Due to the appreciation of the Chinese currency in recent years, traveling to China costs more than before. To meet travelers' needs for reducing costs and saving more, some low-priced tours are being put onto the market. However, some of the itineraries are as extremely low priced as USD99 for a week or USD19 for a day, or even less. When booking a trip, please be cautious, just in case get cheated.
A Story about An Extremely Low-Priced Tour
Paul W. Smith is an American who came to Beijing for a business trip a few days ago. Interested in the Great Wall of China, he took a day off and booked a Great Wall trip from his hotel for USD19:
'I'm very unhappy with the visit. Not long after setting off, the guide gave a brief introduction about the itinerary and then asked a payment of USD25 per person. She said we only paid a base fee previously and it didn't cover all the programs of that day. I should have rejected. But only those who had paid could get a card, signifying 'certified' to ascend the Great Wall. Having no choice, I let her steal my money.
When arriving at foot of the Wall, we were given only one hour. One hour for the amazing Great Wall of China, how inhuman! It was only enough to take some pictures. Afraid of being abandoned, I returned to the bus very reluctantly on time.
Then, the guide suddenly became nice telling some interesting Chinese stories about Pixiu, an auspicious animal in Chinese culture. However, this was shown to be a trick as we were given several brochures advertizing jade Pixiu and other jade stuff after her speech. What's so cruel was that only those who finished reading were allowed to get off to have lunch.
So, what's next, the scheduled Ming Tombs? No! We were taken to a local product store with poor-quality goods but high price. I refused to get off, so did several others in the group. The guide then threatened that we would be held responsible if anything in the bus was lost. Crushed and crestfallen, we got off and were 'herded' into the shop like sheep. It was like a maze inside and I spent 20 minutes finding my way out.
Later we were driven to pass by the Ming Tombs, without a single stop! The guide just disregarded our protest and put us off, saying that our payment was not enough for the entry ticket.
The said next destination was the Bird's Nest. However, the guide was required to count heads and check the bus' condition 'by her company'; hence we were taken to the so called VIP room of a jewelry store for a rest. We never saw the guide again and the shop assistants really had persuasive tongues.
At the end of the visit, the driver took us to the Bird's Nest and left.
I know it's the open secret that most tours contain visits to stores. But I didn't expect they went so far. I was taken for a shopping spree rather than a sightseeing trip.'
Lessons of the Experience
Let's look into this cheap itinerary at USD19, which is actually USD44 (USD19+USD25). During the 7-8 hours' visit, travelers were given only an hour at the attraction site. For the other time, they were driven here and there for shopping, totally a waste of time and energy!
There are too many others like Paul when traveling in China. What we want to say is that there is no free lunch in this world. Pursuing cheaper "products" is not wrong. However, shouldn't we pay more attention to price ratio rather than price itself? All in all, the original purpose of traveling is for fun.
We are not saying that all low-priced tours are not good, but telling you to look into them before making the payment. Below are a few useful tips:
1. Compare the agencies carefully and look into their customers' feedbacks to find a qualified, large and professional travel agency to book from;
2. Double check what's included in the quotation and what's excluded, which attraction sites are to be visited, what kind of hotels you are going to stay in, what's the standard of food provided…
3. If it is a group tour, confirm how many members will be included.
Further Reading: Comparing Travel Companies for Your Trip to China?