I've been told that travelling around China is quite difficult on your own without a basic knowledge of the language , and that the best way to go would be via Intrepid and sign up to an organised trip.
Having looked at some trips/prices, I think I would like to spend a 21-28 day trip there, taking in as many hotspots as possible.
Firstly, would everyone agree that an organised trip is a good option?
Secondly, which trip would you recommend - and would it be wise to wait until i'm over there to book (maybe to get cheaper deals)?
Any advice would be brilliant,
I've been to about 40 countries around the world and I would say that China was without question the most challenging. There are many language barriers and at times just trying to get a train ticket can make you want to rip your hair out.
BUT, I still wouldn't recommend a tour. While it was the most challenging, it was also far and away the most rewarding place I've been to. The vast majority of my favorite memories of all of my travels happened in China during those lovely little moments when all the daily struggles of travel are completely overshadowed by breakthroughs in communication when you get a chance to interact with the incredibly warm and kind locals. I've been to most counties in Asia, but when friends ask me to tell a story about why I love traveling in the region I almost always recount a memory of riding trains in China, how welcome I felt in their country, and the wonderful broken conversations in Chinese (I don't speak a word) that I had with with locals on just about every journey. I also recall searching for hotels, ordering food with the point-and-shoot method, and trying desperately to flag down buses up in the mountains to be some of the most exciting times of my travels.
You'll miss all that with a tour. Sure, you'll probably get to see more of the sights, and you'll do it stress free, but you will also be missing out on those little moments that make traveling in a country like China really special.
But, if you are nervous about going into China alone, take a tour just for a short time, like maybe your first week. That will get your comfortable with life in the country and then you can go out on your own. While on the tour talk to your tour guide about best ways to book train tickets, and any advice that you think you'll need. Then you'll be more confident and you can get the most out of the rest of your trip once you head off solo.
China was also the most challenging place but also the most rewarding place i visited !!
I took an organised trip with Intrepid which lasted about 3 weeks and took you from Beijing down to hong kong via the usual sites. I'm really glad i did because it all the hassle out of trying to organise everything and you could sit back and enjoy it!!
I would recommend Intrepid if this is what you want, you still travel by public transport and they will take you out of the way for homestays etc.
After the trip had finished i spent a bit more time there and by that time i could manage on my own with my trusty Mandarin phrase book and 'point it' book. so you could maybe even do half and half - perfect solution
China was my first trip outside of Europe, yet I didnt find it all *that* difficult to travel around at all. It could be challenging at times obviously because of the language barrier, but a smile, guidebook and a couple of basic phrases will take you a long way and you'll find that you can book pretty much all of your place to place tickets, bus, train or even plane through your hostel. You'll just need to remember that tickets sell FAST in China, especially at weekends and holidays so book early.
I met a couple of people there who had just finished tours with intrepid and had a good experience with them and gave them a chance to bond with fellow travellers quickly as they were all on the same route.
Im not sure though, it seems a bit too stringent to me. Having a set amount of time in each place could turn into a pain in a country like that, being hurried through somewhere that may really appeal to you and perhaps being stuck somewhere you dont like so much for longer than you'd like. Again maybe thats me. Im sure whatever you decide you'll have a wonderful experience.
[ Edit: Edited on 23-Oct-2009, at 14:18 by Gartt ]