Using Guides in China

If you are on a group or private guided tour you see China at its best.  Guides add so much to a tour and often point out things that you wouldn’t see just passing by.  An English speaking guide although they may speak excellent English must still deal with the many accents of English as well as tourists that English is a second language.  Be patient and speak slowly using common words and NO SLANG which is most common to us in the U.S.  It is impolite to ask a tourist to repeat a question that is difficult to understand.  The coastal major cities it is not much of a problem but once you to into the interior it can be a bit more difficult.  Culture dictates that it is impolite to ask for something that is not possible.  A guide normally either tries to avoid answering the question or gives a vague answer to save face.  That usually means NO.  A Guide needs to give a positive response to questions so if what you ask is not possible, you will often again get a vague answer.  One couple wanted to visit Beijing University since it was on the way to the Summer Palace.  It requires a permit to visit which must be obtained in advance.  The guide not wanting     (continue below the photos)Group-LectureIn-S.F.0002Guide-and-Driverto give a negative answer, said she would see if it was possible on the way back to the city.  The guide knew that the time was too short so that she wouldn’t have to say No to them that it couldn’t be done.  This is Chinese Culture one example.  I have a book available called “Encountering the Chinese”  A Modern Country; An Ancient Culture.  It is required reading for college students who will be visiting China and need to know more about interacting with the Chinese people.  It is difficult to find so I have  copies available at $24.95  post paid.  If you would like a copy made out to Interlake China Tours and send it to Interlake China Tours, Inc.  P.O. Box 33652  Seattle, WA. 98133 along with your request.

Planning a Tour

Planning a tour can be difficult sometimes.  China is as large as the U.S. so think in terms if you would help a foreigner plan a tour to the U.S.  Determine how many weeks you have and what budget you have available.  Then list the possible places or sites you might like to visit.  Trying to see too much in one trip is normal since most people go to China once in their lifetime.  Taking a group or package plan often takes in standard sites some of which you may or may not have an interest in.  A customized tour to your interests and needs is often the best choice not wasting time seeing things that you have no interest in or leaving out places you thought you might like to see.  Cost can sometimes be less if you like going out to dinner on your own or like some free time to explore on your own.  A tour planner such as myself who has been to China 55 times over the span of 26 years has a great deal of up to date information on China and may send you to places you may Lhasa0001Dave-and-the-Pandas-03not thought of.  I do not lead tours but  work with my Chinese Associate partners updating myself on new places to visit and inspecting hotels and sites personally.  For more ideas on planning a tour you may contact me by email at:   My name is Dave and I will not give you a sales pitch or put you on any spam list.

Travel Illness and What To Do

I have been to China 55 times in 26 years and have only been ill once.  That was because I ate with some farmers who invited me to celebrate the husband’s retirement from teaching.  Antibiotics took care of it which I carry with me at all times.  There are two things that are common to any travel. Diarrhea and Constipation.  Not only do you need to adjust yourself to the Time Change but to your diet change too.  Chinese often  use MSG in their food especially in sauces.  Limit the foods that have sauces in them and you will be fine.  Diarrhea can be avoided with  a couple of simple rules.  DO NOT DRINK water other than bottled water even in 5 star hotels and then only from stores and not at sites from peddlers.  You will receive two bottles of water free at most hotels.  The other is DO NOT EAT from booths on the street.  Nine out of 10 times you will not get sick however the 10th time is not worth the risk.  There are plenty of restaurants everywhere as Chinese like to eat out often.  Take remedies with you but you can also ask your guide to direct you to a local pharmacy which has western and Chinese medicines available.  Dr. Ho pictured here with me is over 90 years old and retired in a small village outside of LiJiang.  He and his father researched natural medicine for many years and now his son and daughter in law who are also doctors are carrying on the research.  He has a wonderful museum in the  village and welcomes guests to visit it.  Dr. Ho speaks English and 8  other languages fluently and never charges for his services in his small clinic.  For more information contact me at My name is Dave and you will not receive any spam or get a sales pitch from me.Dr.-Ho0006

Tipping In China

Tipping is a bit different in China.  Your hotels already have a 15% service charge built into the cost of the hotel.  The only tipping would probably be the Bell Hop who takes  your luggage to your room and then only a small amount.  Same with restaurants as the service charge is in the cost of the food. If you leave a tip for the server, they have to give it to the manager or owner.  20 years ago there were signs on the hotels that said “No Tipping Allowed”.  It was considered western bribery which was kind of funny as bribery was common with officials and in some cases still is done.  A taxi driver also is not tipped but only the fare on the meter is rounded off to the next yuan higher.  Tipping guides and drivers on the tours is acceptable of course. Tips are put in an envelope and handed to them when you leave that portion of your tour.  They will politely thank you and put it away quickly.  Your tour operator will give you suggestions on tipping as it is a little different from the city to the rural areas.  For additional information on tipping you are welcome to contact me by email:   My name is Dave and I will not put you on any spam list or do a sales job on you to do a tour with us.  Dave-and-the-Pandas-03Heavenly-Lake0003

Exchange Money Here or China?

One of the questions I get is should I exchange money before I get to China.  My answer is always NO!  You will pay a premium of sometimes 30% more in your home country.  You won’t really need Chinese yuan right away.  When you arrive at the hotel there is an exchange desk that charges a very slight commission to exchange your money into Yuan as a service to their guests.  The only money you may need is to tip the Bell Boy to take your luggage to your room if needed.  Most Banks in the larger city will exchange money but do not count on it in the more rural areas.  Cash is King in China and few  places accept credit cards.  There are ATMs in many areas but again not in the rural areas.  For more information on exchanging money in China contact me at  email:   My name is Dave and you will not  be put on a list of spam emails or get a sales pitch on booking a tour from me.  Silk-Road-Tour

Food in China

Many people ask about the food in China.  Chinese food is a bit different than in the western countries just like Chinese food in Western countries is different for Chinese.   Western food in China is a bit different too.  In most hotels you will have a selection of Western food and Chinese food for breakfast which is usually included with your tour. Eating Chinese food day after day during a tour can be a bit much so be adventuresome and go out for dinner on your own and select what you like.  If it gets down to Fast Food, McDonalds is the closest you might get for same food as in the U.S.  KFC however is usually spicy to the taste of the Chinese.  You may or may not like it.   Pizza Hut is unique as their menu is quite varied which many western people like.  Your guide can offer suggestions although they tend to recommend expensive restaurants so as not to offend you.  You will not get exotic foods like dog, snake and donkey.  It is kind of like us eating alligator which I personally like and have often in New Orleans.   For information on any allergies please email me and I will be glad to send it to you.  I have a sheet that is translated from English to Chinese advising a waiter what you can not eat or are allergic to it.   Email:  interlak@eskimo.comChinese food0003