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China: Do you need to go on an organized tour?

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China: Do you need to go on an organized tour?


My sister and I (both in our mid-20s) are planning a trip to China in June for 2-3 weeks. We love to travel - but have never been to Asia. From our research, people have encouraged us to take an organized tour since we have heard that China can be difficult to get around if you don't speak mandarin (we don't!) Even the tour books mention this.

I would love to get feedback from any one who has travelled china not on a tour. How was it? Was it difficult? Frustrating?

Our plan is to visit Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Xian as well as more rural areas (tea region, buddhist temples, mountains).

Thanks in advance!


Taiyuan, China
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for Pingyao County
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1. Re: China: Do you need to go on an organized tour?

I think the main considerations are:

-Do you prefer a tour or to go on your own in other foreign countries?

-How many destinations you are trying to see in a limited amount of time?

You can manage in China on your own with a good guide book, a good phrase book, and the assistance of hotel staff.

As with most foreign countries, you will have to plan your days, figure out where to eat and stay, arrange your own tickets between places, and buy admissions tickets to places. Things don't always work out, sometimes it is a challenge to communicate, and it can be frustrating at times.

The major cities your are visiting can be managed on your own without speaking Chinese. There are lots of tourists doing this, and enough English that you can manage.

You can arrange private tours or join group tours from your hotel to go to the Great Wall outside of Beijing, and perhaps to do some of the other trips out of town.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: China: Do you need to go on an organized tour?

If you are generally aware of signs (there are enough at all the major attractions in English) and have the ability to read basic street maps then you can travel on your own in China. You can book day tours to sights when you get there, either with your hotel concierge or with a tour company.This means for say 4 hours of the day you have a guide and a driver taking you around and explaining things to you. After that you have time to shop and eat wherever you want.

When we travelled we had our destinations written down in Mandarin (the hotel will do that for you). We showed this to our taxi driver and pointed to the place on a map. They just nod and off you go! It was not a problem. In case you get lost, carry your hotel's card. The only time we booked a tour was when we had to leave the city itself - Terracotta Warriors, the Wall etc and a night attraction - Acrobatics show.

HK definitely do on your own.

Rural areas - book private day tours rather than coaches unless you do not mind being stuck with mostly seniors, waiting for them while they get organised/shop. Sorry seniors but you might be too slow for two 20 somethings!!!

Buy a Lonely Planet guide (includes Mandarin addresses - helpful if you get lost) which has suggested walking tours in it. These you should be able to do on your own or adapt to your own interests.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: China: Do you need to go on an organized tour?

The fact that you have never been to Asia means that you will have some culture shock I suspect - perhaps that maybe frustrating at first until you get used to it - ie vendors trying to rip you off. But it is just a game to these people, it is nothing sinister. If it is too pricey just walk away. My husband thinks it is hilarious but I just wear my sunglasses and avoid eye contact (suggest you don't speak to any vendo at the wall unless you want to buy something there - nut inflated prices I am afraid)

Do your research so you can anticipate what its like. Read up about each attraction and be aware of where the ticket counters are located and so on. Prices are wriiten up in English.

4. Re: China: Do you need to go on an organized tour?

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