Off-season package with air included makes China affordable
The first of my three visits to China was on a tour package for a rockbottom price including air fare from the US, good hotels in Beijing, Xi’an, Giulin and Hong Kong, and an upstream cruise on the Yangtze before the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. There were English-speaking city guides in each city (three of whom took the English name, Richard) and an English-speaking crew on the Yangtze riverboat.
The city guides met us at each airport and escorted us back to the airport again, but there was no full-time tour guide with us from beginning to end. Also not included were dinners (except on the ship), which meant we were free to try out local restaurants or just wander over to the nearest night market and graze the street-food stalls. I’ve returned to China twice since then, but that first visit in some ways remains the most memorable — and the fact that we didn’t break the bank stays with us as a big bonus.
Now comes word of a really inexpensive package from Friendly Planet Travel, whose Taste of China package has a similar low-frills format and also an astonishingly low price. There is no Yangztze cruise on this package, but the beguiling cities of Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, which I visited on both of my subsequent trips, are on the itinerary. If booked before September 23, Friendly Planet’s package starts at $999 per person, double occupancy, including airfare from Los Angeles, fuel surcharges, hotels, transfers, many meals and most of the tours. Happily for travelers who want the comfort and convenience of a package but don’t care to be babysat all the time, it has built-in free time as well.
The lowest prices are for remaining dates in December and January. I’ve been to China in winter, both to cold gray Beijing and to colder, grayer Harbin, which is so far north that is north of North Korea. No touristic hordes and a more refined sense of being in China and not Chinaland. Of course, you’ll need warm clothes (wool, fleece, hat gloves), but you’d need them if you were visiting (or living in) New York, Washington, Boston or Chicago too. Winter days in Shanghai, Guagzhou (formerly Canton, which I have also visited) and Giulin are positively balmy.
I have never dealt with Friendly Planet Travel, but the price is right and the itinerary covers most of the main touristic highlights. 800-555-5765.