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Excellent way to experience Beijing for first-time Americans like my wife and I. Our guide John was very informative. His English was excellent. He made us feel welcomed and comfortable in what for us was a very foreign environment. As per the tour description he picked us up upon our arrival, got us checked into the hotel, took us out for meals, and guided us on our tours around Beijing. Based upon our desires, he selected the restaurants and did all the ordering. We greatly enjoyed all of his selections. We feel like we had very authentic dining experiences.
The sites are wonderful, but be prepared for extensive walking and bad air. The first full day was six hours of walking before we asked to take a rest in advance of the acrobatics show. John was able to accommodate us by finding a coffee and tea room where we spent a quiet hour. The show and the Great Wall were awesome! However, the air quality in Beijing was extremely bad while we were there. Visibility from the Forbidden City and the Great Wall was very limited which was disappointing. That combined with the strenuous walking makes this tour difficult for those with health issues.
The default hotel is the Jingtailong. It is within walking distance of Tiananmen, shopping, and dining. Some of the staff speak English. The included breakfast is at the hotel's restaurant and is an Asian/Western buffet (have your room key card available). The rooms and beds are large and comfortable but the beds are firm. Check-in/check-out is different from our experiences in other countries. While John handled the check-in, it involve a lot of activity and time. A deposit is required- keep the receipt. Check-out also involves a lot of time and activity- present the deposit receipt to speed the refund. The housekeeper will inspect the room for damages before the desk will complete check-out. Allow 30 minutes prior to pickup.
Overall, this tour was awesome and met or exceeded all our expectations.
The experience was amazing. Our tour guide Tar was a superstar. He was friendly, always on time and a delight to be around. When we had to make slight changes to the itinerary he took them all in his stride and found new options / updated options. We stayed a little while away from the normal hotel location and he researched the area for us before we got there so he could direct us to markets, supermarkets, ATM's, eateries, train stations, the whole lot! His knowledge was incredible and he was always open for discussion. He was a very interesting man. I cannot sing his praises more highly - he's fantastic and I hope you can get him too.
The only downside of the tour was the structure and this is a Viator issue. It says a 4 day tour, yet really it's 2 days of actual touring. The first day involves an airport pick-up and a dinner which you can very easily organise yourself for much cheaper and the last day literally only an airport drop-off again, you can very easily organise this yourself for a fraction of the price. Whilst having this organised for you is nice, it's a bit of a shame that it makes up a significant portion of the price.
Again, Tar was amazing and the actual touring we did was great. It's just the extra 2 days of the 4 day tour that we felt were a bit of a wasted expense.
Overall, we thought this an excellent tour. We got to see the sights without being pushed to shop. The guide was excellent and knew all the tricks to making it an excellent tour. We enjoyed going to local, non-tourist, restaurants, though the literature made the Peking Duck sound like a catered banquet. The acrobat show was awesome. The Wall, Forbidden City, of course sell themselves. The only down part was the hotel was advertised as 5 star. The Peninsula was advertised, but fine print directed us to another hotel, three star at best, with a good location near Tiananmen, but not really what we expected. Overall, well worth the trip and really nice to have a private guide.
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