now I've lived in China a combined total of 6 years and am pretty fluent, but I think China is also easier for the independent traveller now than it was then.)

I would guess that a lot of your business visitors are happiest on a tour, but people who travel a lot on their own in other countries can do it in China, too--if they are up for a challenge. Tours are easier and do offer someone to help when problems arise.

I've known lots of people who have travelled on their own in China. They tend to be college-aged, but some were retired. Most, but not all, knew some Chinese. I think the main point is that they are people who really don't like tours and are willing to take on the challenge in exchange for the rewards of independent travel.

I wouldn't really wish China on anyone in AUGUST, but first time visitors can do China on their own. Seasoned travellers should be able to manage an itinerary like that suggested here on their own. Almost anyone could handle a visit to Beijing or Shanghai on their own if they are a little adventerous and stay in a good hotel that can help them arrange day trips, buy tickets, tell a cab where to take them, etc. (In two cases hotels helped me to locate a clinic and provided someone to translate.) Hiring a car for the day for the longer day trips can also make independent travel much easier.

Anytime I've stopped for a moment and looked lost in China, helpful people who know English materialized and offered to help. That's come in handy a few times.

Without a doubt tours are the best way to see the most sites in the least amount of time. If someone has three weeks and wants to see 7 cities, a tour is the way to do it--I wouldn't try to do that myself. To travel alone in China, you need a realistic pace and some flexible time in case you can't get train tickets, etc.

Is independent travel cheaper? For me it is without a doubt, but if people travel on their own and pay top prices for hotel rooms, car rentals and so own, it might not be.

It would help to know of a travel company with fair prices that charges enough so they don't have to drag people to overpriced shops and to restaurants and hotels where the guides get kickbacks. Those places just are not the best that China has to offer. I'm sure these exist, but they can be tough to find.

So you're probably right to advise most people to take tours, but there might be a few people who would be happier on their own. If people are inclined to try it, I tend to encourage them.

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7. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

Thanks... I think you are very objective in what you said. I agree totally with you. I travel a lot, but prefer above average or luxurious accomodations, and transportation... therefore, I do prefer packages and tours. with China, I usually went with a tour, and when I DID NOT like their itinerary for the day, I took off on my own, but still went back for the hotel and rejoined the tour the next day when possible. Some times, you stop 2-3 days in a city..... I actually really enjoyed that.

I think we all wrote enough for those considering tours or not tours in China.

Thanks again for your informative reply.

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8. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

From Beijing to the outskirts, like the Great Wall, try not to be too cheap, and find a nicer taxi or tour agency.

I don't know if things have changed much since 1994, but when I rode a nice taxi out there and back, we passed by a number of BROKEN-DOWN buses on the sides of the road. The hapless passengers certainly looked as though they could be doing something better than sitting around on the sides of the road all day!

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9. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

I have questions for Katetam and Travellevret ( or other's been to Guilin before) about Guilin. Is it be a good place to tour around yourself? I'm looking at a private tour packet, about $620 for (2 adults, 2 children) for 2 full days tours: one full day local visit to various scenic spots and one full day Li River Cruise to Yangshuo, plus pickup/drop off both ways to hotel/airport with a private guide. I thought it's kind of expensive. Any suggestion? Thanks.

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10. Re: planning trip to china any suggestions

Darth--things have changed A LOT since 1994! But a private car or hotel-arragned tour is still the way to go. By the way, the Great Wall at Badaling is not normally my recommendation, but in the heat of August, I wouldn't recommend doing a hike out at Simatai.

Ling--Being the independent traveller-type, I skipped Guilin and went strait on to Yangshuo by public bus so I can't really speak to Guilin. Yangshuo is the independent traveller/backpacker destination with low-budget hostels. Since it is such a popular detination, Yangshuo is one of the easiest places to do on your own, and it is cheap. For nice hotels, you'll have to stay in Guilin. If you are the kind of family that goes camping, you might want to stay in Yangshuo.

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