Thursday, November 19, 2015

China & Hong Kong: Travel Agencies

I was suppose to go to China in 2014. I had the plane ticket and even the hotel room booked. You had to or else you could not get a China visa.

With booked plane and hotel for China, I decided to use a friend who was a travel agent to do the rest, namely book some tours.
She came through with what I wanted after she assured me she could handle China for me. Sadly I had to cancel the whole trip as I could not get a China visa. It was a costly cancellation as no travel insurance covers the inability to get a visa. Rebooking the ticket will cost me $300 in change fees.

As the necessary legal paperwork got straighten out early in 2015, I was able to rebook my ticket in June at a cheaper fare and include Hong Kong in the itinerary. Change fees wound up less than $200.

I would have thought I could use the same travel agent to help me with my travels. It was not to be and I don't know why as I got her "I'd be happy to help you out with this...give me a couple of days to pull it all together" after my inquiry for help. I emailed her two weeks later when I got no email from her. No response to my email and I even double checked the email address I used. I resorted to FB as she was a friend of mine and asked via Facebook private message. No response to my FB PM. How rude. Well, she will be one travel agent I'll never use. I hope she does not treat all her customers like that. This was swinging me towards what good are travel agents. I generally do all my own travel planning anyway.

I put off making final plans until about 3 weeks before I hopped onto the plane heading west to China. Yes, procrastinator is one of my middle names. Through Trip Advisor, I found two China tour companies -- China Highlights and Travel China Guide. I also noticed that the FB travel agent friend (downgrade to acquaintance?) was using Trip Advisor herself to book my tours (hmmm, what good are travel agents; I could have done that myself). I gave the chosen travel agent companies what I wanted to do in China and where I was going to stay. Neither company really gave me what I wanted. I decided to check Trip Advisor one more time and found another company -- China Discovery. That contact was really late as it was like a week before I had to leave. To my surprise, China Discovery, namely Jack Li, came through for me. He arranged everything that I wanted to do. 

The main reason I needed the China agency help, on the advice of other travelers to China, was to get a guide/translator and driver to get me to the destinations I wanted to go to, namely the panda bases I wanted to visit. I discovered that one of the locations I wanted to visit had to be done through a tour guide. Thank goodness I did that.

After dealing with FB acquaintance and the initial two China travel agents, I'm still on the fence of using travel agents. I do have to compliment the two initial China companies for the great website they have. It has lots of information and even provide you with info on how to travel on your own in that country.

This will not be the last time I visit China. I'll be back and I will use these 3 companies in some form in my future visits to China. I have to take advantage of the 10-year China visa I now have.

Here are the companies I made inquiries with and used:
China Discovery --
China Highlights --
Travel China Guide --

Were you wondering where my plans for Hong Kong were? Wonder no more... I did that all on my own. No travel agent needed. I saw that Hong Kong had a metro system that would get me where I needed to go. I wasn't that comfortable to try to tackle China's public transit, especially when I needed to get to three/four places outside of Chengdu.

Note: This is one of many blogs I will be writing about my China & Hong Kong trip.

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