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china trip - help!

London, United...
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china trip - help!

We - a couple of pension age - are planning a trip to China for three weeks from April 23. We are going partly for personal reasons but also to see the country and its people. Of course we want to see some of the major sites but we also want time just to observe and do not want to be shepherded around for 10 hours a day having everything arranged for us. That said, we feel quite daunted by arranging everything ourselves and where to begin. Should we get quotes from tour operators as to hotels and internal flights or do this ourselves? what about excursions/tours, where we need English speaking tour operators - when/how should we arrange these?

We have already booked return flights from the UK - flying into Beijing and out from Hong Kong. We have worked out a rough itinerary but keep changing our minds about how much we can fit in - we don't want it to be a rush from one airport to another. At the moment it's looking like - 5 nights in Beijing; 3 nights in Shanghai;, EITHER a tour of Huangshan (2nights) - OR fly to Chengdu (1 night) and visit the Jiuzhaigou national park (2 nights); then to Guiyang(3 nights); then to Yangshuo/Guilin, w here we have booked a guesthouse near the Li river (4 nights); and finally to Hong Kong (3 nights).

What does that sound like to more experienced travellers? Would we be trying to squeeze too much in to get to Chengdu and the park? And - can we get some help yet also remain independent? Sorry for such a long post. Oh - our budget is..middling

Sherbrooke, Canada
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1. Re: china trip - help!

You can easily book the hotels and internal flights yourself. Choose your hotel using the reviews here on TA and contact the hotel directly through their website. For flights you can use ctrip.com (can also be used for hotels).

You may prefer to do Sichuan if you are not in top shape as Huangshan is very demanding. You are going up and down stairs for hours.

If you prefer not go on tours (good idea), you can hire private guides here and there. Not very expensive and you go at your own pace.

I have not been to Guiyang yet so I am not sure that you can do 3 days there unless you mean to visit the villages around. Note that the tourist infrastructure is not very good there and it is a bit more complicated if you wish to venture out in the countryside on your own. This is probably one place where a guide would be god. In big cities you can manage on your own, using the bilingual subway. For the Great Wall in Beijing, you need to hire a driver.

Beijing, China
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2. Re: china trip - help!

Be aware that your timing puts your possible tour to Huangshan or Jiuzhaigou right in the middle of May Day holidays. I'd suggest it would be better to be settled in one place during this time and not either of these very popular tourist getaways.

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: china trip - help!

Hello there, We also did 3 weeks in China flying into Beijing and out of Hong Kong. Our itinerary was different to yours but we did spend 5 nights in Beijing, giving us enough time to see the "must sees". We engaged the services of a guide for 3 full days to take us to all the main attractions. I figured that it would take too much time out of our day to figure out which metro line to take, where to get off, which way to walk, where to eat, etc, etc. I found it actually very interesting to have a local explain the culture to us as we went along, little things like why people do things a certain way, what was happening in the streets, and of course the best was the history lesson at each of the attractions. Nothing like having your own personal guide in such a large city where the language is a definite obstacle in itself. It has been said that since Beijing is an international city, we found that very little English was actually understood. I also think that people shyed away from speaking English for fear of not understanding us. Don't get me wrong, everyone was friendly, just that when you asked if they speak English, many would say no. And this was right along Wangfujing area. We loved our independent trip with the expert help of guides in Beijing, Xian and Zhangjiajie. Would do it all over again!

Beijing, China
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4. Re: china trip - help!

Going independent yet getting some support where needed is very doable. Middling budget is doable. Time frame is good, just need to settle on the final itinerary. My first suggestion is that you cut Guiyang. In order to see minority villages (if that's what you're after), you need to get to Kaili and then have time to get about. 3 days isn't going to do it. If this is a high priority for you, then increase time and cut out Shanghai/Huangshan. For now I'll assume Guiyang/Guizhou is cut. Rearranging the rest of it, I'd do:

April 23rd arrive BJ

24-27 BJ. Evening of 27th fly nonstop Air China to Tunxi (Huangshan city) and overnight. Stay ahead of the May holiday crowd and do this first.

28-29 Mt Huangshan one day and nearby Yixian villages next day. Night flight on 29th to Shanghai Hongqiao.

April 30, May 1 Shanghai. Big cities are better to be for holiday, even though this one is now shortened.

May 2 Morning flight to Chengdu also rest of day

May 3 Chengdu morning (Pandas). Late afternoon flight to Jiuzhaigou with road transfer to hotel near park.

May 4-5 Jiuzhaigou (or one day for JZG and one for Huanglong). The official holiday ends on the 3rd so the worst of the crowds should be past, though don't expect emptiness.

May 6 Fly back to Chengdu then to Guilin.

May 7-9 Guilin area

May 10-12 Hong Kong

May 13 depart.

Not sure whether I captured the correct time span but you get the general idea. There is a lot of flight in this itinerary but you have no choice trying to cover this sort of geography in this time frame.

Hong Kong, China
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5. Re: china trip - help!

Does not sound too much if you like to see a lot. You have a long rest planed in Yangshuo.

Xian could be an option, but it all depends what you like to see.

I would also vote to add more nights to Hong Kong at the end, but it also depends what you like to see there.

London, United...
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6. Re: china trip - help!

Thanks very much for these very helpful replies. I've got a few more.

- So we would book private guides when we arrive in each centre? Not from the UK? It is easy to book English speaking guides? I am worried this will take up time.

- We would choose either Huangshan or Chengdu/national park for some nature - obviously Huangshan is nearer but any thoughts? We are in our 60s but not too doddery. And whichever we do would we need to book a separate private tour from the UK? Reports on TA of Huangshan make it sound very crowded and difficult.

- We would try to be in Shanghai for the May holiday as advised. So would it make sense to fly to Huangshan from Beijing for two nights before this, then onto Shanghai? OR fly to Chengdu and the national park for a couple of nights and then into Shanghai?

- We have to be in Guiyang for family reasons! How would we get to Kaili - from either Guiyang or Guilin? by bus? Would this be a day excursion or should we stay in Kaili?

- We have so far assumed all travel is by plane but would like a train journey if we can fit it in. Maybe from Guiyang to Guilin?

Thanks so much, things feel a little clearer.

Beijing, China
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7. Re: china trip - help!

You can arrange guides via email from the UK. Reviews on TA are listed under the Activities tab in a Things to Do - check individual destination forums - or try a listings site like synotrip.com.

I think it's totally up to you which option you choose and how you execute it before going to Shanghai. I can't advise on the latter points.

China
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8. Re: china trip - help!

Hello there.. Welcome to China, it will be a very wonderful trip... I suggest you could consider to stop by GuangZhou, southern capital before you heading to HK.. there are many attractions and foods you love.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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9. Re: china trip - help!

Not much to see in Guangzhou actually compared to the other places being considered.

sydney
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10. Re: china trip - help!

Hi Myleia,

I'm also debating whether to go 'on tour' or do it alone with the support of local guides in each City.

How did you find your guides ?

Would you be able to PM me their email addresses so I can contact them directly.

Much appreciated.

Rabaul63