We are starting to plan a vacation to China and would appreciate any recommendations for tours/tour companies that others have used and would recommend. We are looking to include Beijing, Shanghai, Yangtze Cruise, Chengdu, Xian, and Llasa.
We are going to China this spring. Going thru a Canadian company, Laurus travel. They are based in Vancouver bc.
I have been on two China tours through an alumni affinity travel company and was very happy with the results. The travel company founder's comment is that money talks in China and priced the tours accordingly. China tours vary widely in price.
Be aware that the lower priced (too good to be true) tours may involve not only big (and full) tour busses, but have built in mandatory shopping stops were the guides/companies get kickbacks from the merchants. Friends have been on these "mandatory shopping stop" tours and had a story where one person on the tour was feeling sick and did not want to go out. They were told that if they didn't "shop" they would have to pay an extra fee.
We have been to China three times. China Advocates in San Francisco provides excellent guides, and experiences. Look at Asia Trans Pacific too.
Both of our alumni affiliated group tours to China were provided by China Advocates. I have since learned that China Advocates has be renamed Asia Sublimed. http://www.asiasublime.com/founders-page/
Our first China Advocates tour started in Beijing, ended in Shanghai. Travel in between the book end cities included ancient villages that were the filming locations of the "Crouching Tiger" move and a night at a inn on top of the Yellow Mountains.
Our second China Advocates tour started and ended in Shanghai and featured the minority villages near Kaili, terraced rice fields of Longsheng and a Li River cruise at Guilin. This second tour was interesting in that the Alumni group tour required at least 20 participants but would go forward with 10 participants without the enhancement professor. We only had 7 signed up and the other 5 dropped out hearing of the low participation rate. China Advocates committed to doing the tour for only the two of us with only local guides and without a national guide (who would have stayed with us the entire trip.
This second trip was a go and one other couple joined us. China Advocates as promised provided us with local guides including a Shanghai guide who met us a the Shanghai hotel and got us to the airport for our flight to Guilang where a local guide met us. We had a minivan for the four participants, an English speaking guide, and a driver at all times, with one guide passing us the the next as we travel from one region to another. In effect we had a semi-private tour.
While China Advocates.Asia Sublime seems to specialize in affinity tours, they were willing to essential offer us a private tour. My only affiliation has been as a tour participant. Tours were not cheap (it's not a Rick Steves tour) but we got our money's worth.
We do not offer standard tour packages, and we are not a travel
Rather, Asia Sublime is a specialty travel company that develops
thematic tours based on our clients’ interests. Our sole focus is to
create unforgettable itineraries that allow travelers to immerse
themselves in the rich cultures and ancient landscapes of our
destinations. Asia Sublime takes this experience a step deeper by
offering opportunities to meet with local and well-known scholars,
artists, cultural specialists, and spiritual masters.
We had a wonderful China three week tour that included the places you mentioned, except Tibet, but it also included other places.
The tour was with Vantage World Travel out of Boston.
We compared with other companies and they had the best deal, but that was in 2012.
Compare different companies and pick the best deal.
Thank you all for the input. We have done 10 RS tours and traveled on our own. We find we enjoy group travel, but now look for small group tours. We are looking at an Alexander & Roberts tour that will include the places we are interested in going. Has anyone traveled with them before?
You might want to look into Imprint Tours, a company run by Reid Coen, a Rick Steves guide. They focus on small group tours similar to Rick's. We went to Southern Africa with Imprint last year and really enjoyed it. We were impressed that most of the people on the tour had toured with Reid before. I believe their next tour to China will be in 2021. It's a small company, so they don't go everywhere every year.
Thank you, Carroll. We have traveled with Reid on one RS Tour and two Imprint Tours. Unfortunately, we are looking to travel this year because our health is good and the timing is right for us to go.
Edgar has mentioned mandatory shopping tours. I would like to second that and warn you that even private guides & small tour companies do the same thing. Mandatory shopping is very often called "Silk Factory Tour" or "Tea Ceremony Workshop" or "Tour to the Pearl factory", etc, etc. All of that is basically a romanticized scam. So if you notice that a company or a tour guide is trying to include such stuff in the itinerary, understand that this is basically a tourist shopping thing.
Thanks. I like the way a gentleman on one of our tours called it - "an opportunity for commerce". We are very spoiled by the RS philosophy and we will be doing very little shopping even if it is part of the itinerary.
Our concerns are growing about the ramifications of the virus. Ironically, we went to China in 2004 at the same time of the year and we were dealing with the Bird Flu! Our Yangtze Cruise had only a little over 1/2 the possible passengers for our sailing.
Ironically during our "high end" college affinity tours, many of our tour companions asked for and would have liked more shopping opportunities. We did have the "tea ceremony" demonstration, a tour of a tea plantation with tea leaf processing demonstrations and a silk factory tour that felt "educational"and were interesting. Our guides stressed that while the demonstrators will push sales of products, we were under no obligation to buy anything.
Our Guilin river cruise terminated at Yangshuo. We walked from the boat dock to our van pickup point along a long street lined with shops. Our guide took us in one "high end" shop that had a "back room" with high end knock-offs. Again, no pressure to buy but an educational experience in the "reproduction" of name brand products.