Chinese characters are indecipherable, so DIY travels are regarded very challenging for most of the foreigners. At the same time, China has a rich and wonderful history and culture and without a guide, somehow, the flavor and significance of most tour sites can be lost. So travel with a China tourist guide is recommended.

You have two options; you can share a guide with other people, that is to say, joining a tour group. Organized groups for Beijing Tours or Xi’an Tours are always offered by many agencies; you can just hire a private guide. If you are going to a particular city, for practical local information refer to or et cetera.

If you want to see and do the most possible things in the least possible time, then an organized tour may be your best bet. Meanwhile, for women and senior travelers, traveling in a group can offer safety, comfort, and companionship. It can also be an opportunity to make new friends and share experiences with people who may have different perspectives.

However, disadvantages of group touring do exist.

With a group tour, you will have to experience the place as it goes by the agency’s canned itinerary. Sometimes you may find other members of the group as annoying, but unfortunately you are stuck in the same bus for the next 3-5-8 days. Sometimes you’re just tired and need a break, but the group is already rushing to the next place. All these are inconveniences you probably would like to avoid on your holiday.

The solution is to hire a private tour guide. Advantages of having a private tourist are as follows:

First, you can cross out the places you don’t want to visit and add spots which weren’t in the original plan. You will be the only person who decides how your tour is going to be. It’s almost like traveling alone only you’re guided by a local who will keep you from getting lost.

Secondly, Private guides, without being too rigid about it, points you to the best restaurant in town, answers all of your questions patiently, and would love their country/hometown so much that they have its history memorized at the back of their heads.

Thirdly, when you’re with a private guide you can trust, you can dodge the tourist traps. For some, this means reading up about the tourist traps of a particular place.

Another thing about hiring a private guide is of course, the money. Your guide will provide a cost for the day, but don’t forget other potential expenses.  Entrance fees are often excluded, and sometimes you must pay your guide’s entrance fee as well. Tipping is also extra, and depending on the circumstances, you may decide to ask your guide to join you for lunch.

So, how can we get one?

As a matted of fact, the private guide business is booming in China.  From university-educated, certified guides to former taxi cab drivers turned energetic entrepreneurs, you have plenty of choices

You can ask your friends or colleagues who have traveled in china before whether they have any to recommend.

Best sources are online travel forums.  Websites like Trip Advisor and Private-Guides provide the real skinny from fellow travelers whose private guide recommendations are based on personal experiences.  Travel forums have become quite powerful, and a guide’s livelihood depends on good recommendations.

In fact, many college students are very willing to be your guide. Maybe they are not so skilled compared to those professionals, but they charge less or even for free. You can go to universities or release the information on their BBS.

Make friends with the Chinese whenever you can. They love to meet foreigners and will make good tour guides. Just buy a small present as a small token of appreciation.

Guidebooks occasionally recommend private guides. 

Of course, a tourist guide for China Tours is available in all kinds of travel agencies.

Jack Li
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