China Travel Answer

Q: I am planning to go to China this June. Any suggestions about booking domestic flights around cities in China? How difficult is it to book a local tour (as I tried to search for tours in China and they are quite expensive)?

One can book domestic flights through travel agencies based in China, or purchase plane tickets online. Some online travel services based in the West (Expedia, for example) can handle the booking of domestic flights in China. A few travel services based in the West specialize in booking flights in China (one of them is Flychina based in Florida, U.S.). Among major online travel services in China are Ctrip and Elong. Some foreign visitors may be a little hesitant to utilize online services in China and need to figure out how to make payments, etc. One may have to do a little research.

Nowadays there are many travel agencies offering all kinds of services. Some of them are more reputable and reliable than others. Among the better-known are China International Travel Service and China Travel Service. These two travel agencies used to be state-owned and they have many branch offices in China and abroad.

You can book local tours with travel agencies. Beware, however, what kind of tours you're getting into. For instance, if you get into a tour group for native Chinese, the tour guide will conduct his or her tour in Chinese language, which evidently means nothing to you. Generally, it is more likely for larger travel agencies to organize tours for foreign visitors. Many foreigns visitors go on packaged tours that include multiple cities and sites; some of them do go on local tours or city tours. Those who want to do the latter should do some investigation to find the kind of tours that are right for them. Some tours for native Chinese are inexpensive compared to those for foreign visitors, but one may want to weigh all the aspects of a tour against its cost.

If you book local tours with a decent travel agency, it should also be able to arrange domestic flights for you. The important thing is to have plans beforehand, so that you do not get stuck somewhere waiting for your tickets or going around a city trying to figure out which hotel is suitable for you.