Hello fellow travelers! Me and my partner are looking to plan a trip to China this fall. I'm open itinerary-wise and think 10 days is the timeframe. I've checked out some tour options, but am a little nervous about spending too much time in an "air-conditioned motor coach". This will be my first trip to China and I would like to be a part of some sort of tour group. Has anyone taken any Rick-worthy tours in China? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
We had a terrific experience with Sinorama. They are a Canadian company, but it looks from the website that they are starting to court American customers.
Is it Rick-worthy? Not sure you could say that, since they did take us shopping. But the guides were top-notch and the price was unbeatable. I think their prices have increased since we did it in 2012.
I've never taken a RS tour so I'm not sure what Rick-worthy means but we toured with Pacific Delight Tours (http://www.pacificdelighttours.com/) and it was a wonderful tour. Of course there were the obligatory stops to shop for jade and silk but there was no pressure to buy anything and the demonstrations were interesting. We did a 10-day tour that went to Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai, with side trips to the Great Wall and Suzhou (the garden city with canals). I think we only had free afternoons/evenings in Beijing and Shanghai but that was okay. Prices were very reasonable, much cheaper than Europe and the food was great. I would recommend them.
As with Nancy, never been on a RS tour, but I'm a patron of his guide books, Europe Through the Backdoor, Travel as a Political Act and his PBS shows. With that said I'm not sure if I want to travel in China or other developing/emerging economies the way a local travels unless we're talking about the way Chinese "one percenters" travel.
I'm also not clear about the apprehensiveness of AC coaches. I understand that RS tours use coaches. The Cal Alumni/China Advocates http://china-advocates.com that we took/used a A/C coach for day travel from hotel to points of interest and short intracity transport. The coach was only half full and comfortable. We had a national guide, local guide (outside of Beijing), and a retired Cal professor.
You may want to avoid the budget tours that earn profits with compulsory shopping. While our tour included stops at a tea plantation and silk factory, guides noted that we should not feel obligated to buy anything. If anything some in our group of 12 would have like to have had more shopping time.
I've only been to China once and it was for a week in Shanghai while my wife was inolved in a conference. It was very big, the streets were cluttered with every kind of vehicle, motor and otherwise, that you can imagine, and the smog was terrible. Seemed that everyone I saw was wearing one of those doctor's masks. The area along the river was beautiful, but otherwise two crowded for my tastes. Shanghai to me is one of those "been there, done that and don't want to go back" places. That said, the only other comment on China is that if you can afford it, or maybe even if you can't, spend the money to go first class. It is a VERY long flight, to long for a person of any size, to sit in coach the whole time. After all, how many trips to that part of the world will you make.
As for information about China I would suggest that you go to this Lonely Planet web site which I think will be beneficial to your planning, and also order their guide book. Look on Amazon and you might be able to get it cheaper there, just like you can with RS books when they're not on sale on this web site.
After you do that, go to The Thorn Tree Forum which is their version of this RS site. You can register just like you did here and search the topics of concern for you, or post your questions with the expectation of getting quite a few responses. It has been helpful to me several times and I know it will do the same for you. Since LP has no geographical boundaries you will find it a much more diversified source of information about entire world than we get here. I'd imagine there will be travelers on the Thorn Tree who can make recommendations about tours, hotels and transportation, and answer any of the questions you may have. Good luck.
We went with Uniworld and had a fantastic time. We had a national guide with us at all times, and a local guide in each city, and they were all great. The hotels were top-notch (Kempinski, Hilton, Hyatt, etc) and the trip included a four day Yangtze river cruise and three in-country flights. I would definitely recommend Uniworld.
After evaluating lots of tour options, I settled on Abercrombie & Kent for the China, River Cruise, & Tibet.......was the perfect 'small group' option for us. But, it turns out we are not taking the trip this year. But, I combed Trip Advisor to check out all their hotels, etc. A&K is a good company, and the itinerary was attractive.
A friend of mine went on a Penn State alum trip to China (her trip did not include Tibet), and Penn State used Oddesseys Unlimited as the tour provider. She's been on several other trips that were handled by the same tour operator and has been very pleased. Their tour packages include international air and their tours are very reasonably priced, but they do not appear to be quite as upscale as A&K, but still very good.
Most all the tour operators have differences in what they do each day, where they go, and what is included, so you really have to compare carefully to decide what is right for you. Like I say, A&Ks would have been ideal for us.
And, yes, I would definitely take some surgical masks.....lots of folks on various review sites mentioned the smog issue. The embassy has a meter reporter on its web site that shows the daily smog readings, and for the period of time I checked (about two weeks ago), they were pretty much at the absolute worst levels (one of the reasons we did not finalize our trip this year). I found reviews that mentioned the air pollution was so bad at various times, travelers were unable to see across the river from the middle (on a boat). But, I understand that can vary by day, time of year, etc.
I assume that Katie is by now back from China. She planned to go there last fall.
Ooops.....sorry, didn't notice the date of the posting.
Did you wind up going, taking a tour? If so, who did you use and how did you like it? Was the smog bad?