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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.

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Toronto
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11. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

We recently returned from China, having done the 16 day China Odyssey tour with Laurus Travel.

We were in a small group of 13 people and we were treated so exceptionally well by our guide Jakob who was with us all the time. The tour was extremely well organized. We stayed in wonderful 5 star hotels and ate amazing foods in many restaurants. The days were action packed, so that we could see as many of the main tourist attraction sites as possible. We had 3 flights inside China and had 2 trips in the 300km. an hour bullet train. All transportation was arranged by our guide and every activity ran smoothly. We were all impressed. I would highly recommend Laurus Travel for anyone planning to visit China.

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

Travelling alone

This was a very nice review

I am planning to travel alone and have same interests as you - a tour of the Jewish heritage in Shanghai.

Could you give me from your own experience a detailed suggestion of what to see on the day on my own and whether one can do it and still be at the airport for a 5:40 pm flight to Toronto?

I hope you still recall your experience of 3 years ago.

Albany, California
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13. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

Anyone traveling to China should seriously consider booking with Laurus Travel. Laurus Travel is a small company based in Vancouver, BC. In October, 2013, I went on their tour to Southwest China, which included Shanghai, Chengdu, Lijiang, Zhongdian (also called Shangri-La), Kunming, Guilin, Xi'an, and Beijing. I could not have been happier. The guides were first rate, the hotels were five-star (except for the most charming hotel, in Zhongdian, which has no five-star hotels), and the visits to the various locales were fascinating. The best part to me was that we had as our Laurus representative accompanying us on the trip none other than Julius Yan, who co-owns Laurus with his wife, Heidi. Julius was wonderful to get to know and to talk to about all aspects of China. The Yans want very much for you to have a wonderful time, and Julius was open to making last-minute additions to the tour, including a visit to the just-opened largest-in-the-world shopping mall in Chengdu one participant suggested we go see, and a Chinese tea ceremony with pu-ehr tea in Lijiang. They have also included a high-speed rail trip on one leg of the tour in response to customers' requests. They even provide a list of books that you might like to read before you go. You won't find the exact tour I took on their website (www.laurustravel.com) because they have tweaked it slightly in order to give you an even better experience. Laurus took care of everything, including getting my US visa (through an American partner agency). Call me one satisfied traveler!

Edited: 29 June 2014, 16:59
Toronto, Canada
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14. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

My wife and I have recently returned from China, where we spent 9 days on a Laurus Travel

Tour visiting Beijing and Shanghai. There was a maximum of 18 people on the tour, so we

came to know everybody and they were all good travelling companions.

From the moment, when we first contacted the Laurus office in Vancouver, to the moment

when we touched down back in Canada, everything went without a hitch and was extremely

well orchestrated.

The staff managed everything very professionally and with a smile. All the co-ordinators,

tour guides and drivers in both Beijing and Shanghai were excellent and took good care

of everyone's needs in their stride. Our Beijing local guide gave us a geat insight into

the lives of "regular" Chinese citizens and enhanced our days with his great stories

and sense of humour. Laurus really has great people.

We stayed at Sheraton Hotels in both cities, and their facilities, staff and food were

of a very high standard, especially the buffet breakfasts, which offered an immense

selection. All the organised meals in the various restaurants were delicious and

we became experts at using chopsticks with the possible exception of when it

came to eating noodles.

All in all we enjoyed the tour immensely and we look forward to travelling with

Laurus again in the future. It was just a wonderful experience.

Edited: 30 October 2014, 18:02
Calgary, Canada
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15. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

Hi,

I am thinking about going to China on a Laurus tour. The only other tour company I am considering at this time is China Spree. You mentioned that you have tried a number of other tour companies in your travels. I am wondering if you have any experience with China Spree or with anyone who has? My impression from their websites is that the China Spree tour might include more sights but the pace would be less relaxed and the groups bigger. I'd appreciate any comments from you or anyone else reading this who could comment on the two companies. Better yet if you have by chance tried both!

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

That is definitely the Laurus experience I had in China ! I would go anywhere with that company - in a heartbeat !!

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

Thanks. I notice that your tour included Tibet (your post in June 2013). I am wondering about whether or not to bother including Tibet in view of the potential high altitude issues and the distance from most of the major centres. I'd appreciate any comments about your experience there.

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

This might help... I usually refer to my Tibet trip, not my China trip. It is one of the most awesome places I have ever seen. My main purpose in going to visit China was to visit Tibet. I had always wanted to visit that place, and it was worth every minute of it.

I had no high altitude issues whatsoever - and I was 64 at the time. Unless you are really weak or have trouble breathing normally, you need not worry about any of that. And I should add... every hotel room had an oxygen kit just in case - which I never used of course.

As for the distance to major centers - very true. HOWEVER, you get to climb the Kambala pass by minivan and THAT is an experience and a view NOT TO BE MISSED !

Edited: 05 March 2015, 12:08
Calgary, Canada
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19. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

Thanks - that info is very helpful. I'll definitely look into including Tibet in my plans.

USA
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20. Re: China tour company - traveling alone; Laurus Travel...a Gem

Had a very positive experience with Laurus Travels. Being based in Canada, it was easy to reach them by phone. Maggie and Heather were very professional with structuring my tour, despite my many constraints. They even arranged my airfare at a cost well below what was available on Expedia or other travel sites. Their guides in each city were excellent - well informed on the history of their city, spoke good English, and ensured that we saw enough of everything without it being excessive. Some got so close to our group that our farewells were almost tearful! Not only were the choice of hotels excellent, but their locations as well - safe to walk around, with plenty of eating and shopping options around them. Meals were provided in classy restaurants patronized by locals with cooked-to-order items - no buffets with stale food! Laurus also provided some added attractions like a Peking Roast duck dinner, an acrobat show, and a tea farm visit that were memorable - I would not have known about these attractions had I ventured into China by myself. They may be a tad pricey than other tour companies on the web, but their services are well worth it. I hope to use them again in a not too distant future for my next tour to China.

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