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Beijing Tours/Tour Guides

I realize RS Tours are all about Europe, however was hoping some RS travelers had experience traveling to Beijing. We are looking for recommendations to optimize our Beijing visit supported by Tour Guide(s). We would appreciate any comments on past experiences on travel to Beijing.

Terry White

Posted by
2906 posts

If your hotel has concierge service (and most of the western hotel chains do) your best bet might be to check with them upon arrival. They usually have a list of licensed English speaking guides that they've already vetted to service their guests. I'd avoid any of the touts who will approach you on the street wanting to "practice their English" in exchange for guide services, which would be a hit and miss proposition - some are sincere college students looking to make a few extra yuan, others are the usual scam artists hoping to steer you to a nearby shop for your souvenirs.
Another alternative is to just book day trips to attractions that interest you. The Trip Advisor "things to do" pull down menu has many to choose from, including reasonably accurate ratings for each for comparison.

Posted by
212 posts

Hi Terry. We were in Beijing in October I had gotten pretty overwhelmed by the task of organizing a trip to a country where I could neither read nor speak the language. We ended up making arrangements through Audley Travel and they managed hotels, train travel , our internal flights and guides.
One highlight for us was a cooking lesson through Beijinger kitchen .The owner, Carylyle, is very interesting, fluent in English and loves to engage with people. We went to the local market with him, bought some food and had some interaction with the shop owners. We walked to the Hutongs, to the kitchen he has set up in the part of the Hutong his grandfather owned. Carlyle is the front man; he hires professional chefs who do the teaching and cooking while he does the explanations. We learned how to chop, how to carve, make dumplings, stir fry the correct way – we ended up with so much delicious food – it was a spectacular way to spend the evening. We learned a lot from Carlyle, not just about food, but about Chinese culture .
One night we did go to the rooftop bar at the Peninsula hotel, a little much needed 2 hours of English.
We walked the Great Wall from tower 14 to 6, but I am assuming that you have that, as well as the standard tourist things on your to-do list.

I am trying not to bury you but please feel free to PM me if you have questions or want more info.

Posted by
2906 posts

One suggestion: taxis in Beijing can be a wild and exhilarating ride. To save yourselves the excitement I'd recommend booking a car service thru your hotel to collect you at the airport (and return). Trust me - it's worth it.

Posted by
2651 posts

I second the warning on the cabs. We used China Highlights for a private ride from the Beijing airport to our hotel and it was just fine. When we left Shanghai for the airport here, I let our hotel call us a cab. It was terrifying. I was crying in the cab - really. He was driving at high rates of speed with his cell phone in his right hand, and he was scrolling randomly through sites as he drove. I've been in plenty of uncomfortable car rides - I didn't love our cab ride through Istanbul and I thought Cairo was pretty hairy (and we even got into a little fender bender there!). But China? OMG.

Posted by
2906 posts

Another lesson learned as it occurs to me: get a business card from the concierge or front desk that has the name and address of your hotel in Chinese - will come in handy should you get seperated from your tour group (or just wander off on your own) and need to get back to your hotel in a city where most people neither speak nor read English.
Also, taxis for short jaunts around the city are generally OK, it's the trip along the expressway to the airport that resembles Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland.

Posted by
4 posts

I definitely agree that having the hotel order the taxi and provide a card with the address written in Chinese is helpful (and grabbing extra hotel business cards in case you need to get a taxi later is also helpful.

The subway system in Beijing is really easy to navigate. Everything is labeled in English and color coded. The staff were helpful. As long as you avoid rush hours, it's a fast and easy way to get around. There is a Beijing subway app that you can use to map your route.

Temple of Heaven Park was beautiful and a great place to people watch and get to explore today's China. After learning so much about ancient China, it's a nice break to see what the city is like for people who live there today. No tour guide is needed to explore the park.