China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wild Goose Pagoda Park is New in Xian

If you have not been to China in the last five years, there are many new sites as well as some old sites that have had a "make-over". The Wild Goose Pagoda Park in Xian is one of them. I stopped listing it for a few years as a sight for my clients to visit until this past year when I was there and mentioned it to my local associate company that I work with in my tour business. They took me over to see the new changes with a beautiful landscaped park featuring many bronze statues scattered through out the park. My photo above is one where a barber is cutting a man's hair. Of course I have no hair so my guide thought it very funny. People in China do not shave their heads as some of us do. The high light of the changes was a beautiful large pool with Dancing Waters to the sounds of classical music. It is truly remarkable and of course I have it now back in my sites to see for my clients who have the time and interest in seeing it. Each year during my month long working tour I must comb the country to see all the changes in order to keep up to date with the thousands of interesting sites in China both old as they are discovered and the new which are so innovative. My web site is  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Is a Packaged Tour?

I have taught classes on the Ins and Outs of Travel in China at the University of Washington and several Community Colleges. It is a 4 hour class to help people decide on and plan a trip to China as part of their research. One question that is asked is "How Do I Compare Tour Companies and their Tours"? Tour companies must be competitive especially on the internet. Packaged tours are planned out just ONCE and then sold to many people. They are generalized and usually inexpensive as possible in order to be competitive with other tour companies. I also have packaged tours but seldom ever sell them. I put them on the internet to give people ideas on what can be done for 11, 15, 17 or more days and an approximate cost. We usually use 3 star hotels and general sightseeing for these in order to show competitive prices.. Four or 5 star hotels can be substituted with an extra cost or one can add on extension tours too. Some tours claim Deluxe 5 star hotels but there are many price levels in each star level. In Beijing as an example there are 5 star hotels in the suburbs for $150 a night and 5 star hotels for $350 a night. Location is everything. Within the hotels there are also usually 5 levels of rooms and of course packages use the lowest cost rooms for comparison. For more information on Packaged tours contact me directly with your questions at  My friends call me ChinaDave A poor tour is long remembered and too late once you are there. A great tour is also long remembered with good memories long after the cost is forgotten.

Custom Group or Private China Tour

Some people do not want a stock or packaged general China Tour. Many are asking for tours to places they want to specifically go to or fit their personal interests and are unable to find a tour that fits their needs. These are Custom Group or Private tours for just individuals. Custom Group Tours usually fit specific interests like Garden, Historical, Nature, Ecological, Cultural, Art, Food, Birding hiking or other interests etc. Some tour companies claim to put together custom tours but will have stock itineraries based on the cost per day broken down into 3, 4 or 5 star hotel and sightseeing tours. They have these in their computers and simply patch them together by city which takes only a few minutes and call that a Custom Tour. A real custom tour whether it is for individuals or a group with specific interests takes hours of work and personal first hand knowledge of the country. We listen to what the client wants and their personal interests and then plan the tour accordingly. I have traveled China for over 25 years and 50+ trips working with local Travel Services inspecting hotels, seeing all the sights all across China first hand and am connected with local Chinese partners with local volume contracts with hotels for the best prices. You may see some samples of Custom Private Tours I have done for clients in the past on my web site at Tours to China is our business and our only business giving quality tours to China and Tibet only since 1992. We have sent over 2,500 satisfied clients to China from around the world. Let us furnish you references and I hope we can do one for you too.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Buddhist Caves & Grottoes of China

History Buffs as well as tourists interested in the Buddhist Caves ask about which ones they should see. There are four main sites and all in northern and northwest China. Above are the Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang which are located between Xian and Beijing. The best preserved caves are at Dunhuang in north central China called the Mogao Caves. There are over 750 well preserved caves with the best art started in 366 B.C. You are not allowed to take photos but they have a wide assortment of books available. In Turpan just east of Urumqi in far northwest China you will find the Bezcklik Thousand Buddhist Caves but not as dramatic as the others. Turpan is the 2nd lowest place on earth behind the dead sea and one of my favorite places to visit on the Silk Road. At Datong just north west of Beijing 7 hours by train are the Yungang Grottoes. The Datong and the Luoyang caves can be visited on my Ancient Capitals package tour and the Dunhuang and Turpan Caves can be visited on my Silk Road package tour. Custom tours can be arranged to your interests and specifications of course and that is what I do best. Over 25 years of travelling in China gives me an excellent background to prepare customized tours to your interests and budget. Check my web site and continue to read my blog with over 100 stories and photos on Tours to China and Tips on China Travel.  Click on the photos for full screen viewing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guides With Car & Driver

