We went with China Odyssey for some of our China holiday.
Overall we had a good time on our private tour. The tour guides, drivers, hotels, emails to arrange the tour, were all of excellent standard and service.
After the tour, we agreed that if you are going to go on a tour for China you might as well do it on a private one even though its a bit more expensive. If you're on a tour bus, there is no flexibility and you see less because likelihood is that the tour is for retirees who walk quite slow and a toilet stop is needed every 15 mins.
The best thing about China Odyssey is the tour guides. All the tour guides were on time picking us up from airports etc and some waited there when our flights were delayed. Dont worry about no one picking you up! The drivers were all excellent too of course.
Be aware that if you book with a tour company tipping is involved. We know that it's 'optional' and whatever else they say.
So the deal is the tour guides dont get accommodation (if they dont live in the city you are touring), so country towns and smaller places ,they have to find their own accommodation. They also dont get paid very much at all, about 150 yuan a day. Most of our tour guides did full 8 hour days with us, some hiking and climbing mountains etc.
So although tipping is "optional", the guides pretty much rely on tips to live.
Initially we were reluctant to tip (coming from a country that is not used to tipping and that we didnt really factor in the tipping costs into our overall tour price), but when we thought about it, we still tipped each of our tour guides because 90 yuan (30 for driver) and 60 yuan (tour guide) from each of us is not a lot (yes there is the argument about it all adding up..), but if we were angry about paying for quite an expensive private tour and then having to tip we shouldnt blame it on the tour guides, but on the actual company itself for charging high prices, not paying the guides enough and then us needing to tip on top of the price.
the tour guides of course didnt expect to be tipped and certainly didnt ask for tips or remind us about tipping. our tour guides were excellent and always enthusiastic.
my advice is, if you're going to book, the final price of the tour you pay does not include tipping, and you should factor tipping 90 yuan a day for each day on top of the final price.
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