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.