After 25 years as a Tour Operator to China I understand why people question having a guide with car or van with driver. It sounds expensive. It is about the cost of renting a nice car or van in the U.S. or Europe per day. However you have a professional driver who is insured and a Professional Guide to take you around to the sites where you don't have to worry about parking or finding sites. In 25 years of travel in China I have yet to find a driver who speaks English. They are professional drivers with insurance when booked with a tour. Beware of the independent driver who is moonlighting with his company's car and tries to pick you up at the airport. Their insurance does not cover you. Guides who you meet on the street or by a hotel are also illegals. Qualified guides are registered by the government, have attended guide schools and must carry a certificate of authorization. They also are able to enter any site at no cost. If they are not legal, they can be taken away by the police and you are left. They usually only know where sites are and have little information to share with you. Guides make the tour as they can point out things of interest that you might just walk by and they have the history and background knowledge of the sites. They also work for the tour company who books your hotel, flights and is able to help you 24/7 should you have any problems. You will always be in good hands. Trying to save money in China without knowing the systems often costs more in the end with a great deal of frustrations. Professional Experienced Tour Operators, Guides and Drivers are your safest bet. For more information contact me, ChinaDave, at

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tips on Flying in China

Flying in China is as modern as any country now with the latest of equipment and facilities. You will marvel at the new Beijing Airport which is now the largest in the world and the Shanghai International Airport with their Magnetic Levitation train that takes 7 minutes to get into the Shanghai central area and travels at
280 mph. There are not as many flights as in the U.S. and all flights as you will see will be full in a country with the world's largest population but about the same size as the U.S. You may book domestic China flights from the U.S. through a U.S. carrier however the cost is about 30% more that purchasing in China and must be reconfirmed at each departure city. If it does not appear in the computer you may end up buying another ticket. Different country; different rules. You must check in for your flight at least 1/2 hour before flight time or you become a stand by. This allows time for stand bys to be able to check in and as you will see there is always many of them. Luggage does not automatically get transferred in China when there is a change of planes stop in between your departure city and destination unless it is the same plane. You must get off the plane, pick up your luggage and check back in for your next flight. If it is a through flight on the same plane, then this is not necessary but you still must get off the plane and re board using your same seat. Kunming is one of these hubs. For more information on Flying in China, email me at My 25 years experience in China and being a China Tour Operator doing Tours to China only has given me a wide back ground in travel within China.   My Web site is:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trains in China

There are those of us who love trains. China is rapidly improving their train systems and had added some high speed trains similar to the "Bullet" trains of Japan. Available only on some lines, these new trains save about 40% of the time the regular trains take. Shanghai to Nanjing is one of them since there are no air flights between those cities. The new high speed trains now leave every 20 minutes between 07:00 and 19:00 each way and take 5 hours time. Night trains have sleepers with four beds to a compartment but take 12 hours at regular speeds. If there are only two of you it is possible to pay for all four beds for privacy. Otherwise you will be sharing with either sex. The modern trains have both western and Asian style facilities. Older trains in the more remote areas usually only have the Asian style facilities. Food on trains is usually not the best so it is recommended to take food with you. Hot water is supplied free for tea or your own instant coffee. You can only book a train 3 days before it leaves and only from where you are to where you are going. You can not buy train tickets in advance for other trips between other cities except in those cities. If you arrive at Shanghai Pudong Airport you should try the 280 mph Mag Lev train that takes you almost all the way to Shanghai proper in just 7 minutes. It is a short taxi ride then to the central area.  The new "fast"  trains are now in service between many major cities also.  For more information on Travel in China let us hear from you. As a China Travel Agency and Tour Operator, Tours to China is our business for the past 25 years.

How to Choose a Hotel in China

If you are going to China on your own, you should at least book the first hotel in advance for your arrival. If you know your schedule or itinerary, then you should book your hotels in advance especially during the high seasons of April/May and September/October. Because of the high population in China and their prosperous economy; hotels, air and trains will be full during high seasons. Hotels should be located in central areas of the cities where you can walk around freely. Suburb hotels are less expensive however it isn't always easy to walk around especially in the evenings with few street lights. In Beijing you should be around Wangfujing Street and in Shanghai close to Nanjing Road area as examples. Both areas are close to tourist sites and within walking distance or short taxi rides which are inexpensive. For costs of the hotels be aware that there is a 15% service charge added on as well as a small city tax. Check to see if breakfast is included or not when comparing hotels. Obtaining a western breakfast outside the hotels is very difficult if not impossible in most cities. Most Chinese have a simple breakfast "on the run" as we say of rice gruel and fried bread sticks or some dumplings. Hotels are rated by stars. 3,4 or 5 star hotels are common for western people and there are levels within those stars. As an example 5 star hotels can range from $160 to $500 per night. I have always felt that 4 star hotels are the best value in China. For more information on travel in China keep watching for future stories or check some of the over 100 stories listed here on my blog. You can also email me for suggestions... Attn: ChinaDave  Click on the photo for full screen view