Even independent travelers should consider a guide in China;
members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
1. They know the language.
Unless you speak Chinese, you will come up against language barriers in China. This can be part of the adventure—and a lesson in creative hand gesturing. Or it can just be frustrating, as when buying a bus ticket using a Chinese-language schedule. A guide eliminates the guesswork.
2. They get you off the beaten path.
Hiring a guide can actually result in a more authentic experience. A good local guide will clue you into something that you – and your guidebooks – never knew existed. For example, a local Avalon Waterways tour guide first brought a group to view the traditional Impression Lijiang show as a last-minute alternative to a cancelled Tibet trip. It’s now considered a must-do in Lijiang.
3. They work the system.
Guides can maneuver complicated transit to less-visited sites and the bureaucratic red tape it takes to access them. China is challenging enough when visiting the major attractions. A guide comes in handy when going to remote and challenging places.
4. They get you VIP treatment.
A good guide has great connections who can open doors and get you complimentary meals, better seats, etc. Being shuttled to the front of the line isn’t only fun, it’s a time-saver.
5. Get better prices.
Tour companies may package things together that would be more expensive individually. For the same price as the donation to hold a baby panda at the Chengdu Panda Base, for example, a package booked with Viator includes the baby panda experience plus lunch, a Panda Base guide, transportation, and a tour of Shanghai’s Old Town.