Inspired by the Chinese New Year that just ended, this week I’ll share my experience joining a cheap Beijing tour.
If you’re a Malaysian or been living in Malaysia and love travelling, MATTA Fair – an annual travel fair organized by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, is something we always look forward to.
There are huge selections of local, Asia and overseas tours at the fair. If your destination is somewhere in Asia, you’ll find many cheap packages.
However, I have to agree with the saying “you get what you pay”. If you’re thinking to take a cheap tour to Beijing or China, this post may help.
But remember, this is a personal opinion and may not represent all cheap China tours.
Why did you join a cheap Beijing tour?
During MATTA Fair 2018, I was thinking I had to visit Beijing, especially The Great Wall of China, once in a lifetime. But during that year, I already had 4 trips coming up.
Then, I saw a cheap Beijing tour and decided to join.
By cheap, I mean around RM3,000 (around USD742) all-in for 5 or 6 days including flight, hotels, meals 3x a day, tour guide, the entrance fees and my own pocket money.
With this price, it’s natural if you have the urge of making multiple bookings to explore China!
But most of the cheap China tours are conducted in Mandarin…
Exactly. That’s why it’s cheap.
Most of the Beijing and China tours that are conducted in English are much more expensive because their target audiences are foreigners who earned dollars or poundsterling.
I also don’t speak Mandarin, so what I did most of the times was sticking to my tour leader so he could translate what the guide was explaining.
Except during the free time, though! Don’t worry, the locals understand English. You’ll be able to buy anything or ask directions in English.
Is this tour suitable for me?
If you have a limited budget, can arrange the tourist visa yourself, not a picky eater, don’t mind with limited free time and eat Chinese food 3x a day, also once again…
…if you’re not a picky eater and feel the journey is more important than the food, YES. This kind of tour is suitable for you.
I’m not sure for those with asthma though, as the pollution in Beijing is very bad! Remember to bring a face mask.
Umm… what’s wrong with the food in Beijing?
The food in Beijing doesn’t taste like the Chinese, Taiwanese or Hong Kong food that we have in Malaysia. At least, for me.
Or maybe because the price of the tour was low so the food that I had wasn’t that good, but rest assured, they’re edible. Some of the dishes were nice, though!
Wait, you stayed in a 5-star hotel for one night?
I know, right? I stayed at Orient MGM International Hotel on the last day of the tour. The hotel was really nice and truly up to the 5-star standard.
My room was modern, super spacious and nice. The gym was big, there were 2 swimming pools (one for adults, one for children).
It’s just… the hotel was far away from the city or anywhere. So you’ll just stay there and enjoy the hotel for a night. I even went to the gym!
In the Beijing tour leaflet, you may see the operator listed 3 and 4-star hotels, but actually, they are old hotels. So, it may not be the normal hotel standard that you’d expected.
Again, this may not apply to all cheap China tours.
How could you stay in a 5-star hotel when the cost of the China tour is already so cheap?
Aha! Here comes the interesting part!
I used to ask the same thing until other travellers in the group told me the reason.
When you join a cheap China or Beijing tour, they will take you to some shops. You will visit various shops every day, from silk, tea, pearl to latex bedding.
In each shop, you need to sit down and listen to their sales presentation around 1-1.5 hour. After that, there will be free time for shopping.
Why is it mandatory to visit the shops? Don’t you think it’s a waste of time? I don’t want to come to Beijing to shop!
Unfortunately, it’s mandatory to visit the shops because they are the ones who sponsor your trip.
Don’t worry, the shops were huge and nice, so you’ll feel comfortable sitting and waiting until your fellow travellers finish their shopping.
Moreover, I personally feel the sales presentations were interesting because I gained new knowledge (they’re conducted in English), especially when it comes to tea!
“You get what you pay” – is there any negative experience?
I still remember it well, I was so angry when the local tour guide crammed some of the activities in Day 2 into Day 1. You could imagine how rushing we were!
Her reason? Sometimes, the traffic jam in Beijing was bad so it’s better to do all of those in a day.
Then, on the last day, she gave us an option to visit some popular sites in Beijing with an additional fee because we had nothing to do, thanks to the Day 1 rush.
I was so angry because I felt cheated. She should give us the option on Day 1 so all of us could decide. I told my tour leader I didn’t want to pay because I didn’t feel it’s fair.
In the end, the tour leader was scared that I would complain to the travel company and he would lose his job. So he offered to pay the fee for me.
However… at the end of the trip, I felt happy because I enjoyed the additional sites. At first, I didn’t want to tip the local tour guide but I did it. I also tipped the tour leader.
Would you join another cheap China tours?
China is beautiful and there are so many places that I want to visit, but I have limited budget and time. One day, I’d like to join a premium China tour and enjoy staying in beautiful hotels.
Maybe the food and service will be better too! 😀
Once again, this is a personal opinion about a cheap Beijing tour and may not apply to all cheap China tours. I hope you find this blog post insightful. Remember to buy some teas when in China, they taste great!