my wife and I are planning to do the 2020 my way Italy tour in 2020, can any one recommend a good tour company for Beijing china..we were thinking of going there either before or after the rick steves tour..
You don't need a tour guide for Beijing. It's totally safe. Most signs at train/underground stations are in English as well as Chinese. People are generally friendly and helpful and it's fun to just wander around not attached to a huge group!
Actually, a guide comes in real handy for making your way to the various attractions in and around the city. Although the subway does make it easy to get around if you're up for an adventure, having an English speaking guide makes things a lot easier when dealing with some of the language issues. Most of the western hotels will have a knowledgeable concierge who can either suggest day tours to places of interest or, if you prefer, they'll have a list of local guides whom they've already vetted for their guests - usually local university students working on their English.
Some tips: Have your hotel arrange a car service to meet you at the airport and get you into the city. Relying on local taxis is not for the faint hearted ... trust me on this.
Also, before you leave your hotel on any excursion grab a business card with the hotel's name, address, and phone number written in Chinese. Makes it a lot easier when trying to communicate directions to taxi drivers whose knowledge of English is probably rudimentary at best.
I have traveled in China five times and I think that a first-timer would benefit from a tour guide for at least part of their trip. It’s not a matter of “safety,” but more a matter of understanding what you are looking at and getting oriented for exploration on your own. While people are friendly and kind, English-speakers are by no means as easy to find as in Europe.
A private tour might be the way to go. Private guides and drivers are not necessarily all that more expensive than big group tours. A place to start might be Wild China - https://www.wildchina.com/
I have not used them, but know others who have and were very pleased. They arrange private tours and also have small group tours. I have also had good luck finding private guides in China and elsewhere by reading reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.
Both Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) and Odyssey Unlimited have good reputations if you want a multi-day small group tour. I have travelled with OAT in SE Asia and it was excellent.
We did a wonderful 3 week tour of China and Hong Kong in 2012 with Vantage World Travel. There are many good travel companies, just do a comparison. Our tour included a four day river cruise and we saw quite a lot including Beijing, the Great Wall, Xian and the terra cotta warriors, Shanghai, the river cruise, a day cruise on the Li River and much more.
Here is my review of our trip:
I am sure that you can do places like Being on your own, but for a tour of the country no way would I try it on my own.
For Beijing, I would arrange pickup at the airport and a driver/guide for your days...not too expensive and totally worth it. For Shanghai, you will be okay on your own. Ask any young person if you need directions. They want to speak english, and they start learning it in 2nd or 3rd grade. Good advice about always having your hotel people give you a card with your hotel information on it. Enjoy your trip...so many interesting places and things to see
Taxis are easy. However its a good idea to have your destination (hotel) on a card or piece of paper with name and address both in English and Chinese (Mandarin). Carry the hotel's card (English and Mandarin) to show drivers where you want to go.
Hotel concierges can arrange for a personal guide and driver for the day at reasonable prices (about $100 USD several years ago).
One more thing, the traffic in places like Beijing and Shanghai is terrible. Suggest that you research what you want to see and plan accordingly.
Most of the great Beijing sites are in city center, but if you want to go to the Great Wall, see the pandas at the zoo or other places outside the city center make sure you have transportation locked down.
Easy train from Beijing to the Badaling portion of the Wall. Takes about an hour or so and the scenery is stunning.
Another recommend for Wild China, who also have a food focus. Are you only visiting Beijing ?
I am doing a Viking River cruise tour of China in April 2021.
But, if I were doing a land only based tour, I would consider World Spree (formerly China Spree). This company is highly touted by Pauline and Arthur Frommer. Pauline recently took their Vietnam tour and reported on it in length in one of her podcasts. You've probably never heard of them because they don't advertise, no glossy brochures nor work with TAs which is why the cost is amazingly reasonable for a 5 Star first tour and accommodations. They have itineraries to SE Asia, India, China and Peru. Their Air packages are extremely attractive. Just passing the word as i figure many folks may have never heard of the company. It seems to be word of mouth.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a hotel with English speaking concierge and air conditioning that works in the area of the National Art Museum of China, which is just a little east of the Forbidden City. I can splurge a little while in Beijing.
There are plenty of 4 & 5 star hotels in the vicinity - just do a search on booking.com.
Back when I traveled there frequently on business we stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which is about 3 blocks from the forbidden city and Tiananmen Square and about 30 minutes on foot to the museum. The English speaking concierge was quite helpful in organizing day trips outside the city and the hotel is typical Hyatt - everything upscale and modern. They cater to the western tourist. Can recommend it.
I spent 5 days in Beijing last year. I was on my own, while transiting back home.
I had no trouble at all getting around - I used a combination of public buses, car taxis and a couple of not-for-the-faint-of-heart motorcycle taxis. The concierge at my hotel would look up the bus/taxi routes for me and help me finesse my day’s plan before I headed out.
The hotel I stayed at was the Inner Mongolia Grand, booked for a good rate through Booking.com. It was a typical mid-range hotel, with a good breakfast buffet, comfortable room, not noisy, and in an excellent location. It was really good value and I liked it - again, I can’t stress enough how brilliant its location is.
I booked a couple of walking tours with Context Travel. I’ve used them for years for walking tours all over Europe, and was as satisfied as usual. I found the ‘Confucianism to Buddhism: A History of Chinese Thought’ particularly interesting, as was the Forbidden City tour. I also tremendously enjoyed a Lost Plate Food Tour of one of the hutongs. The rest I easily covered on my own.
The best restaurant that I tried was called ‘Yun Hai Yao Yunnan Cuisine’ (云海肴), at 10 Qianhai Dongyan near the Jinding Bridge. Houhai was a lovely area for an evening stroll. I took a public bus there and a taxi back.
Indeed, take more than one of your hotel’s business cards with you. Also don’t rely on the English version of a place’s name - always have the Chinese name saved on your phone, as otherwise you may never find what you’re looking for (or waste a lot of time trying...). Also, be willing to step out of your comfort zone regarding food!
I did not arrange a pick-up at the airport and simply used an airport taxi. The hotel concierge arranged my return taxi to the airport.
Hope this helps.