Do Not Recommend this tour....In review of this tour I, my wife and daughter all concluded that a better description of the actual tour and guide are needed. Are tour starts by van pickup at the hotel as advertised. But without the English speaking guide and a non English speaking driver. So we had no idea what was happening other than what the lobby concierge had translated and confirmed that we were the correct tour we booked.
After a 30 minute vigorous drive seatbelts are a MUST we meet our guide and two other persons on the tour to head to the next and last hotel to pickup the last person on the tour, so over an hour in just driving to pickup customers.
Then another hour drive through the city traffic to the first location, just to be overly rushed though the Summer Palace. Had to ask to stop to use the bathroom and to buy a sovereign because guide was not stopping to wait.
Asked to see if we were going to enter any of the buildings or even the palace, just to be told no.
Then hurried out the gate to the van to be taken SHOPPING.....Not...... we were taken to a predestined stop to be pushed into a silk store and hounded by sales people to buy silk bedding or clothing that we did not want. After sitting for about an hour and not buying anything the guide took us to Temple of Heaven. Again to just be rushed through and gave 15 minuets for pictures.
After that we were taken to lunch at a nice restaurant for about an hour. Then to a Fresh Water Pearl store another predesignated store to just to be again hounded to purchase their pearls as if there is no other place on earth to by pearls. This stop took well over an hour and they were not happy we did not buy anything again.
So now the day has been spent mostly driving from spot to spot or being pushed to buy stuff at their guides choice of stores.
So we arrived at our last stop, just to be completely rushed by the guide through every site at the Tiananmen Square right through to the Forbidden City. And in the Forbidden City we even asked to go into the buildings just to be ignored and countinued at a very fast pace and we again even had to ask to stop to use the bathroom.
So at the end. We simply asked to be dropped off at the shopping plaza in the middle of the city so we could actually do some shopping and took the metro back to our hotel.
You are so rushed through the actual places you booked to see. But, when we stopped st the shopping sites there was no rush.
Honestly, the best part of the day seemed after we were dropped off to shop on our own!
Good tour, saw a lot of places in one day. Its good if you have a short amount of time and want to see a bunch of places. You only see tiananmen square from across the street, so its mostly forbidden city, summer palace and temple of heaven which is what i wanted to see. They do take you to 2 factories which is annoying but i guess its part of most tours. Guide spoke good english. Lunch was pretty good as well.
Was part of a small group of 4. Our tour guide was spoke good english and was very informative. She even happily took photos of us so we didn't have to rely on selfies the entire time. Unfortunately, when we were at the Forbidden City there was a foreign political visitor that basically shutdown the city for a private tour...as a result our tour of the place was cut short due to limited access.
Surprise Visits to Tourist Traps and Hidden Expenses
Our guide gave us a call the night before to inform us of our pickup time. The day started out smooth with a quick trip to Tiananmen Square. The guide was very knowledgeable and efficient. We stayed for approximately 15 minutes before going across the street to the Forbidden City. The guide maintained a quick pace, but stopped at key spots to share facts and stories. Within 2.5 hours, we had run through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and were being dragged to a Silk Market where we spent an hour getting hounded by salespeople and waiting for a couple members of the group to shop. Afterwards we went for lunch, which was ready for us soon after we arrived and was good more of an American-style Chinese food, although the cleanliness of the plates and cups was questionable. After lunch, we went to the Temple of Heaven, where we spent about 25 minutes before being dragged to a Pearl Market with more hounding salespeople. Luckily, no one was interested so we didnt stay long. We then drove to the Summer Palace, where the guide informed us that we each needed to pay an additional 140RMB about 22 USD for a boat ride to the Summer Palace. She said it was possible to walk but it meant we wouldnt get to see as much. In the end, everyone paid and we sat for 15 minutes on a boat that felt like it might sink at any moment and frankly wasnt going any faster than a reasonably fit person could have walked along the riverbank i.e., its a total scam. Once we arrived at the Summer Palace, the tour was a combination of another boat ride and walking. The tour guide continued to be informative. Whats a real shame is that we couldnt truly appreciate the natural beauty of the palace because the air quality was so poor and visibility was limited. The tour guide kept calling it fog but the air quality was in the red unhealthy and made everything look very dreary. Overall, I do not recommend this tour. I would take public transportation to get to these spots and spend your money on the audio guides when available instead. The tour wastes over two hours dragging you to tourist traps neither place had a single Chinese person shopping instead of giving you time to wander around and enjoy the sites. The guide was very pleasant and knowledgeable, but was talking so quickly to fit everything in that it was difficult to absorb.
Michael was our tour guide for the day, a nice young man who spoke good English. There were only four others on the tour which made it nice. The van left something to behold standard shift in very heavy traffic so constant stopping and shifting but not bad.
On the way to our first stop we had plenty of time due to heavy traffic never ending so it took a while to get to Tienanmen Square, our first stop. But there was no overall commentary about Beijing itself, its history, current facts or layout. No commentary until we got to Tienanmen Square followed by the Forbidden City. Some background on Beijing would have been nice. Once there Michael was very knowledgeable and especially in the Forbidden City where he stopped at several spots and made comments.
Unfortunately as walked to the van to drive to the next stop my wife tripped trying to get out of the way of a scooter, fell and broke her arm so we had to leave the tour. Long story short it was a real challenge figuring out where to go and how to get help. Although we didn't expect the guide to stop the tour we thought he could have been much more helpful in where a hospital was etc. We ended up taking a cab to the hotel and then got help as to what to do..
I took this trip with my 7yo son. He's not into lengthy explanations or history at the moment, so this whirlwind tour was great. Just the right amount of exposure to each site. If you want to spend more time at each of these fascinating locations, it would be better not to pack all 4 sites into one day. We also had a great guide, Gale. She was very knowledgeable and was able to provide answers to all our questions. We also had a nice driver, Mr An.
The tour was supposed to be very interesting, unfortunately we had really bad experience with tour. Our day started beautifully, we were picked in time , completed Tiananmen Square. Thereafter Summer Palace was drag story repeated over and over by tour guide . Lunch was one of the worst experiences. We had from beginning informed the tour company about our Vegetarian requirements. However, we were separated out from rest of our group and given a small table near the washroom. Rest of them were accommodated on a lavish round table in a private party room. The tour operator hadn't made proper arrangements for whole group and felt discrimination as we were horribly treated. This spoilt our mood and rest of the trip wasn't enjoyable. Honestly, tour operator should advise tour guide to provide sensible commentary and make proper arrangement for Lunch.
This is a good trip, though be prepared for a lot of walking.
Our main issue was with the visits to local businesses selling e.g silk, tea and pearls. Beware of extortionate prices around 400 higher on two items we bought elsewhere and the tour guide trying to us sell as they get commission.
We felt like targets to be ripped off rather than paying guests to be respected.