The two-weeks I spent exploring China on assignment with Lonely Planet was jam-packed as I traversed the country from Beijing in the north to the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong in the south. Logistically China can be a hard country to plan, the visa isn’t cheap and comes with plenty of paperwork, and as such, I was glad to join a G Adventures China tour which had taken care of all the on-the-ground aspects of visiting China, one of LP’s Best In Travel destinations for 2018.
I’ve written a few articles about the amazing places we visited, but I also wanted to give an account of the tour itself as I know China is one country where a lot of people would opt for a tour rather than going it solo, me being included. Keep in mind while reading through this review I usually travel solo and at a slower pace, while from a photography perspective I was dashing around many of these cities a lot quicker than the average person would enjoy.
Should you take a tour in China?
I think the answer to this question really depends on how confident of a traveller you are. I’ve travelled to a lot of countries solo before including Shanghai for a layover, and I personally found parts of visiting China quite overwhelming. There is indeed a language barrier in China and other considerations such as booking sleeper trains in advance, some accommodation not accepting foreigners etc. In cities such as Hong Kong which is a SAR, Shanghai and Beijing; you’ll not struggle as much, whereas in the countryside you might find it harder although surprisingly in the remote village of Ping’an I found English more common. I found my first solo trip to India harder, to be honest, but China does provide it’s own struggles mainly depending on where you decide to visit.
I found the China Tour I did with G Adventures a good balance as the accommodation, transport and guide was sorted, but you still had pretty much free-range over your itinerary, if you wanted to stay with the group and guide you could, but you were also free to break away and explore solo in the cities too.
If you do decide to travel China solo, be sure to have access to the internet on your phone for maps and translation services and to be honest, even if going on a tour, these came in handy.