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China Question

China Question

Old Nov 20, 02, 12:11 pm
  #1  
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China Question

I am planning a trip to China in 2003... perhaps late May or early June. I am traveling with a friend, and we are interested in seeing as much as we can in 15-20 days. Are group tours the best way to see China, or can individuals travel and explore easily on their own. If anyone has had experience with this, your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Nov 20, 02, 6:02 pm
  #2  
rjh
 
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It would be helpful to know if you've travelled in Asia before. Also, have you travelled independently outside of Western Europe?
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Old Nov 20, 02, 8:08 pm
  #3  
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I avoid group tours like the plague, and that goes double for China. Unless you're really into gift shops, disgusting restaurants, crappy hotels, descending upon scores of temples with busloads of old ladies, and tons of diversions that result in kick-backs for your guide, you'd best go solo. It helps to know a little Chinese, of course, but even if you're linguisticly hampered, you can accomplish great things using a book as your only guide.
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Old Nov 21, 02, 9:33 am
  #4  
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The only travel I have done in Asia is to Japan... about 75% for business. I do not like group tours either and try to avoid them whenever possible. Not knowing the language, customs, and governmental controls on movement are the reasons I created this post. Are there any places where there are travel restrictions? Are there any published travel guides anyone can recommend? Thanks for the previous responses!
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Old Nov 21, 02, 3:00 pm
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It you like shopping as a group, then it is for you!

If you dislike waiting on the bus for the group, that is shopping, then it is NOT for you!

I have found group travel a waste of time, since there is so MUCH waiting for the group to get on the bus at the hotel and every where else! Minimal sideseeing and a whole of time wasted.

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Old Nov 21, 02, 9:06 pm
  #6  
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by SFFlyman:
Are there any places where there are travel restrictions?
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Tibet is the main place that comes to mind -- you need a special permit to go there. (Most foreigners, even those living here, use groups to go to Tibet in order to cut out some of the bureaucracy, but in many such cases it's almost expected that you're going to ditch the group during your travels.) In the past, the PRC has also tried to keep foreigners out of certain impoverished areas, like Gansu province, because they don't want the word to get out that China isn't all hunky-dory. But, I don't think this is so much the case any more, so if you're dying to check out Gansu, you can probably do so. In general, it's pretty easy to get around these days -- you'll run into decent English speakers just about everywhere.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">
Are there any published travel guides anyone can recommend? Thanks for the previous responses!
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Lonely Planet is regarded by many as the bible. It's only drawbacks are that it's a bit outdated now (the same goes for the rest) and that it still tends to target the budget demographic. Let's Go is okay and Fodors is useless. Lots of people in the Bay Area have extra LPs laying around -- I could even lend you one if you want.

I also suggest that you get maps to each city you visit (the freebies that hotels hand out are just fine and are bilingual). Since most Chinese cities are pretty logical in their layouts, it's almost impossible to get taken for a ride if you know where you are and where you're going, even when you can't speak a word to the cabbie.
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Old Nov 21, 02, 9:24 pm
  #7  
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Several more tips come to mind:

1) You can always hire taxis to take you from your hotel to anywhere for day trips. For example, $40 will get from Beijing to any of the nicer Great Wall spots and back. You can even hire a guide and/or coordinate with other tourists at your hotel, if you prefer;

2) If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you might want to bring it along -- SIM cards cost around $12;

3) Don't stress too much about booking all of your hotels/flights/trains in advance. You'll appreciate the flexibility. The only exception I can think of is the 3 Gorges trip (if that interests you) because most boats adhere to fairly rigid schedules and the good ones do fill up.
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