Travel Guide to China
Tours to China
You can get a tour of China, including airfare from the United States, for as little as $1,100 per person from the West Coast (add about $400 for East Coast deaprtures)—though $1,500 to $2,200 is more reasonable for a trip that ranges farther than Beijing and Shanghai. Make sure you know whether the tour company will handle applying for the necessary Chinese entry visa (itself $140).
China Spree (www.chinaspree.com) - Nearly 10 China itineraries, from eight to 22 days, budget to luxury, and classic routes (Beijing-Great Wall-Xian-Yangtze-Shanghai) to Tibet Highlands expeditions.
China Focus (www.chinafocustravel.com) - More than a dozen China tours ranging from 8 days to 29 days and from budget to deluxe.
Wendy Wu's China (www.wendywuschina.com) - Run by an Australian of Chinese descent. Everything from classic itienrarires to mroe in-depth and regional China tours at fantastic prices. The rates might look, at first, a tad higher than some of the competition, but if you delve into fine print and really crunch the numbers, Wendy Wu ends up being the better value more frequently (it includes more of the "extras" and fees in its base price, and it has more departures at its lowest seasonal rates compared to the others).
Friendly Planet Travel (www.friendlyplanet.com) - Popular low-cost tour company with a handful of prime China itineraries ranging from 10 to 15 days.
Gate1 Travel (www.gate1travel.com) - One of the consistently cheapest tour providers around, with about ten Chian tours on ofer, from a 9-day Shanghai/Beijing fling to 13 days in Tibet to 17-day tours including a Yangtze cruise, Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, and Guilin.
Land-only tours (airfare is on your own)
Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com) - The only major tour outfit I know of that makes a concerted effort to travel like real independent travelers—small groups (max of 12 people), staying in mom-and-pop accommodations and getting around by public transport (trains, local buses, bikes, feet) rather than a big tour bus. It offers a staggaring 50 China itineraries, from two-day Beijing tours to 5-day treks along the Great Wall to 28-day tours of pretty much all of China (as well as overland tours that also encompass Tibet, Mongolia, and other Central Asian and South Asian countries).
G Adventures (www.gadventures.com) - Similar to Intrepid, but based in Canada. G Adventures offers a variety of adventure trips, including many hiking, trekking, and multi-sport active vacations. Among the two-dozen China itineraries, lasting from 8 to 28 days, are many classics, plus some intriguing tours like the 9-day Imperial China & Hong Kong tour that includes walks along the Great Wall and in the Forbidden City, cruising the Li River, a visit to the terracotta warriors of Xian, and a cooking school in Yangshuo; and the 21-day Wild China trip that includes hiking Leaping Tiger Gorge, staying in monasteries, biking in Yangshuo, and visiting pandas.