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China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

NYC
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China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

I'm writing to report in on my experience in traveling alone to China. Intimidated primarily by the language/ communications issues, I felt I needed a land package to see me through China (specifically, Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai). I've just returned from an 11 day package with Laurus Travel (out of Vancouver) - I found them on the internet - and through reviews here. I am writing because I wanted to share the particulars of what made my Laurus experience the best "group" travel I have ever had. First of all, I'm not an "on the bus/off the bus" kind of girl...so group touring can be off-putting. This was a totally different experience. There were 7 of us - enough to allow for a shared experience (something I very much wanted), but never so many that I ever felt that we were being "herded". And that smallness and the knowledge and flexibility of their guides made us able to adapt our visits to our interests. Laurus's model is that with groups over 10 an overall country guide is assigned...but if less than 10, no country guide...just local City guides. This left me a little concerned in advance of the trip - but my concern was replaced by nothing but praise. We were met at the airport in each city by a local guide and a driver extremely knowledgeable in their area - they were flexible, interesting and diverse. That changing of guides was a true positive aspect of the trip. They took us to their neighborhood favorite restaurants, ordered to our expressed tastes (the food was freakily good in each city!!!!) and NEVER subjected us to "tourist shopping trap hell". They went above and beyond in so many small ways. I know that they are in the hospitality biz...and so this should not be surprising - but even with that said, they went beyond the call of duty.

In Shanghai, the rest of my group went elsewhere and I had a Laurus provided guide and driver to myself...the agenda was changed to meet my interests - I wanted to see the Synagogue and Jewish section of town in lieu of the Planning Museum...and we did. VERY COOL - very special. The hotels were excellent (seriously excellent) and well located. One of the guides informed me that in China, Laurus is considered a very upscale touring company - and it showed in terms of the quality of our guides. We liked the mix of "on your own" time and touring time...we liked the physicality of the trip. Bottom line, this was a marvelous experience - exceeding my expectations in every way.

37 replies to this topic
Sherbrooke, Canada
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1. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

Thank you. We get very few reports from tours.

At what hotels did you stay? Remember to please write hotel reviews.

"National" guides are generally licensed for only one city. Some guides are licensed for two but this is hard work and troublesome. This is why you get a new guide in each city.

California
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2. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

We stayed at sheraton hotels throughout our tour with Laurus Travel. Some of them are better than others but overall they all met our expectations. I was looking to sign up for their 15 day Tibet tour and took a quick look at a few of their other tour itineraries. Sheraton is still their choice. I agree with GirlOnGo that Laurus Travel is a gem. They not only leave out annoying shopping stops found with other companies but also do a lot of small things to make the customer happy, such as providing free bottled water and picking the remote Mutianyu section of the Great Wall over much crowded Badaling or Juyingguan.

Wantagh, New York
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3. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

I am thinking of using Laurus but am somewhat concerned about the location of the hotels...they are all sheratons, but seem located on the outskirts of the center of the action. I like to stay where I can venture out on my own in the evening for dinner and not feel restricted to hotel food.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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4. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

Tours often put you on the outskirts of the city. They save money this way as the equivalent hotel closer to the action will easily cost double.

Wantagh, New York
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5. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

But will we be disappointed. They use Crowne Plaza u town or sheraton dongcheng in beijing, sheraton xian and sheraton shanghai hongkou.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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6. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

The Beijing ones are quite central. The Shanghai one is somewhat out of the way. Not sure about Xi'An.

Edmundston, Canada
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7. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

I just returned from China and Tibet with a very small group run by Laurus Travel in Vancouver. I have to say, their guides and drivers were a class act. I've covered over 43 countries so far; and many of those, I visited through tour operators. All the others were with large groups and invariably included shopping trips and hotels located outside city centers. Not so with Laurus. Five star hotels right downtown was the general rule, and NO shopping trips. Our group maxed out at 7 individuals. Easy to imagine the access and flexibility involved with such a small group of people. No nit-picking at mealtime for an extra coke or beer and NO "Tourist" restaurants. Laurus is talking about a possible Indo-China tour for next year.... I'm already in line !

Sherbrooke, Canada
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8. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

43 countries and you still need tours? How do you know that they were not tourist restaurants? Do you remember any names? That would be more specific.

Edmundston, Canada
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9. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

I have visited numerous Western countries by myself or with just a friend. But where language is a major problem (like China and Tibet), I use travel agencies and guides... I know they were not tourist restaurants, because I only saw locals eating there... And no, I don't remember names, especially if the names are all in Chinese.

Beijing
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10. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

I am an old local resident in beijing, as here we say Beijing abriginal. I really think Beijing is safe to take a stroll at night, even Midnight. Well, if you take a local friend with you, it will be much more convenient to find a good restaurant exactly you wanted and interesting places to kill your time and right way to get there.

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