March 27, 2023

Even independent travelers should consider a guide in China;
here’s why

For reputable tour companies, search for
members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
Even independent travelers should consider a guide in China; here’s why:

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.

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