A friend and I would love to go to China in '08 (before or after the Olympics) as it's for a special event. Which tour companies would you recommend for value yes high quality comfort plus knowledgeable guides? And, when is the best time of the year to avoid what I hear are conditions that can aggravate asthma? In advance, thanks.
I was in China summer 06 and it was hot! But definitely manageable, although I really couldn't comment regarding asthma. We did not use a tour company except in Tibet so I can't really suggest anyone for mainland China but Orient Flexi Pax tours did an excellent 5 day private tour in Tibet with an excellent, knowledgeable guide and the best accomodations Tibet has to offer (not saying much, but it's worth it to see Tibet!)
In Beijing, we stayed at the Peninsula Palace Hotel on the Club Level, and it was marvelous. Such great value for your money compared to similar hotels elsewhere in the world (although being a Peninsula Hotel it is certainly pricier than others in the city). It was a nice haven away from the craziness that is Beijing. In Hong Kong (a new favorite city), we stayed at the Kowloon Shangri-La which we found to be excellent value as we had an incredible harbor view, excellent service, could walk to the ferries and throughout Kowloon, and it was more affordable than some of the other high end hotels. Of course, I was still yearning to stay at the Peninsula as I've heard it's the best, so maybe next time!
China is definitely worthwhile and 2007 is probably a great time to travel there as it is becoming more and more western and modern every second. Prices are great compared to travel in other countries. You can have a luxurious vacation (if that's what you want) for half the price of other countries. Let me know if you have any other questions - my husband lived in Beijing all that summer so he may be able to answer more specifics.
1. If you wish to join a small group, Imperial Tours would be a good pick. They are known for their high quality service and being creative. However, you have to pay top money to take their tours (www.imperialtours.net) Average daily cost is about $700-$1000
2. East Tours specializes in private custom tours in China. They offer luxury customized tours. They don't have group tours, so if you wish to go independently with your familiesonly. This is the company to travel with.Price is in the mid-high range. Their travel consultants are very knowledgable and accommodating. (www.east-tours.com) Average daily cost is about $300-$500
3. Abercrombie and Kent is always a good choice. As a big company, they have better control on things in many ways. I guess they will also come up with some special Olympic Package when time comes. (www.abercrombieandkent.com) Average daily Cost is about $500-$600
If you want to go with cheaper options, there are too many, such as China Travel Service USA, Ritz Tours, Pacific Delights, Gate1travel. But these are not taking care of the high-end luxury market. They are better for money watchers.
As far as hotel goes, if you like Western Hotel, go with Grand Hyatt. Very good location, right next to a shopping mall. Good service and rate is normally $350+,
Peninsula Palace is in a Pedestrian District, again, good hotel, great service and very nice location. They also offer some Chinese flavor v.s. Grand Hyatt. Rate $320+
Lastly, Raffles Beijing. Raffles took care of the management for one of Beijing Hotel's building. A mixture of Chineses and French style, they also feature distinctive personality suites. Rate: $300+
Rates above are during the regular time, but during the Olympic, hmm...it will be double or triple. As far as I know, all rooms are controlled by the Chinese government and the rate will be outrageous.Hope this gives some ideas!
As far as time goes, go in September or October (after the Olympic, rate will go down), but avoid first week of October, since it's China National Holiday week and will be crowded everywhere with local traveler. I'd say, either mid Sept or after 2nd week of October.Weather is the best at that time!
I have to agree with the Peninsula Palace recommendation (I believe the Grand Hyatt was not yet open when we were there in '05). At that time, the prices were a bit less, and we stayed in a Club Level room which brought with it incredible service and thus incredible value for the money. The rooms are beautiful, service what you would expect from a Peninsula hotel, and yes, a little of the Chinese tradition thrown in for an all-around excellent experience.
Whereabouts in China are you going, since that will determine the best time to go? If you are doing a general all-over trip, then most reputable companies will choose the best range of dates. If you are not travelling from the USA, or are coming from the USA to Europe, for example, you could try Cox & Kings, or Bales. I have done one trip with them which was first class - well organised, great guides, great hotels and everything included. Bon voyage!
My wife and I are planning a China trip later this year. Sounds like we'll be going to the same cities as claassenam, Beijing and HK.
In Beijing, we hope to see a Chinese Opera, Kung Fu Show, see remote parts of the Great Wall, check out the usual sites (Tianemen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, etc) and check out some Pandas.
In Hong Kong, we just want to eat some awesome food and go on some feng shui tours of skyscrapers on the island.
Does anyone have any suggestions on some things to do off the beaten path?
We are not fans of organized tours and hope to explore on our own.
I really appreciated your advice on travel companies. I am looking at East Tours as well as Access Tours and Travel China Guide. Do you know anything about the last 2 companies? They are touted as luxury, but I can't find many reviews on travel boards. They are all relatively within the same price-range.
I am going to China in May 2007 with my husband and we want a private custom tour, with flexible guides. I am not really worried about hotel choice or itinerary because I have hand-picked them. I am concerned about level of service, fluency in English, and not being hussledon shopping trips or change of venues. Thank you for any further advice you can give.
It's funny that you would make this comparsion, since I also went through the same research process.
I actually contacted Access Tours, too. The consultant is very knowledgable and helpful in answering my questions. He was also very professional and seems to know China inside out! However, the proposal he emailed me later was maybe only 10 lines with very basic things and asked me to give them a deposit before they can offer further details. While East Tours gave me a 10-page proposal! I also am happy that I went with them! It's one of the very best trips in my life! For this, I am planning another tour with them to Thailand, Angkor Wat and Vietnam in Feb. 2008!
By the way, Imet 7 guides during mytrip and 5 of them also escort A & K's tour. I felt like I've gotten the best for a real bargain price! The price I paid for East is maybe only 70% of A&K's charging! The other 2 guids were equally great!
I don't know China Guide Tours, so am not able to comment them! Imperial Tours is another good one which my sister's family traveled with! Did you also check them out?
Re: China......Imperial Tours and the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong
I was interested in your recommendations of tour companies for China. We have a trip scheduled with Imperial Tours (which I found through an internet search) in May. I will report back post trip. Also we are staying at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong (on Hyatt points)........and that also gets wonderful reviews.