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Do I Need a Tour Guide?

Do I Need a Tour Guide?

Old Jun 6, 18, 6:29 pm
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Do I Need a Tour Guide?

I'm going to be in Beijing for a few days in November and want to see a few specific things (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven). I've been to Shanghai a few times and I can speak Mandarin natively, but can't read too much in the way of characters (only one year of college Chinese, albeit with simplified characters). Getting around Shanghai and doing what I needed to do was fairly straightforward.

However, in order to maximize my time in Beijing and hit the sights I want to see, would you recommend I hire a local guide/driver?
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Old Jun 6, 18, 8:12 pm
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As a non-speaker I would have no qualms about doing these things without a tour guide.
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Old Jun 6, 18, 8:29 pm
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As a native-level speaker you'll have no problem getting around the major sights of Beijing by taxi. Or Metro if you want to be a little more adventurous and have the time. Maybe a car and driver to the Great Wall, though.
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Old Jun 7, 18, 4:29 am
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Frankly, you are already much better equipped than most travelers that don't need or use a guide.
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Old Jun 7, 18, 10:58 am
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Sounds good - thanks for the feedback, everyone!
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Old Jun 7, 18, 11:03 am
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After the 18th, I may be able to recommend a company that can provide a driver to the Great Wall. My boss is leaving tomorrow and we hired someone to take him and his daughter to Mutianyu. Please let me know if you are interested and I will report back.
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Old Jun 7, 18, 12:14 pm
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Originally Posted by 12Mermaids View Post
After the 18th, I may be able to recommend a company that can provide a driver to the Great Wall. My boss is leaving tomorrow and we hired someone to take him and his daughter to Mutianyu. Please let me know if you are interested and I will report back.
That would be great - that's the next step, so a verified recommendation would be awesome. Thanks!
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Old Jun 7, 18, 5:30 pm
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Originally Posted by OskiBear View Post
but can't read too much in the way of characters (only one year of college Chinese, albeit with simplified characters)
Simplified characters are what you'll see in mainland China.

Last edited by SJOGuy; Jun 7, 18 at 5:54 pm
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Old Jun 7, 18, 5:32 pm
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I would love a recommendation for a tour guide to the Great Wall. Thank you!!
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Old Jun 7, 18, 7:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Suzzin View Post
I would love a recommendation for a tour guide to the Great Wall. Thank you!!
The great wall is pretty self explanatory, and you can print articles from the internet about specific towers and the like. So, no tour guide needed. But, a driver to get you there can be useful, and there is a big thread on this topic.
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Old Jun 20, 18, 9:41 am
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Recommended by my boss and his daughter (and they are very particular):

Peony Tours - driver took them to the Wall at Mutianyu and Summer Palace. Very helpful and very good.

Am I allowed to post contact information? We worked through the concierge at the Westin Financial District and I'll be happy to supply the email address and some names, though I don't have the name of the specific driver.
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Old Jun 23, 18, 7:23 pm
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A tour guide for the Great Wall isn't needed. A driver to get you there is (I used Simon). The Google translate app reads any writing you want instantly. It was the only guide I needed.
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Old Jun 26, 18, 10:13 am
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You'll be fine by yourself. The subway is very easy to get around on (and cheap by our standards), everything you really need to know is in English. In terms of needed a guide for attractions, you don't need one, but at some places it can be useful to have a good guide as you'll learn a lot you wouldn't if you were on our own. We recently did a walking tour of some temples in the city center and we could easily have walked around by ourselves, but the guide told us much history and other things that we never would have learned ourselves. Ditto the Forbidden City. Our guide explained many things and also knew routes that let us avoid some of the major crushes of people. The great wall you can certainly do by yourself.
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Old Jul 8, 18, 1:53 pm
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If you can speak natively then the only advantage a guide MIGHT offer is better restaurants and shopping discounts. Reading shouldn't be a problem and as they say, there's an app for that, lots of augmented reality translation apps. Though I have no recommendations.
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Old Jul 11, 18, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by FTA View Post
Reading shouldn't be a problem and as they say, there's an app for that, lots of augmented reality translation apps. Though I have no recommendations.
Interesting - I have to figure out how those work. I currently have a Chinese/English dictionary app on my phone and when I come across a character I don't know or remember, I write it in the app for the translation. It's a bit slow because my keystrokes aren't the best, even after extensive lectures on the virtues of Chinese penmanship and proper stroke order from my dad. Thankfully, the apps I've used are reasonably forgiving and predictive.
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